On Lovely Warren, charter schools, and jobs

On Lovely Warren, charter schools, and jobs

Labor Day Parade, September 2015 [Photo: David Kramer]

 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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About The Author


Welcome to Talker of the Town! My name is David Kramer. I have a Ph.D in English and teach at Keuka College. I am a former and still active Fellow at the Nazareth College Center for Public History and a Storyteller in Residence at the SmallMatters Institute. Over the years, I have taught at Monroe Community College, the Rochester Institute of Technology and St. John Fisher College. I have published numerous Guest Essays, Letters, Book Reviews and Opinion pieces in The New York Times, Rochester Democrat and Chronicle, the Buffalo News, the Rochester Patriot, the Providence Journal, the Providence Business News, the Brown Alumni Magazine, the New London Day, the Boston Herald, the Messenger Post Newspapers, the Wedge, the Empty Closet, the CITY, Lake Affect Magazine and Brighton Connections. My poetry appears in The Criterion: An International Journal in English and Rundenalia and my academic writing in War, Literature and the Arts and Twentieth Century Literary Criticism. Starting in February 2013, I wrote for three Democratic and Chronicle  blogs, "Make City Schools Better," "Unite Rochester," and the "Editorial Board." When my tenure at the D & C  ended, I wanted to continue conversations first begun there. And start new ones.  So we created this new space, Talker of the Town, where all are invited to join. I don’t like to say these posts are “mine.” Very few of them are the sole product of my sometimes overheated imagination. Instead, I call them partnerships and collaborations. Or as they say in education, “peer group work.” Talker of the Town might better be Talkers of the Town. The blog won’t thrive without your leads, text, pictures, ideas, facebook shares, tweets, comments and criticisms.


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