Sunday, August 17, 2008

Creating 5th Columns Inside Teacher Unions

The next wrinkle in the assault on teacher unions and public education will be to create a 5th Column* of teachers within unions that advocate for the end of tenure in exchange for higher pay. Job retention would be based on student performance on high stakes tests.

Though some are anonymous, I would bet that many of these teachers have connections to Teach for America and have no intentions of staying in the system for any length of time. They have also been inculcated with a bias against career teachers.

Thus, the wars begin. Right now the chief battleground is Washingon DC, where TFA alum Michelle Rhee, who formerly worked for Joel Klein in NYC, is leading the assault. Internal battles are also taking place in Denver.

But don't expect any of this to occur in the UFT because the leadership itself functions as a 5th column and there is no need to create a divisive group there since they have functioned in a collaborationist manner. Thus the opposition, who are branded as divisive by the leadership, has consisted of people calling for a stop to the givebacks.

I remember issuing a challenge to find NYC teachers who support the policies of BloomKlein. Where are the blogs of support while there are so many blogs out there that are critical? Many of these bloggers are career teachers who demonstrate in their blogs indications that they are supremely dedicated to their students and to teaching.

At one point a someone who left comments under various names like Socrates claimed to be a NYC teacher who defended the entire TFA/KIPP/BloomKlein package but was so clearly a phony, he was soon exposed. He even ran a blog briefly and left comments at many ed blogs. Many suspected he was being paid.

But why pay a phony teacher when you can find teachers without a career perspective to lead the fight for the corporate privatizers and anit-unionists within their own unions?

Not that there are not a number of new teacher blogs in NYC, many of them from TFA and Teaching Fellows. But they have not generally been political, but more directed at the teaching experience.

One particular example of this genre that we should expect to see a lot more of is D.C. Teacher Chic in Washington. The blog has been out there for 2 years and promised an insight into a classroom in a DC school. But there are precious few posts giving us these insights while the overwhelming majority of posts fall into a political area, mostly in support of the Michelle Rhee agenda. There are also a bunch of supporting blogs out there with lots of attacks on senior teachers for not being willing to go along with the program.

But the DC teachers union is so weak from previous scandals, it shouldn't take much to undermine it. If any of these teachers were to stay in teaching, which I believe they won't, it wouldn't be shocking to see an opposition come together to challenge the union leadership on the grounds it's not willing to give up hard won teacher rights.

Teacher unions seem outflanked and outspent by a sophisticated corporate attack. A basic lack of democratic input and leaderships out to serve themselves rather than the members leave them extremley vulnerable. The UFT, which has been considered the most powerful, is already basically a head without much of a body. As long as dues flow in to keep them in power, expect then to compromise and collaborate. Only the growth of a serious opposition movement can put a check on these trends. And if such a movement ever got started to be a serious threat, watch whoever is in charge of the DOE do whatever it could to aid and abet keeping Unity Caucus in control. But we're a long way from that.

Here are some articles and blog pieces worth checking out from DC and Denver where groups of teachers are calling on the union leadership to agree with the so-called "reforms" that would lead to the end of a real teacher movement.

Bait and Switch In DC

Teacher John Thompson writes at A. Russo's TWIE

What could be wrong with Michelle Rhee's proposed $70,000 per year teacher pay increase, in return for a year of probation? Lots, as it turns out. First off, the plan doesn't include a neutral party in the due process role, which could endanger teachers. Second, it would undercut contracts throughout the country. Last but not least, there's no guarantee the resources would last. And then what? Would Rhee perpetually pass the hat for permanent wage increases? Bonuses and salary increases for teachers have a strange way of drying up after a few years. --

John Thompson

Teachers to March on Union Offices

Washington Post, Aug 13

A group of D.C. public school teachers who want Chancellor Michelle A. Rhee's salary proposal to come to a union vote say they will demonstrate outside of Washington Teachers' Union headquarters at 9 a.m. tomorrow. The protest is being promoted on the blog D.C. Teacher Chic, and several teachers have told The Washington Post of their plans to participate.

The teachers are upset by reports that union president George Parker is opposed to a provision of Rhee's plan that would require instructors to go on probation for a year and risk dismissal in order to remain in the top tier of proposed salaries and bonuses. The pay schedule could yield more than $100,000 annually for teachers with just five years of service.

Teachers also have the option under Rhee's system of taking less money and retaining tenure protections.

The union has been battling internally over Rhee's proposal, with some members initially upset that Parker would consider negotiating away seniority protections. They criticized the president for being too chummy with the chancellor. Tomorrow's protest will reflect those teachers who believe Rhee's proposals present an opportunity rather than a threat.

Holes in NEA’s Denver Doughnut Diplomacy

The Denver Classroom Teachers Association is in a contract dispute with the school district. It is gaining national attention because the major point of contention involves the future of the city’s unique performance pay program.

That’s the standard plot you’ll find in any story about the dispute. But there’s a subplot as well. It involves a group of teachers who think their own union is being obstructionist on the contract. They have set up a web site, and have 287 teacher signatures on a petition calling for a settlement.

Teacher Jessica Buckley says the union is reacting to the opposition. “I honestly felt very intimidated,” she told Rocky Mountain News reporter Nancy Mitchell. Mitchell explains that Buckley “cited the presence of the National Education Association and envelopes of cash given to schools as ‘incentives’ for teachers to pass out fliers explaining the union’s side of the dispute.”

Mike Antonucci's Intercepts.

*a group of people who clandestinely undermine a larger group to which it is expected to be loyal, such as a nation. - Wikipedia


Anonymous said...

Sad to say that most teachers support BloomKlein. We pay our UFT dues which support BloomKlein; we remain silent when their policies are implemented and perhaps the worst...we call those who challenge their policies....kooks.

Anonymous said...

"Not that there are not a number of new teacher blogs in NYC, many of them from TFA and Teaching Fellows. But they have not generally been political, but more directed at the teaching experience."

Kinda resent that. From NYCTF & political. Just sayin'. Other than that, I appreciate the post.

ed notes online said...

Point well taken Jose.

I was comparing some of the newer blogs of TFA's and TF's in NYC where teachers are so wrapped up in the new teacher experience that there's little time to focus on the political stuff. After a few years people who stay do seem to emerge like you and learners inherit at CNC.

That blog in DC - and it's not clear how long the teacher has been doing it - seemed a bit strange in the lack of classroom-based posts and the emphasis on political stuff.

Anonymous said...

I thought you'd given up on thinking I was being paid by the DOE (well, I am, but it's to teach kids, not troll websites). Just because I don't agree with you doesn't make me a paid Klein operative.

I find it appalling that you don't think teachers should have an eye on (or opinion about) policy. Shame on you.

Anonymous said...

I am in the charter school with Socrates setting up our rooms while the lazy union teachers are still selfishly taking summer vacation. We've been here since June 30th and having lots of fun.

Anonymous said...

Yeah, Norm. You should be ashamed of yourself telling teachers not to have an opinion and just stick to teaching. At least that is what Socrates told me you said. Personally, I think he has comprehension proeblems and needs a dose of Reading First.

Anonymous said...

Socrates is right. I don't pay him. But check with Teach for America, Broad, or KIPP.

Anonymous said...

Well, truthfully, Socrates was on our payroll, but we had to fire him because he ws making us look bad.