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Charter School Teachers Want It Both Ways

By Walt Gardner — April 19, 2013 1 min read

One of the defining characteristics of the approximately 5,000 charter schools in the country is that they are largely union-free. But that may no longer be the case if the drive to unionize teachers at the United Neighborhood Organization, one of the largest non-profit charter groups, is successful (“Unions’ Charter-School Push,” The Wall Street Journal, Apr. 16).

Frankly, I’m surprised that it took so long for charter school teachers to demand union representation. According to the National Center for Education Statistics, they earn an average annual salary of $40,800 for an average of 39.7 hours per week. This compares with $49,800 for 38.1 hours for teachers in traditional public schools. However, it’s a trade off. Charter school teachers are free of most of the rules and regulations governing traditional public schools. As a result, it’s hard to sympathize with them. They knew what to expect when they signed up to teach in charter schools. Now they have a bad case of buyer’s remorse.

I have great respect for charter school teachers. They sometimes produce better outcomes than their colleagues elsewhere. But they’re all college-educated adults who should have done due diligence about the job offers made to them by charter operators. The latter are essentially entrepreneurs who have something to sell. They will do everything they can to keep their costs down, even if they are non-profit. That’s how they stay in business.

Veteran teachers know from sad experience that so much talk about the importance of recruiting and retaining the best and the brightest to teaching is rhetoric. Without a strong union, even the best teachers in any school are at the mercy of their superiors. That’s a hard lesson charter school teachers are about to learn if their attempt to get union representation fails.

The opinions expressed in Walt Gardner’s Reality Check are strictly those of the author(s) and do not reflect the opinions or endorsement of Editorial Projects in Education, or any of its publications.