SARATOGA SPRINGS – On Aug. 1, New York State United Teachers (NYSUT) sent a letter to Ralph Rossi II, the executive deputy director and general counsel for Charter Schools Institute, in regards to the institute’s new charter school teacher-certification proposal.
The letter clearly stated that NYSUT is against the lowered qualifications for charter schools that the State University of New York (SUNY) is trying to implement. This proposal would allow SUNY-authorized charter schools to have their own teacher certification program as opposed to the “rigorous New York State standards,” Carl Korn, the chief press officer of NYSUT, said.
According to the SUNY Charter Schools Institute’s website, “Guided by the Board of Trustees’ rigorous standards, the Institute provides ongoing oversight of schools that centers on progress made by schools in improving student achievement, while also reviewing their organizational and fiscal performance; the Institute’s oversight serves as a catalyst for improvement, informs the public of each school’s performance, and protects the health and safety of students enrolled in each school.”
The Institute also points out that they “recommend renewal of only those charter schools that have shown they can improve student performance and operate in a fiscally and organizationally sound manner.”
Korn remarked, “New York’s teachers are among the best educated, most highly prepared in the country. These proposed regulations are a travesty. They would lower the standards for teachers by allowing charter networks to bypass the rigorous certification process. We see it as the ‘anybody we want to certify’ approach for charter schools and that is very dangerous for students.”
That being said, New York state union teachers are also among the highest paid in the country, earning an average of $77,628 a year and become tenured after a multi-year evaluation process that requires a vote from the governing committee of the school.
The three main concerns that NYSUT has with the proposed charter teacher eligibilities are the lack of qualifications for these new charter teachers. The different certification process creates a two tier educational system in New York. The children in public schools are educated by teachers who have met the New York state union qualifications and with this new proposal, the children in charters would be educated by teachers who only meet the charter SUNY charter standards, creating a second tier of educators.
The SUNY Charter Network has proposed that teachers with fewer than 30 hours of classroom instruction and only a few weeks of field experience are well equipped to educate. NYSUT recognizes that New York has a rigorous process for becoming a certified teacher, but there are many flexible paths in which to do so.
“If charter networks are having difficulty attracting and retaining qualified teachers, they should look at paying those teachers more, treating them like professionals, and letting them teach. Not setting up their own certification process where anyone can become a teacher,” Korn said.
It is important to note that the charter school teachers certified under this new process via SUNY Charter School Institute would not be union members, paying union dues, or required to follow the same guidelines of union teachers.
Korn said that as of right now, no charter schools have reached out to them specifically to comment one way or the other.
Currently, NYSUT and SUNY are in a 45 day comment period which ends September 8. In this period, SUNY Trustees are able to comment on the matter and change anything about the proposal.
“We expect the SUNY Trustees to take this matter seriously and reject these draft regulations as harmful to students and harmful to the teacher,” Korn said, speaking for NYSUT as a whole.
TeachNY is a SUNY initiative that seeks to raise standards for teachers and to further professionalize teaching standards in New York State by raising the aspirational standards for teaching. For TeachNY, SUNY and NYSUT were on the same page.
Jolene DiBrango, NYSUT executive vice president, stated in her letter, “the pending draft regulations are completely counter to the spirit and letter of the resolution which was adopted in June.”
That resolution is TeachNY.
“On one hand, SUNY is calling for even more rigorous and even more professional standards for teachers and on the other hand, they want to lower the standards for charter networks and that doesn’t make any sense,” Korn said.
If the regulations for the new charter school certifications are approved and adopted without change, they would go into effect in September.
Attempts to contact Ralph Rossi and SUNY Charter School Institute were not successful.