By loudly advocating against increased funding for charter schools at the state legislature, Pennsylvania’s teachers’ unions make it clear exactly how they feel about the teachers who work in charter schools.

In Spring, a bill called the “Excellence in Education for All Act,” which, in its original form, would have expanded educational opportunities for students to attend charter or private schools, was moving through the state Senate. Sensing its momentum, Rich Askey, president of the Pennsylvania State Education Association, went on the attack, calling the bill the “worst attack on public education we’ve ever seen.” 

Interestingly, charter school teachers would have enjoyed increased funding, increased access to school buildings and testing sites, and an easier path to creating new charter schools and, therefore, more teaching jobs, if the bill had been enacted.

Yet, following union president Askey’s lead, a post on PSEA’s website criticized the bill for funding “a massive expansion of charter schools.”

This hardline approach against educational options shows how union officials feel about teachers who work in charter schools – unless you’re a dues-paying member of the union, supporting your job is deemed a threat.

Unless you’re a dues-paying member of the union, supporting your job is deemed a threat.

Thanks to persistent union lobbying, more money for charter schools was left out of an otherwise huge increase in funding for education in the state budget. Most of that money went to traditional public schools. 

The PSEA does a great disservice to hardworking teachers at charter schools when it spends so much money lobbying against the work they do. Just like there isn’t one type of school that can fit all students’ needs, there isn’t one type of school that is best for all teachers either.

Some teachers prefer the flexibility and challenges presented by working at charter schools, while other teachers prefer to work at traditional public schools. We should respect all teachers and their right to work in the school of their choosing.

PSEA evidently wants to limit that choice for teachers, as well as for children. But, ironically, while they continue to fight in Harrisburg to cut charter school funding and scholarship programs for private school students in need, they also actively work to unionize those teachers. But why would teachers want to join a union that is spending their dues on lobbying that would result in the elimination of their jobs?

A Commonwealth Foundation study showed that PSEA and other public sector unions spends millions of dollars in Pennsylvania to influence election outcomes. PSEA also spends millions of dollars lobbying state legislators and Gov. Tom Wolf. Teachers’ unions say they lobby on behalf of education, but they’re really lobbying for their own self-interest. 

Teachers’ unions say they lobby on behalf of education, but they’re really lobbying for their own self-interest. 

Those who run teachers’ unions don’t like private and charter schools because the law doesn’t force their employees to be represented by union officials, while all public-school teachers have to be represented by local unions at the bargaining table whether they are members or not.

Unions are working to divide children and teachers – traditional public schools versus charter schools, private school teachers versus public school teachers, union versus non-union.

Teachers, parents, lawmakers – all of us — should reject this way of thinking about education. In the end, it’s simple, our kids’ education and what teachers personally want should matter more than what unions want. Period.

That’s something most teachers – wherever they work – understand well.

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Conner Drigotas is the Director of Strategic Partnerships at Americans for Fair Treatment, a nonprofit that helps educate and empower public-sector employees to exercise their first amendment rights. Learn more at www.Americansforfairtreatment.org

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