DFT: Change attitude on charters?

DETROIT – Members of the Detroit Federation of Teachers will vote April 2 on whether to end their opposition to charter schools, according to a Detroit News editorial. The change in attitude rests on the need to boost DFT membership by organizing charter school teachers, The News said, but could also have the effect of increasing the number of charters as well as education reforms like teacher merit pay.

The union has stood against charters for 14 years and has been a significant obstacle to efforts to lift the state cap on the number of charter schools, The News said. Most Michigan charter school employees are not unionized; the schools operate independently under the terms of a contract issued by a state university.

The editorial noted that DFT membership numbers are falling as students leave the system and the state.

DFT President Keith Johnson encouraged members to support the change, according to The News, saying that, “If we don’t do it, it would open the way for the MEA (the rival Michigan Education Association) to organize charters when our membership is shrinking.”

The News said that if teacher unions want to organize charter school teachers, they should be required to adopt flexible, modern bargaining contracts.

The Detroit News, “Editorial: Detroit teachers should vote for education’s future,” March 26, 2009

Michigan Education Report, “Charter report favorable, state board wants more,” Feb. 24, 2009