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Charter school teachers continue effort to unionize, despite 'no' vote by school board

Teachers at the New America School are trying to become the first to form a union within a charter school in Colorado.

THORNTON, Colo. — Teachers at charter schools in Colorado are not unionized employees. However, teachers at one set of charter schools are trying to make history by becoming the first. 

The New America School is an alternative education option for those who may have struggled in a traditional classroom setting or may come from disadvantaged groups. The three campuses in Thornton, Aurora and Lakewood also serve a large population of students who speak English as a second language. 

The teachers say the schools struggle with a high teacher turnover rate due to low compensation and other factors such as receiving little prep time to teach multiple classes or subjects. They hope to change some of those challenges with their job by forming a union. 

"This the only way for educators to have equitable and accountable voices in the system," said Collette Simkins, an art and drama teacher at the Thornton campus. "New America seeks to be something different and something new, so why shouldn’t we be the alternative to something different than what charters are in Colorado?"

Last week, the school board voted down the option to unionize. Instead, they gave another alternative for representatives from the different campuses to form a committee, which would then communicate with the superintendent and the board. The teachers behind the unionization effort say that's not enough. 

"In our schools, we don’t necessarily have a say in what is going on around us. We are typically one of the last to know what is going on in our schools," said Elaina King, a social studies teacher.

Despite the obstacles they are currently facing, they plan to continue fighting for unionization.

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