By Steve Gunn

PEMBROKE PINES, Fla. – Charter schools are excellent options for students who require a different learning environment.

One great example is the Pembroke Pines Charter School system in Broward County, Florida, which is A-rated for academics and has been described as “high performing.”

But there’s a cancer creeping into charter schools, threatening their unique nature and very existence. Teachers unions around the nation have been organizing charter employees, introducing the dual viruses of collective bargaining and out-of-control labor costs that have ruined so many traditional public schools.

The result can be seen in Pembroke Pines, a unionized charter which is on the brink of “financial urgency” due to a 2.9 percent pay raise for teachers.

The school is operated by the city of Pembroke Pines, and the raise will cost the municipality $474,995. That means the city will be forced to lay off teachers and other staff, cut programs or dip into emergency funds to keep the charter school system afloat, according to a report by the South Florida Sun-Sentinel.

City officials want the state to provide extra funding for municipally-operated charter schools. Currently the state doesn’t differentiate funding for privately or publicly operated charter schools.

But more state funding for municipal charter schools would just encourage the problem. Privately run charter schools need less funding because they are typically non-union. City governments that operate charters must work to keep the unions on the outside or face the type of funding and management issues they never counted on.

The lack of union teachers is one characteristic that has traditionally made charter schools special. Teachers settle for less compensation in exchange for working in a cooperative environment with administrators. Administrators are free to manage their personnel in the most effective manner without gaining union permission.

And, perhaps most importantly, school budgets are not weighed down by constantly growing labor costs.

If charters are to remain the promising educational options they were meant to be, the unions must be turned away. Otherwise the schools will quickly resemble all the other troubled government schools in the nation.


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