Education International
Education International

Chilean union president gets help on charter school issue

published 2 July 2010 updated 2 July 2010

At the Global Education Summit, sponsored by the National Education Association (NEA), education union delegates from around the world joined by NEA President Dennis Van Roekel and Vice-President Lily Eskelsen to discuss efforts to improve public education.

In addition to learning about gender equality and international solidarity, participants explored new ways to integrate human rights and cross-cultural education in their classrooms.

Having these discussions ahead of the NEA Representative Assembly in New Orleans, between 2-6 July, has been especially significant for Jaime Gajardo Orellana, President of Chile’s teacher’s union, Nacional Colegio de Profesores, who was invited to speak at the summit.

Last February an earthquake rocked Chile, leveling schools across the country. The conservative government has been using the tragedy to make a push for a greater number of charter schools.

The Chilean minister of education recently travelled to New Orleans to learn how charter schools have sprouted up post-Katrina.

“Right now, about 40 percent of our schools are public,” explains Gajardo.“If the government gets their way, that number will fall below 30 percent. We will see worsening inequality in our schools.”

When Gajardo returns to Chile next week, however, he will be armed with resources and evidence-based data, courtesy of discussions with Louisiana teachers and research about charter schools provided by NEA’s policy research team.

“It is so critical that we share these resources and that is why we come together as educators,” says Gajardo.

“We all sense – and benefit from – the deep commitment we all have to great public schools.”