In the hagiography of the charter school movement, we often hear that Albert Shanker was one of the original proponents of the idea. Shanker was president of the American Federation of Teachers, and his imprimatur is supposed to persuade people that charters have a progressive patina.

This is ironic, because 90% of the nation’s 6,000 charters are non-union and oppose collective bargaining. Some charters have even insisted in federal court and to the National Labor Relations Board that they are private schools to avoid complying with state labor laws that would allow teachers to join a union.

Shanker never intended that charters would be non-union, nor that they would compete with public schools. He thought they would be formed by teachers to create a “school within a school,” and eventually autonomous schools whose purpose was to enroll the students who were bored or disengaged in regular school. He thought that charter teachers would belong to the union and would collaborate–not compete–with public schools.

Here is his 1988 speech describing his new idea at the National Press Club.

By 1993, he had reached the conclusion that he was terribly wrong. He wrote column after column describing charters as a new form of privatization, no different from vouchers.

Corporate reformers should not take his name in vain. He would never have approved of non-union schools and for-profit schools. He denounced privatization in all its forms. As early as1993, he recognized that charters were a back door way to turn public dollars over to entrepreneurs and to attack the foundations of public education.