UFT’s lukewarm charter renewal highlights tensions

The city teachers union likes to argue that its own charter schools are proof that the schools can thrive even with unionized teachers. But the report issued yesterday renewing the schools’ charter complicates the union’s claim.

The first union-run charter school in the city, UFT Charter School’s first five years have been rocky. Yesterday, the SUNY Charter School Institute recommended that the school’s charter be renewed for just three years instead of the typical five.

The UFT’s schools have many of the same problems that the union says plague other charter schools, argues the New York City Charter Center’s James Merriman. In January, the union issued a report calling for penalties to charter schools that enroll disproportionately few high-needs students. But the union’s own schools enroll fewer special education students and students learning English than nearby district schools, Merriman notes.

The renewal report also complicates the claim made by national union president Randi Weingarten earlier this year that the school is boosting its high-needs students’ academic achievement. The school’s progress report grade jumped from a C to a B last year, but its raw score on the most recent report card put it in the bottom 6 percent of schools citywide, and its performance relative to other schools has actually declined, notes Kim Gittleson, research assistant to Ken Hirsh, one of GothamSchools’ funders.

“We have issues — and we’re going to fix them,” UFT chief Michael Mulgrew told the Post.

Here’s the full text of the SUNY Charter School Institute’s renewal report: