Charters & Choice News Roundup: Unions vs. School Choice

By Arianna Prothero — March 06, 2015 1 min read
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This week, New York City’s teachers’ union, the United Federation of Teachers, announced it will close a charter school it has operated due to poor performance.

As you can imagine, this story made the rounds on social media with many wondering how the union could let this happen. The New York Times dug up this quote from Randi Weingarten, who was president of the UFT in 2005 when the school opened:

[...] Weingarten, who is now the president of the American Federation of Teachers, pledged that it would 'show real, quantifiable student achievement and with those results, finally dispel the misguided and simplistic notion that the union contract is an impediment to success.' "

School closure is nothing new in the charter school movement which was built in part on the (sometimes controversial) premise that if a school fails to perform, it is shut down. My colleague, Stephen Sawchuk, got to the heart of the issue when he wrote:

There will probably be lots of crowing over the UFT's failure to produce a success story from this experiment. But perhaps the more universal lesson is this one: School governance is complicated."

But there are examples of thriving, unionized charter schools—the most cited example probably being the Green Dot network in California. You can read about how Green Dot makes it all work in this Q&A with its president, Cristina de Jesus.

Meanwhile, dueling rallies in Albany...

Thousands of charter school supporters and students rode buses to New York’s capital city to rally outside the state capitol building. The event was timed to coincide with a meeting between teachers’ union officials and state lawmakers.

Another win for school choice:

Alabama’s private school choice program has survived a legal challenge by the state’s teachers’ union that reached the state’s supreme court.

The judges ruled that the law that created tax-credit scholarships, an iteration of school vouchers, was constitutional.

Meanwhile, Senate Republicans are fast-tracking a bill that would allow charter schools to open up in the state. Alabama is one of only eight states left without a charter law.

Previous attempts to pass a charter bill have fallen to opposition from the state’s teachers’ union.

Have an idea for next week’s school choice news roundup? Tweet it to @ChartersNChoice or leave it in the comments section below.

A version of this news article first appeared in the Charters & Choice blog.