Carmen Charter Schools Union Letter of Support

The Milwaukee chapter of the Democratic Socialist of America stands in full support of the efforts of the Carmen Charter Schools workers to form a union, and is ready to commit its time and resources to help them do this.

The charter school movement, begun in the 1990’s, along with the school voucher movement started at the same time, are attempts to inject market forces into public education, in the dogmatic assumption that competition will somehow produce better educational outcomes. However, they are about much more than that:

  • They are an attempt to blame schools for the failures of capitalism, and instead offer capitalism as a solution to its own failures. Children coming from highly stressed neighborhoods without reasonable access to good paying, stable jobs, under chronic risk of eviction and loss of utilities, often devoid of access to wholesome food, in homes with a legacy of lead paint and water lines, are naturally going to have more challenges when it comes to education. Instead of dealing with the system that produced income and wealth inequality, the blame is pushed on schools for not performing magic.
  • They are an attempt to force austerity on public schools, which, instead of making them more efficient and innovative, merely undermines their ability to deal with the problems foisted upon them, which in turn undermines public support.
  • This austerity budgeting is used to undermine teachers’ salaries and teachers’ unions. Teachers demanding decent, livable salaries, manageable class sizes, safe working conditions, and adequate staffing and school supplies, are demonized and blamed for poor educational outcomes.
  • They are an abdication of public responsibility and oversight. Ultimate control over schools is taken from elected school boards accountable to the public, and turned over to boards of directors accountable only to themselves and the shareholders.

This is classic neoliberalism, and it’s reflected in how Carmen Charter Schools run. An unaccountable board of directors underpays and overworks its teachers. It forces the duties of support staff upon them. It burns through teachers in a matter of a few years, which means there are fewer experienced teachers to mentor newer teachers, provide the perspective that comes with age, and with the experience of dealing with and standing up to the administration. It essentially treats teachers the same as Amazon treats its workers, as replaceable cogs.

In their decision to form a union, Carmen workers have laid out four goals they want to achieve:

  • Teachers need financial fairness to best provide for their students and stay in this line of work.
  • A sustainable workload is necessary to prevent burnout and to allow the schools to get the benefits of experienced teachers.
  • Administrative transparency is needed to ensure all stakeholders, from staff to students to parents, can provide input and insight, and are involved in decision making.
  • Equity is best achieved through a union, which can protect and empower underrepresented identities among staff and stand in solidarity with underrepresented members of our student and family communities.

We want to help them achieve their goals and look forward to working with them to do so.