Archives for category: Unions

Helen Gym, Philadelphia’s leading activist for public education, complains that the School Reform Commission wrongly canceled the teachers’ contract while failing to fight for funding from the state.

She writes:

“Recently, I visited my brother-in-law at Radnor High School and was privileged to see him teach his ninth-grade English/civics class. When I walked in, his students were engaged in a debate about Plato and the notion of dissent versus rule of law in Athenian society. The students had finished reading John Stuart Mill and were getting their first papers back for revision. It was October 2nd.

“A few days later, I attended a parent meeting at Central High School, one of the city’s premier institutions. Dozens of ninth graders had spent their school year with substitute teachers who changed every week. The substitutes were put in place to relieve teachers leading classrooms with 40, 50, or even more students. For these ninth graders, school didn’t really start until October 8th, when permanent teachers were finally assigned to them.

“This is what a teacher’s contract was supposed to prevent.

“And it’s why the School Reform Commission’s move last week to tear up that contract is about far more than the dishonest suggestion of “shared sacrifice” and health care contributions.

“In an op-ed for the Philadelphia Inquirer last Sunday, SRC Chair Bill Green asked you to believe that the SRC made a necessary move to reverse devastating budget cuts from the last two years. It’s disappointing that some of his central facts are plain wrong (just read this Public School Notebook article on the inaccuracies by the SRC and District). It’s ironic that Green claims any measure of high ground, when the SRC ambushed its own staff and the public in a backdoor move meant to limit public dialogue.

“As a member of City Council, Bill Green was both vocal and active in helping us document the devastating impact of the state purposefully underfunding Philadelphia’s public schools. The District could have sued for full, fair funding. They chose not to. Instead they are in court suing to offset Harrisburg’s failures by taking money from the very people we depend on to care for our children and keep their schools open and safe – and grossly overstating the difference the money will make.”

Read the article for the links and more about the looting of the Philadelphia public schools.

Read more at http://www.phillymag.com/news/2014/10/21/helen-gym-response-bill-green-src-inquirer-op-ed/#A62jCHzpgzq18oCe.99

Steven Singer, teacher, describes the accumulating series of insults and indignities heaped upon teachers by the federal and state governments and by politicians who wouldn’t last five minutes in a classroom.

He writes, in indignation and fury:

“You can’t do that.

“All the fear, frustration and mounting rage of public school teachers amounts to that short declarative sentence.

“You can’t take away our autonomy in the classroom.

“You can’t take away our input into academic decisions.

“You can’t take away our job protections and collective bargaining rights.

“You can’t do that.

“But the state and federal government has repeatedly replied in the affirmative – oh, yes, we can.

“For at least two decades, federal and state education policy has been a sometimes slow and incremental chipping away at teachers’ power and authority – or at others a blitzkrieg wiping away decades of long-standing best practices.

“The latest and greatest of these has been in Philadelphia, Pennsylvania.

“Earlier this week, the state-led School Reform Commission simply refused to continue bargaining with teachers over a new labor agreement. Instead, members unilaterally cancelled Philadelphia teachers contract and dictated their own terms – take them or get out.

“The move was made at a meeting called with minimal notice to hide the action from the public. Moreover, the legality of the decision is deeply in doubt. The courts will have to decide if the SRC even has the legal authority to bypass negotiations and impose terms.

“One doesn’t have to live or work in the City of Brotherly Love to feel the sting of the state SRC. For many educators across the nation this may be the last straw.

“For a long time now, we have watched in stunned silence as all the problems of society are heaped at our feet…..”

“Teachers dedicate their lives to fight the ignorance and poverty of the next generation and are found guilty of the very problem they came to help alleviate. It’s like blaming a doctor when a patient gets sick, blaming a lawyer because his client committed a crime or blaming a firefighter because an arsonist threw a match.

“The Philadelphia decision makes clear the paranoid conspiracy theories about school privatization are neither paranoid nor mere theories. We see them enacted in our local newspapers and media in the full light of day.

Step 1: Poor schools lose state and federal funding.

Step 2: Schools can’t cope with the loss, further reduce services, quality of education suffers.

Step 3: Blame teachers, privatize, cancel union contracts, reduce quality of education further.

“Ask yourself this: why does this only happen at poor schools?…”

“Poverty has been the driving factor behind the Philadelphia Schools tragedy for decades. Approximately 70% of district students are at or near the poverty line.

“To meet this need, the state has bravely chipped away at its share of public school funding. In 1975, Pennsylvania provided 55% of school funding statewide; in 2014 it provides only 36%. Nationally, Pennsylvania is 45th out of 50 for lowest state funding for public education.”

“Since the schools were in distress (read: poor), the state decided it could do the following: put the district under the control of a School Reform Commission; hire a CEO; enable the CEO to hire non-certified staff, reassign or fire staff; allow the commission to hire for-profit firms to manage some schools; convert others to charters; and move around district resources.

“And now after 13 years of state management with little to no improvement, the problem is once again the teachers. It’s not mismanagement by the SRC. It’s not the chronic underfunding. It’s not crippling, generational poverty. It’s these greedy people who volunteer to work with the children most in need.

“We could try increasing services for those students. We could give management of the district back to the people who care most: the citizens of Philadelphia. We could increase the districts portion of the budget so students could get more arts and humanities, tutoring, wraparound services, etc. That might actually improve the educational quality those children receive.

“Nah! It’s the teachers! Let’s rip up their labor contract!

“Take my word for it. Educators have had it.”

Don’t be a scapegoat any longer, Singer says.

Here is his clarion call, his war cry: Refuse to give the tests they use to label you and call you a failure.

“It follows then that educators should refuse to administer standardized tests across the country – especially at poor schools.

“What do we have to lose? The state already is using these deeply flawed scores to label our districts a failure, take us over and then do with us as they please.

“Refuse to give them the tools to make that determination. Refuse to give the tests. How else will they decide if a school is succeeding or failing? They can’t come out and blame the lack of funding. That would place the blame where it belongs – on the same politicians, bureaucrats and billionaire philanthropists who pushed for these factory school reforms in the first place.

“This would have happened much sooner if not for fear teachers would lose their jobs. The Philadelphia decision shows that this may be inevitable. The state is committed to giving us the option of working under sweatshop conditions or finding employment elsewhere. By unanimously dissolving the union contract for teachers working in the 8th largest district in the country, they have removed the last obstacle to massive resistance.

“Teachers want to opt out. They’ve been chomping at the bit to do this for years. We know how destructive this is to our students. But we’ve tried to compromise – I’ll do a little test prep here and try to balance it with a real lesson the next day. Testing is an unfortunate part of life and I’m helping my students by teaching them to jump through these useless hoops.

“But now we no longer need to engage in these half measures. In fact, continuing as before would go against our interests.

“Any Title 1 district – any school that serves a largely impoverished population – would be best served now if teachers refused to give the powers that be the tools needed to demoralize kids, degrade teachers and dissolve their work contracts. And as the poorer districts go, more affluent schools should follow suit to reclaim the ability to do what’s best for their students. The standardized testing machine would ground to a halt offering an opportunity for real school reform. The only option left would be real, substantial work to relieve the poverty holding back our nation’s school children.

“In short, teachers need to engage in a mass refusal to administer standardized tests.

“But you can’t do that,” say the politicians, bureaucrats and billionaire philanthropists.

“Oh, yes, we can.”

Thanks to readers for sending this YouTube video of the Philadelphia Student Union at “School Reform Commission” headquarters.

 

The students chanted “Philly is a union town! The SRC has got to go! Save our schools!”

 

Watch it and feel good about the future.

 

The students disrupted the showing of the anti-union, pro-charter, anti-public school film “Won’t Back Down,” which was produced by Walden Media. Walden Media also produced “Waiting for Superman.” It is owned by Philip Anschutz, a rightwing billionaire who has many corporate interests, including the nation’s largest film chain and a fracking business. Odd that the School Reform Commission was showing that particular film, which was a total bomb when it was released commercially. The union is evil in this film, and a teacher and parent combine to use the parent trigger to convert their public school into a charter school.

Angie Sullivan is a teacher who regularly emails a long list of legislators, education advocates, journalists….and me. Here is her outraged commentary about Democrats who collect money from teachers and betray them and refuse to fund public schools. And her outrage at her own state union for supporting Democrats who don’t support public education. In many other states, the Democrats act no different from Republicans in their fealty to privatization and high-stakes testing. See New York and Connecticut as examples.

Angie writes:

http://nvsos.gov/SoSCandidateServices/AnonymousAccess/ViewCCEReport.aspx?syn=%252b5BK3Q5X1G11p0Ui3uhoKg%253d%253d

I think it is time for CCEA [Carson County Education Association] to pull away from NSEA, the state. This political endorsement process is very tragic. I have never seen such a mess and so many bad decisions on too many levels to even speak about here.

To me it was a simple year – no TEI [The Education Initiative] – no endorsement, no money. Doesn’t have to mean we are not friends – just have to focus on TEI.

That would mean NO to almost everyone except about 5 people.

So Oct 10th my union gave $10,000 to Justin Jones to keep the Nevada Senate Democratic? Surely we could NOT have given it to Justin based on his education voting record or actually doing anything productive for public schools.

If I thought the Nevada Senate Democrats would act like this:

http://nhlabornews.com/2014/07/stop-the-attack-on-public-education-aft-welcomes-democrats-for-public-education/

https://m.youtube.com/watch?v=JabOtrfzjf8

I would be the yellow dog democrat Ive been my whole life. Straight ticket. But the abuse I have received over the last few years has opened my eyes to just how sick my party and union can be.

Justin is no good as an education candidate. The End.

I have begged and pleaded with my union and others to stop rewarding democrats and any others “because the other side is so much worse”.

What could be worse than ALEC legislation?

What could be worse than championing privatizing by charter?

What could be worse than loss in pay, benefits, and retirement?

What could be worse than threatening teachers like we are dogs?

What could be worse than no funds, no revenue, no plans to fund?

What could be worse than not supporting the TEI? In fact campaigning — by strategy — to do the opposite?

I’m supposed to be frightened by vouchers? Parent Trigger co-sponsored by Jones is worse than vouchers. Parents voting to kill their neighborhood schools?

Why do we insist on rewarding this bad behavior? In case Justin Jones wins, he does what to us next? Carry out his threats to “do something about evaluations”?

I have to put up with that.

What kind of favor does Jones deserve taking $10,000 from my union and $10,000 from Students First too? Both?

Who gave him this NSEA money? A committee who votes for endorsements as a clump? Murillo? Does Ruben get special favor from Justin Jones for himself?

Have we asked the members?

So Jones gets the money and to publish we love him . . . but the voter flyer excludes his name? So he got halfway endorsed? We gave him money but do not encourage anyone to vote for him. ok.

And what about all the candidates who we denied – because they wouldn’t be positive about TEI? What do they think when we give money now . . . to those with some mysterious perceived power?

CCEA needs to have more power and control over government relations in the south. The tail needs to stop wagging the dog and the dog needs to stop hiding in Carson City. And if a candidate from any party brings ALEC education reform or votes against us – we need to kick them out.

These education democrats like Justin Jones are not real – they need to be ousted from our endorsements. DFER (Democrats for Education Reform) are simply conservative democrats pushing a privatizing agenda on public schools. They are worse than a Republican — because they have infiltrated, bribed, and been bought privatizing reformers.

Proud to have a child in a charter – and trying to pass this as a democratic value?

http://www.dfer.org/blog/

As a teacher, I can continue to be disappointed.

Someone needs to get some backbone and stand up to these privatizing democratic bullies – because kids deserve advocacy – and a lot better endorsement system than this willy nilly NSEA parade – what a nightmare.

Angie.

How stupid and outrageous is this? How low can they go?

A rightwing think tank in Harrisburg has paid a dozen people to hand out flyers against the union in Philadelphia.

Can’t they find anyone who actually agrees with them instead of paying people?

The School Reform Commission of Philadelphia, controlled by the state, recently canceled the teachers’ contract to extract savings from the teachers’ benefits to plug a huge budget gap created by Governor Corbett’s $1 billion in cuts to education in the state. Corbett apparently hopes to privatize as many public schools as possible during his tenure. He likes to blame teachers for budget crises instead of his budget cuts. He is up for re-election in a few weeks. He should lose. He is a disaster for public education.

For Immediate Release
October 15, 2014

Contact:
Kate Childs Graham
202-615-2424
kchilds@aft.org
http://www.aft.org

American Federation of Teachers Launches Political Ad Buy on Philly School Crisis

WASHINGTON— The American Federation of Teachers Committee on Political Education has launched an ad buy that tells the true story of the teachers’ contract in Philadelphia. The six-figure radio ad buy—which features Philadelphia educators Steve Flemming and Sharnae Wilson—started airing in the Philadelphia media market Oct. 14.

“You have to wonder why Gov. Corbett’s School Reform Commission is more determined to misrepresent contract negotiations as a pretext for imposing concessions than to work with the teachers and support staff in Philadelphia who have been the glue holding schools together,” said AFT President Randi Weingarten. “Gov. Corbett has been blaming and attacking them for months on end. Now, weeks before he is up for re-election, his School Reform Commission pulls this stunt. It’s unacceptable and voters won’t stand for it.”

“Something doesn’t add up,” said Philadelphia Federation of Teachers President Jerry Jordan. “We put $24 million in healthcare savings and $10 million in wage freezes on the table 14 months ago. The School Reform Commission refused the money and then stopped negotiating altogether in July. If they were serious about helping kids, they would work with us, not try to break us.”

Ad script

Steve: My name is Steve and I teach third grade. I absolutely love teaching.

Sharnae: My name is Sharnae. My passion has always been teaching.

Steve: The budget cuts are having a huge impact.

Sharnae: There are too many students in the classroom. We have to buy our own supplies.

Narrator: From old textbooks to outdated equipment to overcrowded classrooms, our Philadelphia teachers are up against many challenges … and yet they keep going.

Steve: We teach our hearts out every single day.

Sharnae: Hoping things will get better.

Narrator: Gov. Corbett cut $1 billion from Pennsylvania’s schools. Fourteen months ago, Philadelphia teachers put millions in healthcare savings on the table. But Gov. Corbett’s School Reform Commission refused to accept their offer. And now? The School Reform Commission is trying to pull the plug on our teachers’ contract. Choosing to spend money in the courtroom instead of the classroom.

Sharnae: The students are suffering.

Steve: Something must change.

Narrator: Send a message to Gov. Corbett and the SRC. Tell them to stand with our kids, our schools and our teachers. Vote Nov. 4.

Paid for by American Federation of Teachers Committee on Political Education. The American Federation of Teachers is responsible for the content of this ad.

Click here to listen to the ad.

###

Jonathan Pelto reports that Governor Dannel Malloy of Connecticut announced he will stay the course on his corporate education reform policies, despite the huge scandal associated with the Jumoke charter school. Jumoke was one of the governor’s star charters until it was revealed that its CEO had a criminal past and a fake doctorate. Malloy supports tying teacher evaluation to test scores, despite the fact that this method has worked nowhere. And as Pelto reminds us, he proposed eliminating (not reforming but eliminating) teachers’ due process rights. He also advocated a no-union policy in the state’s poorest schools. He seems to have bought hook, line, and sinker the reformer claim that unions and tenure depress student test scores, even though the highest performing schools in the state have unions and tenure.

Why would a Democratic governor advocate for the failed policies of corporate reform? One guess. Connecticut has a large concentration of hedge fund managers, whose ideology and campaign contributions are aligned. In their highly speculative business, no one has unions or tenure. When stocks or investments go bad, they dump them. They think that schools should live by their principles. They should read Jamie Vollmer’s famous blueberry story. You can’t throw away the bad blueberries. Unless you run a charter school. Then you can exclude bad blueberries and kick out other bad blueberries.

Philadelphia has been under state control since 1998, imposed in the midst of a financial crisis. A School Reform Commission was created to govern the schools. The city schools have been in financial crisis ever since, with the state providing little financial support. Under the current administration of Governor Tom Corbett, the Philadelphia public schools have been stripped to the bone, lacking essential resources. Corbett has slashed the state budget for education while lowering corporate taxes and refusing to tax the corporations that are hydrofracking across the state.

At one point, the state-appointed superintendent was Paul Vallas, who launched an experiment in privatization. The district’s public schools outperformed the privately run schools. Currently, the business and civic leaders of the city have advocated for more charters, even though several of the city’s charters have been investigated for financial misdeeds. They seem sure that privatization is the cure, despite the absence of evidence for their belief.

The School Reform Commission, trying to close the deficit created by Governor Corbett, canceled the teachers’ contract unilaterally. This follows on thousands of layoffs. The SRC will increase teachers’ payments to their health care and phase out benefits for retirees. Salaries will not be cut. State and city officials defended the action, saying it would save money and help balance the budget. It is not clear whether the SRC has the legal authority to cancel the contract unilaterally.

Mike Klonsky said some harsh things about SEIU Local 73 President Christine Boardman. She didn’t like what he wrote. She sent him a letter demanding a retraction or expect to get sued. So he reviewed what he wrote and retracted some things. If you are a blogger, and your blog is not supported by Walton or Broad or Gates, you don’t really want to fight a lawsuit, especially when the other side has an in-house lawyer.

But Mike did not retract everything he wrote. Want to know where he drew the line? Read his blog.

Jonathan Pelto is stunned. Despite Governor Malloy’s anti-teacher policies, the Connecticut Education Association endorsed him.

“NEWS FLASH: The only Democratic governor in the nation to propose doing away with teacher tenure for all teachers and repealing collective bargaining for teachers working in the poorest district has received the endorsement of the Connecticut Education Association’s Board of Directors.

“According to multiple sources, the CEA’s Board of Directors reversed the decision the CEA’s Political Action Committee, who had recommended that the state’s largest public employee union make no endorsement in the gubernatorial campaign.

“Considering Malloy’s recent and repeated pledge to “stay the course” on his education reform initiatives, one can only assume that Malloy’s political operatives must have made some “significant promises” since, on the key issues listed below, Malloy has refused to PUBLICLY change his anti-teacher, anti-public education stance.

“Why the American Federation of Teachers and Connecticut Education Association would endorse Malloy without demanding that he publicly retreat from his corporate education reform industry stance is breathtaking.

“For more than two and a half years, Wait, What? has been a platform for laying out and discussing Governor Dannel “Dan” Malloy and his administration’s unprecedented attack on public education in Connecticut. Throughout that time Malloy has not made any real or meaningful changes to his policies. Instead, he has continued to undermining teachers and the teaching profession. His disdain for the most important profession in the world and the value of comprehensive public education has been absolute.

“The CEA’s endorsement means that the leadership of all of the major public employee unions in Connecticut have thrown their support behind the candidate who has pledged that he will not propose or accept any tax increase during this second term, despite the fact that Connecticut is facing a $4.8 billion budget shortfall over the next three years.While Connecticut’s millionaires continue to celebrate the fact that they have been spared the need to “sacrifice” by being required to pay their fair share in taxes, Malloy’s policies will ensure massive increases in local property taxes for the middle class and widespread cuts in local education budgets.”

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