Face to face: charter/union forum. (Update)

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Jo Anderson, Marilyn Stewart and Steve Barr

The much anticipated discussion between Green Dot charter founder Steve Barr, Chicago Teacher Union President, Marilyn Stewart, and the Illinois Education Association’s Executive Director, Jo Anderson, went off in remarkable peace.

No big fireworks.

“Remarkable,” because in the minds of some, charters and unions are an anathema to one another.

But the theme of the evening was this: The original conception for charters came out of the teacher union movement.

It was Al Shanker himself, head of the NY teachers union and then of the AFT, that first proposed them as a place where teachers could be empowered to innovate in a hot-house setting. As Anderson said, to charter meant to “grant rights to.”

At that very same time, the very right-wing anti-union forces that now hold some charters up as the panacea, attacked Shanker and the charter concept.

The fact that some of these union bashers have tried to hi-jack the charter concept should not be made so easy.

Barr, Stewart and Anderson all spoke of the need for both unions and progressive charter organizers to collaborate on creating these new schools. Not as substitutes for traditional public schools (although there are plenty of things we might want substitutes for in traditional public schools), but as one of the places where new ideas could be tried and tested, as well as one of the places that might better serve communities that have not been well served by traditional schools.

The proceedings were audio-taped by Catalyst, the magazine of Chicago school reform and change and one of the sponsors of the forum. The transcribed tapes will be posted on their website.

Update: You can hear the audio recording here.

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