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Waiting for Contracts

As we watch the KIPP/UFT battle unfold, one thing seems clear: we won’t see a union contract between the two organizations anytime soon.

The unionization process for KIPP AMP is governed by the Taylor Law and overseen by the Public Employment Relations Board (“PERB”). If and when the PERB certifies the UFT to represent the AMP teachers, KIPP will be required to begin collective bargaining. This won’t necessarily lead to a contract, though. From a primer published by Atlantic Legal:

“In essence, collective bargaining is the obligation of the union and the employer to meet and confer in good faith concerning employees’ terms and conditions of employment. Thus, a good faith effort must be made by both parties to seek agreement. However, an agreement is not required or guaranteed, since neither side is forced to accept any terms it does not want.”

The teachers at Merrick Academy, a charter school in Queens, were organized by the UFT in November, 2007. Today, sixteen months later, there still is no contract.

Green Dot New York Charter School was formed in partnership with the UFT and began operation this past September. Again, there still is no contract. (I have heard that a 50-page contract is coming soon.)

Meanwhile, the UFT faces a difficult situation in agreeing to a new contract with a charter school. If they agree to a short contract (like the Amber contract or the Green Dot contract in Los Angeles), it begs the question of the necessity for the standard 165-page version. Moreover, shorter contracts have the potential to infuriate teachers that are already unhappy with contract compromises of recent years as well as UFT sponsorship of charter schools.

I have never read a teachers’ union contract that seems consistent with the operations of a KIPP school (or any of the other high-performing charter schools that I have visited). The UFT has its own political issues in agreeing to a short contract. There is nothing that forces a compromise. We might be waiting for a very long time.

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