The Truth About Why Educators Are Leaving

“…The primary reason they leave is because they’re dissatisfied.”  Richard Ingersoll, an education professor at the University of Pennsylvania.

Educators in the report cite inadequate administrative support, feelings of isolation in the workplace among other things. This is a toxic situation and not an environment where anyone can teach or learn.

(Read) Up To Half Of Teachers Quit Within 5 Years (http://huff.to/1z46MoR)

Teacher

My Observations On Why Educators Leave By Kyle Leach
Originally posted on Farmington NH Dems 

I’m really proud to tell you my mom was a teacher. It is one of the most honorable professions in my eyes. She taught elementary school, sixth grade. She was really good at it and except for my brother and I, I don’t think anything made her happier. I think educating was a way for her to give back to community. I think she felt it exposed our common bonds, showed people how to come together, and helped people change their circumstances. She wasn’t just imparting facts and figures to be memorized. She was helping young minds become the next set of workers, shaping future leaders and thinkers, and helping young creatives find themselves.

She left very early each school day. She often got home late and when she was home, she normally was doing some kind of grading or prep work for part of the evening. She was dedicated. Her classroom was colorful, interesting, and constantly changing. Her walls were covered with bulletin boards, which she kept decorated the whole school year.  She had an aquarium and plants close to the windows and she had areas for individual seating and tables for community work at the back. Her room was full of art created by her students. She loved her classroom and she loved her students, a new set every year.

Being an educator was a calling for her. Her students respected her. Parents respected her, and at least to some degree administration honored the part she played in our education system and gave teachers what they needed to make students as successful as they could. Society on the whole gave educators a wide birth; and, except for the low pay standards, eduction was a field held in high regard.

Many problems still needed to be worked out and to this day still do. Gender and race issues were problems, as they are today. Many learning challenges were yet to be identified and children with special needs were still being neglected. People with mental and physical challenges fought to be integrated into everyday school life as they still do to today. Bullying was still the standard, but it wasn’t even thought a systemic problem back then.

Around the time I was ten, things noticeably changed. Over the next few decades a cascade effect would make the situation much worse. Some things were subtle, others not so much. Everyone seemed to have less money and less time to spend with each other. More people seemed to be working and much more often. Many people had multiple jobs and it was harder to find jobs within a field you had worked in, unless it was in the retail or service industry. Kids were alone in the afternoon and evening or had sitters much more often. People seemed to be withdrawing from each other and turning toward other forms of entertainment.

I didn’t know it at the time, but the nation’s safety net was being slowly dismantled, education was being under funded year after year, wages were static, savings were evaporating, and benefits, health, retirement, or otherwise were becoming exceptions not the norm. Costs for everything cars, homes, and food rose, in fact they continue to do so. People were turned on to to credit which made their problems worse. People were haggard, stressed and that didn’t get better. Educators had to deal with all this on the personal side, but professionally these things had even higher costs.

With more people working more often and kids and teens left to fend for themselves, I saw respect between adults and kids deteriorate. I also got to see the respect administrators had for educators diminish and saw litigation between the three parties skyrocket. The burden of dealing with these compounding errors fell to teachers in the classroom if for no other reason than they are with our students for at least seven hours of a day. Without universal support from administration to deal with issues in the classroom I saw teachers and children become isolated. I saw teens reject the flaws and hypocrisy of the adults around them. I saw children turn to teachers because they were the the only adults they could trust.

I have known many educators throughout my life. Many of my family members were teachers. Most of my friends are educators. When I went to college I settled on art as the place where my heart was. I went to a college known for fostering educators. I myself was thinking of being an art teacher. In the end I decided the education field was not for me. Knowing all I know now I can’t say that I regret that decision at all. When my husband Stan and I met fourteen years ago I made a much better living working for soulless corporations, without a completed college degree, than Stan did teaching high school all day and educating adults at college at night. Just so you know Stan has two bachelor’s degrees and two masters degrees. His passions and degrees are in the sciences, math, and eduction. Areas our children need greater and greater help with and arenas the increasingly corporate world has no idea how to convey or inspire, short of monetizing them.

When you couple social changes with low wages considering the amount of education and  sometimes limited benefits, increasingly poor administrative and legislative support teachers receive, especially when they are first starting out, what are young educators supposed to take from this situation? What incentive do teachers have to stay? If you want teachers to stay you have to create an environment that is constructive for learning and creation. You can’t overly burden them with administrative problems or parental responsibilities; neither are their roles. You have to find the right candidates to be good teachers and give those new educators support to be successful teachers when they begin. You have to treat them as the professionals they are and hold their positions in high regard. They help our children learn. They help or children create. They help our children dream and help them fine tune those dreams into reality.

Most people I know in the field of education have two things that really make them stand out. They are passionate about helping people learn and discover who they are, what they are good at, and they are inspired by how much potential each person holds, no matter what limitations they currently hold on to. If you can’t figure out that those are two things our society needs, you are part of the problem. Corporate structures are efficient, great at turning our dull cogs, and perfect at reduction, but they can’t make a thinker. If you want a great education system, if you want great people for our society you have to invest in the people that do the work to create those situations. Teachers. The difference between a bright future and a dull one depends on the degree to which we support our educators.  They will develop the minds and nurture the souls that will create that future.

AFT Calls For Education Sec. Duncan To Resign, After He Gets His Due Process

AFT Members Commit to Fighting Back Against Vergara, Harris Decisions
Special Order of Business Passes at AFT Convention

LOS ANGELES—Today, delegates of the American Federation of Teachers’ biennial convention in Los Angeles unanimously passed a special order of business—recommended by the executive council—to fight back against attacks on unions and teachers like Vergara v. California and Harris v. Quinn, and to fight forward to reclaim the promise of America.

The special order characterizes these lawsuits as “contributing to an escalating and engineered imbalance in our democracy.”

Amended from the floor, the order—originally drafted by the executive council—was revised to include strong language on Secretary of Education Arne Duncan, who publicly supported the Vergara decision. It derided his promotion of “misguided and ineffective policies on deprofessionalization, privatization and test obsession.”

The order called upon the president of the United States to “implement a secretary improvement plan which will be based upon standing up for public education, supporting teachers and all school workers, inspiring parents and the public to join us in creating the public schools we want and deserve, and leading with us in reclaiming the promise of public education.”

It asked the president to take the following actions:

  • Enact the funding and equity recommendations of the Each and Every Child report issued by the congressionally chartered, bipartisan Equity Commission;
  • Work with us to change the NCLB/RTTT “test and punish” accountability system to a “support and improve” model; and
  • Promote rather than question the teachers and school support staff of America.

It goes on to say that if “Secretary Duncan does not improve, and given that he has been treated fairly and his due process rights have been upheld, the secretary of education must resign.”

AFT President Randi Weingarten made a statement following the passage of the special order:

“This special order is basically saying, “Enough is enough.” Teachers are evaluated and their future livelihoods are linked to that. And when they fall short, they should have a chance to improve. And that’s what this special order represents. Make no mistake about it: There’s a lot of hurt that has been expressed from the floor—the feeling that the secretary of education doesn’t walk in the shoes of public educators or provide the support and resources necessary to ensure all children have a high-quality public education.”

AFT Members Pass Resolution Advocating for New Teacher Accountability System

Resolution Calls for Move from Test-and-Punish System to Support-and-Improve Model

Image by AFT Union

Image by AFT Union

LOS ANGELES—To restore joy to teaching and learning and create strong community public schools that are safe, collaborative and welcoming places, AFT members today passed a resolution taking a bold stand against the obsession with testing and calling for an end to the failed test-and-punish accountability system to one focused on support and improvement. AFT President Randi Weingarten called it the most important resolution passed at the AFT convention.

The resolution, “Real Accountability for Equity and Excellence in Public Education,” which passed virtually unanimously, states that “the very purpose of public education and the joy of both teaching and learning are now at risk because policymakers perversely attempt to capture—and evaluate—everything about teaching and learning with testing.”

“Our obsession with testing, in the guise of accountability, is hijacking public schooling,” said AFT President Randi Weingarten. “Testing should be about giving students a sense of where they stand and teachers and parents the information they need to tailor instruction and support kids. Instead, it’s being used to reduce children to test scores and teachers to algorithms.”

The resolution specifically calls out:

  • The over-reliance on flawed value-added measures (VAM) used to punish and sanction teachers;
  • The use of test results to fire teachers, close schools and hand schools over to privatizers;
  • The failure of test-based accountability to improve student performance or ensure equitable distribution of resources;
  • How the current system fails to recognize that two-thirds of the achievement gap is attributable to nonschool factors and is the opposite approach taken by education systems that outcompete us globally;
  • The increased segregation through public school disinvestment and charter school and privatization expansion;
  • How inappropriate education policies, austerity budgets, deprofessionalization and privatization have made education about competition instead of about the needs of all children; and
  • The need to respect teachers’ professionalism and engage teachers in improvin equity and excellence in our schools.

“Accountability shouldn’t come down to test-and-punish, and classroom teachers shouldn’t be the only ones held accountable,” Weingarten said. “That’s why we are making the call for a thoughtful accountability system that makes students, not data, the priority, focuses on meaningful student learning and ensures adequate resources. It’s time to stop the failed policy of making every child in every grade take standardized tests every year and evaluating teachers on standardized test scores of students they haven’t even taught.”

Instead of the current failed policies, the resolution calls for:

  • Engaging all stakeholders in planning and implementing accountability systems that are transparent and readily understandable by teachers, families and the broader public;
  • Ensuring that students are taught a well-rounded curriculum, including the arts, the sciences, social studies, civics, world languages, health and physical education, and social, emotional and character development;
  • Assessments that are aligned to higher-order thinking and performance skills;
  • Relying on sampling instead of testing every student at every grade level every year, but retaining disaggregated reporting by race, ethnicity, poverty level, English language status and disability;
  • Identifying schools needing improvement through measures beyond test scores;
  • Holding policymakers and administrators accountable for allocating the necessary resources to support schools;
  • Holding all stakeholders, not just teachers, responsible for meeting students’ needs and achieving both equity and excellence for all students;
  • Ending austerity budgets; and
  • Investments in wraparound services to address the social, emotional and health needs of students.

“Taken together, the education resolutions passed at the AFT’s convention offer a blueprint to help fulfill public education’s essential purpose as an anchor of democracy, a propeller of the economy and the vehicle through which we help all children achieve their dreams,” said Weingarten. “They help build the foundation for a public education system focused on great teaching, a rich and vibrant curriculum focused on learning over testing, safe and welcoming neighborhood public schools, valuing and respecting the voice of educators, and ensuring children have the resources and services they need to enable their success in the classroom and in life.”

ANHPE: New Hampshire’s Common Core debate reaches a new low

The Common Core debate has entered a whole new stage. Exhibit A is an oped today in the Union Leader.  It’s by Betsy McCaughey, the fact-challenged author of the Obamacare “death panel” meme.  Here’s a sample:

“Move over Obamacare. Mid-term elections will also be referendums on ObamaCore.

“Contrary to what the public is told, Common Core is not about standards. It’s about content: what pupils are taught. In the Social Studies Framework approved on April 29 by New York state’s education authorities (but not parents), American history is presented as four centuries of racism, economic oppression, and gender discrimination. Teachers are encouraged to help students identify their differences instead of their common American identity. Gone are heroes, ideals, and American exceptionalism.”

If I understand Ms. McCaughey, the message is,”We failed to kill Obamacare so we’ll see if we can do a death panel thing on Obamacore.”  (Just for the record, there is no “Social Studies Framework” in the Common Core State Standards.)

Exhibit B is the windshield flyer left during the wonderful Common Core forum presented last night by Rep. Carolyn Gargasz (R-Hollis) and Rep. Melanie Levesque (D-Brookline).  Five amazing teachers, along with State Board of Education chair Tom Raffio, NHDOE’s Heather Gage, Nashua Community College president Lucille Jordan and business advocate Fred Kocher spoke about how well the Common Core is working in Hollis/Brookline and around the State.  I’ll post more about the forum itself, held at Hollis/Brookline High, when the video is available but here is the flyer:

Anti Common Core Windshield Flyer fin

Political opponents of the Common Core have lost five big votes in the Legislature. The debate now seems to have entered an entirely new stage.

UPDATE 6/17/14: My wife thought the tone I’d taken this morning was a “bit sharp,” as she put it.  And, really, I agree.  I apologize for the intemperate outbreak.  That’s just the opposite of how I think this debate should be carried on.  So I’ve edited this post to point out what I think are inaccurate assertions about the Common Core, but do it without quite as much attitude.

Granite State Rumblings: Why You Should Take Time Every Day To Read To Your Children

Mother reading to children (Neeta Lind Flikr)

Mother reading to children (Image Neeta Lind on Flikr)

Have you seen those bumper stickers that say, Read Aloud to a Child Every Day? Does reading aloud to a child really matter?

YES! And here is why:

Reading aloud helps children acquire early language skills.

  • Reading aloud is widely recognized as the single most important activity leading to literacy acquisition.  Among other things, reading aloud builds word-sound awareness in children, a potent predictor of reading success.
  • “Children who fall seriously behind in the growth of critical early reading skills have fewer opportunities to practice reading. Evidence suggests that these lost practice opportunities make it extremely difficult for children who remain poor readers during the first three years of elementary school to ever acquire average levels of reading fluency.” Torgeson, J. Avoiding the Devastating Downward Spiral, American Educator. (2004)
  • Reading aloud to young children is not only one of the best activities to stimulate language and cognitive skills; it also builds motivation, curiosity, and memory. Bardige, B. Talk to Me, Baby! (2009), Paul H Brookes Pub Co.
  • Reading aloud stimulates language development even before a child can talk. Bardige, B. Talk to Me, Baby! (2009), Paul H Brookes Pub Co.
  • Research shows that the more words parents use when speaking to an 8-month-old infant, the greater the size of their child’s vocabulary at age 3. The landmark Hart-Risley study on language development documented that children from low-income families hear as many as 30 million fewer words than their more affluent peers before the age of 4. Hart, B. Risley, T. Meaningful Differences in the Everyday Experiences of Young American Children (1995), Paul H. Brookes Publishing Co.

Reading aloud helps children develop positive associations with books and reading.

  • The nurturing and one-on-one attention from parents during reading aloud encourages children to form a positive association with books and reading later in life.
  • Reading aloud is a proven technique to help children cope during times of stress or tragedy.
  • Reading aloud is a good way to help a child acclimate to new experiences. As your child approaches a major developmental milestone or a potentially stressful experience, sharing a relevant story is a great way to help ease the transition. For instance, if your little one is nervous about starting preschool, reading a story dealing with this topic shows her that her anxiety is normal.

Reading aloud helps children build a stronger foundation for school success.

  • “What happens during the first months and years of life matters, a lot, not because this period of development provides an indelible blueprint for adult well-being, but because it sets either a sturdy or fragile stage for what follows.” J.S. Shonkoff & D. Phillips, Eds., From Neurons to Neighborhoods: The Science of Early Childhood Development (2000), Washington D.C.; National Research Council & The Institute of Medicine, National Academy Press.
  • Once children start school, difficulty with reading contributes to school failure, which can increase the risk of absenteeism, leaving school, juvenile delinquency, substance abuse, and teenage pregnancy – all of which can perpetuate the cycles of poverty and dependency.
  • Reading aloud in the early years exposes children to story and print knowledge as well as rare words and ideas not often found in day-to-day conversations or screen time.
  • Reading aloud gives children the opportunity to practice listening – a crucial skill for kindergarten and beyond.
  • Reading aloud to a child gives them the basics of how to read a book. Children aren’t born with an innate knowledge that text is read from left to right, or that the words on a page are separate from the images. Essential pre-reading skills like these are among the major benefits of early reading.
  • Reading aloud helps them develop more logical thinking skills. Another illustration of the importance of reading to children is their ability to grasp abstract concepts, apply logic in various scenarios, recognize cause and effect, and utilize good judgment. As your toddler or preschooler begins to relate the scenarios in books to what’s happening in his own world, he’ll become more excited about the stories you share.

Reading aloud is, according to the landmark 1985 report “Becoming a Nation of Readers,” “the single most important activity for building the knowledge required for eventual success in reading.”

Despite this advice, however, some educators and many parents don’t read aloud to children from a young age and thus fail to nurture avid and skilled readers. Indeed, this is especially true for children in low-income families. According to the Federal Interagency Forum on Child and Family Statistics, only 48 percent of families below the poverty level read to their preschoolers each day, compared with 64 percent of families whose incomes were at or above the poverty level. Children from low-income families are also less likely to have exposure to print materials.

So this summer have some fun, free time with your child. Visit the library and get some books. Then in addition to the usual reading places—a couch, an overstuffed armchair, a child’s bed—consider less traditional ones:

  • Outside under a shady tree, in a sandbox or a hammock, or at a nearby park.
  • Toss a sheet over a clothesline or table to create a reading hideaway.
  • Keep a book in the glove compartment of your car for long road trips or traffic delays.
  • Spread a blanket on the floor for an indoor reading picnic.
  • Use your imagination. Almost every room in your house offers exciting reading possibilities.

Happy reading!

OUR FAVORITES

Image Vivid Image Flickr

Image Vivid Image Flickr

A few weeks ago I asked you to tell me what is on your list of great children’s books. Here’s what I heard from some of you (in no particular order):

The Snowy Day by Ezra Jack Keats
Make Way for Ducklings by Robert McCloskey
Green Eggs and Ham by Dr. Seuss
Alexander and the Terrible, Horrible, No Good, Very Bad Day by Judith Viorst, illustrated by Ray Cruz
Brown Bear, Brown Bear, What Do You See? by Bill Martin, Jr., illustrated by Eric Carle
Caps for Sale by Esphyr Slobodkina
The Cat in the Hat by Dr. Seuss
Goodnight Moon by Margaret Wise Brown, illustrated by Clement Hurd
Harold and the Purple Crayon by Crockett Johnson
Where the Wild Things Are by Maurice Sendak
The Very Hungry Caterpillar by Eric Carle
Amelia Bedelia by Peggy Parish, illustrated by Fritz Siebel
Charlotte’s Web by E.B. White, illustrated by Garth Williams
Chicka Chicka Boom Boom by Bill Martin, Jr., and John Archambault; illustrated by Lois Ehlert
Harry Potter and the Sorcerer’s Stone by J.K. Rowling
The Lion, the Witch and the Wardrobe by C.S. Lewis
The Little Prince by Antoine de Saint-Exupéry
Curious George by H.A. Rey
Ramona the Pest by Beverly Cleary
Pierre: A Cautionary Tale in Five Chapters and a Prologue by Maurice Sendak
Olivia by Ian Falconer
Madeline by Ludwig Bemelmans
Don’t Let the Pigeon Drive the Bus! by Mo Willems
Corduroy by Don Freeman
Swimmy by Leo Lionni

Here are a few of  6 year old Spidey’s favorites:

Skippyjon Jones by Judy Schachner (any of the stories in the series)
There Goes Ted Williams: The Greatest Hitter Who Ever Lived by Matt Tavares
Nighttime Ninja by Barbara DaCosta
Puff the Magic Dragon by Peter Yarrow, Lenny Lipton and Eric Puybaret
Chicka Chicka abc by Bill Martin, Jr. and John Archambault

Want to find some books written by or illustrated by Granite Staters? Check out the list here.

6-16-14 AFT-NH Legislative Update: The Session Comes To A Close, A Look Back At What We Have Done

AFT NH Legislative Update

We succeeded in defeating, once again, the so called “’right to work—for less” bill. Over the past two years hundreds of NH citizens voiced opposition to this bill with only a handful of people speaking in support. This attack on working people like you is led by out of state interests such as the National Right to Work Committee and ALEC.

We succeeded in defeating a bill that would have permitted audio and video recording of a public official while in the course of performing his or her official duties. All employees, both public and private, should have a reasonable understanding that when they are performing their jobs that they are not intimidated or harassed and should have a safe working environment.

We succeeded in passing a bill relative to the filing with a registry of deeds of a fraudulent document purporting to create a lien or claim against real property. As public employees just wanting to do our jobs we should not have to worry that someone unhappy with us could go the county’s Register of Deeds and file a million dollar false claim against your property.

We succeeded in defeating retirement legislation that would hurt public employees even more that the bad legislation passed by the Republicans in the 2010-2011 sessions. AFT-NH believes that:

  • Security in retirement is something every worker deserves after a long, successful career in public service. These workers, after dedicating their working life to educating children, enforcing the law, fighting fires and helping our communities run every day, have earned a benefit that must allow them to retire with dignity.
  • The benefit should ensure a predictable cost for the employers and employees, and it should create, and sustain, a high-quality workforce that is attractive to younger workers to invest a lifetime in public service, in turn adding value to the state’s economy.
  • In exchange for a lifetime of service, workers need to rely on defined and predictable retirement security that is protected against inflationary pressures. Their benefit should ensure sound investment options and strategies that will result in post-retirement stability, even against the economic concerns of today.
  • Public sector workers need to be able to look forward to long productive service. Retirement security should be defined through investments and contributions made over a long-term investment horizon.
  • Instead of encouraging the idea that working for the public sector is less valuable than working for the private sector, New Hampshire’s retirement system benefit for public workers should set a standard, and be something larger employers in New Hampshire should emulate.
  • Public service should be viewed as a respectful vocation; a commitment by workers of service and dedication to their home state. It is service that adds value to the quality of life for NH citizens and visitors. Public service is an investment in New Hampshire and retirement security creates a financial cornerstone of the NH economy.

We were not totally successful with the following but will be advocating for comparable bills to pass in the upcoming session.

AFT-NH supported bills that would have increased transparency within charter schools. We need laws and regulations requiring full transparency in how charter schools operate and making them directly and openly accountable to the public for student performance and their admissions and enrollment policies.  We need stronger policies mandating respect and support for teacher and staff voices in school policies and programs, identification of potential conflicts of interest via disclosure requirements, and the use of public funds by charter schools in the same rigorous manner required in our public schools.

AFT-NH supported a bill that would make sure we have the necessary resources, staff development and support in moving forward with Common Core and Smarter Balance. If these Standards are to succeed, we need to ensure that in each district the following are in place when implementing the Standards:

  • There needs to be planning time for understanding the Standards and time to put them into practice,
  • We need opportunities to observe colleagues implementing Standards in class.
  • We need to provide teachers with model lesson plans aligned to Standards.
  • We must ensure textbooks/other curricula materials align with Standards.
  • We must communicate with parents on the Standards and the expectations of students.
  • We need to develop best practices and strategies along with providing coaching to help teachers teach content more deeply.
  • We need to ensure all districts have the equipment and bandwidth to administer computer-based assessments.
  • We must make sure we have fully developed curricula aligned to Standards and available to teachers.
  • We must be work to align Assessments to Standards indicating mastery of concepts.
  • We must insist that professional development and training in the Standards be offered.
  • We need to develop tools to track individual student progress on key Standards.

To read AFT-NH full statement click here.

AFT-NH supported the passage of SB 322: relative to the renomination of teachers. It is time we move back to supporting our teachers in New Hampshire. Three years is long enough to deny teachers their due process when non-renewed. When decisions with such high stakes are being made, all staff should be given reasons why, and should be given time to improve through an improvement plan.

AFT-NH supported bills that would have increased School Building Aid from the state for local districts. Keep in mind that 50% of our school buildings are over 60 years old and many need infrastructure upgrades necessary for a 21st century learning environment. We also supported a bill that would lift the current cap of 72% on catastrophic special education funds and fully fund it.

We were not successful in passing our real pension reform bill, SB 364: relative to group II service retirement allowances and relative to establishing a supplemental savings plan in the retirement system. If nothing is done, New Hampshire will be in a situation where 30 years down the road, we are going to have public employees – at the end of a career – eligible to apply for food stamps, and other social services. This puts a strain on working families by forcing our public employees into social services. This is financially irresponsible for New Hampshire and undignified for our public employees.

If you have any questions or concerns please email me at lhainey@aft-nh.org.

Thank you!

In Solidarity,
Laura Hainey

Please visit AFT-NH.org and AFT-NH Facebook page and clicked “Like Us”?
Late breaking news appears on our web site and on Facebook!

To read the full listing of EDUCATION BILLS click here

To read the full listing of LABOR BILLS click here

To read the full listing of RETIREMENT BILLS click here

To read the full listing of MISCELLANY BILLS click here

Vergara v. California: When Teachers Lose, Schools and Students Lose Too

Teacher in classroom (image by audiolucistore Flickr)

Teacher in classroom (image by audiolucistore Flickr)

There is something seriously wrong in America right now and it all stems from blaming workers for the industry failures. Recently we have seen the right wing attacking the workers at the VA, completely ignoring the fact that the VA is underfunded and cannot handle the volume of new veterans in the already overloaded system.

This trend of blaming the teachers for a schools failure has been the staple of the right wing attack on our public schools.  They blame teachers who spend their own money to supply their classrooms, and spend hours of their own time correcting students’ work.

In the case of Vergara v. California, the California Supreme Court struck down the long-standing teacher tenure law.

“We are deeply disappointed, but not surprised by this decision. Like the lawsuit itself, today’s ruling is deeply flawed. This lawsuit has nothing to do with what’s best for kids, but was manufactured by a Silicon Valley millionaire and a corporate PR firm to undermine the teaching profession and push their agenda on our schools,” said California Teachers Association President Dean E. Vogel. “We plan to appeal this decision on behalf of students and educators, while teachers continue to provide all students a quality public education every day.”

Over and over we see attacks on our public schools and the dedicated teachers who work in them, for the fact that schools are under-performing, yet not once do they ever talk about how underfunded these schools are.  They always go right for the teachers and their unions.

“Rather than provide resources or working to create positive environments for students and teachers, this suit asserts that taking away rights from teachers will somehow help students,” said California Federation of Teachers President Joshua Pechthalt. “This suit is not pro-student. It is fundamentally anti-public education, scapegoating teachers for problems originating in underfunding, poverty, and economic inequality.”

“It’s surprising that the court, which used its bully pulpit when it came to criticizing teacher protections, did not spend one second discussing funding inequities, school segregation, high poverty or any other out-of-school or in-school factors that are proven to affect student achievement and our children,” stated AFT President Randi Weingarten.  “We must lift up solutions that speak to these factors—solutions like wraparound services, early childhood education and project-based learning.”

The group Students Matter, citing the myth that tenure keeps bad teachers from being fired, pushed the case all the way to the state supreme court.

“While this decision is not unexpected, the rhetoric and lack of a thorough, reasoned opinion is disturbing,” stated Weingarten.  “For example, the judge believes that due process is essential, but his objection boils down to his feeling that two years is not long enough for probation.  He argues, as we do, that no one should tolerate bad teachers in the classroom. He is right on that.  But in focusing on these teachers who make up a fraction of the workforce, he strips the hundreds of thousands of teachers who are doing a good job of any right to a voice.  In focusing on who should be laid off in times of budget crises, he omits the larger problem at play: full and fair funding of our schools so all kids have access to the classes—like music, art and physical education—and opportunities they need.”

The group “Students Matter” is well funded group led by “Silicon Valley entrepreneur David Welch and counts among its supporters notable figures in the anti-union, pro-charter, school privatization movement such as Michelle Rhee of StudentsFirst and Eli Broad”, wrote Dante Atkins on the Daily Kos.

For those who don’t know Michelle Rhee’s StudentsFirst organization, they are the one leading the charge for the privatization of public schools. That is what this case is really about.  They have to eliminate teachers’ tenure and break the teachers’ unions so they fire any teacher, at any time, for any reason, and can hire new teachers at a drastically lower salary.

Weingarten concluded “This will not be the last word. As this case makes it through an appeal, we will continue to do what we’ve done in state after state. We will continue to work with parents and communities to fight for safe and welcoming neighborhood public schools that value both kids and the women and men who work with them. No wealthy benefactor with an extreme agenda will detour us from our path to reclaim the promise of public education.”

If we want a public school system that works for every child, regardless of their zip code, we cannot continue to starve our schools. Forcing budget cuts and putting more students in each classroom only compounds a school’s problem.  We need to invest in our children’s future by investing in our public school system.

Senator Shaheen Welcomes Action On Student Loan Debt

U.S. Senator Jeanne Shaheen (D-NH) welcomed news today that will help address the student debt crisis that is hurting the economy and family budgets across the country. This afternoon it was announced that the President will take many steps through Executive Order to ease the impact of student loan debt on borrowers, including a provision championed by Shaheen in her Simplifying Access to Student Loan Information Act that would encourage innovative methods of outreach and communication with borrowers to help them better identify solutions to pay off their student loan debt. The announcement comes days after Shaheen wrote to the President calling for administrative action on the growing student loans crisis.

“We have to make college more affordable but also help students better manage their debt after they graduate,” Shaheen said. “Excessive student loan debt is a significant drag on the economy, keeping many young people from buying a home or even providing for their families. Today’s news is a welcome first step but the fact is we have to do more, including passing our plan to let students refinance their loans.”

Student loan debt has hit New Hampshire particularly hard with 74 percent of graduates leaving school with an average balance of nearly $33,000 and nationally, student loan debt tops $1 trillion according to the Consumer Financial Protection Bureau. The Bank on Students Emergency Loan Refinancing Act would allow those with outstanding student loan debt to refinance at lower interest rates currently offered to new borrowers. The legislation was introduced last month with Shaheen’s support as a co-sponsor and a modified version of the bill is scheduled for floor action in the Senate later this week.

Kids Or Corporations? Which Do We Value More?

Image by Rocksee (Flickr CC)

Image by Rocksee (Flickr CC)

From Pennsylvania, this story:

Governor Tom Corbett cut corporate taxes by $1.2 billion.  Then he cut nearly $1 billion dollars from the state’s education budget.  Then he acted shocked when schools from Philadelphia to Pittsburg were forced to close.

Then a child died.

From the AFT: “We don’t know if a school nurse could have saved this young boy. But we do know every child deserves a full-time nurse in his or her school. We do know all parents deserve to know that their child will be safe and his or her most basic needs will be tended to at school. We do know that all Philadelphia children deserve better.”

The boy wasn’t the first child who died.  Twelve-year-old Laporshia Massey died from asthma complications that started while she was at school.  Could her death have been prevented there had been a school nurse on staff?

Of course, Governor Corbett responded by attacking the teachers’ unions – without mentioning the budget hole created by his corporate tax cuts.

Yep, another politician who wants our teachers to make “sacrifices.”

(But not the corporations.  Somehow, they never ask the corporations to make “sacrifices.”)

But it’s not just Pennsylvania.

A friend of mine is an elementary school art teacher, whose classroom is out of supplies and whose budget is out of money.  How do you teach elementary school art without construction paper and glue sticks?

A middle school student complains about seeing her teachers outside of school.  “It’s really embarrassing when you run into your teacher in a restaurant,” she says.  “But it’s even more embarrassing when your teacher is your server at the restaurant.  Why can’t we pay teachers enough that they don’t need a second job to survive?”

All across the country we hear stories of states being forced “make the hard choices” when it comes to budgets.  They try to make us believe that they have no other choice than to cut programs to keep their budgets balanced.  They never mention the possibility of restoring revenues that were given away as tax cuts.

A strong public education is vital to our communities.  A strong education is the foundation of the American Dream.  Public schools provide the tools necessary to lift people up, to find good high paying work, and to get that little house with the white picket fence.  A strong public education system — which I believe should include higher education — is the key to countering America’s poverty problems, too.

But budget cuts have forced some schools to close completely, leaving children and their parents scrambling.  Teacher layoffs have led to larger class sizes, and less time to help students.  Budget cuts are forcing teachers and parents to supply schools with basic necessities like paper, pens, chalk, and paper towels out of their own pockets.

Cuts to school lunch programs mean that too many teachers are reaching into their own pockets to buy lunch for students who would otherwise go hungry.

Yet corporations keep their tax cuts.

The American Federation of Teachers and the National Education Association are on the front lines of this fight to protect and preserve our public education system.  AFT is running a new campaign entitled “reclaim the promise” that challenges people to stand up for public education.

Stand up and fight to ensure that children in all communities get access to a high quality education.

Stand up and say “NO” to the government leaders who would rather cut funding to schools than ask businesses to pay their taxes.

Stand up and say: “NO MORE hungry children.”

And “NO MORE children dead, without a school nurse around.”

 

(Special Hat-Tip to my friends Kevin Mahoney and Sean Kitchen at Raging Chicken Press for always keeping the light shining on the atrocity of Governor Corbett’s attack on public schools and public workers.)

AFT-NH Legislative Update: NH Retirement Lawsuits, and Finishing Up Education Bills

It is that time in the 2014 legislative session for Committees of Conference. Bills that were amended by either chamber will need a recommendation of concur, non-concur, or non-concur with a request for a Committee of Conference from the committee in which the bill originated.  At the moment, the following bills will be moving to Committees Of Conference, and both chambers have till June 4th to act on these bills.

HB 1128, establishing a committee to study issues related to students receiving special education services while attending a chartered public school. AFT-NH is in support of the bill’s intent.

Around 2011-2012 the state passed a bill which mandated that local districts must pay for support services for special education students enrolled in Charter schools. This means that a district must send someone to the Charter school, contract out the service, or pay the Charter school to provide the services. All of which can add up to tens of thousands of dollars. We need to have a clear picture on what it is costing districts to educate special education students enrolled in a Charter school in or out of their home district. Because this is a mandate from the State we also need to have the discussion on who should be paying for these services.

HB 1494-FN, relative to administration of the New Hampshire retirement system and authority of the board of trustees.We were originally opposed to this bill but when amended we came out in support.  This bill moves to a committee of conference, AFT-NH will monitor this process.

The original bill was a policy overreach by the NHRS, but Rep. Goley’s amended version ensures this is just a housekeeping bill that establishes a procedure for the determination of the costs of purchase of service credits, clarifies the ability to earn service credit while on a salary continuance plan, changes the date for the approval of the comprehensive annual financial report (CAFR), adds a penalty for employers who fail to timely remit data on compensation paid to retired members, and repeals obsolete provisions.

RETIREMENT LAW SUITS

This past Thursday, May 15, 2014 the Supreme Court heard oral arguments on our Merrimack County I (rate case).

In this case, the Superior Court found that the recently imposed rate increases were substantial and were not justified by any particular public policy requirements.   The rate increases were, thus, improper for any employee vested in the Retirement System under the Contract Clause of the NH Constitution.  The Contract Clause prohibits the state from breaching its contracts.  The judge, however, found that employees do not become vested in the Retirement System until they complete ten (10) years of service.

The Retirement Coalition appealed because it believes employees become vested upon achieving permanent status, not at ten years.  The State appealed because it claims employees do not ever vest or do not vest until they actually retire.   The Retirement System also filed a brief in which they claim not to take any positions, but at the same time claim that the Retirement System should not be required to refund any monies that become due.  The NH Municipal Association and the NH School Boards Association filed a brief that essentially sides with the State.

It will be a few months until the Supreme Court issues its written decision; once it is out I will send out a summary as to their ruling.

RETIREMENT LAW SUITS STILL WORKING THEIR WAY THROUGH THE COURTS

Merrimack County II (COLA and Special Accounts).In this case, the Superior Court found that employees do not have vested rights in their COLAs and no right to challenge the defunding of special accounts.  The judge also repeated his findings about a ten (10) year vesting period for other aspects of the Retirement System.

The state’s brief are due May 20, 2014, our response is now due July 7, 2014, their response to us is now due August 5, 2014. The next step will be for the Supreme Court to schedule oral arguments.

Hillsborough County (Definition of Earnable Compensation, Benefit Structure).In this case, the Superior Court found that employees vest in the Retirement System upon achieving permanent status.   The judge ruled, however, that she cannot tell without a trial whether definitional changes made by the Legislature regarding factors such as what constitutes “earnable compensation” are substantial enough to have violated petitioners’ rights.   (Merrimack I and II were determined on an agreed statement of the facts, without a trial).

Case Status:  Over our objection, the Hillsborough County judge stayed proceedings in this case pending the outcome of the Supreme Court appeals.  As a result, there is not pending activity in this case.

If you have any questions or concerns please email me at lhainey@aft-nh.org.

Thank you!

In Solidarity,
Laura Hainey

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UPCOMING COMMITTEE HEARINGS

TUESDAY, MAY 20

LEGISLATIVE ADMINISTRATION, Room 104, LOB
10:00 a.m. Interim study subcommittee work session on HB 1440-FN, including the writing, promoting, or distributing of model legislation to elected officials as lobbying and requiring disclosure of scholarship funds, money, or other financial support received from such lobbyists by elected officials.

WAYS AND MEANS, Room 202, LOB
10:00 a.m. Full committee work session on Revenue Updates.

THURSDAY, MAY 22

10:00 a.m. Senate in Session

WEDNESDAY, JUNE 4

10:00 a.m. House in Session