University Yes and University Prep Educators Join AFT Michigan
DETROIT — More teachers at Detroit charter schools are coming together to make their voices heard as the future of education in the city is debated. Teachers at University Yes, University Prep (UPA), and University Prep Science & Math (UPSM) have formed unions and filed petitions to be represented by the Michigan Alliance of Charter Teachers & Staff (ACTS), a union local affiliated with the American Federation of Teachers and the AFL-CIO.
The National Labor Relations Board (NLRB) has scheduled an election for University Yes teachers for May 6.
“For me, forming a union is about creating a school culture in which teachers’ voices are being heard and our opinions valued,” said Rebecca Kissel, a 6th grade teacher at University Yes Academy. “It is about focusing on our students and working everyday to make sure their futures and their well-being are placed above all else.”
Teachers from UPA and UPSM officially filed their petition requesting an election April 14 with the NLRB, the day new regulations designed to streamline the union election process went into effect.
“As an educator, I want to feel like a valued member of a team,” said Ellyshia Thompson, an 11th grade math teacher at University Prep. “Integrity and transparency are essential to making schools work.”
“Teachers are on the frontlines of education and have indispensable insights into what works and does not work in our classrooms,” said Patrick Sheehan, a 2nd grade teacher at University Prep Science & Math. “I believe forming a union will make the UPrep schools a more responsive, effective and sustainable learning community.”
Former State Senator Doug Ross, one of Detroit’s highest profile educational entrepreneurs, who runs the New Urban Learning and American Promise charter management organizations, founded all three schools.
The teachers’ organizing occurs with big changes on the horizon for Detroit schools.
Tashaune Harden, Vice President of Michigan ACTS and member of the Coalition for the Future of Detroit Schoolchildren steering committee, welcomed the University Yes and UPrep teachers to the union.
“We are so excited to welcome 250 more teachers to Michigan ACTS,” Harden said. “It became obvious to me while sitting on the steering committee that many people have misconceptions about what really goes on in charter schools and need to hear our voices if we are serious about making education work for all students in Detroit.”