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Advocacy Group Vows to Take on Unions in Charter Schools

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A national organization says it is launching a "charter school initiative," aimed at protecting teachers and other employees within that sector who may feel pressured to join unions.

The National Right to Work Legal Defense Foundation, whose mission is to fight "coercive union power and compulsory unionism," says it will take more active steps to provide charter school employees with legal counsel and general advice on how to resist efforts to compel them to join organized labor groups.

The foundation, which is based in Springfield, Va., has no problem with teachers and others at charter schools who decide willingly to become union members, but it wants to fight efforts to strong-arm employees into signing up, said spokesman Anthony Riedel.

As part of its efforts, the legal defense group is promoting a series of documents which it says are meant to enlighten charter school employees about their rights.

How common is unionization in the nation's charter schools? Data collected by the National Alliance for Public Charter Schools in 2009-10 sought to bring some clarity to that question. The NAPCS research showed that:

⚫ 604 charter schools—about 12 percent of the nation's total—have collective bargaining agreements with teachers' unions. About 10 percent of the charters that opened in 2009-10 were affiliated with a union, the organization says.

⚫ The vast majority of unionized charters, 76 percent, are affiliated with the National Education Association, while just 11 percent are associated with the American Federation of Teachers, and 12 percent were linked with both.

⚫ Roughly two-thirds of unionized charters in the country are bound by state law to the current collective bargaining agreements in their local districts.

⚫ California, Ohio, and Wisconsin have the largest number of unionized charter schools, and 55 percent of unionized charters operate in those states.

⚫ Almost 82 percent of unionized charters opened in the last decade—between 2000 and 2009, according to the NAPCS.

The legal foundation sees the growth of the union footprint over that time period as evidence of unions' commitment to expansion, Riedel said. After looking at the NAPCS data, I wonder if some of that growth can simply be attributed to new charters opening in states and districts where they're bound to allow unions, by law and by contract. Your thoughts?

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