Archives for category: Unions

I spoke last night to educators, parents, and some school board members in Milwaukee. I was sponsored by the Milwaukee Teachers Education Association. I am in awe of their courage. They keep on going despite the attacks by Governor Scott Walker, who boasted recently that if he could beat the unions, he could beat ISIS. I looked around for kindergarten teachers with Uzis or librarians with bazookas, but I didn’t see any.

This week Governor Walker plans to sign right-to-work legislation, the Golden Fleece of the far right. Can’t allow workers to have a voice in working conditions or collectively bargaining for higher wages, can we?

His budget is also a subject of heated discussion. He wants to cut $300 million from the University of Wisconsin system, one of the narion’s finest higher education systems. He wants to cut public education by $127 million, of which $12 million will come from Milwaukee’s beleaguered public schools.

According to this article, some campuses are planning to lay off 1/4 of their staff, and others will close entire departments, if the cuts are enacted.

Walker wants more vouchers, even though the last independent evaluation showed that voucher schools do not get better results than public schools, and many are abysmal failures. Walker wants more charters, even though the charters do not surpass public schools in test scores, and many are failing.

The reformers promised that choice and competition would save Milwaukee’s children, especially its African American children, from “failing public schools.” They said that competition would improve the public schools, because they would be compelled to compete for students.

After 25 years as the Petri dish of school choice, we now know that those promises were hollow. Milwaukee started participating in the urban district portion of the National Assessment of Educational Progress (NAEP)–the federal testing program–in 2009. It is one of the lowest performing of the 21 districts tested, slightly ahead of Cleveland and Detroit. (Cleveland also has vouchers and charters, and Detroit has been the setting for an endless parade of failed reforms.) today, the black children of Milwaukee perform on the federal tests about the same as black children in the poorest states of the Deep South. Choice and competition splintered community support and divided the schools into three sectors, none of which succeeded.

So who will save the children now trapped in failing voucher schools and failing charter schools?

Walker wants to adopt Jeb Bush’s A-F school grading program, which sets schools up for closure. He wants to make it easier for the state to takeover public schools and privatize them.

He wants alternate licensure to allow anyone with a bachelor’s degree and “life experience” who can pass a test to be eligible to teach grades 6-12.

Teachers, parents, and the community are organizing to push back against Walker’s assault on public education and the teaching profession. There is a silver lining: his budget cuts will affect all parents and families in Wisconsin, including those who voted for him. He may discover that families–Republicans, Democrats, and independents–would rather have a good neighborhood school and a great and affordable university system than property tax relief.

We now know that “reform” is empty and deceptive rhetoric, an excuse for ignoring poverty and segregation, a distraction from the growing income inequality and wealth inequality in our society.

There must be many legislators on both sides of the aisle who graduated from Wisconsin’s public schools and its renowned state university. Will they let Walker cripple the state’s education system?

When Illinois Givernor Beuce Rauner first proposed a limit on unions’ ability to collect dues from non-members, the Néw York Times published this editorial explaining why Rauner is wrong. Non-members enjoy the wages and benefits negotiated by unions. The Times called it a “war on workers.”

“At issue are so called “fair share” fees. In a unionized workplace, a union must extend collectively bargained pay raises and other benefits to nonmembers. The nonmembers — about 15 percent of unionized state employees in Illinois — do not have to pay union dues or contribute to the union’s political activities. Instead, under the law in Illinois and in many other states, they must pay the union a fair-share fee, which is less than full dues, to cover the cost of collective bargaining undertaken on their behalf.”

Diminishing the power of unions hurts all working people.

“Allowing nonmembers to get union benefits without paying fair-share fees would tempt dues-paying members to drop out. Union coffers — and bargaining power — would be weakened. Ultimately, all working people would suffer, because collectively bargained pay increases in unionized workplaces tend to lift wages in nonunionized ones, as companies compete for employees. Anti-unionism, which has become increasingly entrenched in recent decades, correlates with stagnating and declining wages. As unions have been harmed, not only by market forces but by policies that deliberately weaken them, income has flowed increasingly to those at the top of the economic ladder rather than to workers.”

Crushing unions is good for the 1%. But not for workers who need a route into the middle class

A new study by Mathematica Policy Research finds that young corps members in Teach for America get no better results than other teachers.

 

Normally, this would not be big news, since TFA teachers have only five weeks of training. But for years, TFA has boasted that their young people were far superior to other teachers who had gone through professional preparation programs. Now, TFA leaders are claiming to be satisfied that their five weeks of training allows them to do just as well as those who spent a year or more learning to teach. The implicit logic of their perspective is that teaching is not a profession and that no preparation is needed beyond five weeks of TFA training. However you slice it, the TFA message degrades the profession. No profession would be considered to be a profession if any bright young person could succeed with only a few weeks of preparation. One cannot even imagine doctors or lawyers or accountants boasting that they were successful with a five-week training program.

 

The Mathematica study may not end the debate about the value of TFA. Its biggest fans seem to be the Walton Foundation, the Broad Foundation, and other foundations that want to support the proliferation of non-union charter schools with low costs and high teacher turnover. Walton gave $50 million to TFA; Broad collected $100 million from a group of foundations for TFA. And Arne Duncan gave TFA $50 million. TFA’s special contributions to American education, it appears, are to staff non-union charter schools and to demonstrate that teaching is not a profession.

William Schuth, an Iraq war veteran, was insulted when Governor Scott Walker compared fighting the unions in Wisconsin to fighting terrorists in the Middle East.

 

He is now a teaching assistant at the University of Wisconsin and a member of AFT Local 3220, the Teaching Assistants’ Association.

 

He created a petition on Moveon.org. He asks if you will sign it.

Last night, I posted an appeal to support Peggy Robertson, who is under fire for her bold advocacy of opting out of mandated testing.

 

The story in the Denver Post said that the Colorado Education Association was ambivalent about standing by Peggy. Its story said:

 

Kerrie Dallman, president of the Colorado Education Association, said the state’s largest union has a legal duty to represent its members but also recognizes Colorado law requires standardized tests.

 

She said: “It may be difficult to defend those who don’t comply,. We absolutely will do our best to defend our members who are acting in the best interest of our students. “

 

There can be no doubt that Peggy Robertson is acting “in the best interest of our students” by defying the state.

 

In a comment sent to this blog, Kerrie Dallman, president of the CEA, says the Denver Post story was erroneous. The union will support Peggy.

 

She wrote:

 

There is no ambivalence, CEA will support Peggy if there is any job action take against her. We will do all that is within our power.

Clearly Denver Post writers did some picking and choosing from my comments provided to them.

Check out my guest commentary in the Denver Post on the same issue:

http://www.denverpost.com/guestcommentary/ci_27612734/education-reformers-denial?source=infinite

A reader sent the following comment. Who knew that America’s greatest domestic threat is unions? Reminds me of Secretary of Education Rod Paige’s unfortunate remark in 2004, when he called the NEA a “terrorist” organization. http://www.nytimes.com/2004/02/24/us/education-chief-calls-union-terrorist-then-recants.html

The reader writes:

“It’s really great to finally know how Scott Walker really feels about union members in Wisconsin (for all union members in general). His pearl yesterday at the CPAC convention, “If I Can Handle Union Protests, I Can Handle ISIS” is one for the classic hate-speech soundbites-rewind. And of course the fascists in attendance absolutely ate it up! So nice that he holds those who pay his salary in Wisconsin in such high esteem. Ooops… wait a minute…the Koch Bros. pay his salary…forget what I said…

“Maybe he meant “If I Can Handle Teachers Union Protests, I Can Handle ISIS?” In no way could he have been referring to organized firemen or police…”

The Guardian reports that lobbyist and union-buster Richard Berman has a new target:

“Over the last year, Berman has secretly routed funding for at least 16 studies and launched at least five front groups attacking Environmental Protection Agency rules cutting carbon dioxide from power plants, the Guardian has learned.”

This is the centerpiece of Obama’s agenda for combatting climate change.

Readers of this blog know Berman as leader of the “Center for Union Facts,” which blames teachers unions for low scores. In the recent past, he bought a full-page ad in the Néw York Times attacking Randi Weingarten and a large billboard in NYC’s Times Square repeating the same unfounded claims.

I am still waiting for Berman to explain why states without teachers unions have lower scores on NAEP than those with strong unions, like Massachusetts, Néw Jersey, and Connecticut.

But he is off to bigger targets.

Governor Andrew Cuomo has called for an investigation of teacher ratings on Long Island.

This follows a “Newsday” report that the portion of ratings under local control were “skewed” towards effective ratings.

Cuomo wants evaluations to count student scores as 50%, instead of the present 40% (only 20% is based on state tests, the other 20% on local measures

For some reason, Cuomo is determined to find some teachers he can fire. He is certain–despite evidence to the contrary–that low scores are caused by teachers.

He must have had terrible law school professors. There have been numerous reports that he failed the bar exam four times. If this is true, I hope he sued his law school for hiring ineffective professors.

The Wall Street-backed charter lobby spent more last year than unions and won’t he support of Governor Cuomo and the Legislature to expand and get Néw York City to offer free space or pay the rent for charters.

“Charter school groups and their supporters spent $16 million on lobbying, campaign contributions to state-level candidates and parties and independent expenditure campaigns last year. Charter schools spent nearly $700,000 on lobbying. Education unions and labor-funded advocates spent $11.77 million, according to the analysis.

“Additionally, large school districts and stakeholder groups representing school boards spent $922,193. An advocacy group pushing a generous tax credit that would incentivize donations to schools spent $659,404.

“In defending their spending and high-profile backers, education reform leaders have often portrayed teachers’ unions as deep-pocketed behemoths representing special interests. But the spending reality is that in 2014, the pro-charter and reform groups outspent unions by a considerable margin….

“What’s striking in these numbers is that a few dozen Wall Street financiers and billionaire hedge fund managers are able to far outspend more than 600,000 educators who believe in the promise of public education and voluntarily give a few bucks out of each paycheck to ensure they have a voice,” said Carl Korn, NYSUT’s spokesman.”

Governor Cuomo appeared in Utica, Néw York. About 65 teachers and parents demonstrated outside as he held a press conference.

“Dozens of teachers and parents, carried signs in protest of the governor’s education policies, loudly chanting, “Cuomo’s plan has got to go!” outside MVCC.

“The teachers’ union is going to yell at me. I know. But that’s the only way you make change,” said the governor during his presentation.”

Here is Cuomo’s syllogism:

“All teachers’ unions are bad (they didn’t endorse my re-election)

All teachers in Néw York are union members

Therefore all teachers are bad”

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