Wednesday, June 15, 2005

Charters and Unions

Head of the Mass. Public Charter School Association predicts apocalypse if charter school teachers unionize: it "'would spell the end of innovations' at the alternative schools because principals would lose flexibility in hiring and firing."

I still think that equating unions with lack of flexibility and innovation is missing the whole potential of unionized charter schools. There's no reason that a charter school whose teachers are in a union has to abide by the contract that governs the whole district. Yes, the proposed UFT charters in New York are going to use the city's contract, but that's to prove the point that it's not the contract that stifles achievement. Even so, it looks like hiring will be done by the school itself, not some faceless bureaucracy.

A unionized school hiring its own teachers? What's next, a golden retriever summoned to court?


Leo Casey said...

As one of the proposed trustees of the UFT Charter Secondary School, let me add a few additional points to your observations.

1. The school based hiring procedure you mention is in the UFT contract [ ]. About half of the school in NYC, some 600 in total, have decided to opt in to this procedure.

2. The three NYC middle school charter schools [Renaissance, KIPP and Bronx Preparatory] which did so well on the 8th grade ELA test, and have been used to make the case that all middle school charter schools did better than district public schools [which was, let us say, not exactly truth in advertising] are all conversion charter schools, meaning that they all continue to work under the UFT contract. Maybe if more charter schools had a union contract, they all would do as well as those three. {-;

julie said...

Hi Leo,

Thank you for reading and for that excellent point. One of the charters I work with, which has been referred to as one of the high-performing charters on this last round of tests, is also a conversion and therefore a UFT school. I might argue that their success is due in part to the fact that, as a conversion, they've been running far longer (and there's a correlation between how long a charter's been open and how well its students perform), as well as the fact that charter start-ups tend to attract teachers with fewer years of experience.

That's why I think it was a good idea for these propsed UFT charters to be start-ups rather than conversions (as many people who oppose the charter school cap have been suggesting they do). If these schools succeed academically, it will not be because they simply have been around longer.

K Carter said...

While I think there can be case made (and should be) for all types of Charters (convesion w/ UFT contract, new w/o, UFT-run ones, those w/o unions) it is preposterous and shamelessly biased to state that all schools [charters] would do as well if had they UFT contract. Look how the #s stack up in NYC for schools w/ UFT contracts? Opinions vary, but #s don't lie. You can't blame it all on the UFT contract, but the reality is the practicality of operating under the UFT, even w/ the school-based option, is onerous at best for school leaders to hire/fire (for example).

But more importantly, I ask, why unionize in a small school? Instead of asking "why not". WHY? Old habits hard to break? A general mistrust of a new system? There should be a balance of power in the governance of a school and a union in a small school would tip that balance of power unduly. I am not sure why teachers in a charter want to unionize. Who is telling them to do so? What benefits are perceived w/ a union contract? I think teachers need to be a part of the decision process in creating the school, running the classrooms, but given the divisiness and political might of the unions within the district, why not try to create a mutually-respected, creative environment in a new small school w/o a contract to start? If it is unworkable, teachers can then unionize as there is great power at their disposal to encourage and help them do so.