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Caucus of Working Educators Announces Slate to Transform Philadelphia Federation of Teachers Leadership


By Sean Kitchen of Raging Chicken Press

Dissent is brewing within the Philadelphia Federation of Teachers, and the Caucus of Working Educators are about to launch a campaign within their union that has brought changes witnessed in teacher unions in Los Angeles, San Francisco, Detroit and Chicago.

For the past several years, the a group of union activists have conducted campaigns that have raised awareness about today’s standardized test driven public education system, with their opt-out campaign being the latest.  Now, they are promising to make the Philadelphia Federation of Teachers a more organized, a more mobilized and a more democratic union.

On Thursday evening, the Caucus of Working Educators announced that Kelley Collings, Ismael Jimanez, Yaasiyn Muhammad and Amy Roat are running on a slate to transform the PFT’s executive council.  The structure of the PFT breaks down into two sections.  There is a 26 member executive board and then a 9 member executive council, that includes seats like the President, Vice President, Secretary Treasurer and others.

Kelley Collings and Amy Roat teach at the Feltonville School of Arts and Sciences and have been heavily involved in the Caucus’ opt-out campaign. Ismael Jimanez and Yaasiyn Muhammed are history teachers who have been teaching in the school district for seven years.

The candidates have not decided which seats they are targeting.  Instead, they are seeking to make this process as democratic as possible by allowing the Caucus to decide.  The candidates will take their slate and pitches to the to the Caucus of Working Educations and Caucus members will decide which seats the slate should target.  Their goal is to make the PFT’s executive council as democratic as possible and a tool that can mobilize members against the latest attacks against public education.

To do this, the candidates have started, and are in the process of, organizing listening sessions that will “reach every school building and neighborhood.”  On Wednesday night, Kelley Collings told a crowd that their slate does not have a set agenda, but instead, they are “listening to all PFT members across the city and building a platform that reflects our collective vision for the schools Philadelphia’s students deserve.”

Amy Roat explained to the Raging Chicken Press that the union is “10,000 strong but is not flexing it’s muscle because we’re not organizing or mobilizing.”  She sees this campaign as a campaign to save public education in today’s current political environment and that this is “not an endgame, but a vehicle moving forward to make the union more democratic.”  They believe that they can get rank-and-file PFT members organized and engaged to the point where they can sweep all four positions.

This challenge has a track record of scoring major victories in teacher unions around the country.  Last spring, Progressive Educators for Action Caucus ran a 25 member “Union Power” slate and had decisive victories in the recent United Teachers Los Angeles union elections.  In a union representing 35,000 teachers, the slate swept all 25 seats, which included Alex Caputo-Pearl unseating incumbent president Warren Fletcher.  In San Francisco, the Educators for a Democratic Union ran a slate of 16 candidatesand they won 14 seats.

The Caucus of Working Educators candidates have not filed their paperwork for the positions they will be seeking, but promise to do so when the time comes.  The slate will be presented at the Caucus of Working Educators convention on November 14th and the elections will take place between next January to April.


Republicans Are The Reason Our Public Schools Are Hurting

Jeb Bush on Education

The Republican Primary is always fun to watch as the candidates try to outdo each other the issues. Recently it was what to do about the problems facing our public school systems.

Our public education system is in rough shape and the majority of the blame falls squarely on the shoulders of Republican politicians who are starving our schools for money, forcing more and more standardized testing, and funneling our tax dollars to for-profit private and religious schools.

When you add all of these programs together it creates a disastrous ticking time bomb of epic failure.

The problems continue to feed themselves. It begins with cuts to the budget that lead to cuts teacher pay. This results in good teachers leaving the district and then bringing in new inexperienced teachers to replace them.

Then they test every student over and over, and reward high performing schools and make more cuts to low performing schools. (Can you see the problem yet?)

Then they give our tax dollars to traveling medicine men, selling snake oil to fix all of our problems by opening charter schools, stealing more money from struggling schools. Some of these schools take millions in federal, state, and local budgets to build new schools and then file for bankruptcy before they even open their doors.

Then they have to make more cuts to teachers and para-professionals starting the austerity cycle all over again.

The American Federation of Teachers thought it would be good to inform all of you of what a few of the Presidential candidates are saying our teachers and our schools.


Our children deserve better than a schools system that is all test and drill. We need more arts, more music, more science, and more teachers. We need pay our teachers better so that we can retain the best teachers with the pay they deserve. We need to fund our schools properly and stop forcing cuts to staff and services. We need to stop this cycle of austerity that is strangling our public schools.  Our children deserve better!


AFT Members Voice Their Support For Hillary Clinton In Latest AFT VIDEO

 (image Keith Kissel FLIKR)

(image Keith Kissel FLIKR)

A few weeks back, the American Federation of Teachers announced their overwhelming support of Secretary Hillary Clinton for President of United States.

“In vision, in experience and in leadership, Hillary Clinton is the champion working families need in the White House,” said AFT President Randi Weingarten. “Hillary Clinton is a tested leader who shares our values, is supported by our members, and is prepared for a tough fight on behalf of students, families and communities. That fight defines her campaign and her career. In Arkansas, Hillary fought to expand access to early childhood education and care. As first lady, she fought for the right to affordable, high-quality healthcare and helped win that right for our youngest citizens. As senator, she fought for education funding and workers’ rights, and she defended public service workers who came to our nation’s defense on Sept. 11. And as secretary of state, she promoted democracy throughout the world, lifting up the worth and dignity of all people—men and women, gay and straight.”

Upon learning of the union’s endorsement, Clinton said, “For nearly a century, the American Federation of Teachers has worked to expand opportunity for the people and communities they serve. I’m honored to have the support of AFT’s members and leaders, and proud to stand with them to unleash the potential of every American.”

On the heels of the American Federation of Teachers’ endorsement of Hillary Clinton for the Democratic nomination for president, she addressed nearly 2,000 educators via video at the AFT’s biennial TEACH conference in Washington, D.C.

Click here to watch the video on Youtube.

“Together, I know we can build a stronger, fairer, more inclusive America—an America where parents can give their kids real opportunities,” said Clinton in a two-minute address that outlined her agenda for expanding early childhood education, ensuring college affordability, and working with teachers to improve public education.

There is no doubt that Hillary Clinton will make a great President and can see why the American Federation of Teachers would endorse such a strong, passionate, dedicated woman to be their candidate.

Though some have criticized AFT’s early endorsement, the process was highly democratic.  AFT used scientific polling, online and over the phone, to connect with over 1 million of their 1.7 million members.  79% of the one million members reached wanted AFT to endorse Hillary Clinton.

Yesterday, AFT released this video highlighting real members at their recent TEACH convention personally endorsing Hillary Clinton for President.  Each member points to a specific moment of event that helped them decide that they were “ready for Hillary.”

All of the members highlighted Hillary Clinton’s strong understand of the issues facing teachers in the classroom, their rights as union members, and helping to rebuild a strong middle class.

Nashua Teachers Union Recommends Jim Donchess for Mayor

Teachers Back Donchess for His Strong Commitment to Education
and Proven Record of Supporting Nashua’s Schools.

NASHUA—Today, the Nashua Teachers Union announced its endorsement of Jim Donchess in his campaign for Mayor, asking its members and their families and neighbors who reside in Nashua to support Donchess during his campaign and in the September 8th Primary Election.

The Nashua Teachers Union is made up of teachers in the Nashua school district, and is a municipal affiliate of the American Federation of Teachers-New Hampshire (AFT-NH). AFT-NH Local 1044 President Bob Sherman, among numerous other educators, cited Donchess’ unwavering commitment to education.

“After reviewing all of the candidates who submitted their responses to the Teachers Union Committee on Political Education (COPE) questionnaire on education, the COPE Committee voted almost unanimously to support Jim. Given his longstanding record on and commitment to education in Nashua, we know that Jim is the right choice,” said AFT-NH Local 1044 President Bob Sherman.

“I’ve known Jim since our children were in elementary school together many years ago. His commitment to public education and learning has been the root of him as a citizen of Nashua and as a public servant. His support of education spans decades, and he is and has always been authentic and genuine in his commitment to our city,” says Nashua High School South teacher Judy Loftus. “In 2010, when he saw budget cuts that would have resulted in the loss of many teachers in Nashua, he and a group of citizens formed the organization Nashua Schools Back On Top. They advocated successfully to restore many of those cuts before the budget was finalized. We must elect Jim as Mayor to have a partner in City Hall who ensures that children and teachers in Nashua always have an advocate.”

“About a year ago Jim stopped by my house and we had a really in-depth conversation about education. I was, and have continued to be, very impressed by his outreach to Nashua residents and his commitment to children,” says Ledge Street Elementary School Teacher Sylvie Stewart. “Jim knows that the most beneficial way to improve Nashua is through working with educators to provide a high quality public-school education, one that meets the demands of all its children so that each child has the opportunity to thrive.”

“It’s an honor to have earned the support of Nashua’s teachers.  Education is the backbone of any community and when schools thrive, the community thrives and our economy thrives,” said Donchess. “Making children, teachers and education a priority in Nashua is key if we want our city to grow and succeed.”

About the American Federation of Teachers New Hampshire Local 1044

AFT-NH Local 1044 is the Municipal Affiliate of the American Federation of Teachers-New Hampshire. AFT Local 1044 has nearly 1,500 members in Nashua, including teachers, para-educators, secretaries and food service employees.

Unions Speak Out Against Supreme Court’s Decision To Hear Friedrichs v. CTA

Joint Statement on Public Service Workers
on Supreme Court Grant of Cert in Friedrichs v. CTA

Lawsuit Seeks to Curtail Freedom of Firefighters, Teachers, Nurses, First-Responders to Stick Together and Advocate for Better Public Services, Better Communities

WASHINGTON—NEA President Lily Eskelsen García, AFT President Randi Weingarten, CTA President Eric C. Heins, AFSCME President Lee Saunders, and SEIU President Mary Kay Henry issued the following joint statement today in response to U.S. Supreme Court granting cert to Friedrichs v. California Teachers Association:

“We are disappointed that at a time when big corporations and the wealthy few are rewriting the rules in their favor, knocking American families and our entire economy off-balance, the Supreme Court has chosen to take a case that threatens the fundamental promise of America—that if you work hard and play by the rules you should be able to provide for your family and live a decent life.

“The Supreme Court is revisiting decisions that have made it possible for people to stick together for a voice at work and in their communities—decisions that have stood for more than 35 years—and that have allowed people to work together for better public services and vibrant communities.

“When people come together in a union, they can help make sure that our communities have jobs that support our families. It means teachers can stand up for their students. First responders can push for critical equipment to protect us. And social workers can advocate effectively for children’s safety.

“America can’t build a strong future if people can’t come together to improve their work and their families’ futures. Moms and dads across the country have been standing up in the thousands to call for higher wages and unions. We hope the Supreme Court heeds their voices.”

And public servants are speaking out, too, about how Friedrichs v. CTA would undermine their ability to provide vital services the public depends on. In their own words:

“As a school campus monitor, my job is to be on the front lines to make sure our students are safe. Both parents and students count on me—it’s a responsibility that I take very seriously. It’s important for me to have the right to voice concerns over anything that might impede the safety of my students, and jeopardizing my ability to speak up for them is a risk for everyone.”
Carol Peek, a school campus security guard from Ventura, Calif.

“I love my students, and I want them to have everything they need to get a high-quality public education. When educators come together, we can speak with the district about class size, about adequate staffing, about the need for counselors, nurses, media specialists and librarians in schools. And we can advocate for better practices that serve our kids. With that collective voice, we can have conversations with the district that we probably wouldn’t be able to have otherwise―and do it while engaging our communities, our parents and our students.”
Kimberly Colbert, a classroom teacher from St. Paul, Minn.

“As a mental health worker, my colleagues and I see clients who are getting younger and more physical. Every day we do our best work to serve them and keep them safe, but the risk of injury and attack is a sad, scary reality of the job. But if my coworkers and I come together and have a collective voice on the job, we can advocate for better patient care, better training and equipment, and safe staffing levels. This is about all of us. We all deserve safety and dignity on the job, because we work incredibly hard every day and it’s certainly not glamorous.”
Kelly Druskis-Abreu, a mental health worker from Worcester, Mass.

“Our number one job is to protect at-risk children. Working together, front-line social workers and investigators have raised standards and improved policies that keep kids safe from abuse and neglect. I can’t understand why the Supreme Court would consider a case that could make it harder for us to advocate for the children and families we serve—this work is just too important.”
Ethel Everett, a child protection worker from Springfield, Mass.


About the National Education Association
The National Education Association is the nation’s largest professional employee organization, representing nearly 3 million elementary and secondary teachers, higher education faculty, education support professionals, school administrators, retired educators and students preparing to become teachers. Learn more at www.nea.org and follow on Twitter at @NEAmedia.

About the American Federation of Teachers (AFT)
The American Federation of Teachers, an affiliate of the AFL-CIO, was founded in 1916 and today represents 1.6 million members in more than 3,000 local affiliates nationwide. AFT represents pre-K through 12th-grade teachers; paraprofessionals and other school-related personnel; higher education faculty and professional staff; federal, state and local government employees; and nurses and other healthcare professionals. Go online to www.aft.orgor @AFTunion to find out more.

About the California Teachers Association (CTA)
The 325,000-member California Teachers Association is affiliated with the 3 million-member National Education Association. Find out more at www.cta.org and follow CTA on Twitter at @CATeachersAssoc.

About the American Federation of State, County, and Municipal Employees (AFSCME)
AFSCME is the nation’s largest and fastest growing public service employees union with more than 1.6 million working and retired members. AFSCME’s members provide the vital services that make America happen. We are nurses, corrections officers, child care providers, EMTs, sanitation workers and more. Read more online at www.afscme.org and @AFSCME.

About the Service Employees International Union (SEIU)
The Service Employees International Union (SEIU) unites 2 million diverse members in the United States, Canada and Puerto Rico. The nation’s largest health care union, SEIU represents nurses, LPNs, doctors, lab technicians, nursing home workers, and home care workers in addition to building cleaning and security industries, including janitors, security officers, superintendents, maintenance workers, window cleaners, and doormen and women. SEIU also represents public workers including local and state government workers, public school employees, bus drivers, and child care providers. Learn more at www.seiu.org and @SEIU.


Labor Praises The Supreme Court’s Marriage Equality Decision And Recognizes That There Is More To Be Done

Gay-Couple-from-back-Holding-Hands Square

For over thirty years organized labor and the LGBT have been walking hand-in-hand to push for equality.

Last year I wrote a labor history story called “Labor of Love: How The American Labor Movement Is Securing LBGT Equality” which focused on the role that labor unions played in pushing for equality.

“The UAW was the first union to get same sex couple benefits into labor contract,” said Roland Leggett, the Michigan State Director for Working America.  After the UAW successfully got domestic partner benefits into their contracts in 1982, more and more Fortune 500 companies started to adopt similar policies.  By 2006, 49% of all Fortune 500 companies offered domestic partner benefits.

As you are already well aware, the Supreme Court ruled that same-sex marriage is legal in all 50 states. This ruling will force states like Texas, to accept and recognize all marriages.

Labor unions from across the country applauded this decision and reminded us of their role in helping to make the dream of equality, a reality.

“Today’s Supreme Court decision marks a truly historic day in America. While there is still work to do to secure economic and social justice for LGBT Americans, the court’s ruling is a major victory for everyone who believes in equality,” said AFL-CIO Secretary-Treasurer Liz Shuler. “Same-sex couples will now have equal access to marriage licenses like any other couple. This ruling is a win for children, families, workers and our entire country.”

“The United Steelworkers applaud the court for upholding the 14th Amendment of the U.S Constitution, which guarantees equal protection under the law,” said The United Steelworkers (USW) International President Leo W. Gerard and International Vice President Fred Redmond. “This is a historic day, and we are proud especially for our LGBT members. This victory confirms the principles of our union that regardless of the color of a person’s skin, regardless of religion or nationality, and no matter who a person loves, discrimination has no place in our union or in our society.”

“Today is a momentous day. Together as a nation we took a dramatic step toward the ideals of equality and freedom. Today, brave Americans who were unafraid to stand up and organize for their basic rights proved once again the arc of history is long but it bends toward justice,” stated Lee Saunders, President of the American Federation of County and Municipal Employees (AFSCME).

“AFGE applauds today’s Supreme Court ruling declaring that same-sex couples across the country have a Constitutional right to marry,” said American Federation of Government Employees National Vice President for Women and Fair Practices Augusta Y. Thomas. “This was the right decision for the country and the right decision for everyone who believes in the principles of fairness, equality, and basic human dignity.

“As the largest union representing federal and D.C. government employees, AFGE represents people across the social and political spectrum, including many LGBT members. Just two weeks ago, AFGE was proud to march for the first time in the 2015 Capital Pride Parade – the only labor union to participate. For years, our AFGE Pride Program has been working toward fair treatment and equality for LGBT employees in the government workplace,” concluded Thomas.

The National Education Association and its 22 state-level affiliates, were a part of a broad-based labor coalition with the American Federation of Labor and Congress of Industrial Organizations (AFL-CIO) and Change to Win, filed an amicus brief, arguing that state discrimination against same sex couples deprives such couples of an array of economic benefits and legal rights, and deprives them and their children of fundamental dignity, benefits and rights that other couples and their families enjoy.

“Today the Supreme Court has taken a monumental step forward in our national journey toward a more perfect union by making marriage equality the law in every state of our great nation,” said National Education Association President Lily Eskelsen García. “On behalf of our members—and the students they serve—we applaud the court’s historic decision, which will end discrimination against same sex couples, place them on equal footing with other families and safeguard all of our children.”

“We know that today’s ruling will make a tremendous difference both to the dignity and personal and economic well-being of same sex families and to the dignity and personal well-being of their children as well as others who have been bullied and fearful due to their sexual identity. We applaud the Supreme Court and the many advocates whose work resulted in today’s historic decision,” concluded Eskelsen García.

For some this decision hit very close to home. Randi Weingarten, President of the American Federation of Teachers is also one of the few openly gay, national union leaders.

“From Loving to Windsor to today, love has won. As people start seeing one another’s real aspirations and dreams for all our families and our communities, as well as for ourselves, we see that the arc of history does bend toward justice,” said AFT President Randi Weingarten.

“And while this is a day of celebration, there is more work to do in our fight for full equality. As a gay woman and union leader, I know that I wouldn’t be where I am today if it weren’t for my union—an ally in the struggle for rights and a shield from unfair discrimination in the workplace,” said Weingarten.

The freedom to marry does not mean that the LGBT community has reached full equality. The persecution and discrimination of LGBT members still runs rampant in many parts of our great nation.

While I celebrated this decision, in solidarity with the dozens of my personal friends and family who are gay, I know that we still have a long way to go. The suicide rate of LBGT teens is almost 30% higher than non-LGBT teens. This is in large part to the persecution and bullying that LGBT teens must endure as they grow and find themselves. Most states have protections from bullying based on race or ethnicity, but very few have protections for the LGBT members.

We also have work to do to ensure that LGBT workers cannot be discriminated against in applying for a job, and cannot be arbitrarily fired just for being gay. Unfortunately too few states have protections for LGBT members from workplace discrimination.

“From talking with LGBT members throughout the country, I know the importance of ensuring that there are comprehensive federal nondiscrimination protections in place. Without these protections, same-sex couples who have the right to marry in their home state will still be at risk of being fired from their jobs or evicted from their apartments based simply on who they are. We will continue the fight forward,” concluded Weingarten.


5-20-15 AFT-NH Legislative Update: Restoring Budget Cuts In The Senate

AFT NH Legislative Update

The Senate has had several hearings and meetings regarding their work on the state budget. When they held a public hearing several hundred citizens of New Hampshire showed up and spoke. Many expressed concern over the lack of funding in the House budget and its many cuts to programs needed by our most vulnerable citizens.

The Senate seems to have worked through much of what they want to do even before convening the Finance Committee meetings.  They have started with many noncontroversial items.

Again, I must repeat that we know that in New Hampshire we have few revenue sources and we have a regressive tax system, meaning that citizens who have the least to spare pay the most. To read more on this click here. AFT-NH supports incremental, common-sense reforms designed to make NH’s existing tax system fairer and to produce the revenue needed to preserve the public services essential to NH’s residents, businesses, and visitors.  All of this is vital to our shared economic success.

Once I know more on what the Senate is recommending I will send out an update.

This past Thursday the full Senate passed HB 507: relative to teacher personally identifiable data. This bill adds provisions relating to the protection of teacher personally identifiable data and adds in language that no school shall record in any way a school classroom for any purpose without school board approval after a public hearing, and without written consent of the teacher and the parent or legal guardian of each affected student. AFT-NH is very pleased that both chambers have passed this bill and we ask that the governor signs this bill into law.

The full Senate will be voting on HB 323: relative to the administration of the statewide assessment program. AFT-NH believes that this will allow for some district flexibility with regards to state wide assessment. We have seen an over-emphasis on high stake testing across the country and think New Hampshire is moving in the right direction.

AFT-NH believes that assessments should support teaching and learning, and that they should be aligned with curriculum rather than narrow it.  Assessments should be focused on measuring growth and continuous development of students instead of arbitrary targets unconnected to how students learn. Assessments should be diverse, authentic, test for multiple indicators of student performance and provide information leading to appropriate interventions that help students, teachers and schools improve, not sanctions that undermine them.  Development and implementation of such tests must be age appropriate for the students, and teachers need to have appropriate computers to administer such assessments.

Further, AFT-NH believes that assessments should support teaching and learning. They must contribute to school and classroom environments that nurture growth, collaboration, curiosity and invention—essential elements of a 21st-century education that have too often been sacrificed in favor of test prep and testing. We know that collaboration with educators is necessary to ensure that high-quality instruction and content are given their proper emphasis.

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

In Solidarity,
Laura Hainey
AFT-NH President

Have you visited the AFT-NH Facebook page and clicked “Like Us”? Please do so today!
You can also follow us on Twitter at @8027aftnh.
Late breaking news appears on Facebook!


Wednesday, May 20

Senate FINANCE, Room 103, SH
Sen. Forrester (C), Sen. Little (VC), Sen. Morse, Sen. Reagan, Sen. D’Allesandro, Sen. Hosmer

Thursday, May 21

10 am Senate in Session

10:00 a.m. Continued public hearing on CACR 5, relating to legal actions. Providing that taxpayers have standing to bring actions against the government.

Friday, May 22

In recognition of your support, the New Hampshire Law Enforcement Officers Memorial Association cordially invites you to the 23rd Annual New Hampshire Law Enforcement Officers Memorial Ceremony. The ceremony will be held on Friday, May 22, 2015, beginning promptly at 10:00 a.m., on the Memorial Site in front of the Legislative Office Building. The ceremony will proceed rain or shine. Refreshments will be served immediately the ceremony. Please do not hesitate to contact Major Kevin Jordan of the New Hampshire Fish and Game Department at 602-271-3128 if you have any questions.

Thursday, May 23

Senate FINANCE, Room 103, SH
Sen. Forrester (C), Sen. Little (VC), Sen. Morse, Sen. Reagan, Sen. D’Allesandro, Sen. Hosmer

Tuesday, May 26

10:00 a.m. Subcommittee work session on retained bills
HB 527, establishing guidelines for school districts relative to the use of school resource officers,
HB 538-FN-L, relative to the implementation of new statewide education annual assessments,
HB 581-FN, requiring schools to continue the education of a child during the child’s suspension or expulsion, and
HB 243, changing the definitions of “focus school” and “priority school” in the school performance and accountability law.
1:00 p.m. Continued subcommittee work session on retained bills
HB 218-FN, relative to additional funding for third grade proficiency in mathematics,
HB 549-FN-A-L, allowing school building aid grants for certain authorized projects,
HB 242, relative to the statewide improvement and assessment program, and
HB 231, relative to applications for school building aid.

Monday, June 1

1:15 p.m. Regular meeting.

Wednesday, June 3

10 am House in Session

Thursday, June 4

10 am House in Session

AFT’s Weingarten Celebrates Teachers, Nurses and Public Employees


WASHINGTON—Statement from American Federation of Teachers President Randi Weingarten on the occasion of Teacher Appreciation Week, National Nurses Week and Public Service Recognition Week. The AFT represents teachers, nurses and public employees from across the country.

“Many of us have had teachers who changed our lives, nurses who saved our lives or public employees who improved our lives. For me, I often talk about Mr. Swift at Clarkstown High School North, who taught me how to be both confident and responsible, while opening the door to theater and art. Then there’s Jill Cohenour, a chemist from Montana who keeps the drinking water safe for her neighbors. And Christina Enriquez, a public health nurse in Washington who provides support services to expecting and new moms. This week is our chance to say ‘thank you’ to these teachers, nurses and public employees who make a difference every day in the lives of kids, families and communities.

“As our economy bounces back from the recession, it is increasingly clear that great education, healthcare and public services are rungs on the economic ladder to the American dream. That’s why we are celebrating teachers, nurses and public employees this week: They are the heart of our communities, providing vital public services, healing the sick and paving a path of opportunity for all children.

“Unfortunately, these workers have too often been the scapegoat for larger problems—like poverty in our communities, understaffing in our hospitals and austerity measures in our states. Or worse, these workers have been the target of attacks by those who wish to silence their voices and eliminate these essential public services. Let me be clear: Appreciation alone is not enough. As we celebrate these workers, we need to listen to them. We need to give them the tools, resources and support they need to do their jobs well. That’s the way to really show our gratitude.

“All this week, we will join parents, students and communities in lifting up teachers, nurses and public employees both in person and online. So, #thankateacher, #thankanurse and support a public employee by sharing how #governmentworks for you.”

Olney Charter Teachers Vote Overwhelmingly to Join Teachers Union


Teachers Cite Need for a Voice to Advocate for Students and Their Profession at
Philadelphia High School that’s Part of National ASPIRA Charter Chain

PHILADELPHIA—Last night, teachers and support staff at Olney Charter High School in Philadelphia voted overwhelmingly to form a union. They voted by a near three-to-one margin to join with the Philadelphia Alliance of Charter School Employees to gain a voice in how classrooms are resourced and school decisions are made. They also sought greater input into teacher evaluations and professional development.

Olney Charter High School (located on West Duncannon Ave.) is one of five charters run by ASPIRA Inc. of Pennsylvania within the Philadelphia School District. It was carved out of the public system following the state takeover of public city schools in 2001, which handed control of public schools to private operators under a corporate education reform model.

ASPIRA Inc. of Pennsylvania is an affiliate of the national ASPIRA Association, a nonprofit organization focused on education for Latino and other underserved youth. ASPIRA Association operates in eight states and Puerto Rico.

As Olney teachers and staff began organizing, management hired a union-avoidance firm, National Consultants Associated, which has a history of questionable ties to organized crime and individuals charged with federal corruption and racketeering. In the days leading up to the union vote, National Consultants Associated held mandatory anti-union meetings, costing parents face time with teachers, students hours of instruction during annual exam prep, and untold dollars that could have been put to use in classrooms.

The victory for teachers and support staff at Olney is the latest in a string of successful organizing efforts. Teachers at charter schools across the country increasingly are uniting to challenge the conditions that lead to incredibly high turnover in their schools and to improve education for their students. Often, in spite of aggressive anti-union tactics from their employers, teachers vote to join together in a union when given the choice.

“Teachers at charter schools want what other teachers want: respect for the job they do and a real voice in their schools,” said Randi Weingarten, president of the 1.6-million member American Federation of Teachers. “Increasingly, they see how joining a union of professionals is the vehicle to do that. That’s what today’s overwhelming vote was about.”

A total of 172 teachers and support staff are now represented by the union and will soon begin negotiating a first collective bargaining agreement. They also are calling for organizing and collective bargaining rights for teachers and staff at all ASPIRA Inc. schools. On May 12, teachers and staff at John B. Stetson Charter School, another ASPIRA school, filed a petition with the National Labor Relations Board requesting a union vote. The Board has yet to rule on the request.

“We look forward to forging a new relationship with ASPIRA of Pennsylvania,” said Ted Kirsch, president of AFT Pennsylvania and an AFT vice president. “By opening its planning and decision-making process to teachers, staff and parents, ASPIRA has an opportunity to make its schools a model for innovation and collaboration in K-12 charter schools.”

The AFT represents teachers and support staff in more than 120 public charter schools in 12 states.

4-21-15 AFT-NH Legislative Update: Common Core Standards And Pension Reform

Things moved slowly this week at the State House. The full House met on Wednesday and passed the following bill:

SB 101: prohibiting the State from requiring implementation of Common Core standards. This bill prohibits the Department of Education and the State Board of Education from implementing the Common Core standards in any school or school district in this state. This bill clarifies that districts don’t have to adopt the Common Core Standards but a district still needs to have high quality standards. AFT-NH believes that if any standards are to work we need to ensure that in each district the following are in place when implementing them:

  • 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,
  • Provide teachers with model lesson plans aligned to Standards,
  • Ensure textbooks/other curricula materials align with Standards,
  • Communicate with parents on the Standards and the expectations of students,
  • Develop best practices and strategies along with coaching to help teachers teach content more deeply,
  • We need to ensure all districts have the equipment and bandwidth to administer computer-based assessments,
  • Make sure we have fully developed curricula aligned to Standards and available to teachers,
  • Assessments need to be aligned to Standards indicating mastery of concepts,
  • Professional development and training in the Standards need to be offered,
  • We need to develop tools to track individual student progress on key Standards

This coming Thursday, April 23, 2015 the Special Committee On Employee Pensions will be meeting at 10 am in LOB 104. They have two bills that they will be discussing

  • HB 369: establishing a defined contribution retirement plan for public employees and
  • HB 556: establishing a cash balance plan for public employees in the retirement system.

We need to keep in mind the following about our pension system:

  • New Hampshire’s retirement system benefit for public workers should set a standard, and be something for larger employers to mirror in the state.
  • Public service should be viewed as a respectable vocation; a commitment by workers of service and dedication to their home state.  Public service is an investment in New Hampshire and retirement security creates a financial cornerstone of the NH economy.
  • The current annual pension benefit is just over $19,000.  Nearly 70% of the state’s 28,000 pensioners receive less than $25,000 per year.
  • Each dollar “invested” by New Hampshire taxpayers in the pension system supports $7.55 in total economic activity in the state
  • Studies have found that public sector workers’ compensation – including benefits – is slightly lower than that of their peers in the private sector with the same education and experience.
  • Police officers and fire fighters are not eligible for Social Security.
  • All of our public employees contribute their own money into pension funds.
  • Defined-benefit pensions held by public employees are much more cost effective than 401(k)-style retirement plans, costing roughly half as much to provide the same level of retirement benefit to workers such as police officers and firefighters, librarians and teachers, and other public-sector workers.
  • Pensions help reduce employee turnover and thus boost worker productivity.

AFT-NH will continue to advocate for:

Security in retirement is something every worker deserves after a long, successful career in public service.  Our workers, after dedicating their working life to educating children, enforcing the law, fighting fires and helping our communities function 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, who pay into it throughout their careers. It should create, and sustain, a high-quality workforce. It should attract talented 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, our workers need to rely on defined and predictable retirement security that is protected against inflationary pressures. Their benefit should ensure sound, long-term investment options and strategies that will result in post-retirement stability, despite the economic concerns of today.

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 for larger employers to mirror in the state.

Public service should be viewed as a respectable 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 for the NH economy.

In Solidarity,
Laura Hainey
AFT-NH President

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Upcoming Hearings

Monday, April 20

Senate FINANCE, Room 103, SH
Sen. Forrester (C), Sen. Little (VC), Sen. Morse, Sen. Reagan, Sen. D’Allesandro, Sen. Hosmer
Department of Health and Human Services:
9:00 a.m. Budget Overview
10:00 a.m. Public Health
11:00 a.m. Medicaid Business & Policy (including Medicaid Managed Care)
12:00 p.m. Break
1:00 p.m. Continuation of Medicaid Business & Policy
2:00 p.m. Commissioner’s Office
3:00 p.m. Office of Human Services

Tuesday, April 21

Senate EDUCATION, Room 103, LOB
Sen. Reagan (C), Sen. Stiles (VC), Sen. Avard, Sen. Kelly, Sen. Watters
9:00 a.m. HB 347, relative to payment of wages of certain hourly school district employees.
9:20 a.m. HB 604, relative to the use of mixed use school busses by special education pupils.
9:40 a.m. HB 610, relative to a school board vote on the reassignment of a pupil.
10:00 a.m. Hearing on proposed amendment #2015-1333s – establishing a children’s savings account program, and relative to the bonding authority of the city of Dover to HB
577-FN-A-L, establishing a children’s savings account program.

Senate FINANCE, Room 103, SH
Sen. Forrester (C), Sen. Little (VC), Sen. Morse, Sen. Reagan, Sen. D’Allesandro, Sen. Hosmer

10:00 a.m. Executive session on
SB 72, relative to confidentiality of police personnel files and establishing a commission to study the use of police personnel files as they relate to the Laurie List,

1:00 p.m. Executive session on SB 186, reestablishing the commission to study soft tissue injuries under workers’ compensation and to study the feasibility of developing a first responder’s critical injury fund.

10:15 a.m. SB 242-L, relative to amending the budget in towns that have adopted official ballot voting. The public hearing will include consideration of a non-germane amendment which ratifies the result of a warrant article in the town of Franconia. Copies of the amendment are available in the Sergeant-at-Arms’ office and online.

11:00 a.m. SB 234, establishing a committee to study the use of law enforcement details and flaggers for traffic control on municipally maintained roads.

House WAYS AND MEANS, Room 202, LOB
10:00 a.m. Full committee work session on SB 113-FN-A-L, relative to video lottery and table gaming.
2:00 p.m. Executive session on SB 113-FN-A-L, relative to video lottery and table gaming.

Wednesday, April 22

Senate FINANCE, Room 103, SH
Sen. Forrester (C), Sen. Little (VC), Sen. Morse, Sen. Reagan, Sen. D’Allesandro, Sen. Hosmer
9:00 a.m. Department of Transportation

House FINANCE – (DIVISION II), Room 209, LOB
1:00 p.m. Work session on SB 151-FN, requiring inclusion of home educated pupils in the definition of average daily membership in attendance.

Thursday, April 23

10:00 a.m. Executive session on
SB 242-L, relative to amending the budget in towns that have adopted official ballot voting,

10:00 a.m. Full committee work session.

Tuesday, April 28

House WAYS AND MEANS, Room 202, LOB
10:00 a.m. Continued public hearing on SB 213-FN-A-L, establishing a committee to study the formula for distribution of meals and rooms tax revenues.

Wednesday, April 29

10 am House in Session

Thursday, April 30

10 am Senate in Session

Tuesday, May 5

Senate FINANCE, Representatives’ Hall, SH
Sen. Forrester (C), Sen. Little (VC), Sen. Morse, Sen. Reagan, Sen. D’Allesandro, Sen. Hosmer
3:00 p.m. to 5:00 p.m. HB 1-A making appropriations for the expenses of certain departments of the state for fiscal years ending June 30, 2016 and June 30, 2017.
HB 2-FN-A-L relative to state fees, funds, revenues, and expenditures.
6:00 p.m. to 8:00 p.m. HB 1-A making appropriations for the expenses of certain departments of the state for fiscal years ending June 30, 2016 and June 30, 2017.
HB 2-FN-A-L relative to state fees, funds, revenues, and expenditures.
Please note: These hearings will be streamed live via the Internet at the following web address:

10:00 a.m. Kids Count presentation.

Friday, May 15

Every Child Matters in NH and Child and Family Services of NH are pleased to extend an invitation to all members for “Walk a Month in My Shoes” Poverty Simulation on Friday, May 15th at the Grappone Conference Center in Concord. Breakfast and registration will open at 8:00 a.m. The simulation will begin at 8:30 a.m. and end by noon. Please stay for lunch and an afternoon discussion about poverty in our state with NH experts on this topic. Our goal is to simulate the challenges faced by low-income children and their families as they try to survive from month to month on limited resources. We guarantee that this event will have you talking and thinking about poverty in new ways. There is no cost to attend this event. Breakfast and lunch will be provided to our guests. Space is limited so please RSVP by April 24th by calling (603) 856-7517 or emailing mlbeaver@everychildmatters.org

Friday, May 22

In recognition of your support, the New Hampshire Law Enforcement Officers Memorial Association cordially invites you to the 23rd Annual New Hampshire Law Enforcement Officers Memorial Ceremony. The ceremony will be held on Friday, May 22, 2015, beginning promptly at 10:00 a.m., on the Memorial Site in front of the Legislative Office Building. The ceremony will proceed rain or shine. Refreshments will be served immediately following the ceremony. Please do not hesitate to contact Major Kevin Jordan of the New Hampshire Fish and Game Department at 602-271-3128 if you have any questions.

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