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KIPP Columbus is Using Public Education Funding to Delay and Oppose Union Vote

November 30, 2022
Contact: Neil Bhaerman,, 412-266-4899

KIPP Columbus is Using Public Education Funding to Delay and Oppose Union Vote

Columbus, OH — The administration at KIPP Columbus, a campus of four charter schools that serve students from pre-K through the 12th grade, has declined to recognize KIPP Columbus Alliance for Charter Teachers and Staff, the union that was formed by a supermajority of eligible educators. Instead, they have hired an anti-union legal team and have filed a frivolous legal challenge that seeks to delay and stop a secret-ballot union election. KIPP Columbus is a private entity that relies on public education funding, including $15 million for the 2020-2021 school year.

“I am disappointed in this response from our administration but I am not surprised,” said Andrew Mensah, a math teacher at KIPP Columbus High School. “While they have said ‘the only way to protect the rights of each team member is with a secret ballot election,’ this decision pushes that election farther away. Instead of spending time and money to improve outcomes for our students and staff, they're spending it on senseless legal challenges.”

Charter schools, which are also referred to as “community schools” in Ohio, are funded publicly but managed privately. KIPP Columbus is challenging the National Labor Relations Board’s (NLRB) jurisdiction regarding charter schools in Ohio, claiming that KIPP is a “political subdivision,” placing them under the jurisdiction of the State Employment Relations Board (SERB) instead of the NLRB.

The NLRB has previously asserted jurisdiction over Ohio charter schools because they are legally classified as private employers despite being part of the public education system. Last year, when teachers at Menlo Park Academy in Cleveland were forming their union, the school unsuccessfully challenged the NLRB’s jurisdiction using the same argument as KIPP Columbus. Educators at nine charter schools in northeast Ohio, including Menlo Park Academy, have joined the Ohio Federation of Teachers through the NLRB process. 

In the Menlo Park Academy case, the school was ruled to be a private entity even though their fiscal sponsor, the Educational Service Center of Lake Erie West, is a public entity. KIPP Columbus has an even weaker case since their fiscal sponsor is the Fordham Foundation, a private non-profit organization. 

“We are undeterred by this unnecessary delay,” said Becky Lancaster, a social worker at KIPP Columbus High School. “Our union came together with support from 78% of eligible educators and actions like this are a reminder of why so many of us support a union. If teachers had a seat at the table we would be advocating for spending these funds on our students, not on anti-union corporate lawyers.”

KIPP Columbus has hired the Vorys legal firm, whose website touts their “work with a number of different, non-union clients in connection with their efforts to remain non-union.” 


Follow KIPP Columbus ACTS: @KIPPcbusACTS on twitter and facebook. 

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. 

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