Project: advocacy project

Felicia Odubanjo

Professor Virginia K. Lee

ECE 210 – 092 (W)


Charter Schools vs Public Schools

Charter schools are independently-operated public schools that have the freedom to design classrooms that meet their students’ needs. All charter schools operate under a contract with a charter school authorizer – usually a nonprofit organization, government agency, or university – that holds them accountable to the high standards outlined in their “charter.” It is common to see charter schools led by former teachers who want to take the lessons they learned in the classroom and apply those lessons to an entire school. (National Alliance for Public Charter Schools n.d.).

Public schools are learning institutions that are funded by local, state, and/or federal governments. They offer general education opportunities to children in kindergarten through grade 12, and extracurricular activities are also part of many public-school programs. (learning .org 2003). Public school curricula usually are developed at the district level, but they must adhere to state and federal regulations. In addition to basic studies in reading, writing, and arithmetic, public school students usually explore science and technology, social studies, fine arts, and physical education. (learning .org 2003)

According to What is a Public-School Example Definition by Kyle Zinth (September 2005) the New York State “legislature shall provide for the maintenance and support of a system offered common schools, wherein all the children of this state may be educated.”

First, charters have more flexibility rather than being part of a public school district, which dictates curriculum and standards in all schools. Charters operate autonomously through individual agreements, or charters, with state or local governments that dictate rules and performance standards. (Fischler 2021)

There are different issues in both charter schools and public schools such as fund differences, salary differences, etc. The specific issue I would like to focus on is that most charter schools don’t have a union for their staff like traditional public schools.

The general roles and responsibilities of a union are to represent diverse groups such as teachers, policemen, firefighters, hospital workers, and many others who provide vital services. Examples of this representation include collective bargaining for salaries, health and safety measures, work hours, leave, ways to balance work and family, etc. Unions, therefore, exist for and are primarily responsible to their members. (Center for Public Justice 2022/AFL-CIO n.d.)

When teachers are not unionized, there is a higher chance of not making as much money as their counterparts in public schools.  According to, the average charter school teacher’s salary is $46,268 as of March 29, 2022, but the salary range typically falls between $39,176 and $53,488.  Salary ranges can vary widely depending on many important factors, including education, certifications, additional skills, and the number of years you have spent in your profession. (salary .com 2022)

The average public-school teacher salary in New York City is $73,273 as of March 29, 2022, but the range typically falls between $63,963 and $84,605.  Salary ranges can vary widely depending on many important factors, including education, certifications, additional skills, and the number of years you have spent in your profession. ( 2022)

Not having job security and high turnovers can result in burnout.  According to a 2012 report from the New York City Charter School Center, average teacher attrition rates in New York City charters ranged from a low of 26 percent to a high of 33 percent, or one in three teachers—compared with traditional-public-school attrition rates of 13 to 16 percent (Zelon 2014) Moskowitz famously expressed frustration about exiting faculty in 2011, when about a third of school staff left their school network for other jobs—mid-year, after the school year had commenced (Zelon 2014).  Meanwhile, across the charter sector, research has confirmed that teachers who shoulder demanding workloads—often ranging from 60 to 80 hours a week—burn out. (Zelon 2014) “And there’s not a lot of protections for teachers. It’s easy to get fired.” Easy, too, for people to quit—as they do, throughout the school year.” (Zelon 2014)

Among New York charter school teachers, 41% changed jobs last year — compared to just 18% of district school teachers. (Katz 2017) The big reason for charters’ turnover plague is plain as day: District school teachers are universally represented by teachers’ unions and enjoy contracts whose ample benefits include generous pension plans, non-negotiable business hours, and tenure. (Katz 2017)

A union is important because it is the voice behind the teacher who can help them improve their labor rights. As a result of being mistreated, charter school teachers leave for public schools that are unionized. “Teach for America” types who intend to log a few years and switch tracks, the union jobs are better jobs, where educators build careers (Katz 2017).

High turnover affects the child because children lose trust in the teacher and lose a potentially great teacher. Charter teachers leaped at the chance to secure Department of Education job openings — and charter kids lost the experience those developing educators had gained. (Katz 2017) The people that need help to become unionized are teachers and other school personnel.

Because of high turnovers, students don’t have time to bond with their teachers. Teachers are the ones who shape a child’s future after their parents. Studies have shown that research from the September/October issue of Child Development shines an interesting light on how children develop this skill set and confirms earlier studies demonstrating that children develop a sense of distrust far earlier than most people would assume (Severns 2011).  Children begin learning about distrust around age three, the study suggests, but cannot apply that sense of distrust until around age five (Severns 2011).  Developing trust and distrust is an early way for a child to sort good information from false information, a skill that will be crucial if they are to succeed not just in personal relationships, but academically, as well.  Knowing that children are wired to develop a skill like distrust as early as age 4 speaks to how important adults are as teachers and sources of information to young children (Severns 2011).

Turnover doesn’t really encourage students to have a better results in their academics. Several experts told Public Source that while turnover may bring fresh ideas, consistency in teaching staff at a school often yields strong results. (Chute 2017).  Research has shown that it does not affect academic results, but it can lead to improved results if students have the same teachers for more than one school year. Propel CEO/Superintendent Tina Chekan agrees. “We know when teachers stay with us for a longer period of time, our students have more success” (Chute 2017).

According to Kraft, high turnover can affect student performance negatively in two ways: “chronically high turnover” hinders student achievement. “It’s very disruptive. Suppose you’re a student and had two to three math teachers in the same year. It’s very hard to have any continuity in a department in a high school when every year new teachers are coming and going” (Chute 2017).

The problem is that when a child has to have a new teacher every year the family is negatively affected. Because charter schools have high teacher turnover rates, children will have to experience different teaching styles, which can cause inconsistency in a child’s learning environment. A learning environment for early childhood education has to have routines. This affects the families because now the family always has to prepare them mentally by letting them know they are not leaving because they have to encourage the child all the time. It also affects the families because the families lose out on great potential teachers for their children that can help them academically. If a child feels down or depressed, it can affect parents because they want their child to have a healthy learning environment.

Community members suffer because teachers without unions could be abused, and abuse would lead them to leave the profession. Due to the high turnover, the community is losing out on getting a fresh idea from a teacher that could have helped the students more. Also, turnovers are expensive for the school. “The odds of a charter school teacher leaving the profession versus staying in the same school were 130 percent greater than those of a traditional public school teacher” (Phillips 2010).

Teachers, parents, and students are most affected. Teacher turnover is caused by burnout and not being able to create an environment that allows teachers to feel valued and secure. “Teacher turnover refers both to those who quit the education system altogether and to those who remain but change schools or shift to administrative roles. The most cited reason teachers leave after their first year is dissatisfaction with working conditions, according to the comptroller’s analysis of nationwide teacher survey data; the most common complaints were overcrowded classrooms, poor facilities, and lack of basic school supplies. “(Bamberger 2019)

A consistent teacher is important because they can affect children, families, and communities. The majority of teachers would want to leave for a place where their salaries, benefits, and working conditions are better. There is a loss of potential teachers who are creative and young, and who can bring new ideas to make students’ educations better. A teacher being fired for not meeting the academic requirement is also wrong because they did not have a chance to become a better teacher.

Charter school teachers need a union and this should be addressed right away because children and the community are losing out on potentially great teachers. If we wait 2, 5, 10, or 20+ years, the damage will have already been done. Some teachers who are fresh out of college may use charter schools as a training ground and once they can get the work experience, they can go to a public school that is unionized, which gives them better security, higher salary, and job security. Teachers cannot wait because they have expenses that need to be met right away.

The change I am seeking is that there would be fewer teacher turnovers in charter schools. I would like to see that teachers are getting paid for experience and education levels with great benefits. I would like to see teachers have better working conditions and job security. Finally, I would like to see every teacher in a charter school become unionized.

My intended audience extends to NYC charter school principals; Betty A. Rosa, who is the Commissioner of the New York State Education Department; and The United Federation of Teachers (UFT).  My Stakeholders are children, parents, and teachers. The people that can help us with this change are the principals, The United Federation of Teachers (UFT), and the Commissioner.

A principal can help because he or she can speak to those in higher positions and express teachers’ concerns to them. The Commissioner of Education of New York State, Betty A. Rosa, as well as the UFT, should help teachers with salaries and funding.

Research Source Summaries

       In the first article, “Teachers Union Battle Escalates to KIPP Charter school,” (Cohen 2015).  Rachel M. Cohen discusses a fight over working conditions and union representation at a charter school in New Your City. This article states that in late June, the United Federation of Teachers (UFT), New York City’s teacher Union, filed a grievance on behalf of the staff at the Bronx-based Knowledge is Power Program (KIPP). Before the UFT decided to file a grievance against the teacher about staff members from the Bronx-based charter school, KIPP approached the UFT to raise concerns about how awful their work conditions were. A 2015 study published by the policy “Thinks Tank Mathematics” found KIPP teachers’ turnovers were 21 percent during the 2010 -2011 school year compared to about 15 percent nationally for public schools. The KIPP charter school was accused by the union of not providing its employees the basic labor rights based on the city-wide collective bargaining agreement.  KIPP has violated federal labor law and tried to encourage teachers to end their relationship with the union. If they did not end the relationship KIPP threatened to terminate them.  While the union filed the grievance, KIPP also filed an injunction against the union. They argue that the union has not bargained any agreement, processed any grievance, or attended any meetings for KIPP teachers since the school started. While the fight continues between KIPP and the UFT, the National Labor Relations Board (NLRB) will conduct a hearing to determine whether KIPP violated federal law. If the teachers from KIPP succeed in their right to improve their working conditions through the UFT “collective-bargaining agreement”, it can become a trend and encourage other charter schools across   NYC to fight for their work conditioning and salaries.

I choose this article because the facts have been provided that some charter schools fail to provide basic labor rights for their employees. The article informed me that teachers do need UFT to advocate for them when their working conditions are poor. I was able to learn the importance of having a unionized job. I learned that the UFT advocates for teachers when we feel like we are not being heard by school administrations.

In the second article,” Why Charter Schools Have High Teacher Turnovers,” by Helen Zelon (2000). She discusses the data and causes of teacher turnover at charter schools in New York City. Data from The New York State Department of Education states that charter schools in NYC lose far more teachers every year than traditional public schools. The article addresses the causes, consequences, and growth of high turnover among teachers at charter schools compared to traditional public schools. In the article, a director of a charter school argues that the consequence of hiring a fresh-out-of-college teacher without a lot of experience leads to turnovers. The director states, “It’s hard for kids and family when you have an exodus.” She addresses that when hiring people with less experience or those fresh out of college and giving them a heavy workload can be discouraging which leads to burnout. Their jobs are also not protected due to not having a union, which can lead to firing a teacher for poor performance and not meeting the requirements. Teachers are also required to work 60 to 80 hours a week, which is more than what a traditional public-school teacher would do. In the director’s opinion, unless the NYC charter school center and state manage to track and measure attrition, the reason why teachers leave charter schools at twice the rate of their public-school peers will remain a mystery that has the potential to harm students, teachers, schools, and New York residents.

I chose this article because the facts and data have proven that teacher turnover rates in charter schools are higher than in traditional public schools. Most turnovers are from teachers that are less experienced, are not protected by a union, and are burned out from heavy workloads.  Charter school administrators hire fewer experienced teachers because they can pay them less and they are not hindered by union rules and regulations.

In the third article,” Public vs Charter Teacher Salaries.” (2003).  The main topic discussed was to inform us about the downsides of working at a charter school which is low teacher salaries. The writer informed us that charter schools are public schools that do have to abide by many of the same regulations as traditional public schools. The article informed us that the salary difference between charter schools and traditional public schools is drastic. Unfortunately, charter teachers’ salaries are significantly lower than public school teachers, which also depends on the charter school. According to the article, charter school teachers earn about 10 to 15 percent less than traditional public-school teachers no matter what their experience level. Due to charter school restrictions, it is very difficult for teachers to get a raise. Getting good benefits like the traditional public-school teachers was out of the question. The article stated, “they don’t have money to offer strong benefits packages such as retirement program, etc. “working at a charter school has pros and cons. If a teacher is not concerned about salary and being unionized, then a charter school would be a great place to work.

I choose this article because the information is very useful as to why charter school teachers need to be unionized. The data shows that teachers working at a non-unionized charter school will not receive salaries based on their educational background and experience. Having a master’s degree wouldn’t change the fact that a charter school teacher will still get paid 10 to 15 percent less than a teacher who works in a public school.

I have learned that it’s very difficult for a teacher to get a raise at a charter school while in a public school you get a raise for the level of education and years of experience. I also learn that charter school teachers work around 210 days per year, while public school teachers work 180 days per year. As a future teacher, I would have to fight for a union to make sure my work and level of education match my paycheck. That’s why fighting for the union for the charter school staff is very important.

Advocacy Plans

 My target audience is the principals, Betty A. Rosa who is the Commissioner of New York State of Department of Education, and The United Federation of Teachers (UFT). I am advocating for teachers in a charter school to get unionized so they can get better salaries, benefits, work security, better working and learning environment

Small Advocacy Plan

I will make my target audience aware of the importance of unionizing teachers in charter schools by gathering teachers’ and parents’ feedback and perspectives from them to better understand the issues that exist for my stakeholders. I will join with teachers and parents to write letters, to make phone calls, send e-mails, and texts to the commissioner’s office about why teachers need to be unionized. I can organize a trip with teachers and parents to Albany to meet with the Commissioner of Education. If there is a petition, I will sign it. I will also attend union meetings to find out what they are doing and what resources are needed to begin the process of getting the union established.

Large Advocacy Plans

Once we get the feedback from teachers and parents, my team and I will provide our testimony to educate the policymakers about the issues we are facing.  We will work with bloggers, local TV, and radio stations to publish new stories about the issue. While we are working to get our issues on the news, we will organize a protest. We plan to bring awareness of the working environment, low salaries, and job security of charter school teachers.

We will draft and distribute a petition that summarizes the needs of the teachers who are not receiving benefits and salaries that are commensurate with their job descriptions. After we receive a greater number of signatures, we will submit the petition to the officials who can make the change or to Betty A. Rosa, commissioner of the new state of education.


         This topic appealed to me because I have always imagined myself working at a cheater school. Charter schools are great because they take a flexible approach to teaching and do not follow the traditional methods of a public school. My research has convinced me that teachers who work long hours receive low salaries and few benefits. Job security is also a concern for child educators. I would have rather worked there if it was a union and had a great working environment for teachers instead of going there just to acquire experience than leaving for a public school.

My interest in this subject stems from my motivation as a teacher to enjoy the place I am a part of. In an environment where you can express your creativity, you will show positive results to the students. From this study, I understand that when working at a charter school, you’ll have to think more about the good in teaching than the poor working conditions and low wages.

Since I acquired an understanding of the pros and cons of both public and charter schools, this topic has impacted me. I know now that if I ever need to find employment, I’ll enroll in a unionized school where I know my job is secure.



E.P.I.C Message

Dear Principal Candy White,

E= As a fellow early childhood professional, you are likely concerned about providing both the best learning environment for children and a stimulating working environment for teachers and staff at charter schools. Our community has great working teachers who will give their outstanding creative teaching to the children.

P= Our community of teachers is experiencing burnout because of overloaded work, poor working environment, job security, and underpaid salaries and benefits. This is a problem because we are experiencing high turnovers of teachers leaving charter schools for schools that are unionized. This is a problem because students lose great teachers that could have been beneficial for their learning development

I = The Commissioner of New York States Department of Education, Betty A. Rosa can help us approve or support teachers to become unionized by UFT, it would lower the teacher turnovers and ensure help children to reach their full potential academically.

C= That is why it is critical that the commissioner should support us in our movement, which will invest in quality early childhood education. Would you support us by calling the commissioner to support this movement?

Thank You,

Felicia Odubanjo



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