Tuesday, April 19, 2016

Whither Teacher Unions @ #NPE16NC , AFT/NEA Leaders Drop Lead Balloon as Hillary Endorsement is Splained

Many in the audience sat there seething as Pringle and Ricker did their Hillary splaining during their conversation with Anthony Cody on Sunday morning. Other than this event there were no workshops on the unions. I only took one opportunity to bring things up.


At the final workshop on Saturday run by Anthony Cody on teacher evaluations I spoke up at the end about the role of the unions and how teachers had to fight a multi-front battle against the deformers and their own union leaders. Later that night a woman approached me and said she agreed and was inspired by what I said, as did another woman on Sunday over brunch who was in the room and said this had to be pointed out -- but that wasn't happening at the NPE - this time.

One of the highlights of my trip was hanging out with two of my favorite ladies - Leonie Haimson and former Brooklyn and now North Carolina parent activist Khem Irby. Khem had emailed me Friday wanting to know if I brought her a MORE shirt. So I took this one off my back and gave it to her.
I took the shirt off my as Khem Irby becomes our NC MORE outpost
Leonie, who is way smarter than me, and I had some heated discussions on the union issue and as I often do when arguing with Leonie, came away seeing things from a different angle.

One of the reasons I drove down to the NPE in Raleigh was to check the pulse of how people felt in relation to both teacher unions, especially since the Diane Ravitch/Anthony Cody led NPE have faced  charges of coddling Randi in the past by giving her and her reps space at NPE conferences to look like anti-ed deformers or taking the leaders of the unions as voices of the rank and file.

I was quite surprised to have progressive people who were there - Bernie supporters of course, tell me they would vote for Trump over Hillary -- one because she felt Trump would be so bad that things had to change while Hillary would be more Obama like attacks on public education. 

Let me first say that when it comes to the NPE there are the leaders and people running the organization - Ravitch, Cody, Ex Director Carol Burris, the influential Board, etc and then there are the rank and file supporters - the people who show up at the conferences who take part in panels plus a mass of bloggers and BATS and independents from all over the nation.

I had conversations over the weekend with people in the leadership and others and I came away with a more nuanced view of the relationship between the leadership of NPE and both teacher unions. While some call for them to declare war on the unions the most we can expect is a form of neutrality for a lot of reasons based on long-term relationships that are not easy to break.

It was interesting that there were no panels related to the unions at all. What they did offer was a Sunday morning 8:30 AM 45 minute conversation between Anthony Cody and high level officials of the NEA and AFT, Betty Pringle and Mary Cathryn Ricker - who is rumored to be a contender as Randi's successor one day.

This was not set up for people in the audience to ask questions. Anthony Cody asked some pertinent questions and let each of them respond without follow-up. I have a tape but am not sure it is worth posting - if people want to see it I will process and post it.

My sense is that the overwhelming majority of people who attended the NPE are pro-Bernie and there is a lot of resentment from both NEA and AFT members over the endorsement process. So Anthony's question asking them to splain themselves was pertinent and there was some muttering but no call-outs as they went on. Their key response was that it gave them access to Clinton and they managed to get her to modify pro-deform comments. Oy!

The outcomes of their actions have not been all that good in rallying support for Hillary among teachers who have been following the ed deform onslaught and seem as angry at Randi as they are at Hillary -- who is and has been an ed deformer -- and Ricker actually had the nerve to say that Hillary was a fighter for us as far back as the 80s in Arkansas. Sure, she was an early founder of ed deform in Arkansas and if I had a shot at the mic I would have raised that.

I was frustrated and muttering to myself throughout - especially at Ricker who started a charter ala Randi in St. Paul. So as she splained on and on to make it look like they opposed charter I so wanted to ask about Randi's failed charters that co-located and helped undermine and destroy the public schools they were in - including IS 166 the middle school I attended in East NY.

When I told people the story later on they were astounded.

I only wish I had sat with Beth Dimino during this session so we could laugh at what we were hearing.

On the way out Leonie gave me her perspective and calmed me down a  bit. "Did you want them NOT to be here," she said?
Well, they didn't get prime time and if they had to actually face some music they wouldn't have come. I guess it was better to have them hang themselves because no one seemed to be buying it.

While they spoke there was a massive twitter storm - I saw a few from MORE's Katie Lapham. Maybe I'll track down a few and post them. One NPE leader was heard to say, "we are getting killed on twitter.

Later in the day I spoke to Anthony who made the same points as Leonie did. He was wearing a Bernie button.

In my dotage I may becoming more ready to compromise. But if I go to the NPE next year I am going to offer to do a workshop on the role the unions have played. Let's see how that works out in the post-election wreckage that will give us Trump, Crux, Hillary or an even worse ed deformer, Kasich. Triple OY!


  1. It's understandable why leaders of NPE would not want to endanger whatever relationships they have, or hope to have, with the unions. Since most , if not all of them, are not active AFT or NEA members, it makes a certain amount of sense.

    But for classroom teachers who've had to endure the consequences of sell-outs by our union misleadership, those reasons don't hold water; we are obligated to speak out in our own defense, and that of our students, schools and communities. In fact, by going after Randi and her peers in the NEA, we are defending the union, since everything she/they do is leading to its marginalization, decline and eventual destruction.

    1. I think they serve a purpose by remaining neutral but they also need to find space for classroom teachers to share their views.

    2. Fiorillo's comment, with a revision to include the UFT and NYSUT, "...we are obligated to speak out in our own defense, and that of our students, schools and communities. In fact, by going after Randi and her peers in the NEA, we are defending the union, since everything she/they do is leading to its marginalization, decline and eventual destruction." should be on a billboard in front of every school. Roseanne McCosh

  2. Beware the person who will vote Trump so things get so bad the next election brings back Eugene Debs. First of all when things get that bad they are, well, that bad. And the next choice is typically Metternich, if ur lucky Adolf if ur not.

    1. I was just with someone with fear of trump who tried to make the case for Cruz as a btter alternative because at least Cruz reveres the constitution and won't violate it like Trump would. WTF. Cruz is more dangerous than Trump.


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