Press Release

Educators at Cleveland Charter School Win Union

Voluntary recognition agreement is a national model for labor-management relations

For Release: 

Wednesday, February 1, 2017


Andrew Crook
o: 202-393-8637 | c: 607-280-6603

CLEVELAND—Educators at a fourth Cleveland charter school have won union representation after administrators agreed to voluntarily recognize the educators’ effort to join the Cleveland Alliance of Charter Teachers and Staff (ACTS).

An overwhelming 94 percent of staff at the lower campus of Northeast Ohio College Preparatory School (NEO K-8) signed a petition two weeks ago stating their support for joining Cleveland ACTS and requested the school voluntarily recognize their union. Cleveland ACTS, affiliated with the Ohio Federation of Teachers and the American Federation of Teachers, then secured a formal card check agreement with I Can Schools, the company that manages a network of Ohio charter schools, including NEO K-8. Today, the petition was verified by an independent third party.

NEO K-8 is the fourth I Can charter school to unionize in the past year; last summer, three other high-performing charters educating more than 900 students ratified a historic first contract, guaranteeing job security, more planning time and a joint labor-management committee. The contract also contained a clause allowing other I Can educators across Cleveland to organize a union without interference or intimidation.

Charter educators at 229 schools across 15 states are now represented by the AFT, as the movement to bolster resources for students at charters gains momentum.

Megan Walker, intervention specialist at NEO K-8, said: “We are so happy to join the Ohio Federation of Teachers alongside our fellow I Can colleagues at University of Cleveland Preparatory School, Northeast Ohio College Preparatory High School and Cleveland College Preparatory School. Unionizing has helped us grow closer and truly understand the meaning of power in numbers. We are committed to helping our scholars succeed academically as well as giving them positive role models who will fight for them. We are united and ready to make a difference in the Cleveland charter school community. I Can, yes we can!”

Sean Belveal, president of Cleveland ACTS, said: “We at Cleveland ACTS are excited about the voluntary recognition of Northeast Ohio College Prep lower campus and welcome teachers and staff to our union family. This shows that, so far, our union has developed a decent and professional relationship with administration and management at our member schools. By forming a union, NEO K-8 teachers and staff are demonstrating their commitment to advocating for better educational opportunities for our scholars.” 

Cleveland Teachers Union President David Quolke, who is also an AFT vice president, said: “There’s a reason Cleveland charter educators are standing together—they know that the best way to improve their students’ education is to bargain for more resources and support in the classroom. I urge other Cleveland charters to follow I Can’s lead in respecting the decision of professional educators to join a union. This saves taxpayer dollars and keeps resources focused on the classroom and students.” 

Ohio Federation of Teachers President Melissa Cropper, also an AFT vice president, said: “We are proud to welcome the NEO K-8 teachers and staff to the OFT. Frontline educators are demanding a key role in the decisions that affect their students and their classrooms. I applaud I Can’s decision to voluntarily recognize teachers and honor their commitment to neutrality at NEO K-8. This allows teachers and staff to focus on the needs of the students and demonstrates respect for the voice of professional educators.”

AFT President Randi Weingarten said: “Across the country, we’re seeing a wave of charter school educators joining together to improve resources for learning, create stable work environments and have a real say in how classrooms are run. The voluntary recognition agreement with I Can should be held up as a national model for how charter school administrators should respond when a majority of employees exercise their right to join a union. The upshot—better student outcomes, improved morale and secure employment—benefits educators and administrators alike and helps kids realize their dreams.”

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The AFT represents 1.7 million pre-K through 12th-grade teachers; paraprofessionals and other school-related personnel; higher education faculty and professional staff; federal, state and local government employees; nurses and healthcare workers; and early childhood educators.