-- Howard Blume - latimes.com http://lat.ms/VnYjee
February 14, 2013 | 5:00 am - The Los Angeles teachers union announced Wednesday night that it has won the right to negotiate a contract for teachers and counselors at a West San Fernando Valley charter school.
The charter, Ivy Academia, operates out of three locations and serves students in kindergarten through 12th grade. The school has produced consistently high test scores and is known for its focus on encouraging entrepreneurial skills among its students.
For the union, United Teachers Los Angeles, the successful organizing drive represents a welcome rarity: a non-union charter school that it has brought into the labor fold via the school's 56 teachers and counselors.
“This move is to ensure a stronger learning environment for students and open communication between teachers, administrators and parents,” wrote teacher Tom Kuhny in a letter to the Ivy Academia community.
The faculty approached school management in December, saying an “overwhelming” majority sought union representation, according to a union release. Ivy Academia agreed to recognize the union on Feb. 6, the union said.
Though authorized by the L.A. Unified School District, most charter schools are independently managed and not bound by district union contracts. L.A. Unified has more independent charter schools, 186, than any school system in the nation, but most are nonunion. The proliferation of charter schools has contributed to a steady decline in union membership in recent years, which also has weakened the union’s political clout.
Ivy Academia has gone through a number of controversies in its brief existence, including disputes with neighbors and allegations of financial improprieties by its founders, who eventually agreed to leave the school.