Wednesday, December 14, 2005

Charter School, MEA and a Union on Tribal Land Makes Volatile Political Mix Up North

Politics is, of course, the game that deterimines who gets what, when where and how. Put together an interesting mix of political players and you get an interesting political scene at the Sault Tribe of Chippewa Indians.

The fireworks began up north back in October when teachers at the Joseph K. Lumsden Bahweting Public School Academy voted 23-9 in favor of union representation by the Michigan Education Association (MEA). But tribal leaders reacted by threatening to close the school and forbid any unions on the reservation. But tribal officials apparently didn't understand what a charter school is other than they would get big bucks from the state.

The Nov. 1st edition of the tribal newspaper, The Sault Tribe News in a story by Cory Wilson quotes Tribal Chairman Aaron Payment, "This represents a very serious threat to the tribe because the school is located on our reservation. It also threatens our right to self-governance as it introduced a new governing body."

Although the school is a tribal school on tribal lands, when tribal leaders decided to make it a charter school it became a public school subject to all Michigan laws including Michigan labor laws. Now the tribe is facing an unfair labor complaint from the MEA and another blog has really picked up on the story and allowed both sides to air their complaints, most of them anonymous. It makes for some fascinating reading here at the Intercepts blog.

CMU Public Radio had a story about the situation up north this morning (Wed. Dec. 14). Our local Saginaw Chippewa Tribe in recent years had actually looked at the possibility of converting their Montessori school into a charter school, but decided against it. Perhaps, they had enough other things to keep them occupied.

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