Whatever the outcome of the strike by teachers in the Los Angeles Unified School District, one thing is inevitable: Charter schools will be next in line. I say that because the first-ever charter school strike in the nation already took place in Chicago (“A Labor Strike at a Charter School?” The Nation, Jan. 7).
Until now, teachers in charter schools, which are publicly funded but privately operated, have overwhelmingly not belonged to a union. But conditions are slowly changing as a result of disaffection with the status quo. Chief among these is resentment over the lack of autonomy accorded teachers and salaries that are 20 to 30 percent less than teachers at traditional public schools.
It’s true that wait lists for admission to charters in many cities are already long and growing longer. Yet I wonder if exasperated parents will feel the same way about the hype surrounding their alleged superiority once teachers threaten a strike and go through with it. The fact is that teaching today is much harder than it was in the past, whether in public, private or religious schools. Sooner or later, teachers will flee the classroom unless they are given greater respect and support.
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4 Replies to “Teacher strikes will hit charter schools next”
Not optimistic re charter school teachers organizing. My impression — possibly inaccurate — is that most charter school teachers are more-or-less entry-level teachers + that most charter school teachers stay in a school for only a few years before either leaving teaching or moving to a traditional public school (higher pay/benefits). If this is true, the cost-benefit analysis for these charter teachers re joining a union and striking will discourage union organization — that is, they do not see themselves as staying with the charter school for more than a year or two and therefore don’t think union dues and/or foregone wages during a strike are a sound investment. Speaking more generally, unions have always had tremendous difficulty organizing employees in industries where employee turnover is very high.
Labor Lawyer: Charter schools are still too new to know how receptive teachers there will be to unionization. I was surprised by what happened in Chicago, but charter teachers elsewhere will no doubt carefully study. As a result, Chicago may be a harbinger. It’s true that teacher turnover in charters is great, but even teachers who stay for a relatively short time may be open to a union.
Labor Lawyer: Even new charter school teachers may be open to a union because their salaries are far less than unionized teachers.