Tuesday, October 17, 2006

Charters vs Unions: The Kitchen Debate

The educational struggle today playing out between unions and charter schools has become its own cold war; it is a largely rhetorical (and at times legislative) battle for control of....what?

Since the New Cold War has begun, charters have not been soundly beaten back by unions, and in some places they are flourishing. This leads some individuals to recite comparisons of the "red scare" when it comes to charters-- where there's one, there will be more.

Reciprocally, charters have not been successful in immunizing themselves against unions, either. Some charters have successfully unionized, sometimes against the wishes of their operators, others with their full blessing. Larger state affiliates are broadcasting "Radio Unionized Charter" over the border and getting the attention of some of the citizens of Charterland.

During the height of the Cold War, prior to the missile gap but a short time after the launch of Sputnik, a the young Vice President of the United States engaged the Premier of the Soviet Union, Nikita Krushchev in a debate, in all places, in a typical American kitchen set in the heart of communist Moscow. The two leaders began to civilly discuss the differences in their respective ways of life. The focus of America, said Kruschev, is comfort and luxury. Russians are about function rather than form. The two didn't agree on much-- they probably agreed to disagree more than anything else. It marked an important point in the Cold War, where the two sides could communicate with each other about their fundamental differences without the necessity for high-level talks.

The debate between charters and unions has now seen the Kitchen Debate. Andrew Rotherham, known heretofore as EdWonk gathered the Richard Nixons and Nikita Krushchevs of the Charter and Union worlds and forced them to talk. Actually, I think they had plenty to say to each other-- I know I would. The result of the symposium held in May of this year is interesting to say the least. I began reading and was forced to actually read the whole thing-- not just the union part.

Below is a "snip" from the summary:

Charter school leaders must recognize that the “at-will employment”
principle is ill defined and can (and does) encompass both responsible and
abusive labor practices. Charter leaders need to acknowledge some abuses.
Moreover, a national effort to identify the labor laws and regulations that
constrain at-will employment, and to set common standards for fair and
respectful teacher jobs, could be a useful confidence-building measure.

Union leaders must recognize that campaigns to repeal charter laws, stop
new charters, or disrupt schools via legal action wreck unions’ credibility
as potential collaborators. In the face of hard political and legal campaigns, talk can mean little, and charter leaders will understandably
suspect that unions are willing to talk only in order to hold their enemies

Favorite quote?

“Chartering is a left-wing movement with right-wing

Highly worth the time you spend reading it. You can download it in PDF here.

1 comment:

nyceducator said...

Charters should not be fighting with unions, but have unfortunately been used by people like Joel Klein as a mechanism for union-busting. Were it not for that, I'd have no problem with them.


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