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EduShyster has a fascinating report on the festivities in New Orleans, where the National Charter School Conference is meeting. The event was supposed to be a celebration of the complete elimination of public education in New Orleans, but something unexpected happened. A group of charter teachers from Ohio disrupted a session to ask a charter founder why he fired teachers for trying to organize a union at his schools.
Here is the backstory:
When is *disruption* not just a super cool buzz word but something that’s actually, well, *disruptive*? That would be when teachers at the National Charter Schools Conference in New Orleans ask the CEO of an Ohio charter management organization about firing teachers for trying to organizing a union at his schools—and using taxpayer money to pay the fine when he got caught. This went about as well as you might expect. And when security arrived, combing through the crowd for disruptors, that’s when things got really disruptive…
Our story actually starts long before the bon temps starting roulez-ing at this year’s charter conference in the Big Easy. In 2014, teachers at two I CAN charter schools in Cleveland decided to unionize in hopes of improving working conditions at the school, raising pay and reducing sky-high turnover. And when the school year ended, seven teachers who were leaders of the organizing effort, found themselves no longer working at the schools. Why? Because they’d been fired by school leaders, who, according to a federal complaint filed by the teachers, *led teachers to believe they were under surveillance and pressured teachers into revealing who was leading the organizing effort.*
But wait—it gets better (for realz)
The feds sided with the teachers, finding that I CAN was guilty of *interfering with, restraining, and coercing employees.* The order, similar to an indictment in a criminal case, also accused I Can of *discriminating in regard to the hire or tenure or terms or conditions of employment, thereby discouraging membership in a labor organization.* I Can founders Marshall Emerson and Jason Stragand, meanwhile, acknowledged that they’d like their schools to remain union free, then paid the $69,000 in backpay they were ordered to pay the fired teachers with tax-payer money.
At the National Charter School Conference in New Orleans, the CEO of I CAN charters was talking about his plans for growth, emphasizing the importance of “hiring, working with, and retaining good teachers,” when one of his teachers disrupted his presentation. She asked, “Um, how do you square that with firing a bunch of them when they tried to organize a union?” and a group of other charter teachers began handing out leaflets about the situation at I CAN. In no time at all, security guards were there to corral the disrupters, which wasn’t all that easy.
EduShyster says that the teachers were “cage-busting,” to use Rick Hess’s term, people who bust out of their cages and take ownership of their schools.
This is all very funny, because the “reformers” have made a virtue of disruption. They call it “creative.” But apparently it is not welcome when they are the ones disrupted!