Archives for category: Unions

Last night, I posted an appeal to support Peggy Robertson, who is under fire for her bold advocacy of opting out of mandated testing.

 

The story in the Denver Post said that the Colorado Education Association was ambivalent about standing by Peggy. Its story said:

 

Kerrie Dallman, president of the Colorado Education Association, said the state’s largest union has a legal duty to represent its members but also recognizes Colorado law requires standardized tests.

 

She said: “It may be difficult to defend those who don’t comply,. We absolutely will do our best to defend our members who are acting in the best interest of our students. “

 

There can be no doubt that Peggy Robertson is acting “in the best interest of our students” by defying the state.

 

In a comment sent to this blog, Kerrie Dallman, president of the CEA, says the Denver Post story was erroneous. The union will support Peggy.

 

She wrote:

 

There is no ambivalence, CEA will support Peggy if there is any job action take against her. We will do all that is within our power.

Clearly Denver Post writers did some picking and choosing from my comments provided to them.

Check out my guest commentary in the Denver Post on the same issue:

http://www.denverpost.com/guestcommentary/ci_27612734/education-reformers-denial?source=infinite

A reader sent the following comment. Who knew that America’s greatest domestic threat is unions? Reminds me of Secretary of Education Rod Paige’s unfortunate remark in 2004, when he called the NEA a “terrorist” organization. http://www.nytimes.com/2004/02/24/us/education-chief-calls-union-terrorist-then-recants.html

The reader writes:

“It’s really great to finally know how Scott Walker really feels about union members in Wisconsin (for all union members in general). His pearl yesterday at the CPAC convention, “If I Can Handle Union Protests, I Can Handle ISIS” is one for the classic hate-speech soundbites-rewind. And of course the fascists in attendance absolutely ate it up! So nice that he holds those who pay his salary in Wisconsin in such high esteem. Ooops… wait a minute…the Koch Bros. pay his salary…forget what I said…

“Maybe he meant “If I Can Handle Teachers Union Protests, I Can Handle ISIS?” In no way could he have been referring to organized firemen or police…”

The Guardian reports that lobbyist and union-buster Richard Berman has a new target:

“Over the last year, Berman has secretly routed funding for at least 16 studies and launched at least five front groups attacking Environmental Protection Agency rules cutting carbon dioxide from power plants, the Guardian has learned.”

This is the centerpiece of Obama’s agenda for combatting climate change.

Readers of this blog know Berman as leader of the “Center for Union Facts,” which blames teachers unions for low scores. In the recent past, he bought a full-page ad in the Néw York Times attacking Randi Weingarten and a large billboard in NYC’s Times Square repeating the same unfounded claims.

I am still waiting for Berman to explain why states without teachers unions have lower scores on NAEP than those with strong unions, like Massachusetts, Néw Jersey, and Connecticut.

But he is off to bigger targets.

Governor Andrew Cuomo has called for an investigation of teacher ratings on Long Island.

This follows a “Newsday” report that the portion of ratings under local control were “skewed” towards effective ratings.

Cuomo wants evaluations to count student scores as 50%, instead of the present 40% (only 20% is based on state tests, the other 20% on local measures

For some reason, Cuomo is determined to find some teachers he can fire. He is certain–despite evidence to the contrary–that low scores are caused by teachers.

He must have had terrible law school professors. There have been numerous reports that he failed the bar exam four times. If this is true, I hope he sued his law school for hiring ineffective professors.

The Wall Street-backed charter lobby spent more last year than unions and won’t he support of Governor Cuomo and the Legislature to expand and get Néw York City to offer free space or pay the rent for charters.

“Charter school groups and their supporters spent $16 million on lobbying, campaign contributions to state-level candidates and parties and independent expenditure campaigns last year. Charter schools spent nearly $700,000 on lobbying. Education unions and labor-funded advocates spent $11.77 million, according to the analysis.

“Additionally, large school districts and stakeholder groups representing school boards spent $922,193. An advocacy group pushing a generous tax credit that would incentivize donations to schools spent $659,404.

“In defending their spending and high-profile backers, education reform leaders have often portrayed teachers’ unions as deep-pocketed behemoths representing special interests. But the spending reality is that in 2014, the pro-charter and reform groups outspent unions by a considerable margin….

“What’s striking in these numbers is that a few dozen Wall Street financiers and billionaire hedge fund managers are able to far outspend more than 600,000 educators who believe in the promise of public education and voluntarily give a few bucks out of each paycheck to ensure they have a voice,” said Carl Korn, NYSUT’s spokesman.”

Governor Cuomo appeared in Utica, Néw York. About 65 teachers and parents demonstrated outside as he held a press conference.

“Dozens of teachers and parents, carried signs in protest of the governor’s education policies, loudly chanting, “Cuomo’s plan has got to go!” outside MVCC.

“The teachers’ union is going to yell at me. I know. But that’s the only way you make change,” said the governor during his presentation.”

Here is Cuomo’s syllogism:

“All teachers’ unions are bad (they didn’t endorse my re-election)

All teachers in Néw York are union members

Therefore all teachers are bad”

Watch the fascinating video embedded in this blog post from Buffalo, New York. Kevin Gibson, the Secretary of the Buffalo Teachers Federation gets up to speak. Board member Larry Quinn (yes, the same board member who was texting as a high school student was speaking at a recent meeting) waves to a police officer and has Gibson escorted out of the Board room. He was not allowed to speak. Democracy in action. Under what interpretation is a representative of the district’s teachers barred from testifying at a public hearing of the Board of Education?

Mike Klonsky reviews Governor Bruce Rauner’s dream: a state with no unions and more charters.

“Gov. Rauner used yesterday’s State of the State speech to officially declare war on the state’s working people and on public schools. His first order of business was calling for Illinois to join states like Mississippi and Alabama as union-free zones and for the banning of political contributions from teachers and other public employee unions. He then promised to cut workers’ comp, unemployment benefits and to push for more privately run charter schools.”

Mike points out that Gov. Rauner can’t pass any legislation without Democratic support since both houses of the Legislature are controlled by Democrats. Mike’s not sure which way they will go.

Thanks to reader GST for bringing this important story to our attention: a court in Pennsylvania ruled that the School Reform Commission may not cancel the contract of the Philadelphia Federation of Teachers. This is a battle that has gone on for two years, as the unelected School Reform Commission looks for ways to cut the budget. Meanwhile, the Philadelphia schools are suffering from former Governor Tom Corbett’s deep budget cuts, and the Legislature has refused to fulfill its responsibility to the children of Philadelphia.

 

Commonwealth Court judges have handed a win to the Philadelphia Federation of Teachers, ruling that the School Reform Commission cannot throw out the teachers’ union’s contract and impose new terms.

 

The decision was confirmed by Jerry Jordan, PFT president, on Thursday morning.

 

“This is a very big victory,” Jordan said.

 

After nearly two years of negotiations, the district had moved on Oct. 6 to cancel the teachers’ contract and impose health-benefits changes that would save the cash-strapped system $54 million annually, officials said.
In the decision, judges said that neither the state Public School Code nor the Legislature have expressly given the SRC the power to cancel its teachers’ contract.

 

“This Court is cognizant of the dire financial situation which the Districtcurrently faces and the SRC’s extensive efforts to achieve the overall goal of properlyand adequately meeting the educational needs of the students,” Judge Patricia A. McCullough wrote for the court. “There have been numerous difficult decisions that the SRC has been forced to make in an effort to overcome these economic hurdles, including a one-third reduction in staff and theclosing of 31 schools in recent years.”

 

But the law does not give the SRC the power to cancel a collective bargaining agreement.
Read more at http://www.philly.com/philly/blogs/school_files/District-cant-impose-contract-court-rules.html#GVqP31QcrCMOdFmZ.99

Randi Weingarten, president of the American Federation of Teachers, takes issue with Secretary Duncan in reauthorization of NCLB. Duncan said last week that annual testing was “a line in the sand,” that is, non-negotiable. This, of course, ignores the views if educators and parents, who SES how the testing obsession has harmed teaching and learning and narrowed the curriculum.

Randi on Secretary Duncan’s ESEA Reauthorization Remarks

WASHINGTON— Statement from American Federation of Teachers President Randi Weingarten on Education Secretary Arne Duncan’s speech regarding the reauthorization of the Elementary and Secondary Education Act.

“As I’ve said before, any law that doesn’t address our biggest challenges—funding inequity, segregation, the effects of poverty—will fail to make the sweeping transformation our kids and our schools need. Today, it was promising to hear Secretary Duncan make a call for equity, stressing, as we did through the Equity and Excellence Commission, the importance of early childhood education and engaging curriculum. It was encouraging to hear him laud the hard work of educators, who have had to overcome polarization and deep cuts after a harsh recession. And it was heartening to hear him acknowledge the progress our schools have made. However, the robust progress we saw in the first 40 years after the passage of ESEA has slowed over the last 10 years.

“On testing, we are glad the secretary has acknowledged that ‘there are too many tests that take up too much time’ and that ‘we need to take action to support a better balance.’ However, current federal educational policy—No Child Left Behind, Race to the Top and waivers—has enshrined a focus on testing, not learning, especially high-stakes testing and the consequences and sanctions that flow from it. That’s wrong, and that’s why there is a clarion call for change. The waiver strategy and Race to the Top exacerbated the test-fixation that was put in place with NCLB, allowing sanctions and consequences to eclipse all else. From his words today, it seems the secretary may want to justify and enshrine that status quo and that’s worrisome.

“Yes, we need to get parents, educators and communities the information they need. And all of us must be accountable and responsible for helping all children succeed. That’s why we have suggested some new interventions, like community schools and wraparound services; project-based learning; service internships; and individual plans for over-age students, under-credited students and those who are not reading at grade level by third grade.

“If one test per year can cause an entire school to be shuttered or all the teachers fired, something is wrong with the way that test is being used. Even in the District of Columbia, where the secretary spoke from today, the school district has pulled back from the consequential nature of these tests.

“At the end of the day, the most important part of the debate shouldn’t happen in big speeches. It should happen in real conversations with parents, students and teachers, who are closest to the classroom. Communities understand the huge positive effect ESEA had for impoverished and at-risk communities 50 years ago. Those communities are saying loudly and clearly that they want more supports for students and schools, and data used to inform and improve, not sanction. It’s my hope that, in the coming weeks, leaders in Congress and the administration will listen to these voices and shape a law that reflects the needs of all our kids.”

Postscript: An advanced copy of Secretary Duncan’s remarks today included a quote from Albert Shanker, former president of the AFT, on accountability. To this, Weingarten responded, “If the secretary wants to invoke Shanker on accountability, then invoke him on his proposals for grade-span over annual testing. Shanker once called for ‘an immediate end to standardized tests as they are now,’ instead favoring testing over five-year intervals.”

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Randi Weingarten

American Federation of Teachers, AFL-CIO

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