The KIPP-union situation in New York City moved fast this week, especially today. First there are all sorts of rumors flying about what is or is not happening at KIPP AMP, the high performing charter school the United Federation of Teachers (UFT) is seeking to organize. Then today teachers at two other KIPP schools in New York City that are currently affiliated with the UFT in different ways moved to formally sever that relationship. That’s a big deal and a big black eye for the UFT. The actual press release, especially the part about union initiated grievances that teachers at the school had no say in, clearly will ratchet the pressure up around KIPP AMP. TAP’s Dana Goldstein has more. AFT/UFT President Randi Weingarten has a lot on her plate right now.
This whole process carried at least as much risk for the teachers’ union as it did for KIPP and that’s becoming apparent. I’d put the odds at one in three now that the UFT comes out of this with any KIPP schools in the city as part of their portfolio. More generally, while the UFT/AFT hoped this would highlight how hard KIPP teachers work and sustainability questions about that, instead this episode now seems likely bring into stark relief some of the very real tensions between industrial-style unionism and professional work. That’s actually a healthy debate for the field and one that is too often about soundbites. But in New York City it looks like it’s now going to be total war around these schools and this issue for a while. That’s too bad.
There is one other school here that has basically been beneath the radar around all this: Amber Charter School. They started with an eight page contract with the UFT in 2002. It was subsequently expanded to 15 pages in 2005. That’s still a good example of the portfolio approach and relevant here.