Today, while I was putting off going to the gym by trolling the interweb, I came across this NYTimes article about the teachers at a KIPP charter school in Brooklyn. The article essentially describes the unionization efforts of the teachers at KIPP AMP, and the response that the school's administrators have had.
For those of you not familiar with KIPP, it is a nation-wide network of Charter Schools that operates in some of our nations most dysfunctional education systems (including DC), and generally gets some pretty great results. It was founded by former Teach for America corps members, and usually hires TFA alums.
Charter Schools are sometimes able to achieve better results than regular public schools because they are able to circumvent the grossly inefficient bureaucracy that surrounds public education (that bureaucracy, in my opinion, is caused by two equal and yet opposite forces of failure: 1) policy makers, who are more interested in pleasing their political base than doing good things for kids, and 2) teachers unions who are more interested in pleasing the vocal minority of teachers than doing good things for kids). Given the traditionally bad relationship between unions and Charter Schools, it is surprising that KIPP teachers are trying to unionize.
This article leaves me with two questions:
First, if teachers say that there were no problems with administrators before (which they do in the article) then why unionize? If you don't have problems with management, if your school has only 22 teachers, if your administrators are available and open, why do you need a collective voice? I'm not criticizing (yet), I just don't understand.
Second, if administrators were happy with the teachers' performance before the unionizing efforts (as administrators say they were), then why freak out about it? Why haul students in to bad-mouth their teachers? It seems that doing so only creates an environment of hostility, which of course will be damaging to the students. For a system of schools that is generally well-regarded, it seems like a bizarre step.
It seems like people get a little stupid whenever unions come up. Some get stupid in their freakish support of all things union (even the bad things), while others get stupid in their angry tirades against all things union (even the good things). So my question is this: are the people at KIPP (teachers and administrators) catching this disease of stupid, or are there other reasons for their actions?
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