Noble teachers beware: Unionizing invites CTU involvement in your school

Mailee Smith

Senior Director of Labor Policy and Staff Attorney

Mailee Smith
April 18, 2017

Noble teachers beware: Unionizing invites CTU involvement in your school

Teachers seeking union representation in the Noble Network of Charter Schools may want to think again. Unions cause more harm than good for both students and teachers. The Chicago Teachers Union provides an up close and personal look at the disastrous impact unions would have on charter schools.

The last thing the Chicago area needs is another teachers’ union. Yet that’s exactly what could happen if union organizers within the Noble Network of Charter Schools get their way.

In March, the Union of Noble Educators notified school administrators of the group’s intent to organize a union for charter school employees. Organizers stated, “We want a voice in decisions, stability in our schools and, most importantly, the best possible future for our students.”

But if teachers’ want a “voice,” unionizing is not the way to go. Charter schools were started to give teachers more control over the classroom – something unions do not allow in a typical public school setting.

If anyone understands the harm and disruptions teachers unions can cause, it should be Chicagoans. The Chicago Teachers Union, or CTU – one of the most militant government-worker unions in the state – frequently places its union agenda above student and teacher needs.

In fact, CTU – which is affiliated with the same national organization as the Union of Noble Educators – has fought vehemently against opening new charter schools in the Chicago area. Its end goal is to delegitimize charter schools – not to bolster the success schools like Noble have seen.

Union control of Chicago schools is harmful to students, parents and teachers

The militant control CTU exercises over Chicago’s public schools has been detrimental to students, parents and teachers.

In 2012, CTU went on strike demanding higher wages, even though CTU members already received high salaries and generous benefits. In fact, Chicago teachers are the highest paid among the nation’s 50 largest school districts.

In the short term, students missed instruction time and students’ families were left in a lurch during the 2012 strike. Thousands of students had no place to go during the day while teachers were on strike.

The 2012 strike also had longer-term effects. After the strike ended, CPS had to close 50 schools and lay off thousands of teachers.

On April 1, 2016, CTU once again turned its back on students and parents by calling a one-day strike. What’s more, the union even punished teachers who chose to support their students that day. Joe Ocol, a teacher and chess coach in Englewood, went to school April 1 to coach his chess team – and his team subsequently took home a national championship. But CTU did not look favorably on Ocol’s decision to prioritize his students over the union’s agenda, and it expelled him from the union.

The Illinois Educational Labor Relations Board subsequently found the strike was likely illegal. But the damage had already been done.

Then on Sept. 22-23, 2016, members of CTU voted to authorize yet another strike against Chicago Public Schools, or CPS. The union prepared to strike, but a contract with CPS was negotiated before CTU once again decided to step out on students.

CTU also considered walking out once again May 1, 2017, but that strike was tabled. Regardless, CTU’s willingness to walk out on parents and students further demonstrates CTU’s strive to advance its agenda at all costs.

Students, parents and teachers in the Noble network have been, to date, spared of such union drama. But that will change if charter teachers unionize.

Unions fight against – not for – charter schools in Chicago

Teachers considering unionization in the Noble charter schools won’t be able to escape CTU’s union drama – nor CTU’s efforts to stymie charter schools.

The Union of Noble Educators admits it is joining Chicago Alliance of Charter Teachers and Staff, or Chicago ACTS – which is a “joint program” of CTU, Illinois Federation of Teachers and American Federation of Teachers.

In other words, the Union of Noble Educators will have a direct tie to CTU. And that’s likely by design. As far back as 2011, a union staff coordinator for Chicago ACTS told the New York Times, “At some point, we would like all the charter schools to be part of C.T.U.”

That alone should discourage any Noble teacher from voting to authorize the Union of Noble Educators.

But there’s more. CTU has actively worked against the growth and success of Chicago charter schools and their students. In negotiating the latest teacher contract with CPS, CTU required a moratorium on the growth of charter schools. The contract provides:

There will be a net zero increase in the number of Board authorized charter schools over the term of this agreement and the total number of students enrolled by the end of school year 2018-2019 will not exceed 101% of the total student enrollment capacity as of school year 2015-2016.

In other words, CTU actively prevents the growth of charter schools and the number of students who can utilize them.

This action is not motivated by a desire to provide the best educational options for students – it’s motivated by a need for control. And it benefits no one but the union.

Teachers in the Noble network should honor the purpose and success of charter schools – and their students – by defeating efforts to unionize.

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