Union organizers making inroads at charter schools
ST. PAUL, Minn. (AP) — Union organizers are making inroads at charter schools in the Twin Cities.
Two recent votes to unionize are unusual for charter schools that have largely steered clear of collective bargaining in Minnesota.
In January, teachers at Twin Cities German Immersion School grew frustrated with their school's administration and decided to unionize. In June, teachers and staff at the Community School of Excellence in St. Paul also voted to join the teachers union.
Education Minnesota President Denise Specht said the votes present new opportunities for the union to expand its membership to institutions that have typically shunned collective bargaining.
"When we get inquiries, more often than not it's not about money," Specht told Minnesota Public Radio News (http://bit.ly/1qfHwJg ). "It's about respect, it's about having that voice, it's about being able to make decisions about your school without fear or intimidation."
The two organizers are helping teachers at three additional charter schools start the unionization process but won't say where to protect the teachers from retribution.
Typically, charter school teachers have said union membership would make it harder to manage their schools and to quickly weed out bad teachers.
Nationwide, only 12 percent of charter schools are unionized. In Minnesota, a state that pioneered the charter school movement, the two Twin Cities unionized charter schools stand out. Of the 150 charter schools in the state, they're the only ones unionized.
The votes reflect unique situations, said Eugene Piccolo, executive director of the Minnesota Association of Charter Schools. He points to a change in state law five years ago that effectively allows charter schools to limit the number of teachers on their boards.
Piccolo said that may be a source of dissatisfaction among teachers.
"Leadership and governance I think are key to whether or not people feel they have ownership in the school, whether they feel like they are being listened to," he said.
Information from: Minnesota Public Radio News, http://www.mprnews.org
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