The New Jersey Senate Education Committee heard testimony on Sen. Teresa Ruiz’s new charter school bill on Oct. 16. One of the lobbyists there was New Jersey Education Association President Wendell Steinhauer. As he approached the podium you couldn’t help but feel sorry for him. This well-spoken and diplomatic head of New Jersey’s primary teachers’ union was in a bind, compelled to triangulate between the NJEA’s historically consistent support for these independent public schools and a swelling rebellion within union ranks demanding a more combative stance against charters.
Indeed, teacher union leaders like Steinhauer are in an increasingly difficult position. For more than a century political alliances have been easy and predictable: teacher unions were umbilically tied to the Democratic Party and, really, moderates of any ilk. But suddenly a more radical faction is forcing union leaders to shift from that safe center and, as Steinhauer did last week, testify against sensible updates to charter-school law and other reforms.
Locally, a majority of the Madison School Board rejected the proposed Madison Preparatory Academy IB charter school.