What Would Cesar Do?

I certainly can’t claim to answer that question. Nor do I think it’s very productive to cast policy debates in light of what a deceased historical leaders might or might not do today. That said, I have some thoughts re: Leo and Andy‘s debate on whether or not Cesar Chavez would support charter schools today. Leo says certain charter schools don’t deserve to bear Chavez’ name because they’re “denying their teachers the right to organize into an union,” but neither he nor the article he links to provide evidence these specific schools are in practice resisting union organizing. Even if “the members of the boards of trustees of these schools are no Cesar Chavez,” so what? There are tons of schools in this country named for various saints and even Christ himself–certainly we don’t expect every adult involved with those schools to be a saint?

It’s certainly possible some of these charter schools have anti-union practices. But by labeling them all “anti-union” without giving evidence of specific anti-union activities, Leo implies that all charter schooling is inherently anti-union. Leo works for a union that started its own charter school, so I doubt he actually thinks this. Leo: Do you think all charter schooling is inherently anti-union? And, if not, what must a charter school do to avoid the anti-union label?

I want to know because I’m actually somewhat sympathetic to elements of Leo’s argument. If you run a charter school named for Cesar Chavez, and your teachers try to form a union,* and you try to resist those efforts, then you should seriously think about changing your name. Moreover, if you behave unethically or illegally in resisting those efforts, your authorizer should punish you severely.

*I don’t think the fact that a charter school’s staff aren’t unionized is in itself a reason to claim the school’s leadership is “anti-union.”

–Guestblogger Sara Mead

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