Paul Public Charter School Union Attempt Peters Out

This is how it went last month:

AFT press release – “In a historic first for the District of Columbia, a decisive majority of educators at Paul Public Charter School have signed a formal petition asking the school’s governing board to recognize their union.”

Washington Post – “Teachers at a D.C. charter school are pushing to unionize, citing the need to provide more resources for students, improve the school’s culture and reduce churn in the teaching force.

“About three quarters of the staff at Paul Public Charter School in Northwest signed a petition asking the school’s governing board to recognize their union, the District of Columbia Alliance of Charter Teachers and Staff.”

The American Prospect – “This morning, teachers at Paul Public Charter School, one of the oldest charters in Washington, D.C., publicly announced their intent to unionize—a first for charter schoolteachers in the nation’s capital. As in other cities where charter teachers have formed unions, the Paul educators are forming their own local—the District of Columbia Alliance of Charter Teachers and Staff (DC ACTS)—which will be affiliated with the American Federation of Teachers (AFT). Seventy-five percent of Paul’s teaching staff signed a petition in support of joining DC ACTS, and asked administrators to voluntarily recognize their union.”

WAMU – “Teachers At A D.C. Charter School Want To Try Something New: Unionizing”

Education Week columnist – “I expect to see more charter school teachers in Los Angeles and elsewhere indicate that they want to unionize. The latest evidence comes from the District of Columbia, where teachers at Paul Public Charter School have asked the schools’ governing board to recognize their union.”

In These Times – “Last month, Washington, D.C. became the newest city to join this growing movement, with workers at Paul Public Charter School announcing their intention to form a union.”

Just five weeks later the story was a little different:

“An effort to create the first teachers’ union in the city’s large charter sector stalled this week with the last-minute cancellation of a planned vote to unionize teachers at Paul Public Charter School in Northwest D.C.”

Try making sense of this explanation from the teacher who initiated the unionization campaign:

Our organizing committee felt that we had the votes to win, and voted to go ahead with the election, but we did not have enough people who were willing to be public with their support to convince AFT that we were definitely going to win.

That sounds to me like AFT wanted public assurance of the outcome of a secret ballot vote, and overruled the pro-union teachers at the school, which is a sign of who was running the show.

Some charter schools will get unions, and many of those that do deserve them because the school administrators failed to treat their employees well. Others will face a unionization effort because NEA, AFT and their affiliates see something to be gained by it.

Whatever the case, every one of the above stories lacked one crucial ingredient: the perspective of even a single teacher who might be opposed to the union drive, or simply on the fence about it. Instead, we got a lot of cheerleading.

You can add the Paul Public Charter School story to a long list of cautionary tales (the KIPP NY unions, the UFT Charter School, NEA’s Charter School Initiative, et al.) about teachers unions and charter schools, but I am certain I’ll be back in this space very soon criticizing another “charter school unionization trend sweeping the nation” story.

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