Charters, Unions, and the Chicago Teachers Strike

9/10 Update: CPS strike is now on, however there are 116 public schools still in session, and 10 of them have independent unions. Read more below.

Original Post: Chicago Public Schools (CPS) is facing a rancorous and divisive teacher’s strike, with a walkout scheduled for Monday.  Roughly 400,000 students are likely to be affected, as will their families. No one wins.

There are a variety of issues between CPS and the teacher’s union — the school district is in terrible financial shape and pushing a variety of reforms, while union recently filed an unfair labor practices complaint related to longer hours and wages. The two sides have been negotiating for over 10 months.

I’m not close enough to this issue to understand the fundamental differences. However, a small flower seems to have emerged from the deep spread of manure which now covers almost everyone involved.  Andrew Broy points out:

Among the 116 charter schools in Chicago that are in our network, 10 have independent unions representing teachers in negotiations with school management. These schools have been able to reach agreements […]

This sort of solutions-based teamwork should be a model of partnership for the city. Once again, charter schools in Chicago are on the leading edge of innovation, this time in the field of labor relations.

It’s a fascinating point.  A single labor union which covers roughly 20,000 teachers in over 500 schools cannot come to an agreement, yet 10 schools — presumably negotiating independently — each can.

The belief of labor has long been that bigger is better: the more teachers in one union, the more powerful.  However the cost for scale is a lack of flexibility and intimacy, and one wonders if collective bargaining agreements should evolve in the same way that schools have: smaller groups, with independent authority, less bureaucracy, and increased accountability. Many of those schools are serving students and families better — it should be no surprise if they also end up serving teachers better as well.

This entry was posted in Charter Schools, Innovation, Teacher Unions. Bookmark the permalink.

One Response to Charters, Unions, and the Chicago Teachers Strike

  1. Debra W says:

    NYC has some interesting district-run schools that have been able to achieve the kind of flexibility you talk about. The Brooklyn Generation School, for example, has teachers working on a staggered scheduled to allow for an extended day and year without breaking the bank and without extending the hours any individual would teach under the standard UFT contract. It’s an interesting approach and worth watching to see if it gets results, but what’s crazy is that they had to negotiate an entire side contract with the UFT to get this accommodation even though everyone on the staff was on board. More about the school heree: http://bit.ly/TxdArt

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