Tuesday, January 12, 2016

Detroit Union Calls for Public Hearings While illegaly deposed DFT President Steve Conn Calls for Sickout/Strike - and What Impact on Friedrichs?

At a news conference Monday morning, [Acting DFT President] Bailey and other union officials, teachers and parents expressed frustration about conditions in many DPS schools and called for public hearings.... Detroit News
A WTF moment that exposes how the Randi Weingarten ideal of a union operates. I just heard a report on NPR's Takeaway where the point is made that the city manager is claiming that the union has not sanctioned the sickout and that only a minority of teachers are supporting it.

How different is the destruction of the Detroit school system than the poisoning of the water in Flint?
The NY Times report has the below the lines bias, trying to paint this as an internal union dispute:
The job actions are tied up in the politics of both Lansing and the teachers’ union itself. The sickouts have been organized by Steve Conn, who was ousted in August as president of the union, and still has an ardent following.
Mr. Conn had been a firebrand activist at odds with union leadership — as well as the district administration — until a year ago, when teachers elected him president. Seven months later, the union’s executive board removed him over charges of misconduct.
No attempt to provide context for Steve's removal. At least they give him credit for leading the sickouts and given the appearance of a DPS FightBack, "union within a union" which says it has no affiliation with Steve - a group promoted by Diane Ravitch, I begin to wonder if  they are not a front group set up by the union itself to divert people from Steve. Just thinking out loud.

Previous Ed Notes reports:
Meanwhile, Steve Conn, the legally elected president of the DFT had this to say:

Steve Conn, the ousted president of the Detroit Federation of Teachers, has been calling for teachers to stay home in protest. “It’s great,” Conn told The News on Monday.
On Sunday, Conn had told reporters he expected three dozen closures — and added that “an all-out strike will be the only way to save public education in Detroit.”
At Sunday’s meeting, Conn called his Jan. 20 reinstatement hearing with the American Federation of Teachers, which has placed the DFT in trusteeship, “D-Day.” Monday, Conn said that if he’s not reinstated, the Strike to Win committee will pursue a full-blown strike.
“It’s all one thing — the degradation of local control of our schools,” Conn said.
Though teacher strikes are illegal in Michigan, Conn brushed off those concerns Sunday.
“Teachers strikes have always been illegal, but I’ve been through four of these,” Conn said.
Conn was removed from office and expelled from the DFT in August by the union executive board, which found him guilty of internal misconduct charges, including illegal cancellation of meetings and failure to investigate abuse of members.
Acting DFT president Bailey had more to say:
“The deplorable conditions in our schools have created a serious environmental and educational crisis that is being ignored. We refuse to stand by while teachers, school support staff and students are exposed to conditions that one might expect in a Third World country, not the United States of America,” Bailey said. “The children of Detroit, Flint or any other community should not be exposed to atrocious, environmental hazards.”
Bailey said health and safety hazards include rat and other rodent infestations, crumbling walls, holes in ceilings, cracked sidewalks and broken boilers and no heat. She also said DPS has 170 teaching vacancies and that some special education classrooms have no textbooks.
But no plan of action to fight it other than the usual bitching and call for lame public hearings.

In the meantime, it was the actions of deposed president Steve Conn and other teachers willing to make a stand that got conditions noticed and are generating national headlines.

What is DPS Teachers Fight Back?
Then there is this group that I posted about yesterday that Diane Ravitch mentioned: DPS TEACHERS FIGHT BACK! "A Union Within a Union"

Exactly what is a union within a union? I spoke to someone named Kimberley who said Steve Conn had not reached out to them. In the full article below there is no mention of DPS, only Steve Conn. DPS states clearly that it is not affiliated with Steve's political group, BAMN which has run against Randi since 2010 at AFT conventions. Is DPSFB an attempt to separate itself from the more radical Conn? Note that they do not say a word about a strike.

There is a full membership meeting this Thursday and as Steve points out his hearing will be Jan. 22. If Randi's minions bury Steve he may form another union in Detroit and challenge the DFT as the bargaining agent. In the light of Friedrichs coming decision there is a lot to chew on.

DFT, like the UFT, plays a role -- to make sure things don't get out of hand and become too militant in ways that threaten the current power structure in the union and the Democratic political establishment.

Left-tinged social justice unionists with lines into the communities have the potential to cause all sorts of problems with the comfortable partnership teacher unions have established with the establishment over the past 55 years. Throw in the wild card of Friedrichs which will certainly harm the more traditional unions than the radical ones in terms of dues collection.

Just think Chicago, where over 90% of the teachers support a strike, inconceivable here in NYC. I would bet that the CTU will have less problems collecting dues than the UFT.

But also think about the power structure like Rahm in Chicago facing radical, militant unions that can be leaner and meaner than the UFT and not be as vulnerable to government attacks. We found that in Puerto Rico the union was attacked mercilessly and company unions were brought in to undermine them - yet they continue to collect enough dues to keep them alive.

I think the idea of a teacher union out of control begins to sink in at some point and the avid supporters of Friedrichs may end up with many unintended consequences. It is one thing to be a southern right to work state and quite another to have had certain rights in a northern urban city and then see them taken away. But members of the UFT are increasingly asking "exactly what do we have and what value do we put on it?" The last 20 years as our leaders have capitulated to ed deform are a lesson.

Full Detroit News story here and below the fold.



Mich. school head to DPS: Address health, safety issues


Detroit — With more than half of Detroit Public Schools closed Monday by a teacher sickout, Michigan’s top school official called for the district’s emergency manager to address health and safety issues in classroom buildings – hours after union leaders and members publicized problems at two public events.
State superintendent Brian Whiston said in a statement that DPS Emergency Manager Darnell Earley should set up a meeting with state, local and district representatives in response to a press conference and a rally where teachers complained of buildings with leaky roofs, rat infestations, broken boilers and shortages of books and other supplies.
“I care deeply about the safety and well-being of teachers in Detroit, just as I do the students,” Whiston. “They all still need to be in the classrooms teaching and learning, though. If buildings have health and safety issues, they need to be addressed immediately with the district administration and all appropriate agencies.”
In response, DPS spokeswoman Michelle Zdrodowski said the district “places a top priority on creating a good working and learning environment for our students and staff.”
“As such we work every day to ensure that our school buildings are safe, clean and in good repair,” Zdrodowski said in a statement. “Our Operations Department works very closely with all regulatory agencies to ensure we meet their guidelines. When issues are brought to our attention, we investigate and take the appropriate actions to address them in as timely a manner as possible – even in the face of the very serious budget constraints necessitated by the District’s financial crisis.”
Mayor Mike Duggan said in response to “substandard conditions in school buildings” reported by the Detroit Federation of Teachers, he plans Tuesday to visit “a number of those schools” with the heads of the Detroit Health Department and the Detroit Buildings, Safety Engineering and Environmental Department.
“Based on what we find, the City of Detroit will take whatever enforcement action is necessary to make sure all Detroit Public Schools are compliant with all health and building codes,” Duggan said in a statement.
Sixty-four public Detroit Public Schools — more than half of the district — were closed Monday, as rolling teacher sickouts continued to move through Michigan’s largest school district.
Besides building conditions and supply shortages, teachers are upset by large class sizes, pay and benefit concessions, and a state plan to create a new, debt-free Detroit school district. DPS, which has been run by a series of state-appointed emergency managers since March 2009, has $515 million in past debts and unpaid vendor and pension bills.
At a lunchtime rally outside DPS’s Fisher Building headquarters, teachers said the district’s students are being jeopardized by poor building conditions and a shortage of educational materials.
Students lack textbooks and other supplies and come to learn in buildings where roofs are leaking and they breathe mold every day, said Kimberly Jackson, a seventh-grade teacher at Paul Robeson Malcom X Academy. Even some bathrooms don’t even have toilet paper, she said.
“We are set up for failure,” Jackson said to a crowd that cheered and chanted that they’d had enough.
“No other district ... would allow their children to be inside a school building under those conditions,” she said. “Many of our (classes) are way oversized — some with as many as 50 children inside one classroom. It’s time out for that. It’s time out for biz as usual, it’s time out for working in deplorable schools.”
Teachers, joined by parents and children, took turns talking about their frustration over conditions in the schools. Holding signs and chanting, the group of about 200 people marched around the building.
The rally was organized by DPS Teachers Fight Back – a grassroots group formed a week ago by teachers, parents and community members who want the best education for the students, Jackson said.
They outlined demands that include improving working conditions, decreasing classroom sizes and restoring staff positions, pay and benefits. They also called for local control to be restored at DPS.
“Our goal is not to shut the schools down,” said Jackson. “Our goal is to have a quality education for our children. ... We’ve been trying to make do with what we have. Our children deserve better.”
Joann Jackson attended the rally with her two grandchildren, 6-year-old Larry Price and 10-year-old Alayah Price, both students at Robeson.
“I am sick and tired of what is happening in Detroit Public School system,” Joanna Jackson said. “We are $4.5 billion in deficit. Every time I turn around, I am asking where’s the money? No one seems to know.”
Alayah, a fifth-grader, said she knows why she was not in school Monday: because there’s not enough money to get books that she needs. There are some books, but not all.
“When I am trying to do my school work, I want to do do all of it, not some of it because we don’t have all of our books,” Alayah said.
Duggan said the state needs to address the district’s dire finances, saying that between 30 percent and 40 percent of state funding for Detroit schools “is now going to pay debt instead of going to teaching our children.”
He also called on teachers to stop forcing school closures.
“I understand the teachers’ frustration, but our children need our teachers in the classroom,” Duggan said in his statement. “I encourage the teachers to end the sickouts and remain in the schools, and I encourage our state officials to move quickly to address these pressing educational problems.”
The chairman of the state Senate Education Committee condemned the sickout, calling it “an illegal strike.”
“... It’s damaging the district, and most tragically, it’s hurting children,” Sen. Phil Pavlov, R-St. Clair Township, said in a statement. “Detroit students and their parents deserve to know they aren’t alone. I’m actively working with my colleagues to address these escalating work stoppages, to hold individuals who break the law accountable, and to put Detroit students first.”
Last week, five public schools in Detroit were closed due to sickouts, including at Cass Tech, Renaissance and Martin Luther King Jr. high schools. The district has 46,325 students in its 107 school buildings.
Teachers at another school, Wayne Elementary on the east side, attempted a sickout Wednesday, but the district was able to get the building staffed, according to a teacher who attended a Sunday night meeting of the Strike to Win Committee. During that gathering, teachers shared their plans for Monday’s action.
Steve Conn, the ousted president of the Detroit Federation of Teachers, has been calling for teachers to stay home in protest. “It’s great,” Conn told The News on Monday.
On Sunday, Conn had told reporters he expected three dozen closures — and added that “an all-out strike will be the only way to save public education in Detroit.”
At Sunday’s meeting, Conn called his Jan. 20 reinstatement hearing with the American Federation of Teachers, which has placed the DFT in trusteeship, “D-Day.” Monday, Conn said that if he’s not reinstated, the Strike to Win committee will pursue a full-blown strike.
“It’s all one thing — the degradation of local control of our schools,” Conn said.
Though teacher strikes are illegal in Michigan, Conn brushed off those concerns Sunday.

“Teachers strikes have always been illegal, but I’ve been through four of these,” Conn said.
Conn was removed from office and expelled from the DFT in August by the union executive board, which found him guilty of internal misconduct charges, including illegal cancellation of meetings and failure to investigate abuse of members.
At a news conference Monday morning, Bailey and other union officials, teachers and parents expressed frustration about conditions in many DPS schools and called for public hearings.
“The deplorable conditions in our schools have created a serious environmental and educational crisis that is being ignored. We refuse to stand by while teachers, school support staff and students are exposed to conditions that one might expect in a Third World country, not the United States of America,” Bailey said. “The children of Detroit, Flint or any other community should not be exposed to atrocious, environmental hazards.”
Bailey said health and safety hazards include rat and other rodent infestations, crumbling walls, holes in ceilings, cracked sidewalks and broken boilers and no heat. She also said DPS has 170 teaching vacancies and that some special education classrooms have no textbooks.

In a statement to The News, Andrea Bitely, spokeswoman for Attorney General Bill Schuette, did not address the legality of the rolling sickouts or what recourse the state might pursue. “Staff may have complaints,” the statement reads, “but not showing up for work hurts the kids and parents, not the administrators. We feel for these families because this is outrageous, no matter where it happens.”
Dave Murray, spokesman for Gov. Rick Snyder, told The News in a statement that “the best thing for Detroit children is to be in school and get the best education they can so they are able to reach their full potential. Students in school also have access to nutritious meals and social service programs that can help address outside of school challenges that affect learning.
“We understand why some are frustrated. Gov. Snyder is working to improve academics and finances in Detroit schools. Right now, the district pays a figure equal to $1,100 per child for debt service...The Governor’s plan would (allow) that money to be better spent in the classroom.”
That plan includes splitting the district into two entities. The first, old DPS, would exist just to pay down debt. New DPS would educate students. New DPS would be run initially by a board appointed by the governor and the mayor of Detroit, but by 2021 full control would be shifted to an elected board.
Detroit City Councilwoman Mary Sheffield, who attended the Strike to Win meeting Sunday to “stand in support” for teachers, said she would like to see City Council have a hand in choosing the board, if the governor’s plan were enacted.
In fall 1999, Detroit Public Schools had more than 150,000 students enrolled and no budget deficit when teachers began the school year with a nine-day strike. The district imposed no fines, and teachers got a 6 percent raise, phased in over three years, better dental insurance, and smaller class sizes in some schools, according to Detroit News archives.

1 comment:

  1. This story has been reported, as all stories are reported in MSM, by contacting union leaders, rather than garden-variety teachers. Because that's what reporters do, when they want to hear the "teachers' voice." As you well know, official union leadership (as well as deposed leadership) does not always represent what classroom teachers really want. Steve Conn has taken credit for a bubbling surge of rage that he had no hand in instigating--here's a quote from a DPS teacher:

    "Mr. Conn held a meeting this afternoon first touting it as teachers taking a strike vote and then as an endorsement of the current sick outs. He even went so far as to encourage yet another sick out on the 20th for people to show up at his hearing and show their support for him! Imagine closing down the schools over an internal union issue rather than an issue with the schools. And that gives you an idea at how crazy things really are right now."

    Public hearings would a chance for the conditions in DPS and the dedication of DPS teachers to be heard, rather than glossed over or buried under still more governmental blah-blah. Here in Detroit, there is no school board, there is no democracy--there is management by fiat. A public hearing would be something the press could report on.

    If you would like to read some commentary from real DPS teachers: http://blogs.edweek.org/teachers/teacher_in_a_strange_land/2016/01/whats_going_down_in_detroit_today.html

    ReplyDelete

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