Green Dot's Barr: Unions Part of Solution
With contract talks between the District and the Washington Teachers' Union closing in on their second anniversary this fall, it's interesting to listen to Green Dot charter schools founder Steve Barr discuss his reasons for using unionized teachers in his attempted turnaround of L.A.'s Locke High School.
Barr, who has had preliminary talks with Mayor Adrian M. Fenty and Chancellor Michelle A. Rhee about partnering to fix one of D.C.'s struggling high schools--he toured a few, including Eastern, earlier this summer--also has a contract with New York City's United Federation of Teachers for the charter school Green Dot opened in the Bronx last year.
He tells WAMU's Kavitha Cardoza that unions have been an essential piece of the puzzle. Not quite the tune that D.C. teachers hear from Fenty-Rhee.
"I don't think you can create systemic change in public education with non-union labor, and that worked for us," said Barr, who chopped the mammoth Locke into seven separate schools to get handle on the dysfunction.
"I think you have to figure out instead of fighting them all the time, is there seventy-five percent of this issue we all agree on? I think yes. I think teachers want small schools, with high expectations and clear vision...And I think they want to be accountable."
Barr said he became a union supporter after watching his mother, an uninsured waitress and sole supporter of his family, humiliated when she dealt with the health care system. "It really staggers you and never leaves your psyche," he said. "I've seen what happens to working people when they don't have protections and they don't have somebody fighting for them."
On the other hand, Barr said, he also understands "the overreaching and how unions have lost their way."
And why try to come to the District? Barr is a little more elusive here, talking about D.C. as "a place where you can find some political alignment." The most likely translation is that he can make a bigger splash here than in L.A. or the Bronx. What he's trying to determine is whether there is "an opportunity this city to create a turnaround with community buy-in and teachers pulling alongside of us and make that a national model?"
Cardoza doesn't ask Barr how he plans to make that vision work in a place labor-management relations have been beyond sour. Barr said that, for the moment, he is merely listening to all sides.
Posted by: candycane1 | September 8, 2009 2:38 PM | Report abuse
Posted by: candycane1 | September 8, 2009 3:06 PM | Report abuse
Posted by: efavorite | September 9, 2009 9:59 AM | Report abuse
Posted by: efavorite | September 9, 2009 1:05 PM | Report abuse
Posted by: candycane1 | September 9, 2009 1:40 PM | Report abuse
Posted by: candycane1 | September 9, 2009 1:42 PM | Report abuse
The comments to this entry are closed.