Sunday, April 10, 2011

Unions organize teachers at Chicago Charter Schools

Unions Move In at Chicago Charter Schools, and Resistance Is Swift
In a trend that worries charter school operators, teachers at 12 of Chicago’s charters have formed unions over the past two years, and the Chicago Teachers Union is seeking to organize all 85 of the schools.
Union leaders say the growing charter movement is changing the landscape of public education and, with its disdain for unions, could leave teachers without a strong voice on issues like working conditions, teacher evaluations and curriculum.
Administrators and operators are battling back, arguing that unionization could undermine the basic premise of the charter school model: that they are more effective because they are free from the regulations and bureaucracies that govern traditional public schools.
Unionization of charter schools is a major step for the Chicago Teachers Union. Though charter teachers in other cities have formed unions, Chicago is one of the first where the public school system’s major union has directed the effort, according to the American Federation of Teachers.

The unions at the 12 charter schools are affiliated with the Chicago Alliance of Charter Teachers and Staff, which is a joint program of the C.T.U., the Illinois Federation of Teachers and the American Federation of Teachers. At eight of the schools, teachers have contracts, at two they are in negotiation and at two they are fighting to be recognized by their school administrations.
“At some point, we would like all the charter schools to be part of C.T.U.,” said Jackson Potter, the union’s staff coordinator.
There were no charter school unions in 2008, when the Chicago Teachers Union formed its Charter Outreach Committee to knock on doors and help charter teachers organize.
Nationally, 604 charter schools, roughly 12 percent, have collective-bargaining agreements. But 388 of those schools are in states where the law dictates that charters be included in existing collective-bargaining agreements with local districts, according to data collected by the National Alliance for Public Charter Schools. Illinois law does not require charter schools to be part of local collective-bargaining units.

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