- The Washington Times - Sunday, June 2, 2013

ANALYSIS/OPINION:

When you dance to the music, sooner or later you’ve got to pay the piper.

D.C. Mayor Vincent C. Gray announced Sunday that he will send legislation to the D.C. Council to grant the city’s schools chancellor the power to authorize charter schools.

At first blush, the mayor’s proposal seems as innocent as the IRS video that shows a group of employees trying to dance.

But as we now know, nefarious movements were afoot.

Teachers unions and other organized labor groups are trying to infiltrate public charter schools, publicly funded schools that, by and large, are free of union demands and growing by leaps and bounds.

Largely independent of the push me-pull me strings operated by traditional public-school bureaucracies, charters in California, Louisiana, Michigan and other states are finding labor groups balking, organizing and making the same worn-out mo’ money overtures that they always have.

And, as usual, they want to collectively bargain their way on salaries, school rules and regulations, and any other issues.

These are, by the way, some of the very same teachers, principals, counselors and other unionized workers who have lost their jobs because of the growth of the school choice movement and because school systems around the country are shuttering aging, unaffordable schoolhouses.

D.C. officials, for example, have more than a dozen schools on closing list, while charters educate 43 percent of the city’s school-age population.

New Orleans, on the other hand, didn’t have a choice after its public school system was ripped apart by hurricanes Katrina and Rita. If it weren’t for charters, New Orleans wouldn’t have a public education system for the most part.

Moreover, look at Boston, where city officials want charter-like schools that are more innovative, flexible and able to incorporate longer, alternative school days into their calendars but are opposed by the Boston Teachers Union.

And in Chicago, officials are slated to make history by implementing the largest-ever school-closure list of 50 schools amid incredible union opposition.

Chicago Mayor Rahm Emmanuel, a Democrat and President Obama’s former chief of staff, said he’s willing to take the political hit from unions.

Meanwhile, his D.C. counterpart, also a Democrat, is trying to pay if forward.

Having won the 2010 mayor’s race largely with union backing, Mr. Gray and his supporters know that if he is to run again, he’s got to appease organized labor.

If school choicers aren’t careful, they’ll find that, with special interest groups Mr. Gray’s specialty since he became mayor, his card will be filled with union demands and concessions.

Deborah Simmons can be reached at dsimmons@washingtontimes.com.