Archives for category: Unions

Peter Greene has been following the career path of Rebecca Friedrichs, a teacher who became the face of anti-unionism.

Friedrichs lent her name to a Supreme Court case that didn’t get decided (it was eventually superseded by the Janus case, whose attempt to defund the teachers’ unions won in the Supreme Court but has thus far not defunded the teachers’ unions.

I have often heard the rightwing cranks complain about evil teachers’ unions. I always ask them to name a high-performing state that has banished unions, and they are always speechless.

Greene offers a compilation of his articles about this dissident teacher.

He begins:

Friedrichs has been in the news yet again, this time appearing on Fox to accuse America’s Evil Teacher Unions of being sexual predators. It’s an accusation that will have traction in some circles; if you spend any time in conspiratorial comment sections of the interwebz, you’re probably aware of the grand conspiracy theory that says that the entire Democratic Party is a smokescreen for pedophiles trafficking in children.

If the Friedrichs name seems familiar, that’s because she first burst into the news as the chirpy face of a lawsuit to legitimize freeloading in teachers unions and not coincidentally try to gut the unions financially. That suit ran into an unexpected death on the Supreme Court and the issue was eventually decided by Janus, but while the lawsuit failed, it launched a whole new career for Friedrichs.

So that’s who that woman is. Rather than rehash previous pieces I’ve written about her, let me just provide you with the listings and you can decide on your own how much of this you can stomach.

Maurice Cunningham, a political science professor at the University of Massachusetts, specializes in exposing the role of Dark Money in education. If you read my book, Slaying Goliath, you know that Cunningham’s research and blog posts helped to turn the tide against a state referendum in 2016 to expand the number of charter schools in Massachusetts. Cunningham showed that “Yes on Two” Organization was funded by billionaires and that the billionaires were hiding their identities. Despite being outspent, the parent-teacher-local school committee won handily.

In this post, originally from February, Cunningham explains why the Waltons and Charles Koch are so devoted to privatizing public school governance. He’s right that they want to lower their taxes. They also want to smash teachers’ unions; more than 90% of charters are non-union. The corporate sector doesn’t like unions, and most private unions have been eliminated. The teachers’ unions are still standing, which annoys the billionaires.

In Florida, state officials ordered schools across the state to open fully without regard to safety or local officials. The Florida Education Association sued, and a judge blocked them reopening.

A Florida judge Monday granted a temporary injunction against the state’s order requiring school districts to reopen schools during the novel coronavirus pandemic, saying in a harshly worded decision that parts of it were unconstitutional.
Circuit Court Judge Charles Dodson, in a 16-page decision, granted the request in a lawsuit filed by the Florida Education Association to block the order issued by state Education Commissioner Richard Corcoran compelling schools to reopen five days a week for families who wanted that option.

The state also required districts to offer virtual learning.
School districts can now proceed to follow through on starting the 2020-2021 school year as they want, according to the teachers union.


The Florida Education Department said it could not immediately comment on the decision.


The White House, where President Trump has been pushing districts to reopen schools and threatened to withhold federal funds if they didn’t — though he doesn’t have the power to do that unilaterally — said it would not comment on state matters.


Dodson said in his decision that the state did not take many important health considerations into consideration when it issued the order.
“It fails to mention consideration of community transmission rates, varying ages of students, or proper precautions,” he wrote. “What has been clearly established is there is no easy decision and opening schools will most likely increase covid-19 cases in Florida.”


The judge ruled that the plaintiffs had established that the order was being “applied arbitrarily across Florida.” He sided with the plaintiffs, granting a preliminary injunction against the order and striking down parts of it as unconstitutional.



The administration of Gov. Ron DeSantis (R), who is an ally of the president’s, has for months been pushing districts to reopen. On July 6, Corcoran issued an issue requiring that school districts reopen school buildings, though it gave a few districts in south Florida, which had extremely high coronavirus rates, permission to start the 2020-2021 school year remotely.


Other districts that wanted to start remotely were not given approval, including Hillsborough County, which was threatened by the DeSantis administration with the loss of nearly $200 million if it carried out its plan to open remotely.


The lawsuit said that Corcoran’s order was unconstitutional because it threatened the safety of schools by conditioning funding on reopening school buildings by the end of August, regardless of the dangers posed by the pandemic.

The lawsuit also said the order was “arbitrary” and “capricious” on its face and application.
The state responded, saying the order was a reasonable exercise of emergency powers by the DeSantis administration that balanced the constitutional rights of students to a public education against the risk of harm during the pandemic.

It also said that states had submitted reopening plans that included the opening of school campuses, and that showed the districts wanted to proceed that way.
Dodson didn’t accept that reasoning, saying that districts had no choice but to open buildings because of the order.

Evie Blad of Education Week writes that a Biden-Harris administration may forge a new path on education issues. They have pledged to increase funding, regulate charters, and back away from standardized testing. They also have pledged to support the right to collective bargaining. This heartens advocates of public education, but frightens the corporate reformers who have controlled education for 20 years.

Twenty years of failed education policy is enough!

Democrats for Education Reform and the Center for American Policy, both committed to high/stakes testing and charters, are worried.

As he campaigned for the Democratic presidential nomination, former Vice President Joe Biden pledged that, if elected, his education department would be a sharp departure from that of President Donald Trump.

Rather than promoting private school choice, as the Republican incumbent has, Biden pledged to dramatically increase federal aid to schools, including ambitious calls to triple the Title I funding targeted at students from low-income households and to “fully fund” the Individuals with Disabilities Education Act.

But, as Biden accepts his party’s nomination this week, there also are signs that his potential future administration wouldn’t return lock step to the education policies of President Barack Obama. And some of a Biden administration’s education policy goals could take a back seat to the pressing matter of helping schools navigate the ongoing coronavirus pandemic, which may alter their operations and threaten their budgets for years to come.

Though he’s campaigned heavily on his experience as Obama’s vice president, Biden has departed on some key issues from that self-described supporter of education reform. Obama’s education department championed rigorous state education standards, encouraged states to lift their caps on public charter schools to apply for big federal Race to the Top grants, and offered charter school conversions as an improvement strategy for struggling schools.

By contrast, Biden called for a scale-back of standardized testing at a 2019 MSNBC education forum, and he criticized their use in teacher evaluations, a key policy goal of the Obama administration. Under the leadership of Biden’s campaign, Democrats formally introduced a party platform this week that criticizes high-stakes testing and calls for new restrictions on charter schools.

How much Biden’s policy would depart from the last Democratic president’s is up for debate. But the Every Student Succeeds Act, the federal education law Obama signed at the end of his last term, may offer levers to make some policy changes.

“Your job as a vice president is to toe the line of your boss,” said Julian Vasquez Heilig, the dean of the college of education at the University of Kentucky and a board member of the Network for Public Education, a progressive advocacy group. If Biden chooses, “he can be his own person on education.”

Praise and Concern

That suggestion of a new direction has won praise from groups like national teachers’ unions, which called for the resignation of Obama’s long-serving education secretary, Arne Duncan, when Duncan advanced a push for teacher evaluations and other reforms.

National Education Association President Lily Eskelsen García called Biden and his running mate and one-time rival for the nomination, California Sen. Kamala Harris, a “dream team” that “respects educators and will listen to those who know the names of the kids in the classrooms.”

But Biden’s priorities, and the absence of discussions of school improvement during the Democratic primary, have also been met with concern from some education groups.

“If we only talk about the money side of the equation, that’s not enough by itself,” said Shavar Jeffries, president of Democrats for Education Reform. “That’s where we need our president to be a leader and hold those institutions accountable.”

The organization, which supports charter schools and data-driven school accountability efforts, has praised Biden’s push for more resources, but it has sounded the alarm about other changes recommended in the party platform.

That platform language reflects some of Biden’s comments during the primaries. In recorded interviews with the NEA, for example, he said a lot of charter schools are “significantly underperforming” and that charter schools “cannot come at the expense of the public school.”

Neither Biden nor Harris included language on charters in their plans as candidates. But the platform language-created with input from a “unity task force” assembled by the campaigns of Biden and Independent Vermont Sen. Bernie Sanders-calls for a ban on federal funding for “for-profit charter businesses.”

The language also calls for “conditioning federal funding for new, expanded charter schools or for charter school renewals on a district’s review of whether the charter will systematically underserve the neediest students,” which has alarmed charter advocates who say the publicly funded, independently managed schools already face sufficient accountability.

Charter schools are largely governed through state and local policy. But a presidential administration can help shape public debate on the issue. And a Biden administration could scale back support for charter schools in its discretionary grant priorities and regulations or in its proposed budgets.

Time for fresh thinking! Time to build strong child-centered, community-based schools and throw off the obsession with standardized testing and privatization.

The Education Research Alliance of New Orleans just released a study of why some charter teachers in the nation’s only all-charter district want to join a union. Their reasons sound very much like the reasons that teachers in public schools want a union. No one told them that the Waltons, charter lobbyists, and other supporters of the charter movement don’t like unions. Immediately after Hurricane Katrina in 2005, the teachers’ union was eliminated, and all the teachers were fired. Getting rid of the union and removing teacher voice was part of the plan.

NEW ORLEANS, LOUISIANA – The Education Research Alliance for New Orleans has released a study on teacher unions in charter schools in New Orleans and Detroit. Drawing on detailed interviews with 21 teachers, the report offers insight what motivates teachers in charter schools to form a union and what barriers may stand in their way.

This report gives readers the rare opportunity to hear teachers’ perspectives on the process of organizing in charter schools. All the teachers interviewed came from schools where there was an attempt, successful or unsuccessful, to form a union.

“Understanding the role of unions is particularly important now, when schools are both facing the COVID pandemic and in a time when there are calls to address racism in our institutions,” said Huriya Jabbar, lead author of the report. “Schools need to listen to teachers and develop a shared understanding about the best way forward in these difficult times. In some schools, unions play a big role in those conversations.”

Researchers Huriya Jabbar (University of Texas at Austin), Jesse Chanin (Tulane University), Jamie Haynes (University of Texas at Austin), and Sara Slaughter (Tulane University) uncovered the following insights about union organizing in charter schools:

The most common motivation for organizing was improving teacher retention and job security. Lack of pay transparency and equity (e.g. men and women being paid unequally), unsustainable workloads, teacher burnout, and arbitrary firings were also major underlying concerns.

Teachers also often brought up the desire to advocate for their students, hoping to ensure that school policies were culturally responsive and that vulnerable students were supported.

Teachers who were in favor of unionization efforts reported shock at the severity of school administrators’ responses. Many alleged that administrators fired teachers who attempted to unionize or accused them of destroying the school “family.”

High teacher turnover and fear of being fired were major challenges that stymied attempts at union organizing.
There were notable differences between Detroit, where many charters are for-profit, and New Orleans, where they are all non-profit. Detroit teachers saw low salary as a major issue and complained that they were lacking basic resources like textbooks. Teachers in New Orleans did not emphasize salary levels as a major issue but were concerned about pay transparency.

“As more charter schools open in the U.S., it is becoming increasingly important to understand the needs and motivations of teachers who choose to work in these schools,” said co-author Sara Slaughter, Associate Director at the Education Research Alliance for New Orleans.

Read the study here.

DFER (Democrats for Education Reform) is an organization founded by Wall Street hedge fund managers to support charter schools. They believe in privatization; they actively undermine public schools that belong to the community. They believe in high-stakes testing, and they strongly support evaluating teachers by the test scores of their students, although professional associations like the American Statistical Association does not. They love Teach for America, because they don’t like experienced professionals or teachers unions.

Their main function is to raise money for political candidates, which gives them immense leverage. Once a political candidate gets on the DFER recommended list, they can count on money flowing in from friends of DFER around the country. DFER does not have a large membership but it has a very rich following among hedge funders and venture capitalists.

In this publication, DFER tries to demonstrate that “school choice” is a Democratic idea. It lists the Democratic politicians who support charter schools. It trumpets the support of the late AFT leader Al Shanker for charter schools, but fails to mention that Shanker turned against charter schools as he saw them turn into a weapon of privatization to undermine public schools and teachers’ unions. Shanker was all for charters before they existed, but he recoiled when he saw what they were becoming. By 1994, he concluded that charter schools were no different than vouchers, and that both were intended to smash teachers’ unions and privatize public schools. PLEASE STOP CITING SHANKER AS A CHARTER SUPPORTER!

Charter schools today are 90% non-union. Real Democrats are not opposed to teachers’ unions.

Charter schools today are more segregated than real public schools. Real Democrats do not support racial segregation.

Everyone who thinks that charter schools are connected to Democratic Party ideals should read Steve Suitts’ powerful book “Undermining Brown,” which shows that the idea of school choice was created by Southern segregations who were fighting the Brown decision.

The DFER document fails to mention that charter schools enjoy the support of Charles Koch, Betsy DeVos, Donald Trump, ALEC, and every Republican governor. School choice diverts funding from genuine public schools. If DFER put out a publication of the governors and Senators and members of Congress who support charter schools, the Republicans would far outnumber the Democrats.

If, as DFER maintains, charters are “public schools,” why did so many of them apply for and receive millions from the federal Paycheck Protection Program, for which public schools were ineligible? Are they “public schools” or are they “small businesses” or “nonprofits” but not public schools?

The DFER report also fails to mention the staggering failure rate of charter schools. The document lauds the federal Charter School Program, created by the Clinton administration when there were few charter schools, but neglects to mention that about 35-40% of the new charters paid for by the CSP either never opened or closed soon after opening.

To be clear: School choice is not a Democratic Party idea, unless you mean the party of George Wallace and the Dixiecrats. School choice is beloved by libertarians who want to destroy public education (ALEC) and by Republicans who want to privatize public education (Betsy DeVos, Donald Trump, Mike Pence, Jeb Bush).

Open the link here to read Randi Weingarten’s speech to the AFT Convention.

Here is a summary from the AFT:

Weingarten’s State of the Union address zeroed in on the three crises facing America—a public health crisis, an economic crisis and a long-overdue reckoning with racism. She detailed how these crises are being made worse by President Trump and emphasized the urgency of the November elections, not only to defeat Trump but to elect Joe Biden and reimagine America.

“Activism and elections build the power necessary to create a better life, a voice at work and a voice in our democracy. Activism changes the narrative, elections change policy, and, together, they change lives,” said Weingarten.

Weingarten honored the 200 AFT members who have died in the line of duty, and the hundreds of thousands who have protected, cared for, engaged and fed our communities during the pandemic. But those efforts have been met with reckless inaction by the Trump administration and some state officials who have failed to provide either a plan or adequate resources as community spread has skyrocketed.

While safety and education needs are front and center in many of America’s 16,000 school districts, and states such as New York have curbed the virus and published strong reopening plans, Trump and Education Secretary Betsy DeVos have embraced virus denialism and waged a weekslong campaign to force reopening with threats and bluster.

In her speech, Weingarten unveiled a resolution passed by the AFT’s 45-member executive council backing locally authorized “safety strikes”—on a case-by-case basis and as a last resort—to ensure safety amid the absence of urgency by federal and some state officials to tackle the coronavirus surge.

“Let’s be clear,” Weingarten told delegates. “Just as we have done with our healthcare workers, we will fight on all fronts for the safety of our students and their educators. But if the authorities don’t get it right, and they don’t protect the safety and health of those we represent and those we serve, nothing is off the table—not advocacy or protests, negotiations, grievances or lawsuits, or, if necessary as a last resort, safety strikes.”

Weingarten said the union’s members want to return to school buildings for the sake of their kids’ learning—and the well-being of families—but only if conditions are safe. And that requires planning and hundreds of billions of dollars in resources the Senate and the administration have refused to provide.

There is a charter school in San Diego called the Gompers Preparatory Academy. Since 2018, its private management has been fighting teachers who want to form a union. When the COVID crisis struck and the state planned budget cuts, Gompers laid off more than a third of the staff. By coincidence (!), nearly all the teachers laid off were the very ones who wanted to form a union!

Does the charter management know who Samuel Gompers was? Hint: the first president of the American Federation of Labor and a pioneer of the union movement.

Gompers Preparatory Academy announced Monday it had rescinded a decision made two weeks ago to lay off more than a third of the school’s teachers because of state budget cuts.

The layoffs would have increased class sizes from 19 students to 28 at the public charter school in southeastern San Diego. Ninety percent of Gompers students are socioeconomically disadvantaged, and some may be the first in their families to attend college, the school has said.

Some teachers had criticized the layoffs as an attempt to end their recently formed union…

Nearly all teachers who received layoff notices last month were union supporters, a San Diego Education Association spokesperson previously told inewsource. Gompers leaders had maintained the cuts were necessary and said decisions were based on seniority.

For immediate release
July 10, 2020
Media Contact
Anna Bakalis 213-305-9654

POLL Results: 83% of UTLA members say LAUSD schools should not physically reopen August 18

Out of the more than 18,000 UTLA members who submitted responses to our informal poll in less than 12 hours, 83% agree with the UTLA Board of Directors and Bargaining Team that LAUSD should not physically reopen schools on August 18.

Because of the overwhelming response to the online member poll, the deadline to submit responses was extended to 8 pm. There were technical issues related to some aggressive spam filters that interfered with delivery and the poll function. The poll asked one question: Do you agree with the UTLA Board of Directors and UTLA Bargaining Team that LAUSD should not physically reopen school campuses on August 18th?

“It is hitting us hard to think we may not be back with our students in the fall,” UTLA President Cecily Myart-Cruz said. “And we know this is hard on our students and their parents, so many of whom have stepped up as our partners in teaching while struggling with the economic fallout of this crisis. But safety must come first, along with a commitment to focus on strengthening distance learning.”

The spike in COVID cases — with California recording its highest one-day virus death toll this week — has changed the calculations for when it is safe to go back to schools. Even before the surge, there were serious issues with starting the school year on physical campuses. State and federal governments have not provided the resources or funds to start school safely, and there is not enough time for the district to put together the detailed, rigorous plans that must be in place to reopen our sites.

UTLA is bargaining with the school district and we have another bargaining session scheduled with LAUSD next week.

Other countries that have reopened schools — such as New Zealand, Vietnam, and Germany — did so only after they had flattened the curve, accompanied by broad societal preparedness, including rapid case identification, contact tracing, and isolation. The U.S. is not even close to meeting these benchmarks.

Yesterday, the United Teachers of Los Angeles scores a big victory, and so did the teachers in five charter schools, who won the right to unionize.

For Immediate Release

May 22, 2020

Media Contact:

Anna Bakalis, 213-305-9654

PERB rules in UTLA’s favor, the union will now represent all educators at five Alliance charter schools

After a two-year legal battle, on Thursday, May 21, the Public Employment Relations Board (PERB) certified UTLA as the exclusive collective bargaining representative of educators at the five Alliance charter schools that filed for union recognition:

Alliance College-Ready Middle Academy 5
Alliance Judy Ivie Burton Technology Academy High School
Alliance Gertz-Ressler/Richard Merkin 6-12 Complex
Alliance Leichtman Levine Family Foundation Environmental Science High School
Alliance Morgan McKinzie High School…

“Now that PERB has made it clear that we filed appropriately at our schools, we’re ready to sit down at the bargaining table,” said Kemberlee Hooper, a Physical Education teacher at Gertz-Merkin. “ I’m excited that we’ll have an equal voice in decision making, and I look forward to bargaining over issues like professional developments and a fair and meaningful evaluation process.”

Alliance has been fighting PERB certification since educators at three schools filed for union recognition in May 2018, with two more filing in 2019. But now with this decision, Alliance educators have prevailed after a two-year legal delay intended by Alliance to deny educators their right to bargain and to organize with UTLA. Alliance educators are ready to move forward. They urge Alliance to start setting a better example for their students and the Alliance community by respecting PERB’s decision and its own educators.

Particularly in this unprecedented time, it’s more important than ever that educators have an equal voice in decisions impacting their students, their schools, and their profession. Alliance educators simply want to sit down with Alliance as real decision-making partners and together decide what will make their schools the best place to work and learn.

Alliance educators look forward to bargaining at five union schools and are committed to organizing at all Alliance schools.