During its late conference held during the Independence Day holiday weekend, the National Education Association took up a series of new resolutions that targeted charter schools. The union was looking for ways to reign in the success of charter schools to make their own woeful attempts at education in the public schools look better. The union was also looking for ways to cash in on charter school's success as well as for a way to get more union oversight into them.
But, here is the thing: when they work, charter schools work because they have less union meddling involved in their operations.
In their adopted resolutions, the NEA paid lip service to the "potential" reforms and "creative teaching methods" that can more easily be adopted at charter schools. Yet the following resolutions seemed determined to undermine and eliminate the very freedom and flexibility it paid lip service to at the outset. One is struck by the logical disconnect. Why, exactly, do the unions imagine that the freedom realized at charter schools lends itself to that innovation in the first place? Conversely, why is innovation not seen in public schools?
There are several troublesome resolutions that, if widely adopted, would spell the end of the effectiveness of charter schools, turning them into just another public school outlet ruled by union bigwigs and uninterested in the children's education, not to mention the end of all that innovation the NEA initially praised.
Take this resolution, for instance:
Charter schools should be subject to the same public sector labor relations statutes as traditional public schools, and charter school employees should have the same collective bargaining rights as their counterparts in traditional public schools.
In other words, the union expects all charter school employees to be placed inexorably under the same union contract that the other public school employees are governed by. Of course, one of the chief successes of charter schools is that school administrators have more power to hire and fire teachers to get just the right balance to fit their program. Being forced under regular union restrictions would eliminate this flexibility outright.
Another resolution seems to lay the groundwork for making it tougher to even create a charter school.
A charter should be granted only if the proposed school intends to offer an educational experience that is qualitatively different from what is available in traditional public schools.
This one almost sounds reasonable until you begin to wonder exactly who it is that will determine when the charter plan would be a "qualitatively different" educational experience? If left to the union, one might expect that never would be the answer to the question of when a charter school might be authorized if they were the ones to set the criteria.
One other statement from the NEA is suspect:
NEA shall oppose any initiative to greatly expand the growth of charter schools and assist its state affiliates in identifying any effective practices incubated therein that could subsequently be implemented in our traditional public schools. By no means should this effort conflict with the ongoing and necessary work of organizing charter school teachers, nor should it conflict with charter schools that meet NEA guidelines.
That is a sly piece of rhetoric, isn't it? On one hand this statement pretends at supporting charter schools right to organize, yet also sternly opposes them and announces the intent to try and steal what does work there and copy it in their own schools.
But, as I said, one of the chief reasons that charter schools work, when they work, is that they've gotten out from under union domination. So, as the NEA tries to impose its rules anyway, it claims that even if a charter school is lucky enough to survive and find success despite the union's best efforts, then the union will copy the successful bit and further marginalize the charter school.
The kindly folks at the NEA cannot brook with success of charter schools. Do they care if it helps the kids? Not really. They only care if they are in control of it all.