Charter Schools of the World, Unite!

Happy Labor Day! Can we make significant change in a 100 percent unionized industry withnon-union schools? I see too many of my fellow reformers spending too much of their time fighting union opposition through school boards. What saddens me is most of the successful schools in our movement practice beautifully what most teachers and their unions push for: Better work conditions with smaller schools and smaller class sizes, more say in what goes on in front of them, and streamline funding with less bureaucracy, which should transfer in high teacher pay. I know these basic tenets are part of our success. We pay better than LAUSD, despite the fact that we get 30% less money than LAUSD. If I had 30% more money I could start teachers at $55,000 a year! Some of our best innovations have come from teacher-led initiatives. Like our ninth grade reading intervention project, where forty percent of our kids-test well below fourth grade reading level, ninety percent rally to grade level by the end of their freshman year. Do you know what happens to a fourteen year old who learns how to read for the first time? These teachers are creating an army of world-beaters! And our teachers gladly give up tenure for a more relevant just cause. They want to be accountable too!

I know that our union partnership is one of the main reasons we are successful. I think teachers feel the same way. 800 teachers applied for 80 jobs this year at Green Dot. There is no teacher shortage; there is a work condition problem.

I think we can drive revolutionary change with mission driven, generational relevant unions that dramatically improve the work conditions by putting all the resources into the classroom. We cannot truly reform public education without reforming and updating our teacher unions and look at teachers as partners, not our enemy. But we have to lead.

Guestblogger Steve Barr, CEO & Founder of Green Dot Public Schools

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