The largest charter school network in Los Angeles tried to illegally block teacher unionizing efforts, alleges the group that oversees labor disputes in California.
The Los Angeles Times reports that the Public Employment Relations Board has filed a complaint against the Alliance College-Ready Public Schools. Alliance oversees 27 middle and high schools serving low-income students.
It says that leaders at the charter school network blocked emails, sent out anti-union materials, and stopped organizers from entering school buildings after hours. Alliance officials say they have a right to share facts and opinions about unions and have done nothing illegal.
United Teachers Los Angeles, which is affiliated with both of the national teachers’ unions, filed charges against the charter network with the state labor board in April— more from the LA Times:
In March, nearly 70 teachers and counselors at Alliance sent a letter to school leaders, explaining their intention to partner with UTLA to form a union. Unionizing would require majority support from educators at Alliance schools. The outcome of the drive to unionize Alliance could alter the path of school reform in the state, which has an increasing number of publicly funded but privately managed charter schools. Those campuses have traditionally operated without collective bargaining agreements with teachers."
This follows a larger initiative of California teachers’ unions trying to make inroads into the charter sector.
Most state charter laws exempt the publically funded but independently run schools from collective bargining contracts based on the premise that giving principals more control over staffing decisions— who to hire in particular who to fire— is crucial to improving schools.
But that doesn’t mean that charter school teachers can’t join a union, and the California Teachers Association, the state affiliate of the National Education Association, has been more vocal lately tapping into that group. The union officially listed organizing charters as a focus area in its long-term strategic plan in January 2014 after nibbling around the issue for a couple of years. However, nationally the charter sector remains mostly union-free, and the number of charters organizing each year remains low.
The California Public Employment Relations Board has until August 21 to negotiate a settlement between the union and charter network, according to the LA Times, otherwise an administrative law judge will step in to hear the case.
- Why More Charter Schools Aren’t Unionized
- Charter School Teacher Turnover: What the Numbers Show (or Don’t)
- California Teachers File Complaints Against Virtual Charter School Network
A version of this news article first appeared in the Charters & Choice blog.