This month our co-op team is excited to feature You Be You Early Learning, a mobile preschool and teacher-led cooperative that is part of the larger cooperative network Cooperative EDU. They recently were honored by the Aurora-South Metro SBDC with the Equity, Diversity and Inclusion award.
Through a partnership with Aurora Housing Authority, You Be You serves 3-5-year-old students in two different marginalized community housing developments. They have 4 teachers who serve 16 children. We spoke to Roya Brown to learn more about her innovative business model.
As an educational entity, you chose to operate as a nonprofit, something the schools and university of Mondragón also chose.
What does it mean to identify also as a teacher-led cooperative?
As a teacher-led cooperative we believe in horizontal leadership and celebrate the diversity of experience and perspectives of our team. You be You Early Learning (YbY) embraces a cooperative governance model that values teachers as professionals and includes the voices of all stakeholders in decision-making.
The stakeholders are parents, students, teachers, and staff; everyone will have their voice heard and valued. We believe there are alternatives that transfer the power of decision-making from individuals (i.e. Principals or Administrators) or a small group of people to teachers and stakeholders. This educational environment will dismantle unnecessary hierarchy and political agendas allowing for student, parent, and organizational needs to be met immediately through local and relevant feedback.
Although, a cooperative is for a profit entity, education is not; therefore, we follow all the principles of cooperative except for the for-profit portion. A nonprofit is a top-down structure, and it is very challenging to fit a cooperative model within a nonprofit structure
What is your vision for a wider network of teacher-led schools? What progress have you made so far?
Many more people are becoming interested in alternative governance models, but only a handful of examples exist in the US educational system. We are here to support and collaborate with everyone interested in joining this movement and working to establish more examples of thriving schools and empowered educator teams.
Under the additional structure of Cooperative EDU, we have formalized a larger official cooperative that will support educators from all sectors to be the best they can be. Cooperative EDU has created an Educational Professional Practice (EPP) to grow a professional collaborative network in support of teachers as the primary contributors to learning success. The EPP encourages the cooperative spirit in educators by sharing in planning, actions, and results to leverage community cultural wealth, promote social-emotional growth, and celebrate students’ uniqueness. We are collectively committed to creating a movement in education that enables the spread of more humanizing, innovative, and learner-centered environments that are rooted in principles of diversity, equity, inclusion, belonging, and social justice.
We currently have a small collective of vanguard educational institutions contributing to a robust and innovative holistic professional development program and are developing our capacity to be a shared services provider for organizational, administrative, and human resources needs of schools and educators committed to creating impactful democratic learning communities. We really envision a regional mutual support network for educators that works across all sectors to enable systemic change.
What do you wish other worker cooperatives understood about your model?
We have been in a unique position as a cooperatively run organization that is not run for profit but rather as a social service. There is not yet a specific legal category for such organizations, so although YbY is not officially a cooperative on paper, we are very much a cooperative at heart. Our model has pushed many boundaries, and we have few peers that are both educators and cooperatives or cooperative and nonprofits.
How do you practice Principle 6, cooperation among cooperatives?
We will try and work with other cooperatives as much as possible (ie. banking, construction, grocery stores) and are constantly working to create a robust conversation around cooperative governance and the realities of working together in this way. We are all collectively trailblazing best practice for horizontal leadership in many different sectors and we are happy to contribute what we are learning in our growth.