On Lovely Warren, charter schools, and jobs

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Labor Day Parade, September 2015

 September 19, 2013

No doubt, likely Mayor Lovely Warren would bring welcome energy and passion to Rochester. At the same time, I have deep reservations about her strong advocacy of the charter school movement. Fundamentally, the proliferation of charter schools means further erosion of the RCSD. Enrollment will drop; schools will close; jobs will be lost as the District shrinks.

Given that Warren is such a strong supporter of the neighborhoods and job creation, I wonder if she has thought through her position.

For decades, the school district has been an engine for the creation of decent, stable jobs in the Rochester community. The RCSD is about more than just teachers and students. The District employs support staff of all kinds. The support staff’s public union, BENTE (Board of Education Non-Teaching Employees) supports workers in eleven categories: Central Office, Custodial, Elementary Clerical, Food Services, Plant Maintenance, Secondary Schools, Sentries, Storehouse, Transportation, Occupational & Physical Therapists, and Project Workers.

Furthermore, these jobs are very often filled by city residents, many of whom themselves graduated from the RCSD. And, crucially, the District has historically been an avenue for minority employment and advancement. Charter schools may well not share these commitments.

As RCSD jobs disappear, the bottom line is that they won’t necessarily remerge in a charter school system. We know charter schools pay its non-unionized teachers considerably less than the RCSD. As non-teaching employees attempt to migrate to charter schools (and be forced out of their public union), they can expect diminished opportunities, less pay and fewer benefits.

None of this bodes well for the neighborhoods Warren seeks to help. For all its flaws, the RCSD has helped many Rochesterians climb into the middle class. I fear that charter schools may take us a step back.

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