By Salvatore Cipriano and Jordan Nicholson
In a time of vicious attacks throughout the United States on students, teachers and working people’s unions alike, the teachers of an unlikely school, a small charter school outside of Detroit, have taken their rights into their own hands and have become unionized. The teachers at Arts Academy in the Woods in Frasier, Mich., with a vote of 20 to 1, approved their union in a teachers’ meeting, making the Michigan Alliance of Charter Teachers and Staff Union (Michigan ACTS), the working representative of their school. Michigan ACTS is an affiliate of the American Federation of Teachers Michigan.
The school, with only 276 students currently in attendance, has been in existence for 10 years. Despite massive attacks on arts education and creative studies in public education around the U.S., the Arts Academy in the Woods balances academics and artistic learning, and is home to a number of specialized art departments such as Guitar and Bass Guitar at all levels, Jazz Band, 2D and 3D Art, Vocal Arts, a large dance program, and Image Design.
However, in the last four years the Drama and Orchestra departments have been cut and the teachers have been forced to take large pay cuts. Eric Higgley, a teacher at the school, spoke to Workers World about the teachers’ move for unionization. “We can all have a voice in making the school better for the students that attend,” he said.
Arts Academy is the second charter school in Michigan to unionize and is overall only a small section of the 14 percent of unionized charter schools.
The writers are 2011 graduates of the Arts Academy in the Woods and founding members of Detroit FIST (Fight Imperialism, Stand Together), a revolutionary youth organization.