Education

How the Union Stopped Innovation at My School

Charter School with 100% grad rate, targeted by teachers’ union

Written by Jessica Chapman

The sign says, “Gates of Wisdom” as you enter Gompers Preparatory Academy. This reminds us, when we enter, things are different, excellence expected. We straighten our posture, smile with pride. This is our school, where we become the best we can be.

It wasn’t always wonderful at Gompers. For years it was a failing traditional public school crippled by gang violence, little discipline and teachers too terrified to open their doors to students. But school and community leaders believed a well-run charter, free of politics that provided educational excellence and healthy boundaries could offer increased success to Gompers’ minority and economically disadvantaged students, and vast improvements in their communities as well. 

The first goal when Gompers became a charter in 2005 was securing safety for every child who walked through those gates. We created uniforms to eliminate gang colors, supervised transitions including walking in lines, and instituted a college prep culture called REACH (respect, enthusiasm, achievement, citizenship, and hard work). This created the foundation of success and hope for students who were often confronted with the opposite outside our Gates of Wisdom.

When I joined Gompers in 2013, the success of these goals was obvious. It was a safe, inviting school where outcomes were high and hope flourished. But the history of the charter school movement shows that the impetus for success is improving public schools through innovation. So, with safety and excellence achieved, it was time to innovate. 

Over the next five years, I witnessed the fruits of our innovation growing at an astonishing rate. Test scores increased, advanced placement pass-rates improved, rigor intensified, and college acceptance soared. We boasted a 100% graduation rate and many students received full college scholarships for their efforts.

This is what happens when you remove the constraints of politics and let school communities decide for themselves how best to serve their students. 

Gompers is a perfect example of the success charter schools can have within socially and economically disadvantaged communities when working together with families to increase knowledge and break the cycle of poverty. Teachers at charter schools like Gompers are allowed the freedom to cultivate a system of education that benefits students without the constraints on innovation that traditional public schools face.

So why doesn’t every school run like a Gompers charter? Enter the labor unions. 

Innovative charter schools get in the way of unions, the special interests that benefit most from traditional public schools. Loss of students and teachers in traditional public schools equals loss of revenue for the unions’ political agenda. So, they devised a plan to destroy charter schools.

Their plan: tell the public that charter schools take resources from traditional public schools, claim students in charters are receiving an inferior education, and blame charters for the problems in all public schools. 

The union’s opposition to charter schools is well documented, evidenced by their backing of legislation that would limit, if not eliminate, current and future charters nationwide. Thanks to deceptive union messaging in the media, a campaign of divisiveness between traditional public schools and charter schools is now out of control. But destroying charters is difficult when communities recognize their worth, so the unions have had to change their plan. They’re now scheming to unionize charters and using the old  “divide and conquer” method to do it.

The union invaded our Gompers in 2018 under the false premise that the school was not serving teachers well. They brought divisiveness and sought to end innovation – and therefore success – at the school. 

So far they are getting their way by deceiving our community and brutalizing parents, good teachers, and our leadership. Our school has again become unsafe, not from threat of gang violence or drugs but from something just as corrosive: the greed and power of so-called democratic unions.  

But we’re fighting back. The community, veteran teachers, and Gompers staff refuse to allow unions to degrade our school like they did when they had control of Gompers in the past. We also refuse to allow the union to manipulate the San Diego Unified School Board to regain control of the school for the district.

I’m inspired by a line in one of my favorite movies, American President: “How do you have patience for people who claim they love America, but clearly can’t stand Americans?” I keep coming back to this line when thinking about how the union disregards the needs of students and the dreams of their families and teachers. I wonder, how do I have patience for people who claim they love education but clearly don’t care about students? The answer is, I don’t.

This article was originally published by California Globe