California Public Employees Unions Join Forces to Oppose Charter Growth

Published November 21, 2015

Teachers unions in Los Angeles (LA) and other public employee unions formed a coalition to fight the expansion of charter schools in California.

The expansion effort, led by the Eli and Edythe Broad Foundation (BF), aims at more than doubling the number of students attending public charter schools in Los Angeles.

“The unions could be successful at convincing the LA [Board of Education] to deny or modify the [BF] plan,” said Larry Sand, president of the California Teachers Empowerment Network. “However, the county or state authorizers could then be approached, [and] the school board’s decision could be overridden.”

Sand says the unions’ concern about the charter school expansion has nothing to do with the claim expansion will harm neighborhood public schools.

“The unions are afraid of the [BF] plan because most charter schools are not unionized,” Sand said. “If a Walmart opens up near a Target, are we concerned about Target being devastated? No, people then have the choice of where to shop, and that’s a good thing. If a charter opens near a traditional public school and offers a better product to its students, why wouldn’t parents want to send their kids there?”

Chance to Leave ‘Failure Factories’

Lance Izumi, senior director of education studies for the Pacific Research Institute, says the BF movement has a high chance of succeeding. 

“The Broad-led effort has a very good chance of succeeding because of the broad-based coalition of philanthropists, educators, local officials, and parents that support the expansion of charter schools in Los Angeles,” Izumi said.

“In contrast, the opposition’s coalition is a narrow special-interest group of public employee unions, which clearly puts the self-interest of its own members above improved learning opportunities for children,” Izumi said. “Union officials essentially admit to placing self-interest above children’s interests when they argue that the new charters will lead to closure of neighborhood public schools. Those schools will only close if they are failing their students and parents decide to choose better alternatives. Union officials are therefore acknowledging that those schools are failing and that they fear that parents and their children will want to leave these failure factories if given the freedom to do so.”

Chris Neal ([email protected]) writes from New York, New York.

Image by Michael McCauslin.