The Detroit Federation of Teachers monthly publishes a news bulletin entitled the Detroit Teacher. May’s issue contained an interesting article by the DFT’s president Keith Johnson. It opens:
Let’s dispel the rumors regarding DFT’s decision to organize charter schools in Detroit. The DFT does not support charter schools and/or the expansion of charter schools!
The DFT has agreed to organize and unionize charter schools in Detroit, offering its collective bargaining benefits to them in return for union dues. Charter schools are given liberty by the state to pursue more inventive practices in instruction, and also are allowed to use private providers for pensions and health care plans, but those that wish to can unionize.
Mr. Johnson is the one who sold the DFT on the idea of organizing charters, but why the lack of support? Why is he adding to his ranks those institutions he does not approve of?
Since charter schools in Michigan, unlike in most states, are not regulated by statute or collective bargaining agreements, charters are allowed to engage in an educational free for all with each deciding how it will operate and without any parameters to govern them other than the agencies that authorize the charter.
In short, Mr. Johnson sees it as his calling to help reform charter schools and bring them up to the standards of public schools.
In truth, the current oversight of charters by state universities has been quite successful and effective at shutting down ineffective and mismanaged organizations. Also, charters are outperforming their local districts year after year on MEAP assessments, all while running on less funding.
By no means does the DFT have to offer its services to charter schools. If the DFT thinks it can use its oversight to reform charters, it may have to think again. As a march Detroit News editorial says:
To organize charter schools, the teacher unions will have to adapt to charters’ innovative school models — and be open to flexible, modern bargaining contracts.
Finally the editorial quotes Mr. Johnson as saying in regards to overseeing Detroit’s charters:
If we don’t do it, it would open the way for the MEA (the rival Michigan Education Association) to organize charters when our membership is shrinking.
If the DFT thinks it will be reforming charters, it will be breaking down the very freedoms that make charter schools sucessful. If it is union dues they are after, the times must be tough that they need to go to their adversaries for funding.
Adam Rule – MCPP Intern