Members of the Haverhill Education Association in Massachusetts voted not to approve the renewal of the Silver Hill Horace Mann Charter School’s charter, even though most of them don’t work there.
Rather than take you on a deep dive into Massachusetts charter school law, let’s stick with its intent, that the support of a teacher majority is necessary for a charter renewal to go forward. In previous years, this meant a majority of teachers at the school.
This time, however, the local union president – “after consulting with state education officials and the Massachusetts Teachers Association” – interpreted that provision to mean a majority of all the teachers in the district. They voted 246 to 114 to deny the application.
School officials say that teachers working at Silver Hill favored renewal.
The ostensible reason for rejecting the charter was that Silver Hill enrolls fewer Hispanics than the district average. Silver Hill counters that the district won’t provide funding for additional English Language Learner staffers.
HEA floated a solution to Silver Hill in a June 2 letter:
We request that you take new measures to address the above described inequities in student population distribution. A suggestion is for the lottery to be weighted towards economically disadvantaged applicants, with for example each such applicant getting two chances rather than one. Such a lottery system would still meet the statutory requirement of a blind lottery. Regardless of the measures that you may introduce, we request that any such measures have a reasonable expectation of resulting in significant demographic changes. The measures that were described in your letter and in your annual reports have not succeeded to achieve this end.
Silver Hill correctly noted that rigging the lottery was illegal, prompting HEA to admit that “the Silver Hill Horace Mann Charter lottery complies with all applicable laws and cannot be legally altered.”
You also need to know that Massachusetts has two types of charter schools – Commonwealth and Horace Mann. The Massachusetts Teachers Association web site describes the differences this way:
Commonwealth charter schools are privately run, publicly funded schools with no local oversight. They are funded by diverting dollars from local school districts.
…Although each school has to be considered on its merits, the MTA has historically supported Horace Mann Charter Schools as long as they are welcomed by the community and as long as compensation and working conditions for staff are bargained in good faith.
Lesson learned for charter schools “acceptable” to the unions: your status is temporary.