Our union family grows
NJEA continues to successfully organize charter schools in New Jersey. With each new affiliation, charter school members are welcomed into our union family, hungry for knowledge on how to better their working environment in the best interests of their students and colleagues.
The NJEA Public Charter Members Boot Camp, held at the Princeton Marriot for the third consecutive year, is a forum for new members to gain that knowledge, and network with fellow charter school colleagues at different stages in their local association’s development.
Danny Cyckowski is the chair of the NJEA Public Charter Members Work Group (PCMWG) and treasurer of one of NJEA’s oldest charter school affiliates, the Brunswick Charter Education Association. He was excited about the boot camp turn out and group breakout sessions this year.
“The Boot Camp is an opportunity for networking and organizing training that must not be missed,” said Cyckowski. “Many of our newer charter affiliates have moved mountains to gain their status as a union. Their next step is learning how to grow their organizations and keep them strong. They can get that information here.”
The April 13 breakout sessions included information on developing the structure of locals, identifying association needs and innovative ways to engage members. The 2019 attendees also included several charter employee VIP’s.
Noelle Tabor is the president of the METS Charter Education Association and 2019 METS Charter School Teacher of the Year. Tabor received the 2019 PCMWG Solidarity Award for her outstanding efforts while organizing the METS Charter EA and for her assistance to other charter and traditional locals and their leaders.
The accolades received by Tabor in her school are a recent turnaround that came after a tumultuous rise to leadership when her employment was threatened by a past administration that was displeased by her union activity.
Cyckowski received the PCMWG Service Award for his leadership of the work group and continuing efforts to strengthen his and other charter locals by assisting members and leaders with reaching best practice models of organizing.
NJEA on charter schools
NJEA’s position on charter schools reflects its dual commitment to public school employees: those who work in traditional public schools that need protection from the rapid expansion of for-profit charters, and those who work in charter schools facing deplorable working conditions not seen on such a large scale in traditional public schools since the 1970s.
NJEA advocates for a moratorium on the approval of any new charter schools or the expansion in size or geographic reach of existing charter schools until certain conditions are met. On the other hand, NJEA encourages affiliation for the employees of charter schools and supports their efforts to organize as local associations in the NJEA family.
The first step for charter school employees who want to organize is to call their local NJEA UniServ regional office. The UniServ office can connect you with a team of experts ready to guide you and future NJEA members. NJEA Organizational Development (OD) Field Representative Marguerite Schroeder and her crew of charter organizers will investigate your needs and help you to develop effective strategies to respond to your circumstances.
In 2016, Schroeder instituted the NJEA Public Charter School Organizing Boot Camp for NJEA members who work in charter schools and for NJEA UniServ field representatives dealing with an increase of charter activity in their regions. The Public Charter Members Work Group includes members from each of the 17 public charter schools in which NJEA has a local affiliation.
The status of charters
Some charter school basics:
- There are over 5,000 public charter school employees in New Jersey.
- There are 87 operating charters in our state.
- Fifty-one charters school have been revoked, surrendered, or non-renewed since 2010.
- There are approximately 50,000 students attending New Jersey charter schools.
- Seventeen charter schools are represented by NJEA with a combined total of over 1,000 members.
NJEA believes high-quality public charter schools are one component of an innovative, progressive system of public education. The association works with public school employees, parents, charter school members and other stakeholders to ensure that public charter schools are true to the original intent of such schools to be laboratories of innovation. NJEA believes that public charter schools must enhance, and not detract from, the traditional public schools in their districts and be responsive to the needs of the parents and students they serve.
Many concerns with how the state’s public charter school law has been implemented led to the association’s call for moratorium on charter school growth. NJEA has also pushed for the rigorous accountability measures and protections on the national level to avoid abuses in other states.
NJEA advocates for legislation to prevent profiteering on public charter schools so that student learning, and not corporate profits, remain the most important priority. Charter schools must serve student populations that are representative of the communities in which they operate. There must be fiscal and accountability safeguards in place to deal with larger charter school operators.
The NJEA Fourth Annual Public Charter School Organizing Boot Camp will be held in April of 2020.
For questions about charter school affiliation or other charter concerns, please contact Marguerite Schroder below.