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Back to May Ed Reporter

Education Reporter
NUMBER 304 THE NEWSPAPER OF EDUCATION RIGHTS MAY 2011

Teachers Unions Working Feverishly to 'Organize' Charter Schools
By Kyle Olson

One of the things I've always liked about charter schools is they aren't bound by onerous labor agreements that hamper innovation. Traditional public schools get boxed in with union contracts that literally stipulate when a teacher arrives in the morning and when he or she must depart. And that's just the beginning of union-imposed regulations.

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In charter schools, the interest of the students comes first, so adults oftentimes find themselves going above and beyond to ensure that students succeed. In the documentary "Kids Aren't Cars," the story was told of Tindley Accelerated School in Indianapolis. The principal said his teachers stay late and work Saturdays if necessary because they do not accept failure.

That's why it is disturbing to watch labor unions organize charter school after charter school, with little being done about it. Their intent is clear. Consider what United Federation of Teachers Vice President Leo Casey said at the recent socialist Left Forum, courtesy of EAGtv (Education Action Group TV):

If we do not figure out how to organize charter schools and if we are not successful in doing that, we will end up in the same place as the auto workers. So there is no more key question before us as a union and a broader labor movement with regard to education than how we approach charter schools and our ability to organize them.

What he's saying is that the United Auto Workers unionized Ford, General Motors and Chrysler and ignored foreign competitors. As foreign market shares grew, the UAW's membership rolls suffered. Casey's envisioning a similar scenario with school employee unions.

He doesn't care if charter schools benefit students. He just knows that they hurt his union, so they must be changed as soon as possible.

"Organizing a charter school is like organizing WalMart. This is not traditional public sector organizing," Casey went on to say, pounding his fist on the table. To say Big Labor has a distaste for WalMart is an understatement, so the comparison is all the more insulting to charters.

He continued on the WalMart theme, which would make one wonder if the union campaign to organize charter schools is because they believe charter teachers want their representation, or because a unionized charter school will soon turn into a run-of-the-mill, substandard school.

"The battle has to be to organize those schools. If those schools are organized, do you think WalMart is going to be pouring money into them?" Casey's strategy is a political one, not one born of a desire to create quality schools.

Stanley Aronowitz, a professor, union activist and former Green Party candidate for governor, also spoke at the event and concurred with Casey, "I'm for the position that charter schools are ratty and should be abolished yet at the same time we should organize them — I agree with that position."

It is a shame teachers unions, principally the American Federation of Teachers, are unionizing charter schools simply as a power play - not because those teachers are seeking to organize or because unionizing creates a better education. It's further proof that teachers unions look out for the adults instead of the children.


Kyle Olson is the founder and CEO of Education Action Group Foundation, a non-partisan non-profit organization with the goal of promoting sensible education reform. Readers can learn more at EducationActionGroup.org. This article was reprinted by permission.

 
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