Category Archives: Communities

Statewide “Call” to Action for Public Education

Folks:

An organization called Education Voters for PA is organizing a Statewide ‘Call’ to Action phone-in campaign for Monday, Dec. 5.

From their website–

Education Voters, joined by several allies, is organizing our firstStatewide “Call” to Action for Public Education! One week from today, on Monday, December 5th.  Thousands of people will set aside 5 minutes to call their local State Representatives and Senators with a short message about education being our highest priority as taxpayers and voters. CLICK HERE to pledge to call!

  • Class sizes are increasing in many communities.
  • Kindergarten, tutoring, arts, sports …. all being cut.
  • We keep reducing education to the point where someday soon, we could be teaching only subjects that will be on standardized tests.
  • We are raising taxes at the community level, putting more pressure on property taxes instead of having a statewide funding formula that is aligned to learning standards, fiscally responsible, fair and both Constitutional and ethical.

APSCUF members and other people concerned about education should support this effort. For further details, check out their website. All they ask is that you make the call to your legislator and then notify the organization that you’ve done it. It’s five minutes if you feel chatty with whoever answers the phone at your legislator’s office.

Please share with people you know who care about public education in PA, anywhere in the state.

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Filed under Advocacy, APSCUF, Budget, Budget Cuts, Communities, K-12 Education, Public education, Rally

Another Aspect of Shared Governance

If you’ve talked to me about academic labor politics for more than 2 or 3 minutes, you probably know that I’ve become something of an evangelist about contingent labor in the last couple of years. It would be fair, I think, to accuse me of speaking with the righteousness of the converted, although that conversion–in my estimation–took about a decade longer than it should have.

I have also been writing, on and off over the last few years, about ways to expand our conception of shared governance to include populations that will help pressure management to cede back to faculty, and the communities we serve, at least a reasonable share of authority over our working conditions and areas of expertise.

Enter today’s (Monday, Nov 14) Chronicle of Higher Ed, featuring a story about an AAUP panel recommending that contingent faculty have access to shared governance just like regular full-time faculty on their campuses. For the record, these are draft recommendations; the final version isn’t on any official timetable.

Intuitively, this makes perfect sense to me. Anybody who has a stake in a policy should have something meaningful to say about whether the policy gets established and what it does. And, intuitively it makes sense to me that contingent faculty are a lot more likely to be policy allies than managers are, at least about most things most of the time.

There are criticisms coming from fulltime faculty, none of which is surprising, but no less galling (in my personal opinion) for their predictability. I won’t even give them the airtime by repeating them. Read them if you want. What they all boil down to is this: “We hate the exploitation of contingent faculty until altering the structure of academic labor costs us something.”

That’s not good enough.

 

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Filed under AAUP, Advocacy, APSCUF, Chronicle of Higher Ed, Communities, Contingent faculty, shared governance, Tenure

Public unions and budget deficits

Although facts and evidence don’t much matter to the controlling factions on most Capitol Hills these days, it’s never a bad idea to marshall them anyway.

David Moberg’s “The Wrong Target” (In These Times, 10/14/2011) summarizes and highlights the results of a recent study out of the University of California at Berkeley, making clear that public unions are not at all responsible for state budget deficits; neither are public unions responsible for skyrocketing numbers of state jobs (although I don’t see why that’s a bad thing–but that’s just me).

Some highlights from the article (but you should look at the whole thing, which isn’t very long, and at the study on which it’s based):

   •    Public workers have been a steady share of the workforce from 1979 to 2011—averaging 14.2 percent of the entire workforce and ranging from 13.6 to 15.2 percent (slightly increasing typically following a recession simply because private workers disproportionately lost jobs).

•    State and local government employment for every thousand residents rose very slightly from 1990 to 2001 (from 60.8 to 64.2 workers for a thousand residents, virtually all in local government), then remained flat through 2009.

•    Comparing states with the highest and lowest rates of unionization, the researchers found that from 1990-2009 there were more public employees for every thousand residents in weak- or non-union states than in states densely unionized. Also, there was faster growth in weakly unionized states, especially from 2001 onwards when the ratio of public workers to the population declined in the most unionized states.

•    Ultimately, the data seem to show no correlation between union density and public sector employment. (Jacobs suggests some rural, lightly populated and big states that also have few public unions may have a higher ratio to serve a dispersed population.)

•    Public worker total compensation has not been growing as a share of state expenditures. Indeed, worker wages and benefit declined as a share of state spending from 1992 to 2002, then remained stable (according to a study from the Center for American Progress).

•    As many studies have demonstrated, state and local government workers earn less in wages and benefits than similar private sector workers. Moreover, in recent years private sector labor costs have risen faster than costs in the public sector—a remarkable record considering the widespread wage stagnation and cuts in both pay and benefits in the private sector.

 

So the next time somebody tells you that public sector unions are bad for the economy, here’s a solid block of evidence to the contrary. We can only hope that evidence starts to matter sooner rather than later.

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Filed under Advocacy, AFSCME, APSCUF, Benefits/Benefit Cuts, Budget, Budget Cuts, Budget Deficit, Collective Bargaining, Communities, PASSHE, Privatization, Public education, Public employee unions, public employees, research, Shock Doctrine, taxes, Teacher unions, Unions

APSCUF’s own Chuck Bauerlein on Occupy Wall Street

I should have reposted this sooner–been a little behind recently. This is Chuck’s post on his own blog. I’m reproducing it in full. If you want to comment on the original, just click the link. Otherwise, read on.

 

The movement that won’t go away


Eight days ago I went up to Washington Square Park in New York city, carrying the sign pictured here, to see for myself what all the Occupy Wall Street protests were about. It was beginning to garner some media attention with predictable results from the print pundits and AM radio shouters.

To the Fox News propagandists, the protesters were castigated as “unwashed hippies and anarchists.” On the left-wing blogs and websites they were lauded as “radical revolutionaries.” As usual, both takes on the protesters were naive, silly and too frequently based on the biases of the reporter. No one was able to articulate a clear understanding of who was leading the protests or what they wanted.

I have my own biases, of course, but I am growing confident the Occupy Wall Street protest is not going to go away any time soon. It’s gaining traction by the day. A particularly harsh winter may slow it down (conservatives like New York’s Mayor Bloomberg are crossing their fingers) but my gut tells me by the end of November it will be too big to ignore and it may help shape the public agenda for the 2012 Presidential elections.

And this will likely be bad news for the Republicans. (It was with no small amusement yesterday I read Eric Cantor’s weekend remarks that endorsed one of the main sentiments of the OWS protesters: that too much of the nation’s wealth was held by the top 1 percent of Americans. For a sycophant of the very wealthy like Cantor — R. Va. — to admit such a claim is ground-breaking news….and it suggests the GOP is watching Occupy Wall Street with a growing sense of alarm.)

The signs I saw last Saturday in Washington Square poked fun at both the left and the right. There were plenty of signs attacking Wall Street and lambasting the GOP as the “Party of Greed.” But there were also plenty of signs reprimanding the Obama administration for wasting the nation’s treasury on foreign wars, for bailing out the banks and for not prosecuting those most responsible for the economic meltdown and the mortgage fiasco.

The protesters I spoke to were upset with the whole political system, with politics as usual. In that sense, they ARE kin to the uber-conservative libertarians who comprise the Tea Party. And like the Tea Party, Occupy Wall Street protesters want transparency in government and an overhaul of the political structure of the nation. They want tangible changes….but not the changes the Tea Party wants: less taxes and smaller government.

What the Occupy Wall Street protesters want is a strengthening of the American middle class. They want the very wealthy to carry the burden of restoring America’s economic strength. Most of all, they want jobs. The overwhelming majority of them are Americans who are educated but can’t pay off their college loans because there is no work for them.

They blame the two wars that George Bush started and the Bush tax cuts on the very wealthy for the broken American economy. But they blame Bill Clinton’s North American Free Trade Agreement on the erosion of thousands of American jobs over the last 15 years. They see the nation’s politicians catering to the interests of the monied elite, the same multi-millionaires who subsidize political campaigns and who help keep politicians in office.

They see both parties as corrupt, the entire system in need of a shakedown. And their message is resonating with other disaffected, disgruntled Americans and it is resonating far across the oceans. It is a people’s movement and, so far, it has been following the blueprint Mahatma Gandhi used to gain independence for India: non-violent political resistance. Police antagonism only strengthens the will of the people; police brutality will only bring more people to the cause.

Because there are ordinances against the use of bullhorns in New York City, the organizers of Occupy Wall Street have developed a unique way of communicating with the masses at their protests. It’s called “the people’s mic.” When someone wants to say something, he or she will stand on a park bench and shout out half a sentence or a phrase. Then the people in his immediate circle will shout the line back to the speaker. People who cannot hear the speaker can hear the chorus, so the message gets amplified. It is an encouraging template for Democracy in action.

There were all kinds of people in Washington Square last Saturday. The first people I spoke to were a married couple in their late 60s who had flown from the Netherlands to bear witness to the growing movement. The husband had gravitated to me because of my pro-union sign and he suggested the unions needed to throw their weight behind the movement to help give it some direction.

I didn’t disagree with him. Mine was about the only pro-union sign in the square. But I am not sure the movement needs the help of organized labor. Labor should support it, but it seems to have a life of its own now that is impervious to parties and platforms. It is a movement about justice.

The people I saw at Washington Square were mostly young and well-educated. They are asking for a chance to make a difference in the world. That would start with jobs. But right now, they have a more important calling: they are seeking economic justice. Their message will not go away until justice happens.

They are not revolutionaries. They are our sons and daughters. They want the same things we all want. They want a chance to live the American dream; a dream that speaks to all humankind.

They are tomorrow’s leaders. We should consider ourselves blessed they are finally starting to assert themselves.

To hear more about the people who form the rank and file of Occupy Wall Street, please cut and paste this link into your browser and listen to an ABC interview with Fordham University professor of history Mark Naison.

http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=jrRj83BunNE&feature=related

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Filed under Advocacy, Communities, Occupy, Public education, Public employee unions, public employees, Rally, Unions

Mike Rose responds at length to Education Reform

For those of you not familiar with Mike Rose, he’s a Professor of Education at UCLA who has written several influential books about literacy education and the politics of school over the last 25-30 years. He’s one of those rare thinkers and writers who’s able to say very incisive and critical things while maintaining a tone that’s respectful and at times even affectionate, even when he’s talking about people he strongly disagrees with.

This link goes to a series of essays Prof. Rose posted at the indie-news-blog-service Truthdig; I don’t know how I missed it until now because I read Truthdig pretty faithfully and it’s been up for months.

There are several, and the series is a long read to do in one sitting, but each of them has at least one gem of an argument in it, if not more, and I can’t recommend highly enough that you spend some time with it. If you’re an angry rabble-rouser like me, you’ll find moments of calm hope. If you’re cynical and feeling burned, you’ll find moments of inspiration. If you’re starry-eyed optimistic (or believe that all’s well and those of us who struggle are just paranoid–although if you’re that person you probably don’t read this blog!), you’ll find reasons to be more concerned.

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Filed under Access, Advocacy, charter schools, Communities, Education reform, K-12 Education, liberal arts, Mike Rose, Privatization, Public education, public employees, Teacher unions

As we fight for public education, let’s not forget the “public” part

It’s not just about keeping costs down and providing access. It’s about our contract to live in civilized society.

I didn’t write this letter, and there’s a point or two I’d never say personally, but for the very most part it’s a brilliant statement to students of what we’ve done to their generation and what they need to do in response.

A letter to my students

Michael O’Hare, professor of public policy | 8/24/10 | 273 comments | Leave a comment

Michael O'HareWelcome to Berkeley, probably still the best public university in the world. Meet your classmates, the best group of partners you can find anywhere. The percentages for grades on exams, papers, etc. in my courses always add up to 110% because that’s what I’ve learned to expect from you, over twenty years in the best job in the world.

That’s the good news. The bad news is that you have been the victims of a terrible swindle, denied an inheritance you deserve by contract and by your merits. And you aren’t the only ones; victims of this ripoff include the students who were on your left and on your right in high school but didn’t get into Cal, a whole generation stiffed by mine. This letter is an apology, and more usefully, perhaps a signal to start demanding what’s been taken from you so you can pass it on with interest.

Swindle – what happened? Well, before you were born, Californians now dead or in nursing homes made a remarkable deal with the future. (Not from California? Keep reading, lots of this applies to you, with variations.) They agreed to invest money they could have spent on bigger houses, vacations, clothes, and cars into the world’s greatest educational system, and into building and operating water systems, roads, parks, and other public facilities, an infrastructure that was the envy of the world. They didn’t get everything right: too much highway and not enough public transportation. But they did a pretty good job.

Young people who enjoyed these ‘loans’ grew up smarter, healthier, and richer than they otherwise would have, and understood that they were supposed to “pay it forward” to future generations, for example by keeping the educational system staffed with lots of dedicated, well-trained teachers, in good buildings and in small classes, with college counselors and up-to-date books. California schools had physical education, art for everyone, music and theater, buildings that looked as though people cared about them, modern languages and ancient languages, advanced science courses with labs where the equipment worked, and more. They were the envy of the world, and they paid off better than Microsoft stock. Same with our parks, coastal zone protection, and social services.

This deal held until about thirty years ago, when for a variety of reasons, California voters realized that while they had done very well from the existing contract, they could do even better by walking away from their obligations and spending what they had inherited on themselves. “My kids are finished with school; why should I pay taxes for someone else’s? Posterity never did anything for me!” An army of fake ‘leaders’ sprang up to pull the moral and fiscal wool over their eyes, and again and again, your parents and their parents lashed out at government (as though there were something else that could replace it) with tax limits, term limits, safe districts, throw-away-the-key imprisonment no matter the cost, smoke-and-mirrors budgeting, and a rule never to use the words taxes and services in the same paragraph.

Now, your infrastructure is falling to pieces under your feet, and as citizens you are responsible for crudities like closing parks, and inhumanities like closing battered women’s shelters. It’s outrageous, inexcusable, that you can’t get into the courses you need, but much worse that Oakland police have stopped taking 911 calls for burglaries and runaway children. If you read what your elected officials say about the state today, you’ll see things like “California can’t afford” this or that basic government function, and that “we need to make hard choices” to shut down one or another public service, or starve it even more (like your university). Can’t afford? The budget deficit that’s paralyzing Sacramento is about $500 per person; add another $500 to get back to a public sector we don’t have to be ashamed of, and our average income is almost forty times that. Of course we can afford a government that actually works: the fact is that your parents have simply chosen not to have it.

I’m writing this to you because you are the victims of this enormous cheat (though your children will be even worse off if you don’t take charge of this ship and steer it). Your education was trashed as California fell to the bottom of US states in school spending, and the art classes, AP courses, physical education, working toilets, and teaching generally went by the board. Every year I come upon more and more of you who have obviously never had the chance to learn to write plain, clear, English. Every year, fewer and fewer of you read newspapers, speak a foreign language, understand the basics of how government and business actually work, or have the energy to push back intellectually against me or against each other. Or know enough about history, literature, and science to do it effectively! You spent your school years with teachers paid less and less, trained worse and worse, loaded up with more and more mindless administrative duties, and given less and less real support from administrators and staff.

Many of your parents took a hike as well, somehow getting the idea that the schools had taken over their duties to keep you learning, or so beat-up working two jobs each and commuting two hours a day to put food on the table that they couldn’t be there for you. A quarter of your classmates didn’t finish high school, discouraged and defeated; but they didn’t leave the planet, even if you don’t run into them in the gated community you will be tempted to hide out in. They have to eat just like you, and they aren’t equipped to do their share of the work, so you will have to support them.

You need to have a very tough talk with your parents, who are still voting; you can’t save your children by yourselves. Equally important, you need to start talking to each other. It’s not fair, and you have every reason (except a good one) to keep what you can for yourselves with another couple of decades of mean-spirited tax-cutting and public sector decline. You’re my heroes just for surviving what we put you through and making it into my classroom, but I’m asking for more: you can be better than my generation. Take back your state for your kids and start the contract again. There are lots of places you can start, for example, building a transportation system that won’t enslave you for two decades as their chauffeur, instead of raising fares and cutting routes in a deadly helix of mediocrity. Lots. Get to work. See you in class!

UPDATE: Like your political science in musical form? Here’s the way people thought about this stuff back in the day, and maybe should again. Bet there’s a good rap along these lines waiting to be born…

Cross-posted from the blog The Reality Based Community.

 

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Filed under Advocacy, Budget, Budget Deficit, Communities, K-12 Education, Public education, Shock Doctrine, Student activism

An education funding issue that’s easy to forget: school libraries

[If you don’t follow the Labor Section of the Daily Kos blog, I highly recommend it.]

This weekend on Daily Kos Labor, Mark Anderson writes about a recent visit to a K-5 library in Madison, WI. The pictures tell the story: decrepit old books, books about space exploration that predate major advances, and so on. It’s not just the absence of up-to-date science books that’s troubling, either.

While I’m not thrilled with the way Anderson frames the mission of education (“training workers for the global economy”), the point he’s making is important. Reframed the way I’d want it put, how can we expect students to learn anything on their own (the reason we teach them to read and do research!) if all they have access to in their schools is utterly irrelevant to the world we actually live in?

And this in conjunction with a cut in state funding of approximately 10% to WI public libraries, courtesy of our good friend Governor Scott Walker.

Ohhhhhhh………

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Filed under Budget, Budget Cuts, Communities, K-12 Education, Public education, public libraries, school libraries