Tuesday, January 13, 2009

Charter school teachers demand union contract

Fed up at the loss of their professional rights, teachers in a New York charter school are asking to create a union with a collective bargaining agreement.

A super-majority of teachers in Brooklyn's KIPP-AMP school petitioned for a contract to be negotiated by the United Federation of Teachers, an affiliate of the American Federation of Teachers.

According to this article in the blog edwize, teachers wrote in a letter to administrators that "they had decided to unionize in order to secure teacher voice and respect for the work of teachers in their school:"

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.

With charter schools becoming a permanent part of the education landscape, teachers are taking a closer look at the tradeoffs they must make to work in the schools. In Louisana, for example, teachers surrender their tenure to work in a charter school. They might not be included in the teacher retirement system, and may not have the same health insurance, sick leave and associated benefits as other public school teachers.

In addition, laws protecting teachers from abuse by administrators - like grievance procedures - are not applicable in charter schools.

Writing in The American Prospect, reporter Ezra Klein noted that opponents of teacher unions wrongly assume that they only exist to protect bad teachers:

But it's often the opposite. Here, you have a bright, young teaching staff
advocating for a union. They clearly don't think it will detract from their
professionalism. But they do think it will give them more of an occupational
voice and allow them put in place structures that will ease the burnout and calm
the rapid turnover rate, which isn't good for the school or the students.

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