Saturday, October 16, 2010

Baltimore Teachers: STAND UP AND TAKE A BOW!

Is rejection of contract a sign of emerging teacher rebellion?

{NOTE: If you are a teacher or connected with education in the Baltimore area leave a comment or email me off line with info:}

Back in 1995, when Randi Weingarten was years away from taking over the UFT presidency, she negotiated a five year contract with double zero raises and other onerous provisions. You see, Mayor Giuliani was claiming the city didn't have any money and Randi and crew went right along with it. Thus, no raises. And some other provisions that would eat the young teachers and extend to 25 years before you could reach maximum, which many women who had lost years for childcare said was a form of discrimination.

They were so sure of ratification that Unity didn't bother sending out the hordes to the schools to sell it. It went down in defeat (credit to New Action at the time and to independents like Bruce Markens), sending shock waves through the UFT (they learned their lesson in the 2005 contract). So they made some minor changes - and then sent out the Unity hordes to spread fear and loathing and the contract passed on the second round. Within a year, Giuliani was bragging how rich the city was.

So yesterday's news about the Baltimore teachers voting down a contract Randi helped negotiate was so deja vu.
Baltimore City teachers rejected a contract Thursday that would have provided six-figure salaries for an elite corps of teachers but would have tied the pay of all educators to how they performed in the classroom, a vague provision that caused discomfort for many union members. More than 2,000 educators represented by the Baltimore Teachers Union voted on the tentative agreement, which had been hailed as the most innovative in the nation since its details emerged two weeks ago. However, it proved to be one of the most contentious ever in Baltimore, with its overhaul of how teachers are compensated, promoted and evaluated. The new contract would have eliminated the traditional system of "step increases," under which teachers are paid based on seniority and education degrees. It would have instead paid teachers based, in large part, on how effective they are in the classroom and their pursuit of professional development. On Wednesday and Thursday,1,540 union members voted against the tentative agreement and 1,107 in favor. The union represents about 6,500 educators.
Oh, they were so sure. Randi and friends. That they could shove another Washington DC/Harford/Detroit/etc. contract down the throats of teachers in Baltimore. So sure that Harold Myerson wrote in the Washington Post a short time ago:
Baltimore teachers union is the hero, not a villain

....the narrative that education reformers and teachers unions are eternal and implacable enemies is a hardy one, and one that Washingtonians in particular may well believe after four years of pitched battle between Schools Chancellor Michelle Rhee and the D.C. teachers union. The intensity of the local battle might blind them to the experience of cities where the school district and the union have jointly embraced a reform agenda, even including a version of merit pay. And yet, such an agreement -- an impossibility, if we are to believe the conventional narrative -- was reached just two weeks ago in the faraway city of Baltimore.
Yes, they are heroes. But not of the Myerson and Weingarten kind.

Even Valerie Strauss wrote (I can't locate it now) that there would be a more benign atmosphere in Baltimore due to the milder form of Klein/Rhee in the face of Superintendent Andres Alonso, who used to carry Klein's water bottle. We knew Alonso a bit and no matter what cloth they where, an ed deformer is an ed deformer. Besides, I think Alonso couldn't be Rhee if he wanted too since there is some kind of school board instead of mayoral control.

There were warning signs. Mike Antonucci (one of the earliest anti-union sirens of ed deform) sent this out on his blog yesterday:
Last Tuesday, I noted there was some opposition brewing to the new Baltimore teachers’ contract, but I wrote:
“Since the much more controversial DC teachers contract passed, it’s hard to imagine this one being defeated.”
City teachers voted it down – 1,540 to 1,107. Union president Marietta English blamed the defeat on the rumor that “some charter school operators have encouraged their teachers not to vote for this agreement.”
So it’s back to the drawing board for the negotiators. I’ll avoid predicting the outcome of ratification votes in the future, and I hope Harold Meyerson will think twice before he writes another column like this one.
Randi on front page in Times
Today's NY Times has a front page article on Randi which reveals so much.
Both friends and foes describe Ms. Weingarten, 52, who became president of the 1.5-million member American Federation of Teachers in 2008 after a decade leading the New York City local, as a superb tactician who cares deeply about being seen as a reformer.
“We have spent a lot of time in the last two years looking at ourselves in a mirror, trying to figure out what we’ve done right and what we’ve done wrong, and we’re trying to reform,” Ms. Weingarten said in an interview.
Early this year, she delivered a major policy speech that embraced tying teachers’ evaluations in part to students’ scores on standardized tests, a formula that teachers — and Ms. Weingarten herself — once resisted. 
Yet one scene that the director filmed, but left on the cutting-room floor, showed Ms. Weingarten signing a contract on behalf of teachers at Green Dot, which has had impressive results since it opened in 2008.
Steve Barr, who founded the Green Dot charter school network, lamented that the film ignored examples of charters and unions working together. “It doesn’t help to take the one true open-minded union leader and bash her,” he said.
Yes, we've been claiming all along that Randi wants to be an ed deformer, not a Real reformer. Lest you think Randi came up with this all on her own, we have been pointing out for years that Albert Shanker started leading the UFT/AFT in this direction in 1982 with his support for the now tainted "Nation at Risk" report. (I won't go into details her but you can follow some of it by reading the review of the Kahlenberg Shanker bio Vera Pavone and I wrote a few years ago - read it online here.)

NYC teacher Reality-Based Educator was overjoyed at Perdido Street School over the situation in Baltimore:
Next thing to do is vote out the sell-out leadership who tried to sell Baltimore teachers on the "Salary Commensurate With Test Scores and PD" jive.
Then take aim at Randi Weingarten and the rest of the sell-outs in the AFT leadership who touted this piece of shit contract as a model for contracts all across the country.
Hey, Randi, hope you can read lips!!!!
You too, Arne!!!
 Well, not maybe overjoyed. But RBE's post and the vote in Baltimore, along with the Chicago election, turmoil in Detroit and Washington DC, expresses the increasing revolt of the rank and file teacher, something Weingarten and MulGarten will try their best to manage.

They have the best shot at control in our own hometown here in NYC where Unity Caucus machine reigns supreme. There are stirrings for sure and I will use Ed Notes to support any movement that makes sense.

Today, Teachers Unite is sponsoring the first of a series of monthly forums focused on teacher unionism. I can't make it because we are working on our film response to WfS. But if you are around head on down.

A new union movement starts Saturday, Oct. 16

Saturday, October 16
Rank and File Leadership Program
Community Resource Exchange, 42 Broadway, 20th Floor

Facilitator: Dr. Lois Weiner, Professor of Education, New Jersey City University
Pushing back on testing, merit pay, charter schools, and de-professionalization of teaching: How can we use teacher unions?

We will share strategies with participants for leading reading groups with colleagues about these issues. Participants will be provided with reading materials to distribute and action steps for organizing teachers in their school building.
Yes, boys and girls. All you people who decry the Unity machine - there will be no change in the UFT - or the AFT which is controlled by the UFT -  until you get actively involved in the struggle. And organizing in your own building is where it starts because Unity actively controls most schools and those they don't control they do so by default due to lack of interest.

There are enough active groups out there for you to jump in: ICE(which met last night), TJC, Teachers Unite, GEM. Or go start your own group at the school level like CAPE did and link in with the other groups.

More Teachers Unite: Go see Leonie Haimson speak on mayoral control on Tuesday:
Tuesday, October 19
Right to the City Schools Leadership Program
Urban Justice Center, 123 William St.

Guest speaker: Leonie Haimson

How has mayoral control impacted your classroom? What does school governance model have to do with the overemphasis on testing and lack of attention to class size?


  1. Chicago, Baltimore, perhaps detroit, LA, who knows maybe there can be some movment if AFT locals fire back. What happened in D.C. did the opposition to AFT win that local? The movement must come from the trenches up the leaders at UFT and AFT will never fight the corporate deformers they have too much to loose. Throw the bums out!!

  2. I think one of the big reasons teachers in DC accepted their contract this year is because many of them were set to receive huge sums of back pay as a result of agreeing to it. Some teachers I know received a $10,000 check. Also, I don't think there's a lot of committment to stay in DC in a lot of the teachers there. Many of them came in while Rhee was Chancellor as DCTF or TFA and were like-minded. They voted yes on the contract, got their check, and left (or will be leaving in the next few years.)

    I suspect the teaching corps in Baltimore is a little different.


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