First, Jeanne Allen of the Center for Education Reform says that “A union contract is actually at odds with a charter school.” “Actually” is the wrong word there. The more accurate way to say that would be, “could be.” Why? Well one example is the unionized and highly sucessful Green Dot Public Schools, another is KIPP Bronx, which has been unionized for some time. And there are others, good and bad. What matters is what’s in the contract not unionization per se. But, on the other hand, American Federation of Teachers President Randi Weingarten told the NYT that, “We have often said that the charter school movement and unionization are things that can easily be harmonized.” That would be a better encapsulation of the issue absent the word “easily.” This charter-union conversation is a very important one for the field but it’s a challenging one for a variety of reasons. It’ll be a lot of things but I don’t think easy is one of them.
Want to know more? A few years ago Paul Hill and I brought together union leaders and charter school leaders to discuss some of these issues. This article (pdf) and this paper (pdf) summarize that work and some of the issues. This book that Jane Hannaway and I did also looks at some of the issues as found the same thing as this new study from CRPE: Namely that the issues are more complicated than they seem.