Unions and Charters: Have we delivered on the vision?

The original vision for charter schools came from Albert Shanker, the president of the American Federation of Teachers. In his 1988 address, he spoke of a new kind of public school where teachers could experiment with innovative ways of reaching students and would become high-performing educational laboratories from which district schools could learn from. He also believed that unionization was critical in ensuring that democratic values were upheld. Yet for most of the time charters have been in existence, there has been a tension between labor and charter management and very often serious disagreements in terms of what the movement needs to reach this original vision. In this panel, we will take a look at some of the issues that have transpired with the goal of helping to define a path forward where charters and unions successfully collaborate to support student success.


Stacey Gauthier is the Principal of The Renaissance Charter School, a Pre-­K - 12 conversion charter school, located in Jackson Heights, Queens. Prior to joining Renaissance’s staff in 1997, Ms. Gauthier’s professional experience included working as an administrator for a prominent labor union and as a department head at a major museum. Stacey has been extremely active in the charter advocacy and educational reform community heading up various committees and initiatives throughout
her tenure.

Ronald Tabano is the CEO and Principal of Wildcat Academy in Bronx, NY; he marshaled Wildcat Academy through the charter conversion process in 2000. In 2011 he cofounded the New Dawn Charter School modeled after the Wildcat Academy. Previously he worked in the community creating job opportunities for struggling adolescents and was a founding member of both Wildcat Academy, which opened in 1992 under the NYC DOE and the first Second Opportunity School (SOS) in 1997 for students suspended from their district schools. 


David C. Bloomfield, J.D., is a Professor of Education Leadership, Law & Policy at Brooklyn College and the CUNY Graduate Center and the author of American Public Education Law. He organized an independent school chapter of the UFT; an associate at Hogan Lovells in Washington, DC; Assistant Corporation Counsel for NYC; General Counsel to the NYC Board of Education; General Counsel & Senior Education Adviser to the Manhattan Borough President; and executive director of public education programs at the Partnership for NYC.