Category Archives: Public education

More evidence that Ed Reform movement is about busting unions than about students’ learning

Thanks to Mark Rimple for the link below.

If you’ve seen the movie “Waiting for Superman,” you know what a disingenuous account of teaching and learning it is. If you haven’t, don’t watch it unless you need something to make your blood pressure go up.

Luckily (if I mean “luckily” about ten thousand times more ironically than you thought I did), director Steven Brill has published a new book called Class Warfare that (wait for it…) lobs the exact same anti-union attacks as the movie did.

I would formulate a response to it myself, but fortunately Richard Rothstein did it before I could, and substantially better. Read it here.

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Filed under Advocacy, Arne Duncan, Collective Bargaining, Education reform, K-12 Education, Michelle Rhee, Public education, Public employee unions, Teacher unions, Tenure

Central Michigan University Faculty Back to Work… For Now [Reposting from State APSCUF]

Central Michigan University Logo

The Central Michigan University Faculty Association held a day-long work stoppage on Monday, the first day of fall classes. Students joined with faculty on the picket lines to encourage administration representatives to return to the negotiations table.

A judge issued a temporary restraining order to halt the stoppage, and professors at CMU were back teaching classes on Tuesday.

Both sides have traded accusations about the other side’s intentions. The administration has claimed the strike was illegal, while the faculty union believes the university is refusing to bargain.

The union president kept her focus on the students in a statement:

“We’ve filed unfair labor practice charges against the university citing their refusal to bargain in good faith. This is why the faculty is not where they really want to be – with their students.”

On Friday morning, the two sides will argue their cases to a judge, who will then rule on whether to make the temporary restraining order permanent.

With both sides far apart on financial issues, a state-appointed fact finder will hear from the union and administration and make a recommendation on an agreement. The hearing dates are set for September, but it could take months for a final opinion.

We understand the predicament of our 600 colleagues at CMU. Ultimately, everyone that pursues academia as a career wants to spend his or her time in a classroom – not on a picket line. We know that the CMU faculty want what’s best for their 19,000 students, and we thank them for standing up for their rights and the rights of their students to a high-quality education with professors who are paid fairly.

For those who’d like to express their support for the CMU faculty, Progress Michigan has posted a petition calling on CMU administrators to return to the negotiating table.

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Filed under Academic Freedom, Advocacy, APSCUF, Benefits/Benefit Cuts, Budget, Budget Cuts, Central Michigan University, Collective Bargaining, Contract Negotiations, Public education, Public employee unions, Uncategorized

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

Sociologist Michael Burawoy on a future for public higher ed

Thanks to friend and colleague Christine Monnier, a sociology prof at the College of Dupage, for bringing this piece to my attention by posting it on Google+.

Michael Burawoy is past president of the American Sociological Association and current president of the International Sociological Association. He’s a Professor of Sociology at UC Berkeley.

This essay, titled Redefining the Public University: Developing an Analytical Framework posted in a series called Transformations of the Public Sphere by the Institute for Public Knowledge, quickly describes the current state of American public higher education. If you’re familiar with current thinking on the issue, you’ll recognize most of the claims he makes about commodification and corporatization, but it’s worth reading carefully. The meat (or tofu, or beans and cheese, for us vegetarians) of the essay in my opinion is his ‘alternative framework’ for understanding what public universities do, that is, a matrix of ‘Professional,’ ‘Policy,’ ‘Critical,’ and ‘Public’ knowledges we both help to create and are responsive to. You can read the explanations, but this table maps out the key terms and relations:

It’s an interesting read, and one that has some generative potential for us as we work to defend our system from the kind of evisceration it faces at the hands of organizations like the US Education Delivery Institute and similar voices of neoliberalism.

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Filed under Advocacy, Budget, Budget Cuts, Budget Deficit, Corporate University, deliverology, Higher Ed history, Intellectual Property, PASSHE, Performance Funding, Private higher education, Public education, research, Retention, Retrenchment, Shock Doctrine, US Education Delivery Institute

Matt Damon explains teachers (PG-13 language warning)

If you’re on Facebook or Google+, you’ve probably seen (or at least seen a link to) this video. Matt Damon, after making a speech at the Save our Schools rally in DC last weekend, gets grilled by a ‘reporter’ (of sorts) who wants to know how we solve the problem of bad teachers.

I’m not a big Matt Damon fan, but it sure is nice to see somebody take our side and demonstrate at least some understanding of what motivates us. I’d have preferred that he not hype up the nobility aspect at the expense of getting paid a reasonable wage to do our jobs, but we take what we can get…

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Filed under Advocacy, Public education

Education Reformer lays anti-union agenda bare

At the risk of sounding a little conspiracy-theory-esque…

On this morning’s (7/14) Daily Kos, an entry about a member of the reformer cabal giving a speech to a think tank. During the speech, the “reformer,” named Jonah Edelman, unloads on teachers unions in IL, and how he managed to manipulate them into supporting legislation designed to cost them their right to strike.

You can read the post and watch video of Edelman here.

The reason I’m posting it on our blog is that the familial connections among Edelman, Michelle Rhee, Arne Duncan, and the cabal start hitting closer to home when we remember that same Pew Foundation/Gates Foundation money fueling all the rest of those “enterprises” is behind our friends at the US Education Delivery Institute!

It’s a rare moment that we get to see how these folks talk to each other when they don’t think we’re listening. And we should be paying attention. It should hardly even count as lip-service when they say they don’t hate unions. Get it?

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Filed under Advocacy, APSCUF, deliverology, K-12 Education, Michelle Rhee, PASSHE, Public education, Public employee unions, US Education Delivery Institute

PASSHE and the US Education Delivery Institute (Part 2 of ???)

A couple of weeks ago, I did a pretty lengthy post beginning to lay out PASSHE’s (otherwise unannounced) participation in a higher education “initiative” (ahem) with an organization called the US Education Delivery Institute. As I wrote and started to pay careful attention to the language in their mission and elsewhere on the website, I started to get, well, irritable (something of an understatement!) at the coded nature of the language EDI uses to obscure its agenda, which seems to be squarely along the lines of the Bill Gates/Michelle Rhee/Arne Duncan “educational reform” movement (further evidenced by the fact that the Gates Foundation is listed as their primary funder).

Anyway, the kind of close reading of their site that I’d planned on doing has struck me as essentially fruitless. If you’re an APSCUF member or an academic at pretty much any advanced level, you can decode their site on your own; it’s not very oblique.

If you don’t feel like digging through it, all you really need to understand about their rhetorical approach is this: like the Gates Foundation, and like Arne Duncan’s Race to the Top, and like Michelle Rhee’s Students First organization, US EDI frames its mission in terms that are difficult to disagree with. I teach a course in Propaganda; we use the term “glittering generalities” to describe what I’m talking about. Who could be opposed to “student success?” Who could be opposed to “efficiency?” Who could be opposed to “excellence?”

So when US EDI emphasizes its mission of improving access to and retention in higher education for marginalized students, who (if you already teach at a public university, or community college, especially) would contest or dispute that as a goal? It’s the very essence of our reason for being, isn’t it? [Yes, this is melo-dramatic overstatement.]

So what’s the problem? I fully support the mission of providing access and high quality education to the Commonwealth. I’d love nothing more than to have a sustainable system that could do right by any student who wants a college education. But we don’t have that, especially while our Governor proposed in March to slash our state allocation in half (the budget bill about to pass the PA Legislature sets the reduction at 18%), and it’s, er, unclear how our system is supposed to educate more students and do it well while our funding is getting crushed under the collective foot of a state government that isn’t very interested in paying for much of anything. Or put another way, the “do-more-with-less” trope has been pushed beyond its logical extreme currently in PA.

The promise of deliverology is that it can help systems solve that problem. It can, that is, help us continue to do more with less by, well, as I try to explain it, I realize that based on the website materials, uh, er, I can’t really answer that question.

Neither can anybody else, it seems from any of the other systems that have joined up with US EDI. In our next episode, I’ll report on the results of some discussions I have had with colleagues in the California State and Connecticut state university systems. Let’s just say they’re impressions aren’t, er, positive.

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Filed under Academic Freedom, Access, Advocacy, APSCUF, Budget, Collective Bargaining, deliverology, PASSHE, Program elimination, Public education, Retention, Retrenchment, Shock Doctrine, US Education Delivery Institute

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