Katrina, Teachers Unions, and Charter Schools

Atlantic Legal Foundation is pressing forward in support of every childs right to a quality education, and every parents right to seek out the most fulfilling and appropriate school for their child, despite the continued opposition of those who benefit from the stagnant monopoly which has controlled public education.

The Katrina tragedy served to focus attention on the dismal state of public education in New Orleans, where, before the storm, about 90 percent of the Citys 117 public schools were performing below the state average. As part of the solution, the legislature determined to re-open a number of schools as autonomous charter schools.

Predictably, the Louisiana Federation of Teachers objected since they would lose the protection of collective bargaining agreements with restrictive work rules, teacher-tenure, and other features designed to satisfy teachers interests rather than those of parents and their kids. But Walter Isaacson, Vice Chair of the Louisiana Recovery Authority, considered the unions objections with a number of potential charter school sponsors. As reported by The Wall Street Journal: We discussed whether we could do this with the unions, said Mr. Issacson, and it was decided that it was very hard to have the workplace flexibility you need. Charters dont have the same union rules, and thats the biggest thing they have going for them.

Atlantic Legals Charter School Advocacy Program, which was launched in November, 2005, already has released its comprehensive guide for New York charter school leaders facing the prospect of unionization. Leveling the Playing Field: What New York Charter School Leaders Need to Know About Union Organizing has been distributed to school administrator across the Empire State. Copies are available by website request or at the sixth annual New York Charter Schools Conference in Brooklyn on the weekend of March 16. (More information about that conference is available at New York Charter Conference.org.)

Now, Atlantic Legal is bringing its advice about how to deal with organized labor to the Garden State, where, since the 1995 Charter School Program Act, the possibility of school choice has resulted in no fewer than fifty-five charter schools offering New Jersey students the chance for a brighter life and a sharper mind. Parents of disadvantaged students are demandingand gettingbetter education for their children through charter schools. Fourteen thousand New Jersey students have been served by charter schools.

In support of the charter effort in New Jersey, Atlantic Legal is about to publish a New Jersey edition of Leveling the Playing Field for school administrators dealing with teachers unions, custom-tailored for the unique laws and procedures of New Jersey. The guide teaches school administrators about the New Jersey Education Associations efforts to organize charter school employees, and how to (and how not to) respond to these efforts. An edition of the Leveling series for Massachusetts will be available soon.

As the fight for school choice continues, interested parties in New Jersey should keep in touch with Atlantic Legal by going to Defend Charter Schools.org, by getting on our Charter School Advocacy mailing list, and by requesting a copy of our new publications. All inquiries can be directed to Program Coordinator Bethany Nichols, at bethany.nichols@atlanticlegal.org.

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