There are about a dozen op-eds waiting to be written about the interview with National Education Association president Lily Eskelsen García conducted by Rachel M. Cohen of The American Prospect. Surely there are quite a few people who want to tee up this quote:
If you take a look at the most highly segregated schools, if you’re looking at all Latino kids, or all African American kids, then you’re mostly looking at charter schools.
For the sake of brevity, I’ll stick to this question by Cohen, which to her credit is rarely asked of union officers:
Last year, I reported on the movement to unionize charter school teachers. There are obvious tensions between trying to limit the growth of charter schools, while making charter school teachers feel welcome in the labor movement. How has the NEA been threading this needle?
There is a long and healthy debate [about these issues] amongst our own affiliates and members. I actually went to a California charter school to talk to teachers there and a lot of them had come from the CTA [the NEA’s California state affiliate]. These were good-hearted, social justice warrior teachers who had been very loyal union members. They weren’t trying to leave the union, the charter school just seemed like an adventure. So they got there, and all was well in the beginning, but slowly they realized that they didn’t have the opportunities to make the kinds of decisions they expected to have a say in. The teachers felt lied to and exploited. So they came back to the CTA and said we need representation. They didn’t want to give up on their charter, but they wanted a union.
Let’s put those two statements together and attribute them to a hypothetical charter school teacher: “I think I’ll go teach in the most highly segregated school. It’ll be an adventure!”
Here’s an adventure for Eskelsen García and other teacher union officers. Try visiting a charter school whose teachers don’t want a union and find out why. Or even better, the next time you’re in California, visit the Clovis Unified School District – 49 traditional public schools, 5,000 employees, and no union.