Charter School Promoters Terrified of Teachers Organizing to Affirm Their Rights

In recent weeks and months Americans have seen large teacher strikes and protests erupt in several states simultaneously. These unprecedented strikes are sharply bringing to the fore the long-standing poor and humiliating working conditions faced by millions of teachers in America as a result of the destructive neoliberal agenda of the rich.

While such strikes and actions always terrify the ruling elite, they have struck a bitter chord with charter school promoters in particular, including the Center for Education Reform, the American Enterprise Institute, and the National Alliance for Public Charter Schools.

These and other school privatization forces are dedicated to undercutting teacher pay, benefits, voice, unity, security, and working conditions while promoting the illusion that they are deeply committed to the well-being of teachers. Charter school promoters deliberately distort thinking so as to make it seem like their antisocial offensive is human-centered, serves the general interests of society, affirms the rights of all, and is the only way forward. Their goal is to conceal the real context of things and overwhelm modern social consciousness with anticonsciousness and dogmatism.

The desperate extremes to which charter school proponents have recently gone to in order to demonize and discredit teachers, and normalize their antisocial agenda, is remarkable. The right-wing American Enterprise Institute (AEI) goes so far as to derogatorily declare that there is no problem with teacher pay. Indeed, teachers are supposedly over-paid. The AEI even treats teachers as a derogatory “cost” so as to “argue” that they should not even have pensions and security in retirement. The National Alliance for Public Charter Schools conceals its assault on teachers and retirement security by calling for “innovation” in teacher pension plans. By “innovation” they mean neoliberal restructuring to pay the rich. For its part, the Center for Education Reform continually presents teachers as lazy, self-serving, and divisive, and as having the opposite interests of parents and students.

To render phenomena in this fashion is not simply a matter of “a different perspective” or “another way of looking at things.” It is a form of violence against consciousness and the human factor. It is an attempt to sabotage the ability of humans to cognize, think, investigate, and draw warranted conclusions. Charter school promoters frequently repeat anticonscious absurdities to protect and “justify” their ability to annually siphon billions of public dollars from the public purse.

A big part of what worries charter school promoters about militant protests by public school teachers is that these bold actions may also inspire charter school teachers to organize to defend their rights. Charter school teachers typically work longer days and years than their public school counterparts, are often younger than the average public school teacher, and also have fewer credentials and fewer years of experience than public school teachers. They are also paid less on average and generally leave charter schools within the first 3-4 years. Their working conditions are far from great.

The rich and charter school proponents rightly see the fight for teachers’ rights as a contagious one. Teacher unions have always represented a serious, if not existential, threat to charter schools, which is why more than 90% of charter schools are not unionized and why charter school promoters regularly intimidate any employees who try to unionize.

There are two worlds in combat: a human-centered world and a capital-centered world. The latter, which includes charter school supporters, is laser-focused on blocking the emergence of the former.

Shawgi Tell is author of the book Charter School Report Card. He can be reached at Read other articles by Shawgi.