teachers unions

BREAKING NEWS: Kansas Eliminates Due Process for Teachers, Expands Privatization

Responding to the extremist group Americans for Prosperity, funded by the Koch brothers, the Kansas state legislature enacted legislation that strips teachers of due process and expands “school choice” (aka privatization of public schools and their funding). In the future, teachers may be fired without a hearing.

The legislature used the pretext of a court ruling to equalize funding to enact proposals that align with the far-right ALEC organization.

Destroying due process is called “reform.” Teachers may be unjustly accused and fired without a hearing. They may be fired because they taught both sides of a controversial issue or expressed a controversial view. They may be fired because the principal doesn’t like the way they look or doesn’t like their race or religion. No reason is needed because there will be no hearing.

Without any right to a fair hearing, you can be sure that the word “evolution” will never be heard in many districts, nor any reference to global warming. Nor will many classics of American literature be taught. Books like “Huckleberry Finn,” “Invisible Man,” “The Grapes of Wrath,” are risky and controversial. Now is exactly when the children of Kansas and the U.S. should be reading “1984″ and “Brave New World.”

“The bill is potentially a big victory for conservative Republicans because it gives them some educational reforms they have sought while putting more money into schools.

The reforms would:

• Foster school choice by allowing corporations to make tax-deductible contributions to scholarship funds so children with special needs or who come from low-income households could attend private school.

• Make it easier to fire teachers by eliminating their due-process rights.

• Relax teacher licensing when hiring instructors with professional experience in areas including math, science, finance and technical education.

“As the final bill was negotiated, lawmakers jettisoned an idea to block funding for Common Core academic standards.

“They also shed a plan that would have provided property tax relief for parents who home-school their children or send them to private schools. Lawmakers questioned whether the property tax break was constitutional and whether they knew its real cost.

“Urged on by conservative special interests such as Americans for Prosperity, Republican leaders pressed hard to eliminate due process rights for teachers.

“They say the proposal is intended to ensure that school administrators are free from regulations that would keep them from firing substandard teachers.

“If you talk to administrators, they want this,” said Sen. Julia Lynn, an Olathe Republican. “They want really good teachers to thrive. They don’t want to be in a position to protect those teachers who are under-performing.”

“State law had required administrators to document conduct and provide a hearing for teachers they want to fire after three years on the job.

“The bill means terminated teachers would no longer be able to request a hearing.”

Read more here: http://www.kansascity.com/2014/04/06/4941974/kansas-lawmakers-pass-school-finance.html#storylink=cpy

The teacher-hating GOP extremists backed by ALEC/Koch Brothers are destroying education in this country. 


According to a recent piece in the American Prospect by Rachel M. Cohen, the truth of how charters and unions relate to one another is more complicated. It turns out that there are some charter school teachers out there who’ve started to think a union isn’t such a bad idea after all; and their ranks are growing. Whether it’s in Los Angeles, Philadelphia, Chicago or New York, Cohen shows, the future of education policy is very much in flux. In fact, the day when the financial backers of charters have to decide which they care about more — breaking unions or educating kids — may arrive sooner than you think.

A growing number of charter school teachers want to unionize, the American Prospect’s Rachel M. Cohen tells Salon

The myth of America's underfunded education system

You hear about it a lot, how the US education system is broken and grossly underfunded, and all we need to do is raise taxes on some people so we can spend it on education.  Baloney! US spending on education is not only comparable to other countries with better overall education, we outspend most those countries. 

from Bloomberg View:

I was accused of just wanting to stick it to President Barack Obama, and also of wishing to deny the dream of college education that should be the birthright of every single American. I was also accused of being unfamiliar with the known fact that America woefully underinvests in education compared to other advanced nations.

It is true that I am unfamiliar with America’s woeful underinvestment in education, in the same way that I am unfamiliar with the tooth fairy, because both are legends with no basis in fact.


You can argue that there’s an inequality problem in our schools. In fact, I think there is obviously an inequality problem in our schools, but that the big problem is not at the college level, but rather in the primary and secondary schools that are overwhelmingly government-funded. And those disparities are also not primarily about the dollar amounts going into schools – Detroit spends well above the U.S. average per pupil, and yet one study found that half the population of the city was “functionally illiterate.”

Should we fix the issues with those schools? Absolutely – and doing so might mean spending more money. But that doesn’t mean that we need to increase the overall level of educational funding. It means that we need to identify ways to improve those underperforming schools, then find out how much more it would cost to implement those programs. It is just as likely that improvements will come from changing methods and reallocating resources as that they will require us to pour more money into failing institutions.

And, of course, middle-class parents will say that all that spending on tertiary education is breaking them. And perhaps we should spend less on college. But that’s not a problem you attack with more subsidies, because paying for college out of tax dollars doesn’t make the cost go away; it just means you have to send a check to the IRS instead of the bursar’s office. In general, providing government subsidies does not lower the price of goods; if anything, it increases them, by insulating consumers from the cost of their educational decisions.

read the rest

This country’s educational system is crippled, not from a lack of funding, buy by the vice grip held by teachers unions and government bureaucrats.  Not only that, but the rampant breakdown of the family unit has put many school children in homes that are supportive educational environments. Education always works best when families and teachers can work together on the needs of their children without interference from bureaucrats and union bosses. 

Republican presidential candidate Chris Christie said during a television interview Sunday that the national teachers union deserves a “punch in the face.” Christie made the over-the-top comment during CNN’s State of the Union with Jake Tapper on Sunday after the host asked him about his longstanding advice on when to dole out a physical assault.

Bombastic New Jersey governor really knows how to elevate the 2016 dialogue

Detroit Public Schools: 93% Not Proficient in Reading; 96% Not Proficient in Math

Despite spending more than $18,000 per student, Detroit public schools are failing and failing hard. From CNS News: In the Detroit public school district, 96 percent of eighth graders are not proficient in mathematics and 93 percent are not proficient in reading. That is according to the results…

read the rest

5 Biggest Lies About America's Public Schools -- Debunked | Alternet

Just weeks into the 2012-2013 school year education issues are already playing a starring role in the national conversation about America’s future. Because it’s an election year, the presidential candidates have been busy pretending there are many substantial distinctions between them on education policy (actually, the differences are arguably minimal). Meanwhile, the striking Chicago Teachers Union helped thrust teachers unions into the national spotlight, with union-buster Democrat Mayor Rahm Emanuel reminding us that, these days, Republicans and Democrats frequently converge on both education policy and labor-unfriendliness.

Lie #1: Unions are undermining the quality of education in America.

Teachers unions have gotten a bad rap in recent years, but as education professor Paul Thomas of Furman University tells AlterNet, “The anti-union message…has no basis in evidence.” In fact, Furman points out, “Union states tend to correlate with higher test scores.” As a 2010 study conducted by Albert Shanker Fellow Matthew Di Carlo found, “[T]he states in which there are no teachers covered under binding agreements score lower [on standardized assessment tests] than the states that have them… If anything, it seems that the presence of teacher contracts in a state has a positive effect on achievement” – by as much as three to five points in reading and math at varying grade levels.

Even so, Thomas doesn’t believe that high test-scores should be taken as the primary indication that union teachers are good for kids, noting that “union states tend to be less burdened by poverty while ‘right-to-work’ (non-union) states are disproportionately high-poverty” – and poverty, as we well know, has its own, profound impact on student performance.  

For these reasons among others, union presence can never be isolated as the sole relevant factor in producing higher student achievement. But teachers unions are still important to student success. Why? Most importantly, perhaps, because they fight for equality of opportunity in education by, for example, opposing attempts to resegregate American schools. One of the reasons the CTU so resolutely opposed the school closures Rahm Emanuel and the Chicago Board of Education threatened was because closures have proven to have disastrous consequences for displaced students in Chicago, who are generally forced to move from one underfunded, low-performing school to another. Teachers unionsoppose such injustices because they support the rights of all children to have access to high-quality education – not just the kids whose parents can afford high property taxes. That’s a good thing for America’s education system, not a bad one.

Lie #2: Your student’s teacher has an easy and over-compensated job.

One talking point that circulated around the Chicago teachers’ strike was that public school teachers are overpaid for easy jobs with plentiful time off. This is a longstanding gem that has little basis in fact. As political scientist Corey Robin of Brooklyn College/CUNY Graduate Center writes in the Washington Post, when he was growing up his affluent childhood community was embattled every year because the community so looked down on teachers. “Teachers had opted out of the capitalist game” in the minds of local parents and the assumption, according to Robin, was “there could be only one reason for that: they were losers.”

But is teaching actually overcompensated? It’s hard to imagine how. The New York Times points out that “The average primary-school teacher in the United States earns about 67 percent of the salary of an average college-educated worker in the United States.” (And given the student debt bubble currently crippling so many young people, this is and will remain an area of real concern for recruiting future teachers.) And notably, the Times points out, the ratio of teacher pay to that of other college graduates is wider in the U.S. than in most other developed countries.

Let’s not forget, too, the very long work hours that define most teaching jobs. Former high school English teacher Carrie Rogers tells AlterNet that most of the young teachers she’s known in North Carolina “leave the profession after their second child” because of the extensive demands on their time. She says the “amount of time and effort it takes to teach effectively is [no longer possible] by the time they have two kids.” A “teacher’s salary…minus two daycare bills for the total amount of time [teachers] spend at work doesn’t work.” In many states, teacher pay falls into a lower-middle income bracket, and Rogers says teachers “never work 40 hour weeks. They spend nights grading; Saturdays and evenings at grad school and continuing [education] programs; and lunch hours monitoring cafeterias.”

Lie #3: If your child doesn’t get picked in a charter school lottery, he or she is doomed.

The popular film Waiting for ‘Superman characterizes charter schools as a silver bullet perfectly positioned to save public education – if only they could replace traditional public schools as quickly as possible. The film picks up on the consequences of social inequality, but goes a step further, presuming that traditional public schools cannot be redeemed, and charters are the last hope for education.

Lie #4: Your child will automatically be better off if your school district adopts a “school choice” assignment plan. 

One way charters often take root in communities is that they’re introduced through “school choice” plans that purport to give parents a measure of autonomy in choosing their child’s school. In some cases, this means parents are offered vouchers that can be used to transfer public school dollars to private (often religiously affiliated) schools;  in other cases, parent are asked to select two or three of their top school choices, and will be assigned to one of them. The fact that poor parents working multiple jobs might not have the capacity to fully research their options is never discussed.

If this weren’t problematic enough, “choice” can cause other headaches for parents. In Wake County, NC, parents have widely expressed outrage about the effects of their temporarily instituted school choice plan. Promoted as “convenient” for families, in practice the plan has resulted in widespreadtransportation problems that have left students stranded at schools well into the evening hours. And in Harlem last month, parents complained to The New York Times that they were not given any “high-performing” school options to choose from in their much-touted school choice plan.

Lie #5: Your student’s teacher sees your constructive involvement in your child’s education as an annoyance.

A narrative that pits parents and teachers against each other is part and parcel of the politicized rhetoric about education that you hear in the news. Educators have known for some time that parental involvement is a key component of student success. Indiana University’s Career and Postsecondary advancement centerreports that, “66 different studies came to one conclusion based on the evidence: families matter. Whether changing TV viewing habits, providing diverse readings materials around the house or volunteering at school, parents can help their children succeed as students.” But corporate reformers are actively promoting antagonistic relationships between parents and schools.

The Center for Public Education cites a 2008 study by the National Center for Education Statistics which found that parental involvement is one of the top predictors – if not the top predictor – of academic success. But common anti-teacher rhetoric has created some unproductive relationships between parents and teachers. Public school teacher Madeleine Bolden of the Atlanta area tells AlterNet that she’s noticed “parents becoming more adversarial with…teachers.” More than ever before, she says, “I have felt bashed by parents who mask either their children’s failings or their own failings by the rhetoric” of school failure. Often, she says, parents approach teachers as if “we are doing everything wrong.”  

h/t: Kristin Rawls at AlterNet

In a post yesterday (“Why teachers unions are different: A reply to Doug Henwood”), Matt Yglesias takes exception to my speculation on why elite liberals don’t like teachers unions (“Why do so many liberals hate teachers’ unions?”). Boiling it down to a soundbite: unlike labor disputes in the private sector, where raises would come out of the pockets of shareholders, raises for public sector workers come out of the pockets of “taxpayers,” meaning you, me, Matt, and everyone else—mostly, that is, people of fairly modest means.

This use of “taxpayers” is a fascinating bit of ideology. Its dispersion into wide use marks a very successful deployment by the right of a very conservative notion. It is founded on a view that one lives in this world primarily as an individual, and consumes privately. Any sense of collective consumption (or investment, if you prefer), via the public budget, is ruled out. As is so often the case with right-wing concepts, reactionaries have a much clearer and more consistent sense of the politics behind their buzzword. Liberals, or neoliberals, like Yglesias import the right’s concepts without fully integrating them into their worldview. Yglesias wouldn’t support Paul Ryan’s fiscal policy, but he’s happy to use a word that’s deeply implicated in its underlying concepts.

Also ruled out in this usage of “taxpayers” is any sense of the state as a contested realm for class struggle. We’re all taxpayers—even though the upper classes, who are overflowing with money, have long been evading their share of paying for public goods like education.
—  Doug Henwood, from “Teacher Strike Miscellany” in response to Matthew Yglesias’s post on Slate, “Why teachers unions are different”. Henwood and Yglesias have been in debate about the strike. I like Henwood’s take on liberal’s use of right-wing reactionary rhetoric.
NY Gov. Cuomo rebukes teachers union: "Don't say you represent the students"

If you’ve been reading Poor Richard’s News for very long, you’ll likely know we’re not such big fans of NY Governor Andrew Cuomo, who is a gun-grabbing, nanny state statist. But dude…

from New York Daily News:

“If (the public) understood what was happening with education to their children, there would be an outrage in this city,” Cuomo said. “I’m telling you, they would take City Hall down brick by brick.

“It’s only because it’s complicated that people don’t get it.”

Cuomo referred to the teacher unions and the entrenched education establishment as an “industry” that is more interested in protecting the rights of its members than improving the system for the kids it is supposed to be serving.

“Somewhere along the way, I believe we flipped the purpose of this,” Cuomo said. “This was never a teacher employment program and this was never an industry to hire superintendents and teachers.

“This was a program to educate kids.”

He decried that 250,000 kids over the past decade were trapped in failing schools.

“Where was the outrage?” he asked. “You want to talk to me about teachers’ rights? Why isn’t the question: ‘How did we let that happen to 250,000 kids — black and brown kids, by the way.”

He said he openly disagreed with a teacher union member who said he represents the students.

“No, you don’t,” Cuomo said he told the person. “You represent the teachers. Teacher salaries, teacher pensions, teacher tenure, teacher vacation rights. I respect that. But don’t say you represent the students.”

Cuomo on Wednesday unveiled an ambitious education reform plan that would make it easier to fire bad or lecherous instructors, revamp the teacher tenure and evaluation systems, and increase the cap on charter schools by 100.

read the rest

Cuomo is right of course. New York has some of the worst schools in the country, and they have been driven into that terrible state by teachers unions.  Historically, however, the Democrats have been fearful to upset this giant source of money and political muscle. Clearly, we have turned an important page in reforming education in the United States when Democrats begin declaring open war on the powerful teachers unions. 

DeMint Likens Teachers Striking In Chicago To ‘Thugs’ In The Middle East

Sen. Jim DeMint (R-SC) jokingly compared the teachers strike in Chicago to the unrest in the Middle East during a speech at the Values Voters summit Friday morning. 

“On my way over, I was reading another story about a distant place where thugs had put 400,000 children out in the streets. And then I realized that was a story about the Chicago teachers strike. But we’ve got to think of good things.“

h/t: Think Progress

Matt Stoller: The Liquidation of Society versus the Global Labor Revival « naked capitalism

“[Thursday] the city of Providence, Rhode Island sent out layoff notices to every single teacher in the city. Every single one of them. If you want to understand why this is happening, why wages in the US keep getting cut, this chart from Doug Henwood tells the story”

Closer to home (Portland, OR),

EUGENE, Ore. - Eugene 4J School District teachers got notice Friday if they will be laid off as part of efforts to balance the district budget.

The district sent out notices to 108 teachers and other instructional staff on Friday, said Kerry Delf with Eugene 4J. Many of those who received layoff notices work part-time.

The layoffs add up to the equivalent of 84 full-time jobs.

The layoff notices were based on seniority, Delf said.

The numbers could change depending on the state’s next budget forecast and the outcome of a vote in May on a proposed City of Eugene income tax to support Eugene 4J and Bethel schools.


Lamp: Arrived late, but yep! Laptop is a part of the T.C.S. Union!

Gilbert: We refer to the union as “Colin Sucks” instead of “Computers Suck” whenever Laptop is around.

Lamp: You see, friend, the personalities of laptops are a lot more agreeable than your average desktop. For instance, we’ve agreed not to bicker about Laptop’s blue light until after Colin has been dealt with.

Gilbert: Also being partnered with another computer could get us valuable information. 

Lamp: But also also note–

Lamp: Unlike Colin, Laptop can be used from someone’s bed. That’s a twisty step in the right direction.

California Courts Rule Teacher Tenure Is Unconstitutional

Well, this is happening in the least likely of places.

In a massive blow to the California teacher unions, Judge Rolf Treu ruled in favor of nine students stating that the teachers’ tenure laws were unconstitutional. 

Nine students sued the state claiming that the tenure policies “undermined their education by making it almost impossible for bad teachers to be fired.”

Treu wrote “Substantial evidence presented makes it clear to this court that the challenged statutes disproportionately affect poor and/or minority students.  The evidence is compelling. Indeed, it shocks the conscience.”

According to California law, teachers become eligible for tenure after 2 years on the job.  It would cost nearly $450,000 to fire a teacher and the incredibly drawn-out process does not guarantee the teacher would be fired.  It actually is quite rare.

While teachers’ unions defended the laws as necessary for job security, preserving academic freedom and a boon to attract talented educators, the students argued that the teachers would come to class unprepared and fail to motivate the class.

KIPP, teachers union reach agreement - baltimoresun.com

It’s all about politics at the local level. KIPP Academy Fresno did not have it, and was under a district charter, so was unfortunately closed even though it was providing an excellent education to its students. KIPP Baltimore was able to reach an agreement with the powers that be (teacher’s union) and will therefore continue its work in Baltimore.

I’m curious to see what system-wide impact KIPP Baltimore may have in the coming years, especially because sentiments towards charter schools and edreform will certainly shift within the decade. 

In DC, charter schools were used as political leverage by the Fenty/Rhee administration to push through some rather radical changes (closing schools, IMPACT), will something similar occur in Baltimore?