The Center for Education Reform is a charter promotion group, perhaps one of the most cynical and self-serving of the reformster groups. Search their website for information or ideas about education-- the actual pedagogy and instruction in a classroom-- and you will find nothing, because the Center has no actual interest in education.
Check out their board of directors-- you will find a combination of money managers and charter school operators. That is where the Center's interest lies-- in getting more money into more charters.
And what stands in the way of these corporate interests making a better, bigger buck? Well, those damn unions, of course. The Center may not have any section devoted to actually educating children, but they have a whole tab devoted to those damn unions, and here's What They Believe:
We believe that the special interests that draw funds from the tax dollars funding public education, and that have become an intransient [sic-- pretty sure they mean "intransigent," though "intransient" as in "won't move away to some other place" might suit them as well] force in political and policy circles, have outlived the usefulness of the associations they once had and have become obstacles to programs and activities that can best and most judiciously serve children. Such groups—from teachers unions, to the associations of administrators, principals, school boards and hybrids of all (e.g., “The Blob”)—should be free to organize but without access to the dollars that are spent to fund schools and should be free to recruit but not mandate members, but they should not have a public stream of money that permits the dues of members to subsidize their defense of the status quo.
The Center is currently excited with itself because it placed a quote in a Wall Street Journal article. The piece (behind a paywall) discusses the desire of some charter teachers to unionize. Or, as the Center headlined it in their regular email, "Teachers at Successful Los Angeles Charter School Organization Being Manipulated by Union Leaders."
The charter in question is the Alliance charter, a chain run by rich folks like a former mayor of LA and the owner of the Atlanta Hawks. Alliance is a big gun in the LA charter scene, and seventy of its 500-person teacher workforce started pushing for a union last spring.
"We believe that when teachers have a respected voice in policymaking it
leads to school sustainability and teacher retention," said Elana
Goldbaum, who teaches history at Gertz-Ressler High School, a member of
the Alliance group. "We have a lot of talent and we want to see that
stay. We want to see our teachers be a part of the decision-making and
we want to advocate for our students and ourselves."
The union movement has sparked controversy, with the LA union claiming interference on the part of charter management and Alliance saying the teachers feel harassed by the union. The struggle escalated at the end of October when the California Public Employment Relations Board sued Alliance for engaging in anti-union activity.
All of this, somehow, is the evil union pulling the wool over the eyes of the poor, hapless teachers.
Look, the big unions are no angels, and the big-city unions are probably the least angelic of all. But you know that teachers need some kind of union when the charters are letting loose with baloney like this, the quote from the WSJ of which the Center is so proud:
“It’s not surprising that teachers that work at charter schools would
not want to join a union,” said Alison Zgainer, executive vice president
of the Center for Education Reform, a pro-charter organization in
Washington, D.C. “They want more autonomy in the classroom, and being
part of a union you lose that autonomy.”
I guess Zgainer is referring to "autonomy" as defined by charter operators-- the autonomy to be told you must work long hours over a long week. The autonomy to have instruction strictly dictated. The autonomy to be paid as little as the charter wants to pay you. The autonomy to be fired any time the charter feels like it. The autonomy to be trained in "no excuse" techniques that are just as prescriptive of teacher behavior as they are of student behavior. That autonomy.
The autonomy that business-driven charters care about is the autonomy of management. Their dream is the same dream as that of the 19th century robber barons who fought unions tooth and nail. It's a dream where a CEO sits in his office and runs his company with complete freedom to hire and fire, raise and lower salaries, and change the work hours (or any other terms of employment) at will. It's a dream of a business where the CEO is a visionary free to seek his vision (and profit from it) without having anyone ever say "no" to him.
That's the autonomy that folks like the Center for Education Reform are interested in.
In the CEO-centered vision of school, unions are bad. Unions are evil obstacles that dare to make rules by which the CEO must abide (they are often aided by Big Government, which also dares to interfere with the CEO). I think these folks believe in the myth of the Hero Teacher because it echoes the myth of the Hero CEO-- a bold genius who makes the world a better place by pushing aside all obstacles, including the people who don't recognize his genius, until he arrives at the mountain top, loved and praised by all the Little People who are grateful that he saved them. Compromise and collaboration are for the weak, and unions are just weaklings who want to drag down the Hero CEO because they are jealous of his awesomeness and afraid that their undeserved power will be stripped from them by his deserving might.
In this topsy-turvy world, unions must be crushed not just because they set up rules to thwart the Hero CEO, but because they are holding captive all the teachers who really want to give themselves body and soul to the Hero CEO's genius vision, but the union won't let them. Damn you, evil unions.
This does not explain all charter supporters (it does not, for instance, reflect the motivations of the social justice warrior school of charter support). But it sure does explain some, even as it is oddly reminiscent of "We'll be greeted as liberators" and the tantrums of any three-year-old. But I hope that the Center for Education Reform has to live impotently with the threat of evil unions for years to come.