"A child's learning is the function more of the characteristics of his classmates than those of the teacher." James Coleman, 1972

Thursday, July 23, 2009

Poor KIPP Baltimore, Sighs the Baltimore Sun

What remains of the Baltimore Sun is, ironically, dedicated to assuaging the agendas of corporate bosses who have been responsible for its demise so far. Jesse Alred has some of the details of the Baltimore KIPP story, where KIPP, Inc. pays its Mr. and Mrs. CEO over a hundred grand each per year, while denying that it can come up with the cash to pay teachers what local contracts demands. KIPP is the same outfit that has unlimited tax-credited contributions from Fisher, Gates, Broad and the other oligarchs who use their philanthro-capitalist machines to choke out public schools and teacher unions.

Jesse Alred has some of the details:

The Baltimore Sun on July 21, 2009 published a story about union-management conflict at the KIPP Ujima school.

It seems the KIPP Ujima Village Academy was paying overtime less than the rate set by the labor contract protecting all Baltimore teachers.

The Sun presented both sides in the article but did so in a way to encourage sympathy for the KIPP school.

The title of the article was "Successful charter school cut staff, hours over union contract." The subtitle ran "KIPP Ujima says it can't afford overtime."

The first paragraph ran: "Baltimore's most successful middle school is laying off staff and shortening its school day to meet the demands of a teachers union contract in what is one of the first major disputes over teacher pay between a charter school and a union."

The Sun is balanced in noting the union ignored the contract violation for seven years. The required pay rate for the mandatory overtime KIPP teachers put in is 33% of their regular salary. KIPP had been paying 19%.

Much of the article either heaped praise on KIPP's achievement, recounted its history, or described the potential dangers to KIPP's future if higher pay was required in the future at KIPP Ujima or at other KIPP schools.

The Sun quoted David Stone, the only board member to vote against the union contract's ratification, but not any other board member.

While providing a lot of favorable background information about KIPP, The Sun did not address criticisms of the KIPP model, mainly that it tends to segregate motivated students and committed parents from the rest of the school system--and then declares it is performing better than neighborhood schools on a level playing field.

The article received responses the next day in the form of editorials in favor of the union and for KIPP's management position. Union President Marietta English wrote The Sun created an "innacurate picture" of union activities. She also mentioned the KIPP Director and his wife, the prinicipal at the school, received salaries above $100,000.

KIPP and its allied school reformers are typically flush with cash. Michelle Rhee in D.C. was offering $100,000 salaries to any teacher who would give up tenure rights. Houston-KIPP has raised $100 million in private funds for expansion.

Hopefully the pay increases, which seem fair considering how hard these young teachers work, will become the norm through the charter network and help reduce KIPP's high teacher turnover rate.

Favorable treatment for KIPP, without nuance, seems to be a trend in the media.

Here are links to the three articles.



1 comment:

  1. I posted this on a Baltimore Sun forum in response to editorials supporting KIPP's position:

    The aspect of that article that leaps out to me is its implicit support of the view that if any of those whom a law is intended to protect are willing to renounce that protection, the law should be disdained, ignored and even revoked.

    Think about how this attitude could undermine all kinds of anti-discrimination laws as well as worker protection laws such as the minimum wage and workplace safety standards. Think about the potential it raises for employers to intimidate their employees -- if one employee is willing to give up his/her rights, all employees should have to give up their rights?

    In the long run, underpaying and exploiting teachers is not an effective way to run a successful school -- so in the long run, underpaying and exploiting teachers does NOT benefit students. Here's a quote from the nonprofit organization Rethinking Schools:

    “Reforms are bound to fail if they rely on the voluntarism of idealistic, overworked teachers who burn out and leave the school once they decide to have a family or want any semblance of a meaningful personal life.”

    The high teacher turnover resulting from such policies does not benefit students either, as even the most avid KIPP cheerleader has to admit.

    And I'm sorry to get personal, but as the spouse of a displaced newsroom veteran turned teacher, it leaps out to me how ironic it is that Baltimore Sun staff would implicitly take a position renouncing all worker protection laws, given that the job security of all the reporters, editors and editorial writers involved is highly precarious. You might want to give this attitude some deeper thought, both because you all may need those workplace protections that you're so blithely disparaging, and because you too may end up in the classroom.

    -- Caroline Grannan, San Francisco
    (I failed to mention that Sun journalists may be hoping for positions with KIPP once their jobs implode, but that's very likely the case, I'm sad to say.)