New York State United Teachers and its largest local affiliate, the United Federation of Teachers, are taking newly approved rules for charter school teachers to court.
The unions are suing to block the SUNY Charter Schools Committee from implementing what they say are "watered-down" and "illegal" regulations that allow teachers in charter schools to be certified with as little as 40 hours of classroom experience and a total of 160 hours of classroom-related instruction.
“These illegal regulations tell the people that New York State cares more about nail salon customers than children in charter schools,” said NYSUT President Andy Pallotta said in a statement. “How can New York State demand that manicurists need 250 hours of instruction, but allow charter school teachers to get certified with far fewer hours of training?”
The lawsuit petitions the state Supreme Court in Manhattan to overturn Wednesday's vote by SUNY, charging it exceeded the Committee's "legal authority and usurped the role of the Legislature" by adopting the requirements - which are much less stringent than the State Education Department.
Charter schools have argued that there is a teacher shortage that makes it heard enough to hire according to the higher state requirements. However, Pallotta said lowering the standards is the wrong approach and will hurt children.
State Education Commissioner Mary Ellen Elia and Regents Chancellor Betty Rosa also have condemned the new regulations, saying they “strongly disapprove” of the committee’s actions. The two say the lower standards "will allow inexperienced and unqualified individuals to teach those children that are most in need - students of color, those who are economically disadvantaged, and students with disabilities.”
The Alliance for Quality Education, an advocacy group, has said it also will go to court to try to rescind the new rules.