Amsterdam News Staff

“When I hear the governor go after teachers, I shake my head,” said a New York City public school parent in a United Federation of Teachers commercial, slated to air on multiple networks and cable channels. “It feels like he’s putting his political career ahead of my daughter’s education.”

The new year began with the same old point-counterpoint rhetoric between New York Gov. Andrew Cuomo and the teachers’ union. In Cuomo’s State of the State address last month, the governor advocated raising the cap on charter schools, basing half of teacher evaluations on student test scores, putting struggling schools into receivership and extending a teacher’s probationary period from three to five years. The governor also wants to reward “high-performing” teachers with pay and to make it easier to remove “ineffective” teachers from the classroom.

That didn’t sit well with United Federation of Teachers President Michael Mulgrew, who, in a statement, fired back at Cuomo and compared him to former Mayor Michael Bloomberg when it came to education.

“The governor’s speech was warmed-up Bloomberg leftovers—ignore the real problems, blame the teachers for everything that’s wrong and toss in a few failed schemes like individual merit pay,” said Mulgrew in his statement. “I’m inviting the governor to drop the rhetoric of his hedge fund pals who hate public education and come visit a real New York City public school, where teachers, kids and parents are working to make education a success.”

But the UFT wasn’t done.

Last week, the union released a district-by-district, chart-filled report on charter schools, calling them out for allegedly discriminating against special education students, children from families in extreme poverty, students whose first language isn’t English and homeless students in the admissions process.

“But dozens of charter schools have been ignoring an existing 2010 state law that already requires them to enroll and retain a student body comparable to those attending local public schools,” stated Mulgrew in the report. “The cap should not be lifted unless and until charters meet their obligation to all our children.

“Many charter schools, in particular the larger chains, suspend students at rates well in excess of their home-district averages—rates that would trigger an investigation if they were logged by traditional public schools,” the report read. “Charter school parents complain that their children are repeatedly suspended, or subject to disproportionate punishments, until the family finally withdraws the child from the school.”

Using Community School Districts 4 and 5 (in East Harlem, West Harlem and Central Harlem), the UFT compared the suspension rates of the charters school and public schools in those areas. In Districts 4 and 5, the suspension rate in public schools for the 2011-2012 school year (the most recent numbers available) were 1 and 2 percent, respectively. For charter schools? Both at 11 percent.

This was only the first battle in the two months of budget negotiations in Albany, with a finalized budget due April 1. Cuomo wants the Legislature to pass his education reform proposals in exchange for a 4.8 percent increase in education spending for New York schools.