Charter Schools and Unions – Help or Hindrance?

Charter Schools and Teacher Unions
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A reader of my recent blog, Charter Schools-Nothing Ventured, Nothing Gained?, commented that perhaps one of the disadvantages of charter schools is that teachers are not protected by a union. She felt that teachers who work in a charter school are choosing the freedom to be innovative in the classroom over better salary and stronger job security. Finding this subject compelling, I did some research on the topic. What I found was a large array of conflicting information and viewpoints.


Generally, charter schools have not been unionized. Teachers may be receiving lower salaries, a longer work day, and no job security. Partly because of these issues, there is a larger turn over of teachers in charter schools. This might be a detriment to the students as they are constantly receiving unseasoned teachers. On the flip side, charter schools save money in teacher salaries, rarely having to increase amounts based on years-of-experience.


In Chicago, “Teach for America” was established as a union-like organization supposedly to help charter schools develop and assure quality educator placement. However, a scathing opinion piece was written concerning TFA practices, such as members having to accept the first placement position offered even if the salary is significantly lower than standard, the school has difficult administration, there are overly strict expectations on the teachers or the teacher can be fired at any time for any reason. The writer feels that the ultimate goal of TFA towards charter schools is to make it “just another corporation” without the children’s (or teachers’) best interests at heart.


On the other side of the discussion, the “Beginning with Children” charter school in New York City has decide to close its door. Apparently, they are unionized and, under this scrutiny, found it impossible to navigate as a charter school. The assumption is that charter schools do whatever it takes to focus on the success of the children where as public schools, under union rules, are more about teacher job protection. Beginning with Children apparently felt that the two objectives were not both achievable at the same time.


Can this be true? Please share your experiences with being part of a teachers’ union or part of a non-unionized charter school. Can you foresee a time when there is a happy merger with unions and charter schools?

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