November 15, 2022
FOR IMMEDIATE RELEASE
Contact: Neil Bhaerman, OFT Communications Director, 412-266-489, firstname.lastname@example.org
Columbus, OH — Today, teachers and staff at the KIPP Columbus charter school called on their superintendent and board of directors to voluntarily recognize their union after they presented signed union cards from an overwhelming majority of teachers, paraprofessionals, intervention specialists, social workers, and student life coordinators. The organizing campaign is led by educators from all four schools (Primary, Elementary, Middle, and High) at the KIPP Columbus campus.
“When educators – the people who support students and families every day – have a seat at the table, things are better for everyone,” said Zach Usmani, a social worker at KIPP Columbus Elementary School. “Ensuring our voices are heard in decision-making will improve equity, build stronger schools, and attract and retain the best talent to teach our students.”
Employees are calling on KIPP Columbus to voluntarily recognize their union and to not use taxpayer money to hire anti-union consultants or to engage in any actions that could be interpreted as anti-union behavior. KIPP Columbus received at least $15 million in public funding for the 2021-2022 school year. Charter school funding should be used to benefit students and improve educational outcomes, not to keep teachers and staff from forming a union.
Copies of the cards were delivered to the school's administrators, while the originals will be filed with the National Labor Relations Board (NLRB). The NLRB filing starts the process for scheduling a secret ballot union election, which would only occur if the school refuses to recognize the supermajority support demonstrated by signed union cards.
“As a social worker, I know how important it is to lift up everybody in our school – students, families, and staff,” said Jenean Stokes, a social worker at KIPP Columbus Primary School. “We are a team and family, and we’re ready to work together with our administration to address issues like high turnover.”
The employees are organizing as the KIPP Columbus Alliance for Charter Teachers and Staff (KIPP Columbus ACTS), affiliated with the Ohio Federation of Teachers (OFT). OFT represents nearly 20,000 active and retired public school teachers, charter school teachers, school support staff, librarians and library workers, higher education faculty and staff, and public employees in Ohio. If successful, KIPP Columbus ACTS would be the tenth charter school to join OFT.
“Charter schools work best when dedicated teachers and staff have a union voice that allows them to fight for the learning conditions their students need and the working conditions that will make educators want to return year after year,” said Melissa Cropper, President of the Ohio Federation of Teachers.
KIPP teachers and staff at schools in New York City, Baltimore, and St. Louis are organized in unions. Teachers in St. Louis won their union election just last week, on Tuesday, November 8.
“My school was one of the first charter schools to unionize in Ohio, and I have seen firsthand how things will change for the better with a union in place,” said Sue Kraus, an intervention specialist at the University of Cleveland Preparatory School and President of Cleveland Alliance for Charter Teachers and Staff (Cleveland ACTS), OFT Local 6570. “With each negotiated contract we continue to see conditions improve. I have been at my school for 12 years and continue to stay because we have a strong union and a strong contract.”
“At KIPP Columbus, it is our teachers who have the direct experience of living and working within our community and with our students,” said Andrew Mensah, a math teacher at KIPP Columbus High School. “We know what it takes for our students and staff to feel safe, valued and prepared to teach and learn each day. We’re organizing in order to create a healthy and sustainable learning environment for our students and staff.”
The KIPP Columbus Alliance for Charter Teachers and Staff (KIPP Columbus ACTS) is the worker-led organizing campaign for KIPP teachers and staff. They are affiliated with the Ohio Federation of Teachers (OFT), which represents 20,000 members who are active and retired public school teachers, charter school teachers, school support staff, higher education faculty and staff, and public employees. OFT works to advance quality education and public services and a voice in the workplace for Ohio’s education professionals.