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Dissertation/Thesis Abstract

Collective bargaining in California charter schools: Cooperation or conflict?
by Moss, James R., Jr., Ed.D., University of Southern California, 2010, 380; 3434552
Abstract (Summary)

Teachers at a small but growing number of California’s charter schools are represented by teachers’ unions, and the administrators and teachers at these schools have negotiated collective bargaining agreements that govern administrators’ personnel decisions regarding teachers. This study begins to explore those agreements, focusing on provisions in four key policy areas in which public school district agreements are often criticized as being unduly restrictive: (1) teacher assignment and transfer, (2) teacher evaluation, (3) teacher classification (including permanence or “tenure,” discipline and dismissal, and (4) teacher compensation, including “merit pay.”

The literature review includes a discussion of criticism directed at public school collective bargaining agreements, and suggestions for “reform” bargaining; a history of charter schools with a focus on operational flexibility; and a review of the research on the interaction between unions and charter schools in California, very little of which has focused on actual bargaining agreements or their effect on administrators.

The study took a qualitative and exploratory approach, comparing the bargaining agreements of nine unionized charter schools with the school districts by which they are chartered, and conducting interviews with five unionized charter school administrators, focusing on specific bargaining agreement provisions and the relationship between administrators, teachers and union officials. On the four general research topics listed above, the study found that unionized charters have achieved some of the flexibility sought by charter proponents, while appearing more similar to conventional public school districts in other policy areas: (1) charter schools have generally departed from the seniority-based assignment and transfer provision in school districts, with notable exceptions; (2) they have negotiated more flexible, customized and thorough evaluation procedures, which often place more responsibility on teachers; (3) they have often negotiated some form of “tenure,” or a “good cause” or “just cause” standard for teacher dismissal; and (4) they have rarely negotiated any form of “merit pay,” although charter schools increasingly appear to be evaluating the possibility of doing so.

With respect to charter-union relationships, the study found that charter schools are susceptible to union organizing efforts by a small number of dissatisfied teachers; that they have little experience in negotiating initial bargaining agreements; that charter schools generally appear to have cooperative relationships with their unions; but that charter schools have had little success in modifying restrictive bargaining agreements to increase operational flexibility. The study also found that a number of comparatively restrictive provisions have yet to be enforced or tested, suggesting that the effect of such provisions is not yet fully understood.

The study recommends that charter schools involve teachers heavily in school governance if they prefer to avoid unionization; that schools at which a union is recognized consider several options for personnel policy provisions, using the schools in this study and others either as positive or negative models; that policy-makers avoid changes in California law that could diminish the involvement of teachers in charter school governance; and that future research examine personnel policies at all unionized California charter schools in comparison with non-unionized charter schools and unionized conventional public schools.

Indexing (document details)
Advisor: Picus, Lawrence O.
Commitee: Chidester, Margaret, Hentschke, Guilbert
School: University of Southern California
Department: Education
School Location: United States -- California
Source: DAI-A 72/03, Dissertation Abstracts International
Subjects: Education Policy, Labor relations, Educational administration
Keywords: Charter schools, Collective bargaining, Public education, Teacher unions
Publication Number: 3434552
ISBN: 978-1-124-41481-2
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