By a better than 2-to-1 margin, the teachers, counselors and social workers at César Chávez Academy (CCA), the largest charter school in Detroit, voted overwhelmingly Thursday to join the Michigan Alliance of Charter Teachers and Staff (Michigan ACTS), an affiliate of AFT Michigan.
The more than 130 education professionals work at the academy’s four campuses where some 2,000 students attend kindergarten to 12th grade. Toni Carlbom, a special education teacher, says:
Our union is built on the belief that meaningful conversation between partners is a pathway to ensuring a quality educational environment. This is an opportunity to address issues that have led some of our strongest staff to leave for other districts.
The employees began their drive for a voice about a year ago when Eva Coleman, who teaches English at the high school, told The Detroit News:
We noticed that parents didn't have a voice, we didn't have a voice. Only a select group of people made decisions for everyone.
Brenda Jacintos, a parent of two CCA students, says, “We chose César Chávez because they are one of the best schools in Southwest Detroit.”
We have been working with the administration to make it even better, and we are standing by our teachers to ensure they have a good working environment and don’t leave.
AFT Michigan President David Hecker says the vote makes it clear that:
Educators, whether they work in charter schools or traditional public schools, recognize the importance of collective bargaining and union membership as an avenue to improve learning and working conditions.
CCA is operated by The Leona Group LLC, which is one the nation’s largest for-profit educational management companies.