In December 2018, for the first time,
teacher strikes ensnared a charter school network. This was seen by many as
another sign that unions are coming for charter schools.
Indeed, unions have worked avidly to organize more charter school teachers.
Are they succeeding? Nope! During the past decade, the share of
unionized charters has actually declined. What’s the story? Well, it’s tough for
unions to organize charter teachers when union leaders are busy treating charter
schools as a political pinata, and a target during teacher strikes and
legislative fights. It’s also not clear that unions think charters are ultimately
worth the trouble! Charter schools tend to be small, account
for just a tiny fraction of all teachers, and typically require unions to work
school-by-school, rather than by organizing whole school districts at a
time. Charters have much to offer teachers frustrated by district
bureaucracies, but this has been too rarely celebrated — or communicated — by
advocates. Whatever the unions do, that’s one place charters need to do much
better. Do you think it’s good or bad for charter schools to be unionized? Let us
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