NCPA - National Center for Policy Analysis

New Allies Fight Law Requiring Teachers' Unions In Charter Schools

May 25, 1999

California's solidly Democratic legislature is considering forcing teachers in charter schools there to join teachers' unions. Ironically, the bill being debated would not impose union membership on teachers in traditional public schools, who remain free to join or not to join as they see fit -- only on charter school teachers.

While parents and charter school educators are protesting the legislation, as expected, they are being joined by some unusual political allies.

  • Oakland Mayor and former California Gov. Jerry Brown joined others in writing a letter to Assemblywoman Carole Migden, the bill's author, asserting that "we will not back down or cravenly accept the sellout of our right to determine our educational destiny."
  • As governor, Brown had expanded the power of unions to organize government employees.
  • "As we all learned from the sorry experiences of state- sanctioned bureaucracies in Eastern Europe and the Soviet Union," the letter continues, "decentralization is crucial to both freedom and excellence."
  • The president of Oakland's school board admits that his group "has not delivered" -- adding that a charter school "is a poor man's access to private education."

When the powerful National Education Association union started its own charter schools in Connecticut and Colorado, it chose to operate them under flexible labor agreements such as the Migden bill would ban. In March, NEA president Bob Chase admitted that his union "needs to get out of the way."

He stated that his organization couldn't "allow union sacred cows to block the path of members who want to pursue their own vision of school quality and reform."

Critics wonder why he doesn't make that point with his California affiliate, which is the force behind the bill.

Source: Editorial, "Jerry's Kids," Wall Street Journal, May 25, 1999.


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