Archives for category: Unions

The past two decades have been rough times for the two big teachers’ unions. Republicans have demonized them. The Obama administration courted their support but did little to help them as they were attacked by the right in Republican state houses and the Courts. Duncan gleefully promoted the misguided use of test scores to evaluate teachers, despite repeated warnings by eminent researchers that the methodology was flawed. In fact, eligibility for states to compete to get more than $4 billion in Race to the Top funding was contingent on states enacting laws to do exactly that. “Value-added measurement” flopped; it was not only a costly failure but it was enormously demoralizing to teachers. When the Los Angeles Times and the New York Post published the VAM scores of teachers, Duncan applauded them.

As a candidate, Joe Biden made clear that he’s not only pro-teacher, he’s a union man. Whether or not either will be chosen, the names of the leaders of the NEA and AFT have been floated as possible choices for Secretary of Education. This would have been unthinkable at any time in the past 20 years.

Politico suggests that the Biden administration heralds a new day for the unions. Certainly they worked hard for his election. He is listening to the unions in a way that Obama never did. The pro-charter Democrats for Education Reform is not happy with this development.

https://www.politico.com/news/2020/12/18/biden-obama-teachers-union-447957

The president-elect benefits from witnessing the union blowback against Obama, who enraged educators when he publicly supported the firing of teachers at an underperforming Rhode Island school in 2010. The National Education Association — Jill Biden’s union — even called on Obama’s first Education Secretary Arne Duncan to resign amid fights over academic standards, public charter schools and testing, though tension faded when Obama in 2015 signed bipartisan legislation to overhaul No Child Left Behind.

By contrast, Biden is starting off with a plan that his wife, while pointing to herself, likes to say is “teacher-approved.” He has pledged to nominate a former teacher as his education secretary and told union members, “You will never find in American history a president who is more teacher-centric and more supportive of teachers than me.” 

But within the Democratic party, the spectrum of ideology on education issues is far more complex than “pro-teacher.”

Biden will need the support of teachers and Congress as he tries to meet his goal of safely reopening most schools in the first days of his administration. But he will also need to navigate sharp divisions that remain within theDemocratic party on charter schools and student assessments — both flashpoints during the Obama administration as well.

The president-elect has been critical of charter schools. And the Democratic Party platform — written with input from teachers unions — argues against education reforms that hinge on standardized test scores, stating that high-stakes testing doesn’t improve outcomes enough and can lead to discrimination.

But it’s an open and pressing question whether Biden’s education secretary will waive federal standardized testing requirements this spring for K-12 schools for a second year or to carry on, despite the pandemic. Teachers unions say it isn’t the time, but a host of education and civil rights groups say statewide testing will be important to gauge how much students have fallen behind during the pandemic…

Carol Burris, executive director of the Network for Public Education, said she does not expect the Biden administration to recycle the education policies of the Obama years.

Biden has called for tripling federal spending on low-income school districts, boosting funding for special education, increasing teacher salaries, helping states establish universal preschool and modernizing school buildings. His education plan also calls for creating more community schools, with expanded “wraparound” support for students — a big priority for unions.

“The Biden administration is going to support public schools, which means not only turning away from the policies of Betsy DeVos — that’s a given — but also turning away from Race to the Top,” she told POLITICO before the election.“It’s going to be very different.”

This is a fascinating article written by Paul Peterson of Harvard University about the origin of the charter school idea.

Many people credit the idea to Al Shanker and Ray Budde of the University of Massachusetts, but Peterson sets them straight.

Peterson is the foremost proponent of school choice, charters and vouchers, in the academic world. He has trained many of the other prominent academics who support school choice, such as Jay Greene and Patrick Wolf, both at the University of Arkansas’ Department of Educational Reform (sic).

Peterson writes about the original proposals by Budde and Shanker but then notes that their ideas were fundamentally transformed by Minnesota reformers Ted Kolderie and Joe Nathan. Budde and Shanker wanted the charters to be district-controlled and friendly to unions.

Peterson writes:

Even though it is fashionable enough to credit Shanker for jump-starting the charter movement that even the Wall Street Journal is joining in, there is only a glimmer of truth to that urban legend. In actuality, Shanker did more to block charters than to advance the idea.

When putting together an account of the origins of charter schools for my book, Saving Schools From Horace Mann to Virtual Learning, I had the opportunity to sort out what Shanker did and did not do for charters.  It’s true that Shanker, when first teaching in East Harlem, came to despise administrators who he felt were crushing the spirits of young teachers. So when he first encountered the charter idea advanced by Roy Budde, an unknown professor of education from upstate New York, Shanker, recalling life in East Harlem, gave charters his endorsement: “One of the things that discourages people from bringing about change in schools is the experience of having that effort stopped for no good reason,” he opined. So the Wall Street Journal story is not technically in error.

But charters only took off because others radicalized the charter concept Budde had devised. Reading Shanker’s column, Joe Nathan and Ted Kolderie, at work on educational reform in Minnesota, saw potential in the charter idea. Delighted that the powerful Al Shanker had given it his blessing, they invited him to the Twin Cities to help peddle it to Governor Rudy Perpich and the state’s legislature.

But as they worked on the legislation that was eventually passed in 1991, Nathan and Kolderie fundamentally altered the charter concept.  According to the Budde model, charters were to be authorized by school districts and run by teachers. Central office administrators were to be pushed aside, but charter schools would still operate within collective bargaining arrangements negotiated between districts and unions.

Nathan and Kolderie instead proposed that schools be authorized by statewide agencies that were separate and apart from local district control. That opened charter doors not only to teachers but also to outside entrepreneurs. Competition between charters and districts was to be encouraged.  All of a sudden, charter schools were free of the constraints imposed by collective bargaining contracts districts negotiated with unions.

At this point, Shanker signed off, calling charters a “gimmick,” and teacher unions ever since have done their best to slow the movement down, insisting that charters be authorized only if local districts agree, as well as burdening charters with numerous regulations, including a requirement that they be subject to collective bargaining.  For Shanker and his heirs, the collective bargaining agreement always came first.

Thanks to Kolderie and Nathan, the charter idea was immediately embraced by rightwing foundations who really wanted vouchers, but realized that charters were an easier sell.

Thanks to them, more than 90% of charters today are non-union, are under-regulated, and have virtually no oversight.

Thanks to them, charters have drawn the support of not only right-wingers like Betsy DeVos and Charles Koch as a battering ram to use against public schools, but are a magnet for entrepreneurs, real estate speculators, corporate charter chains, and grifters.

Of course, they are some mom-and-pop or teacher-led charters trying to revive the original idea. But the industry far outweighs their efforts.

We have all been guessing about what President-Elect Joe Biden will do in education. Will he keep his campaign promises and set federal policy on a new direction, away from No Child Left Behind, Race to the Top, ESSA, high-stakes testing, and school choice, or will he stick with the stale and destructive status quo?

No one knows for sure but many have tried to divine his intentions by the composition of his transition team for education. At first glance, it is worrisome that so many of its members come from the Race to the Top era. But Valerie Strauss offers a different perspective on the transition team’s purpose and significance.

She writes:

Now that President-elect Joe Biden has named a 20-person education transition team, the education world is trying to glean insight from its makeup as to what the next president will do to try to improve America’s public schools.


Some progressives are worried that the list of members is heavy with former members of the Obama administration, whose controversial education policies ultimately alienated teachers’ unions, parents and members of Congress from both major political parties. Some conservatives are concerned that four of the team’s members come from national teachers’ unions. And others wonder what it means that Biden chose Linda Darling-Hammond — the first Black woman to serve as president of the California Board of Education and an expert on educational equity and teacher quality — to lead the team.


When it comes to policy, such concerns are probably misplaced. This transition team is not charged with writing big policy papers or selecting a new education secretary. The campaign set Biden’s education agenda, and there is a separate, smaller committee working on domestic policy.


The transition team’s charge is largely about reimagining the Education Department, which has been run for nearly four years by Betsy DeVos, whose top priority was pushing alternatives to public school districts and encouraging states to use public money to fund private and religious school education. She also focused on reversing a number of Obama administration initiatives in civil rights and other areas.


Biden has promised to focus on the public schools that educate the vast majority of America’s schoolchildren and to take steps to address the inequity that has long existed in the education system — and his proposals speak to a divergence from the Obama agenda.


Subgroups on the transition team are tackling different areas, including K-12, higher education and a covid-19 response that would allow schools to safely reopen — an urgent priority for Biden. Step No. 1, according to one person familiar with the process (who spoke on the condition of anonymity) is to “figure out what damage she [DeVos] did and then stand up a department.”


The selection of the transition team does speak to some basic Biden priorities. He picked people who have expertise in their field; most of the 20 on the transition team were involved in the Education Department in either the Obama or Clinton administration. He won’t, for example, hire a neurosurgeon to run a department that deals with housing, like Trump did with Ben Carson. Biden promised to hire a teacher as education secretary, not someone who never went to a public school, like DeVos.


As Kevin Welner, the director of the National Education Policy Center at the University of Colorado at Boulder, said, the “obvious reason” there are so many former Obama administration education officials on the Biden team is that they are working “on crafting remedies for the Trump-DeVos reversals — to restore guidances and executive orders that the current administration changed or eliminated.”
The inclusion of four union leaders — three from the American Federation of Teachers and one from the National Education Association — underscores Biden’s long connections with the labor movement and shows he is not expecting to break those ties.


In fact, two of the names reported to be under consideration for Biden’s education secretary are Lily Eskelsen García, former president of the National Education Association, which is the largest union in the country; and Randi Weingarten, president of the American Federation of Teachers. (The appointment of one of these women raises some questions: Would a Republican-led Senate confirm a labor leader? Would Biden appoint one as acting if it won’t?)


The Biden team has been floating a number of names for education secretary, a job that many thought would go to Darling-Hammond before she said recently that she didn’t want it.


She is as highly regarded in the education world as just about anyone; among other things, she is the founder of the Stanford University Center for Opportunity Policy in Education, founder of the California-based Learning Policy Institute think tank, founding director of the National Commission on Teaching and America’s Future, and a former president of the American Educational Research Association.


Darling-Hammond was also Obama’s education transition chief after his 2008 presidential win. It was a time when serious flaws with the K-12 No Child Left Behind law had emerged, including an unhealthy emphasis on high-stakes standardized testing and mandates that were unachievable.


Obama had said during the 2008 campaign he thought kids took too many standardized tests, telling the American Federation of Teachers, “Creativity has been drained from classrooms as too many teachers are forced to teach fill-in-the-bubble tests.” And many public school advocates believed he would support their agenda of de-emphasizing the tests that had become routine under No Child Left Behind.


But Obama had quietly embraced a group called Democrats for Education Reform (DFER) — started by some New York hedge-fund managers — who wanted to reform schools along business principles and who were antagonistic toward the teachers’ unions. Columns began appearing in numerous publications accusing Darling-Hammond of being too close to the unions.


Obama wound up tapping Arne Duncan, a reformer in the DFER mold, as education secretary. Duncan, the former chief of Chicago schools, pushed the evaluation of teachers by student standardized test scores, the adoption by states of Common Core State Standards and the expansion of charter schools. The result was that students took many more standardized tests and some states created cockamamie evaluation systems that saw teachers evaluated by the test scores of students they didn’t have. The Common Core, which started with bipartisan support, saw a rushed implementation that helped lead to opposition to it.


By 2014, the National Education Association called for Duncan’s resignation and the AFT said he should change policy or resign. Congress eventually rewrote the No Child Left Behind law, taking away some of the federal power that Duncan had exercised in education policy and giving it to the states.


The 2008 education transition team that Darling-Hammond headed included some progressive thinkers in education who wrote deep policy papers that focused on educational equity and other transformative issues. Duncan ignored them, going his own way. In 2008, the makeup of the presidential transition team had no effect on policy.


Through his tenure as vice president, though, Biden did not publicly discuss the Obama-Duncan education changes. It appears that he was not a big supporter; his wife, Jill Biden, a community college educator, is a longtime member of the NEA, and the AFT’s Weingarten has said when the AFT was not getting along with the Obama administration, Biden was “our north star” and our “go-to guy who always listened to us.”


Biden sought out Darling-Hammond to run his transition team because of her expertise in education and in part as a signal about what he hopes to prioritize in education, according to people familiar with the decision who spoke on the condition of anonymity.


Biden and his team made a number of promises about education during the campaign, including increasing federal funds for the poorest students as well as for students with special needs, raising the salaries of teachers, making community college free and implementing college debt forgiveness. His proposals would cost hundreds of billions of dollars to implement; meeting his promise to “fully fund” the federal law protecting students with special needs alone could cost $40 billion or more.


It is more than highly unlikely that there will be federal funding available to do everything he promised, but public education advocates say they are hopeful that he will stick to his promise to concentrate on publicly funded school districts and not school choice, like DeVos, or standardized testing, like Duncan.


All the signs at the moment indicate that Biden’s education agenda will be significantly different from Duncan’s (and certainly DeVos’s) and start to address the issue of educational equity in ways that Darling-Hammond has always thought were important, including how public schools are funded. Stay tuned.

The Harvard Program on Education Policy and Governance is led by Professor Paul Peterson, an advocate for school choice. It would not be off the mark to say that PEPG exists to promote the DeVos agenda. Soon after she was confirmed, PEPG invited her to speak, and her speech was disrupted by Harvard students not affiliated with PEPG. Peterson has been the mentor for a generation of pro-school choice academics, including Jay Greene (University of Arkansas, Department of Education Reform), Patrick Wolf (same, also served as “independent evaluator” of Milwaukee and DC voucher prigrams), and Martin West (Harvard Graduate School of Education). Peterson recently appeared at the White House to support Trump’s call to reopen schools and co-wrote an oped with Dr. Scott Atlas (both are senior fellows at the rightwing Hoover Institution). Dr. Atlas supports Trump’s views that mask-wearing should not be mandatory, that children and adolescents don’t get the virus, th ast schools should reopen without delay, and that lockdowns are unnecessary. In many articles about Dr. Atlas, Peterson is his reliable defender.

The event today asks whether teachers unions can be part of the solution. Michelle Rhee and George Parker. Parker was head of the Washington Teachers Union when Rhee was chancellor. When he stepped down, he went to work for Rhee. He now works for a charter school lobbying group. More than 90% of charters are non-union.

Fall 2020 Colloquium Series: Can Teachers Unions Be Part of the Solution?

The PEPG Colloquium series continues Thursday, Sept. 24, with “Can Teachers Unions Be Part of the Solution?,” a talk by Michelle Rhee, Founder and CEO, StudentsFirst, former Chancellor for District of Columbia Public Schools, and George Parker, Senior Advisor, National Alliance for Public Charter Schools, former President, District of Columbia Teachers Union.

Thursday, Sept. 24
12-1:15 p.m.
Register to attend the Zoom webinar

Peter Greene has been following the career path of Rebecca Friedrichs, a teacher who became the face of anti-unionism.

Friedrichs lent her name to a Supreme Court case that didn’t get decided (it was eventually superseded by the Janus case, whose attempt to defund the teachers’ unions won in the Supreme Court but has thus far not defunded the teachers’ unions.

I have often heard the rightwing cranks complain about evil teachers’ unions. I always ask them to name a high-performing state that has banished unions, and they are always speechless.

Greene offers a compilation of his articles about this dissident teacher.

He begins:

Friedrichs has been in the news yet again, this time appearing on Fox to accuse America’s Evil Teacher Unions of being sexual predators. It’s an accusation that will have traction in some circles; if you spend any time in conspiratorial comment sections of the interwebz, you’re probably aware of the grand conspiracy theory that says that the entire Democratic Party is a smokescreen for pedophiles trafficking in children.

If the Friedrichs name seems familiar, that’s because she first burst into the news as the chirpy face of a lawsuit to legitimize freeloading in teachers unions and not coincidentally try to gut the unions financially. That suit ran into an unexpected death on the Supreme Court and the issue was eventually decided by Janus, but while the lawsuit failed, it launched a whole new career for Friedrichs.

So that’s who that woman is. Rather than rehash previous pieces I’ve written about her, let me just provide you with the listings and you can decide on your own how much of this you can stomach.

Maurice Cunningham, a political science professor at the University of Massachusetts, specializes in exposing the role of Dark Money in education. If you read my book, Slaying Goliath, you know that Cunningham’s research and blog posts helped to turn the tide against a state referendum in 2016 to expand the number of charter schools in Massachusetts. Cunningham showed that “Yes on Two” Organization was funded by billionaires and that the billionaires were hiding their identities. Despite being outspent, the parent-teacher-local school committee won handily.

In this post, originally from February, Cunningham explains why the Waltons and Charles Koch are so devoted to privatizing public school governance. He’s right that they want to lower their taxes. They also want to smash teachers’ unions; more than 90% of charters are non-union. The corporate sector doesn’t like unions, and most private unions have been eliminated. The teachers’ unions are still standing, which annoys the billionaires.

In Florida, state officials ordered schools across the state to open fully without regard to safety or local officials. The Florida Education Association sued, and a judge blocked them reopening.

A Florida judge Monday granted a temporary injunction against the state’s order requiring school districts to reopen schools during the novel coronavirus pandemic, saying in a harshly worded decision that parts of it were unconstitutional.
Circuit Court Judge Charles Dodson, in a 16-page decision, granted the request in a lawsuit filed by the Florida Education Association to block the order issued by state Education Commissioner Richard Corcoran compelling schools to reopen five days a week for families who wanted that option.

The state also required districts to offer virtual learning.
School districts can now proceed to follow through on starting the 2020-2021 school year as they want, according to the teachers union.


The Florida Education Department said it could not immediately comment on the decision.


The White House, where President Trump has been pushing districts to reopen schools and threatened to withhold federal funds if they didn’t — though he doesn’t have the power to do that unilaterally — said it would not comment on state matters.


Dodson said in his decision that the state did not take many important health considerations into consideration when it issued the order.
“It fails to mention consideration of community transmission rates, varying ages of students, or proper precautions,” he wrote. “What has been clearly established is there is no easy decision and opening schools will most likely increase covid-19 cases in Florida.”


The judge ruled that the plaintiffs had established that the order was being “applied arbitrarily across Florida.” He sided with the plaintiffs, granting a preliminary injunction against the order and striking down parts of it as unconstitutional.



The administration of Gov. Ron DeSantis (R), who is an ally of the president’s, has for months been pushing districts to reopen. On July 6, Corcoran issued an issue requiring that school districts reopen school buildings, though it gave a few districts in south Florida, which had extremely high coronavirus rates, permission to start the 2020-2021 school year remotely.


Other districts that wanted to start remotely were not given approval, including Hillsborough County, which was threatened by the DeSantis administration with the loss of nearly $200 million if it carried out its plan to open remotely.


The lawsuit said that Corcoran’s order was unconstitutional because it threatened the safety of schools by conditioning funding on reopening school buildings by the end of August, regardless of the dangers posed by the pandemic.

The lawsuit also said the order was “arbitrary” and “capricious” on its face and application.
The state responded, saying the order was a reasonable exercise of emergency powers by the DeSantis administration that balanced the constitutional rights of students to a public education against the risk of harm during the pandemic.

It also said that states had submitted reopening plans that included the opening of school campuses, and that showed the districts wanted to proceed that way.
Dodson didn’t accept that reasoning, saying that districts had no choice but to open buildings because of the order.

Evie Blad of Education Week writes that a Biden-Harris administration may forge a new path on education issues. They have pledged to increase funding, regulate charters, and back away from standardized testing. They also have pledged to support the right to collective bargaining. This heartens advocates of public education, but frightens the corporate reformers who have controlled education for 20 years.

Twenty years of failed education policy is enough!

Democrats for Education Reform and the Center for American Policy, both committed to high/stakes testing and charters, are worried.

As he campaigned for the Democratic presidential nomination, former Vice President Joe Biden pledged that, if elected, his education department would be a sharp departure from that of President Donald Trump.

Rather than promoting private school choice, as the Republican incumbent has, Biden pledged to dramatically increase federal aid to schools, including ambitious calls to triple the Title I funding targeted at students from low-income households and to “fully fund” the Individuals with Disabilities Education Act.

But, as Biden accepts his party’s nomination this week, there also are signs that his potential future administration wouldn’t return lock step to the education policies of President Barack Obama. And some of a Biden administration’s education policy goals could take a back seat to the pressing matter of helping schools navigate the ongoing coronavirus pandemic, which may alter their operations and threaten their budgets for years to come.

Though he’s campaigned heavily on his experience as Obama’s vice president, Biden has departed on some key issues from that self-described supporter of education reform. Obama’s education department championed rigorous state education standards, encouraged states to lift their caps on public charter schools to apply for big federal Race to the Top grants, and offered charter school conversions as an improvement strategy for struggling schools.

By contrast, Biden called for a scale-back of standardized testing at a 2019 MSNBC education forum, and he criticized their use in teacher evaluations, a key policy goal of the Obama administration. Under the leadership of Biden’s campaign, Democrats formally introduced a party platform this week that criticizes high-stakes testing and calls for new restrictions on charter schools.

How much Biden’s policy would depart from the last Democratic president’s is up for debate. But the Every Student Succeeds Act, the federal education law Obama signed at the end of his last term, may offer levers to make some policy changes.

“Your job as a vice president is to toe the line of your boss,” said Julian Vasquez Heilig, the dean of the college of education at the University of Kentucky and a board member of the Network for Public Education, a progressive advocacy group. If Biden chooses, “he can be his own person on education.”

Praise and Concern

That suggestion of a new direction has won praise from groups like national teachers’ unions, which called for the resignation of Obama’s long-serving education secretary, Arne Duncan, when Duncan advanced a push for teacher evaluations and other reforms.

National Education Association President Lily Eskelsen García called Biden and his running mate and one-time rival for the nomination, California Sen. Kamala Harris, a “dream team” that “respects educators and will listen to those who know the names of the kids in the classrooms.”

But Biden’s priorities, and the absence of discussions of school improvement during the Democratic primary, have also been met with concern from some education groups.

“If we only talk about the money side of the equation, that’s not enough by itself,” said Shavar Jeffries, president of Democrats for Education Reform. “That’s where we need our president to be a leader and hold those institutions accountable.”

The organization, which supports charter schools and data-driven school accountability efforts, has praised Biden’s push for more resources, but it has sounded the alarm about other changes recommended in the party platform.

That platform language reflects some of Biden’s comments during the primaries. In recorded interviews with the NEA, for example, he said a lot of charter schools are “significantly underperforming” and that charter schools “cannot come at the expense of the public school.”

Neither Biden nor Harris included language on charters in their plans as candidates. But the platform language-created with input from a “unity task force” assembled by the campaigns of Biden and Independent Vermont Sen. Bernie Sanders-calls for a ban on federal funding for “for-profit charter businesses.”

The language also calls for “conditioning federal funding for new, expanded charter schools or for charter school renewals on a district’s review of whether the charter will systematically underserve the neediest students,” which has alarmed charter advocates who say the publicly funded, independently managed schools already face sufficient accountability.

Charter schools are largely governed through state and local policy. But a presidential administration can help shape public debate on the issue. And a Biden administration could scale back support for charter schools in its discretionary grant priorities and regulations or in its proposed budgets.

Time for fresh thinking! Time to build strong child-centered, community-based schools and throw off the obsession with standardized testing and privatization.

The Education Research Alliance of New Orleans just released a study of why some charter teachers in the nation’s only all-charter district want to join a union. Their reasons sound very much like the reasons that teachers in public schools want a union. No one told them that the Waltons, charter lobbyists, and other supporters of the charter movement don’t like unions. Immediately after Hurricane Katrina in 2005, the teachers’ union was eliminated, and all the teachers were fired. Getting rid of the union and removing teacher voice was part of the plan.

NEW ORLEANS, LOUISIANA – The Education Research Alliance for New Orleans has released a study on teacher unions in charter schools in New Orleans and Detroit. Drawing on detailed interviews with 21 teachers, the report offers insight what motivates teachers in charter schools to form a union and what barriers may stand in their way.

This report gives readers the rare opportunity to hear teachers’ perspectives on the process of organizing in charter schools. All the teachers interviewed came from schools where there was an attempt, successful or unsuccessful, to form a union.

“Understanding the role of unions is particularly important now, when schools are both facing the COVID pandemic and in a time when there are calls to address racism in our institutions,” said Huriya Jabbar, lead author of the report. “Schools need to listen to teachers and develop a shared understanding about the best way forward in these difficult times. In some schools, unions play a big role in those conversations.”

Researchers Huriya Jabbar (University of Texas at Austin), Jesse Chanin (Tulane University), Jamie Haynes (University of Texas at Austin), and Sara Slaughter (Tulane University) uncovered the following insights about union organizing in charter schools:

The most common motivation for organizing was improving teacher retention and job security. Lack of pay transparency and equity (e.g. men and women being paid unequally), unsustainable workloads, teacher burnout, and arbitrary firings were also major underlying concerns.

Teachers also often brought up the desire to advocate for their students, hoping to ensure that school policies were culturally responsive and that vulnerable students were supported.

Teachers who were in favor of unionization efforts reported shock at the severity of school administrators’ responses. Many alleged that administrators fired teachers who attempted to unionize or accused them of destroying the school “family.”

High teacher turnover and fear of being fired were major challenges that stymied attempts at union organizing.
There were notable differences between Detroit, where many charters are for-profit, and New Orleans, where they are all non-profit. Detroit teachers saw low salary as a major issue and complained that they were lacking basic resources like textbooks. Teachers in New Orleans did not emphasize salary levels as a major issue but were concerned about pay transparency.

“As more charter schools open in the U.S., it is becoming increasingly important to understand the needs and motivations of teachers who choose to work in these schools,” said co-author Sara Slaughter, Associate Director at the Education Research Alliance for New Orleans.

Read the study here.

DFER (Democrats for Education Reform) is an organization founded by Wall Street hedge fund managers to support charter schools. They believe in privatization; they actively undermine public schools that belong to the community. They believe in high-stakes testing, and they strongly support evaluating teachers by the test scores of their students, although professional associations like the American Statistical Association does not. They love Teach for America, because they don’t like experienced professionals or teachers unions.

Their main function is to raise money for political candidates, which gives them immense leverage. Once a political candidate gets on the DFER recommended list, they can count on money flowing in from friends of DFER around the country. DFER does not have a large membership but it has a very rich following among hedge funders and venture capitalists.

In this publication, DFER tries to demonstrate that “school choice” is a Democratic idea. It lists the Democratic politicians who support charter schools. It trumpets the support of the late AFT leader Al Shanker for charter schools, but fails to mention that Shanker turned against charter schools as he saw them turn into a weapon of privatization to undermine public schools and teachers’ unions. Shanker was all for charters before they existed, but he recoiled when he saw what they were becoming. By 1994, he concluded that charter schools were no different than vouchers, and that both were intended to smash teachers’ unions and privatize public schools. PLEASE STOP CITING SHANKER AS A CHARTER SUPPORTER!

Charter schools today are 90% non-union. Real Democrats are not opposed to teachers’ unions.

Charter schools today are more segregated than real public schools. Real Democrats do not support racial segregation.

Everyone who thinks that charter schools are connected to Democratic Party ideals should read Steve Suitts’ powerful book “Undermining Brown,” which shows that the idea of school choice was created by Southern segregations who were fighting the Brown decision.

The DFER document fails to mention that charter schools enjoy the support of Charles Koch, Betsy DeVos, Donald Trump, ALEC, and every Republican governor. School choice diverts funding from genuine public schools. If DFER put out a publication of the governors and Senators and members of Congress who support charter schools, the Republicans would far outnumber the Democrats.

If, as DFER maintains, charters are “public schools,” why did so many of them apply for and receive millions from the federal Paycheck Protection Program, for which public schools were ineligible? Are they “public schools” or are they “small businesses” or “nonprofits” but not public schools?

The DFER report also fails to mention the staggering failure rate of charter schools. The document lauds the federal Charter School Program, created by the Clinton administration when there were few charter schools, but neglects to mention that about 35-40% of the new charters paid for by the CSP either never opened or closed soon after opening.

To be clear: School choice is not a Democratic Party idea, unless you mean the party of George Wallace and the Dixiecrats. School choice is beloved by libertarians who want to destroy public education (ALEC) and by Republicans who want to privatize public education (Betsy DeVos, Donald Trump, Mike Pence, Jeb Bush).