School Choice & Charters

Charter Schools in Two Ohio Cities Push to Unionize

By Arianna Prothero — January 23, 2015 1 min read
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Teachers and support staff at a Columbus-based charter school have started the organizing process and plan to join the state’s largest teachers’ union, the Ohio Education Association, according to The Columbus Dispatch.

Meanwhile, a fight to unionize two charter schools in Cleveland has been put on hold. A legal battle between the Ohio Federation of Teachers and the I Can charter school network over allegations the network tried to illegally block organizing efforts has been delayed. The two sides are negotiating a potential settlement, according to the The Plain Dealer.

The Cleveland-based newspaper also reports that the OFT is pushing to organize more charter schools in the state. This is reminiscent of a similar effort in California I wrote about this past summer. There, the California Teachers Association has been revamping its stance toward charter schools and officially listed charter school organizing as a focus area in its long-term strategic plan.

Charter schools are largely non unionized because, advocates contend, the educational innovations that they were conceived of to supply hinges on autonomy, including freedom from the constraints of collective-bargaining contracts.

Charter school teachers are committed to that idea, and that’s why unions haven’t gotten a firm foothold in the charter market yet, advocates say. But union proponents paint a different picture, as I discussed in this story:

They point to a persistent myth that charter school employees can't unionize and to hostile charter school managers who quash organizing efforts by lawyering up and punishing teachers who try. However, union advocates say they are adapting to the charter sector. One [American Federation of Teachers] organizer said it will abandon any unionizing effort that doesn't have strong parental support and at least 90 percent of a school's staff members on board."

If teachers and staff members in Columbus and Cleveland successfully organize, they would be the only three unionized charter schools in the state, according to The Plain Dealer, and would join a very small group of unionized charter school staff nationally.

Only about seven percent of charter schools were unionized in 2012, down from 12 percent in 2009, according to a 2014 annual survey by the Center for Education Reform, a Washington-based school choice advocacy and research group.


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Why More Charter Schools Aren’t Unionized

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