The charter school concept was a way to test methods of improving education without having a major impact on the rest of the district. These semi-autonomous publicly funded schools were able to be change curriculum, discipline rules, require uniforms, adjust class size and make other changes deemed necessary to achieving a better education.
One of the freedoms was to hire non-union and non-certified teachers. Recent reports of increasing acceptance of unions in charter schools has raised some questions. It's no secret that I'm not a fan of unions. It's not individual teachers that I'm afraid of, and I imagine that many union teachers who teach in charter schools will maintain the high standards and desire to innovate and educate that they've always had.
There are two ways that this seems to be bad for charter schools. First, it may require charter schools to keep teachers who are not performing well or who don't fit the school's vision or methods. Up until now, charter schools have felt free to let teachers go if their isn't a fit. Second, if this means that teachers' salaries will increase greatly (let's say between 5% and 15%), it will either change the school's dynamics or else kill the school. OR worse, it may change the school's dynamics, then kill the school in a slow death.
“A charter school is a more fragile host than a school district,” said Paul T. Hill, director of the Center on Reinventing Public Education at the University of Washington. “Labor unrest in a charter school can wipe it out fast. It won’t go well for unions if the schools they organize decline in quality or go bust.” As Mr. Hill says, if this move simply makes a charter school more like a district school in vision and class size in order to make up for higher salaries, schools will lose their distinct character. In addition, it's just possible that some very good teachers who are not licensed by their states could get pushed out by unionization, harming the school's quality.
While I do not normally subscribe to conspiracy theories, it struck me while reading the New York Times article that this could be a concious effort by unions to kill off charter schools. Most union leaders have made no secret that charter teachers are scabs and that charter schools are harming public education. I just wonder if charter school teachers think ahead about the future of what they are now doing, if they would still vote in favor of a union. Is it possible that individual schools that want something like a union could develop a teachers' group that had some strength of a union, but with a more local cooperative character. For now, I'm just observing and wondering.