Testimony

Testimony regarding the proposed teacher certification compliance regulations

Testimony of the UFT before the SUNY Charter Schools Committee

The Charter Schools Committee of the State University of New York has amended its proposal to create an alternative certification path for charter school teachers.

The new version does nothing to answer the concerns that the United Federation of Teachers and education experts across the state have raised with the committee’s original plan.

The latest permutation still lowers standards for charter school teachers; it undermines the state’s longstanding efforts to professionalize the teaching profession;and it ignores clear prohibitions on SUNY’s adopting regulations that violate state education law.

Parents and teachers across the state overwhelmingly opposed the original plan. Even charter advocates agreed that certifying a charter teacher after 30 hours of specialized instruction and 100 hours of classroom practice created an absurdly low bar, one that failed both charter students and prospective teachers.

That plan should have been scrapped. Instead, in what appears to be a political attempt to resuscitate a fatally flawed policy, the committee has issued this new and still misguided version.

Under the amended plan,  the number of hours of mandated instruction is increased while the number of classroom practice hours is cut. Charter candidates, in this latest version, would have to pass only a single certification exam, chosen by their employer, rather than the full roster of New York State’s existing licensing tests.

The new version would leave the state with the same result as did its predecessor: Charter school students would find themselves in classes taught by teachers whose training was far less rigorous than that demanded of regular public school teachers.

Equally troubling, the new proposal continues to sidestep the clear intent of the state Legislature. State education law requires that the board of trustees of a charter school, with minimal exceptions, employ teachers who “shall be certified in accordance with the requirements applicable to other public schools.” Moreover, Assembly Speaker Carl Heastie and Assembly Education Committee Chair Cathy Nolan, in a letter to SUNY, wrote, “The Legislature did not intend to delegate to SUNY broad authority to regulate charter schools it oversees. Nor did it intend to empower SUNY to adopt regulations that are inconsistent with current laws governing charter schools, including but not limited to laws related to teacher certification requirements...”

There are already a variety of pathways to teacher certification approved by the Regents. But all involve a rigorous process: a bachelor’s degree (a master’s degree is needed to attain a professional certificate, which is required after five years of teaching); coursework specific to the area in which teachers wish to be certified; supervised teaching hours; and passage of certification exams.

It's not easy to become a certified teacher in New York — nor should it be.  Our children deserve teachers who have met the highest standards of preparation,and these standards should not be tossed aside because some charter schools are having difficulty meeting them.

The original version of these proposed regulations shortchanged charter school families, charter school teachers and all New Yorkers committed to rigorous certification requirements. This latest version does no better, and should likewise be rejected.

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