Three Cleveland Charter Schools Sign Historic First Contract

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Contract Creates Labor-Management Committee, Guarantees Planning Time, Rewards Experienced Teachers

WASHINGTON—Teachers and support staff at three I Can-managed charter schools in Cleveland have overwhelmingly ratified an historic contract, making them the first organized charter schools with a collectively bargained contract in Cleveland. The educators are members of the Cleveland Alliance of Charter Teachers and Staff (Cleveland ACTS), an affiliate of the Ohio Federation of Teachers.

The contract covers three high-performing charters that educate more than 900 students in the Cleveland metropolitan area. The new contract creates a labor-management committee to increase teacher input, guarantees planning time, and rewards experienced teachers who make a commitment to the school and advance their own education. This contract makes strides toward meeting teachers’ and the community’s goals of reducing teacher turnover and providing a voice for professional educators. The contract also contains a commitment from I Can to allow for other I Can schools in Cleveland to join Cleveland ACTS, if the educators so choose, without intimidation or harassment.

Abi Haren, a second-grade assistant teacher at University of Cleveland Preparatory School, said, “Yesterday, we ratified a strong contract that gives my co-workers and me a voice in making I Can Schools better for our students and for educators. This agreement will allow me the freedom and autonomy to speak up for the needs of my students without fearing for my job security. We look forward to building a partnership with the I Can administration to strengthen our schools.

“This has been a long road to win a real voice in our school, and it would not have happened without the support of Cleveland Teachers Union President David Quolke and our fellow educators in the CTU. Their support, along with I Can families’ and community members’, sent a clear message that we are professional educators who deserve respect for our commitment to Cleveland students.”

Sean Belveal, a middle school social studies teacher, said, “This contract shows the voices of teachers and students have been heard. Our contract will help to reduce turnover and increase stability for our students. I am very excited to see this new partnership between students, teachers and administration come together as we work to close the achievement gap in Cleveland.”

Ohio Federation of Teachers President Melissa Cropper, who is an AFT vice president, said “I Can teachers and staff stood together for the last three years to speak up for greater classroom stability, respect and a true partnership with their school’s administration. This contract is a step in the right direction to achieve those goals. The Ohio Federation of Teachers welcomes the new members of the Cleveland Alliance of Charter Teachers and Staff to our union. We are a stronger union with the voices of teachers and staff at charter schools.”

CTU President David Quolke, who also is an AFT vice president, said, “On behalf of the 4,500 members of the CTU, we congratulate I Can teachers and staff on winning a strong contract that recognizes their professionalism and commitment to their students. Whether you work for the district or in a charter school, those closest to the education process must have a voice in education policy and practice. We look forward to working with Cleveland ACTS members to raise the voices of educators, students and their families in Cleveland.”

“As a union, we’ve focused on reclaiming the promise of public education,” said AFT President Randi Weingarten. “This contract helps do just that by allowing these educators not simply to advocate for the schools their students deserve, but to negotiate the tools and conditions needed to help get there. This contract is historic for the state of Ohio, and these teachers deserve a round of congratulations for wanting the voice to help their students succeed. What we’ve seen at I Can and across the country is teachers forming unions and negotiating contracts to have a real voice in the education of their students.”

Educators at 228 charter schools across 15 states are represented by the AFT. This agreement offers hope for teachers and staff at charter schools who are committed to improving their schools.