Becoming Unionized in a Charter School: Teachers and the Promise of Social Justice

SMC Author

Elizabeth Montano

SMC Affiliated Work





Kalmanovitz School of Education



Document Type


Publication Date


Publication Title

American Educational Research Association


When California legislators passed the California Charter School Act of 1992, it allowed parents the choice of sending their children to public charter schools, places where teachers would have more autonomy and where schools faced exemptions from state education codes and from collective bargaining contracts. Hope Charter School (a pseudonym; HCS), located in a densely populated area of Los Angeles, was founded in 2000 by local community leaders, teachers, parents, and funders. In 2005, five years after the school was founded, the teachers at HCS voted to form a union, independent from the local district union. The experiences of teachers in this charter school are at the center of this article, which asks, “How did the promise of choice create an environment that led HCS teachers to seek unionization?” This article employed a qualitative case study design that focused on the experiences of one group of teachers who worked at the various HCS sites. There were 17 participants, including former and current teachers, all of whom were members or leaders of the teachers’ union. The teachers in this study described an environment where they were motivated to work on behalf of parents and students, yet the flexibility desired by the governing board was in conflict with the ability of teachers to collectively influence decision-making.




Education | Teacher Education and Professional Development

Original Citation

Montaño, Elizabeth. Becoming Unionized in a Charter School: Teachers and the Promise of Social Justice. Paper accepted for presentation at the annual meeting of the American Educational Research Association. San Antonio, TX. April 2017.