Archives for the month of: June, 2014

What have unions done for working people? Reduced working hours, improved working conditions. Think of the Triangle Waist Fire. Think of Chinese factories where workers live in dormitories 24/7 and work long hours seven days a week in dangerous conditions.

Here is the CTU statement on the Harris v. Quinn ruling:

” CTU Stands in Solidarity With Home Care Workers in
Wake of Harris v. Quinn Ruling

CHICAGO –Today, Chicago Teachers Union President Karen Lewis released the following statement upon the announcing of a decision in the Harris v. Quinn ruling:

“This unfortunate court decision will not deter Illinois health workers from fighting for democracy and employment security nor consumers who deserve to have quality healthcare services. It is ironic that this ruling comes as the nation celebrates the 50th anniversary of the Civil Rights Act in which hard won gains are slowly being rolled back,” Lewis said.

“It is therefore fitting that I echo the words of Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr., who said: ‘In our glorious fight for civil rights, we must guard against being fooled by false slogans, as “right-to-work,” it provides no “rights” and no “works.” Its purpose is to destroy labor unions and the freedom of collective bargaining…. We demand this fraud be stopped….’

“Harris v. Quinn proves that organized labor must be vigilant and deliberate in our fight against the right-to-work efforts trying to muddy our state and disrupt the quality of life for thousands of citizens. The CTU joins our brothers and sisters impacted by this ruling and stand in solidarity in this fight for economic and social justice.”

In response to a post by Peter Greene (“The Arne Duncan Drinking Game“), this reader describes the National PTA convention in Texas. The National PTA has received $2.5 million from the Gates Foundation, including $500,000 specifically for Common Core. Also, the National PTA provided a screening of the anti-public school “Waiting for Superman” at its annual convention in 2011. Odd.

She writes:

“I was at that PTA convention in Texas and I bit my tongue through his entire speech. I wanted to throw up. I have lost faith in the PTA. While I love what PTA does at a local level for our schools, I am sickened by what I see at the state and National PTA levels. Our voices as members have been sold out to corporate interests, and the top leadership is out of touch with parents today. Most of the top leaders dont even have children in public schools anymore so they think we are overreacting about the excessive testing and problems with common core. The leaders enjoy the power and prestige of their office and won’t listen to parents and teachers.

“Even more alarming, the general meetings at the national PTA convention were sponsored by Discover Card, Microsoft, and Pearson. During the general meetings, attendees were forced to sit through 15 minute commercials about their corporations and hear about their “partnerships” with PTA. The week before the convention, delegates received emails from PTA with advertisements for Pearson, telling us to be sure to stop by Pearson’s booth in the exhibit hall. How much did PTA get to spam our inboxes with marketing? We paid a lot of money to attend that convention, I don’t appreciate my email address being sold like that, especially to Pearson.”

The U.S. Supreme Court released an opinion in Harris Vs. Quinn that allows some public sector workers to opt out of paying union dues. The opinion, written by Justice Samuel Alito, was 5-4. The majority held that some employees don’t have to pay union dues, even though they enjoy the benefits negotiated by the union. But the decision left intact the unions’ right to bargain collectively.

Here are the reactions of the leaders of the two major teachers’ unions.

The NEA and Dennis Van Roekel released this statement:


June 30, 2014

WASHINGTON—The Supreme Court of the United States today struck another blow against working families with its narrow 5-4 decision in Harris v. Quinn when it eliminated agency fee arrangements for Illinois home healthcare workers. By casting doubt on case law that has been settled for decades, the Court’s ruling also creates insecurity and instability for employers and unions throughout the public sector. Harris v. Quinn was brought by the National Right to Work Legal Defense Foundation (NRTW), a political group whose extreme agenda seeks to weaken the power of working people.

At issue in the case was whether non-union members could reap the wages, benefits and protections negotiated in a collectively bargained contract without needing to pay their fair share. The National Education Association, joined by California Teachers Association and Change to Win, filed an amicus brief with the Supreme Court to expose the truly radical nature of NRTW’s arguments and underscore their audacious claim that public-sector collective bargaining itself is constitutionally suspect.

“Quality public services, economic stability and prosperity starts with strong unions, but today the Supreme Court of the United States created a roadblock on that path to the American Dream. This ruling jeopardizes a proven method for raising the quality of home health care services—namely, allowing home health care workers to join together in a strong union that can bargain for increased wages, affordable health care and increased training.

“Americans count on quality public services provided by public employees like educators. We need workplaces, including public schools, where front-line employees have a voice. Today’s decision shuts the door on one proven method for ensuring that public sector workers’ voices are heard. At a time when we are just starting to dig out of the worst economic crisis since the Great Depression, we should be creating an economy that works for all of us—not taking radical steps that undermine the rights of public workers while creating uncertainty and instability in the workplace.

“As a high school teacher and coach for 23 years, I saw how the entire team benefited when we all worked together. With today’s ruling, the Supreme Court took away the fairness and camaraderie that comes with working in a team. Agency fees are a common-sense, straight-forward way to ensure fairness and protect equity and individual rights. Every educator who enjoys the benefits and protections of a negotiated contract should, in fairness, contribute to maintaining the contract. And fair share simply makes sure that all educators share the cost of negotiations for benefits that all educators enjoy, regardless of whether they are association members.

“Despite today’s decision, we know that public sector workers will continue to organize—in public sector bargaining states and non-bargaining states, in agency fee states and right to work states—because public sector workers know that a union is the best way for all of us to ensure good schools, quality public services and economic prosperity.”

# # #

The AFT and Randi Weingarten released this statement:

For Immediate Release
June 30, 2014

AFT President Randi Weingarten on the Harris v. Quinn Decision

WASHINGTON—Statement from American Federation of Teachers President Randi Weingarten on the Harris v. Quinn decision. Today’s Harris v. Quinn decision upholds the right of public sector unions to represent public employees, including their right to collectively bargain, but the Supreme Court refused to extend the right for a union to collect fair share fees for that purpose from Illinois home healthcare workers who are not members.

“While the court upheld the importance of collective bargaining and unions to families and communities, let’s be clear that working people, who have aspired to the middle class and tried to make a better life for their families, have taken it on the chin for years. Stagnating wages, loss of pensions and lack of upward mobility have defined the economic distress they have experienced. Today’s decision makes it worse.

“The Roberts court has consistently ruled in favor of corporate interests, while diminishing the rights of labor. This court has built a record of weakening the rights of both voters and working families; no one should be surprised by this decision.

“America’s workers have gone through the crucible of tough times and adversity—that’s why they formed America’s labor movement. Workers did not start off with their rights being protected by government. We had to—and still must—organize ourselves, our families and others to secure good jobs, great public schools, prosperous communities and opportunity for all. While disappointed in the court’s decision, the American Federation of Teachers will do what we have always done: redouble our efforts to empower and engage our members around the issues they care about and the work they do, and to serve as a strong voice for our communities, our democracy and opportunity for all.”


Arne Duncan is one of the most fervent advocates of the Common Core standards and testing. As Valerie Strauss explained in this article, Duncan said:

“I am convinced that this new generation of state assessments will be an absolute game-changer in public education. For the first time, millions of schoolchildren, parents, and teachers will know if students are on-track for colleges and careers — and if they are ready to enter college without the need for remedial instruction.”

Nope, the new tests will not be a “game-changer.” States keep pulling out, and more are thinking about following suit.

Strauss writes:

“With Tennessee’s recent departure from PARCC, that consortia is now down to 15 members, 14 states plus D.C. public schools, and Smarter Balance has 22 members.

“An Education Week analysis found that in the next school year, 19 different accountability tests will be given in various states in which, collectively, more than half of America’s students go to school.”

Reminder: there is still NAEP, which has been comparing states’ academic performance since 1992.

I wish this were a joke but it is not.

The manufacturer of body armor for children has reported high sales to parents and schools concerned about school shootings.

“The alarming rate of school shootings across the country appears to have added an unsettling new item to parents’ list of “back to school” items: bulletproof armor for their children. Among such items, the Bodyguard Blanket, a portable, bulletproof covering for children, has seen its sales exceed its manufacturer’s expectations in less than two weeks on the market….As reported first in the Oklahoman, the blanket was conceived to protect children during natural disasters. The blanket is made “with the same bullet resistant materials that shield our soldiers in battle,” according to one advertisement. In the event of a tornado — or shooting — children can wrap themselves in the blanket in a duck-and-cover position to shield from bullets, debris or other projectiles.”

At $1,000 each, the Bodyguard Blanket is not likely to fly off the shelves. But its very existence indicates a bizarre acceptance of the intolerable and the unthinkable. A saner society would enact laws to restrict access to weapons.

New York City and Néw York State have enthusiastically embraced the Common Core standards.

In the background, however, is a simmering–one might say boiling battle between literacy guru Lucy Calkins of Teachers College and Common Core architect David Coleman about teaching reading. Calkins supports balanced literacy, Coleman supports close reading.

The city and state adopted materials based on Coleman’s model lesson about teaching the Getysburg Address by analyzing the text.

Calkins described Coleman’s model as “a horrible lesson.” She called him “an expert in branding.” She points out that Coleman is not an educator and has never taught.

NYC Chancellor Carmen Farina has experience with balanced literacy. Her support may tilt the balance to Calkins, who has a devoted following and whose work was in favor during the Klein administration when Farina was deputy chancellor.

Blogger Rachel Levy sends out an alert to everyone in Virginia: Please contact Governor McAuliffe and ask him not to appeal the court decision saying that the state’s plan to take over low-performing schools violates the state’s constitution. The decision stopped the state from creating an anti-democratic bureaucracy called the Opportunity Educational Institution.

Levy writes:

“I am urging you to contact Governor McAuliffe’s administration (804-786-2211) to tell him to let the court’s ruling stand. The OEI is bad for democracy, it’s bad for local control, it’s bad for public education, and it will add another layer of expensive and superfluous bureaucracy. If people want charter schools in their local communities, let them work that out among members of their local community, via a democratic process and under the umbrella of the local school division; charter schools and privatization should not be imposed from up high by the state.”

She wrote last year:

“There’s no evidence that state takeover of struggling schools and districts helps. In fact, the evidence is at best mixed. The Governor and his policy allies are basing this approach on the system in New Orleans, which thus far has not proven successful. That Virginia would use as a model a city that hasn’t had much educational success doesn’t make sense. Michigan has also turned many public services over to the private sector, including the schools of Muskegon Heights. So far, that approach has been a disaster.

“Elliminating democratic institution and processes in a democratic society is not a cure for dysfunction or low test scores. Certainly, mass failure on the SOL tests signals a problem, but before the state blames and disenfranchises school communities, it really needs to figure out what that problem is and then target its resources accordingly. While many majority poor schools do just fine on standardized tests, I think we all know that the schools with low standardized test scores are often majority poor. Last I checked, being poor isn’t a reason to disenfranchise communities and hand their schools over to outsiders.”

The press in Michigan is waking up to the fact that charter schools do not get better results than public schools (and many get worse results), and lack of supervision and regulation clears the way for fraud and corruption.

The Lansing State Journal reportson the failed promise of charter schools, which soak up $1 billion a year from taxpayers.

“Two decades into Michigan’s charter school experience, it’s clear that some schools excel academically, others don’t — and charters have not found the key to educating children in poverty.

“In other words, their results are similar in many ways to the traditional public schools they hoped to outperform.

“Of the charter schools ranked by the state during the 2012-13 school year, 38% fell below the 25th percentile, meaning at least 75% of all state public schools performed better, according to a Free Press review of data published by the state. This includes charters operated by for-profit and nonprofit companies, as well as self-managed schools. That compares with 23% of traditional schools below the 25th percentile.

“And, reflecting Michigan’s loose oversight of charter schools, a majority of the lowest-performing charters have been around for 10 years or more — despite research that shows the success of a charter school can be determined in the first three years of existence.”

A comment from Krazy TA, one of our most valuable, witty, and informed readers:

“This blog has just hit 13 million views.


Why does it keeps attracting a high number of views? Because it presents vital info excluded from the MSM, and because it offers folks like Ms. Christine McLaughlin a forum. Heartfelt thanks to Diane.

And to Christine McLaughlin:

“Not all of us can do great things. But we can do small things with great love.” [Mother Teresa]

From your friendly neighborhood KrazyTA.

Keep on keepin’ on. Know that you are in the hearts of many.”


An earlier post about the Vergara case contrasted the testimony of a plaintiff (a student) who said Ms. McLaughlin was a “bad” teacher with a video in which several students spoke highly of the same teacher, who was named by the Rotary as Pasadena Teacher of the Year.

Christine McLaughlin, the teacher who was the subject of the post, left the following comment:

“I was so surprised to hear of this post regarding the case and my involvement. I want to point out two important facts that might add additional insight into this case.

1. The case was a lawsuit against the State and lawmakers, not individual teachers. The teachers listed in the student’s testimony were pawns in this process. I was sadly one of those pawns.

2. Miss Monterroza stated that every teacher she had in PUSD from 5th through 9th grade were “bad” teachers. Except one! The one that recruited her to join this lawsuit. He had his agenda because he was RIFed and he did not like the system. I was moved into his position ( I was RIFed that year too).”