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Education Wed Jun 03 2009
Public education (and organized labor) was dealt two crushing blows this week.
The Charter School Reform Act of 2009 (SB 612 in the Illinois General Assembly raises the cap on the number of charter schools to be approved in the state of Illinois.
According to the Rockford Register Star:
The new bill eliminates boundaries -- now there are two areas: Chicago and everywhere else. Under the current law Rockford is considered "downstate" Illinois.
That means 15 charter schools can be licensed outside Chicago, on top of the previous five licenses left for downstate Illinois. In Chicago, 40 new schools can be added, and five new schools in Chicago can be allocated for dropout recovery. Before this approved act, only five charter licenses were available for downstate.
To clarify, one charter is not the same as one school. Secretary of Education Arne Duncan has boasted in the past how Chicago was able to get around the original cap by allowing one charter operator to run multiple campuses. This new bill, if signed into law by Governor Quinn, will turn the charter school epidemic into a pandemic throughout the state.
Charter schools are non-union schools that are managed by private non-profit and for-profit organizations, using public dollars. The American Federation of Teachers (AFT) has not taken a stance against these schools, but advocated organizing them into union schools The AFT launched an aggressive campaign to organize schools run by the Civitas organization, and was successful in obtaining a majority of union membership cards to be signed by educators at three of its campuses.
Remember, these organizations use property tax dollars to run these schools and the schools are supposedly available to all students who enroll in public schools.
However, when it's no longer convenient to hide under the guise of "public school,"
Civitas argued that its charter schools are essentially private schools not accountable to the public, despite receiving taxpayer dollars. In the brief Civitas submitted to the NLRB, it claimed it is a for-profit company not required to provide any type of annual presentation to any government body to justify its annual expenditures, and that it has no "direct personal accountability" to any government public officials.
What are the word does President Obama and Secretary Duncan repeat profusely when talking about the advantages of charter schools? To give you a hint, it rhymes with "schmaccountability."
What does this mean?
If the schools were declared public entities, they would fall under the jurisdiction of the Illinois Education Labor Relations Board, which would recognize the majority of cards signed as a vote for the union at the schools. Since the the NLRB has declared them private employers, they now must conduct a "secret" ballot "election."
This gives the charter operator more time to intimidate and/or fire staff before the election occurs or EFCA is passed...
but that's another story.
Disclosure- I am proud member of AFT Local 1