California’s teacher unions were first established under law with the passage of the Educational Employment Relations Act (EERA) in 1976. Under the EERA, we can bargain in three main areas: wages, benefits, and conditions of employment (which include work hours, class size, safety, evaluations, school calendar and more). The EERA also establishes our right to consult with employers on such issues as curriculum and instructional practices.
Charter schools are also covered by the EERA, as they too are public schools. While the scope of bargaining is the same as that of district educators, charter schools are excluded from some key areas of the California Education Code, the laws which govern how schools are run. These exclusions include such areas as probation and continued employment, layoff procedures, and participation in the Cal STRS retirement program. However, educators at charter schools can secure these issues by bargaining them into a union contract.
Because of their unique structure and programs, union contracts at charter schools differ greatly from district contracts. While a large district such as San Diego or Fresno may bargain a contract that is hundreds of pages in order to cover all the issues and job categories, most charter school contracts are just 20 to 40 pages long. Some charter schools include language about participating in school governance or the budget process. Others include unique issues such as flexible schedules, intellectual property or specific roles for teachers in curriculum development. Every union contract is based on the needs and priorities established by union members.