Where can teachers turn when they want reasonable workplace protections but see traditional teachers unions as political, stifling and inflexible?
A new article by Alexandria Neason in the New Orleans Advocate may have an answer.
Neason spotlights a growing number of new educator groups including America Achieves, Teach Plus, Educators 4 Excellence and Leading Educators that let teachers speak for themselves in important education policy debates.
This new energy is coming from a place you might expect, charter schools, where teachers most often aren’t shielded by union contracts. According to Neason:
Nationally, the vast majority of charter schools have no union affiliation, and most of those charters that have unionized teachers are required to do so by state law. Moreover, the percentage of charters with unionized teachers is shrinking: In 2009, 12 percent of charter schools had some union affiliation compared with 7 percent in 2012, according to a report by the Center for Education Reform, a pro-charter group.
But it isn’t charter school teachers alone who want to avoid the groupthink of previous generations. They have allies in districts schools, too.
A Teach Plus fellow from Los Angeles reports working through the teacher organizing group has shown you can bridge the valley between charter school teachers and those in traditional districts. She says:
So often there is a big rift between charter schools and district ideology, and it’s sort of artificially created.
I would like to believe she’s right. Still, there are teachers seeking the teacher-first teflon provided by old school unions.
“We can create a new and better path forward for unions,” said Greg Swanson, an English teacher at Benjamin Franklin High School, where earlier this year 85 percent of teachers signed a petition in support of unionization. Franklin is one of two New Orleans charter schools—out of about 75—whose teachers have pushed to unionize over the last year.
Ben Franklin is a selective admission school that excludes students based upon test scores. That isn’t an insignificant detail when you consider that school’s teachers are among the first New Orleans charter schools seeking traditional unionization over a modern approach.
It will be interesting to see who wins the race to organize the next generation of teachers. For now, it’s too early to tell what comes of these new self-organized groups of teachers and their mission to give teachers a platform for advocating forward-thinking education policy.