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KIPP Teachers Organize

In a ground-breaking development, the teachers of KIPP AMP Charter School in Brooklyn today informed their co-principals that they were organizing themselves into a union and seeking official recognition from the state Public Employees Relations Board.

A super-majority of the KIPP AMP teaching faculty has signed authorization cards with the United Federation of Teachers, well in excess of the threshold needed for official recognition under state labor law for public employees.

In a letter delivered to co-principals Jeff Li and Melissa Perry this morning, the teachers said that they had decided to unionize in order to secure teacher voice and respect for the work of teachers in their school. We want “to ensure that the [KIPP] motto of ‘team and family’ is realized in the form of mutual respect and validation for the work that is done [by teachers] each day,” they wrote.

The letter stressed that the decision to organize was directly connected to the teachers’ commitment to their students. “[A] strong and committed staff,” the teachers wrote, “is the first step to student achievement.” Unionization, the teachers believe, will help create the conditions for recruiting and retaining such a staff.

“We organized to make sure teachers had a voice, and could speak their minds on educational matters without fearing for their job,” says KIPP AMP teacher Luisa Bonifacio.

“For us,” KIPP AMP teacher Emily Fernandez explains, “unionization is ultimately all about student achievement, and the ability of teachers to best serve students at this crucial middle school time in their education.”

KIPP AMP teachers believe that the high staff turnover at the school has harmed their efforts to build a positive and consistent school culture for their students. “There is a need to make the teacher position more sustainable,” says Bonifacio, “so that teachers don’t burn out, but are able to make a long-term commitment to the students and the school.”

KIPP AMP teacher Leila Chakravarty makes a powerful case that organizing a union is necessary to “build a sustainable community in our school” and address the problem of teacher turnover. “Because as KIPP teachers we are so invested in our kids and form such close bonds with them, because we are always available to our students by telephone and email and spend ten hours every day with them, it is so vital and important that they feel they can count on us, and we will continue to be there. When they become close to a teacher who is gone in three months because she has burnt out, it undermines the trust we are working so hard to build.”

The teachers at KIPP AMP have received strong support for their organizing efforts from the parents and families at the school.

At the same time as the KIPP AMP teachers informed their principal of their decision to organize, UFT President Randi Weingarten reached out to KIPP co-founder and New York City Superintendent Dave Levin, informing him of the developments at the school and of the UFT’s intention to enter into collective bargaining at another New York City KIPP school, KIPP Infinity Charter School, where the teaching staff are members of the UFT.

Weingarten told Levin that the KIPP teachers and the UFT want to work cooperatively with KIPP to ensure that its New York City schools provide the very best education for their students and families. She asked KIPP to recognize the unionization of the KIPP AMP teachers immediately so that this work could begin without delay.

“KIPP teachers want what all good teachers want — the respect, the support and the tools necessary to do the best possible job of educating their students,” Weingarten said. “Organizing into a union of educational professionals will give them the collective voice and support to make that happen.”

“We know that teacher turnover is a major concern across the charter school movement,” Weingarten noted. “The unionization of KIPP’s New York City schools provides a unique opportunity to create a model of sustainable teacher recruitment, development and retention.”

Since the original KIPP Academy Charter School is a conversion charter school with UFT representation, educators at three of the four KIPP schools in New York City will now be members of the UFT.

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12 Comments:

  • 1 “Unionization is ultimately all about student achievement.” « Fred Klonsky’s blog
    · Jan 13, 2009 at 3:38 pm

    […] Casey reports in Edwize: In a ground-breaking development, the teachers of KIPP AMP Charter School in Brooklyn today […]

  • 2 Sherman Dorn
    · Jan 13, 2009 at 4:17 pm

    Brooklyn KIPP teachers unionizing…

    As reported in EdWize. What caught my attention was the issue of turnover:KIPP AMP teachers believe that the high staff turnover at the school has harmed their efforts to build a positive and consistent school culture for their students. “There is a n…

  • 3 UFT organizes a KIPP school « JD2718
    · Jan 13, 2009 at 5:53 pm

    […] (Read the official version at Edwize) […]

  • 4 MichaelB
    · Jan 13, 2009 at 9:12 pm

    Cool!

  • 5 glennscott
    · Jan 13, 2009 at 10:01 pm

    This is great news! Kipp is apparently planning for a big expansion in Philly, according to their website. I am hopeful that more Kipp teachers will see the same link that these teachers have between a union voice and making their school a better place for students and for teachers. The turnover is a huge issue in Philly Charters. Often overlooked, turnover is a big deterrent to raising student achievement.
    Hats off to the Kipp teachers and their colleagues at UFT!

  • 6 W.J. Levay
    · Jan 14, 2009 at 6:04 pm

    From the AFL-CIO Now blog: Charter School Teachers Join AFT

  • 7 KIPP AMP Organizing Draws Wide Notice | Edwize
    · Jan 15, 2009 at 4:52 pm

    […] public announcement that the teachers of KIPP AMP Charter School in the Crown Heights section of Brooklyn had organized […]

  • 8 greg32farris
    · Jan 26, 2009 at 10:52 am

    i think that it is great teachers are making such a strong statement about wanting to teach. Their students most likely are inspired by their teachers “want to teach” attitude.

  • 9 Jessealred
    · May 1, 2009 at 10:00 pm

    The following are comments made by Leo Linbeck III, scion of a powerful Houston family. He is also “Chief Architect” of KIPP’s $65 million dollar expansion plan that will make it the largest charter school network in the nation. Besides his support for KIPP, he co-founded a program, the Free Enterprise Institute, that promoted conservative historical interpretations among Texas high school teachers, The comments speak for themselves.

    “The people of the British Isle, Were known for their wit and guile, But in a twist tragicomic, It morphed to Islamic While its leaders remained in denial.” “While it may appear now that the forces of liberty are in retreat, I believe we will see a resurgence of true conservative values among the one group that can still learn, and that is large enough to make a difference: the young….So talk to the young. Tell them what you believe. Speak truth to power. Fight the zeitgeist!” “If the President gets his way, it will take a decade to undo the damage. And the ultimate irony is that the people who will suffer most through the period are the very people who put him in office: the poor, the young, and the clueless.” “But the impact is coming. Rest assured. If Obama’s budget passes, he nationalizes health care, raises taxes on investments, and imposes his environmental religion on the nation, these things will have a massive, long-term effect. Then it will certainly be appropriate to call it the “Obama Economy.” Or “Europe” for short. Cheers” “When Obama was feeling the heat, He commanded his fellow eliteTo follow his plan But depression began ‘Cause they’re dupes of his fatal conceit.” “There once was a sheikh named Osama Whose bombs were a source of high drama When Bush was the chief He encountered much griefBut he’s hoping for change with Obama.” “But what Ayers saw in Obama was simple: a young man of color who was articulate, ambitious, and dedicated to reform. Ayers – the rich, white, unrepentant terrorist – was limited in what he could do. But Obama, well he could go places Ayers couldn’t go, win over people Ayers couldn’t work with, champion issues Ayers couldn’t champion. He was a tool.”

  • 10 First group of Chicago charter schools to unionize | The Charter Explosion
    · Jun 22, 2009 at 8:10 pm

    […] teachers’ union members, especially among those who get placed in charter schools. However, high teacher turnover and burnout is a concern at charter schools like KIPP and is one of the reasons that KIPP AMP teachers in New York formed a […]

  • 11 An RI Story: Understanding Race to the Top (Part 6 of ?) « Bottom Up Education
    · Mar 18, 2010 at 10:15 am

    […] a longer-term career and who know that students benefit from a stable teacher corps have begun to organize and unionize in response to the misguided charter school attitudes toward teacher […]

  • 12 Unionizing charter schools, bashing teacher unions and really all unions: how the right wing makes us hate organized working people | Dailycensored.com
    · Jun 18, 2010 at 5:32 am

    […] Casey, L.  “KIPP Teachers Organize” EdWize Website (January 13, 2009).  Website:  http://www.edwize.org/kipp-teachers-organize […]