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CHARTER SCHOOLS UNION FLAP HEATS UP.

Byline: Greg Gittrich Daily News Staff Writer

An attempt to water down a bill that would have imposed unions on charter schools met stiff resistance Thursday from critics who claimed the measure still would strip such schools of their independence.

Oakland Mayor Jerry Brown said the reconstituted bill, sponsored by the California Teachers Association, remains a poorly disguised sneak attack on charter schools by Assemblywoman Carole Migden, D-San Francisco.

``The charter movement is not going to accept this,'' Brown said. ``The amendments amount to a fig leaf covering the exact same unacceptable provisions that the charter school movement rejects.''

Charter school employees are exempted from key state labor laws under the 1992 Charter Schools Act. As a result, they must sue in federal court to make a school recognize their union or to settle a dispute.

The bill would have required charter teachers to join the branch of the state union in the school district where the charter operates. Migden amended the bill Wednesday, making union membership voluntary for charter school employees.

But as rewritten, the bill still would require charter employees who wish to unionize to follow the standardized work rules contained in contracts between larger school districts and the California Teachers Association, Brown said.

Employees at individual schools would be able to negotiate different contracts, but only with agreement from the full bargaining unit and the district administration.

While charter school employees should have the right to join a union, the school also should have the right to preserve autonomy, Brown said. ``The charter schools cannot do their job if they lose control of their destiny and follow standards of the larger districts, which this legislation requires.''

Charter schools are permitted to operate outside most state and district regulations. In return, they strive to develop innovative ways to improve student achievement. Teachers, parents, students and community members may petition a school district governing board to form a charter school to operate independently from the district as a way to improve performance.

There are 156 charter schools in California, including three in the San Fernando Valley.

Joseph A. Lucente, principal of Fenton Avenue Charter School in Lake View Terrace, said if Migden did not intend to force employees to join the teachers union, then it should not be a problem to rewrite the bill again.

``Many of us don't believe that's the case,'' Lucente said. ``If it is, we should be able to come up with an agreeable situation.''

According to Migden, charter school employees ``have been denied statutory collective bargaining rights that would have ensured professional dignity.'' The bill would give charter school teachers and support staff members protection to organize and increase their bargaining power, she said.
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Publication:Daily News (Los Angeles, CA)
Date:May 28, 1999
Words:450
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