News Roundup

Teachers in Tacoma voted to strike late today so there will be no school tomorrow.  Eighty-seven percent of the union's total membership voted in favor of the strike.  School opened Sept. 1 without a contract.  Their issues include teacher pay, class size and seniority.

What's interesting is that apparently teachers striking is illegal in Washington State but not enforced.  At least that is the way I've heard it - teachers?

From the NY Times, an interesting column about an all-important question: are we teaching kids lessons that will help them succeed? Not just what they learn but:

" skills like self-control, motivation, focus and resilience, which are far better predictors of long-term success than high grades."

“What are we really trying to do when we think about raising kids?” asked Dr. Kenneth R. Ginsburg, an expert in adolescent medicine at Children’s Hospital of Philadelphia. “We’re trying to put in place the ingredients so the child is going to be a successful 35-year-old. 

Dr. Ginsburg who has writing on child development cites this study:

In one set of studies, children who solved math puzzles were praised for their intelligence or for their hard work. The first group actually did worse on subsequent tests, or took an easy way out, shunning difficult problems. The research suggests that praise for a good effort encourages harder work, while children who are consistently told they are smart do not know what to do when confronted with a difficult problem or reading assignment.

Another author, Ellen Galinksy, had this piece of advice:

“It’s not just knowing the information,” she said. “It’s knowing how to find the answers to the questions that is the basis of critical thinking.”

Also in the NY Times, was an op-ed about boys and reading by author, Robert Lipsyte.  

And making a little bit of lemonade out of the lemon of a hurricane that hit Vermont, comes this story about "When I Was Your Age and had to get to School. "

But on Wednesday, Aug. 31, at 7:55 a.m., three days after the storm closed down much of the state, the four school buses pulled up right on time, and off hopped 18 children from the dark side of the mountain (their electricity was still out). 

“They were so proud,” Ms. Prescott said. 

They had reason to be. Their families had discovered a half-mile-long forest path that they could walk, from Route 4 across the mountain to their school bus. At first, the woods were still and unsettling. “My hands shaked a little bit,” said Jillian Bradley, a second grader. 

But as Sophia Hussack, another second grader said, “Since Vermont got hit by the storm, people think we couldn’t, but we do.” 

And one teacher?

After Ms. Prescott was done with the children, she called down teachers who’d overcome sizable odds, including Bob Myers, the middle school social studies teacher. Mr. Myers left his house at 4 a.m. and managed to get to school the first day by 8:07, even though his GPS said “Recalculating” so many times he finally turned it off and guessed the best way.


seattle citizen said…
From what I recall, the issue of teacher strikes in Washington has not been settled in any court yet. There is no expressed prohibition from striking, as in some other situations (ferry workers, community college professors...) but there is not codified right to strike, either.
WA Attorney General McKenna, wishing to be a governor in this increasing anti-union country, has rendered his opinion that there is precedent for a court to rule teachers strikes illegal.

But no court has yet ruled on this, and until one does, teachers are still able to strike. It is doubtful, some say, that a court WOULD rule on it, as that would require a setting up of that situation, i.e. teachers arrested, for starters, then a progression of court hearings, etc. Teachers being arrested on the picket lines might make bad press: Dear ol' Mrs. McGuffin, print dress a-flyin', hauled away by a couple of burly SPD officers (or Pinkertons, if this privatization continues)...wouldn't look good!
CT said…
I've been told by a friend who teaches in Tacoma that the news media insists on making it sound like they are asking for a pay raise, when all they are trying to do is not take a pay cut, particularly given how large their class sizes are this year and how many of them already had to increase the amount they've spent out of pocket to get their classrooms ready for more kids. Administration does nothing to correct this misinformation, nor will they admit that one of the issues is not seniority, but rather that there is a fair and transparent process for placement in buildings. Administration is playing games and speaking out of both sides of their mouth. Sound familiar?
If teachers were arrested, and strikes were ruled illegal, what recourse would teachers have when the district loads classes with 45 kids and moves staff members at a whim, and cuts the pay of teachers while maintaining the COLA for admins? Strikes suck for both kids and teachers, but strikes are often the only leverage teachers or other staff have, particularly when admins are sneaky and underhanded, or just downright stupid and/or shortsighted, focused on the immediate bottom line without an eye to the future.
dan dempsey said…
Hummm ... So about the money.

Keep in mind that OSPI has adopted the Common Core State Standards Initiative, which will require local districts to pay $165 million out of local funds. The vast majority of this will go to pay for lots more testing.

Good for the T-town teachers.

Steven Krashen of USC stated that we have yet to see that increased testing results in increased learning. Note that Seattle refused to do any meaningful interventions for struggling students ... yet MAP tested multiple times per year.

WA Post - Val Strauss - Answer Sheet

President Obama proposed investing $30 billion for school repairs and renovations and another $30 billion to prevent teacher layoffs. There was no mention of an obvious means of saving money: Reduce testing and scrap plans to increase testing.

It is widely agreed that schools currently do too much testing, far more than is helpful or necessary, and the US Department of Education is planning to increase testing well beyond what we are doing now, without any supporting evidence.

Test development, test revision, the time spent on test preparation, administration and scoring will cost billions. The new tests will all be administered on-line, and this will cost additional billions.

New York City schools are planning to spend about a half billion to "primarily pay for wiring and other behind-the-wall upgrades to city schools" (NY Times, March 30, 2011) so that students can take the computerized national standardized tests. Extrapolated to the entire country, this amounts to about $45 billion.

If we adopt the principle of only testing when it is helpful, this will save more than the $60 billion the president wants to invest in schools.

Stephen Krashen

Larger Class Sizes and reduced pay for teachers .. to pay for more vendor services, which are completely unproven in regard to increasing achievement.

ALL TEACHERS and Parents NEED TO BE ON STRIKE if this sham spending continues.
none, missing some 1s said…
Regarding the "Are we teaching kids lessons..." article, the main point about helping kids focus on their efforts and not on their talent is not new. This is what Carol Dweck's book Mindset from several years ago is about.

This book is a must read for parents of gifted kids. I mean truly gifted kids, not those who are excelling because they work hard (which is great, but different). The problem is that there's a huge negative impact when you perceive that your ability is fixed vs. flexible.

It's great stuff, just not new.
AIEC said…
Seattle Citizen, actually many courts have ruled that teacher strikes are illegal. Most recently, the King County Court ruled that the 2009 Kent strike was illegal. The difference was that districts used to wait until strikes had been going on for weeks (i.e. Marysville) before going to court. A number of courts have ordered montetary fines for failure to comply with injunctions directing teachers back to work, and in the 70s, teacher union leaders were jailed.
Southy said…
CT, I am sure your friend is working off of the union party line. The TEA did ask for a raise. Then they asked to work less in exchange for the same pay. It is the legislature that directed that teacher pay be cut. Seattle worked it out via furlough days. TEA wanted more have days but to be paid for them as if they were full days. But the big issue isn't pay, it is not having senority be the only factor in displacement transfers.
dan dempsey said…
In the News Roundup
at NY Times:
The Trouble with Homework

The studying that middle school and high school students do after the dismissal bell rings is either an unreasonable burden or a crucial activity that needs beefing up. Which is it?

The quantity of students’ homework is a lot less important than its quality.

“Spaced repetition” is one example of the kind of evidence-based techniques that researchers have found have a positive impact on learning.

Do Not confuse this with the No Mastery Everyday Math incoherent spiraling.

It sounds unassuming, but spaced repetition produces impressive results.

A second learning technique, known as “retrieval practice,” employs a familiar tool — the test — in a new way: not to assess what students know, but to reinforce it.

According to one experiment, language learners who employed the retrieval practice strategy to study vocabulary words remembered 80 percent of the words they studied, while learners who used conventional study methods remembered only about a third of them. Students who used retrieval practice to learn science retained about 50 percent more of the material than students who studied in traditional ways, reported researchers from Purdue University earlier this year.
The Real Arnold said…
If the Tacoma teachers actually strike, then fire them all.
dan dempsey said…
On 9-10-11 the NY Times reported that Sarah Palin said:

First, that the United States is now governed by a “permanent political class,” drawn from both parties, that is increasingly cut off from the concerns of regular people.

Second, that these Republicans and Democrats have allied with big business to mutual advantage to create what she called “corporate crony capitalism.”

Third, that the real political divide in the United States may no longer be between friends and foes of Big Government, but between friends and foes of vast, remote, unaccountable institutions (both public and private).

My Oh My ... It is as if Sarah has watched the Seattle School Directors up for reelection in action.
CT said…
Southy - you're quoting the administration party line, so who is correct? I've watched plenty of districts use their web pages for inaccurate PR, spinning the facts to suit their argument. Or do you think district admins always tell the truth?
dan dempsey said…
The state has about 1,000,000 students
Tacoma has 28,000

28/1000= 2.8%
2.8% of State's Students are in Tacoma

$35 million is the one year cost to local districts to adopt Common Core Standards.

$35 million x 2.8% = $980,000

My that looks like about $1,000,000 per year that Tacoma will need to cough up to pay for the CCSSI.

The Tacoma School District spent on Teachers last year.... $7708 per student.

7708 x 28,000 = $216 million which includes benefits etc.

So what is another million for more pointless testing?

Heck that is only around 0.5% of what is spent on actual salaries for teachers ... that is hardly anything ... considering the teachers are being asked for 1.9% or more ... to help fund the current mess.
Jan said…
CT and Southy: I have no clue (but would love to have one) on exactly what is being negotiated, and where the differences lie -- but this is pretty straightforward stuff, so clearly one side (if not both) is spinning here, and I for one have just about had it.

There were dollars and hours last year under the old contract, and there are proposed dollars and hours in discussion this year. Exactly what has changed, what has not, in each proposal. Just. Tell. People. THEN -- you can argue the equities however you want (we're poor and the legislature took all our money; No, you're greedy;
No, you are, -- etc. etc.

Same hours, same money?
Fewer hours, same money?
Fair and Transparent Process?
Placement based on Seniority Only?

Spin at your peril, I say. I for one had my yearly quota filled when Dr. Enquist brightly announced how Seattle's "bursting at the seams" schools were such a vote of confidence in the District.

But even though that doesn't affect Tacomans, I suspect that many others got their fill of spin from the debt ceiling debate last summer. I don't know if the Union PR folks and the District PR folks have any idea how done with spin many people are.
Anonymous said…
ct -

maybe the wea-nea union messaging people could get up to date in political tactics - wagging fingers and acting like noble victims just doesn't work, in the long term. Whining like 4 year olds might elicit some public sympathy, it doesn't redefine the debate.

(have any of them noticed how badly the working class of us 75% at the bottom have done for decades? Maybe they need another seminar and another reading of Nickled and Dimed.)

here's a quick lesson - management is going to lie and is going to blame everything bad under the sun on lazy workers. period.

knuckle draggers who think they're 1 phone call away from being bill gates lunch buddy will come out to attack working stiffs because that is what knuckle draggers do.

good luck tacoma! I hope you get support with more than last minute tactics hot off the shelf from Flint 1936.

p.s. - does anyone know how bad teachers have it in knuckle dragger heavens like Florida and Texas? does anyone know that when the teachers are worked into the ground, it helps insure that the kind of education kids get will guarantee the kids a future of knuckle dragging?

CT said…
I, too, would like to know what the actual facts are. Alas, that's something only the bargaining team knows. I am tired of the spin as well - as are most teachers! - starting with the right-wing talking points that are continually repeated until they become the truth that most of the U.S. believes to be true about public education. We want to teach, but our jobs are becoming more political each and every day (and no, I'm not one of those naive idiots who thinks there were no politics involved in public education previously - however, things have gotten much, much worse. )

Good to see the union haters are alive and well here. Bandit, I know quite well how it is in other states for teachers and public education, particularly for those who have no unions or whose unions have effectively been squashed by legislative action. Texas considers cleaning classrooms to be of more importance than meeting with/helping students. Utah and Arizona have made it easy for principals and districts to get rid of teachers on a whim rather than with a process, so they've been quickly ridding themselves of the experienced, career teachers and hiring the young cheap ones. In Utah, they don't even have to be certificated to teach in public or charter schools; anyone can get hired for a teaching job, then they have 3 years to take a few classes at someplace like WGU - maybe 12 hours worth? - and they are magically a teacher. AZ only requires a certificate for public schools, not for charter schools. Both states are in the process of devising even more legislation to get rid of teachers unions completely. Their public education systems are in shambles, and in AZ, the surplus $$ they got by decimating K12, higher Ed, and the Parks system won't be put back into K-12 - they're planning to use it to build more private prisons (and line Jan Brewer's pockets). Look at Wisconsin, who has now lost over 5000 teachers after all the union busting and retirement fund raiding. I'm sure McKenna is taking notes and just waiting for his time, and it looks like he'll have plenty of support here in Washington to do the same.
Sahila said…
opting out of testing:

Opting Out, at least in one small way

national movement gaining momentum...

oh, and 40,000 teachers in NSW, Australia, went on (illegal) 24 hour strike last week, along with other public servants, in protest at measures being introduced similar to those put in place in Wisconsin...
Anonymous said…

Paying due members need new to tell their "leaders" to find new strategy if they want to maintain 1st their union, 2nd their political power, and 3rd their CB agreement. You can be right, but the media, their pundits, and the world according to FB users and bloggers are having a field day bashing unions for your $64K salary and generous benefits (compare to many workers who do not have benefits or very miniscule ones).

Remember we have the largest poverty rate in 52 years. Pverty gained 2.4 million people (most are kids) this year alone (NYT source). Many jobs lost were government (local, fed, and state) that were well paid with benefits. So hit back in the front page with that. BUT also step in and propose real changes re: quality of teacher education, teacher eval., compromise re: senority issue. As long as your leadership offer no real solutions, others will fill that hole for you with stuff you don't like.

-working parent
Anonymous said…
My dad was a factory worker in NY state from 1950–1990. He made a decent wage—lived in a comfortable house in a small town just outside a big city (Syracuse) and was able to put two daughters through college (he and my mom did not graduate high school). He had good benefits and a decent pension. At the time, the top execs at the company made good wages, but were not fabulously wealthy by any means. That's all changed now.

Why are average Americans demonizing union workers rather than the mucky-mucks who are making ridiculous salaries for doing next to nothing? Why aren't Americans demanding living wages and benefits when the 1% at the top has more money then they could possibly spend in a lifetime?

WAKE UP!!! Who cares what the media and pundits say? We live this reality every day.

Solvay Girl
Anonymous said…
And why aren't people screaming at the salaries being paid to School Superintendents and staff? More than the Governor...really!!!

Solvay Girl
Anonymous said…
I'm with you Solvay, 100%.

Working parent: Trying to act highbrow and reasonable results in a continued death by a thousand paper cuts for the working class in this country. Typical criticisms and Obama-like compromises won't stop the bleeding either.

For those who think the Ed Reformers are sincere about Teacher Quality, rather than wanting to bust unions and turn teachers into curriculum caterers paid by the hour, keep on chasing rainbows. These fights are for what's left of the soul of this country, and democracy as we know it.

As Solvay points out, where is the outrage at the top heavy district administrations burning cash by the boatload while cozying up to Wall Street billionaires and their toadies infecting school districts across the land?

It's time to fight back with clubs while we still have them.

And of course we can't have a talk about strikes without some knee-jerker saying "Fire them all." By that logic, why not just kill them all, like the Wobbly Massacre right up the road in Everett a century ago? Damn Union Commies!!

I'm no fan of strikes, because they hurt families. But I support people sticking their necks out and taking the heat of their unpopular stands for what they believe in. Nice to see some courage, finally, in the public realm.

Anonymous said…
I have called out on the high Super pay and bloated admin staff in SPS. Haven't heard union heads do that yet. Look, I think this downturn is tougher than the ones we have faced in the last 40+ years. It is a global downturn and the up tick isn't going to happen for a while and even then not to where we've seen it the last decade.

This is a new reality. We workers have to adjust. Public funded pensions are under for those that have it. Things are going to be far tougher in this coming year. I think for most of us (including teachers), we want similar things: job security, fair pay, and good working conditions. There are many who are looking for work for a very long time now and that includes youngsters out of college. These are tough time for many.

My comment is aimed at the teacher union leadership. I do believe if you come out speaking of "workers unite" and clubs, you are not going to get the public sympathy. You need to win this battle by finding commonality with the rest of us. We are fellow workers too!

working parent
Anonymous said…
...And we wouldn't be in this position if ill-advised, unsustainable tax cuts weren't given to billionaires for an entire decade, if those on Wall Street were actually policed by a properly funded and philosophically astute SEC enforcement apparatus, if Glass-Steagall were not repealed, and if congress performed ANY oversight.

The worldwide downturn didn't just happen, folks. The starvation of public pensions is by design and the legislation to loot the pension systems was in place and ready to go as soon as all those R governors took office in 2010. They know how to capitalize on a crisis, and they do it by design. Don't think the D's are any different. They all serve the same Masters.

Pension liabilities caused the financial crisis? Honestly? That's what the political hacks want you to believe and some of you are lapping it up too easily. We CAN afford those liabilities if we honestly adjust those programs, but that is not what's before us. Instead, it's yet another "mushroom cloud" of fanciful WMDs that we just have to rid ourselves of or it could spell doom for us!!! Horse puckey. Restore the taxes, reign in the crooked banks, police Wall Street, and stop declaring endless wars, and voila, problem solved.

Do not just accept that "we don't have the money." Phooey! Instead and Demand: Where is the money? Who took it? How did they do it? And, how can we get it back? If you think the answer is, "by continuing to do more for less," then you've lost already.

Teachers aren't responsible for the financial mess we're in. And with the cost of living chronically going up, they should not have to work for less. We get what we pay for, remember.

Look at what our districts blow money on, then tell me we can't afford to honor our teacher contracts. I pay taxes so my kids can have safe neighborhoods and quality schools, not so high paid administrators can pursue billionaire's agendas and climb career ladders while stealing the money I invest for the children in my community. WSDWG
seattle citizen said…
@AIEC - thanks for the clarification and information that there HAVE been rulings against teacher strikes (fines and jail, too.)

My scant information comes from years of hearing this debate. It could be argued that even tho' some courts have ruled that strikes are illegal, it hasn't been settled by the state supreme court (and federal, for that matter, if it came to that.)

I guess my point is that, in my limited understanding as a non-lawyer, non-judge, non-AG...the matter is still not settled.

Personally, I believe in unions (generally) and the right to srike is a key aspect of union power. The only other power they might have in the absence of strikes is binding arbitration, which I THINK I would support. Otherwise, they little recourse to the vagaries of management.
Anonymous said…
Whenever working people get fired up against other working people, I know the brainwashing has sunk in:
Divide and conquer has taken root.

I am thankful that the teachers have chosen to strike. It would have been much easier for them to not strike since "the economy" and the media make it seem like you should be so grateful to have a job that your rights no longer count.

In the meantime, administrators are selling out to the highest bidder, tests have taken over, and Bill Gates and Co. are saying that class sizes don't matter.

If SEA were a stronger union, there would be better checks and balances in this district. Smaller class sizes and less administration would mean a better education for the children--your children.

--stronger working people make all working people stronger
Jan said…
Here, WSDWD, is where I am troubled by what I see as a disconnect: "Teachers aren't responsible for the financial mess we're in. And with the cost of living chronically going up, they should not have to work for less. We get what we pay for, remember."

Let's take it a sentence at a time:

1. Teachers aren't responsible for the financial mess we're in.

In the private sector, where the contractions after 2008 were WAY worse than they were in schools (whole companies gone, layoffs by the tens or hundreds of thousands EACH MONTH), those workers were ALSO "not responsible for the mess they were in" -- at least not any more so than teachers. They lost (and are still continuing to lose, as unemployment creeps back up) jobs, houses, cars, everything. Many have NEVER been able to find ANY re-employment, while hundreds of thousands more are severely underemployed and may never work again for anything but poverty wages. I am not aware that anyone credible has EVER taken the position that teachers are responsible for the financial mess we're in. There is plenty of blame -- at all participants in the housing financing fiasco, big financial institutions, both major political parties, Americans who didn't want to face deficit problems (Iraq and Afganistan wars while cutting taxes and vastly expanding Medicare, anyone?). But the problem is -- those responsible for paying to support the schools are other taxpayers, just like the teachers (except millions and millions have no jobs, or jobs way worse than teaching) -- and they didn't cause it either.

And with the cost of living chronically going up, they should not have to work for less.

Hmmm. Except virtually ALL of the rest of us who vote are having to work for less. What does "should" have to do with it? When the restaurant my son worked for closed, on 4 hours notice -- should he have had to "work for less?" When the company that he currently works for told the woman who supervises him that she would have supervisory duties A, B, and C, but they weren't actually changing her job title -- or her salary (and there is the door, of course, if she didn't like it) -- "should" she have had to work for less? And is her employer evil? Have they perhaps tapped out their operating line -- and can't get more, because the value of the real estate collateral that secures it has fallen by 40% -- and they are trying their damnedest to scratch it out until the holiday season, hoping for a good one --hoping not to have to close their doors altogether? Where the heck is "should not have to work for less" in this scenario? This sort of argument makes public employees who have held their jobs throughout the Great Recession seem totally clueless and out of touch! Even if they are our hardworking and beloved teachers, whom we would LOVE to pay better, if we could pry the fingers of District administration off the checkbook long enough to stop the flow of funds for MAP testing, inflated salaries, etc.

Jan said…

We get what we pay for, remember?

No kidding! Actually -- that's wrong. Because of misspent funds, we are getting far LESS than we are paying for. But again -- the point is -- there is much less wealth, much less prosperity, much more scarcity in the economy than there has been for decades. When people are looking at having to live in their campers, and are moving their belongings into storage so the Bank can repossess their homes, they "get" that they may be getting less because they can pay for less. They also know that IF they are lucky enough to get another job, they will be expected to work at least as hard as they did for the last one, on maybe half the pay and no benefits.

Last night, we were treated to the spectacle, in the Republican candidate debates, of watching the audience clapping at the thought of letting people who can't afford health care just go without and die! Between the meanness and greed of THAT crowd and the income displacement of those who would like to support education and only wish they had jobs with even HALF the pay, benefits, and security of teachers with which to do it, arguments like -- it's not my fault, I deserve everything I currently have, and "pay us less and you'll get less" -- while all maybe true -- just are not going to go very far. Really. Teachers and their representatives need to come up with a much better "shared sacrifice," "we are all in this together," "we can get through this if we help each other out" model. Arguments based on entitlement, blame casting, and warnings of decreases in service don't resonate with those far less fortunate and equally not to blame.

There are many many arguments for fighting to hire, and retain, good teachers, and for paying them as well as we can (whatever that is), for honoring education and those who work hard to provide it for our children. But these -- though I hear them time and time again -- are not those arguments.
Jan said…
By the way -- I don't mean to infer that I don't support the Tacoma teachers. I am still trying to sort out which side is spinning, and what the real issues are. But while I have a real problem with unions in public service, I am inclined to support civil disobedience against entrenched management interests if, in fact, management is misusing/misspending public funds and destroying educational value for kids (which has been the case often enough that I am never inclined these days to assume the union may not be right).
KG said…
Local 609 has certainly stood up against this bloated administration for years. I agree with anonymous that the SEA does not do a good job of it. The evidence is they agreed to furlough and seem as agreeing with huge increases for central administrators and let their members pay for part of it through furlough. They also do not support their counselors as witnessed by lack of support at Board meetings by members other than the counselors.

Olga Addae is weak.

That is the way I see it.

Sahila said…
working parent.... why dont you and your co-workers form a union?
dan dempsey said…
KG you have it correct on SEA. They are controlled by WEA big wigs.

Counselors get left in the rubble and big admin raises get paid for by SEA members salary reductions.

This is a continuation of the era of cooperation with the SPS ... where union leadership is essentially non-existent. ... Take a look at the agreements made at Cleveland when an existing contract was in effect.

So when do members ever vote on these positions?

Just like the WEA's support of the Common Core State Standards Initiative ... this was a position taken at the upper levels of WEA and to hell with what the members think. (HUGE bucks for LOTS of testing ... not money for teaching positions).
WenD said…
@Jan: "...I have a real problem with unions in public service." Why?

I'm of the experience that more of us would be well-served by union representation rather than less. Everything we've seen in school board decisions and admin bloat doesn't say "Get rid of public unions." It says the opposite, doesn't it?
Jan said…
WenD: -- because in my view, most power systems need checks and balances (and many don't have them today). With unions, one of the "checks" to abuse of union bargaining power is market forces. If there are 3 companies, and 2 have unions, and the union for 1 company demands so much, in the way of wages, benefits, and work rules that impair productivity -- the company will not survive. This does 2 things. First, it encourages management to bargain harder for concessions within the range that the market can bear; and 2, since the union is intelligent, it also knows that there is in fact a goose behind its golden egg -- and if it kills it, or makes it so unprofitable that orders fall, in the end everyone (including union members who lose jobs when the company dies or is sold) loses.

In the public sector -- there is often (usually) no competition. During the worst of the Great Recession in 2008/09, we had elected politicians giving unionized public employees substantial raises -- this was not happening anywhere else (except the executive suites of places like Chase and Goldman -- and even there, they had to cut it out for a few years). Millions of people were being laid off. Tens of millions were having hours and pay, and benefits, cut. But since there was "no competition" the unions were free to make whatever demands they thought they deserved and could get -- and the politicians, who play with OTHER people's money, and are often not around when the music stops -- said yes, either because it was easier than fighting, or because they were pro-union and wanted to reward an important political constituency for its support (and effort). This certainly happened at the County level.

But -- I have to say I am conflicted. Because while I don't think traditional collective bargaining works well in a monopoly situation where the "CEO" is negotiating with one of its strongest supporters AND playing with taxpayer money -- I also think there are times when the union is the entity best positioned to speak to civil rights issues, professional quality issues, safety issues, environmental issues, etc. And in a field like education, where there is so much cronyism, nepotism, playing of favorites, etc., I like the idea that a good union can protect teachers against the worst abuses of an arbitrary and/or retaliatory administration.

I don't have a good answer for the dilemma (as I see it). But there is my explanation for my comment.
Anonymous said…
Jan: I could spend a day responding to your points, but I won't. It appears you are well versed in economic theory, albeit from a classic Wall Street Journal, historical revisionist perspective. There is tremendous competition in public sector employment, but you cannot see it, due to your predisposed philosophies. While there is waste in government, there is also waste and a tremendous lack of competition in the private sector.

How many cable companies can you choose from to service your home, Jan? How many private sector energy companies? Does your cell phone minutes plan differ greatly from your last one, or that offered by a competitor, or are they remarkably similar in cost at the end of the day? How much money gets burned up and "wasted" under the heading of R&D in the private sector, that actually buys dinners and air-fare for corporate retreats and vacations? And whose money do private sector companies use for their wasteful initiatives? Their own? Or yours and mine through investments, stock purchases, and the big cahuna, tax cuts, shelters, and above-the-line spending? Is a bank loan officer making bad, hi-risk loans spending his own money, or yours and mine?

Philosophically, Friedman-based economics do a great job of distinguishing between private sector (always good) employees, and public sector employees (always bad), when, in reality, there is far less difference in practice.

But alas, such comparisons are meaningless when one side of the equation has a constitutional mandate to serve the public's (or the customer's) interest, whereas the other can act, or not, for the benefit of it's stockholders first and it's customers last, if it wants to. In general, the larger the corp, and the bigger the market share, the worse the customer gets treated.

Teachers deserve and need every dime they earn for what they do for our kids and our society. Next to parents, they are the most important people in our childrens' lives. I hope, someday, we will realize that, versus comparing the general equity and fairness of their job security, pay and benefits to mine in a theoretical marketplace.

We'd all do better to accept reality and the True Golden Rule: He who has the Gold makes the rules. Look no further than everything happening in our schools right now under the billinaire-backed Ed Reform agenda. Follow the money.

The sooner we see things in those terms, aka Reality, the better off we'll be. Then we can start talking about real fixes and solutions instead of so-called "compromises" that have been killing us for 30 years. WSDWG
Anonymous said…
From Publicola -

Yesterday, the U.S. House of Representatives voted 365-54 to pass a bill granting federal funding to states seeking to replicate successful charter schools.


a reader
Anonymous said…
If we thought a union could solve our problems, believe you me, we would have formed one a long time ago. We know what is coming down the pipeline re: state budget. Our schools are going to take more hits as are other social service programs. The revenues just aren't there to continue what we had. Our cost and needs are not going down.

For many working people, the economy has alredy hit them hard in the workplace and has forced them to make adjustments these past few years. And for some, the are no longer workers because they have lost their jobs. I suspect the public sector employee is now starting to catch up.

We can go back and bring back the history of what unions did to alleviate working conditions. But this is not a Joe HIill moment. Workplace like anyplace can still be place full of abuses, even with a union in place. I know of schools where teachers are trying to do the right thing for the kids, but are not protected from principals' bullying nor are some good principals from agenda driven administrators.

Why do we have NCLB? Why did it get passed nearly a decade ago with such unanimity? Why did this President continue on with it? There are problems in our education system and the voices of teacher's unions should have resounded loudly from the get go and be part of the solutions. (It could have been your civil rights moment and you could have control where it was going.) I would have liked to hear SEA leadership speak up about precious money and time spent on MAP, the SE iniative, our current math curriculum, closure and reopening of schools, our school capacity (which ties into class size), and many other relevant topics that directly affect the working conditions of teachers and their students.

I REALIZE this is probably not the union leadership's mandate. Perhaps, the union leadership's mandate is limited to negotiate and promote teacher's contract and working conditions. IF so, then I can understand the silence on these issues. But on the same token, please realize the public may at best remain lukeworm or silent when you ask for support for a strike during these tough times or at worst sound off in offensive ways.

working parent (off to work)
Anonymous said…
KG, I agree. I've heard that Glenn Bafia, the Exec Dir of SEA is a closet Ed Reformer. Some of his actions would seem to suggest this is true.

Mr. Ed
dan dempsey said…
Mr. Ed,

What you believe about Mr. Bafia being an ed reformer is likely the reason that WEA big wigs placed him in that job.

Note the WEA and SEA tandem failure to evaluate the impacts of the Common Core State Standards Initiative (or more likely just refuse to mess with what the Big Money wants to happen.)

Statewide CCSSI => likely $165+ million fewer dollars to hire teachers and a profusion of testing coming. SEA's Bafia, Pres. Addae, and V.P. Knapp ... were completely silent.
dan dempsey said…
34th District Dems met in West Seattle on Wednesday night 9-14-11....

So what happened as far as endorsements for school director?

Meeting of Wednesday, September 14, 2011
The Hall at Fauntleroy
9131 California Avenue S.W.,
West Seattle, Washington

Endorsements will probably include:
- Seattle School Board
- Port Commission
- I-1183 Privatizing Liquor Sales
- $60 Car Tab Fee
dan dempsey said…
9-14-11 ... Tonight the 34th Legislative District in West Seattle endorsed Sharon Peaslee over incumbent Peter Maier for Seattle School Board Position #1 with 66% of the vote!

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