Editorial: Don't let teachers union block NYC charters
Is Michael Bloomberg scheming to orchestrate an illegal fourth term as mayor-in-exile? That's essentially what the United Federation of Teachers is claiming.
The powerful 200,000-member union worries that the city's Education Department over the next five months will "cement" into place a plan for space-sharing in a dozen or more schools that would unfold in 2014 or later -- long after the Dec. 31 buzzer has sounded on Bloomberg's mayoralty and his army of education whizzes.
Horrified? Neither are we. Nevertheless, the UFT has drawn up a lawsuit to prohibit the city from carrying out plans that would open, move or shrink schools after the mayor leaves office. And UFT supporters are abuzz with online chatter about the prospect of a Bloomberg "fourth term" -- which we presume would be run from the mayor's royal manor in Bermuda.
So why the big fuss over space?
The tussle is essentially a building-by-building fight for control. The UFT controls teaching staffs at the city's 1,700 regular district schools. But most charters, many of them in district buildings, do not have unionized teaching staffs.
At the same time, growth trends favor the charters -- which have generally shown positive educational results. Parents love the schools. The waiting list for a slot in one of the city's 159 charter schools is now about 53,000 pupils. Republican mayoral candidate Joe Lhota is promising to double the number of charters in the city if he's elected.
None of which augurs especially well for the UFT.
The Bloomberg administration says it's not trying to control the future of charter schools on the sly -- but rather to manage the current situation competently. That may inevitably lead to changes down the road for some neighborhood schools, it argues.
So what should it do -- keep failing schools running as usual because they help the union maintain its punch?
The bottom line is that the UFT wants to shut down the Bloomberg reforms now -- and it wants the courts to help.
We hope the courts say no.
Everyone involved in the fight for better schools needs to pull in the same direction -- and that includes the UFT.