If you can't beat 'em, join 'em?

Minnesota, birthplace of charter schools, may soon claim another frontier: becoming the first state to allow a teachers' union to be a charter authorizer. Antithetical, you say? One of the hallmarks of most charter schools is their lack of unionization, which allows more flexibility to hire, fire, and assign staff, and to structure the school day differently. Furthermore, one must wonder how a union will cope with shutting down one its own schools if it’s not up to par, staffed as it will be with its own union members. But the Minneapolis Federation of Teachers thinks it can handle these situations. Indeed, it chose to apply for the sponsorship role even though the state last year raised the qualifications for charter school sponsorship, and a bunch of districts and nonprofits gave up authorizership in response. MFT president Lynn Nordgren says the union wants to “get out from under [the] bureaucracies”—the pile up of “programs and rules and systems”—that “weigh down” schooling. Fair enough. Minnesota has a history of “teacher-owned schools”; why not union-owned schools? Looks like a teachable moment to us.

"Mpls. teachers' union wants power to authorize new charter schools," by Tom Weber, Minnesota Public Radio, July 9, 2010

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