Teacher Roles and Responsibilities
By virtually eliminating administrative positions, charter schools havecreated greater opportunities for teachers to become involved in allaspects of school decision-making. Teachers have been asked to makeadministrative decisions, develop curriculum, work with parents, and ina few cases, even perform school maintenance tasks. These newopportunities and responsibilities, however, have often come at theexpense of compensation.
Salary and benefits
Although charter school teachers are clearlyinvesting additional amounts of time and energy, studies show they arenot always being financially compensated for it. In Minnesota, only onecharter school follows the salary schedule for the district in which itis located. The other charter schools either pay experienced andinexperienced teachers the same flat rate (e.g., $20,000), or payinexperienced teachers a salary comparable to that of other beginningteachers in the district, but pay experienced teachers considerably lessthan their district counterparts. Moreover, some teachers havesacrificed retirement benefits and, in a few cases, comprehensivemedical coverage to be part of a charter school faculty (Minnesota Houseof Representatives, 1994).
Currently, low teacher salaries and small administrative staffs arenecessary to maintain one of charter schools' most celebrated benefits:low student-teacher ratios. This may not, however, be an effectivelong-term strategy for the creation of stable, high-quality schools. Over time, keeping personnel costs at relatively low levels could proveproblematic; and if they do rise, low student-teacher ratios and othersuch charter school benefits could disappear. (Minnesota House ofRepresentatives, 1994).
Where charter schools are more autonomous, some concernshave surfaced about job security. Although many states requiredistricts to grant teachers a leave of absence to work in charterschools, in some cases the leave is only temporary and, in at least one,it is negotiable. For example, in Massachusetts, teachers can obtain aleave of absence to work in a charter school for up to four years but atthe end of the period must decide whether to return to or resign fromthe district. In California, each individual charter has jurisdictionover employment and staffing issues and thus the rights of teachers toreturn to a district must be negotiated by the charter school and thedistrict.
Job security is less of a concern in states where charter schools arenot granted legal autonomy. In these states, teachers who choose towork in charter schools remain district employees and thereforeexperience no change in job tenure or district benefits.
There are those, including some localteachers' union affiliates and public school educators, who opposecharter schools on the grounds that they can undermine teacherprofessionalism. In addition to lower salaries and decreased jobsecurity, more than half of all charter school laws either do notrequire the use of certified teachers or allow teacher certificationrequirements to be waived. By permitting the hiring of uncertified andoften inexperienced teachers, charter schools may help perpetuate themyth that teaching does not require professional preparation anddevelopment.
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