On Tuesday over 1200 charter school supporters came to Albany to meet with lawmakers and tell our stories. We also carried a simple message: charter schools should be eligible to compete for the full-day pre-kindergarten funding that Governor Cuomo has proposed.
You would think that supporters of early childhood education would want every strong school involved in such a competition, since the program's success could lead to more pre-K funding down the road. Who could possibly find a divisive angle on this one?
Michael Mulgrew for one. The UFT president says charter schools should be excluded because they enroll fewer English Language Learners (ELLs) and students with disabilities compared to district schools; and because they allegedly have higher attrition rates (though the evidence says otherwise).
That reasoning may not be clear, but the hypocrisy is staggering. At the UFT's own namesake charter school, ELL enrollment stands at 1%; the district average is 12%. Enrollment of students in special education is 8%; the district average is 15%. The UFT Charter School also boasts higher attrition rates for ELLs, students with disabilities, and students from low-income families. Mulgrew has served on the school's Board of Trustees since 2009.
So why does Mulgrew take this stance on pre-K funding? It could be to protect the UFT's members, except that those include dues-paying teachers at unionized charter schools. It could be to resist non-union labor, except that a majority of pre-K providers are already non-unionized community organizations.
Or it could be something more basic: the UFT doesn't value an effective pre-K program as much as a chance to criticize charter schools. I hope our lawmakers have better priorities.
- ELL enrollment numbers come by request from NYSED, 2011-12 school year preliminary BEDS day demographics.
- Subgroup attrition numbers come from SUNY's Empirical Analysis of Retention Targets for the 2010-11 school year.
- As UFT Charter School is located in CSD 19, the comparison group is district schools also in CSD 19.
- Data on the UFT Charter School, and other charter schools can be found on our online data dashboards.
- WNYC examined the claim that charter schools have higher attrition using NYC DOE data, and found that district schools actually have slightly higher attrition on the whole.