Date of Award

Summer July 2012

Access Restriction


Degree Name

Doctorate in Education



School or College

School of Education

First Advisor

Marta Baltodano

Second Advisor

Mary K. McCullough

Third Advisor

Catherine L. Belcher


Charter schools have become a widely accepted and rapidly growing option for educational reform especially for low-income, inner-city students. In Los Angeles, the charter movement has promised teachers greater autonomy and collaboration than in the traditional public schools, yet the working conditions of teachers in charter schools have weakened the conditions for this movement to truly reform public education.

By using a neoliberal theoretical framework and a qualitative case study design, this study captured the voices of charter school teachers and documented their beliefs and experiences in an environment shaped by a culture of choice. This study uncovered a) the culture and environment that led teachers to seek unionization, b) the relationships between teachers and management, and c) their model of unionism.

The participants’ voices detailed a collaborative culture that lured teachers to escape the negative environment in the local district schools. Still, teachers faced an exhaustive workload and they chose to leave the charter school environment. Teachers valued their autonomy while not realizing that the true choice existed only for the management of the school that had the ultimate power over their working conditions. When teachers decided to unionize they faced antagonism from their school leaders, and a backlash for their involvement in the unionization. Teachers fell prey to the intimidation of the public’s perception on tenure and gave up this fundamental protection. They also moved away from the traditional model and were left without a clear understanding of what being a union meant.

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