California Educator

May / June 2017

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The Union Makes Education Strong " We are moving forward to require that char- ter schools receive the same level of oversight [and] civil rights protections and provide the same level of transparency as traditional pub- lic schools," said Roslyn M. Brock, then NAACP c h a i r m a n . " O u r d e c i s i o n t o d ay i s d r i v e n b y a long-held principle and policy of the NAACP that high- quality, free public education should be afforded to all children." Brock and the NAACP called for a moratorium on charter school expansion until: 1. Char t er scho o l s are subje ct to th e sam e transparency and accountability standards as public schools. 2. Public fund s are not diver t ed to char t er schools at the expense of the public school system. 3. Charter schools cease expelling students that public schools have a duty to educate. 4. Charter schools cease to perpetuate de facto segregation of the highest- performing children from those whose aspirations may be high but whose talents are not yet as obvious. Charters cherry- pick students Before Julian Vasquez Heilig became a professor of educational leadership and policy at Sacramento State University, he was involved with charter schools. e California Faculty Association member served on a charter school board in Texas and was a "21st century instructor" or teacher's aide at Aspire Elementary and Middle School in East Palo Alto. At Aspire, he enjoyed working with a fourth- grader named Gary, who was energetic, precocious and intelligent. He was also at times mildly disrup- tive and perhaps a bit hyperactive. One day, recalls Heilig, Gary disappeared. Heilig learned he had been expelled from the charter school and replaced with a new student from Sayrs Morris saw a dramatic difference at Ballington Academy for the Arts and Sciences in El Centro after unionization in 2012. Before unionizing, educators were afraid to speak up for their students and feared being fired; high turnover had a big impact on student learning; and pay and benefits were below what teachers received in surrounding areas. After educators formed the Ballington Educators Association, things improved, says Morris. Teachers received a significant raise, and turnover decreased. The school hired an art teacher and opened a science lab, which teachers had requested for years. "Once we didn't have to worry about losing our jobs as at- will employees, we were able to advocate for our students and for ourselves," adds Morris, now a teacher in Brawley and a Brawley Elementary Teachers Association member. "CTA helps teachers do that." Charter school educators such as Morris love teaching, and many strongly believe in their school's potential. But several re- cent trends threaten charter school stability and student success. When small schools grow into charter management organiza- tions (CMOs) with multiple campuses, decisions once made at the school level are now made at CMO headquarters. As a result, many teachers feel they don't have a voice in policies affecting students and their profession. The heavy workload, compounded by a high cost of living and low pay, means high educator turnover and burnout are real problems. To address these trends, charter educators are unionizing to have a stronger voice in important decisions, to support initiatives that lower teacher turnover, and to build stable school communities their students deserve. CTA is currently working on first contract campaigns with many charter schools, including Livermore Valley Charter School, iQ Academy California, Island Union Elementary in Lemoore, and St. Hope Public Schools in Sacramento (see back- ground on St. Hope's unionization on page 11). "Teacher voice through union power has pushed our CMO to be more transparent, open and accountable," says Angel Maldonado, president of AsociaciĆ³n de Maestros Unidos, the union for Green Dot Public Schools California. "Being unionized guarantees educators respect, fair treatment, and a say in what is best for our students. It lets our members feel safe in advocat- ing for our students." For information about unionizing: TERRI JACKSON, CTA Board Member The goal is to make charters the way the law intended, so students, parents and the community have a voice. 31 May / June 2017 Sayrs Morris

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