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Teachers and staff trying to unionize at a Pennsylvania charter school had a very common experience: They were threatened with job loss and generally coerced not to support the union. The National Labor Relations Board is taking unfair labor practices charges to trial against Olney Charter and its operator, ASPIRA Inc.
[Assistant principal Lisette Agosto] Cintron warned staff that the school "would withhold a decision on the renewal of their contracts because [the school's] employees were seeking union representation," the document reads.

The school issued a disciplinary warning to teacher Amelia DeGory—a vocal union supporter—thus making good on the administrators' "stated intention to play 'hardball,' " according to the complaint.

What's more, the charter school is using public money—$17,094 so far—to hire a law firm to fight the unionization effort. While the threats toward teachers are exactly what most workers trying to unionize face, that use of public money to fight an organizing effort is telling. This is one of the big reasons that Walmart heirs and hedge fund billionaires put so much money into policies that promote charter schools: to keep chipping away at workers' ability—any workers, anywhere—to fight for better wages and working conditions.

Originally posted to Daily Kos Labor on Thu Aug 08, 2013 at 01:42 PM PDT.

Also republished by DKos Pennsylvania, In Support of Labor and Unions, and Daily Kos.

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Comment Preferences

  •  Indeed, the issue is power. What good is a (2+ / 0-)
    Recommended by:
    Friend of the court, Mostel26

    stash of dollars, if it doesn't let you be arbitrary in your domain?
    Some people just don't get that other people have human rights. When the community (government) supports rights, they get really upset. Why? I'm beginning to suspect it's because some people don't understand what giving and caring mean. The only know take and coerce.

    We organize governments to deliver services and prevent abuse.

    by hannah on Thu Aug 08, 2013 at 02:19:44 PM PDT

  •  It almost makes ya' wonder what they have been (2+ / 0-)
    Recommended by:
    tommymet, Mostel26

    putting into Pennsylvania's water lately ... ... ... oh, wait.

    Living the austerity dream.

    by jwinIL14 on Thu Aug 08, 2013 at 02:31:54 PM PDT

  •  "Philadelphia Freedom" (2+ / 0-)
    Recommended by:
    nolagrl, Mostel26
  •  Using teachers own taxpyer money (9+ / 0-)

    to hire lawyers to suppress the teachers union rights.

    Its a corporatist's wet dream.

    "What could BPossibly go wrong??" -RLMiller "God is just pretend." - eru

    by nosleep4u on Sat Aug 10, 2013 at 06:19:11 PM PDT

  •  Now we've got a full NLRB, though! (5+ / 0-)

    Such cases can now be prosecuted effectively!

  •  Charter schools (2+ / 0-)
    Recommended by:
    Mostel26, cybersaur

    The whole reason behind them is to teach to the test and cheat the system, so that the owners can pocket millions of taxpayer dollars. These teachers are smart  enough to know what they got into. The unionization might work. One can only hope. However if the owners can misdirect tax dollars with impunity for a sleazy lawsuit, I don't see any hope without Federal intervention.

    •  No, it isn't. Charter schools are a good thing (0+ / 0-)

      There are two charter schools in my area and they are known for giving better education to students than the regular public schools.

      I will be the first to admit that it is not a huge huge difference (only a few points on the SAT test) but any difference to the higher college admissions test scores is a good difference.

      Charter schools can be run worse than public schools, however in the real world with all of the oversight of them that very rarely happens.

  •  But, of course, it's "all about the kids" (5+ / 0-)

    (groan... eye-roll)

    At this point, the real agenda, privatizing profit while socializing losses and risk, couldn't be more transparent if the corporatist education "reform" movement had their employees walk around all day in NASCAR style garage suits covered in corporate and rightwing thinktank logos.

    If the whole system looks were to be re-made in this  image, we are going to replace serious and real problems with serial and ever growing disasters.

    I am a Loco-Foco. I am from the Elizabeth Warren wing of the Democratic Party.

    by LeftHandedMan on Sat Aug 10, 2013 at 07:04:01 PM PDT

    •  There are still a ton of neoliberals (5+ / 0-)

      who still believe the hype. I don't get how the charter agenda isn't plain to all - offer the same product (a hit or miss school system) that can now be profit-generating and eliminate power for teachers and parents.

      Bill Gates, Arne Duncan, Jeff Bezos and other centrists who either formulate the policy or give money pushing this agenda are in bed with the devil (look at how much the Waltons give to the same causes too). Its just that the other side - who hate public schools and want to eventually get to a world with all privatized schools - realize charters are a perfect stepping stone to that goal. And will use the aforementioned people as allies to get there.

      Reminds of the super evangelicals who prop up Israel since revelations requires Jews return to the homeland so that rapture can occur. Charter schools are meant to help children like the rapture is meant to help non-Christians...

      •  If the school systems today weren't so bad (0+ / 0-)

        You would have a point.

        However, I personally homeschooled my children and when they wanted to go to high school, I enrolled them into college-courses at the local community college because even the AP courses at the local public high school where their mother lives/lived back then were not up to snuff.

        The AP courses were for things that they had learned years ago through the homeschooling that we did, so it was almost worthless sending them to the public high school.

        The only reason for that was because some people were saying that our children were 'undersocialized' because they were not going to regular public school but after 8 years between my daughters (2 of them) at the local high school? I could see no difference, they had no more and no less friends.

  •  Using public money for lawyers - (2+ / 0-)
    Recommended by:
    mainely49, Mostel26

    Are there any conditions placed on charter schools' expenditures, legally?

  •  so i wonder what local radio stations are working (1+ / 0-)
    Recommended by:

    for alec on this...

    This is a list of 76 universities for Rush Limbaugh that endorse global warming denial, racism, sexism, and GOP lies by broadcasting sports on over 170 Limbaugh radio stations.

    by certainot on Sat Aug 10, 2013 at 07:54:59 PM PDT

  •  I was at Olney... (5+ / 0-)

    the year before it was turned over to ASPIRA. Most of the teachers (including me) were very much opposed to the change, but unlike in every other school district in the state, we had no say in the matter. Most charter conversions in PA must have 50% of parents and staff approve the change, but the same law that gave the state the power to.take.over the SDP in 2001 also exempted us from that provision. Only the state-controlled School Reform Commission has any say in the matter.

    As the turn-over approached, many of us refused to even.apply to work for ASPIRA (which is, to be fair, a non-profit) since we had no intention of giving up our union protections. They made many promises like paying union scale, etc., but even with the preliminary numbers they threw out it was obvious they didn't have the resiurces they claimed. They also didn't actually hire any of the experienced tewchers who did apply. It all looked very sketchy.

    Now we're two years on from the conversion and Olney hasn't shown any improvement. This is just the next stage of its demise. Meanwhile, the SRC and the politicians who back them have set their sights on breaking out union. They've engineered a budget crisis just in time for contrct negotiations, with a large chunk of the deficit either dependent on us taking concessions or on taking the cash directly from our pockets. That's the real endgame, to break the union and remove the last barrier to full privitization. The non-profit charters like Olney were just the foot in the door to make way for the for-profit companies. We're going to fight this, but goodness only knows if we'll even win the first battle, much less the war.

    Strategy without tactics is the slowest route to victory, tactics without strategy is the noise before defeat. Sun Tzu The Art of War

    by Stwriley on Sat Aug 10, 2013 at 09:18:32 PM PDT

    •  Keep up the good fight! (2+ / 0-)
      Recommended by:
      Mostel26, Stwriley

      Curious--how were your test scores?

    •  I was in a district out West (3+ / 0-)
      Recommended by:
      Mostel26, RuralLiberal, Stwriley

      when way back in 1995 or so  they proposed a charter.    Back then, it was new to most of us in the profession.   Many of us who were strong union members mistrusted the notion from the get go;  they promised it all, to both parents and the teachers who chose to stay at the school being converted.  They called it non-profit too but let's be honest.  All these non-profits still have investors.

      Anyway a few teachers I knew stayed at the school and lasted one year. The conditions sucked,  the work hours and length of year extended with no compensation of any kind. All the promises of computers for every child, improved "scores" (NCLB was not yet implemented at first but there were other national tests; later on there were NCLB tests applied) never materialized.  Parents were not given the access and participation in planning or materials that were promised.  The only promise kept was an hour longer school day, and a longer school year.   It operated for over ten years and never did it achieve any higher test scores than its sister schools in the same socioeconomic area.   The only changes:  uniforms for the students, larger class sizes, master teachers at each grade with new teachers on their team to be instructed, led by the master teacher.   Because it was new, because it was in a conservative city that so wanted to break the union, so wanted to end public schools, because the idea and the school board had the backing of the Devos of Ohio, there was a lot of attention paid to this school.   It failed.   But still the school board big money elected had their foot in the door, had the conservative newspaper trashing the union, and pushing the "potential" of charters, several more charters were granted in the area.   The ones in upscale parts of town did well but no better than their sister schools in the same areas.  

      What the heck will it take for people to wake up to this privatization scheme???

      After eleven years it was turned back into a regular, as opposed to a tax supported, charter.  I  cannot remember the name of the company that started it but the guy did all the Channel One stuff.   The corporation changed hands more than once in the eleven or so years.   Staff was constantly turning over because after the first year, there were no union protections.  One teacher who taught there for two years came to where I taught and she said it was a nightmare for teachers and students and parents were always angry because none of the "promises" (computers, materials) ever materialized en masse.

      Still this administration and many liberals/progressives have bought in to the blame the teachers' unions, magic reform of the charters game. Seriously, I really don't get how easily even the left has been duped by this corporate attempt to totally privatize education.  "Non-profit charters"  are nothing more than a stepping stone to dupe parents and the general public into buying in to privatizing all public education.

      “We can have democracy in this country, or we can have great wealth concentrated in the hands of a few, but we can't have both.” Louis D. Brandeis

      by Jjc2006 on Sun Aug 11, 2013 at 05:37:08 AM PDT

      [ Parent ]

      •  Again, you are forgetting that public schools (0+ / 0-)

        Are not very good in the real world today. I went to public schools as a child and I had much more success homeschooling my own children.

        Less time spent on schooling (4 hours a day), more time spent on fun for more benefits than the public school system ever gave me and I could properly 'move around' things to take into account what my children were good at and learned quickly vs. what they were not good at and learned slowly.

        The biggest problem with our public school systems today is the lack of 'custom tailoring' to the specific student and charter schools to an extent are able to fix that by not going by grade level but by individual ability.

        People need to admit that while our public school systems are good, they are failing a good 50% of students who go to them.

        •  I call you on your BS (4+ / 0-)
          Recommended by:
          RadGal70, Eyesbright, Stwriley, coquiero

          Your anecdotal remark is not supported by research, not even a little bit.

          MANY public schools are performing quite well.  While some home schoolers may do well, my "anecdotal" retort is that those children who came to me from home schooling were lagging way behind their peers.  But then anecdotal stories are not evidence.

          Do the research.  On the whole, charters have done no better and in many cases much worse than traditional public schools.

          And btw research is NOT "I went to public school and therefore I can judge public education across the country, based on my one experience, seen through the eyes of a child."

          If you google even just a few things, like international test scores, there are countless articles documenting how the top public school students do as well if not better than most other countries.    But, scores and tests can be manipulated and interpreted.

          But I will not do the work for someone who counts their own experience as "the proof".   Really educated and curious people seek answers and know the reality is this:  Public education is not the problem.  Poverty is.   Charter schools do no better than, and often worse than, like schools in areas of poverty.  Ditto with home schooling.

          “We can have democracy in this country, or we can have great wealth concentrated in the hands of a few, but we can't have both.” Louis D. Brandeis

          by Jjc2006 on Sun Aug 11, 2013 at 08:12:16 AM PDT

          [ Parent ]

  •  Charter schools (0+ / 0-)

    Charter schools pose a greater long term threat to this country than terrorism.

    +++ The law is a weapon used to bludgeon us peasants into submission. It is not to be applied to the monied elite.

    by cybersaur on Sun Aug 11, 2013 at 07:51:30 AM PDT

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