Monday, January 23, 2006

Union-run charter school in New York draws scrutiny from all sides of debate

Union-run charter school in New York draws scrutiny from all sides of debate
Associated Press

NEW YORK -- In a small, brightly decorated wing of a middle school in Brooklyn, an unusual experiment in the national debate over charter schools is taking place.

The wing contains a small school of kindergarteners and first-graders that is believed to be the nation's only charter school operated by a teachers union.

Charter school observers say the success or failure of the United Federation of Teachers Elementary Charter School could affect attempts to unionize charter school employees. The school could also factor into the debate over limiting the number of charter schools in New York state and impact the strained relationship between hard-core school choice backers and teachers unions.

"It's potentially a big deal whether it succeeds or fails because there's implications in New York and there's implications nationally of initiatives like this," said Andrew Rotherham, co-director of Education Sector, a Washington think tank and a board member of the New York Charter Schools Association.

Charter schools are publicly funded schools that are independently run. Such schools are typically granted charters, their operating agreements, through authorized agencies. More than 3,600 charter schools operate nationwide, according to the Center for Education Reform.

Supporters, who have President Bush in their corner, tout the charter movement as a way for educators to rid themselves of red tape _ including union-negotiated contracts and rules _ while pursuing higher student achievement. Critics say such schools shift much-needed money away from regular public schools.


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