Archives for category: Unions

At its annual meeting, the Massachusetts Teachers Association endorsed the right of parents to opt their child out of state testing.

“Delegates to the 2015 MTA Annual Meeting have voted to support the right of parents to opt their children out of high-stakes standardized testing.

“The Annual Meeting, which drew more than 1,100 delegates from all over Massachusetts to the Hynes Convention Center in Boston on May 8 and May 9, also featured wide-ranging discussion of education issues, including the state takeover of the Holyoke Public Schools. The delegates heard speeches by award recipients and a keynote address by Seattle educator and social activist Jesse Hagopian.

“On Friday, the delegates passed a new business item that requires MTA President Barbara Madeloni and Vice President Janet Anderson to send a letter to Education Commissioner Mitchell Chester and state legislators stating the following MTA positions:

“That parents in Massachusetts deserve the choice to opt their public school students out of high-stakes standardized assessments.

“That districts should be required to provide all parents with yearly written information explaining their right to opt students out of assessments.

“That students who opt out should not be included in data used by state or federal entities in “grading” schools.
That no parent or student should be penalized because of a parental decision to opt out.

“That no educator should be disciplined for discussing with students, parents or community members the options for opting students out of high-stakes tests.

“Madeloni said the opt-out vote by the delegates representing more than 110,000 educators in Massachusetts — including preK-12 educators, educators in the public higher education system and retired educators — is indicative of the growing consensus around the country that standardized high-stakes testing is out of control.

“Supporting the right to opt out is one of the strongest statements we can make as educators against standardized testing,” Madeloni said.

“We need to support the parents and students who decide to do this. The MTA will vigorously defend any educator who is disciplined for supporting the right of parents and students to opt out. The more people step up and speak out, the clearer will be the message to our legislators that the people of Massachusetts want to put a stop to the madness of standardized testing,” she said.

“Standardized testing is distorting the goals of public education and choking the creativity and joy that should be at the center of teaching and learning,” Madeloni added.”

Robert Mann, professor of journalism at Louisiana State University, describes the effort by Louisiana business leaders and sympathetic legislators to drive “a fatal spear to the heart of the giant,” meaning the teachers’ union.

“Public school teachers, firefighters, state troopers and other law enforcement officials can have their dues deducted from their paychecks and remitted to their respective unions. House Bill 418, sponsored by Rep. Stuart Bishop, R-Lafayette, would outlaw that practice. The bill is among the highest priorities in the current legislative session for the Louisiana Association of Business and Industry (LABI). The House Labor Committee approved the legislation last week in a 9-6 vote.”

The Louisiana Association of Business and Industry is hoping to pass legislation cutting off automatic deductions for union dues, known euphemistically as “paycheck protection.” Ostensibly, the goal is to save money. But Mann obtained a secret video where the business leaders revealed their real goal, which was to starve the union of funds to cripple it.

Mann saw the bigger picture after watching the video:

“Last month, when I first saw that this bill was among LABI’s top priorities for the 2015 session, I wondered how a supposedly minor issue could be so important to the state’s top business organization. Now, thanks to [industrialist Lane] Grigsby’s candid comments behind closed doors, we know. It’s about killing the teachers unions.”

After eight years without a raise, teachers in Los Angeles overwhelmingly approved a new contract.

Howard Blume reports:

“An overwhelming majority of teachers union members voted to ratify a three-year contract with the Los Angeles Unified School District, the union announced Friday.

“More than 97% of 25,407 educators who cast ballots favored the pact, which includes a 10% raise over two years.

“Union members also ratified a separate benefits package that retains key current features of employee health plans.

“The collective bargaining agreement is good for educators and students,” union President Alex Caputo-Pearl said in a statement.

“The Board of Education must give formal approval to the deal, which is widely expected as soon as next week.

“The raise is phased in: 4% is retroactive to July 1, 2014; 2% retroactive to Jan. 1, 2015. Pay goes up another 2% on July 1, and the final 2% on Jan. 1, 2016. Teachers have the right to negotiate for an additional raise in the third year of the contract.

“Teachers had gone without a pay increase for eight years, although they continued to receive salary boosts based on years of experience and additional eligible education credits.

“During the recent recession, teachers had agreed to temporary salary reductions. Still,thousands of educators and other employees were laid off.

“The agreement includes funding to reduce the size of classes in key subjects or grade levels. Schools may also get more counselors, although the maximum ratio of students per secondary school counselor is still 500 to 1.”

Mayor Rahm Emanuel began Teacher Appreciation Week by offering teachers and other school personnel a 7% pay cut.

He could show good faith by matching it with a 7% pay cut for himself and his staff.

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?

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