Category Archives: Teacher unions

We didn’t sing the Helplessness Blues – we were an advocating machine!

Fleet Foxes has a song that just about sums up my feelings about the strike. We have all been taught that we are “something unique”, and we are. But we are also part of something beyond ourselves, and this year, it was the mighty, mighty union, APSCUF.

What strikes me now is that as chapter president, I was indeed a “cog in some great machinery serving something beyond me.” From the students and faculty who worked on campus to the 14-campus group we were all part of, from my local executive council and our officers and strike team up to the state leadership, it was awe-inspiring to be in the middle of a movement. Let’s not forget that.

So, enjoy this song. It may not be your stylistic cup of tea, but it’s mighty inspiring.

Solidarity forever!

Mark

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Filed under APSCUF, Collective Bargaining, Communities, Contingent faculty, Contract Negotiations, Higher Ed history, liberal arts, lobbying, Public education, Public employee unions, Teacher unions, Tenure, Unions, VoteSmart.org, West Chester University

Good News from Chicago

In my inbox this morning–

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Congratulations to CTU for reaching a tentative agreement with a School Board that has been under the control of a career politician whose ideas about education are dangerously misinformed (foreshadowing, anyone?).

As we head into our last week of preparations for the looming strike set to begin October 19, the CTU settlement offers two important lessons for us.

  1. We’re fighting for quality, not for our personal enrichment or greed. The 2012 CTU strike provided the model by which teacher unions at all levels win strikes–by being clear about what’s at stake. Yes, our compensation matters to us, and we have to fight back against the “greedy teacher” trope, but the heart of the matter is our ability to work as professionals without having to fight off the wrong-headed (if not more insidiously dishonest) proposals of educational deformers who don’t have a clue what they’re talking about–and who don’t have to live the consequences of their bad thinking. In Chicago, those proposals were for increased class sizes, reduced funding for arts and even physical education, and a wide array of union-busting moves designed to de-professionalize teaching including evaluation regimens that are so meaningless it’s hard even to explain why the math is wrong and tons of similar examples.
  2. It’s possible to face down politicos whose agenda is anti-public-education if we stand strong against them. In Chicago, it’s Rahm Emanuel, a quasi-liberal education deform advocate who was elected Mayor in 2011. His (anti-) education agenda is well-documented. Obviously, in PA it’s Chancellor Brogan, who (and this may be the nicest thing I ever say about him) at least has a couple of years of classroom (sure, it’s fifth-grade, not college, but still) experience on his resumé. But his ideas about how to “reform” the state system are equally reckless and dangerous, and like Emanuel, he has no real stake in the outcome except how the narrative serves his political ambitions.

And that’s why, as we approach October 19, we must remember these two simple points.

We know more about what our students and our system needs to succeed than somebody who has never done our job or even thought much about it.

We’re a lot more committed to the success and well-being of our students and our system than the person who’s letting tax payers give him $345,000/year to do nothing that discernibly helps anyone in the system learn or teach more successfully. 

Just being right isn’t enough. Neither is being convinced that we’re right. We have to stand together, on picket lines if that’s what it comes to–and send the message loud and clear that we’re not greedy or lazy, and we’re not “teaching machines”; we’re hard-working people who know what we’re doing, and what the Chancellor wants is wrong for everyone who can’t jump ship whenever he feels like it. We have to push back against a politician who knows almost nothing about higher education so he doesn’t get to sell out 100,000 students, 6000 faculty/coaches, and thousands more staff and workers, for his personal political ambitions.

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Filed under APSCUF, Collective Bargaining, Office of the Chancellor, PASSHE, Privatization, strike preparations, Teacher unions, Uncategorized

They just never get tired of it

As we all know by now, Governor Corbett’s budget-slashing attacks aren’t aimed solely at PASSHE. He seems willing to destroy any school system at any level if doing so hurts teachers’ unions and allows his private/charter school patrons to make more money.

This account of the situation in nearby Reading, PA from today’s Huffington Post is enough to infuriate even the most heartless person–except members of the Corbett administration, apparently.

As always, the Governor, in a radio interview, tries to pass off the attacks as “tough decisions”:

Representatives from Corbett’s office did not return requests for comment, but Corbett did address the budget on a recent radio program. “You have to make tough decisions, and nobody really likes them,” Corbett told Q106.9-FM.

No, it’s not a tough decision to sell off our schools, systems, students, their families, their futures, teachers, their careers, and the health of our entire Commonwealth to his friends. That’s a really easy, lazy decision, and it’s long past time for him to be at least honest about it. He should have to make clear to voters that he knows when they voted for “fiscal responsibility,” they weren’t voting for him to cut millions of dollars out of school budgets so kids in “America’s Poorest City” couldn’t go to pre-kindergarten. And we should make clear to him that’s not what we meant too.

I better stop there before I say something unprofessional (!).

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Filed under Access, Budget, Budget Cuts, Budget Deficit, charter schools, Collective Bargaining, Communities, Education reform, K-12 Education, PASSHE, Privatization, Public education, Public employee unions, public employees, Shock Doctrine, Teacher unions, Tom Corbett, Unions

APSCUF-WCU President on Anti-Union Attacks in Education

APSCUF-WCU President Lisa Millhous published this guest column in today’s (June 7) West Chester Daily Local News.

She makes several crucial points, at the core of which is the point that, especially in PA, attacking teacher and other public unions is almost all a diversion from the Governor’s (and his allies’) agenda–selling off public K-16 education to whichever bidder contributes the most to their campaigns. Dr. Millhous doesn’t put the point quite so belligerently, of course, nor should she have!

If you have the stomach for it, feel free to engage the anti-union thugs who tend to populate Comments sections of newspapers and websites. Or, let them have their echo-chamber to themselves since there’s probably not much you can say that will sway them.

Either way, share this piece with anybody you think needs to understand what anti-teacher-union attacks are really about. It ain’t about teachers or students, folks.

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Filed under APSCUF, charter schools, Corporate University, Education reform, K-12 Education, PASSHE, Private higher education, Privatization, Public education, Public employee unions, public employees, Shock Doctrine, Teacher unions, Tom Corbett, Unions

Just in case you were wondering…

I suspect when I start writing about the Ed ‘Reform’ [sic] folks, some of you think I’m waxing pretty paranoid. The Gates Foundation and Michele Rhee aren’t *really* as bad as I think they are, yada yada yada…

On the Daily Kos Labor blog yesterday, I stumbled across this gem, which reports that the Gates Foundation recently gave a $376,000+ grant to our friends at the American Legislative Exchange Council (ALEC).

If you’ve only gotten your news in the last year from CNNMSNBCFOXNBCABCCBSNewYorkTimes, you may not recognize the name ALEC. Short version–ALEC is a ‘think tank’ (to put it generously) that crafts legislation, which gets distributed, sometimes barely revised, and often voted up in legislatures all over the country. Some recent examples you might recognize: Wisconsin’s union-killing ‘budget’ laws that led to mass protests in Madison and the recalls of several state Republican legislators and a current effort to recall Gov. Scott Walker; Ohio’s SB5, which was recently repealed by ballot initiative, that would have all but gutted public unions in that state; Michigan’s ’emergency manager’ law that allows the Governor to install a manager in any municipality he declares as an emergency, and which authorizes that manager to ignore collective bargaining agreements and other contracts with impunity.

These people are NOT OUR FRIENDS. And Bill Gates is giving them stacks of cash. Even I can do that math.

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Filed under ALEC, Bill Gates/Gates Foundation, Collective Bargaining, Education reform, Koch brothers, Michelle Rhee, Ohio SB5, Public education, Public employee unions, public employees, Teacher unions, Unions

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

Our ‘friend’ Michele Rhee is at it in Pennsylvania

Another day, another effort by education ‘reformer’ Michele Rhee to destroy public education in the name of reforming it.

This time it hits closer to home, as according to Laura Clawson at Daily Kos Labor, Rhee is working with former Lynn Swann campaign manager Ray Zaborney on a bill to lobby for passage of school privatization (masked as “vouchers”) legislation.

In case you’re wondering why efforts to privatize K-12 education get so much air (screen?) time on a blog representing a university faculty union, I have at least these two answers for you: (1) what happens to K-12 is often a harbinger of what policy makers want to do to us; and (2) in the not-very-deep subtext of Rhee’s (and Gates’ and Duncan’s and others) push to privatize public education is an anti-labor, anti-union impulse that we as a union should be utterly committed to stomping out in any way, at any time we cross paths with it.

Simple as that.

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Filed under Advocacy, APSCUF, Arne Duncan, charter schools, Education reform, K-12 Education, lobbying, Michelle Rhee, PA Senate Bill 1, PASSHE, Privatization, Public education, Public employee unions, public employees, StudentsFirst, Teacher unions, Vouchers/School Choice