UFT Rallies Troops in Response to Cuomo Reform Efforts


The United Federation of Teachers have held three "emergency meetings" with parents and teachers in response to Governor Andrew Cuomo's State of the State speech.

In addition, the UFT is running a full-page anti-Cuomo ad in The Daily News and has also recently released a report arguing that, among other things, charter schools do not enroll enough special needs students when compared to traditional schools in the same area.

While the focus of the union's argument is Cuomo's charter school proposals, his teacher tenure and evaluation plans did not go over well either with the group, writes Eliza Shapiro for Capital New York.

A number of counterproposals were suggested by the UFT during a press conference last week. The group would like to see a freeze placed on the charter cap until they are able to enroll more special needs students, while Cuomo would like to see it extended by 100 schools. The would also like to see district superintendents require charter schools to fill empty seats. They argue that many charter schools do not already take part in this process, known as "backfilling." In addition, the group is asking for new admissions criteria for charter schools make sure that more special needs students are enrolled at those schools.

According to Manhattan borough president Gale Brewer, district superintendents currently have "zero control over charter schools," despite their recent empowerment by chancellor Carmen Fariña.

The report released by the UFT is being used by the group to support their argument that charter schools do not enroll enough special needs students. Looking at every district in the city with charter schools, the report, which used data from the State Education Department, found higher suspension rates and unequal percentages of English-language learners and special education students in charter schools in comparison with nearby traditional schools.

U.F.T. president Michael Mulgrew repeatedly mentioned a 2010 law during last week's press conference. The law allows the charter school cap to be increased, so long as the student body at these schools is comparable to area traditional schools.

"None of this conversation about moving the cap up should be looked at until first we deal with clearly the intent in 2010 that we passed the law that said all children of need need to be served at all schools," Mulgrew said.

One example in the report showed Manhattan's District 5 to have English-language learners making up only 6% of charter school enrollment and an additional 17% of enrollment made of students with disabilities. Meanwhile, traditional schools in the district showed English-language learners accounting for 14% of enrollment and students with disabilities at 27%.

Prior to the State of the State address, criticism of Cuomo by the UFT and New York United Teachers had been kept to the area of increasing school aid. However, all that has changed.

As of Thursday, the U.F.T.'s homepage read, "Join the fight: Gov. Cuomo has turned his back on public school educators and the students they teach. We can't let that happen."

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