Archives for category: Unions

This is the NEA commentary on Congressional rewriting (reauthorization) of the Elementary and Secondary Education Act (aka NCLB).

NCLB is the name that President George W. Bush gave to ESEA. The federal law is supposed to be revised every seven years. NCLB was passed by Congress in the fall of 2001 and signed into law by President Bush on January 8, 2002. It is years overdue for reauthorization.

January 12, 2015


WASHINGTON—The National Education Association, the nation’s largest union with 3 million educators, has been a staunch critic of the failed No Child Left Behind system since its implementation more than 12 years ago. The following statement can be attributed to NEA President Lily Eskelsen García:

“We are pleased the Administration is calling for the reauthorization of the Elementary and Secondary Education Act. We all know that 12 years under a broken No Child Left Behind system has failed students and schools by neglecting to close the achievement and opportunity gaps as promised. Our students, especially those most in need, should not have to wait any longer.

“We are looking forward to working with Republicans, Democrats, the civil rights community, educators and other partners in ensuring that all students have equal educational opportunity—the original focus of ESEA. Our focus is on providing equal opportunity to every child so that they may be prepared for college and career. A child’s chances for success should not depend on living in the right zip code.

“In order to do this, we must reduce the emphasis on standardized tests that have corrupted the quality of the education received by children, especially those in high poverty areas. Parents and educators know that the one-size-fits-all annual federal testing structure has not worked. We support grade span testing to free up time and resources for students, diminish ‘teaching to the test,’ expand extracurricular activities, and allow educators to focus on what is most important: instilling a love of learning in their students. We must give states and districts the flexibility to use assessments they feel are best for identifying achievement gaps, rather than forcing them to live with a one-size-fits-all approach that often ignores high needs children.

“And we should move toward a smarter accountability system that looks at more than just a test score, but focuses on the many factors that are indicative of school and student success, and highlight gaps in equity that must be addressed.”



For their steadfastness, courage, and consistency in fighting a governor who hates not only unions but public education, I place the teachers of Wisconsin on this blog’s honor roll. Scott Walker is a model ALEC governor, ready to do whatever corporations want, while failing to care for the children of the state. If only he would listen to the teachers of Wisconsin instead of ALEC, the Koch brothers, and big corporations in pursuit of tax cuts, he could secure the future of his state.


The CapTimes wrote an editorial saluting Wisconsin’s valiant teachers’ unions, which have been under sustained attacks by Governor Scott Walker. The editorialist knows that Walker wants to privatize public education and that he had to demonize the teachers’ union and undermine their political power to reach his goal.


The editorial describes the teachers’ unions as “vital defenders of public education” and says:


In recent years, Republican presidential prospect Scott Walker has attacked Wisconsin’s public employees and teachers as part of a cynical political ploy to weaken critics of corporate overreach. Walker’s extremism has been supported extensively by out-of-state special interests that want to privatize public services and public education — so extensively that he has had considerable success. No one is going to deny that.


Despite the governor’s money power, however, Wisconsin is still making labor history.


Walker’s anti-union initiative sought to make it virtually impossible for organized labor to function in Wisconsin by, among other things, requiring that every public worker union in every workplace must go through a process of recertification every year. Walker’s Act 10 set up a complex process where elections must be organized among workers in every community and school district.


To remain as the recognized representatives of teachers and other school employees, for instance, local education associations must win a majority vote not just from the teachers and other employees participating in the election but from all teachers and other workers eligible to vote — whether they participate in the voting or not. Just imagine if corporations had to go through the whole process of reincorporating, issuing stock and setting up business operations every year and you will begin to get a sense of the roadblocks Walker and his out-of-state associates have erected to teacher unions in Wisconsin.


But Walker did not count on one thing.


Wisconsin teachers like and respect their unions enough to thwart Walker’s anti-labor strategies.


This fall, 305 local union organizations representing public school teachers, support staff, and custodial workers held recertification elections in school districts across the state. Despite everything that Walker has done to undermine them, more than 90 percent of the local unions were recertified. Indeed, according to the Wisconsin Education Association Council, 97 percent of its units that sought recertification won their elections.


The numbers are even more overwhelming for American Federation of Teachers union locals in Wisconsin.


“Since recertification elections began in 2011, every AFT-Wisconsin local union that has pursued recertification has won convincingly,” notes Kim Kohlhaas, an elementary school teacher in the Superior School District who serves as president of AFT-Wisconsin.


In many school districts, the numbers were overwhelming.


In Madison, where the Madison Teachers Inc. union has played a leading role in opposing Walker’s anti-labor agenda, the pro-recertification votes have been overwhelming.


The teachers want a collective voice. They have made that clear. Walker will continue to seek ways to silence their voice, so he can promote more charters and vouchers, more schools that welcome non-union, often inexperienced and underprepared teachers. Despite the wealth of research showing that neither charters nor vouchers outperform public schools in Wisconsin, Walker continues to try to destroy public education.


The CapTimes editorial concludes:


Of course, unions will remain under assault in Walker’s Wisconsin. But Walker is spending more and more of his time preparing to abandon Wisconsin and to begin a presidential run that is likely not just to embarrass the governor but also to expose his failures nationally and in Wisconsin. Eventually, Walker will be gone, and Wisconsin will again elect a governor who reflects the best of our values and our hopes….It is vitally important that, when Walker is gone, Wisconsin’s rich legacy of supporting public teachers and public education remains — along with the unions that fight to maintain that legacy.

Read more:



This article in Jacobin magazine describes the astonishing victory of the Massachusetts Teachers Association in a recent confrontation with the state board of education and the state commissioner. The state commissioner floated a proposal to remove teachers’ licenses if they failed their evaluation, a draconian step that would bar the teacher from teaching in the state in the future. The MTA, under the leadership of recently elected president Barbara Madeloni, informed its members, mobilized the membership, and refused to negotiate this draconian and punitive plan. The MTA did not want a seat at the table; they knew the members were on the menu.


It was not always this way. Not long ago, the union negotiated with the anti-union “reform” group called Stand for Children and bargained away some of their rights to avoid something worse. They dared not be militant.


This time, the teachers of Massachusetts under bold leadership were militant and well organized, and they won. That is the only way to stop the destructive reformers. Not by meeting them half way. Not by giving them half a loaf; they will be back for more. Stand up to them and fight against their efforts to destroy the teaching profession, to destroy teacher unionism, and to destroy public education.

As the previous post shows, the Education Justice Center declared that Nevada has one of the worst funded and most inequitable school systems in the nation. However, the new Republican majority in the State Legislature has a new agenda that does not involve funding:

School prayer. The right to carry weapons on college campuses. End collective bargaining. Vouchers. Merit pay. Firing “bad” teachers. The new majority doesn’t like unions because teachers get too much money and that causes budget problems. Probably the legislators figure if they pay teachers less, they can recruit better teachers. The Governor wants vouchers, but he would have to get the voters’ approval to change the state constitution. Voters have never approved vouchers in any state, so legislators will probably come up with “opportunity scholarships” to subsidize private school tuition.



Assemblyman Jim Wheeler, R-Minden, said that without question improving public education is the top priority of the caucus.

“We will see what the governor wants to do,” he said. “He leads our party and our state. Parental choice is the biggest issue but not the only one. We need to reward good teachers and get rid of bad teachers. We need to see if we can streamline school district administration.

“Obviously throwing money at it isn’t working,” Wheeler said. “We need parental involvement.”

Wheeler has requested a school prayer bill, and said the motivation is to ensure that students are not punished for engaging in prayer, such as making the sign of the cross after a touchdown in a high school football game.

A few days ago, I posted about a plan by the Massachusetts Department of Elementary and Secondary Education (DESE) to take away teachers’ licenses if they received poor evaluations. Not just to take away their tenure or their job, but their license to teach. I relied on a terrific post by Peter Greene saying that Massachusetts had come up with an ingenious way to chase teachers out of the state. Given how flimsy and flawed the new test-based evaluations are, this was a horrendous plan that lacked logic, common sense, or basic decency. Given the fact that Massachusetts is by far the highest performing state on NAEP, these draconian measures were incomprehensible.


The Massachusetts Teachers Association rallied their members against the DESE plan, and the state DESE backed down. This is the MTA’s description of what happened, how they mobilized, and why good sense prevailed.


Here is the communique from the MTA leadership:





MTA President Barbara Madeloni and Vice President Janet Anderson sent the following message to MTA members on Friday, November 14:


We did it! In recent days, thousands of you have contacted state education officials to express your opposition to linking your license to your evaluation. MTA members sent e-mails, spoke out at DESE’s “town halls,” organized building meetings and made plans to attend upcoming DESE meetings in Malden and Bridgewater.


Today, the commissioner of education released a letter that says: “… we are rescinding the draft options that link licensure to educator evaluation.”


Our message — Union Strong — is making a difference.


While the immediate threat is lifted, there is much more to be done to make sure state officials hear what educators think we and our students need.


Here’s the background on the licensure story.


Twenty-five days ago, MTA received notice of licensure changes proposed by DESE that would connect performance evaluation to license renewal and advancement. These proposals and the façade of voice given within the DESE “town halls” exposed the deep disconnect between educators and the department. Union members spoke out resoundingly. Several members of the Board of Elementary and Secondary Education joined us in telling the commissioner they opposed this licensure plan.


The decision announced today is a good start, but other aspects of proposed licensure changes are still unsettled, and the disconnect between educators and DESE remains.


The commissioner has invited us to “continue the conversation.” Let’s do just that by showing up in Malden on Nov. 19 and Bridgewater on Nov. 20 to tell our stories, speak our truth, and reclaim public education.


Here are the details of the meetings next week:


DESE-sponsored Town Halls on Licensure


Wednesday, November 19
4:30-7 p.m. (arrive at 4:15 p.m.)
Malden High School
77 Salem Street




Thursday, November 20
4:30-7 p.m. (arrive at 4:15 p.m.)
Bridgewater State University
Crimson Hall – Dunn Conference Room
200 East Campus Drive

Even as we move forward with our plans to make our voices heard, this is a moment to celebrate our strength and acknowledge the hard work of our members on this crucial issue. So thank you, and let’s keep up the fight!

In solidarity,

Barbara and Janet



Andrea Gabor, professor of journalism at Baruch College in New York City, recently interviewed Stuart Maguder, an architect in Los Angeles who serves on the Bond Oversight Committee of the school district. He was unusually outspoken in his criticism of John Deasy’s deal to spend construction bond money on IPads for all. For his criticism, he was briefly ousted from his unpaid position, then restored after a public outcry. He is critical of both Deasy and the teachers’ union, finding them both intransigent.

Gabor, an expert on the work of W. Edwards Deming, observed:

“As Magruder spoke of Deasy defeat and the union’s intransigence, I was struck by an irony: My principle purpose in traveling to Los Angeles was to attend the annual conference of the Deming Institute, which was founded in order to continue to work of W. Edwards Deming, the management guru whose ideas about systems thinking and collaborative improvement–informed by statistical theory–helped turn around struggling American industries in the 1980s.

“The unraveling in Los Angeles is just the latest example of education reformers who have yet to absorb the most valuable management lessons of the last half century–achieving lasting institutional change and improvement involves teamwork, collaboration among all the constituencies in an organization, and systems thinking. None of which have been on display in Los Angeles.”

Nancy Flanagan, a teacher with more than 3 decades of experience, a National Board CertifiedTeacher, says that tenure does not make it impossible to fire bad teachers. She knows. She has seen it. She says the cover of TIME was far worse than the article (true).

What good is tenure? It creates a fair process for decisions about termination.

She writes:

“As a long-time classroom practitioner–going back to the early 70s–I would say that this recent tidal wave of entrepreneurial experimentation with the purposes and structures of public education is the single most dangerous issue facing American families with children. When deep-pockets venture capitalists start thinking they can run an essential public service more “efficiently,” look out.

“Here’s the funny thing. Teacher tenure has never really been a fortress that protects incompetent hacks and abusers. It has functioned as a set of rules by which undesirable teachers could be–fairly–jettisoned, then have the decision to release that teacher stand. It gave teachers a reasonable period of time to establish their long-term worth (with the option to open the trap door quickly, in the early stages, for egregiously inept or shady folks). It also gave administrators and school boards a defined set of reasons why a teacher might reasonably be let go, after the district committed to hiring him.

“How do I know that it’s not “nearly impossible” to fire bad teachers? Because my medium-sized, semi-rural district did so, repeatedly, during the 30 years I worked there. The tenure system worked there, long before state-mandated, data-driven, high-tech teacher evaluation models were established–when we were using what everyone now describes as meaningless checklists. It worked when the probationary period, set by the state, was two years but it worked even better when that probationary period was bumped to four years–more time to evaluate a new teacher’s worth as a classroom practitioner, and make a good decision for the long term.”

She adds, in this thoughtful article:

“”Unions protect bad teachers” is a false meme. Unions also protect good teachers. Unions protect students from tech millionaires and venture capitalists, and having their personal worth, and that of their teachers, evaluated by test data.”

The TIME article ends by citing a growing number of studies that show how flawed test-based evaluation of teachers is.

We all need protection from the whims of tech billionaires, who are using their wealth to control our public institutions, even the electoral process. Our best line of defense: get out and vote.

This is the worst constitutional amendment to appear on any state ballot in 2014.


It ties teacher evaluation to student test scores. It bans collective bargaining about teacher evaluation. It requires teachers to be dismissed, retained, promoted, demoted, and paid based primarily on the test scores of their students. It requires teachers to enter into contracts of three years or less, thus eliminating seniority and tenure.

This is VAM with a vengeance.

This ballot resolution is the work of the far-right Show-Me Institute, funded by the multi-millionaire Rex Sinquefeld.

He is a major contributor to politics in Missouri and to ALEC.

The Center for Media and Democracy writes about him:

“Sinquefield is doing to Missouri what the Koch Brothers are doing to the entire country. For the Koch Brothers and Sinquefield, a lot of the action these days is not at the national but at the state level.

“By examining what Sinquefield is up to in Missouri, you get a sobering glimpse of how the wealthiest conservatives are conducting a low-profile campaign to destroy civil society.

“Sinquefield told The Wall Street Journal in 2012 that his two main interests are “rolling back taxes” and “rescuing education from teachers’ unions.”

“His anti-tax, anti-labor, and anti-public education views are common fare on the right. But what sets Sinquefield apart is the systematic way he has used his millions to try to push his private agenda down the throats of the citizens of Missouri.”

Richard Berman has been leading a national campaign to destroy teachers’ unions. His one-man organization, the so-called Center for Union Facts, has taken out full-page ads in newspapers, rented a huge billboard in Times Square, sent out mass mailings–all to claim that Randi Weingarten and teachers’ unions as a whole are responsible for low test scores. The fact that test scores are highest in the unionized states of Massachusetts, Néw Jersey, and Connecticut has not deterred his zeal to smash the unions.

Berman was recently taped boasting to executives in the energy industry about how he could help them by tarnishing their environmentalist critics. His speech was recorded and was reported in the Néw York Times and Bloomberg Business News (“Fracking Advocates Urged to Win Ugly by Discrediting Opponents”).

His speech is here at PR Watch.

This is the opening of the Néw York Times article, which summarizes his advice (and price tag):

“WASHINGTON — If the oil and gas industry wants to prevent its opponents from slowing its efforts to drill in more places, it must be prepared to employ tactics like digging up embarrassing tidbits about environmentalists and liberal celebrities, a veteran Washington political consultant told a room full of industry executives in a speech that was secretly recorded.

“The blunt advice from the consultant, Richard Berman, the founder and chief executive of the Washington-based Berman & Company consulting firm, came as Mr. Berman solicited up to $3 million from oil and gas industry executives to finance an advertising and public relations campaign called Big Green Radicals.

“The company executives, Mr. Berman said in his speech, must be willing to exploit emotions like fear, greed and anger and turn them against the environmental groups. And major corporations secretly financing such a campaign should not worry about offending the general public because “you can either win ugly or lose pretty,” he said.”

Richard Berman is not an expert on education, to say the least. He is a paid lobbyist for industry. He does not reveal who funds his campaigns on behalf of far-right causes. I have previously published posts about him and his tactics. In one, I described a confrontation between us at the Philanthropy Roundtable, a group of mostly conservative foundations, where he boasted of his campaign to demonize the Néw Jersey Education Association with billboards and advertising. When I challenged his “facts,” he declared, “I am a PR man, not an education researcher.”

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.



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