The American Federation of Teachers has successfully organized another charter school, this time in Michigan so some symbolism given everything that’s been happening there. It’s always big news when they win one of these (although the decertifications of unions in charters get less attention for some reason). Anyway, this one is interesting because it highlights a tactical/strategic tension here. Overall, the schools that are ripe for organizing aren’t the outstanding ones – that’s why the teachers are frustrated and looking for help. Here’s the report card on these schools in MI.
At the top-performing schools the teachers generally aren’t interested and no one really sees what the value-add would be. A few years ago Paul Hill and I hosted some meetings on this with charter school leaders and union leaders and while there is more common ground than the national debate has room for these days, there are also some key differences that can’t be papered over. So the bottom line is that you’re left with an unusually high-performing cohort of public schools that operates very differently than most others. Awkward.
And until the unions figure out a compelling pitch to the very best schools they’re going to keep collecting the unenviable schools while everyone celebrates the enviable ones. That’s not to say there are not good unionized public schools and public charter schools, there are. But the broad trend here is hard to miss. These days few accuse the teachers’ unions of long-term thinking but at some point someone will add all this up around the country and it’s not a good story for them.