NY Education Officials Oppose New Charter Standards

ALBANY, N.Y. (CN) – Piling on against new certification standards for 167 New York charter schools, several state education agencies asked a court to have the regulations vacated as unconstitutional.

While the state’s largest teachers union brought similar claims last year in Manhattan, the New York State Board of Regents, the state Eduction Department and the University of the State of New York filed their petition on Feb. 8 in Albany Supreme Court.

Their challenge takes issue with new regulations that took effect this past December that authorize any teacher employed in a charter school authorized by the SUNY system, short for the State University of New York, to be employed without a state teaching certificate.

This contravenes the Charter Schools Act and the education law governing the statewide universal full-day pre-kindergarten program, according to the petition.

Rather than meeting state standards, the complaint says SUNY is allowing its charter school teachers to simply meet “certain education, experience and examination requirements, which, because they are not in accordance with the requirements applicable to other public schools as required by statute, are significantly less rigorous than those required for a state teaching certificate.”

The challengers say the results will be dramatic: “effectively erod[ing] the quality of teaching in New York state and negatively impact[ing] student achievement, particularly for children who are in most need — students of color, those who are economically disadvantaged, English language learners, and students with disabilities.”

“The consequences of the regulations will be profound and far-reaching as they will impede equity access by all such students to quality teachers,” the 27-page petition continues.

Among other requirements, SUNY’s rules say teachers need only 30 “clock hours” of instruction — roughly the same as two “semester hours” — in pedagogy and a specific content area, according to the petition.

This is “significantly less rigorous” than current state teaching certificate requirements, according to the petition.

“The challenged regulations demonstrates that SUNY is providing an alternative pathway for employment at SUNY-authorized charter schools which is not in accordance with the requirements applicable to other public schools,” the petition states.

When SUNY adopted the rules in October, New York State Board of Regents Chancellor Betty Rosa called them “an affront to a critical tenet in education.” Rosa is a co-petitioner in the new court filing.

She and Maryellen Elia, the commissioner of the state Education Department, note that SUNY also lacks the authority to promulgate the rules.

The petition notes that New York lawmakers granted the SUNY committee limited authority to promulgate regulations related to governance, structure, and operations.

“Nowhere in this legislation or elsewhere did the Legislature authorize the committee to promulgate regulations concerning teacher certification,” the petition states.

When the Legislature has considered various bills to expressly empower differing teacher-certification requirements for charter schools as compared with public schools, the bills did not pass, according to the petition.

Despite this, the petition says SUNY has acted as if it has “unfettered authority to promulgate regulations relating to the employment and certification requirements” for its charter school teachers.

Representatives for SUNY denied this argument.

“SUNY believes it is within its legal right to implement these regulations,” spokeswoman Holly Liapis in a statement. “We are aware of the filing and are currently reviewing it.”

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