D.C. Charter School Laws Earn 'A'; Education-Reform Group Cites City, Underscoring Rhee's Efforts

The Washington Times (Washington, DC), January 13, 2011 | Go to article overview

D.C. Charter School Laws Earn 'A'; Education-Reform Group Cites City, Underscoring Rhee's Efforts


Byline: Deborah Simmons, THE WASHINGTON TIMES

As unions move to organize charter-school employees, former D.C. Chancellor Michelle A. Rhee rolled out a taut school-reform agenda that pushes charter expansion and public-private vouchers, and she said the untold number of charter teachers she has encountered are not interested in joining a union.

Ms. Rhee's proposal and comments came as the District of Columbia won the No. 1 spot for its charter-school laws, which are touted in a new Center for Education Reform study for supporting school and teacher autonomy. Ms. Rhee supported those efforts as chancellor by pushing union roadblocks aside to institute groundbreaking reforms and broaden school choice.

I am in favor of employees being able to organize. That said, I've met significant numbers of charter-school teachers, none of whom are interested in joining a union, Ms. Rhee, now head of an organization called Students First, told The Washington Times. Rather, they are focused on working with the students, parents and administrators in their school to create the best learning environment possible. Work rules and tenure are the least of their concerns.

Those learning environments, which often include longer school days and weekend classes, are least restrictive when teachers and administrators are free of traditional red tape and parents are encouraged to select the best academic fit for their children.

Labor organizers already wield influence in charter schools in several states, such as New York and New Jersey, as well as Florida, California, Illinois and Michigan.

But charter schools and union shackles are incompatible, Jeanne Allen, president of the Center for Education Reform, said Wednesday.

In states where charters are not granted the freedom and flexibility to provide innovative learning environments for their students, they are not able to fulfill their intended purpose, Ms. Allen said.

This is especially true when it comes to their staff. Teachers should be allowed to achieve success in the classroom free of union contracts that could restrict extended school days or additional instruction. At the same time, charters should be empowered to identify and remove staff who are not making the grade for kids. Union shackles are at odds with the nature of charter schools, she said. …

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