Rachel M. Cohen

Rachel M. Cohen is a journalist based in Washington, D.C., and a former American Prospect writing fellow.

Recent Articles

Chicago Teachers May Launch Nation’s Largest Charter School Union

Teacher turnover and pay equity are among the issues motivating Chicago’s largest charter school network to launch a union drive.

AP Photo/M. Spencer Green
AP Photo/M. Spencer Green A student at Noble Street College Prep, one of 17 schools operated by the Noble Network of Charter Schools in Chicago. T eachers at Chicago’s biggest and best-regarded charter school network have set out to form a union, a move that if successful would create the largest charter school union in the nation. In an open letter to administrators and school board members, teachers at the Noble Network of Charter Schools requested permission to organize a union without interference or fear of retaliation. Founded in 1999, Noble operates 17 campuses across the city, educating more than 12,000 students. “Under current local and national conditions, educators labor to remain in their classrooms while our value is diminished, our capacity drained, and our power constrained,” read the letter, which was delivered on March 3. “Both students and educators struggle to thrive in climates that prioritize test scores and compliance over creativity and personhood. Our students...

D.C. Charter Teachers Seek to Unionize

(Photo: Syda Productions/Shutterstock)
Syda Productions/Shutterstock T his morning, teachers at Paul Public Charter School, one of the oldest charters in Washington, D.C., publicly announced their intent to unionize—a first for charter schoolteachers in the nation’s capital. As in other cities where charter teachers have formed unions , the Paul educators are forming their own local—the District of Columbia Alliance of Charter Teachers and Staff (DC ACTS)—which will be affiliated with the American Federation of Teachers (AFT). Seventy-five percent of Paul’s teaching staff signed a petition in support of joining DC ACTS, and asked administrators to voluntarily recognize their union. The Center for Education Reform estimates that 10 percent of charter schools are unionized nationally, up from 7 percent in 2012. As more and more charter teachers have launched organizing efforts, the absence of charter unions in Washington, D.C., has been notable—particularly given the city’s high density of charter schools. There are 118...

An A.G. in Action

A day in the life of New York Attorney General Eric Schneiderman: Suing Trump, defending sanctuary cities, changing the law so more people can vote.

(Photo: Sipa USA via AP/Albin Lohr-Jones)
(Photo: Sipa USA via AP/Albin Lohr-Jones) New York State Attorney General Eric Schneiderman speaks at a press conference at Federal Hall National Memorial in New York City on February 8, 2017. L ast week on the steps of Federal Hall, the Wall Street building where George Washington was inaugurated and the Bill of Rights was introduced, New York Attorney General Eric Schneiderman unveiled the New York Votes Act , a package of election reforms he hopes can transform his state into a national leader on voting rights. About 100 people gathered for the press conference, where Schneiderman was joined by representatives from Common Cause, SEIU, and other progressive organizations. The attorney general’s omnibus bill—which includes reforms like automatic voter registration and early voting—would mark a significant step forward for the liberal state that has the third-worst voting participation rate in the country, and ranks as the fifth-worst state for voter registration. The New York Votes...

A Redder Pennsylvania

But will the legislature—more Republican than ever—overplay its hand?

AP Photo/Matt Rourke
AP Photo/Matt Rourke Speaker of the Pennsylvania House of Representatives, Representative Mike Turzai, is congratulated by former Republican Governor Tom Corbett as Democratic Governor Tom Wolf looks on. T his week the Pennsylvania state Senate passed two conservative bills: one to withhold state grants from municipalities that do not cooperate with federal immigration authorities—so-called sanctuary cities—and another to ban abortions after 20 weeks. There’s been a lot of attention paid to the fact that Donald Trump is the first Republican to win Pennsylvania in a presidential election since 1988. The Keystone State had long been part of Hillary Clinton’s “firewall”—she polled generally well there throughout the election, and its 20 electoral votes were seen as critical for her Electoral College victory. Given that Barack Obama won Pennsylvania in 2008 and 2012, and Tom Wolf, Pennsylvania’s Democratic governor, won his election in 2014, Trump’s victory on November 8 took most...

Will Crumbling School Buildings Get a Piece of the Infrastructure Pie?

Public education advocates are hoping that Donald Trump’s infrastructure plan will help renovate the nation’s dilapidated schools, but lobbying for school repairs is never easy. 

(Photo: AP/Kathy Willens)
(Photo: AP/Kathy Willens) A photo of Charles E. Gorton High School in Yonkers, New York, in July 2012, when the school district was seeking $1.7 billion from investors to overhaul its schools. P aul L. Dunbar Elementary school, a historic, four-story building of orange brick located in North Philadelphia, looks solid and imposing from the outside. But inside Dunbar, water leaks from the school’s aging roof into classrooms, the windows are in need of repair, and the heating system only works some of the time. Dunbar is one of hundreds of schools in Philadelphia and throughout the country that is literally falling apart. From fire code violations to faulty boilers that make it too hot or too cold for students to concentrate in class, structural problems plague as many as two-thirds of America’s schools. By one 2016 estimate , it would cost $145 billion a year to properly repair and maintain the nation’s school buildings. So when President Donald Trump flagged school infrastructure...