Saturday, February 14, 2009

Charter School May Unionize

Frequent readers know I am a huge fan of charter schools and hold a dislike for government unions. My dislike of government unions has to do with their effect on the different forms of government, the people they serve, productivity and taxpayers. While doing some research on teacher certification vs. student performance I reminded myself of Jay P. Greene's Blog. We have a ton of links on our site which I do not visit as often as I would like. Jim always tells me, "life is just too short there is so much more I want to learn." Considering he is one of the most intelligent and informative people I know it is amazing he feels he has so much more to learn. Bit I digress.... I ran across the following piece on Jay P. Greene's Blog titled KIPP RIP.

Spelling and grammar errors as well as typos are left as an exercise for our readers.

(Guest Post by Matthew Ladner)

As I’m sure you’ve heard by now, two KIPP schools in New York have had a majority of their teachers vote to unionize under a card check type provision. New York Times story here.

Andy Rotherham attempts to downplay the whole incident. Nice try Andy, but forget about it. KIPP should pull the plug on these schools at the end of the school year, burn down the buildings and plow salt into the ground upon which they once stood. This would be tragic for the people that no doubt worked very hard to bring these schools to life, but let’s face it, their efforts would be much better rewarded in other states.

The whole idea of running a KIPP academy along with a thousand page union contract is absurd. Half-days on Saturday? Not on your life. On call to help with homework? Are you kidding? KIPP has earned many donors, but can they afford a rubber room? Need to change a light bulb in your classroom? Page 844, paragraph 5 clearly states that you must call a union electrician. You kids sit quietly with your heads down in the dark until he arrives. It will be any day now.

KIPP has a methodology and a hard earned brand to protect, and there are plenty of other kids in other states to help. If Congress is misguided enough to pass a national card check, it will be up to individual states to ban the practice. Those that do may find themselves rewarded by the opening of some very high quality schools.

UPDATE Andy has posted a hopeful reply that the first generation of union agreement with KIPP may be benign due to the threat of closing the school, which he views as a PR nightmare. The unions seems nigh immune to bad PR to me, and the best way to get leverage is to display your willingness to use it. Let’s see how events unfold.

To read more of Jay P. Greene's Blog click here. I am also a huge fan of his book Education Myths a must read for all parents who send their children to public schools as well as taxpayers. Cathy


Ms. Nelson said...

As a teacher at KIPP AMP Academy, I am disturbed about the misrepresentations that I often see on blogs such as this. None of the teachers want to challenge the existing educational program at KIPP (longer days; Saturday schools; end-of-year trips,etc.)

These teachers are highly credentialed, and are accustomed to professional treatment. I am trained as a lawyer, principal, and teacher...and I have long stood for "equal access to educational opportunities." I supported charter schools and "school choice" when it was not "cool" to do the South (NC).

To all of the naysayers, I will simply should try obtain all information before you speak. As there are currently legal issues pending, we all have to be careful about what we discuss. However, I take exception with the way we are being portrayed by many. We work hard, and we are nice to our students and to one another. We believe that "all [of] our children will learn."

We DON'T want a 30-page union contract. We want to pave a new way in this area. We simply want a voice. We also want a clear evaluation and dismissal process to ensure that career decisions are not made based on "arbitray and capricious" decision-making by leaders.

The KIPP creed suggests that when there is a problem, we seek a solution. There were many problems at our school, and we firmly believe that working together...will yield positive results for students, teachers, administrators, parents...for our school as a whole.

Again, I strongly recommend that the public take time to become better informed about this situation. All parties involved are truly interested in ensuring that our students receive the training and skills necessary for success in high school, college, and beyond. It will just take time and effort to ensure that we are all being "set up success"...students first!!!

Warmest regards,

Ms. Nelson, M.S.A., J.D.
7th and 8th Grade Social Studies
Debate Team Founder / Adviser

"We defend and we build a way of life, not for America alone, but for all mankind." - Franklin D. Roosevelt

Jim and Cathy Peschke said...

Much of what Ms. Nelson said simply doesn't add up. When I hear someone offer ambiguous challenges like "obtain all the information" or "take time to become better informed" without providing specifics, alarm bells go off in my head. If Mr. Ladner's commentary is somehow erroneous due to misinformation, Ms. Nelson should have been able to refute it point by point.

The act of voting to become an affiliate of the national teachers' union simply doesn't coincide with the goals Ms. Nelson states in her post. Joining the national teachers union will not give you a "voice". You're simply choosing a new master, and if history is any guide, a far more disagreeable master.

The union doesn't care what you want, and if a 300+ page contract will help them consolidate their power, you'll soon have one. Concerned about "arbitrary and capricious" decision making? Your new union contract will provide truly arbitrary decision making based on empty metrics like years of experience and often worthless "advanced degrees".

How victorious will you feel when the academy cannot fire or otherwise demote a poorly performing teacher? At best, unionizing without the yoke of the nationals might confer some of the labor related benefits that you claim are the driving force behind this maneuver. On the other hand, unionizing under Randi Weingarten's iron fist will not.

As I see it, Ms. Nelson's motives remain suspect to say the least. The contradiction inherent in the final paragraph should give pause. Early on, she lists labor issues as motivation to unionize, only to end with the all too familiar "for the kids" talk.

Congratulations, Ms. Nelson. Your bland "for the kids" summary shows that you've started to master the talking points of your new rulers.