Court Nixes Watered-Down Standards for Charter School Teachers

(CN) – New York’s largest teachers union scored a victory in the war over charter schools Thursday with an appeals court ruling that state policymakers overstepped by diluting certification requirements for charter school educators.

(Associated Press)

The Charter Schools Committee of the State University of New York Board of Trustees adopted the regulations in 2017 for the 167 institutions it authorizes.

As noted in a complaint that fall by two teachers, the New York State United Teachers and Local 2 of the United Federation of Teachers, the new system meant that teachers at SUNY-run charter schools would not even need a bachelor’s degree, let alone a master’s degree — a significant departure from the standards set for public school by the state Education Department and Board of Regents.

While public school teachers are required to complete more than 70 “semester” hours of field experience, SUNY’s standards sought just 40 “clock” hours. State officials say each semester hour of credit in a credit-bearing college course is equal to 15 hours of professional development.

SUNY appealed after Judge Debra Young vacated its new regulations last year, but the Third Department ruled Thursday that the power to establish teacher-certification rules lies with the state education commissioner alone.

“The Committee therefore exceeded its authority in promulgating the regulations, and Supreme Court properly annulled them and enjoined their implementation,” Presiding Justice Elizabeth Garry wrote for a four-judge panel.

“We further find that the regulations conflict with provisions of the Education Law that authorize the commissioner to prescribe regulations governing the certification of teachers and that require most teachers in charter schools and pre-kindergartens to be certified in the same manner as other public school teachers,” Garry added.

Justice John C. Egan concurred as did Associate Justices Michael Lynch and Stan Pritzker.

A spokesman for the SUNY Charter Schools Institute said it is “certainly disappointed with outcome of today’s ruling” and will be reviewing its next steps.

Michael Mulgrew, president of United Federation of Teachers, applauded Thursday’s ruling. “Once again, the children of New York won,” Mulgrew said in a statement. “The state’s Appellate Court made it clear that SUNY charter schools can’t dumb-down teacher certification standards.”

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