• Advertisement

AFT-NH Legislative Update 2-3-15: Kicking Off The Session

AFT NH Legislative Update

The 2015 session of the NH State legislature is underway and as always, there are many bills to follow and monitor.  Some legislative proposals will garner our support but others will earn our enmity and opposition as we defend the interests of our members and of working people in New Hampshire.  As we review proposed bills, we will determine our support or opposition based upon the basic legislative objectives listed below:

Education

  • AFT-NH will stand up and fight for neighborhood public schools that are safe, welcoming places for teaching and learning.
  • AFT-NH will stand up and fight to ensure that teachers and school staff are well-prepared, are supported, have manageable class sizes, and have time to collaborate so they can meet the individual needs of every child.
  • AFT-NH will stand up and fight to make sure our children have an engaging curriculum that includes art, music and physical education

Retirement

  • AFT-NH will stand up and fight for universal access to secure retirement plans into which the state of NH and its cities and towns pay their required yearly contributions.
  • AFT-NH will stand up and fight to ensure all workers are covered by retirement plans that provide consistent and adequate income to maintain a reasonable standard of living.
  • AFT-NH will stand up and fight to ensure earned retirement benefits are fully funded and safeguarded from market volatility or changes in employers’ economic situations.

Public employees

  • AFT-NH will stand up and fight for first-rate public services that support communities and keep them safe, healthy and vibrant.
  • AFT-NH will stand up and fight to ensure public employees are well-prepared and supported so they can provide the high-quality services our communities depend on.

Collective bargaining

  • AFT-NH will stand up and fight for collective bargaining laws in the state of NH and will work to defeat any and all legislation that either erodes or repeals NH’s collective bargaining laws for public employees.

Revenues

  • AFT-NH will stand up and fight for 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, and vital to our shared economic success.

Charter Schools Accountability

  • AFT-NH will stand up and fight for 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 policy and program, identification of potential conflicts of interest via disclosure requirements, and the use of public funds in the same rigorous manner required in our public schools.

So far this session the House Education Committee heard testimony on HB 116: relative to the renomination of teachers. This bill reduces from 5 to 3 consecutive years of teaching required for a teacher to be entitled to notification and a hearing if the teacher is not reappointed. This bill would falls under our objective of “AFT-NH will stand up and fight to ensure that teachers and school staff are well-prepared, are supported, have manageable class sizes, and have time to collaborate so they can meet the individual needs of every child.”

AFT-NH believes that all teachers deserve due process when being non-renewed.  Due process is the right to a legitimate reason, or “just cause,” before a teacher can be fired and requires a notice and an impartial just cause hearing before termination. We are asking to be treated fairly and without prejudice.

A Red Issue Alert went out this week about the above bill and if you have not taken action there is still time by clicking here.

They are also many bills moving through both chambers in regards to Common Core and state assessments. These bills would fall under the objective of; “AFT-NH will stand up and fight to make sure our children have an engaging curriculum that includes art, music and physical education.”

If these Standards and assessments are to work 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 must provide teachers with model lesson plans aligned to Standards,
  • We need to ensure textbooks/other curricula materials align with Standards,
  • We must communicate with parents on the Standards and the expectations of students,
  • We must 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,
  • We need to make sure we have fully developed curricula aligned to Standards and available to teachers,
  • We must be certain that assessments are aligned to Standards indicating mastery of concepts,
  • We need to have professional development and training in the Standards, and
  • We need to develop tools to track individual student progress on key Standards.

With regards to assessments, AFT-NH believes in assessments that support teaching and learning, and that are 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.  Assessments should not be designed to deliver sanctions that undermine students, teachers and schools.  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 designed to support teaching and learning 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 itself.

The Senate Finance Committee held a hearing on SB 1 reducing the rate of the business profits tax.This bill would fall under AFT-NH’s objective to “stand up and fight for 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, and vital to our shared economic success.” AFT-NH has concerns with this bill. We have heard over and over that there is a $30 million shortfall in this current budget. With a hole of $30 million why would you cut roughly another $30 million in this biennium budget? How will this amount be made up or where in the budget will cuts be made?

Keep in mind that the state of New Hampshire already underfunds catastrophic special education aid to district by capping it at 72%.  With this cap of 72% the state has downshifted roughly $8 million onto communities.  There has been a moratorium on Building aid which has hindered many districts from complete upgrades, making repairs to buildings or building new schools. Remember:  50% of our school buildings are over 60 years old and many need infrastructure upgrades necessary for a 21st century learning environment.

Lastly, what are the assurances that by reducing the business profits tax jobs would be created?  I see this as only leading to reductions in the public services that all citizens of New Hampshire rely upon.

In Solidarity,
Laura Hainey
AFT-NH President

AFT President Randi Weingarten on President Obama’s State of the Union Address

“Unions give workers the voice they need, and public education gives our children the opportunity they deserve.” 

WASHINGTON—American Federation of Teachers President Randi Weingarten’s statement on President Obama’s State of the Union address:

“Tonight, the president invoked our shared values, reminding us what unites us as a nation. He asked us to turn the page, to ensure shared prosperity, to pave the road to middle-class economics so that all who want a chance to succeed get that chance. He affirmed that every child in every neighborhood matters. And he reinforced that unions give workers the voice they need, and public education gives our children the opportunity they deserve.

“All workers deserve a pathway to a good job with a living wage—one that covers the cost of healthcare and child care, and allows them to pay down exorbitant student loans, save for their retirement, provide the basic necessities for their family, like food and housing, and still have a little left over. Working families see that the economy is getting better, but too many have yet to feel it. That must change, and the president raised many ideas tonight to change it. We need to ensure that all families can climb the ladder of opportunity. And to do that, we need our government to reinvest in public education and support our educators. The tools the president advanced tonight—providing free community college and greater access to early childhood education, raising the minimum wage, offering child care and paid sick leave to parents—all will help if they are enacted.

“The president summoned us all to come together, to think bigger, to aim higher. That’s what the teachers, nurses and public workers, those who are and want to be the middle class in America, do every day. This is our credo. We want to do what’s best for our communities and our country. We want to reclaim the promise of America.”

AFL-CIO Releases Youth Economic Platform, Leading Up to State of the Union Address

Platform to serve as foundation for upcoming nationwide actions

Today, the AFL-CIO Young Worker Advisory Council released its economic platform as part of an effort to build a nationwide youth economic movement for raising wages. The platform, which is being announced on the eve of President Obama’s State of the Union address, is an agenda for action for the labor federation’s nearly 50 Young Worker Groups across the country—including in Iowa and New Hampshire.

“Despite the economy slowly rebounding, young people continue to lag behind. The President’s community college proposal is a wonderful idea but it has to be part of a bigger plan to revive the American Dream,” said AFL-CIO Secretary-Treasurer Liz Shuler. “This document and its principles should serve as the outline of what the President embraces in the State of the Union when he talks about young people next week.”

The platform includes a number of proposals that would help young people overcome many significant economic challenges. Among them: free high-quality public higher education, increased public investment to create jobs, stronger union rights, a heavier emphasis on combatting discrimination in the workforce, and policies that raise wages for all not just the wealthy.

“Unless there’s an election coming up, politicians far too often relegate the interests of young people to the backburner. To make sure that changes, young workers have told us they will fight for this agenda in the coming months,” said AFL-CIO Young Worker Coordinator Tahir Duckett.

The report can be viewed here: http://go.aflcio.org/nextup-future-economy

Governor Hassan’s Statement on the STEM Task Force Report

 CONCORD – After the Governor’s Task Force on Science, Technology, Engineering and Math (STEM) Education released its final report, Governor Maggie Hassan issued the following statement:

“Modernizing how we educate our students in the STEM fields of science, technology, engineering and math is critical to helping them develop the skills needed for good jobs in the innovation economy, and I thank the members of the task force for their important work.

“Developed with input from leaders throughout the education and business communities, the task force recommendations outline how our schools and students can be competitive in the 21st century economy. This report will help us strengthen the foundations of STEM education, inspire our students through competitions and more hands-on experiences, and empower our teachers. By bringing our standards into the 21st century, we can ensure that our students are prepared to compete for jobs in today’s global economy.”

As part of her efforts to help students develop the skills and critical thinking needed for success in the innovation economy, Governor Maggie Hassan issued an Executive Order in April 2014 creating the Governor’s Task Force on STEM Education. For the task force’s final report, visit http://www.governor.nh.gov/commissions-task-forces/stem/index.htm.

A Retired Public School Teacher Explains Why Teachers (And All Workers) Need Unions

Editor’s Note: I saw this blog post on facebook the other day and thought this is an amazing piece that needs to be seen be every teacher , every union member and every potential union member.

I tried tried to reach out to Fran Cullen but I got no response, so I decided to share with you anyway.  Below is the exact post from Fran on his website.   Thank You Fran for writing this and sharing it with the world, and know this we whole heartedly agree with you.

 

An Open Letter to All Teachers
Who Have Opted out of Your Union.

Teachers Union Busting Reformers

I know you have opted out of the Union, and since if I knew you personally, I would most likely respect you as an educator, I wanted to share my take on this situation. I don’t know what your reasons for your actions are, and don’t expect that you need to share them with me.  But I know that many of you,

  1. feel you just can’t afford the dues.  Perhaps you feel  

  2. the Union doesn’t do anything for you anyway.  Maybe you feel

  3. Unions have outgrown their usefulness.

Suffice it to say this long standing, well-funded and very carefully orchestrated attack on organized labor is not something I didn’t see coming.  I have been watching it evolve since President Reagan busted the Air Traffic Controllers Union (PATCO) in 1981. When organized labor allowed that to happen, the writing was on the wall. And the attack has been predicated on you feeling one or all of the above to be true.

My take is as follows:

We need the Union now more than ever.

This isn’t about me and not about most of you.  It is about the new teachers in your buildings; it’s about the future. It’s about all of those gifted and talented students you teach who dream of becoming a teacher one day. It’s about their expectation that they will be able to raise a family and own their own home.  It’s about what I and most retired teachers enjoy. That is not what those new teachers in your building have to look forward to now, in the later stages of their careers, and after they retire.

Unions protect workers—Your working conditions are your students learning conditions.

It is about those future teachers who may not agree with how things are being run and the protection they will lose.   I and many like me were the kind of teacher not prone to shrinking from a fight to do what was right for our students, even though it may be in direct violation of misguided board of education policy or arbitrary and capricious legislative fiat. That freedom of speech in the workplace was afforded you by the protection we gained being able to collectively bargain a safe and orderly environment for those students.  Our rights in our work environment were NEVER given to us; rather they were won by organized hard work as a member of a Union.

Teaching was, and is again becoming, a “Second Income Profession.” 

I was raised in a time when the teaching profession was not one that afforded educators the security to raise a family and own their own home.  My aunt was a third grade teacher and her salary was what paid for the two week vacation to Lake Charlevoix each year…that’s it! Luckily she was married to a Unionized Postal Employee.

After WWII and with the advent of the GI Bill of Rights, many young men returning from military service took advantage of the GI Bill to attend college.  Several of my high school teachers and counselors were from that group.  Prior to the Unionization of the teaching profession, special mortgage programs had to be set up for those teachers, so they could afford to buy a home.  Conversely, my father worked in an auto factory, and was able to enter the housing market, raise six kids and go on vacation every summer. The difference between teachers and factory workers was that auto workers literally put their lives on the line to obtain a living wage and some basic benefits. Teachers had to make a decision to fight for what they knew they deserved in order to bring the teaching profession into the middle class .  And every one of us is in their debt for those sacrifices.

The pendulum is quickly swinging back to a time when teachers are now qualifying for food stamps.  This will drive the best and the brightest from even considering entering the field in the first place. It is driving the best and brightest in your buildings to create a “Plan B” for their future which does not include being and educator. You may be one of them.

Think about the future of YOUR profession

I don’t expect this message to change the decision you have made.  But I sincerely hope it will cause you to deeply think about the future of your profession. Working people have NEVER realized improvement to their station in life through the kindness of their employer. And in the near future, when there are no restraints on the power of school boards and school administrations, they will continue to act from their natural predilection or because of bullying by their misguided legislature, to strip you of evermore of your hard-won rights.

The end of Unions is the end of Public Education—Period.  

I may be wrong about you, but I don’t think this is a scenario you envision as being good for the future of your students, your profession, your state or your country.

In Solidarity,

Fran Cullen – Retired Teacher – Traverse City Area Public Schools

 

(Fran also wrote another post talking about how parents and teachers need to stand united if we want to see a better public school system for everyone. Read it here)

AFT’s Weingarten on White House Summit on Early Childhood Education

WASHINGTON –American Federation of Teachers President Randi Weingarten participated in a panel today at the White House Summit on Early Childhood Education, where President Barack Obama announced more than $1 billion in public and private spending on early learning programs, including roughly $700 million in already appropriated federal funds.

Following is a statement from Weingarten on behalf of AFT, which represents more than 90,000 early childhood educators in every type of early learning setting across the country:

“Access to high-quality early childhood care and education is key to giving all children a running start. High-quality early learning not only helps to bridge the achievement gap for low-income children, but it’s also a strong economic investment in our nation’s future. As President Obama mentioned today, every dollar we invest in high-quality early childhood programs saves us up to eight dollars in the future.

“The most important determinant of a high-quality early learning program is the educator who nurtures, guides and educates our children. Right now, many early educators aren’t getting a living wage. Nearly half rely on public assistance, costing taxpayers $2.4 billion annually. That’s why it’s vital that we give the early child care workforce the resources, working conditions and wages they need to help put our nation’s early learners on a path to success.

“We are proud to work with the White House on this important effort, and we will continue our efforts to ensure that all children have access to high-quality early childhood education. As these public and private partners commit to invest in early childhood education today, we hope that they will invest in the educators who are giving our nation’s early learners a strong start on life.”

The Economy, Education & What America Deserves

 

Matthew D'Amico

Matthew D’Amico

By Matthew D’Amico

With the school year underway and children getting ready to learn new things about the world, there is great worry as to the state of education in America today. As the father of an 8-year-old boy who attends public school, I know the concern parents have about their children doing well in school. And as a political coordinator for a labor union representing public employees throughout New York State, I’ve seen that working men and women are deeply troubled about our economy. Watching parents having to struggle to provide the basic necessities affects children, even while they are sitting in classrooms about to learn math or the history of the American Revolution. It is shameful that more than 16 million children live in poverty in America, which has such great wealth. And millions more are near poverty, with their parents living paycheck to paycheck—if they are lucky enough to have a job at all. With these agonizing worries—which no person, let alone a child, should have to go through—the ability of children to learn is made unnecessarily more difficult.

We should all be doing everything we can to make sure our public schools are well-funded, so that every child gets a good education. However, there are many people who are now attacking that great thing—free public education—wanting to privatize our nation’s schools as a source of profit for themselves. There are now more than 6,000 charter schools nationwide, double the number from just a decade ago. They’re publicly funded, but privately run. These charter schools are now part of the growing privatization of public education. Here is what I read on Forbes.com: “dozens of bankers, hedge fund types and private equity investors…gathered to discuss…investing in for-profit education companies.” But according to the National Education Association, “Privatization is a threat to public education, and more broadly, to our democracy itself.”

Why this is happening now is clearly explained by Ellen Reiss, Aesthetic Realism Chairman of Education, in her commentary What Education & the Economy Are For.  It is a must-read for all who are concerned with education, including the worry that the ‘public’ will be eliminated from public education. In it too is the explanation of why there are such ferocious attempts to do away with unions, and it is also what is behind the drive to privatize public schools. Ms. Reiss writes:

“Eli Siegel is the philosopher to explain: ‘The purpose of education is to like the world through knowing it.’ This idea is fundamental to the Aesthetic Realism method, which has been enabling children of all backgrounds to learn successfully—including children who had been thought incapable of doing so. To like the world through knowing it is why we should learn the alphabet, find out about numbers, continents, atoms, history. To like the world is the purpose of everyone’s life. Meanwhile, humanity has lived for centuries with a system of economics completely opposed to that purpose.

“The profit system has not been based on the fact that this world should belong rather equally to every child from birth so he or she can have a full chance to benefit from it. Profit economics has instead been based on contempt. The profit motive is the seeing of human beings in terms of: how much money can I get out of you?; how much labor can I squeeze from you while paying you as little as possible?; how much can I force a buyer to pay for my product, which she may need desperately?

Ethics, Unions, & America’s Children

“In 1970 Eli Siegel explained that this contemptuous way of economics had failed after thousands of years. The profit system might be made to stumble on awhile, but it would never recover. The fundamental cause of its failure, he said, was the force of ethics working in history. For example: 1) People on all the continents know more, can produce more things, and so ‘there is much more competition…with American industry than there used to be.’ 2) Unions, by the 1970s, had been so successful in their fight for decent wages—so successful in bringing people lives with dignity—that big profits for stockholders and bosses who don’t do the work could no longer be easily extracted from American workers.

“The persons trying to keep the profit system going cannot undo the first of those factors. So they have been trying ferociously to reverse the second: there has been a vicious, steady effort to have workers be paid less and less, be made poorer and poorer. And to achieve this, one has to undermine, even extinguish, unions—because unions are the power which prevents workers from being swindled, kicked around, humiliated, impoverished, robbed.

“Meanwhile, there are America’s children. They are literally abused day after day by those persons trying to impoverish the American people so as to maintain the profit system. Many children come to school hungry. Many don’t have warm coats for winter. Home (if a child has one) is often a place of economic deprivation—and the accompanying anger.

“Then, there are the schools themselves. In recent decades, as traditional venues for profit-making have fared ill, persons have looked for new ways to use their fellow humans for private gain. Behold—that huge ethical achievement in human history, public education! And the profit-seekers thought, ‘There’s a whole new industry for us here!’ The one reason for the enormous effort to privatize America’s public schools—and that includes through vouchers and through charter schools—is: to use the lives and minds of America’s children to make profit for a few individuals.

“This use of public schools is related to the effort to privatize public sector work in various fields throughout America: to have public monies used—not for the American people, not to respectfully employ public sector workers—but to finance private enterprises. And through it all, again, a big aim is to undo unions so workers can be paid less and the money can go instead to some private-profit-maker.”

What Ms. Reiss is writing about is a national emergency. No child, whether in Alabama, rural Maine, or the South Bronx, should have to go to bed hungry, or have their basic right to an education be a means of profit for some corporation or individual. The time is now for our nation’s leaders to be courageous and answer with honesty this urgent ethical question asked by Eli Siegel: What does a person deserve by being alive?

AFL-CIO Summit Focused On Real-World Job Skills And Economic Prosperity

Career and Technical Education/Workforce Development Summit Focuses on Effective Pathways to Graduation, Real-World Job Skills, Economic Prosperity

Vice-President-Joe-Biden-to-Deliver-Remarks-for-AFL-CIO-AFT-Career-and-Technical-Education-Summit_blog_post_fullWidthWASHINGTON—Career and technical education and workforce development create multiple pathways to high school and higher education graduation, real-world job skills and economic prosperity, speakers including Vice President Joe Biden said today at the first Career and Technical Education/Workforce Development Summit. It was co-hosted by the American Federation of Teachers and the AFL-CIO.

Vice President Biden said school-employer partnerships provide a path to a middle- class life. “These partnerships provide a seamless transition so folks can go from a classroom to a job, and from job to job within the industry they’re in,” he said, adding, “We have to maintain and enhance our workforce so we have the most sophisticated, best-trained workforce in the world.”

Summit speakers emphasized that today’s CTE programs are very different from yesterday’s vocational education programs. CTE has been reimagined to bring together all the players needed to make it succeed—students, teachers, businesses and other employers, and higher education institutions.

“CTE has the promise and potential to help equip a new generation of workers with the skills and knowledge needed for the jobs of today and tomorrow, and to forge a new path to college and life,” said AFT President Randi Weingarten. “It’s a way for our high schools, community colleges and other higher education institutions, and businesses to coordinate and align so they can create and sustain good, middle-class jobs.”

AFL-CIO President Richard Trumka said short-term challenges are flat wages and lack of jobs, while the long-term goal must be to regain America’s competitive edge.

“Workforce development won’t be a cure-all, but it is a necessary ingredient. What we need is a full, comprehensive system for lifelong learning. I’m talking about everything from high school programs to community colleges to apprenticeship programs to on-the-job learning. We all benefit when workers develop transferrable skills, so we can move among employers if we want and grow as professionals throughout our working lives,” Trumka said.

AFL-CIO Secretary-Treasurer Liz Shuler said CTE and workforce development are a fundamental part of America’s infrastructure. “It’s as basic to our economy and our communities as building roads and bridges. In fact, workforce development is a bridge—a bridge to our future, to the workers, jobs and technology of tomorrow, to our success as individuals and industries, and to our competitiveness as a nation.”

Alexis Smith is a graduate of the Toledo Technology Academy and now studying biomedical engineering at the University of Toledo.

“My experience at Toledo Tech opened up the doors of opportunity for me to delve into my passion,” Smith said. Of other former and current CTE students speaking at the summit, she said, “We are Exhibit ‘A’ for the power of CTE to engage us in our studies, to help us secure a bright future and to have fun at the same time.”

Among the corporate leaders at the summit validating the importance of CTE programs was Snap-on Inc. Chairman and CEO Nicholas Pinchuk.

“We are in a global competition for jobs,” Pinchuk said. “The single best weapon is CTE. We need to outskill the competition.”

Weingarten noted that for CTE to fulfill its potential, more businesses need to partner with educators and schools to offer a path forward for students with internships, apprenticeships and employment opportunities. This was reinforced in a survey of 570 CTE teachers that the AFT released today.

The teachers uniformly believe in CTE as a way to create opportunity for kids, but said they need the equipment and resources to make the work real and need more partners in business and the community to step up.

“Understanding the realities of the workplace and learning how to apply skills can only improve a student’s chance of success after high school,” a New York teacher said in the survey. A Michigan teacher wrote: “I have seen CTE classes, and the skills learned in them change students’ lives. They give many unmotivated students a reason to perform better in school, and they give many motivated students access to forms of expression and outlets they wouldn’t otherwise have.”

Weingarten noted the summit took place just a few days after the polarizing midterm elections. “CTE is a strategy that both Republicans and Democrats believe in and can agree on, so I have great hope that we can move this agenda in Washington, D.C.”

AFT President Randi Weingarten Speaks At AFT-NH’s Working Women Speak Out Event

Randi Weingarten

AFT President Randi Weingarten (center) with members of the Nashua Teacher Union (AFT-NH)

Yesterday the American Federation of Teachers (NH) organized an event focusing on the importance of this election on the lives of working women.  The event entitled Working Women Speak Out featured propionate labor leaders and Congresswoman Annie Kuster talking about the issues effecting women this election.

Below are two videos from the event featuring American Federation of Teachers President Randi Weingarten.

View video 1 on YouTube

After her rousing speech about the importance of getting out and voting this election, Gary Hoffman, a teacher in the Nashua School District asked Pres. Weingarten about local spending caps and their effects on public schools.  Nashua is currently considering changing the way that the city calculates their spending cap and the city will vote on this Charter Amendment on Nov. 4th.  Below is President Weingarten’s response.

View video 2 on YouTube.

 

Students Protest Canceling SRC Teachers Contracts, SRC Chairwomen Simms Tells Students “You Belong In Jail”

This is a special cross post from Sean Kitchen of the Raging Chicken Press who have been covering the anti-union activities surrounding in the Philadelphia school district.

NoConfidenceinSRC-620x264

Mother of Student Protester, “I am appalled and ashamed at the behavior of Sylvia Simms”

By Sean Kitchen

Yesterday evening, SCR Chairwoman Sylvia Simms hosted a screening of the controversial movie Won’t Back Down, an anti-union file that promotes the right-wing stereotypes of public school teachers.  At the screening, students from the Philadelphia Student Union staged a protest chanting “We wont back down, Philly is a union town.”  This is the same organization that planned last week’s student strikes at Science Leadership Academy and the Creative and Performing Arts in South Philadelphia.  At the meeting, Simms is reported yelling “You must go to a failing school…you belong in jail,” to the student protesters, but some of these students attend Philadelphia School District’s magnet school, Science Leadership Academy.  The Raging Chicken Press was able to reach out to Suzanne Anderson the mother of a SLA student striker who participated in last night’s protest.

When asked about her feelings on the School Reform Commission’s decision to cancel the teachers’ contract, she wrote:

I think canceling the teacher’s contract (essentially eviscerating the union) was illegal, immoral and clearly an effort to intentionally undercut and sabotage public education. I know it’s been done over and over again over the last 25 years, but it boggles my mind that an employer takes the position that the workers bear the responsibility to personally finance a bail out of their “company” to save their jobs. It’s profoundly manipulative because teachers aren’t just employees. They are fully invested in the mission of their work and have, sadly, internalized the propaganda of  self-sacrifice to mitigate damaging the students they are dedicated to serve. It’s perverse and unsustainable.

There has been a clear dismantling of Public Works in my lifetime. parks, utilities, transportation, education. All are things that formed the bedrock of the US middle class.  Public education seems to now be expendable. A privilege saved for those who can afford it. Teachers are villainized as lazy, incompetent and greedy. The press keeps minimizing this contract breach as “greedy teachers who don’t want to pay their fair share toward their healthcare benefits.” “It’s only $70 a paycheck.” But it’s much more than that for families that now see less coverage and a $6000 a year pay-cut with exponentially more work to do, crippling micro-management by legislators and the self-serving toxic standardized testing machine. The teacher have absolutely no recourse, under specter of losing their  livelihood with the threat of losing their teaching credentials if they strike.

Then when asked about Sylvia Simms losing her cool on public school students, she went on to say:

schoolsI am appalled and ashamed at the behavior of Sylvia Simms, and some of the other adults, at this gathering. They shamefully menaced the same school children they are sworn to protect and serve,  insulted and shamed them because they dared to challenge the authority of the SRC. They specifically denigrated and belittled my kid, who is incredibly successful, by anyone’s measure.

Both my daughters attend Science Leadership Academy, where independent, critical thinking is taught, valued and lived.  It seems like the people in charge this evening wanted the kids to walk in lock-step and went completely berserk when the kids thought for themselves, stood up for themselves. There’s a scene in that stupid movie they screened tonight where the evil UNION “tenurized” teacher engaged in very similar behavior to that of Sylvia Simms and her ilk towards my daughter and her colleagues, betraying their true character and beliefs. A teacher would lose their job for treating a student like that.  I only hope the videos taken this evening are located and released, so the truth doesn’t get twisted and distorted by the SRC and their henchmen.

Originally posted at Raging Chicken Press.