Archives for category: Unions

Arthur Camins writes in response to Marc Tucker’s article about the failure of annual testing:

“One of the contributors to the problem that Mark Tucker identifies is cynicism.

“Few appear to believe anymore that government will do anything more than the meager attention effects of annual testing to address inequity. As a country, we have forgotten that it was the collective action of the labor and civil rights movements that has mediated inequality, not punishment regimes or the individualism inherent in the so-called choice notion behind charter schools. It’s not federal overreach that’s the problem, but reaching for the wrong things. See:

“It doesn’t have to be this way. We Can Be Better than the Audacity of Small Hopes:

“Since the Reagan era, the Democrats have been on the defensive, and have run away from collective action for equity. It’s time to re-embrace community responsibility rather than selfish-individualism.”

Lita Blanc, a veteran teacher in San Francisco, won election as President of the United Educators of San Francisco, the union representing 6,000 employees of the district.


Blanc, a teacher at George Moscone Elementary School in the Mission District for the past 27 years, has been a long-time union activist, both in a leadership capacity and as a rank-and-filer. The UESF reform caucus was created 8 years ago, seeing a need to challenge UESF leaders on issues of democracy and representation.



Educators for a Democratic Union ran three races against the UESF leadership, winning positions of leadership, while consistently lobbying against erosion of working conditions and striving to advance the status and power of all members, especially classified employees.



Taking the example of the reform movement of the Chicago teachers’ union as a guide — where the union was revitalized both from below and from increased outreach to parents and the broader community — Blanc ran as part the Educators for a Democratic Union (EDU) slate.



Two other candidates from the EDU slate also won top union office: Lisa Gutierrez Guzmán was elected secretary, and Tom Edminster was elected treasurer. EDU candidates were also elected to the union’s executive board to represent elementary, middle-school, and high-school teachers.



The election, which witnessed a higher turnout than the one three years ago, was described as an “experience of democracy in action” by Lalo Gonzalez, a new young teachers’ aide at Balboa High School. Gonzalez and others criss-crossed the city to deliver their last-minute ballots. “We wanted to make sure that our ballots were counted,” he said.



“It truly made me believe in the grassroots movement,” wrote another teacher right after the election. “People who wouldn’t usually participate really believe that there needs to be a change.”



Another teacher was equally moved by the election results. ” I have hope again!” said Deirdre Elmansoumi, a librarian at Flynn Elementary. Yet another union member raised the bar even higher: “It’s time for San Francisco teachers to lead our school district toward a world-class model for public education.”



Blanc spelled out her priorities in an interview. She made clear that the union must fight for the children, their families, and communities, as well as opposing the test mania that has overtaken education:



In an interview with Beyond Chron, Blanc said she is looking forward to “bring[ing] together the experience and wisdom of the current leadership with a vision of a reinvigorated union that puts membership empowerment and participation first and foremost.” She said she is hoping that the union will organize a fall conference to give members the tools necessary to fight for the resources their students need at school sites.



Outreach to parents is another top priority. “We are not going to wait three years for the next round of contract negotiations to connect with the parents of our students. Together we need to ensure that the new tax dollars coming from Sacramento go to guarantee the services that our children deserve: PE teachers, counselors, social workers, a teacher aide in every classroom.”



UESF must deepen the fight for affordable housing. Blanc said that the “union is fighting for the soul of our city — and that means not just securing mortgage assistance for educators but also protecting the two-thirds of city residents who are renters. These are the parents of our children and our young teachers, many with families, who cannot afford to live in the city. Both are being driven out of San Francisco by skyrocketing rents. ”



Blanc said that a priority must be vacancy control, an end to evictions, and the moratorium on market-housing development in the Mission proposed by Supervisor David Campos. “There is nothing more urgent than strengthening the parent-community coalition for affordable housing,” Blanc said.



On the issue of standardized testing, Blanc wants to see the union educate parents about their legal right to opt-out their children from standardized testing, noting that an “opt-out upsurge” occurred across the country this past April.



“Standardized testing has narrowed the curriculum, robbing our children of the chance to explore music and art,” Blanc continued. “The move to computerized testing has resulted in the net transfer of million of dollars from SFUSD to tech companies and to the corporations that produce these tests.”




Thousands of teachers marched in Seattle to demand better funding for the schools.

In Newark, hundreds of students marched and blocked traffic to protest the destruction of their public schools

Teachers at a Detroit charter school wanted to form a union. The charter operator challenged the vote on grounds that TFA teachers are not real professionals.

“The election was held to establish a union of teachers and staff at University Prep Schools.

“UPrep Schools consist of seven campuses under the University Preparatory Academy and University Preparatory Science and Math charters. They are managed by Detroit 90/90.
“While there were 19 more no votes from those who did not want the union, Detroit 90/90 challenged the voting rights of Teachers for America teachers and long-term substitutes, claiming the teachers they hired to stand in front of students are not actually professionals,” said Nate Walker, K-12 organizer and policy analyst with AFT Michigan.

“Walker said the voting rights of 30 teachers were challenged before the election, during an April 30 proceeding before the National labor Relations Board. Of those, 20 voted Thursday, and their ballots are in question.

“David Hecker, president of AFT Michigan, said the vote Thursday is “not determinative, as there are 20 challenged ballots, most of which result from 90/90 not considering Teach for America teachers and long-term substitutes to be teachers.”

Five charter schools in Detroit have joined the AFT.

Dave Woo, a teacher at Urban Prep Charter Academy for six years, explains that his school needs a union to hold it accountable for its free-wheeling use of taxpayer dollars.

“When a majority of teachers and staff at Urban Prep decided to organize a union represented by the Chicago Alliance of Charter Teachers and Staff, one of the first actions we took was to file a FOIA request in order to get a better sense of how the Urban Prep network uses the tax dollars and private donations it receives. Here are some of the things we found:

“Urban Prep spends over a quarter of a million dollars a year renting out downtown office space across the street from the Trump International Hotel and Tower for the network administrative staff.”

But that wasn’t all.

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.


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