Saturday, February 21, 2009

Charter schools and the attack on public education

Charter schools and the attack on public education(Posted at Norms Notes)

by Sarah Knopp, teacher in Los Angeles (morph Knopp just a bit and we end up with you know who - Sarah Knopp as the anti Wendy Kopp.)

From: ISR Issue 62, November–December 2008

...because the noble intentions of some of the pioneers of the charter school movement (to create laboratories that prove what all educators know: that creativity, individual attention, and curricular relevance are the roots of good education) took shape so recently, and because there are some good charter schools, many progressives are disoriented in the current climate. Teachers who support the idea of public education, while recognizing the horrible state of some of our schools, aren’t sure what to do or what position to take when their unions fail to oppose charters, or worse, even endorse them...

A long article, but with a strong analysis of charter schools with some attention to Green Dot. "Many suspect Green Dot of signing somewhat toothless union contracts as a way of keeping more combative unions out." While talking about SEIU in LA, it might as well apply to the non-combative "we've laid down our arms" UFT, which also is chasing the Green Dot charter school blues - or dues.

Here is s short excerpt from Sarah Knopp:

The slow destruction of union power that occurs when subcontracting creates lots of small workplaces—in place of large, highly unionized ones—has been a fact across many industries. “Whipsawing” is a term used to describe the effect on unions like the UAW when workers in smaller, spun-off shops get inferior contracts, and those contracts are used to pressure workers in bigger plants to accept similar concessions. The same could apply to the effect of charter schools in education.

Some suggest, then, that we have to seek out “pro-union” charter operators and make deals with them. But if we are speaking of privately run CMOs, then genuine power for their teachers would threaten the board’s hegemony in the schools. Some, like Green Dot, are willing to allow teachers a contract, and claim to be pro-union. But in their contract with the AMU/CTA/NEA teachers’ union, one can find few guarantees of any kind of real teacher voice (in the form of voting). According to the contract between Green Dot and the “union,” in effect until 2010,

It is understood and agreed that the Board retains all of its powers and authority to direct, manage and control to the full extent of the charter school law and the regulations of a 501.C3 California corporation. Input from the staff will be considered and decisions will be derived in a collaborative model; final decisions will rest with the Board. Included in, but not limited to, those duties are the right to: ...establish educational policies with regard to admitting students; ...determine the number of personnel and types of personnel needed; ...establish budget procedures and determine budgetary allocations; contract out work and take action on any matter in the event of an emergency.51

The Board will make all staffing decisions. By contrast, the United Teachers of Los Angeles contract with Los Angeles Unified District requires faculty votes on key aspects of running the school, like the schedule and certain discretionary budget items, and guarantees that class assignments will be chosen by the teachers, through seniority, and not arbitrarily by the administration.52 This vision of unionism, typified by SEIU (a representative of which sits on Green Dot’s board) is antithetical to real power or democracy for teachers. A large union cuts a deal with the employer, quickly begins to collect dues from members, and in exchange for “neutrality” on the part of the boss gives away key workplace rights. Green Dot specifically aims to hire younger, more inexperienced teachers and gives incentives for senior teachers to leave.

Many suspect Green Dot of signing somewhat toothless union contracts as a way of keeping more combative unions out. This wouldn’t be surprising given the presence of SEIU on their board of directors. SEIU is currently engaged in undermining the legitimate teachers’ union of Puerto Rico (the FMPR) in the wake of the strike that the FMPR led last spring. After the strike, the Puerto Rican government decertified the FMPR. SEIU helped the Asociacion de Maestros (coincidentally, the same name as the teachers’ union at Green Dot schools) to try to win representation of the Puerto Rican teachers. The FMPR was not allowed to contest them.


Kyle Hampton said...

The only true reform in education will come from school choice. Please join us at

Anonymous said...

The only true reform in education will come from a societal reform. But hey, that's way too difficult, so, let's just blame teachers.
Makes us feel whole lot better.

Anonymous said...

If we wanted to keep up with the attacks on public education, we'd already be reading those voucher, KIPP, and TNTP blogs, and all the others like them.

Most readers of EdNotes haven't developed a taste for those, or the stomach for them either.

Go peddle your wares elsewhere.