According to Kate McGee of WAMU 88.5, middle school teachers at a charter school in Columbia Heights have successfully voted to unionize, forming the first collective bargaining unit at a charter school in the district.
The teachers at Cesar Chavez Prep Middle School voted 31-2 in favor of joining the American Federation of Teachers.
“We’re excited for the opportunity to work alongside our school board and our principal to make a school that we’re really proud of into the envy of the district,” said Christian Herr, science teacher at the school. “We’ve ready to get to work on a contract that makes our school an even better place to teach and learn.”
The educators organized through the District of Columbia Alliance of Charter Teachers and Staff, which is affiliated with the American Federation of Teachers, one of two major education unions in the country. Staff at the school say they want to unionize to give teachers a voice in decision-making. Jenny Tomlinson, the school librarian, told WAMU in May that staff hoped unionizing would reduce teacher turnover, increase teacher input in the curriculum and attract more experienced teachers.
Charter schools receive public money but operate independently. They do not usually unionize. Opponents of unions say that, without them, charter schools can be more flexible about salaries, hiring and firing, curriculum, and even the length of the school year. Nationally, 10 percent of charter schools are unionized, according to a report from the Center for Education Reform. Read more here.