School & District Management Opinion

Unionized Charter Schools Headed East

By Alexander Russo — October 29, 2007 3 min read
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On Friday, New York state officials approved Green Dot, a unionized charter school model from LA, to open in the South Bronx of New York City in partnership with the teachers union there. There are a couple more steps towards final approval, as you can see below from the joint press release.SUNY Trustees Approve Charter School for South Bronx
In Partnership of NYC Teachers Union and Los Angeles-Based Green Dot Public Schools

(New York - October 26, 2007) The State University of New York Board of Trustees today approved the application for the Green Dot New York Charter School founded in partnership by Green Dot Public Schools, the most prominent charter school operator in Southern California, and the United Federation of Teachers, the labor union representing New York City’s 110,000 public school educators.

The approval by the SUNY trustees, coming just eight days after a District 7 Community Education Council hearing on the plans, sets the stage for final consideration by the State Board of Regents in coming months. If approved by the Regents, Green Dot will operate a high school in the South Bronx beginning with 100 students in grade nine and eventually expanding to include all high school grades through grade twelve. Class size will be capped at 25 students.

The innovative partnership between Green Dot and the UFT is the first collaboration of its kind in the nation because Green Dot, unlike most charter school operators, encourages its teachers to unionize.

“Many charter school operators have been aggressively anti-union and have tried to employ teachers without providing them with any rights, career track or fairness,” said UFT President Randi Weingarten. “Green Dot, on the other hand, encourages its teachers to unionize, and in doing so it has shown its commitment to fair treatment, fair pay and a teacher voice in the workplace,” she said.

Green Dot founder and chief executive officer Steve Barr said, “The progressive working conditions Green Dot provides in Los Angeles will be replicated here in New York, including giving teachers an explicit say in school policy and curriculum; a full and fair disciplinary process based on an independently mediated just cause standard; a professional work day rather than defined minutes; and flexibility to adjust the contract in critical areas over time.”

“Following the expansion of the charter school cap in New York State, we wanted to find sponsors who understand that teachers are a key ingredient of school reform and who put programs and practices in place to support teachers,” Weingarten said. “Green Dot has core principles that are very much aligned with the UFT’s and it has a great track record. Teachers want to work in schools with small classes, that foster collaboration, respect and school-based decision making and that engage and involve parents.”

Green Dot currently operates 12 public charter high schools in Los Angeles’ highest-need communities that outperform comparable traditional public high schools. The firm insists that its public schools be no larger than 500 students each; implement a college preparatory curriculum for all students; empower principals, teachers, parents and students to own all key decisions related to budgets, curriculum and hiring; add more dollars to classrooms and significantly increase teacher pay; value and support parent participation; and stay open later for community use.

Using this model, Green Dot has produced real results for its students, graduating 98% of its seniors with 78% going on to four-year universities. Barr said results of this type are unmatched within the Los Angeles Unified School District where Green Dot currently operates.

Jeffrey T. Leeds, who will serve as chairman of the schools board of directors, said, “What is particularly exciting about this initiative is that it represents a model for structural reform. At its heart, this model recognizes that for schools to be successful and for students to achieve, partnerships need to be forged and accountability needs to be shared.”

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