Monthly Archives: June 2011

How public employees in UK respond to bad pension deals

From this morning’s Guardian, reports of thousands of public workers striking over pension cuts.

Not that I’m advocating any such thing.

 

 

 

 

 

 

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Filed under Budget, Budget Cuts, Collective Bargaining, Public employee unions, public employees, United Kingdom

An exceptional response to the attack on public unions

From this morning’s (Sat 6/25) New York Times:

An op-ed called “Public or Private, It’s Work” by Garrett Keizer contends that the (primarily but not exclusively) conservative attack on public employees is misguided at best, insidious at worst. You should read the whole thing, but I want to highlight two points.

In responding to the claim that public labor and private labor are qualitatively different, Keizer says:

The two-labors fallacy rests on an even shakier proposition: that profits exist only where there is an accountant to tally them. This is economics reduced to the code of a shoplifter — whatever the security guard doesn’t see the store won’t miss. If my wife and I have young children but are still able to enjoy the double-income advantages of a childless couple, isn’t that partly because our children are being watched at school? If I needn’t invest some of my household’s savings in elaborate surveillance systems, isn’t that partly because I have a patrol car circling the block? The so-called “public sector” is a profit-making entity; it profits me.

I don’t imagine that many of you who read this blog or its sisters haven’t made this argument before. The value of our work isn’t necessarily in the capital it generates, but in its good as a public service. Nothing new here, but the way Keizer puts it is powerful.

Another of those arguments that many of us have made repeatedly is that up against the extremely high pay that wealthy owners and managers give themselves in the private sector, who, exactly, in the public sector is being paid a lot? Or as Keizer says:

Right now C.E.O.’s of multinational corporations earn salaries as much as a thousand times those of their lowest-paid employees. In such a context complaining about “lavish” public sector salaries is like shushing the foul language of children playing near the set of a snuff film. Whom are we kidding? More to the point, who’s getting snuffed?

A healthy dose of perspective to kick off your (well, at least my) Saturday morning…

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Filed under AFSCME, APSCUF, Budget, Budget Cuts, Collective Bargaining, Communities, Public employee unions, public employees

More news on the budget

This press release just out from State APSCUF:

The budget that’s likely to pass (by the way, without ANY significant Democratic input whatsoever) imposes an 18% cut on the PASSHE allocation, which would require a tuition increase in the neighborhood of 10% to level off. We can rest pretty sure that the Board of Governors will approve nothing of the sort.

It’s well worth taking one more shot at calling/writing your legislators to make one more appeal on our behalf. There’s nothing to lose. And now that we have a specific number, we can make a lot more concrete arguments about how these cuts will harm our campuses; we can sound simultaneously less shrill and more certain. May as well give it a try.

And then get ready. The cuts management has been threatening for months are about to start getting announced. APSCUF will fight like hell to minimize the damage to our institutions inflicted by this absurd political theater playing out on the backs of PA’s families–students, staff, and faculty.

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Filed under APSCUF, Budget, Budget Cuts, PASSHE, Public education, Shock Doctrine, Tom Corbett

Tentative Budget Deal Reached

The Philadelphia Inquirer is reporting on Friday morning that the PA Legislature and Governor Fracker have reached a tentative deal on the state budget.

The preliminary reports are not good for us, although the numbers aren’t yet very precise. The article indicates that the “state-supported” universities will take a 19% hit, but doesn’t distinguish between PASSHE and the state-relateds. So we don’t yet know exactly what will happen to us.

If that 19% is even close to what we see when the numbers are released, we’re going to have lots of work to do protecting our system from the kinds of Draconian cuts we all know PASSHE already wants to make. Yet again, our state government has provided the cover under which our Chancellor and Board of Governors can radically overhaul our whole system, while pretending that it has anything whatsoever to do with economics.

As a pacifist, I usually am very stridently resistant to military metaphors, but in this case, … Oh hell, I still can’t do it.

But now at least the circular logic of management is laid bare: “We can’t afford to pay for anything [except more managers and management salaries]. Why not? Because we just gave all the money away. See?”

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Filed under Access, APSCUF, Budget, Budget Cuts, Budget Deficit, Collective Bargaining, Contract Negotiations, Office of the Chancellor, PASSHE, Penn State University, Public education, Retrenchment, Shock Doctrine, Tom Corbett, Tuition increase, West Chester University

A member of the “Educational Reform” Cabal busted pushing anti-union legislation

Ever since the Educational “Reformer” gang (Gates, Duncan, Rhee, Obama) started getting serious airtime in the national discussions about education, it’s been clear that their agenda requires defanging teachers’ unions. All along, the “Reformers” have insisted that they’re not anti-union, but that unions protect “bad teachers” by making them difficult to fire; unions create expenses (salaries and pensions) that are untenable; unions fight against changes in teaching load and class size in spite of clear violations of “efficiency” as a godterm, etc.

Those of us (myself included) who have described the cabal as “anti-union” have, at times, been criticized for overstating the position. It usually goes something like this: “If the unions would just be less, well, unionish, then we could work out reasonable solutions to these problems.”

Well, as if I needed clearer evidence of the gang’s anti-union proclivities, this morning’s Daily Kos reposts and explicates some evidence that Michelle Rhee’s organization, the Orwellian-named Students First, actively participated in crafting the Michigan legislation that all but eliminates collective bargaining rights for teachers. Students First provided agenda points for the legislation, and staff members vetted language in the bills, all while telling the press that they had nothing to do with the bills.

While this news comes as no surprise to those of us who have been following this (ahem) movement over the last couple of years, it may seem only tangentially related to APSCUF or higher education. And that’s probably true, technically. However, it adds another piece to the threat posed by the US Education Delivery Institute (which I wrote about last week and am preparing another post on currently), which is part and parcel of the same movement. Don’t underestimate, even for a moment, the extent to which these folks are not on our side.

I’m not going to claim that they hate students, or that they’re sadists, or any of the easy overstatements. Their specific motives for busting the chops of unions are beside the point, at least at the moment.

What’s on point is that we have to counter the message, at every turn, that unions support bad teaching, that we protect colleagues at the expense of students, that we oppose evaluation systems that determine quality, and so on. With the kind of money the Gates Foundation is throwing at them, with the kind of bully pulpit Arne Duncan has as Secretary of Education, we’re facing a serious challenge. And knowing that members of the cabal are participating directly in anti-union activities ups the stakes for us that much more.

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Filed under Advocacy, APSCUF, Collective Bargaining, deliverology, K-12 Education, lobbying, Michelle Rhee, National Education Association, Public education, US Education Delivery Institute

Tentative Agreement for AFSCME

Details haven’t been released yet, but several press outlets are reporting that AFSCME and Corbett’s negotiators have reached a tentative agreement.  None of the stories I’ve seen are more detailed than this one.

What that means for APSCUF is unclear. In the last couple of contract cycles, the AFSCME settlement has had pretty clear impacts on ours regarding salary and benefit structures, but that seems less likely this time. That’s not to say there aren’t indicators in the agreement, but what they are seems less obvious.

More to come as we know more about what’s in the settlement. Conventional wisdom is it’ll take the AFSCME rank and file about 2 weeks to organize and vote on the agreement.

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Filed under AFSCME, APSCUF, Collective Bargaining, Contract Negotiations

PASSHE and the US Education Delivery Institute (Part 1 of ???)

[When I started writing this, I quickly realized that it’s going to be much longer than I thought. So it’s becoming a series.  –Seth]

[Updated 5 pm Thurs]

Way back in April of this year, I co-hosted a pre-conference workshop called Labor Organizing in Hard Times at the Conference on College Composition and Communication (4Cs, for short) in Atlanta.

During our workshop, I learned a new word: deliverology (which, blessedly, the WordPress spellchecker doesn’t recognize as a word). My friend and colleague Kathleen, who directs the Writing Center at Cal St U-Channel Islands, told us that the CSU system had bought into deliverology, and faculty around the system were already seeing some insidious implications.

I remember thinking (in my much the same way I knew PASSHE would hire the current Chancellor as soon as I learned a little about him) that it couldn’t be long before PASSHE jumped on the bandwagon. Unfortunately, that all happened in the midst of a very long day, and I forgot all about it.

Flash forward to last week. I got an e-mail with a link to the website for an organization called the US Education Delivery Institute (USEDI). Roughly paraphrased, the note said something like, “Just in case you need something else to piss you off” (from a colleague whose sense of humor sometimes runs toward the tongue-in-cheek).

I can only describe my reaction thus (slightly Disneyfied so we can keep our PG-13 rating on the blog): “You gotta be [bleep] kidding me!”

USEDI is the brainchild of Sir Michael Barber, former member of Tony Blair’s Ministry of Education. According to the organization’s website:

The U.S. Education Delivery Institute (EDI) was founded in May 2010 by Sir Michael Barber, former head of the U.K. Prime Minister’s Delivery Unit, with support from the Education Trust and Achieve.

This is a unique time in education:  Many K-12 state systems have set ambitious goals as part of the Race to the Top competition, while higher education systems are working to achieve President Obama’s goal of making the United States number one in the world in college attainment by 2020.  Meanwhile, fiscal concerns are requiring education systems to do more with fewer resources.

While systems often have the right ambitions and promising policies, the process of planning and driving implementation receives less attention.  More often than not, leaders approach implementation by fighting fires, making a laundry list of initiatives, or otherwise managing in an uncoordinated way.

Prime Minister Tony Blair faced a similar implementation dilemma in 2001, as he was elected to a second term.  To help him deliver on his priorities, he created the Prime Minister’s Delivery Unit (PMDU) and appointed Sir Michael Barber to lead the effort.  The PMDU pioneered a new approach to managing priorities – delivery – and used it with great success to help Blair achieve his priorities.  With the help of the delivery unit, the Blair government reached 80% of policy targets; Prime Minister Blair called his investment in delivery the best domestic reform he had made.

If you’re already noticing the absence of specifics (sometimes signified by asking yourself or anybody else in shouting distance “What does that even mean?”), welcome to it. You should look at the website more carefully than just the highlights (ahem) I’ll lift out in this series of posts, but the short version of what you’ll find is this: USEDI is an organization that helps schools/districts/colleges/universities/systems set and meet policy targets related to “delivering” educational product as efficiently as possible.

The litany of arguments describing and critiquing the corporatization of American higher education is well-established and rehearsed, and frankly it’s too depressing to rehash (again) here. Let’s just say the folks at USEDI have leapfrogged over all that.

[OK… It’s getting harder to write about this without being really angry and sarcastic. Anger is probably appropriate, but sarcasm probably isn’t. Stay tuned for Part 2, coming soon!]

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Filed under APSCUF, deliverology, K-12 Education, PASSHE, Public education, Uncategorized, US Education Delivery Institute