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Three Chicago Charters to Unionize

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Chalk one up for the American Federation of Teachers. Just as things have gotten a bit dicey in AFT's bid to unionize charter schools in New York City, three Chicago charter schools—the Wrightwood, Northtown Academy and Ralph Ellison campuses of the Civitas Schools’ Chicago International Charter Schools—have served notice to state and district officials that they will unionize.

Three-quarters of the teaching staff at the campuses signed authorization cards to be represented by the Chicago Alliance of Charters Teachers and Staff, an affiliate of the Illinois chapter of the AFT. The state law allows this "card-check" method of organizing charter schools as opposed to secret-ballot elections.

The national charter school/unionization story is a really interesting one. It's hard to know how involved AFT President Randi Weingarten was in this particular effort, but it's probably fair to say she's carefully watching how the Obama administration's efforts to expand charter schooling will play out to determine how AFT can participate.

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The most successful charters--KIPP and YES--are application-based, and most application-based schools, whether charter or entirely public schools are relatively sucessful. The KIPP and YES people have oversold and misinterpreted their product, though it is a fine product, but the whole Teach for America crowd from Washington D.C. to Houston to New York are waging a corporate-financed class war against educators who work in the toughest neighborhood schools, seeking to emasculate our professional organizations and eliminating teacher tenure. If they win, the result will be teachers unwilling and afraid to speak about controversial education issues or problems in their workplace. To the extent job security is linked to student test scores, you will also see vast increases in the incendents of teaching, the same sort of scandals corporate America has given us.

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