In the recent Democratic primary debate, moderator Linsey Davis challenged Democratic candidates with an excellent question: Does their limiting of charter schools mean they “just jump into bed with teachers’ unions” and do a disservice to kids? While this is a provocative question, almost every candidate dodged the question. None were too eager to discuss school choice, and many turned to say we need to just focus all efforts on traditional public school. Though the discussion came up short following the question, it revealed an important connection between teachers’ unions and charter schools. Namely, that teacher unions despise charter schools, and work relentlessly to abolish them. Why would teacher unions, organizations which supposedly represent teachers, seek to undo what teacher work hard daily for—quality education?
Teachers’ unions act as corporate crony businesses—schmoozing the government in order to increase their own paychecks. Their goal is to increase their funding, not advance education. To increase funding, unions need to attract more students to public school. The more funding public schools get by attracting more students, the more money teachers’ unions receive from public school union dues. One way unions try to funnel students into the public school system is to eliminate competition from other schools. School choice, giving students the choice of public, charter, private, or home education, increases competition for schools by presenting students with more options to choose. But instead of seeking to attract students by presenting better academic and athletic programs than other schools, teacher unions squash competition by removing their rivals. The most prominent example of teachers’ unions acting to prevent school choice is their direct attack on charter schools.
The California Teacher Union, or, CTA, has been lobbying the legislature to pass Assembly Bills 1505, 1506, 1507, and 1508. Endorsing Patrick O’Donnell—the chair of the Assembly Education Committee and a previous member on the board of CTA’s state council of education—the CTA cheered as he penned AB 1505, which amends the present laws regarding charter schools and places further regulations and restrictions for charter schools. The success of the four bills would funnel monies into public schools—exactly what the CTA wants.
One of the increased starting steps would make it extremely difficult for charter schools to add their schools into the competition pool for students. In giving school districts the authority to approve or deny the opening of a charter school in their district, AB 1505 plays into CTA’s hands. We’ve already seen how school boards mysteriously deny charter schools and side with teacher unions, as highlighted by Ascent Classical School in Colorado. The four assembly bills in California would deny charter schools the right to appeal to the state or district if their board denies it’s opening.
Giving the authority on the opening of charter schools to school boards threatens disaster on education due to the connection between the CTA and school boards. According to the LA Times editorial board, teachers’ unions work closely with school boards to eliminate and prohibit the start-up of new charters. They state that though charters might “help students in underperforming schools, which typically are in low-income neighborhoods” teachers’ unions will not support charters unless they align with their interests. In other words, teachers’ unions do not care about student progress and education reform, they only care about increasing their paychecks.
Ballotpedia sheds light on CTA’s vast network of people—parents, educators, principals, students, school employees, administrators, and school board members—who work to maintain funding in the public school sector and eliminate school choice. If CTA has members all the way through school boards, giving school boards the authority over education rather than the parent, then of course schools boards would redirect school funding from charters and into public schools.
Another restriction this amended bill places on charter schools highlights the restriction of competition with which charter schools threaten public schools. A charter school may be prohibited from opening if it “would duplicate a program currently offered within the school district and the existing program has sufficient capacity for the pupils proposed to be served within reasonable proximity to where the charter school intends to locate.” In other words, if a charter school offers the same course as a public school in the same school district, the school board may use that as a reason to deny the establishment of a charter school.
The best way to encourage good quality education is competition, just like the best way to encourage good enterprise is the free market. By giving each student choice over the education he receives, communities can promote and denote schools based on academic quality, student development, and overall school effectiveness. School’s choice should be something all members of society should support. As education is that which shows the individual what the world is, and encourages our youth to seek truth and reach for their fulfillment, encouraging the best schools through competition should be an easy platform we all can agree on.
Jessica De Gree
Jessica teaches English as a second language in Spain and plays basketball professionally there. She recently received her Bachelor's degree from Hillsdale College, one of the nation's top Liberal Arts schools in MI. At Hillsdale, she played basketball and studied English and Spanish. Some of her hobbies include reading, writing, painting, surfing, and playing the piano.