For charter schools the fight against unions is one of life or death

I received a telephone call last evening from an individual who is an exceptionally prominent figure in the national charter school movement. He explained to me in an exasperated tone that in an extremely pro-charter locality the teachers’ union has figured out how to infiltrate the zoning board so that property cannot be approved for use by these alternative schools.

I’m frankly not surprised. The singular focus on charters by teachers’ unions has nothing to do, of course, with the future success of children. It is all about protecting the status quo of adults. I cannot conceive of anything more tragic.

We have observed this identical scenario play out in D.C. The teachers’ unions fought as hard as they could against the Opportunity Scholarship Program, the plan that became federal law in 2004 that provides private school tuition to kids living in poverty. In 2009, Joseph E. Robert Jr., faced no choice but to terminate his Washington Scholarship Fund from administering the OSP due to the Obama Administration’s move to close it out. Fortunately, due to the fierce persistence of many people, especially former United States House of Representatives Speaker John Boehner and former Senator Joe Lieberman, it continues in a stronger fashion today under the leadership of Serving Our Children.

More recently, we have seen unions try and takeover Paul PCS, Cesar Chavez PCS’s middle school Bruce campus, and now Munde Verde PCS. The response to each of these actions has got to be the same. We cannot allow unions to invade our schools. We must protect them at all cost. The current state of public education in our city cannot continue. The academic achievement gap between the affluent and poor is growing, not shrinking. As measured by the proficiency rate for reading and math on the 2018 PARCC standardized test, it now stands at about 64 points.

Here in the nation’s capital we are 23 years into public school reform and for the first time in our history some charters are seeing students reach identical levels of preparedness for college no matter their particular zip code. But the numbers of these kids are still way too small. Tens of thousands of young people still lack a quality seat. We still have a tremendous way to go.

This is why I hope that our charter school leaders and teachers have been able to get some relaxation time this summer. The challenge to improve our schools is tough, and long, and filled with those such as members of the teachers’ unions that would like nothing more than to see us fail.

So we will be brave in this fight. It is the only right thing to do. We are standing up for our children for one reason only. When people look back in history at this period in our society, there can be no option of them coming to the conclusion that we simply gave up.

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