Charters should leave D.C. teachers contract alone
Public charter school advocates are, not surprisingly, upset about a proposed new contract that will significantly boost the salaries of unionized teachers in traditional D.C. public schools. But D.C. school system officials have it right: They shouldn’t be.
My colleague Bill Turque writes that advocates believe the city’s 57 charter schools, which are independently operated but publicly funded, have long been on the losing end of the city’s school funding system and will further be disadvantaged by the contract.
Teacher raises promised in the contract -- which will be put up for approval by Washington Teachers Union members this week -- will lift some salaries by tens of thousands of dollars. For the first time, teachers in the traditional public schools will make more than the highest-paid charter school teachers.
Some charter operators are worried about losing their best teachers, but I’m not sure why. Most teachers aren’t in the profession for the money, and in survey after survey they cite other work factors as being more important, including school environment.
But the real issue is in the inherent differences between traditional public schools and public charters. The latter were created to operate independently of the school bureacracy, with their own personnel rules, curriculum and leadership. The whole idea was for them to be separate and distinct.
But now charter advocates want to somehow link themselves to the financial rewards of the proposed contract.
As D.C. Council member Muriel Bowser (D-Ward 4) said at a hearing last month: “I’m always surprised by the desire to be separate, except when there’s something good."
Charter officials say that the funding formula -- under which public and public charter schools receive a uniform per-pupil allocation -- favors the traditional schools because the system can make bulk purchases and get help from city agencies. They also say that they don’t get enough to support their facilities.
But D.C. Schools Superinendent Michelle Rhee correctly points out, charter schools don’t have to service special needs students whose education is more costly than other students.
Besides, increases in teachers’ base pay mandated by the contract would be paid out of the per-pupil allocation, which will benefit charters.
Charter school advocates are likely to sue over this. They shouldn’t. They should just leave well enough alone.
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| May 20, 2010; 6:30 AM ET
Categories: Charter schools, D.C. Schools, Teachers | Tags: charter schools, d.c. charter schools, d.c. public schools, d.c. teachers contract, michelle rhee, teachers contract, washington teachers union
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