We were so lucky to get Karen Lewis to appear at the second annual conference of the Network for Public Education. As most everyone knows, Karen is battling a serious cancer, and it takes a lot of energy to fight it. She has been brave in the face of this dire illness, and you will see from her appearance that she looks wonderful. She is a brilliant and wise woman. I didn’t want to wear her out, so I talked more than I normally would do to give her a chance to say as much or as little as she wanted to. As you will see if you watch the video, I adore this woman.
National Charter School Week is May 3-9. The teachers at Olney Charter High School voted to form a union affiliated with the American Federation of Teachers. That is a nice way to celebrate and to make sure that teachers have good working conditions. According to the AFT press release, this is the 120th charter school to go union. Only 5,880 to go.
Olney Charter Teachers Vote Overwhelmingly to Join Teachers Union
Teachers Cite Need for a Voice to Advocate for Students and Their Profession at
Philadelphia High School that’s Part of National ASPIRA Charter Chain
PHILADELPHIA—Last night, teachers and support staff at Olney Charter High School in Philadelphia voted overwhelmingly to form a union. They voted by a near three-to-one margin to join with the Philadelphia Alliance of Charter School Employees to gain a voice in how classrooms are resourced and school decisions are made. They also sought greater input into teacher evaluations and professional development.
Olney Charter High School (located on West Duncannon Ave.) is one of five charters run by ASPIRA Inc. of Pennsylvania within the Philadelphia School District. It was carved out of the public system following the state takeover of public city schools in 2001, which handed control of public schools to private operators under a corporate education reform model.
ASPIRA Inc. of Pennsylvania is an affiliate of the national ASPIRA Association, a nonprofit organization focused on education for Latino and other underserved youth. ASPIRA Association operates in eight states and Puerto Rico.
As Olney teachers and staff began organizing, management hired a union-avoidance firm, National Consultants Associated, which has a history of questionable ties to organized crime and individuals charged with federal corruption and racketeering. In the days leading up to the union vote, National Consultants Associated held mandatory anti-union meetings, costing parents face time with teachers, students hours of instruction during annual exam prep, and untold dollars that could have been put to use in classrooms.
The victory for teachers and support staff at Olney is the latest in a string of successful organizing efforts. Teachers at charter schools across the country increasingly are uniting to challenge the conditions that lead to incredibly high turnover in their schools and to improve education for their students. Often, in spite of aggressive anti-union tactics from their employers, teachers vote to join together in a union when given the choice.
“Teachers at charter schools want what other teachers want: respect for the job they do and a real voice in their schools,” said Randi Weingarten, president of the 1.6-million member American Federation of Teachers. “Increasingly, they see how joining a union of professionals is the vehicle to do that. That’s what today’s overwhelming vote was about.”
A total of 172 teachers and support staff are now represented by the union and will soon begin negotiating a first collective bargaining agreement. They also are calling for organizing and collective bargaining rights for teachers and staff at all ASPIRA Inc. schools. On May 12, teachers and staff at John B. Stetson Charter School, another ASPIRA school, filed a petition with the National Labor Relations Board requesting a union vote. The Board has yet to rule on the request.
“We look forward to forging a new relationship with ASPIRA of Pennsylvania,” said Ted Kirsch, president of AFT Pennsylvania and an AFT vice president. “By opening its planning and decision-making process to teachers, staff and parents, ASPIRA has an opportunity to make its schools a model for innovation and collaboration in K-12 charter schools.”
The AFT represents teachers and support staff in more than 120 public charter schools in 12 states.
On the second day of the second annual conference of the Network for Public Education’s Conference, I moderated a discussion between the leaders of the NEA and the AFT. Lily Eskelsen represented the NEA, and Randi Weingarten of the AFT.
This is the first video to emerge from the
program. Two very strong women! The video was made by Vibcent Precht.
Randi Weingarten is on her way to speak at the Network for Public Education’s second annual conference in Chicago this weekend.
But she detoured to London to attend the Pearson shareholder meeting. She took the opportunity to tell Pearson to stop spying on children through their social media accounts. And she requested that Pearson stop lobbying and making campaign contributions to politicians for the sake of their testing business.
I am not sure that the folks at Prstson ever heard such straight talk.
This comment was posted on the blog by Peggy Robertson, founder of United Opt Out, in response to the New York Times’ article implying that the Opt Out movement is led by the teachers’ unions.
Peggy Robertson writes:
Opt out is led by parents, teachers, students and citizens. When United Opt Out National began over four years ago we were simply a facebook page with a file for each state. Within hours our FB group page was flooded with opt out requests and now we have opt out leaders all over the country and grassroots opt out groups popping up everywhere. I think Florida has 25 at this point – probably more since I last checked – and mind you they did this all on their own. UOO has simply been a catalyst and a support. What is even more fascinating, and sad, is that UOO has reached out to the unions many times, and never received a response. You will notice that United Opt Out National is rarely mentioned in recent articles. I think that’s because we represent the people. The power of the people. UOO has no funding (heck I paid for our website for the first two years pretty much on my own). When our website was destroyed last year guess who helped UOO fund/rebuild it? The people. No corporations. No unions. The people – the citizens of this country – for free – and with truth and heart – have helped us to create fifty state opt out guides. The citizens have helped us to continually update and alert folks to opt out situations across the country. The people have helped us create essential guides, opt out letters, and social media campaigns. The fact that this is happening by the people, for the people, with no funding, is true democracy and is a dangerous thing. Folks would much prefer that we are sheeple and that we are incapable of strategically planning a nationwide opt out movement. Guess what? We did it. All of us. That makes us dangerous. That makes the media/corporations want to co-opt and shut down our work. A mass movement of civil disobedience that is running through our country like a tidal wave in an attempt to save our democracy is indeed a powerful force that no corporation can shut down. Let’s keep pushing forward. Solidarity to all of you.
In a story published in the New York Times, Kate Taylor and Motoko Rich describe test refusal as an effort by teachers’ unions to reassert their relevance. This is ridiculous.
Nearly 200,000 students opted out. They were not taking orders from the union. They were acting in the way that either they wanted to act or their parents wanted them to act.
I emailed with one of the reporters before the story was written and gave her the names of some of the parent leaders of the Opt Out movement, some of whom have spent three years organizing parents in their communities. Jeanette Deutermann, for example, is a parent who created Long Island Opt Out. I gave her the names of the parent leaders in Westchester County, Ulster County, and Dutchess County. I don’t know if any of them got a phone call, but the story is clearly about the union leading the Opt Out movement, with nary a mention of parents. The parents who created and led the movement were overlooked. They were invisible. In fact, this story is the only time that the Times deigned to mention the mass and historic test refusal that cut across the state. So according to the newspaper of record, this was a labor dispute, nothing more. Not surprising that this is the view of Merryl Tisch, Chancellor of the Board of Regents, and of everyone else who opposes opting out.
By taking this narrative as a given, the Times manages to ignore parents’ genuine concerns about the overuse and misuse of testing. Not a word about the seven to ten hours of testing for children in grades 3-8. Not a word about the lack of transparency on the part of Pearson. Not a word about data mining or monitoring of children’s social media accounts. To the Times, it is all politics, and the views of parents don’t matter.
The great mystery, unexplored in this article, is why the parents of 150,000 to 200,000 children refused the tests. Are the unions so powerful as to direct the actions of all those parents? Ridiculous.
How could they get it so wrong?
G.F. Brandenburg asks what the differences were between the cheating scandal in Atlanta under Beverly Hall and the cheating scandal in D.C. under Michelle Rhee.
He can’t find any other than the powerful protection extended to Rhee by the Obama administration. She was the poster child for Race to the Top. They couldn’t let her fail. Arne Duncan even campaigned with her on behalf of Mayor Fenty, a most unusual act for a member of the Cabinet. Fenty lost, and Rhee left D.C. to form StudentsFirst and raise campaign funds for mostly rightwing Republicans who were pro-voucher, pro-charter, and anti-union.
“But why is it that only in Atlanta were teachers and administrators indicted and convicted, but nowhere else?
“What difference was there in their actual behavior?
“To me, the answer is simple: in DC, officials at every level, from the Mayor’s office up to the President of the US and the Secretary of Education, were determined to make sure that Michelle Rhee’s lying and suborning of perjury and lies would never be revealed, no matter what.”
The New York Daily News reports that Karen Magee of the New York State United Teachers fought Cuomo’s toxic budget to the end, but that Michael Mulgrew of the United Federation of Teachers did not.
According to the Daily News:
City teachers union president Michael Mulgrew angered NYSUT after he put out a statement Sunday night — before the education bill was even in print — claiming victory in beating back some of Cuomo’s more strident proposals, sources said.
While NYSUT President Karen Magee urged lawmakers to reject the measures, city lawmakers said they were told by Mulgrew’s team that voting for the package would not be held against them.
Magee has come out in favor of parents opting out of the state tests to protest their misuse. Will Mulgrew?
Julian Vasquez Heilig honors Cesar Chavez’s birthday here.
He uses the occasion to contrast the views towards unions of Chavez, as contrasted to those of Campbell Brown and Michelle Rhee.
Brown says her fight to diminish teachers’ unions is equivalent to the fight for marriage equality. Rhee says that collaboration with teachers and their unions is unnecessary.
But what did Cesar Chavez say?
Laura Clawson at the Daily Kos reports that some teachers at a charter chain in Los Angeles want to organize a union. They have asked management to stay neutral. They thought management agreed, but it created an anti-union video.
Laura knows that the charter business model relies on low wages and teacher turnover; much of the money behind the charter industry (think Walton) is staunchly anti-union.
By the way, the incoming chair of the charter board previously led the Broad Foundation.