Union Hijacking of Charter Schools; Organized Labor Cares More about Teachers' Rights Than Kids' Education

The Washington Times (Washington, DC), February 29, 2012 | Go to article overview

Union Hijacking of Charter Schools; Organized Labor Cares More about Teachers' Rights Than Kids' Education


Byline: Terrence Scanlon, SPECIAL TO THE WASHINGTON TIMES

If you can't beat them, take them over. That seems to be the new union strategy on charter schools. Charter schools are publicly funded schools that are governed by private groups that sign a contract, or charter, with the state. The charter requires that the school meet certain standards of accountability in return for taxpayer funding, but in other areas it exempts the school from many burdensome state or local regulations. Some of the most burdensome are rules required by labor unions.

Charter school teachers usually are not required to join existing union collective-bargaining units. This means charter schools can more easily promote good teachers and fire bad ones. But, of course, this has made charter schools targets for hostile union action.

Unions correctly view charter schools as a threat to their stranglehold over public education and the tax dollars that come with it. Unions have denounced charter schools for skimming off the best students from the public schools, and they have sued school districts that introduce charter schools. Unions have tried to block or repeal charter school laws, and they've tried to limit the number of charter schools allowed by states.

But in Minnesota, the teachers unions are moving in a new direction. State officials recently have given the Minnesota Guild of Charter Schools, an organization created by the Minneapolis Federation of Teachers (MFT), the right to authorize charter schools.

Supporters of the MFT move claim that authorizers of charter schools do not run the schools directly. That is technically true, though authorizers oversee the administrators and school boards that handle day-to-day operations of a charter school, according to a report by Minnesota Public Radio. In addition, Authorizers are also primary decision makers on which schools to sponsor.

The prospect of union-authorized charter schools disturbs many observers, who predict it will lead to conflict. A report sponsored in part by the Progressive Policy Institute summarized the source of the hostility between the two sides:

Unions believe in professionalism through clearly defined roles, rights and responsibilities for teachers. …

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