Let's Get Loud (or at least noisy)
The latest salvo is an editorial about the SEA and the district (thanks to Seattle Citizen for the alert) by Lynne Varner.
She opens with the issue of the SEA putting off a vote of no confidence in the Superintendent until after the negotiations. (I find this tactic pretty funny as I'm sure it won't change a whit of what happens in the negotiations.)
If the Seattle Education Association is betting on a tactic of tying the superintendent's fate to labor talks as a way of gaining the upper hand, they are stuck in a pre-recession time warp.
Casting a cloud above the negotiating table is the latest state economic forecast showing an arduous climb out of the recession. By 2013, Goodloe-Johnson may be able to afford to buy the union's affection, but right now that check would bounce.That last sentence is an odd one. Would any superintendent attempt to "buy" the union? Is that anyway to get loyalty and motivate a teaching corps? Maybe I'm too idealistic but I like to think it takes more than money to get the best out of people.
Fun fact: Lynne belongs to a union. (Yes, I was surprised, too, as I didn't know editorial writers had a union. You learn something new every day.)
But unions risk alienating the public by flailing at any idea or support that hints at a reform agenda. Lately, they have trained their ire on businesses and philanthropies, accusing the twin engines of "corporatizing" education. The way I see it, these groups have long been urged to be part of the solution for education and a new breed of philanthropists and corporate leaders are rightly following their money through the schoolhouse door and expecting a role improving education.
I think that unions initial response is to yes, be on guard against "reforms" especially those that are aimed right at their heads. But the bigger question is why should business and philanthropies have a seat at the table? What do they know about education that would help reform it? Certainly if they want to give money to education, they can put all the strings on it that they want to BUT their voices cannot be listened to any more than any other outsider. Why this would be, I don't know. The educational arm of the Gates Foundation has not, in any real sense, proven itself as a valid agent of change for education. They themselves have admitted a lot of mistakes. So why are they experts at this point?
Another fun fact: the American Federation of Teachers is having its convention here next week. Maybe I can get a press pass.
Then Lynne says this:
Still, whether for street cred or a sign the union isn't ready to come in from the cold, AFT President Randi Weingarten recently criticized "self-identified reformers who spend little or no time in classrooms." Not a helpful thing to say when parents, most of whom aren't trained to teach, are trying to step up and do their part crafting public schools for the 21st century.
I'm not sure Randi Weingarten was referring to parents. I'm pretty sure she was talking about business and philanthropy. (Also note to Lynne: SPS parents get no traction in our own district in "crafting" public schools unless you are speaking of the thousands upon thousands of dollars and volunteer hours we put in. Our district doesn't give a rat's ass what we, as parents, have to say about the education of our children.)
We have a confluence of favorable events: unprecedented federal money, a groundswell of interest and support from families and a new generation of teachers who don't fear a future that includes change. If all of these groups started moving in the same direction, I'm guessing we'd move rather quickly from talking about improving public education to reaping the benefits.
How come when it's ed reform there's a "groundswell of interest and support" but when it's for something the Times doesn't like, for example, petitions and votes of no confidence against the Superintendent, the Times dismisses it?
And are we all interested in moving in the same direction? I missed that national/state/city vote. That there is division over how to reform education and the lack of ALL voices at the table in what could/should happen should give the Times pause but sadly, never does.