Charters in Washington, D.C. Schools Face Pressure from Unions
posted by: Ruthie | November 20, 2012, 06:19 PM   

In the past year, Washington, D.C. public charter schools have experienced a five percent enrollment increase, rising to nearly 81,000 students this school year alone. They now comprise 41% of all public school students in the District of Columbia.
The rapidly growing public charter school movement in Washington, D.C. hasn't gone unnoticed by teachers unions. Washington Teacher's Union President Nathan Saunders said this week that he wants to unionize the city's charter school, forcing these innovative schools and teachers into high-priced dues and lengthy contracts.

Experts contend that the push to force charter school teachers into union membership was a response to D.C. Chancellor Kaya Henderson's proposal to close 20 failing traditional public schools across the city. The Chancellor says she will rent the spaces to charter schools to accommodate their growing needs.

Saunders said, "It was commonly conceived by our members that many of these schools might receive pressure to reopen as charters, and they wanted to look at options for union membership should that happen." Clearly, Mr. Saunders is concerned with the fact that with the opening of an independent charter, the union would lose dues paying members.

While the Washington Teacher's Union has the legal right to unionize charter schools if the schools support the move, it is more difficult as charter school employees are exempt from the law that requires teachers to enter into agreements that force them to pay union dues as a condition of employment. However, Saunders says the teachers union is "prepared to dedicate significant resources" to ending this exemption and bringing charter schools under the same unfair labor laws that govern D.C. public schools.

As the Republican-led House of Representative has little interest in strengthening teachers unions and forcing teachers into supporting partisan politics, approval of forced unionization seems unlikely to occur in the D.C. Council and Congress.

"I don't see how it could be a worse idea, and it's not going anyplace because the Congress will never approve it," said Robert Cane, executive director of the pro-charter Friends of Choice in Urban Schools.

Cane continued to argue that charter schools' freedom from forced unionization is what sets them apart, "We have these two reforms working side by side, and the unionized teacher idea is part of the other reform-the DCPS reforms – and it has no place in the charter schools."

As an adamant opponent of forced unionism and supporter of charter school growth, the Association of American Educators invites charter school teachers in the District to consider non-union alternatives. Professional organizations like AAE can represent and empower teachers with the benefits and services they need, all without the partisan politics and lengthy contracts that counteract the innovative environments of charter schools.

What do you think about the union's commitment to unionize D.C. charter schools?

Comment below.

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