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Activists demand no uncertified teachers to go to charters

Stephon Johnson | 7/13/2017, 9:18 a.m.

Educational activists and teachers’ unions have battled, ideologically, with charter schools most of the decade. The Alliance for Quality Education has now found a new battle to fight.

The State University of New York’s board of trustees is considering letting charter schools create their own teacher certification programs to combat a teacher shortage and circumvent state certification that some charter school advocates claim is too strict. Current state rules require that teachers possess a master’s degree or pass certification exams.

Groups such as the AQE believe this kind of action puts the education of young New Yorkers in jeopardy and is a danger to the teaching profession.

“The committee acknowledges that many schools and education corporations it oversees that have demonstrated strong student performance have had difficulty hiring teachers certified in accordance with the requirements of the regulations of the commissioner of education,” read a SUNY board document with the proposed regulations from the meeting. “The committee, therefore, through its authority to adopt regulations with respect to the governance, structure and operations of the charter schools it oversees, desires to provide an alternative teacher certification pathway to charter schools in meeting the requirements of paragraph a-1 of subdivision 3 of section 2854 of the education law.”

In a letter directed to SUNY Board Chairman H. Carl McCall and Chair Joseph Belluck, AQE Advocacy Director Zakiyah Ansari said that young New Yorkers’ education could take a step back if this proposal came to fruition.

“Interior designers need certification from the New York State Department of Education but teachers do not,” wrote Ansari. “This will be the absurd reality in our state if the SUNY board of trustees moves forward to eliminate the certification requirement for teachers in charge of educating our children in charter schools. Of course the children most impacted by this would be Black, Brown and low-income students. Our children deserve better; they deserve to have high quality teachers in each and every classroom.”

According to SUNY, their proposed regulations would require prospective teachers to acquire 100 hours of teaching experience under the supervision of an experienced teacher, and they’d also be required to sit in for 30 hours of instruction. This certification would only apply to teachers in SUNY-authorized charters.

New York State Board of Regents Chancellor Betty Rosa and Board of Regents & State Education Commissioner MaryEllen Elia, in a joint statement, spoke out against SUNY’s proposal.

“Every student in New York State deserves a high-quality teacher,” read Rosa and Elia’s statement. “The Board of Regents and State Education Department are focused on ensuring that strong and effective teachers with the proper training, experience and credentials are educating New York’s children in every public school—including charter schools. SUNY’s teacher certification proposal is cause for concern in maintaining this expectation.”

In Ansari’s letter, she pointed out that the lowering of credentials for teachers at certain charters affects mostly Black and Brown kids.

“The SUNY board cannot continue to ignore the needs of students and the outcries of parents,” wrote Ansari. “We need you to act responsibly to dismantle systemic racism in our schools, and not enhance it. We strongly urge you to maintain high quality standards for all teachers in the State of New York and to reject these proposed regulations.”