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The UNIONS, and their impact on Teachers

National Charter Schools Week 2018 Day 3

Recognizing charter schools as well as those who enable their progress on this #TeachersDay 2018 must include a recognition of those that stand in the way of yet more progress- the National Education Association and the exceptionally hostile American Federation of Teachers (AFT).

It’s no secret these two groups have always opposed and spread falsehoods about charters, working hard to convince teachers that they don’t serve kids. That has largely failed, but lately, the rhetoric and attacks by the union bosses have taken a troubling, destructive turn. Their increased hostility can only be a result of one thing – a threat to their power. Charter schools have gained strength and acceptance across the nation, threatening the unions’ power, influence, money and membership. NEA membership declined in 27 states last year. The AFT membership fell by 69,000 in 2016. And within a few short weeks, the US Supreme Court will decide in Janus vs AFSCME if the US constitution intended for union fees to be involuntarily extracted from the nation’s teachers. (We think our Founders did not).

But rather than evolve and adapt to changes in the 180-year-old factory model system of education, rather than create a new path for teachers that supports their growth over mandating uniformity and lock step acceptance of rules, they have dug in their heels and decided character assassination and anti-charter propaganda is best, even declaring unfathomably that the charter school movement is rooted in racism and in the Jim Crow politics of the South’s past!

Over at their palatial building on 16th Street, NW in Washington the NEA has been sending missives out to teachers based on last year’s policy statement that – in the union mind and the union mind only – it “jeopardize[s] student success, undermines public education and harms communities” and thus they must “arm our communities and our educational professionals with the tools and voice we all need to ensure a better future for our youth.”

Of course, those tools should be making sure every child gets a great education no matter what the vehicle, but that would never occur to a union who derives its power from mandatory assignment and forced membership.

As absurd and as unfounded as their comments and actions are, they must not go unchallenged.  Nor should we ignore that they have tried to tie their school-funding/teacher-pay protests to charters. Make no mistake, these walkouts, sickouts and strikes are intended to build their union, pushing charter school teachers to follow them. Many have called them out in the news and in podcasts with important education leaders.

The good news is that there is help for charter schools and their teachers who want to resist the forced actions of unions to take over these life-saving schools.

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The really good news however is that teachers love the autonomy and focus that charters allow them to teach and innovate without being bound by union rules that only hamstring those efforts. That’s why well over 90% of charter schools remain non-union and, as a result, retain the freedoms and flexibilities entailed in that independence. As such, charter schools continue to outperform traditional public schools at a rate that has helped drive advances in learning and pedagogy. Charter schools change lives, thanks to the teachers in them. And today, on Teacher Appreciation day as well as Day 3 of #CharterSchoolsWeek, that’s worth celebrating!

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