Will Charter Unionization Help End the Public School Wars in Oakland?

Oakland’s largest charter organization, Education for Change (EFC), voted to recognize a union at the last board meeting.  I was there, and as a member of the Executive Committee I made the motion, which passed unanimously.  This can be a good thing for our schools, staff, families, and the City.  Especially if it leads to a truce in Oakland’s ongoing public school wars which have hurt the district, charter schools, and most importantly the Flatland children and families who are desperate for better schools.

The vast majority of families and school staff in the Flats really don’t care whether their public school is a charter or district school, they want a good place for their child or a good place to work.  And they are constantly shifting between the public school sectors as opportunities present.  Each year at EFC we get staff from the district and lose staff to OUSD and other districts.  Each year kids come in from OUSD schools and go out to other OUSD schools.  For families, just trying to make it, there is no public school war, there is war of attrition to find a good public school.

And imagine if all the money and energy that went into these fights was instead focused on getting the resources students need and providing them the support they deserve.  I have written before about how unionized charters can be good for the schools, union and children.  And as Oakland and the state has an increasing number of unionized schools, will there be a détente?

The elephants have been fighting for too long in Oakland and there is a lot of trampled grass.  It’s well past time that we move the elephants out of the frame and focus on the grass for a change.

What do you think?

2 thoughts on “Will Charter Unionization Help End the Public School Wars in Oakland?

  1. Dirk, can you talk about the impact of charter schools on the OUSD budget? I am happy to hear about unionization for charter school teachers, but my larger concern has been the loss of what in health care we call “economies of scale.” Here in Richmond having each charter with separate buildings and administrative costs decrease the dollars spent on actual education. I am also concerned, not with locally organized charters but with national charters supported by wealthy donors with their own political agendas. I don’t believe that being a successful entrepreneur makes you an expert about education or gives you right to divert public dollars into your own privte fiefdom with little transparency or financial accountability. These concerns also have to be taken into account in order to end the “charter wars.”

    1. appreciate the comment, generally when students dont attend the district schools (private, charter, out of district, home school, drop out) the district does not get the per pupil, It is hard for districts that tend to have some fixed costs to really absorb those transition costs if many children leave. But this is reality now and districts need to plan, and in some states like NY they have transition aid, and yeah the issue of all these small schools that cant really provide the range of services is an issue with having “too many schools” where you cant concentrate the resources effectively. Which affects charter and district schools. I dont necessarily disagree on the outside donor piece– in some cases I think they listen, in some cases they just act on their own agendas, I have written some about the funder issues. Charters need to be financially transparent (and legally are supposed to be– tho i know practice can be different) and accountable to the promises they make in the charter. But I guess as a guy who has been in Oakland an long time, folks are sick of waiting for OUSD to fix itself and serve underserved students– and there is scant evidence of progress on those fronts, so given a dearth of high quality options in the Flatlands, many community members went charter. The charters I work with are almost all conversions from the district, who kept the same staff, served the same kids, but escaped the OUSD dysfunction. Which continues to this day. For many people charters are a last hope after being denied relief within the system. But I do distinguish generally between the community grown schools and those that are more community imposed.

More Comments