In California, the new NEA leader Lily Eskelsen García is working to gather charter school teachers to unionize. HERE. She appears savvy and smart and gave an uplifting, firery introductory speech to teachers upon her election. As a retired member of the NEA, I wish her well.
But she has thus far claimed, like AFT’s president Randi Weingarten, that Common Core had a bad “roll out,” raising the eyebrows of those of us who question the CCSS for what it is and where it came from. And now, again, like Weingarten, she is embracing charter school teachers and selling them on the union in California.
Why is that a mistake? Charter schools were originally supposed to be for public school teachers, principals and parents to run. Based on teacher/administrator Ray Budde’s early 1970’s thesis and the support by AFT president Albert Shanker, teachers were supposed to start charters as learning laboratories to show their professionalism. The AFT even came up with a list of rules for charters.
Charter schools were to:
- Be tuition-free, not-for-profit, and open and accessible to all students on an equal basis.
- Operate transparently by fully disclosing their finances, curriculum, student demographics and academic outcomes to parents and the public.
- Meet or exceed the same academic standards and assessment requirements that apply to other public schools.
- Hire well-qualified teachers.
- Work cooperatively with local school districts.
- Permit their employees to freely form unions.
I know. Don’t fall out of your chairs.
But the charter school concept was usurped by the business crowd after Chris Whittle’s failed attempt to push for-profit Edison Schools on the public.
Apparently Albert Shanker saw this coming before he died, and he knew exactly what kind of train had left the station. Now charters are a mix of a few good ones, a lot of bad ones, and many that are run unnecessarily like military schools for the poor. Too often they are segregated.
After random drawings, reminiscent of the Hunger Games, parents sign off on rules and are usually counseled out if they have students with special needs, or require unique assistance with a second language. These actions should definitely remove the “public” from charter schools. The only thing really public about these schools are the public funds they siphon from true public schools.
So what is the union going to change about these schools if they get the charter teachers to join the union? Do they think they will recapture Ray Budde’s idea and the original charter school concept? Union leaders, it would seem, should admit to the stealing of that original concept. That old Ray Budde idea is long gone.
They should instead throw their mighty force behind traditional public schools which, thus far, have done better than charter schools. HERE.
They should not think they will somehow remake the charters by collecting members who teach in those schools. How many of those individuals are credentialed teachers? And thus far, with all the charter schools that exist, few have gone the union route.
By soliciting members from charter schools, and even unionizing those schools, they appear to give charter schools credibility. They are saying we can represent these schools and jump into the marketplace, competing with non-union charters. They ultimately won’t win that game.
For-profit charter schools are the end goal, and charter school corruption, where operators run away with millions without getting the job done, while being ignored by the mainstream media, is still a reality. Check HERE and HERE and HERE.
The unions should strongly oppose charter schools and not try to make friends with the teachers of those schools. Currently, charter schools are running real public schools out of town.
We all know that scenario: schools are intentionally not well-funded, test scores are unfairly used to cast the school as failed, and then a charter organization takes over. And when the traditional public school is shuttered, credentialed teachers lose their jobs and they are not rehired. That is when the Teach for America types takeover.
The teachers unions should not embrace Milton Freidman’s free market competition when it comes to public schools. They have tried before and it didn’t work. It muddies the waters and makes it look like educators have accepted business run schools. They put them in the same league as traditional public schools.
America does not need dueling schools. The original concept of public schools for all students is a fine one. Our public schools should be democratically run, and their doors should be open to all children. President García’s focus should be on reestablishing the credibility of traditional public schools, not recruiting members from a hodge-podge of charters.