Archives for category: Unions

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Narrator: From old textbooks to outdated equipment to overcrowded classrooms, our Philadelphia teachers are up against many challenges … and yet they keep going.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

Jane Slaughter describes what she calls the neoliberal assault on Michigan, and she adds in Wisconsin as well. The assault consists of a plan to end collective bargaining and to weaken the unions so they are unable to protect the benefits for working people.

I am not sure why she calls this movement “neoliberal,” as it seems that the main movers and shakers are far-right conservatives who always hated unions.

Lyndsey Layton reports in the Washington Post that Richard Berman of the Center for Union Facts has sent out 125,000 letters attacking Randi Weingarten for ruining American education.

Berman’s usual stock in trade is defending tobacco companies against allegations that smoking causes cancer. He is a hired gun who says whatever corporations want said. As the article says, he has rented billboards in NYC’s Times Square and taken out a full-page ad in the Néw York Times to slander Randi.

Of course, it is not Randi his corporate masters hate: it is unions. They think teachers should be like fast food workers, paid minimum wage.

I once wrote in a post on this blog that I had a personal encounter with Berman. He boasted about his campaign to defame the Néw Jersey NEA for driving up the cost of education. Billboards, ads, etc. I asked him if he knew that the highest performing states were unionized and the lowest performing states were not. He did not know, and he mumbled that he was a PR man, not an education researcher. He was right. He is a mouthpiece for some corporate paymaster. The Koch brothers? ALEC? Some other rightwing zealot? There ought to be a law requiring disclosure of who pays for slander.

By an overwhelming margin, the Providence Teachers Union rejected a contract that would have eliminated all job security.

“PROVIDENCE — The Providence Teachers Union on Monday rejected a three-year contract proposal that would have eliminated the job-security clause and allowed management to create a new compensation system that would have awarded extra pay for additional responsibilities.

The 1,900-member union voted 611-182 to strike down the proposed deal, according to Maribeth Calabro, union president.

The membership struck down the proposal due to “misrepresentations” by Mayor Angel Taveras’ administration when the tentative agreement was unveiled that “poisoned the well,” Calabro said. Also, language in the new compensation plan, for example, was unduly vague, in the membership’s view, and “a lack of trust” had developed between the union and the school administration and the city.”

Mayor Angel Taveras, an advocate of non-union charter schools, said there was nothing left to negotiate.

In an editorial, the Los Angeles Times again defended Superintendent John Deasy from critics who were appalled by the appearance of rigged bidding on a $1.3 billion tech contract.

The editorial shifts the debate, saying that somehow the disgruntled members of the school board are actually stooges for the teachers’ union, which the editorial writer obviously despises.

“At L.A. Unified, tensions are high and crisis is in the air. The relationship between Supt. John Deasy and the school board that oversees him is at what is perhaps an all-time low. Deasy is again muttering about quitting; others are grumbling that he should be fired.

“Not surprisingly, United Teachers Los Angeles, the teachers union, is practically giddy. The union has regularly lambasted the superintendent, calling his performance “anything but satisfactory,” suggesting he be placed in “teacher jail” like a teacher accused of misconduct would be, and making it clear that it would like him to resign. If Deasy resigns, the leadership no doubt figures, it can go back to the good-old days.”

The bulk of the editorial is devoted to attacking the union for seeking higher pay, defending the due process rights of its members, opposing scripted curricula, all actions that the editorialist denounces as self-interested and selfish, while Deasy was defending students. His personal PR team could not have said it better. His problems are the fault of those lazy, greedy teachers and their union, which (in the eyes of the LA Times editorial board) does not care about students.

The readers of the LA Times deserve better. It seems as though the editorialist will go to any lengths to shield Deasy from just criticism or to insist that he be held accountable for his actions. When in doubt, blame the teachers and their union.

Zak Jason wrote a fascinating interview in “Boston” magazine with Barbara Madeloni, the recently elected president of the Massachusetts Teachers Association, the largest union in the state with 110,000 members.

I first learned of Madeloni when she was preparing teachers at the University of Massachusetts, Amherst, and she refused to give the Pearson test to evaluate new teachers. Michael Winerip wrote a story about her defiance in the New York Times, and within a matter of days, her contract was not renewed. Now all teacher candidates across the university are required to take the Pearson exam.

I learned many things from this article. I learned that Barbara was a psychotherapist before she became a high school English teacher. I learned that when she ran for union president, she was considered a very long shot. Some people thought she had no chance at all.

I learned that the State Commissioner of Education, Mitchell Chester, is also chair of the governing board of PARCC, one of the two federally-funded Common Core tests. Some in the state say he has a conflict of interest.

Madeloni has called for a three-year moratorium on all testing and teacher evaluations:

“We’ve been trying to do scale, instead of human beings. We need to do human beings,” she says. She lambasts the Common Core, a national set of curriculum standards that the state adopted in 2010, as “corporate deform,” and described its architects to CommonWealth magazine as “rich white men who are deciding the course of public education for black and brown children.”

“The past and present heads of the state’s top education offices I talked to dismiss Madeloni’s rhetoric as naive, absurd, and, in the case of the moratorium, illegal. Mitchell Chester, the commissioner of the state’s Department of Elementary and Secondary Education (DESE), says he’s concerned that her “hyperbolic” vision may force the DESE to tune out the entire union.”

Chester may dismiss her, but teachers view her as a savior. “She’s the first MTA leader willing to listen to their agony, and to tell the truth about how teaching in the age of accountability can be, as Holyoke teacher Cheri Cluff puts it, “like waiting tables at a busy restaurant; you’re running and running and running, and you’ve lost your head.” Whereas past presidents and her opponent, MTA vice president Tim Sullivan, were willing to compromise with state administrators, Madeloni is combative, unapologetic, and, as Agustin Morales, another Holyoke teacher, says, “unafraid to make her life uncomfortable.”

Morales, the article notes, was elected president of his local in Holyoke with a 70% majority; he complained about the data walls, where students’ names and test scores are publicly posted. He was fired.

Madeloni is a fighter. She is outspoken and unafraid. Will she be marginalized by the state? Can the state alienate its largest union? Watch for the battles ahead. Madeloni was elected to stand up for teachers. Richard Stutman of the Boston Teachers Union has agreed to collaborate with her.

Zak Jason concluded:

“When I first talked to Madeloni soon after her election, she agreed to have me follow her throughout her first week. But just before her presidency began, she told me, “As a psychotherapist, I know the presence of someone else in the room can affect how the room behaves,” and said she would only be available for an interview, and her communications director James Sacks would join.

“As I’m about to leave her office, Madeloni turns to Sacks and asks, half-joking, “Is there anything I didn’t say that I was supposed to say?”

“What’s your vision?” he says.

“That we reclaim the vision of public education as a space for democracy, for joy, for hope, for a better future for all of our children. All of our children.”

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