5 Ways Organizing Helps Students and Teachers
Mar 25 2015
As educators, we have the kind of finely-tuned knowledge and understanding of our students’ needs that comes from direct experience in the classroom. Our professional judgment can make a huge, positive difference in the decisions the Alliance makes on behalf of our students, our schools, and our profession. Being part of a union allows us to have a voice when it comes to those decisions.
Here are five ways in which charter teachers who have a union with UTLA work to change things for the better for both students and educators across their schools:
Voice in Decision Making
Union educators have a guaranteed seat at the table with their employer to negotiate, as equals, with the shared goal of making needed improvements for their students and profession.
This includes the legal right to collectively bargain with their administration on issues like evaluations, salary, benefits, hours of work including length of the work day, bell schedules, class size, and transfers. Educators also have a means to collectively weigh in on educational objectives, curriculum, the selection of textbooks, and other major factors that impact classroom teaching.
In fact, once our union is certified throughout the Alliance system, changes in our salaries, benefits or other conditions can only be made by bargaining with us, Alliance educators.
Educators in unionized charter schools have also successfully negotiated for standards that have improved the learning environment for their students and the working environment for staff, such as the ones listed below.
Educators in most union charter schools have successfully negotiated evaluation standards including:
- Evaluation procedures focused on support and development of teachers and counselors
- Evaluation standards based on professional frameworks (e.g. CA Standards for Teaching, Danielson’s Framework for Teaching, etc) and frameworks appropriate to classification (e.g. counselors)
- Equitable and consistent processes for goal setting conferences, informal observations, formal observations, final evaluation meetings, etc.
- Agreement on evaluation or goals and objectives for professional growth
- Assistance, guidance and support based upon specific recommendations for improvement
- Right to appeal evaluations if the process — including not receiving the appropriate guidance and support — is not correctly or equitably followed
Once we are the legally certified union across Alliance schools, we will have the opportunity to negotiate standards like these, too, or whatever standards we decide together are best for the education of our students and for staff at the Alliance.
Job Security & Right to Advocate without Fear of Reprisal
Most charter teachers in Los Angeles who have already joined the union have been able to achieve job security protections, including:
- A reasonable probationary period
- Post probationary employment: an educator can be discharged and disciplined only for just cause. After aneducator completes the probationary period there is no longer the insecurity of year-to-year employment.
- Right to just cause and due process rights. Just cause rights ensure that effective educators who follow the rules cannot be disciplined or discharged for arbitrary or capricious reasons.
- Grievance and binding arbitration rights that alloweducators to appeal discipline or discharge through an equitable and fair process that, if necessary, is heard by an independent and neutral arbitrator
- Right to representation during disciplinary meetings
- Progressive discipline
Health & Welfare Benefits
Teaching is a profession that is learned over a lifetime. A commitment to recruiting the best educators and keeping them for the long haul means investing in our careers. Most unionized charter educators in Los Angeles have achieved fully employer paid family health benefits, and secured in writing participation in California State Teacher Retirement System (STRS). Those are the kinds of investments that will allow great educators to stay in the classroom for years to come.
Salary & Other Compensation
Being an effective educator isn’t just a job; it’s a career. Effective recruitment and retention requires fair compensation, and fair compensation for our work means:
- Salary schedules that we negotiate collectively
- Salary schedules that credit both years of experience and continuing education and help incentivize retention.
- Stipends, athletic and academic, that are negotiated by us
These are just five of the many ways that unionized educators at charter schools have improved their careers for the better and improved the educational experiences of their students. We are organizing the union across all Alliance schools to be able to join with educators in LA and make the improvements that will benefit our students and our profession at the Alliance.
Over 1,000 educators at independent charter schools in Los Angeles are already a part of UTLA including teachers, counselors and health and human service professionals at Granada Hills Charter High School, Montague Charter Academy, Apple Academy Public Charter Schools, Birmingham Community Charter High School, Palisades Charter High School, Pacoima Charter Elementary, Global Education Academy, The Accelerated Schools, Ivy Academia Entrepreneurial Charter School, El Camino Real Charter High School, Student Empowerment Academy, and Port of Los Angeles High School.
—Alliance Educators United
P.S. Read Alliance Educators United‘s request to meet with Dan Katzir.
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