I will protect your pensions. Nothing about your pension is going to change when I am governor. - Chris Christie, "An Open Letter to the Teachers of NJ" October, 2009

Friday, October 26, 2012

Busting Unions: The Path To Reforminess

Let's stop calling StudentsFirst an "education reform group," because they're not. They are a political organization:
Now, the political action committee of StudentsFirst is pumping $500,000 into a campaign against Michigan's Proposal 2, a ballot measure that would protect collective bargaining by enshrining it in the state's constitution. Mlive.com first reported the contribution Thursday morning. StudentsFirst is a national lobbying and advocacy shop based in Sacramento, Calif., that has received heavy support from bundlers for both Barack Obama and Mitt Romney. Under Proposal 2, any Michigan laws that limit workers' ability to join unions would be invalidated -- and many education reform laws of the variety supported by Rhee require drastic changes to the way teachers are hired and fired in the name of making schools better.
In Michigan, for example, StudentsFirst and other local reform groups pushed the state legislature to pass laws that ended what's known as "last in, first out," the process by which teachers are fired in reverse order of their seniority. Instead, teacher evaluations will factor into those decisions. Additionally, Michigan recently passed a law that tweaked teacher tenure, extending the amount of time it takes for new teachers to get tenured and making tenure dependent on performance evaluations, even for more experienced teachers. (StudentsFirst later hired Tim Melton, a Democratic legislator whose vote was critical to passing these education laws, as its national legislative director.)
It is unclear exactly what Proposal 2 does to these laws, but StudentsFirst is preparing for the worst. "When you look at Proposal 2, from issues that are important to us, it would set Michigan back tremendously," Andy Solon, StudentsFirst's Michigan director, told The Huffington Post. "It would undo important education reforms. Many of them have not had an opportunity to even be implemented. We think this is about adults protecting their own interests." (Michigan Attorney General Bill Schuette has said Proposal 2 would immediately upend 170 laws, including many that keep children safe in school.)
StudentsFirst's $500,000 went to Citizens Protecting Michigan's Constitution, a coalition fighting Proposal 2 with support from businesses and school management groups. [emphasis mine]
First of all, don't you love how these guys have made everything that they oppose somehow bad for kids? It's like a reflex: "You can't oppose us! We speak for the kids!" It must be great to live in such absolute moral certitude.

And look at who's for Prop 2: the Michigan PTA. SF would rather line up with the Chamber of Commerce and Governor Rick Snyder. That side has, in a truly disgusting display, brought up the specter of sexual predators roaming the halls of schools if Prop 2 passes. Yes, they are so afraid of workers gaining power that they are willing to say pretty much anything to vote this down.

Which is why SF is pumping money into defeating Prop 2: nothing frightens these people more than teachers having a say over their working conditions and, by extension, students' learning conditions. SF will fight that long and hard, because they know teachers, united and active, are the last, best hope America has for stopping their insane juggernaut of reforminess.

And they pretty much admit it: they don't care about wages and benefits as much as they do about teachers daring to get involved in policy:
[SF's] Solon, though, said he thinks collective bargaining plays an important role in education policy. "We've said collective bargaining is important, especially for teachers to be able to bargain over wages and benefits," he said. But expanding it as broadly as Proposal 2 does, he said, is "an end-run around the Democratic process," and that "there's a role for the legislature and state education officials in setting policies."
Oh, there's a role for them all right: especially when more and more of those legislators and state education officials are Teach For America alums and Broad "Academy" fellows. Prop 2 would throw a monkey wrench into the reformy political machine that is taking over America education. It would, lord help us, actually give teachers a voice in education policy!
In Michigan, however, StudentsFirst isn't the only education-oriented group fighting Proposal 2. Harrison Blackmond, who leads DFER's Michigan arm, said the group agrees with StudentsFirst on the issue. "I'm opposed because it's pretty broad-ranging," he said. "If it were a proposal that just said that people have a right to collective bargaining, I wouldn't be against it, but this makes it very difficult for principals to manage."
But, he added, "nobody really knows" what the Proposal 2's implications for the state's recent education laws would be. "It's going to be mediation and litigation up the wazoo if this passes," Blackmond said.
Oh, no! DFER and SF won't be able to just buy up politicians and do whatever they want?! States and districts will actually have to - gasp! - work with teachers on education issues?! Perish the thought!

The Chicago strike taught us that one of the best tools teachers have for stopping the unproven reformy nonsense that SF and TFA and DFER and all the rest of these folks push is collective worker action. Happily for SF and Rhee, their anti-union agenda neatly fits with the anti-union agenda of the plutocrats who fund them. A busted union allows reformies to destroy public education, and it depresses wages for pubic workers, which helps depress wages for private workers. It's the perfect alignment against labor and public schools. No wonder that privatizers like Joel Klein and corporatists like the Waltons love each other so much.

Prop 2 has one goal: to remove teachers as a firewall against reforminess. Busting unions is the best way to deprofessionalize teaching and expand school privatization. The kids have nothing to do with it.

1 comment:

Anonymous said...

Sadly, public education has not been about the kids for quite some time. NCLB saw to that. My public school education left me relatively knowledgeable in all the core subjects. My own children do very little social studies or science. The focus is now primarily on literacy and math, because they are tested yearly. This is not progress.