WAMU 88.5 : Morning Edition

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D.C. Teachers Union President Wants Charter Teachers To Organize

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One day after schools chancellor Kaya Henderson announced the closure of 20 traditional public schools in the District, the Washington Teachers Union is calling on charter school teachers to organize for the first time.
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One day after schools chancellor Kaya Henderson announced the closure of 20 traditional public schools in the District, the Washington Teachers Union is calling on charter school teachers to organize for the first time.

The head of the Washington Teachers Union, which represents educators in D.C.'s traditional public schools, wants to organize teachers in the city's charter school system as well. 

Teachers in charter schools can unionize but it isn't easy because they are exempt from a law that requires collective bargaining, according to WTU President Nathan Saunders. He wants to change that law.

"We're demanding a change in the law so that charter teachers can be organized and become part of the union and we will undertake a full-fledged organizing effort in the District of Columbia," Saunders said during a press conference Wednesday.

The union will dedicate what he calls "significant resources" in this effort, Saunders said. Even if the charter teachers unionized, however,  their contract would not necessarily be the same as the one for D.C.'s traditional public school teachers.

"There are all sorts of arrangements and agreements that we will be willing to consider," he said.

For such a change to happen, the D.C. Council and Congress will need to sign off on it. Charter schools currently educate approximately 40 percent of the children in the city's public school system.

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