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

Teachers Union Busting Reformers

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)

The Economy, Education & What America Deserves

Teacher

 

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?

Classroom Expense Deduction (REPAY) Passes House

Carol Shea Porter Official Photo

Congresswoman Led Bipartisan Fight To Pass Teachers Provision

WASHINGTON, DC—Congresswoman Carol Shea-Porter (NH-01) is pleased to announce that the Classroom Expense Deduction was included in a bipartisan package that passed the House today by a vote of 378-46.

“I am very happy that when teachers file their taxes next year, they’ll have this modest recognition of the financial sacrifices they make for our kids,” said Shea-Porter.

Last October, Shea-Porter introduced H.R.3318, the Reimburse Educators who Pay for Academic Year (REPAY) Supplies Act, and built an active coalition of 68 bipartisan cosponsors. Throughout 2014, she led bipartisan letters and advocacy efforts, speaking with colleagues on both sides of the aisle about the importance of extending this deduction.

Shea-Porter began her efforts in response to a letter she received from Margaret Morse-Barry, an educator from Derry, New Hampshire, who urged Shea-Porter to look into extending the expiring tax deduction.

“For teachers, educating students is much more than just a day job,” said Shea-Porter. “They come to school early, stay late, and give up their own time and money to create welcoming and engaging classroom environments. The Classroom Expense Deduction lets us put some of that money back in teachers’ pockets, mitigating the financial sacrifices they make on behalf of their students.”

Supporters of Shea-Porter’s legislation include the National Education Association (NEA), National Association of Elementary School Principals (NAESP), National Association of Secondary School Principals (NASSP), Association for Career and Technical Education (ACTE), National Science Teachers Association (NSTA), American Federation of Teachers (AFT), NEA–New Hampshire Chapter, AFT–New Hampshire Chapter, and the New Hampshire School Administrators Association.

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

schools

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.

The NH Union Leader Attacks Manchester Teachers, NEA-NH Responds

Teacher in classroom (image by audiolucistore Flickr)

250_mea45-150x150“LET US hear no more about underpaid Manchester teachers laboring without a contract.” So goes the opening statement of a recent Union Leader editorial. It goes on to admonish teachers for not willingly taking a pay cut while continuing to work as hard or harder than many would think possible. But as is often the case, whether it be in an editorial or an article, the paper skews facts in an effort to paint Manchester teachers as greedy and ungrateful when this isn’t the case.

The fact of the matter is that roughly one half of all Manchester teachers rely strictly on a cost of living adjustment (COLA) to increase their salary. Those on the schedule receive an agreed-to increase for the previous year’s service, plus the same COLA. Detractors say that this is a guaranteed raise for 14 years. It isn’t. It’s the mutual agreement made between the district and its teachers that allows for the district to slowly pay teachers what their years of schooling, training and credentialing warrant.

For those no longer receiving these steps, the proposed COLA does not meet the rate of inflation. The proposed COLA for this contract was 1 percent, while the threeyear average of the rate of inflation, on which our dastardly tax cap is based, equates to roughly 2.14 percent.

So right out of the gate teachers who have given their careers to the children and future of the city are increasing at less than half the average rate of inflation. This doesn’t even factor in the increase of insurance premiums, copays, prescriptions or deductibles.

The Union Leader likes to lump all of the numbers together. You see, it looks better for their contention that we’re sucking the city dry. We aren’t. The reality of the situation is that some plans call for a 7 percent premium, while another calls for a 14.5 percent premium. The end result of the four-year contract would have called for three different rates: 17.5 percent, 22.5 percent, or 25 percent, depending on the plan a teacher uses. About 60 percent of teachers who currently pay 7 percent would in four years pay 22.5 percent, more than tripling what they pay for their premium.

This is on top of paying four to five times more for a doctor’s visit, quadrupling ER visits, and doubling prescription costs. In the interest of full disclosure, that’s only one of our three major plans, the others have different issues and concerns, but this being the most widely used, it makes sense to focus on it.

Carrying this concept forward, a teacher on the top step of the schedule with a master’s degree would realize an increase of $674. Assuming they have a family and use the more popular plan, the increase in their insurance premium (including a one-year offset) would be $1,025.64. That’s a loss of $351, and they haven’t gone to the doctor, filled a prescription, or had an urgent care or ER visit. If their family of four averages one visit to the doctor a month, and one prescription a month, the total net loss is minimally $591. This is their thank you for dedicating their careers to the children and future of Manchester.

In year two, that same dedicated teacher would see a salary increase of $680 with an insurance increase of $1,500. Year two’s loss equals $819. Year three? They would finally see a gain, of roughly $323.73. And in year four that increase would be $88.13. Over the life of a four-year deal, that teacher would have seen an average yearly increase of $102.97 or one-tenth of a percent on their current salary. Is it greedy to think that we could do better for those who do nothing more than prepare the children of this city for their, and our, future? I don’t think it is.

A picture is worth a thousand words, and this picture shows that there is more to the issue than just glossed-over numbers. There isn’t a problem in this city that isn’t linked to the education of our children. Conversely, there isn’t a positive outcome in this city that isn’t linked to the education of our children. As the city continues to diminish the importance of education, we must ask what it means for our tomorrow. One need only read the recent report done by the New Hampshire Center for Public Policy Studies to see the dangerous path we’re going down. Righting the ship requires making education a priority, and that begins with respecting our teachers.

Benjamin Dick is president of the Manchester Education Association and an English teacher at Memorial High School.

AFT’s Statement On New Testing Bill In US House

AFT Pres Randi Weingarten 2014 convention (Image by Russ Curtis) -2
AFT Pres Randi Weingarten 2014 convention (Image by Russ Curtis) -2

AFT Pres Randi Weingarten 2014 convention (Image by Russ Curtis)

WASHINGTON—AFT President Randi Weingarten statement on the introduction of rep Israels accountability bill:

“The current fixation on high-stakes testing is denying children the engaging, meaningful education they deserve. Testing not only is soaking up too much time and narrowing the curriculum, but is less and less a measure of what kids need to know and be able to do. Standardized tests these days are driving teaching and learning, rather than giving teachers and parents useful data and feedback to help children.

“That is why this bill allowing states to reduce testing is an important step. It also points to the need to build a new accountability system that uses testing as a way to inform instruction, emphasizes meaningful learning, and includes the resources and capacity schools, students and teachers need to continuously improve.

“I would like to thank Rep. Steve Israel (D-N.Y.) for his leadership in recognizing the problems of excessive testing, and look forward to working with him to strengthen the bill in the next legislative session.”

The Truth About Why Educators Are Leaving

Teacher

“…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 Members Pass Resolution Advocating for New Teacher Accountability System

Image by AFT Union

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.”

Why It Is A Bad Idea For Teachers To Be “Packing Heat” At School

Image by Jimi Lanham CC Flickr

It seems like every few weeks we are hearing about another school shooting or unstable individual attacking innocent people in the streets.

For some people the answer is always the same, more guns!

Fact: More guns do not mean people are safer. Research shows the exact opposite.

More Guns = More Accidental Shootings: People of all age groups are significantly more likely to die from unintentional firearm injuries when they live in states with more guns, relative to states with fewer guns.”

To counter the increase in schools shooting some school boards have approved allowing teachers to carry weapons in schools. Are you prepared for teachers in your local schools to be carrying concealed weapons, ready to shoot at any moment?

In 2012, less than one week after the horrific shootings at Newton, the NRA called for more guns in our schools. The American Federation of Teachers President Randi Weingarten, who represented the teachers at Sandy Hook and thousands more across the country, issued a statement.

AFT President Weingarten  (Photo by Bruce Gilbert)

AFT President Weingarten (Photo by Bruce Gilbert)

This is both irresponsible and dangerous. No matter how much money the NRA spends or propaganda it tries to spread, one thing is clear—the NRA is not serious about confronting the epidemic of gun violence in our nation.”

Schools must be safe sanctuaries, not armed fortresses. Anyone who would suggest otherwise doesn’t understand that our public schools must first and foremost be places where teachers can safely educate and nurture our students.”

Lily Eskelsen Garcia, Vice President of the National Education Association, completely rejects the idea, being pushing by legislators and school boards, of arming teachers.  As she phrased it, “People that would put our children, teachers, and janitors at risk do not deserve their office.”

Woman Shooting at Target (Image by Jimi Lanham CC Flickr)

Image by Jimi Lanham CC Flickr

If you live in Kansas, armed teachers will very soon be a reality! They are already using taxpayer money to pay for training programs.

Read this, “Armed Missouri teachers will have ’90 percent’ accuracy, firearm instructors promise

I am personally appalled by this idea because I read every day about another person who is killed by accidental gun violence. I do not want to read about how a teacher accidentally shot their second grade student.

“Shield Solutions training supervisor Don Crowley vowed that his students would have an accuracy of 90 to 95 percent at the end of five days of training.”

Really? A 90% accuracy after just five days of training? Hogwash!

I will concede that someone who is training for five days straight may be able to pass a test with “90%” accuracy, but that does not mean that in a month, or a year, that those gun-wielding teachers will still have the same accuracy.

Consider this, a study of New York City police officers involved in a ‘fire fight’ have an accuracy rating of only 18%. These are trained professionals who go through rigorous weapons training, regular accuracy tests, and yet they only average 18%!

What makes anyone think that a one week training class for teachers would make them more accurate that the entire New York Police department? There is serious difference between standing on a range, firing bullets at a paper target, and a person holding a gun, that is pointed at you, and is shooting back.

31,000 Americans died from gunshot wounds in 2010, and another 73,000 Americans were hospitalized with non-fatal gunshot wounds.   “From 2005-2010, almost 3,800 people in the U.S. died from unintentional shootings.” Over 1,300 of those were people under the age of 25.

What about the teacher who is careless and leaves their gun in a desk, unlocked, unguarded, where children are definitely present? Do not lie to yourself by saying this would never happen, because you know it would only be a matter of time.

The New Yorkers Against Gun Violence reported:

“The majority of people killed in firearm accidents are under age 24, and most of these young people are being shot by someone else, usually someone their own age. The shooter is typically a friend or family member, often an older brother.”

There are dozens of other examples of “responsible gun owners” who have shot themselves or others accidentally.

Do we really want this remote possibility in our schools???

I don’t.

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In a side note: New Hampshire Congresswoman Carol Shea-Porter and Mike Thompson (CA-05)  lead  163 House Members in Calling for a Vote on Gun Violence Prevention Legislation

Congresswoman Carol Shea-Porter, A True Fighter For NH Families (New Web Video Included)

Screenshot YouTube Stand with Me

Screenshot YouTube Stand with Me CROPPEDAfter filing her candidacy to represent New Hampshire’s First Congressional District, Congresswoman Carol Shea-Porter (NH-01) launched a new web video, “Stand with Me.” The spot focuses on Shea-Porter’s New Hampshire roots, her promises kept to fight for jobs, education, and infrastructure, and her pledge to never take a dime from Corporate PACs or DC Lobbyists.

Over the last year and a half, the NH Labor News has been covering the actions of Congresswoman Carol Shea-Porter.  We have highlighted some of the ways she is protecting New Hampshire’s working families.  We have at times been critical of Congresswoman Carol Shea-Porter and all of Congress over their failure to pass some meaningful legislation that would move our country in the right direction.

Protecting Workers At Portsmouth Naval Shipyard

Congresswoman Carol Shea-Porter is a strong advocate for working families.  She has been adamant against the closing of the Portsmouth Naval Shipyard and reversing the effects of the draconian budget cuts of the “sequester.”

“I cannot stress this enough, Congress must pass a responsible budget that creates jobs and eliminates sequestration,” Shea-Porter said. “The men and women at the Shipyard are essential to our national defense and contribute $660 million to the region’s economy. Continuing the cuts of sequestration is unfair to these men and women, and it is a deeply misguided approach.”

The sequester forced workers throughout the federal government into furloughs, resulting in a loss of pay and a slow down of work.

“Our shipyard will not survive another 9 ½ years of sequestration,” said Paul O’Connor, President of the Shipyard Metal Trades Council. “Sequestration was never intended to be a sensible budget cutting device. It was a scheme of cuts so damaging that Congress would be forced to work together to avoid them. This is a bad law and it must end.”

Pay Equity

In Washington, Congresswoman Carol Shea-Porter used her position to push for pay equity for all working women.

“Working women are America’s mothers, daughters, sisters, and wives. We’re America’s factory and office workers, health care professionals and scientists, business executives and teachers,” said Shea-Porter. “Women are working everywhere, but women in America still make only 77 cents for every dollar a man earns.  Equal pay for equal work is a fairness issue and an economic issue.”

Standing up for Teachers

She submitted legislation to extend the REPAY Act, which gives teachers a $250 rebate for purchasing supplies for their classrooms.

“This deduction has been extended with bipartisan support for every year since 2002, but was allowed to expire at the end of 2013,” said Shea-Porter. “We owe it to our nation’s educators and our children to ensure that they have the necessary educational tools to succeed.”

Healthcare, Medicare, and Social Security

Congresswoman Carol Shea-Porter has also been an outspoken advocate for providing affordable healthcare to everyone, and protecting our seniors from the Republican assault on Social Security and Medicare.

“Granite State seniors have earned their Medicare and Social Security benefits through a lifetime of hard work,” Shea-Porter said. “These programs are vital to the retirement security of millions of Americans, and we must protect them for future generations.”

After the news that 40,262 Granite Staters and more than 8 million Americans in total have enrolled in private health insurance plans through the Affordable Care Act, Shea-Porter stated:

“I’ve heard from constituents, both Republicans and Democrats, about how the Affordable Care Act has helped them and their families. There are still challenges, but today’s news is confirmation that access to affordable healthcare has improved for New Hampshire families.”

“Everyone in New Hampshire deserves the consumer protections offered by the Affordable Care Act: it ends discrimination against those with preexisting conditions, allows children to stay on parents’ plans up to age 26, and ensures annual and lifetime out-of-pocket limits.” 

Leadership New Hampshire Can Count On

For many years Congresswoman Carol Shea-Porter has continued to show her strong leadership skills in and out of Washington.  As a member of Congress, she opposes corporate PAC money and pushes to get the money out of the political process.

Even though right-wing groups routinely attack her, she continues to submit bills to make the Affordable Care Act better. She pushed for Medicaid expansion and worked to expand the coverage of those who purchase healthcare from the ACA Marketplace.

“I (Carol Shea-Poter) advocated for Minuteman to enter the New Hampshire Marketplace to provide competition, and I am delighted that Minuteman will negotiate with any of our hospitals who want to participate on the new healthcare exchange.”

Continuing her efforts to make health insurance more affordable for small businesses, Congresswoman Carol Shea-Porter (NH-01) joined with two colleagues to introduce the Small Business Tax Credit Accessibility Act (H.R. 4128). This legislation would expand and simplify the Affordable Care Act’s Small Business Health Insurance Tax Credit to help more small employers purchase quality, affordable health-insurance policies.

Stick with someone we can trust in Washington.  Someone who has proven herself to be a true fighter for the middle class, and all working families.

“Granite Staters know they can trust Carol,” said Patrick Carroll, Campaign Manager for Congresswoman Shea-Porter. “Voters trust her because she fights for them every day. Carol Shea-Porter has fought to improve the lives of her neighbors in New Hampshire. Whether it’s more jobs, affordable education, access to health care, or protecting Social Security and Medicare, Carol Shea-Porter is the clear champion for New Hampshire families in 2014, and this video shows why.”

VIDEO — “Stand With Me”

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