Madison now has a new high school! After two years of talking and planning, Milestone Democratic School opened its doors last month. It is one of only a small handful of schools in the country to be operated democratically by its teachers, staff, parents, and even the students themselves.
Within the school, the teachers have their own worker cooperative, called “Get It Right,” which MCDC has given both technical support and a grant. Here’s a lengthy description…
Get It Right Educators Co-op is a worker-owned cooperative that provides educational staff to democratically-committed schools and learning spaces. As a staffing entity, Get It Right is prepared to provide trained, certified, and licensed educators at all levels of learning institutions, from administrators and teaching staff, to educational support and office staff. As a core part of democratic empowerment for educators, Get It Right offers internal service to members as well: support resources for further certification, training, and licensure. Get It Right’s commitment to a “Grow Your Own” practice of educator recruitment, retainment, and development is essential to living out our democratic values. Though Get It Right is beginning as a co-op that serves just one school, over the next five years we aspire to serve multiple schools around Madison and the state of Wisconsin.
Get It Right is committed, by philosophy and practice, to “addressing income inequality and racial disparities by creating living-wage and sustainable jobs.” Historically, jobs in public education have been seen as stable careers with reasonable wages and benefits, thanks exclusively to the generational efforts of union organizers, agitators, and activists. Even so, public education work has also been the site of racist exclusionary policies and practices, and inequitable hierarchies of income and labor protections. Get It Right envisions worker-ownership of the educational labor in schools as the natural outgrowth of this contested site. By flattening hierarchies with cooperative structures, partnering with national organizations that promote teacher-ownership (#TeacherPowered), and committing to justice and equity from the outset, Get It Right will make a major contribution. Teachers of color are notoriously under-represented in public schools, and especially diverse districts where ample data indicates they will have the greatest benefit. Teacher retention is notoriously weak, as a majority of newly-licensed educators either never enter the profession or leave within five years. The data for teachers of color is even more dramatic. One often-cited reason for this failure to retain these essential educators: they do not feel empowered and trusted as professionals to make decisions about their own work. A cooperative that shares administrative duties immediately removes the institutional hierarchy that otherwise leads to feelings of voicelessness and powerlessness. As a majority-minority-owned cooperative founded by one woman, a Latinx man, a Blackman, and a white man, Get It Right is seeking to build a multi-racial collective for action. Built on the #TeacherPowered model where administrative duties are shared amongst the entire co-op, Get It Right likewise shares the resources that would otherwise go to the administrators at the top of the pay scale. Educators within Get It Right’s membership are paid significantly better than even under a good union contract. Finally, we know that the structures and organizations which frame adult-to-adult relationships in schools have a direct impact on children. Students at GIR schools get to witness the power of cooperative organization for equity and sustainable jobs. GIR models and actively teaches cooperative values and economics to students.