Tuesday, December 7, 2010
Tuesday, October 12, 2010
EDU: We're Not Waiting for Superman
This week Educators for a Democratic Union got together to bring real live educators' voices to the debate about public education. We passed out our leaflet and talked to movie-goers at the Kabuki theater. Check out our statement on our blog:
Join us at our meeting:
Glen Park Library
Thursday October 14 4:30 pm-6:30 pm
Monday, October 11, 2010
Waiting For Superman is an attack on public education, public school teachers and our unions. The film argues for a pro-business, anti-teacher vision of “reform.”
-The film argues for a top down reform strategy, based on promoting charter schools as the solution. In fact,according to a recent Stanford University study, most charter schools do not perform better than public schools, and many do worse. Only 17% of charter schools perform better than public schools and 37% of them do worse. The film does not show any successful public schools, or interview public school teachers, presenting a limited view that charters are the only solution to the problems of our educational system.
-The film asserts that education funding is not the problem. However, on the film’s website, individuals are urged to donate money to teachers working on projects—because we lack the basic resources to adequately serve our children. Schools all over the country lack books, and other materials, and are having their teachers and support staff laid off. Class size is on the rise and the school year is getting shorter as districts try to save money.
-The film argues that standardized testing is a strong indicator of teacher effectiveness. However, across the board, standardized testing scores mirror parental income and student background. Standardized testing also limits curriculum and only tests easily measurable subject areas, at the expense of arts, music, creativity, and problem solving.
-The film wrongly argues that unions are the main barriers to reforming public education. Educator unions do need to become more democratic and participatory. They do need to fight for social justice. However, before teachers unionized, teachers were unable to defend themselves from discrimination. Unions have historically played leading roles in improving public education, and most nations with strong public educational systems have strong unions, such as Finland.
-The film blames tenure for many of our schools’ problems. It falsely claims that teachers automatically get tenure and can practically never be fired. During our probationary years, we can get fired for any reason. Before we get due process rights (tenure), a principal must agree that we have earned it. However, we can still lose our positions, get ‘pink slipped,’ or fired after an impartial hearing.
-The film argues that teachers are the problem with public education, not poverty, racism, or lack of funding. In fact, the opposite is true. According to a report by the Department of Education, 90% of the variation in student test scores is due to factors outside of the teacher’s control. These factors include socio-economic status and race.
-Corporate interests cannot save education, any more than they have saved the economy, the environment (e.g. the Gulf of Mexico) and healthcare in this country.
We in Educators For A Democratic Union, a caucus within United Educators of San Francisco, denounce this film as an anti-teacher hit piece.
Ask most teachers what changes we want to see in our nation’s schools and you will hear:
•Real reforms driven by educators, students and families, not business
•Equitably funded, excellent public schools for all children
•Smaller class sizes
•Stronger ties with parents and communities
•Alliances to fight racism and poverty
We are organizing toward these ends now. We are not waiting for Superman.
For more please visit:
Thursday, September 30, 2010
The Closing of Willie Brown
by David Russitano
In March, SFUSD identified 10 schools as part of the bottom 5% of schools in the state of California. Many of these schools are now in the spotlight as they are forced into major changes – most of which are business models that masquerade as educational reform. Predictably, these schools serve the communities that need schools the most – high poverty neighborhoods enrolling majority Black and Latino students that have traditionally been underresourced. One school has been chosen by the district to be closed so that it can be renovated. Willie Brown Academic Middle School will be shutting down at the end of the current school year. While renovation seems like a logical step, we should remember that the district spent millions to renovate Gloria R Davis in Bay View Hunters Point only to close the school for good the next year. This time they are closing BVHP's only middle school.
As reported in the Bay View (http://sfbayview.com/), "“I don’t see where they are going to get the funds to rebuild Willie Brown when the school budget is operating at a deficit. Building a new school is not the answer. We need to learn how to work with what we have first and improve that before we try to build new facilities" said Daphina Marshall, a parent and a resident of the Bayview Hunters Point community.
Ironically, Willie Brown has received money through the School Improvement Grant (given to each of the bottom 5% schools) and is using that $50,000 dollars to find students from Willie Brown "higher performing" schools to attend. I’m not sure why it costs $50,000 to look for better schools, but I am sure that school reform that doesn't come from the community will never be effective and will continue to leave parents, students, teachers and families feeling like reform is done to them, not for them.
Want to get involved? Critical parent meeting on Monday, Oct. 4, 5:30-7:30 p.m., in the Bayview YMCA conference room on Quesada and Lane Street.
A Teacher We Will Miss
Mission High School English teacher, Kathleen Cecil passed away suddenly on August 18th from a brain aneurism. Kathleen was a long time union activist and advocate for social justice. She was a member of the Executive Board of UESF where she constantly raised issues of justice and equity for students and families. In addition to her time as a SFUSD teacher, she also participated in the Bay Area Writing Project (BAWP), the California Association of Teachers of English (CATE), and Teachers for Social Justice (T4SJ). Kathleen also had a love for traveling and dedicated her summers to writing literature and to gardening.
She was brilliant teacher who dedicated her life to teaching. For her students and members of EDU (and the union) this is a tragic loss. She is an irreplaceable fighter and teacher and we will all miss her. We will do our best to hold up her achievements and continue the fight in her spirit.
EDU members and friends will be planning and fundraising to create a scholarship in Kathleen's name. Anyone interested in helping,firstname.lastname@example.org (Derrlyn)
Book Discussion Group on Diane Ravitch's The Death and Life of the Great American School System
by Aaron Niemark
A number of EDU members and other educators began meeting last spring to discuss many of the critical educational issues affecting all of us by reading Diane Ravtich's new book, The Death and Life of the Great American School System. We saw the need to engage in discussions about Race to the Top and other national educational policies that are working to deprofessionalize education and disrespect students and families.
We met about once a month and discussed a few chapters at a time. I found myself better able to talk about these issues with colleagues and with families due to the book group. A next step for me is organizing a book discussion group about Ravitch's book and other readings on education policy with members of our parent and teaching community at my school site, Feinstein Elementary.
Our next book for the EDU discussion group is The Shock Docrtine by Naomi Klein. In this book, Klein discusses how human made and natural disasters have created a prime opportunity for those interested in exploiting such situations for profit and control. The first meeting for discussing, The Shock Doctrine (in parts) will be on monday november 1st, location (and amount of the book assigned) to be determined. If you are interested in participating please contact me at email@example.com.
Fighting for Social Justice and
Authentic School Reform
By Nina Lawlit
EDU wants our union to bring members into the struggle for larger social and political issues and to work with allies in our communities to make things right for students, families and educators. A quality education for all students is a social justice issue. Diane Ravitch and others have made powerful critiques of the business-driven reform model for education that is dominating the conversation today. Business-driven reforms don’t work for schools; we want authentic change for education. In dialoguing and allying with families we can work to fully fund our schools and to transform them, deepening our relationships with our students, developing rich, well rounded curriculum and rediscovering the excitement of learning as opposed to the daily boredom of teaching and learning to the test.
On Sept. 3rd Amy Goodman hosted a good discussion of these issues on her radio show, Democracy Now!. It featured Karen Lewis, the new president of the Chicago Teachers Union, and Lois Weiner, an education professor at New Jersey City University. Karen Lewis talked about the problems of applying the business model to education. In the business model you select and discriminate; in public schools we do not discriminate, we take all students, and what we need are more resources and support for everybody there. And why, she continued, should we follow the business model? It brought us to “financial ruin and the brink of Armageddon in 2008,” unless of course, you’re a banker or a CEO Our unions are not, as the so-called reformers claim, against accountability. But, Lewis explained, high stakes testing is not a way to ensure accountability. Our urban neighborhoods have been under- resourced and devalued for decades. That’s what needs to be changed and our schools cannot do it by themselves.
CORE, a caucus of the Chicago Teachers Union, spent the last two years organizing alongside community members. The teachers and community started working together because they all saw the devastation caused by underfunding, and business-driven reforms. CORE was able to change the way the Chicago Board of Education was operating. They forced them to show up at community meetings and saved six schools saved from closure. Now CORE has been voted into the leadership of the Chicago teachers’ union – it’s inspiring.
When educators and community allies work together we build the capacity for social change. We want our union to lead the fight for authentic school reform and take on social and political issues. We hope we can link with the many teachers and community members who fight for social justice, but don’t see the union as a powerful leader in this struggle. We want to use the power of our union to fight for quality education for all students and for social justice for all educators, families and students. This means defending immigrant rights and fighting for public services and jobs that our communities need. There is a renaissance of social activism in educators’ unions in many parts of the country now. It’s exciting to think about our own activism within this main current for change
Tuesday, May 18, 2010
Many issues are important to the members of UESF but we in EDU believe that the issue of layoffs is the main concern of the members of our union. We are therefore urging UESF members to vote NO on the tentative agreement.
UESF members have been angered by SFUSD's hardball negotiating that threatens the livelihoods of our colleagues. Each of us in EDU (Educators for a democratic Union) heard members say they would be willing to make sacrifices to save the jobs of their colleagues.
EDU supported the UESF bargaining team when it made "No Layoffs!" the central component of their organizing campaign (as opposed to the important, but less central issues of 18 non-monetary, contractual items). During this campaign, UESF's leadership demonstrated that the district has the resources to rescind every single layoff. UESF called on the District to cut much deeper into the $52 million in consultant funds. UESF called on SFUSD to use a large portion of the nearly $40 million in reserves to preserve jobs.
The money was there but the political will was not. SFUSD did not take our demands seriously until UESF set a date (May 20th) for a membership meeting to authorize a strike vote. This single act helped communicate what we were willing to do to prevent all the layoffs. This, together with political pressure from families and students, forced the District to dramatically reduce the number of layoffs.
But SFUSD has not gone far enough. They still aim to lay-off up to 250 of our certificated and classified members. This is unacceptable. We in EDU are convinced that the money is there to save the jobs of the 250 brothers and sisters who work in our schools and have proven their dedication to our students and families.
Unfortunately, the UESF leadership pulled the plug on the strike-vote authorization meeting. This was a serious error. Until May 12, the UESF leadership maintained there was enough money to prevent all layoffs. What caused the leadership to back off from this position?
What does it say to our members when we ask all of us to "share" in making sacrifices, but then accept layoffs that would have some sacrifice more: their jobs and dreams of being an educator in SF.
Some will say it is irresponsible to dip into the reserves. The opposite is true: It is irresponsible NOT to use the reserves. A teacher or a para lost is a blow to our classrooms, to our children.
Replenishing the reserves would then be a major task of the union, the Board of Education and of the city and state officials. UESF could spearhead this fight, as it did in the streets of San Francisco on March 4. One of the main demands of that historic day of action, featured on the banner of the rally platform, was Progressive Taxation Now!
Five years ago, our willingness to strike resulted in an 8.5% raise. We were out in the streets with our communities on March 4th. The Oakland Education Association's recent one-day strike forced OUSD back to the bargaining table. Action works!
To that end, EDU will be urging all UESF members to vote "NO" on any tentative agreement that has layoffs in it. We do think it's crucial that every UESF member vote on the tentative agreement, so we will be abstaining when the Assembly votes whether or not to ratify the agreement on May 19. EDU believes that ultimately this decision must be made by the members: vote for the tentative agreement and accept 250 layoffs, or take a stand now to save all our members' jobs –vote no on the tentative agreement, go back to the bargaining table to demand that all layoffs be rescinded and authorize UESF to call for a strike.
Monday, May 3, 2010
Attendance – 55
Special Order of Business:
1. Bargaining Package
2. Jobs with Justice
3. Candidates for State Office
4. Support for AD12 & 13 Progressive Slate of Candidates
5. Support for Mello Roos Parcel Tax
The first issue of substance to come to the floor on the Assembly was the “Bargaining Package”. It’s message was exclusively on the non-monetary issues. “Whereas the SFUSD negotiators are seeking to deny UESF members non-monetary contractual improvements in difficult times” and finished off with “Therefore the bargaining team is directed to settle contract negotiations with a package proposal that addresses the various outstanding elements of the issues on the table”
This was vague to the extreme. Lita proposed language that added language on no-layoffs but the unions did not want to ‘tie the bargaining team’s hands” by instructing the BT to bargain from that position. EDU members pointed out that members could care less about the non-monetary issues and wanted most to see the layoffs resisted so the resolution should speak to that. Also, there was no real clarity on what the UESF would actually be fighting for or where the bottom line was.
In the end, I think EDU might have been better off to vote against this on the basis of it being so extremely vague but I think resolution was so weak and the room so deflated, it was not entirely clear what to do. The BT is operating so non-transparently and with such little oversight by the Assembly or even the Executive Board that we that we have sort of gotten a little used to meaningless resolutions like this which give the BT carte blanche to do anything. As it was the resolution won with an addition of ‘No layoffs’ in the whereas but no clear direction of the BT by the Assembly.
UESF unanimously supported entrance into the Jobs with Justice Coalition.
The issue of Candidates for State Office and for AD12 & 13 was skipped. The most provocative one was calling for UESF to endorse Jerry Brown for Governor and Gavin Newsome for Lt. Governor. When I approached Dennis K. about why these issues were skipped he told me that they did not need a recommendation or vote from the Assembly. He said a COPE endorsement and Executive Board vote was good enough. I am not sure that’s true but it was clear they would rather discuss supporting 2 candidates with lousy records on supporting public sector workers, supporting progressive taxation or public education. It was just unions throwing more money down the Democratic Party sink hole and doing it without any discussion by the Assembly.
We then had to wait through a long discussion about CALSTRS. Some of this was interesting, but you would know that our union is at impasse, in deep crisis organizationally, and about to make historically large concessions in its contract. This report could have been given any month not in the context of the deepest crisis our union has ever faced.
The Organizing section was clearly an attempt to try and breathe some life into our union which is on life-support. It seemed also to be led by the CTA organizer who was brought in. We broke up into 10 focus groups and were asked questions on where our sites were at, what questions were out there and what should UESF do now.
People should report on their focus group, but our facilitator got an earful. Members could care less about the 18 non-monetary items. Layoffs want clarity on layoffs. Members are not clear on what we are saying to counter SFUSD claim that they are bargaining in good faith. SFUSD has effectively gotten out the message that the union is the block based on 18 issues many do not feel are critical in comparison to the issues we face. Members need to see the union aggressively countering SFUSD propaganda with our own information. Members are deflated and don’t see the point of the going to school board. They need to believe they are getting a clear message from the BT and they are not. They get mush. I made a suggestion that BT members go on a campaign to visit school sites to rally members around the contract and around layoffs. There was some defensiveness around this at first but eventually our facilitator relented and just heard us. I did not see him writing much down though.
Finally, there was the President’s report. There the issue was clarified that UESF had offered $26 million in the form of 8 furlough days over two years and in terms of money from Prop. A. There are three mediation dates, the first April 29th and two more before the May 11th Board of Ed meeting. There overall plan seemed to again focus on another Board of Ed. Rally on May 11 before the Layoff deadline. . At the same time, As confused or inept as the BT is, we ought to be encouraging people to go to the May 11th rally. We don't have the luxury of sitting on the sidelines as 1100 union members face lay-off. I think EDU's main job right now is to try to hold the leadership to their commitment to NO LAY-OFFS
Finally, I personally was shocked at the complete lack of support for the OEA brothers and sisters going on their one-day strike. Dennis was polite it dismissing it, but VP Plack was positively derisive of their strike and their attempt to resist a contract being imposed on them. It was rich to a hear a union leadership which is doing nothing deride a union which has actually tried to mobilize a fight back (with whatever problems it has). Disgusting. And the complete opposite of solidarity or the spirit of an injury to one is an injury to all which is the backbone of unionism.
Thie was a miserable, depressing Assembly. Overall, the leadership seems to be completely isolated, is not willing to share information or strategy in any of the normal forums (Assembly or even Executive Board) and has just confined the decision making to a few people on the BT. This is a disaster and spells bad news for the coming bargaining under an imposed negotiator. Our union is no where near to mobilizing, our BT is isolated and confused and those of us who have been arguing for a different approach in EDU are now at a loss for how to proceed in the face of no vehicle for entering into decision making in our union.
Thie was a miserable, depressing Assembly. Overall, the leadership seems to be completely isolated, is not willing to share information or strategy in any of the normal forums (Assembly or even Executive Board) and has just confined the decision making to a few people on the BT. This is a disaster and spells bad news for the coming bargaining under an imposed negotiater. Our union is no where near to mobilizing, our BT is isolated and confused and those of us who have been arguing for a different approach in EDU are now at a loss for how to proceed in the face of no vehicle for entering into decision making in our union.
At the same time, as bleak as all this looks, Adrienne J. sent some words of encouragement that think are worth considering (here it is below)
"While I do agree that it looks like doors are closing with almost no way for the membership to get in, I still think it's important to emphasize to ourselves and others that EDU has continued to be a group that is asking questions, that is trying to push towards action, that is raising solidarity, etc. When we have to go back to our sites (if we haven't already) and report on the dismal state of affairs, there is a layer of people around us who are grateful to hear some straight talk, who want to come closer to EDU because they agree that this is the kind of conversation and organization it will take to even have a chance of building a membership that can fight for itself. Folks should know that Deirdre who came to our last meeting emailed me to let me know she has another coworker who might come to our next EDU meeting. I think I have a coworker who is closer to committing to checking out our next meeting. I wonder if most of us don't also have that 1 person, or 2 people that also might want to do the same. I think now is time to look around us and see who else is disgusted at this turn of events and might be interested in coming closer to our caucus."