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KIPP, union settle Baltimore dispute

I have been following with great interest the clash between the Knowledge Is Power Program (KIPP), the nation's most successful charter school network, and the American Federation of Teachers (AFT), the more innovative of our two national teacher unions. A key point of conflict has been at the KIPP Ujima Village Academy, the highest achieving public middle school in Baltimore.

The AFT local forced the school to cut back the length of its school day and end its Saturday classes because it wasn't paying its teachers an extra 33 percent on top of their regular salaries, as the union said its contract with the city schools demanded. Most KIPP and other charter schools don't have to deal with unions, but Maryland has an unusual provision in its charter law that requires their staffs to be unionized.

KIPP had said it might have to close the school because reducing the time for instruction meant it could not honor the promises it made to its students and families to prepare every child for college. But Jason Botel, founder of the KIPP Ujima Village and executive director of KIPP Baltimore, sent a letter to local KIPP supporters today saying his organization and the Baltimore Teachers Union had reached an agreement that will allow the school and a new KIPP elementary school, Harmony Academy, to operate through the next school year on its full 9.5 hour a day time schedule, with Saturday sessions restored.

In the letter, Botel said the school agreed to pay its teachers 20.5 percent over their usual salaries. Most KIPP schools pay their teachers about 15 to 20 percent extra for the longer day, Saturday and summer school teaching. I could find no evidence of KIPP Ujima teachers ever complaining publicly about their overtime pay, which had been about 20 percent extra. Some said they preferred the system to remain as it was. But the union said it had received complaints and had to act.

AFT president Randi Weingarten took a personal interest in the negotiations. Her representatives had much to do with the successful conclusion, a non-union person close to the negotiations said.

Botel said the Maryland law will have to change before KIPP's future in
Baltimore is secure. "While this ensures the continued existence of KIPP Baltimore through 2010-11, the agreement with the BTU is only for one year. Over the long term, we need to establish a system in Baltimore where teachers in high performing public schools like KIPP can choose to work an extended day within an affordable pay structure. Ultimately, this will require a change to Maryland's charter school law."

Under the agreement, Botel said, "in return for their hard work, KIPP teachers will receive a premium of 20.5% above BTU pay scale, matching contributions to their pension funds and up to $300 for classroom supplies."

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By Jay Mathews  | March 18, 2010; 4:03 PM ET
Categories:  Jay on the Web  | Tags:  American Federation of Teachers, Baltimore Teachers Union, KIPP Ujima Village public charter school, KIPP settles dispute with Baltimore union, Knowledge Is Power Program, charter school/union clash  
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Interesting. Any news on the KIPP Amp/Infinity unionization efforts?

Posted by: proxy_knock | March 18, 2010 5:06 PM | Report abuse

good question, proxy-knock. I will ask.

Posted by: Jay Mathews | March 18, 2010 6:34 PM | Report abuse

pardon me. proxy_knock.

Posted by: Jay Mathews | March 18, 2010 6:34 PM | Report abuse

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