I have been following the dispute between the KIPP schools in Baltimore and the Baltimore Teachers Union over an extension of the contract that allows KIPP teachers to work longer hours but not at an hourly rate that would bankrupt the school. KIPP, fearing the union would not grant the 10-year extension it needs to finance renovations and growth, has been trying to get the state legislature to protect its longer days. Randi Weingarten, president of the American Federation of Teachers of which the BTU is a part, told me she thought KIPP was playing by its own set of rules in pushing for a new law if it doesn’t get its way in collective bargaining.

Now there is good news. KIPP and the BTU have reached agreement on a 10-year contract extension. Some will say this means KIPP’s hardball political tactics worked. I prefer to think that the good people on both sides of the dispute took seriously their responsibility to preserve two high-performing schools helping urban kids, and found common ground.

Here is a statement released Tuesday by KIPP Baltimore executive director Jason Botel, who is doubly blessed because he and his wife just had a baby:

“Dear KIPP Baltimore supporters,

I have some exciting news to share about KIPP Baltimore.

This afternoon, KIPP Baltimore and the BTU reached an agreement in principle for a ten-year contract that will ensure the continued operation of the KIPP Baltimore program.

Under this ten-year agreement, our teachers will be able to work a 9-hour school day, and participate in summer school, in exchange for receiving a 20 percent premium for the extra time. When signed, the agreement will go into effect July 1, 2011.

We have also built in safeguards for the schools and the teachers in case of financial uncertainties in the future. For example, KIPP Baltimore will set aside an amount equal to 2 percent of the teachers’ salaries to protect the 20 percent premium for teachers.

As a result of this agreement, KIPP has asked its sponsors, Senator Catherine Pugh, and Delegate Sandy Rosenberg to withdraw the legislation (Senate Bill 449 / House Bill 792) once the agreement is signed. The hearings scheduled for this week have been cancelled. We greatly appreciate Senator Pugh and Delegate Rosenberg for their leadership and support.

We want to thank BTU President Marietta English, AFT Executive Vice President Loretta Johnson, and AFT senior research director Jewell Gould, for working so collaboratively to come to this agreement.

We are grateful to our teachers, parents, and community supporters for standing behind our schools. Thank you very much!”