Teacher Voice Bustin’

In response to AFTie Ed’s report about an organizing effort at an Illinois charter school (which if true is pretty appalling), I agree with Kevin Carey’s take and have written about this before: Teachers in charters who want to unionize should be able to and should enjoy the legal right to do so and those that don’t want to shouldn’t have to.

But, I’d take AFTie Ed’s concern about strong-arm tactics and teacher voice a lot more seriously if he also repudiated the very same sort of tactics when they are used by teachers’ unions to push back on their own members when they want change that the teachers’ unions don’t like. For instance in both Denver and LA during the attempts by teachers to get more autonomy at some schools by developing their own contract (or in LA by affiliating with Green Dot) it was the teachers’ unions who were, to borrow AFTie Ed’s phrase “haranguing” the staff. The LA stuff is well documented now (see here for instance from the invaluable social justice activist Celeste Fremon), in Denver they sent in a team of lawyers to scare the hell out of free-thinking teachers. I’ve also heard some stories out of Illinois that make me think that the last thing ‘ol AFTie Ed wants is to have the press really digging into what’s happening out there…

Funny thing is, best I can tell in today’s world of multiple avenues of electronic communications, new media, etc…these tactics pretty much always backfire, sooner or later, in the education space whether it’s pro-or anti-union folks doing it. In other words, media pluralism means that strong-arming is a very time-limited strategy with almost guaranteed blowback potential.

Anyway, two looks at the complicated charter-union issues, lack of trust, etc…here (pdf) and here (pdf).

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