An Open Letter to Summit’s Funders

Today, we sent the following letter to Summit’s funders in order to notify them of what Summit teachers are advocating for. Summit receives millions of dollars a year from some of the biggest names in philanthropy — including the Gates Foundation, the Chan-Zuckerberg Initiative, and the Charles Koch Foundation — but almost none of that money directly benefits our students. These funders should know what’s really happening in our schools, from the people who are in the classroom every day.

Dear Funder,

As the union that represents teachers at Summit schools in California, we believe in the mission and model of Summit Public Schools: to ensure the success and preparation of our students in whichever pathway they choose. It was why we chose to create a union, Unite Summit, in January of 2019. Unfortunately, it has been our experience that, too often, Summit does not live up to its mission and model due to high teacher turnover, lack of supports for students, and a disregard for teacher voice.

For the past two years, we have been negotiating our first union contract with Summit in an effort to better support our students, our teachers, and our schools. Unfortunately, Summit has yet to agree to key basic working conditions that ensure teacher voice is protected. After protracted negotiations, we have reached fact finding, the final step in the bargaining process before a potential strike. 

Striking is a measure of last resort.  But after over two years of contract negotiations and an ongoing teacher retention crisis, we know it is time for Summit to settle a fair contract now. 95% of teachers voted “yes” to authorize a strike if necessary to win a fair contract now, with 89% of teachers participating in the vote. We know this was not a vote that teachers took lightly.

As our teacher retention report shows, there is a serious and urgent problem with teacher retention at our schools. Only 30% of the teachers employed when we filed to unionize in January of 2019 are still employed at Summit. This year alone, nearly 10% of our teaching staff have quit midyear due to constant organizational change, overwhelming responsibilities, and lack of consistent support to do this job successfully. 

This crisis must be addressed. And Summit management has the opportunity to do so by settling a fair contract now. We have been clear about what settling our contract will take; what we are asking for is fair and reasonable. 

We would love to have an opportunity to speak with you more about these very serious issues. We believe current and former funders should be fully informed about what is happening at our schools — and how, working together, we can make them better.  Please let us know when you are available. We can meet in person or via zoom. 


Janine Peñafort, Eric Jones, and Justin Kim

Unite Summit Leadership