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Thursday, January 19, 2012

UFT President Mike Mulgrew Sued Charters While On Their Board

Mike Mulgrew
UFT head sued charters while on their board
By Nikki Dowling, Riverdale Press

The United Federation of Teachers filed a lawsuit on May 18, 2011, seeking to prevent charter school co-location in public school buildings. 

But UFT President Michael Mulgrew sits on the board of the very organization — New Visions for Public Schools — responsible for opening two charter schools on the Kennedy campus.

The suit, which ultimately failed, sought to prevent the New Visions Charter High School for the Humanities and the New Visions Charter High School for Advanced Math and Science, as well as 16 other charters from across the city, from opening in a building that already housed another school (also known as co-locating). 

The two charters are now located on the Kennedy campus in a mammoth building that houses six other schools, including John F. Kennedy High School, which the DOE is phasing out due to poor performance. 

The UFT suit had charged that when they are co-located, disproportionate resources are given to charter schools, while larger schools, like JFK, get less.

“A school building should not be a lesson for a child on what inequality is and that is clearly what we now have. All children should have equal access to facilities inside a school building,” Mr. Mulgrew said in a May 26 press release.

While those interviewed agreed that Mr. Mulgrew’s position on the board is not a legal issue, they found it strange that a union leader who has come out publicly against charter school co-locations would sit on the board of an organization that has, to date, opened two charters in a multi-school building and is seeking to open more. 

“They try and play both sides of the fence,” Norm Scott, a vocal critic of the UFT and DOE who runs Ed Notes Online, said. 

District 10 Community Education President Marvin Shelton called Mr. Mulgrew’s position on the board a “head scratcher.” 

“[If you’re] sitting on the board of an organization … one would believe that you are in support of that organization,” he said. 

The two New Visions charters are not yet unionized and thus do not have to abide by UFT rules. 

“The process of unionizing these two schools, which is up to the educators in the schools, is underway,” a UFT spokesperson said in a statement. 

Mr. Shelton pointed out that though charter teachers may form their own union, it is in the UFT’s interest to solicit more members because they pay membership dues.  

UFT spokesman Peter Kadushin and New Visions spokesman Timothy Farrell declined to comment on Mr. Mulgrew’s position on the board. 

Randi Weingarten, president of the American Federation of Teachers, also sits on New Visions’ board. 

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