AFT's Randi Weingarten blasts KIPP Baltimore's tactics
In an education column in today's Washington Post, Randi Weingarten, the president of the American Federation of Teachers--the parent organization of the Baltimore Teachers Union--sounded off about KIPP Baltimore's recent threat to shut its doors in Maryland on June 30 if the BTU doesn't allow the school to set its own working conditions for its union-represented teachers. We wrote about the conflict this week.
Below are some of Weingarten's strongest excerpts from the Post column, but I'd encourage all interested to read the column in its entirety.
In short, she says KIPP is not playing fair.
Excerpts from Randi Weingarten's discussion with the Post:
"She said KIPP is playing by its own set of rules. She said the network, with 99 schools in 20 states and the District, has undermined her repeated attempts to establish a relationship that would allow them to work together for the greater good of children and public schools.
She said a year ago she helped give KIPP schools in Baltimore a special agreement with the Baltimore Teachers Union, part of the AFT, that allowed them to have longer school days without paying teachers the financially back-breaking full hourly rate under the city's teacher contract. Weingarten said she helped KIPP as a gesture of good faith in the discussions they had been having about national cooperation. KIPP repaid her initiative on its behalf, she said, by criticizing the New York local of her union and by going to the press rather than negotiating seriously an extension of KIPP's deal in Baltimore.
She said the KIPP people at that meeting indicated they would do more fund-raising to support the Baltimore schools so they would not have to ask for such heavy concessions from the union. But, she said, they did not raise enough funds and decided instead to try to get their way without the union by seeking a change in the state law. Maryland is one of the few states that requires charter school teachers to be represented by labor unions.
Weingarten said BTU officials had a good meeting with KIPP Baltimore executive director Jason Botel on Valentine's Day and asked him to send them a written version of the deal extension he was proposing. (Botel said the BTU did not ask him for the proposal in writing until Feb. 28, and he submitted it March 3.)
Weingarten said she has negotiated an innovative contract in Baltimore that allows for more pay for teachers based in part on improved student performance. She said the city's other charters were not complaining about the union, and that the BTU's initial agreement with Botel showed that the union could work with KIPP. Yet KIPP seems to have no faith, she said, that consulting with her, rather than going to the press and seeking changes in state law, will achieve its goals.
KIPP Foundation chief executive Richard Barth also wrote in to The Post :
"KIPP's focus has always been on keeping our promises to students and families. We are eager to work with the AFT and others who will help us achieve that goal.
"Last year, Randi's team at the AFT and BTU were instrumental in helping KIPP Baltimore secure an agreement that allowed our schools to operate for another year with our extended time schedule. KIPP Baltimore's teachers fully supported these terms. At that time, everyone understood that KIPP Baltimore needed a long-term solution to its contract issues.
"The time to agree on that long-term solution is now. Maryland's legislative session ends this April and the current agreement between KIPP Baltimore and BTU expires in June, 2011.
"We have presented BTU with a proposal to extend the terms of the current one-year agreement for an additional ten years. We hope that what worked for the BTU last year will work for them going forward.
"Unless we achieve a resolution soon, KIPP Baltimore will cease to exist after this school year. We feel a sense urgency to reach a solution."