Archives for category: Unions

In this spell-binding video, borrowed from Fred Klonsky’s blog, the Reverend Dr. William Barber speaks at the AFT convention and describes the powerful Moral Mondays movement in North Carolina. This movement has a broad social and economic agenda, and it may well bring down the hard-hearted, mean-spirited governor and legislature of that state.

Do yourself a favor. Watch it. Take hope. What Dr. Barber describes is not a miracle. It is about what we can do when we stand together. Not as Republicans or Democrats. Not as conservatives or liberals. But as people joined in a moral cause, committed to bringing justice to our nation.

Peter Goodman regularly blogs about education in New York. He is close to the UFT leadership in New York City and thus has good sources. Here is his update from inside the AFT convention.

Reading this, I conclude that the AFT will not call for Arne Duncan’s resignation. This is the first time in my memory that the AFT was less militant than its larger brethren and sisters in the NEA.

It appears that there will be a floor debate about the Common Core. The Chicago Teachers Union is opposed to it. If my reading of the tea leaves is right, the New York City delegation is prepared to shoot that resolution down too. CTU is the outlier in this convention, battle-scarred and ready to fight. The NYC delegation has the numbers to vote them down.

Readers of this blog know my views. Arne Duncan is the most anti- teacher, anti-union Secretary of Education in the history of the Department. He was the guy who said that Hurricane Katrina was the best thing to happen to education in New Orleans, having swept away public schools and teachers’ unions (forget the death toll). He was the one who cheered the firing of the entire staff of Central Falls High School in Rhode Island. He was thrilled when the Los Angeles Times posted teachers’ (inaccurate) VAM ratings. He required states to adopt VAM ratings, which Randi wisely called “a sham” in her speech to the convention. He spoke admiringly of the Vergara decision. He should not be Secretary of Education. He should be Ambassador to some very small nation, where he can’t do much damage. Or teach basketball.

As for Common Core, I agree with CTU. Teachers don’t need scripts. They don’t need “standards” written by a committee that included not a single classroom teacher. They need class sizes they can manage. Their schools need equitable funding. They need tenure to protect them from political reprisals. They need due process and speedy resolution of complaints. They need respect. Common Core does nothing to alleviate the poverty in which nearly one-quarter of our children live. It does nothing to restore the art teachers, librarians, nurses and counselors who have been laid off. It does nothing to address the root causes of poor academic performance: poverty and segregation. It will die no matter what the AFT does because, frankly, it doesn’t matter.

Stephanie Simon of reports that Randi Weingarten, president of the American Federation of Teachers, has invited members to debate the Common Core standards at the organization’s convention in Los Angeles.

Until now, Weingarten and the AFT have strongly defended the standards. But she has been reconsidering their value over the past 15 months. In April 2013, she said in a major speech in Néw York City that the standards should be separated from high-stakes testing because there had been inadequate preparation for them—little or no professional development, materials, or other necessary tools. In Néw York state, implementation of Common Core testing was hurried and slipshod. The passing marks were set so high that 70% of students failed–failure by design.

The Common Core standards have recently been in free fall. The Gates Foundation–which paid over $2 billion to write and promote the Common Core–has called for a moratorium on using the results for punishing teachers. The Chicago Teachers Union flatly rejected the Common Core standards. State after state have dropped the standards or the tests or both.

Now Weingarten is inviting members to weigh in.

Simon writes:

“The American Federation of Teachers will open its annual convention Friday morning with a startling announcement: After years of strongly backing the Common Core, the union now plans to give its members grants to critique the academic standards — or to write replacement standards from scratch.
It’s a sign that teachers are frustrated and fed up — and they’re making their anger heard, loud and clear.

“The AFT will also consider a resolution — drafted by its executive council — asserting that the promise of the Common Core has been corrupted by political manipulation, administrative bungling, corporate profiteering and an invalid scoring system designed to ensure huge numbers of kids fail the new math and language arts exams that will be rolled out next spring. An even more pointed resolution flat out opposing the standards will also likely come up for a vote.”

Read more:

The California Teachers Association introduced the resolution calling for Arne Duncan to resign. Similar proposals had been defeated in 2011 and 2012. This one passed. Here it is.

Duncan is without question the most anti-teacher,anti-public schoolSecretary of Education in our history, and I say that advisedly. Both Bill Bennett Reagan’s second term Secretary) and Rod Paige (George W. Bush’s first term Secretary) had their faults, but they did nothing more than talk. Paige, remember, called the NEA a “terrorist” organization. But neither had the ability to open thousands of privately managed schools, neither persuaded states to judge teachers by the test scores of their students. Besides, both served Republican presidents so their antipathy to unions was not surprising. Duncan works in a Democratic administration. What is his excuse for applauding the mass firing of the staff in Central Falls, Rhode Island? The destruction of public education in New Orleans? The release of teacher names with student scores in Los Angeles? The Vergara decision, attacking due process rights? His close alliance with anti-public school groups like Democrats for Education Reform?

Here is what CTA said:


US Secretary of Education Arne Duncan once again showed his lack of understanding of education law and policy, his disregard of the true challenges facing our students and schools, and his disrespect for the hard-working educators in our schools and colleges across the country when he showed support for the flawed Vergara v. State of California verdict.

“Because of his ongoing lack of effective leadership and advocacy on what is really needed to help our schools succeed, the California delegation to the NEA Representative Assembly has submitted a New Business Item calling for Duncan’s resignation.

“His department’s failed education agenda has focused on more high-stakes testing, grading and pitting public school children against each other based on test scores, and promoting policies and decisions that undermine public schools and colleges, the teaching profession, education professionals and education unions.

“Since the beginning, Duncan’s department has been led by graduates of the Broad Academy, Education Trust-West and other organizations determined to scapegoat teachers and their unions. Most recently, some of these former Obama administration staffers announced a national campaign attacking educators’ rights.

“Authentic education change only comes when all stakeholders – teachers, parents, administrators and the community – work together to best meet the needs of the students in their school or college. Teachers are not the problem. Teachers are part of the solution. And it’s time we have a Secretary of Education who understands and believes that.”

The only puzzle is why the vote was close. Are there NEA members who like a Secretary of Education who is hostile to public school teachers?

This just in from a member of NEA from Massachusetts who is at the Denver convention. She hopes that Lily Eskelsen, the new president, will be a champion and fighter for kids, teachers, and public schools. Is she THE ONE? Will she stand up to the phony “reformers”? Will she fight for democratic control of the schools? Will she tell the plutocrats to use their billions to alleviate poverty instead of taking control of the schools?

I think Lily has it in her. Until proven wrong, I am placing bets that she will stand up fearlessly for what is right, that she will tell Arne Duncan to scram, that she will tell the billionaires to get another hobby.

Here is the message from one of her members:

My comment is awaiting moderation on Lily’s Blackboard.

Here it is.

Lily, thank you for posting this opportunity for substantive engagement on the Gates question.

I’m an activist NEA member in Massachusetts, in a low income district heavily engaged with the policies Bill and Melinda have imposed through their legislative interference and advocacy lobbying, with the compliance of the outgoing Massachusetts Teachers Association leadership.

MTA and NEA compliance directly aided in the imposition of Gates-backed corporate domination in my Commonwealth’s public schools, in my school, in my actual classroom, and over the actual living students I teach.

The (false) distinction you make between Gates’ imposed “standards” and the accountability measures he demands for them will allow the NEA to continue to take his money, and I’ll admit that almost chokes rank-and-file teachers who live and work under his heel. I am going to argue that you to can make a decision of your own, when you take office, to give that money back to him.

First, I’d like to offer congratulations on your succession to the presidency of NEA. The Representative assembly that voted you in brought with it a new activism and determination, and voted in resolutions which break sharply with the previous administration, of which you were a part. We look to you with great hope, holding our breath against it for fear of disappointment.

The Common Core standards can’t “stand on their own merit”. They were backwards-engineered to warp the teaching of language and literature into assessment readiness, with its own novel testing vocabulary. strung together with the bogus Moodle diagram you inserted in this page. The aligned WIDA tests that are now being imposed on ELL students, from the earliest grades, will steal the short and precious window of their childhood. People are tweeting me that those children can’t wait while you do your homework and find that out.

We’re fighting right now for schools in New Bedford and Holyoke that are already being taken over. They were full of living children, just a few weeks ago when we left them. What will we find in August?

We’re asking you to become the courageous and powerful leader of an engaged and mobilized union. I know you saw and felt the hall rise to its feet behind these initiatives. That felt different and deeper than the hearty applause for your victory, did it not?

Bring us to our feet: give back the Gates money.

The website I linked for you is an Education Week column describing the actual effects of the Gates Foundation’s profit-centered philanthropy model in the third world. It’s the responsibility of Americans to become aware of it, when we take money from American corporate philanthropies and allow them to pursue their profits internationally under the subsidy of our tax code.

Why Arne Duncan needs to listen to Bill and Melinda | Li…
I do not hate the Bill & Melinda Gates Foundation. I know it might seem strange to have to make that statement, but such are the times we live in.
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John Stocks, the executive director of the NEA, voiced the anger and frustration that so many of the members are feeling. He gave a rip-roaring speech. But, sadly, he did not mention the perfidy of the Obama administration or the duplicitous role of the Gates Foundation in undermining the teaching profession.

Here is a high point:

“We’re frustrated by the barrage of bad ideas from so-called education “reformers” ….

We’re worried by the assaults on our individual rights … and our collective rights to organize.

And we’re angry because many of the people behind these attacks are questioning our integrity and our commitment to our students.

Our opponents want to do more than just wear us down. They want to destroy and dismantle our public schools.

You might be wondering… why in the world would they want to do that?

Why would they want to tear down the institution that built the economic engine of the world?

Why would they slam-shut “the door to opportunity” for millions and millions of Americans?

Why destroy an institution that created the middle class in our country?

… that gave Americans from all walks of life a sense of common purpose and destiny ….

These are big questions…. And, frankly, they all have a simple answer: money.

That’s right — money.

WE look at public education as an investment in our children and our country … a down payment on a brighter future.

But THEY see the dollars that are spent on public education, and they wonder how they can grab a fistful.

It’s not hard to connect the dots when you look at all the ways they reap their profits:

Testing and more testing

Privatizing food… custodial… and transportation services

Vouchers that siphon resources from public schools to private ones, and

For-profit companies that are privatizing our schools and threatening the greatest higher education system in the world.

So, yes, some people have a very clear financial motive for wanting to dismantle public education.

But it’s not just their motives that make me angry…. It’s the fact that their policies are BAD for students… and BAD for educators.

Policies that prioritize testing over teaching… that label and punish … and that completely disregard the important role that experience plays in effective teaching and learning.”

Whose policies “prioritize testing over teaching?” NCLB and Race to the Top. But he didn’t say that.

Whose policies demand that teachers be labeled and punished if their students don’t get higher scores? The Obama administration. Whose money funds the economists who claim that test scores are the true measure of education? Bill Gates.

But he didn’t say that.

When you dare not say the name of your oppressor, you show weakness and fear at a time when courage and fortitude are needed.

John Stocks has it in him to say and do the right thing. He knows. Let him lead.

Delegates to the national convention of the National Education Association passed a resolution calling for the resignation of Secretary of Education Arne Duncan.

Similar resolutions did not pass in 2011 ad 2012.

The resolution was proposed by the California Teachers Association. Teachers are angry at Duncan because of his support for the controversial Vergara decision, which ruled against teachers’ right to due process and his devotion to high-stakes testing.

I just received a copy of Dennis Van Roekel’s speech to the NEA RA in Denver. 


It is his last, as he is retiring as President.


He waxed nostalgic but he hit out appropriately at the toxic culture of the corporate reformers. He lambasted NCLB. He is a mild-mannered and kindly gentleman, so it is hard to imagine him getting really angry.


He said:


In all of our history, we have always advocated for ways to improve education, but now we had to fight for the very existence of public education. As public education policy shifted from leveling the playing field into turning education into a competition with winners and losers, we needed to become the champions of equity, to define solutions that drive excellence and success for all students. The report “A Nation at Risk,” was the beginning of an attempt to totally redefine America’s system of public education. First, they labeled public education as a failure, a liability. And then in 2002, they lowered the boom with No Child Left Behind. Now, this was passed with overwhelming support from both Democrats and Republicans, but No Child Left Behind became an insidious tool used to undermine and attack public education. It’s been driven by mandatory high-stakes testing in grades three through eight. It became the mechanism for labeling and blaming public education, and by establishing a flawed measure of success–Adequate Yearly Progress, politicians created the means, the opportunity for corporate reformers to remake public education into a whole new source of profits that would be gathered at the expense of students.

And so now, 12 years after No Child Left Behind, where are we? These politicians and their policies have created a difficult environment for students and educators, delegates. You know clearly the issues that have become part of our daily lives and discussions: intense dissatisfaction with the conditions of learning and teaching, the need for more time in almost everything we do, time to teach, time to learn, time to plan, and time to collaborate with colleagues as we deal with all of these new demands placed upon us. The issue of privatization of more and more jobs of our education support professionals. The intrusion of for-profit players, both in higher education and K-12. Especially troubling is the increasing influence and control of huge corporations like Pearson and others. And the incredible onslaught of corporate reformers like Democrats for Education Reform, Michelle Rhee, and the like. Attacks on educators’ rights and even attempts to silence our voice. And if that were not enough, our lives revolve around testing–the overwhelming amount and the offensive misuse of scores from high-stakes standardized tests. For the delegates in this hall, for our members back home, the feelings generated by these and other issues are strong and they are real. I’ve seen them. I’ve heard them from you. And I share them with you. Feelings of anger, frustration, disappointment, and unrealized expectation of the Department of Education. Whether student, active, retired, whether higher ed, ESP or teacher, it doesn’t matter. We are all impacted and demoralized by these attacks. And your feelings are totally justified. I mean, really, 12 years is plenty long enough to evaluate their strategy of mandatory testing and test-based accountability. Plain and simple, their strategy has failed America’s students, especially students who are poor and students of color. And I say to you that it is simply not acceptable to continue down this path. The direction must change? Am I right? Am I right?

As an organization, public education, we’re at a critical point. We’re at another milestone in our history. You know, I guess getting older does have some advantages. It has allowed me to see and to experience many different things. And I can tell you that living through “A Nation at Risk,” No Child Left Behind, and the increased intensity of corporate reform, I have seen so many examples of injustice in our systems, and the negative impact on students. When I think of the 10 years preceding No Child Left Behind, I wish I could go back and do things differently. If I had only understood then what I understand now. You see, all of us in the education family–all of us–we knew the system was not fulfilling the promise, not fulfilling the promise for all of its students, not doing what they needed, and we allowed the politicians of the day, Congress, to define the solution, and their solution was No Child Left Behind. Now, I want to state something very clearly. We, the NEA, cannot allow politicians to define the terms of change and accountability for yet another generation of students. We cannot let that happen again!


That is strong stuff coming from a kindly man like Dennis. But notice what he did not say. He did not mention Race to the Top, which mandated the idiotic program of evaluating teachers by the test scores of their students. He did not mention “value-added assessment,” which has forced teachers to teach to the test. He did not mention Arne Duncan, the worst Secretary of Education in our history, who supports toxic testing in every form. He did not mention the Vergara trial, which challenges the due process rights of teachers.


I do not mean to be unkind to Dennis, who is leaving the presidency of the nation’s largest teachers’ union and who was generous enough to name me as NEA’s Friend of Education in 2010, a memory I will always treasure.


But I wish, I wish, I wish that he and Randi and every teacher leader would shout from the rooftops that what is happening now under the misguided “leadership” of the Obama administration will not stand! I wish they would recognize that Arne Duncan is a tool of DFER, and that the Obama administration has outsourced American education to the Gates Foundation. I wish they would issue a call for teachers to stand together to say NO to policies that hurt children, such as the Common Core tests that last for 8-10 hours. I want them to be angry and determined and proud and determined. I wish. I wish.

NEA delegates approve creation of national campaign for equity and against “Toxic Testing”

Campaign to focus on assessments and developing real accountability systems

DENVER—The National Education Association (NEA) will launch a national campaign to put the focus of assessments and accountability back on ensuring equity and supporting student learning and end the “test blame and punish” system that has dominated public education in the last decade. The average American student and teacher now spend about 30 percent of the school year preparing for and taking standardized tests. NEA’s nearly 9,000 delegates voted today at its 2014 Representative Assembly for new measures to drive student success.

“The testing fixation has reached the point of insanity,” said NEA President Dennis Van Roekel. “Whatever valuable information testing mandates provided have been completely overshadowed by the enormous collateral damage inflicted on too many students. Our schools have been reduced to mere test prep factories and we are too-often ignoring student learning and opportunity in America.”

The measure approves the use of NEA resources to launch a national campaign to end the high stakes use of standardized tests, to sharply reduce the amount of student and instructional time consumed by tests, and to implement more effective forms of assessment and accountability. The impact of excessive testing is particularly harmful to many poor, minority, and special needs students.

“The sad truth is that test-based accountability has not closed the opportunity gaps between affluent and poor schools and students,” said NEA President Dennis Van Roekel. “It has not driven funding and support to the students from historically underfunded communities who need it most. Poverty and social inequities have far too long stood in the way of progress for all students.”

The anti-toxic testing measure calls for governmental oversight of the powerful testing industry with the creation of a “testing ombudsman” by the U.S. Department of Education, the U.S. Consumer Protection Bureau and the Federal Trade Commission. The position will serve as a watchdog over the influential testing industry and monitor testing companies’ impact on education legislation. NEA will continue to push the president and Congress to completely overhaul ESEA and return to grade-span testing thus ending NCLB’s mandates that require yearly testing, and to lift mandates requiring states to administer outdated tests that are not aligned to school curricula.

“It is past time for politicians to turn their eyes and ears away from those who profit from over-testing our students and listen instead to those who know what works in the classroom,” said Van Roekel.

NEA delegates also reaffirmed their commitment to high standards for all students and committed to further working with states that adopted the Common Core State Standards to ensure they are properly implemented and that educators are empowered to lead in that implementation process.

Delegates also passed new language on improving accountability systems, pushing for implementation of systems providing “real accountability in our public education system,” said Van Roekel. Delegates agreed to convene a broad representative group of NEA leaders from the national, state and local level to develop plans for public school accountability and support systems.

“Educators know that real accountability in public schools requires all stakeholders to place student needs at the center of all efforts. Real accountability in public schools requires that everyone—lawmakers, teachers, principals, parents, and students—partner in accepting responsibility for improving student learning and opportunity in America.”

Van Roekel insists that in order for real, sustainable change to occur in public education, major work must be done to provide equity in our schools and address the growing inequality in opportunities and resources for students across our nation.

The group will examine what steps NEA can take to build further on the components of excellence in teacher evaluation and accountability identified in NEA’s Policy Statement on Teacher Evaluation and Accountability, which was approved at the 2011 Representative Assembly in Chicago.

The accountability group will engage stakeholders in the education and civil rights communities to help respond to the growing inequality in opportunities and resources for students across the nation. Inequality must be addressed in order for real, sustainable change to occur in the public education system.

To follow floor action at the NEA 2014 Representative Assembly, please click here or follow @RAtoday on twitter at

Moshe Z. Marvit, a labor lawyer who has written several articles for The New Republic on unions, here analyzes the Harris v. Quinn decision and maintains that it sets an impossible standard for unions to meet. He believes that it is a preliminary to reversing decades of Supreme Court precedent and completely crippling unions.

Marvit was co-author of “Why Labor Organizing Should Be a Civil Right.”

He wrote an earlier article with Richard Kahlenberg in “The New Republic” about the attacks on collective bargaining in Michigan and Wisconsin.


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