There has been a wave of discussion of the UFT-Green Dot partnership in the news media and in the educational blogosphere.
Some thoughtful takes on the partnership appeared across the educational blogosphere, from Eduwonk and Small Talk to JD2718 and PREAPrez [here and here]. In the category of silence speaking volumes, the Charter Blog of the National Alliance of Public Charter Schools had no comment.
A few issues raised across the blogosphere and in this comments section will be addressed here.
1. New York State Charter law requires “employer neutrality” on the question of union representation. Only when there is a staff of the school in place, and they choose to be represented by an union, can negotiation of a collective bargaining agreement take place. At the risk of stating the obvious, the management of a joint Green Dot-UFT Charter School would be completely supportive of the right of the staff to organize and bargain collectively. [In a subsequent post, we will look in more detail at the contract in existing Green Dot schools as well as the UFT contract with Amber Charter School.]
2. There are a limited number of charters for New York City, and there are a number of stridently anti-union charter operators seeking to acquire them quickly. The deadline for submission of the applications for a charter was the close of business Friday, June 29, so the UFT and Green Dot needed to act now to obtain a charter. The UFT had an exhaustive internal discussion of the decision to sponsor our own two charter schools, which was adopted by the Delegate Assembly overwhelmingly, and have clear policy on the need to engage and organize charter schools. All that is new is that we have found a real partner on the charter side who shares our educational vision and core democratic and professional values.
3. Just as the UFT chose to locate its two charter schools in communities of the great need, East New York, the UFT-Green Dot school will also be located in another NYC community of great need, the South Bronx. [Green Dot high schools in Los Angeles have been located in the barrio, and they bring a lot of experience and success in the education of English Language Learners to the partnership.] New York Charter School law requires that all charter schools select their student body by a blind lottery from among the applicants, so the geographical location of the school, the level of the school — secondary in the case of the partnership — and the recruitment of students all play a very important role in determining the demographics of the student population. Green Dot schools in Los Angeles do not “cream” their students, and neither the UFT nor Green Dot would sponsor a NYC school which creamed.
4. The human scale of a school — with every student being known well by the staff of the school — is especially important in serving at risk students. Green Dot schools are very much in the original, deeply democratic tradition of the small schools movement before the influx of corporate philanthropy and the take over by corporate style school district leadership, and they bring that vision to this school.
5. Just as was the case in the UFT Charter Schools, Green Dot and the UFT are determined to be good neighbors. We will not go into a publicly owned building unless the school or other organization with whom we will share the building invite us to come in. We will also work to bring upgrades to the building that improve it for all who use it.
6. One of the important reasons for establishing a Green Dot-UFT school that will do all manner of things that should be done in NYC public schools, but are not done because of DOE policy and practice, is to demonstrate what could and should be done. For that matter, a Green Dot-UFT school will be a similar beacon with respect to anti-union charter schools that deny teachers voice. Why wouldn’t we want to have a school that shows the benefits of smaller class size, of giving teachers real voice in important educational decisions, of paying teachers more and of spending resources in the classroom, rather than on bureaucracy or contracts with corporate outsiders? [Green Dot schools in Los Angeles have had a policy of paying their teachers 10% more than the prevailing wage scale in the Los Angeles district public schools.]
7. The UFT Secondary Charter School stays open longer, with teachers working early and late sessions to cover the extra time. There is nothing wrong with a longer school day, so long as it provides additional meaningful instruction to students and it does not overwork and ‘burn out’ teachers and staff. We should not allow ourselves painted into a defensive corner, as the negative mirror image of the anti-teacher forces we oppose, simply saying ‘no’ when they say ‘yes.’ It is important that we think creatively and promote educational innovation.
8. A “professional work day” is what unionized college professors in CUNY and SUNY do. There are no fixed hours: one simply does what one needs to do to fulfill the obligations of the job — teaching classes, being available during regular office hours and participating in school meetings.