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.
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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
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
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
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
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