By Brian Washington
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“Being united helps teachers to become stronger advocates for our students. We will strive to provide them with the necessary tools they need to become successful global learners prepared for the challenges of the 21st century.”
That’s according to Ana Maria Libunao, an educator who works at Los Angeles’ Apple Academy Charter Public Schools, which has recently voted to unionize. Apple Academy Charter Schools serve K-through-5 students and has two campuses.
Educators at the school are excited to know that establishing a formal and collective voice will allow them to speak louder for students.
I want to know my ideas, concerns and involvement will be valued when doing what is best for my students socially, academically, and emotionally,” said Elise Sargent, in an open letter to the community from the Apple Academy staff about why educators at the school decided to form a union.
Nationwide, out of the estimated 6,004 charter schools operating in the United States, approximately 12 percent of them are unionized, but that number is growing—thanks in large part to the growth of charter school management companies.
Educators believe the growth of charter management companies have often resulted in decisions being made separate and apart from classrooms and the local communities these schools serve. They say this growth has had a negative impact on students and the profession. That’s why educators at many charter schools are turning to unions to help them reclaim the collaborative dynamic that was originally at the heart of the charter school movement. Unions are helping them have more of a say in important decisions that impact the classroom.
In California, more than 150 charter schools have unionized and in New Jersey, the New Jersey Education Association is now representing 8 charter schools. And earlier this month, Education Votes reported on the Community School of Excellence in Minnesota, where educators recently voted to join Education Minnesota, the statewide union for teachers and education support professionals.
At Apple Academy, educators say they want to lead alongside parents, community members as well as school administrators and personnel to create a rigorous academic and safe learning environment for students, and establishing a union is the best way to do it.
“I want a union at Apple Academy because I believe in collective action to actively organize, educate, and mobilize, empower, and transform communities,” said Karla Tobar, an educator at the school. “It takes a village to educate a child, and it’s important we all have a voice in the daily learning conditions of our students.”