Email Status

Volume 26, Number 1
January/February 2010

Charters and Unions

What’s the future for this unorthodox relationship?


AFT charter school teachers Brian Harris and Emily Mueller look on as U.S. Secretary of Education Arne Duncan greets other union members. (Photo: Mike Campbell, courtesy of AFT)

Nearly two years ago, Spanish teacher Emily Mueller was dismayed to learn that her charter high school, Northtown Academy in Chicago, was asking teachers to teach six classes instead of five.

There was no real discussion between teachers and administrators about alternative solutions, according to Mueller. There was no pay increase attached to the increased workload, either. The unilateral, unpaid workload increase “just didn’t seem sustainable,” she says.

But Mueller didn’t want to leave the school, one of three chartered by an organization called Chicago International Charter School and operated by an organization called Civitas Schools. So she and a handful of colleagues did something that only a few charter school teachers have done: they began the long, difficult, but ultimately successful push to join the Illinois Federation of Teachers and negotiate a contract that now represents roughly 140 teachers at the three schools.

This is an excerpt from the Harvard Education Letter. Subscribers can click here to continue reading this article.


For Further Information

For Further Information

AFT Alliance of Charter School Teachers and Staff

Chicago Talent Development High School

S. Dillon. “As Charter Schools Unionize, Many Debate Effect,” New York Times, July 26, 2009.

Education Sector. “Growing Pains: Scaling Up the Nation’s Best Charter Schools.” November 24, 2009.

National Alliance of Public Charter Schools, “Teacher Leadership in Public Charter Schools.” October 20, 2008.

NEA page on charter schools