EduShyster interviewed teachers at the University of Cleveland Prep School about why they decided to unionize. Charters have a reputation for expecting teachers to work long hours. Because of working conditions, charters have high teacher turnover.

 

She writes:

 

 

“For Jacqueline Lehane, it was the teacher demerit system at her Cleveland charter school that was the last straw. Teachers who’d been heard talking in the hallway, or whose students had been spotted with an untucked shirt, would be called out via an official email entitled *Quick Hits,* on which teachers, school and network administrators were copied.

 

*It’s just public humiliation,* says Lehane, whose *hits* included having a messy classroom after her first graders completed an art project. To Lehane, this top-down shaming was a symbol of everything that was wrong with the school. *Once I even asked a dean, ‘do people who are higher up than you treat you the way you treat us?’

 

 

“If all you know about unions is that they are protectors of the status quo, responsible for everything that’s wrong with public education, I’m guessing you have no idea how hard it is to actually organize one. By the time Lehane and her colleagues at the University of Cleveland Preparatory School, part of the I CAN network, voted 18-4 to join the Ohio Federation of Teachers, the teachers had spent two years trying to form a union. Administrators responded, first by attempting to intimidate teachers into changing their minds, then firing the teachers who they’d identified as leading the effort. Seven teachers at the school were fired as punishment—such a clear and blatant act of retaliation that the National Labor Relations Board ordered I CAN to reinstate the teachers and give them full back pay….

 

 

‘This can’t be good’

 

 

“Lehane started teaching at UCP in 2015. A week after the school year started, she found herself in front of 32 first graders, with no training. *I think it took me about an hour to figure out that there were some serious problems,* says Lehane. One of the first things she noticed was how high the teacher turnover rate was at the school. Teachers were constantly quitting, replaced by brand new teachers, some of whom weren’t even licensed to teach. Lehane was struck by how different this was from the public schools she’d attended growing up in suburban Cleveland. *My teachers were there for my three sisters and my brother, but no one ever stays at I CAN. I just remember thinking ‘this can’t be good,’* says Lehane.

 

 

“When a group of teachers at the school approached Lehane about coming to a meeting to talk about organizing a union, she was in. At that first gathering, the teachers listed off their concerns and identified problems that they thought needed to be fixed. Like the sky-high turnover among teachers. And the fact there seemed to be no accountability for administrators. Work hours and expectations were outrageous, even though teachers lacked the most basic supports and resources to accomplish what was expected of them. *It was such a relief to hear that everyone was frustrated by the same things, and that we all wanted to fix them,* says Lehane.”

 

About 90% of charter schools are non-union. Some funders underwrite them to get rid of unions. This must be very disturbing to the Walton Family Foundation, the Eli Broad Foundation, and many others who want schools to be free of unions.