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Local: Education

DCPS schools to become charters? Union sounds off

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Capital Land,DC,Education,Lisa Gartner

Last week, D.C.'s deputy mayor for education released a report recommending that three dozen D.C. Public Schools campuses be closed or turned around, likely reinvented as charter schools.

Unsurprisingly, that's not sitting too well with Nathan Saunders, the president of the Washington Teachers' Union.

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  • "A [union] member who works at one of those schools today, before it is transformed or reconstructed into a charter, would tomorrow end up being an employee doing the same job for less money, less job security, a lesser pension, and less voice in the management of the school," he told The Washington Examiner on Monday.

    Charter school teachers don't belong to the union, and, depending on the charter school, may be at-will employees. Charter school leaders testified last week that they can't pay their teachers as lavishly as D.C. Public Schools does under Impact, its bonus-heavy teacher evaluation and pay system.

    But the report eyes the successes that some charter schools have had with students — higher graduation rates and higher scores on the District's standardized reading and math tests — and sees reincarnation as charters as the best way to move some underperforming DCPS schools forward. 

    The Washington Post's Bill Turque reported last week that the study was underwritten to the tune of $100,000 by a foundation that happens to be the leading benefactor of charter schools; the Walton Family Foundation is also a major donor to DCPS.

    Saunders said, "[The report] clearly has an albatross around its neck with regard to its partiality concerning charters."

    In a letter to members — more than 4,000 DCPS teachers belong to the WTU — he wrote:

    Some ideas and reports are a threat to your welfare and viability in addition to traditional public education.  We must not react but plan to elect public officials who value traditional public education and teachers!

    Saunders was hesitant to comment on the charge, but finally said that yes, public elections are coming up, and the WTU is going to get its voice and money out in favor of city council members who support "traditional public education," aka the non-charter public schools of DCPS.

    "Everyone there [in the council] is saying what a strong advocate they are for public education, especially around election time, and that’s just not the case [for all of them]," Saunders said. "Those people there who voted for [former] Mayor [Adrian] Fenty's legislation to bring in public school reform, to bring in the chancellor's system, to bring in [former Chancellor] Michelle Rhee's agenda, cannot shy away from what they have done."

    Saunders declined to say who on the D.C. Council was a fake-friend of schools, but said he would one day be ready to name names. Hmm.

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