Playing by the rules of the teachers' contract wouldn't be a necessary evil in the newly proposed union-run charter schools. Following the rules would actually make the new schools better, the president of the United Federation of Teachers said yesterday.
The day after 95% of the union's delegate assembly voted to send a proposal for two new union-run charter schools to the State University of New York, the union president, Randi Weingarten, said she still believes in a statewide cap on charter schools.
Despite that belief, Ms. Weingarten said the union wants to try its hand at operating two charter schools - an elementary school and a school for children in grades 6 through 12 - so that it can "reclaim" the original charter school model conceived by the former president of the American Federation of Teachers, Albert Shanker, who said charter schools could help teachers work without the "stifling bureaucracy and stifling micromanagement."
She said the current administration doesn't encourage teachers to collaborate and make decisions as they did in brainstorming the proposal on charter schools and as they would in the new schools.
"This kind of effort, this kind of potential, is what we should be unleashing on the school system every single day, and the Klein administration will not let us do this anymore in the public school arena," she said. "It is incredibly ironic that the only way that teachers could do this kind of bottom-up thinking at a school was to do it using the mechanics of a charter school," she added.
The school would have teachers who are paid according to the rules of the city contract and who work the hours mandated under the contract.
Unlike ordinary public schools, however, the charter schools would have "school leaders," not principals. They would also have two teachers, not one, in each early childhood classroom.
Instead of using the "whole language" approach endorsed by the city, the school would use a more phonics based approach. But it would use "Every Day Math," the program endorsed by the city.
Although the school days will be the same length as in the public schools, students will have the option of attending an after-school program as a kind of extension of the school day. The union wants to open the elementary school in an underutilized East New York middle school in September. It wants to open the secondary school the following year.