The first union to ever organize a Massachusetts charter school has disbanded. What was once hailed as a “historic organizing victory” by the American Federation of Teachers has dissolved after what yesterday’s Boston Globe described as “a long stretch of diminished activity.”
Unions are a poor fit for charters anywhere.
But conditions at the Conservatory Lab Charter School in Brighton, Massachusetts, have never been good for the union, and they highlight why unions are a poor fit for charters anywhere.
When teachers first organized at the Brighton school four years ago, Marc Kenen, the executive director of the Massachusetts Charter Public School Association, said that he doubted unionization would work. “Generally, charter school teachers join charter schools because they don’t want to work in a unionized atmosphere,” he told the Globe.
Indeed, nearly all of the teachers who established the union left after just a few years, and the Globe reported last year that newer faculty members debated whether to dissolve it. Some said they saw the merit in having a contract but thought the American Federation of Teachers, with whom they were affiliated, cared more about its own agenda than the needs of the charter school.
Even the contract itself was unique: It contained not only a provision on merit pay but secured an active role for teachers to help design the curriculum. These are elements, however, that make charters special without the unions. The best charters work because management and faculty work in a collaborative, not...