Teachers unions in Denver, Oakland prepare to strike

Following the settlement of an 8 day teachers strike in Los Angeles, the teachers union in Denver authorized a strike to begin Monday. And the Oakland teachers union will vote on January 29 whether to authorize a strike or not.

What lurks below the surface of negotiations in all three school districts is the continuing controversy over charter schools. Unions hate them, parents love them. But unions see them as an existential threat to their existence because they don't conform to the union's idea of "quality education."

Los Angeles Times:

The strike talk was mostly about new hiring, smaller class sizes and salary increases. But lurking just below the surface during the teacher walkout in the Los Angeles Unified School District was another issue: charter schools, which many teachers (and their union) fear and loathe, seeing them as an existential threat to traditional public schools.

Indeed, one of the less-noticed provisions of the agreement to end the strike was that the school board would call for a statewide reexamination of the role and effect of charters, and that it would consider asking the state for a moratorium on any new ones. Board member Richard Vladovic said he will introduce a resolution on those subjects on Tuesday.

The state’s law authorizing the creation of charter schools has been around since 1992 and legislators have made it easier during the ensuing years for such schools to open. In L.A. Unified, their growth has been explosive: The district now has 277 charters, most of them independently run, though they receive public funding. Most are non-union. They enroll close to 140,000 students — about one in five in the district. Their growth is responsible for about half of the declining enrollment in traditional public schools that has sapped the district’s finances over the last 15 years.

"Unfair" scream the unions. Demanding excellence in education instead of mediocrity puts regular public schools at a disadvantage.

Charter schools were originally intended to be “laboratories of innovation,” showing district-run schools new ways to provide more successful educational experiences, especially for low-income students of color. They provided an option for parents whose children were stuck in truly awful schools. No matter what you may have heard, L.A. schools were not doing fine before charter schools came on the scene. There were schools where some of the teachers read newspapers in the back of the classroom while showing their students Disney videos on a regular basis. Some high schools didn’t even offer the courses required to apply to one of the state’s four-year colleges. There were math and science classes taught by a series of rotating substitutes who had no expertise in the subjects. It’s not surprising that academic outcomes were shockingly bad.

Parents who couldn’t afford to move or pay for a private school were stuck. School administrators too often brushed off their concerns. Charter schools gave these families their first chance to have a voice in their children’s education.

Charter schools are not perfect, nor are they all better than public schools. But the keyword here is "choice" and unions can't stand it. Given the choice between the hellholes that schools have become in many inner cities versus the worst of the charter schools, most parents who want their kids to value academic achievement, choose charter schools.

So the strikes may be about money, more teachers, and even smaller class sizes, but the inferiority of public schools when compared to charter schools is seen as a threat to the existence of teachers unions. If every parent had a choice, the only students left in public school would be the worst of the worst. 

Rather than improve the quality of teachers, unions prefer to flex their muscles and penalize parents who care about their kids education by putting roadblocks in their way to sending children to charter schools.

Following the settlement of an 8 day teachers strike in Los Angeles, the teachers union in Denver authorized a strike to begin Monday. And the Oakland teachers union will vote on January 29 whether to authorize a strike or not.

What lurks below the surface of negotiations in all three school districts is the continuing controversy over charter schools. Unions hate them, parents love them. But unions see them as an existential threat to their existence because they don't conform to the union's idea of "quality education."

Los Angeles Times:

The strike talk was mostly about new hiring, smaller class sizes and salary increases. But lurking just below the surface during the teacher walkout in the Los Angeles Unified School District was another issue: charter schools, which many teachers (and their union) fear and loathe, seeing them as an existential threat to traditional public schools.

Indeed, one of the less-noticed provisions of the agreement to end the strike was that the school board would call for a statewide reexamination of the role and effect of charters, and that it would consider asking the state for a moratorium on any new ones. Board member Richard Vladovic said he will introduce a resolution on those subjects on Tuesday.

The state’s law authorizing the creation of charter schools has been around since 1992 and legislators have made it easier during the ensuing years for such schools to open. In L.A. Unified, their growth has been explosive: The district now has 277 charters, most of them independently run, though they receive public funding. Most are non-union. They enroll close to 140,000 students — about one in five in the district. Their growth is responsible for about half of the declining enrollment in traditional public schools that has sapped the district’s finances over the last 15 years.

"Unfair" scream the unions. Demanding excellence in education instead of mediocrity puts regular public schools at a disadvantage.

Charter schools were originally intended to be “laboratories of innovation,” showing district-run schools new ways to provide more successful educational experiences, especially for low-income students of color. They provided an option for parents whose children were stuck in truly awful schools. No matter what you may have heard, L.A. schools were not doing fine before charter schools came on the scene. There were schools where some of the teachers read newspapers in the back of the classroom while showing their students Disney videos on a regular basis. Some high schools didn’t even offer the courses required to apply to one of the state’s four-year colleges. There were math and science classes taught by a series of rotating substitutes who had no expertise in the subjects. It’s not surprising that academic outcomes were shockingly bad.

Parents who couldn’t afford to move or pay for a private school were stuck. School administrators too often brushed off their concerns. Charter schools gave these families their first chance to have a voice in their children’s education.

Charter schools are not perfect, nor are they all better than public schools. But the keyword here is "choice" and unions can't stand it. Given the choice between the hellholes that schools have become in many inner cities versus the worst of the charter schools, most parents who want their kids to value academic achievement, choose charter schools.

So the strikes may be about money, more teachers, and even smaller class sizes, but the inferiority of public schools when compared to charter schools is seen as a threat to the existence of teachers unions. If every parent had a choice, the only students left in public school would be the worst of the worst. 

Rather than improve the quality of teachers, unions prefer to flex their muscles and penalize parents who care about their kids education by putting roadblocks in their way to sending children to charter schools.