I wrote this blog post in 2016. But this issue continues to be relevant to privatizing public schools. Thank you for taking the time to read it. I can understand the union’s desire to add members and support teachers in charter schools. But most charter schools have not evolved into that old concept of teacher-run schools. Charters and real public schools are at odds with each other, and embracing charter school teachers is an acceptance of charter schools in general. I believe it will lead to the end of traditional public schools. I think this is especially true in light of Betsy DeVos and the push for vouchers.
There is a growing call for teachers in charter schools to get union representation. I disagree. There are too many charter schools that fail, and many are now designed for online competency-based instruction.
I know that there are some good charters. There are also young people who come from fast-track programs, like Teach for America, who are committed to children. But that doesn’t make charters real public schools, and it doesn’t make these young people real teachers either.
We need strong public schools and real career teachers. We need authentic democratic public schools that are owned by the people. Any good charter school should run as an alternative school with oversight by the school district. The school should be owned by the taxpayers.
Here is an updated post from two years ago when I broached this topic. I welcome comments, including from those who disagree with me. I know there are many educators who do. But please share with us why you do, or do not, think charter school teachers should be encouraged to join the union.
Why Unionizing Teachers In Charter Schools is a Bad Idea
In California, the new NEA leader Lily Eskelsen García is working to gather charter school teachers to unionize. The AFT also reaches out to charter school teachers.
Why is this 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, charter schools were to be learning laboratories for teachers 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 can no longer find the AFT page that listed those conditions. But one can see how most charter schools differ from the stipulations on this list. Unions should not focus on just the last rule.
The charter school concept was stolen by the business crowd after Chris Whittle’s failed attempt to push for-profit Edison Schools on the public. Edison schools failed. Edison Schools, Inc., is now a for-profit school management organization for the United States and the United Kingdom. HERE.
Albert Shanker apparently 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 who require assistance with a second language. Most charter schools are not equipped to serve these students with their unique needs.
Still, 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. Even the NAACP is criticizing charter 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? That’s exactly what I believe they think, but they are misguided.
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.
They should not think they will somehow remake the charters by collecting members who teach in those schools. It is also unfair to allow a fast-track-made instructor to receive union representation like they are a real teacher.
By soliciting members from charter schools, and even unionizing those schools, they 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, online 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.
The unions should strongly oppose charter schools. Charter schools are unfairly running real public schools out of town.
They 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.
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 and Weingarten’s focus should be on reestablishing the credibility of traditional public schools, not recruiting members from a hodge-podge of charters and validating those schools.
Any good charter school should be brought under the wing of the local school district, with ultimate governing by a local school board, and the teachers should be fairly educated and receive authentic credentials in the area they are to teach.
Or, the older one. HERE.