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Ticket to learn

"Ticket to learn" Continued...

Issue: "Tiananmen massacre," June 6, 2009

Dan Lips, senior policy analyst with the Heritage Foundation, said charter schools are compelling because principals are unshackled by rules and red tape. They have more flexibility in hiring and firing, and teachers sometimes work longer hours and more days for better learning. But Lips noted that "once these types of things start being decided through the union process and collective bargaining, I think that those things would go away."

Public and charter schools often share space-and especially in New York, where space is a precious commodity, they fight over it. The UFT recently sued the Department of Education, saying they were simply erasing certain public schools from the zoning map and leaving parents with no option but to go to a public school in another district, or to attend the charter school.

UFT spokesperson Ron Davis denied that the union had changed its stance on charter schools: "We don't have a problem with charter schools but we want the charter schools to be held accountable for their academic results like regular schools are." He said that the unions wish charter schools would handle more challenging students like regular public schools do, not passing over special ed or English language learners: "Charter schools can sit back and say, 'OK, we'll take the cream of the crop.'"

Since the first charter school law passed in 1991, charter schools have grown to 4,600 schools serving 1.4 million students in 40 states, according to the Center for Education Reform. "The writing is on the wall that some change is going to happen," said Winters. Now unions want to have a say in the changes.

Echevarria and Totoya waited to hear Luis' name as Achievement First named the 84 accepted students. "It was like, 82, 83 . . . ," Echevarria said. But the school never called Luis Caneta, and now he will join the thousands of children across the country on waiting lists for charter schools. Totoya cried, but Echevarria said he reassured her, "He's still doing well. We have to keep supporting him wherever he's at. We got to make sure that we ask for teachers who are giving him every opportunity to succeed and all the help that he needs."

"I let her know that it's important for him to see how hard she's working for him. She's also trying to achieve her own dreams as well and that'll be something for him to take pride in," Echevarria said, adding that she would never "just receive a check" without working for it: "That whole idea of him working as hard as he can-as long as I'm in his life, that's what I'm here to do, to help be a positive influence for him and never allow him . . . to feel that he's less than anyone. That he's equal, that he has every opportunity like anyone else."

"It would have been great to have him be a part of the charter school," said Echevarria, "but we've got to do the best with what we have."

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