Off to DC. But the coo coo birds may have gotten there ahead of me.

I’m not leaving for the NEA RA until tomorrow.

But apparently the coo coo birds have beaten me there.

If you read this blog regularly you know that I stand for many things. And I don’t stand quietly.

I spent my professional career fighting the obsession with standardized testing.

I have fought for the right to collectively bargain for every private sector and public sector worker.

I have my differences with my union leadership and nobody can accuse me of being shy about bringing them up. I’ve brought it up for thirty years.

So, when I got this in my email today from a group called United Opt Out National, I was taken aback.

We issue this challenge with the optimism that the NEA is still an organization that cares more about the unique needs of students than back-room partnerships. And should Mr. Van Roekel fail to live up to his responsibility and make such a statement, we encourage each and every representative attending the NEA Representative Assembly to stand up and insist that these issues be brought forward, discussed, and voted on by the entire assembly.   We remind every representative that they, too, have a mission, a voice, and a right to be heard. Please, this week, put integrity and the needs of students first.  Bring a resolution denouncing high stakes testing and common core to the floor of the assembly.  Do it now, for next year may be too late.

Should the NEA, its members, leadership, and President choose to remain silent on these issues, we will be forced to advocate for the erosion of support for the NEA and its mission, ultimately leading to its unfortunate, yet deserved, dissolution.  Thus, the NEA’s eventual eradication as a legitimate organization in support of public education will be met with a bittersweet jubilation.  Make no mistake: we do not negotiate with children’s lives. We hope you don’t either.


If the NEA RA doesn’t take the stand that this group demands they will advocate for the eradication of my union with (bittersweet?) jubilation?

I hope they’re planning on coming with some troops. I don’t stand quietly when Scott Walker and Rahm Emanuel talk that talk. I certainly won’t be quiet if I run into these people.

These folks are crazy.

50 Replies to “Off to DC. But the coo coo birds may have gotten there ahead of me.”

  1. Wow & double wow. I do, however, understand where they’re coming from. I have been advocating for one gargantuan union. Someone recently wrote a letter to one of the Chicago dailies about how much stronger unions would have been had there been one union formed at the beginning (rather than all the split-offs) &–had this occurred–we would have had a hugomongous foot in the door to stomp out all the greed of the 1%. Then, we wouldn’t have found ourselves in the position we are today.

    Is this a convention where you vote for NEA President? If so (& if you can, being retired)–
    RUN, Fred, RUN!!!!

    1. Don’t be fooled. This is an attack on our union by people who are, for the most part, not in our union. Threatening to eradicate our union if we don’t vote their way. The NEA has already endorsed the same anti-testing statement signed by hundreds of superintendents and activists around the country. Could it be stronger? Sure. But ANYONE who threatens to eradicate our union is no friend of teachers or students.

      1. Fred, you see this as an attack on the union because the union to you must be the corporate suits running it. I do not see this as an attack on the union, because the true “union” is the millions of teachers. UOO is not attacking millions of teachers. What they are doing is attacking union leaders who are compromising, who have sold out to ed reform.

        Union leaders had a choice to make; take a tough stand for the teachers they represent and children and fight like heck or take the easy road and negotiate for their lives to stay alive. Union leaders took the easy road. The safe road.

        The expendable were compromised.

        When this happened, the suits no longer represented me.
        I AM a member of the NEA, and I thank the UOO for this bold action.

        Today, does Washington worry about the NEA? Not in the least. I hope the UOO sparks a house cleaning, and afterward, the union reorganizes to be stronger than it has been in years, with a focus to end the nationalization of our public schools.

        Then, Washington will take notice.

      2. You must be new around here. You have decided what the union means to me, but you clearly don’t know me, know what I do or what I have written about these past years. But clearly that doesn’t stop you from drawing conclusions.
        But here’s an idea: Take this letter of yours to your state caucus tomorrow (you’re a delegate to the RA, right?) and get their response to the tone and bold action you call for. Let me know how that works for you.
        And then take it to the lobby of the DC convention center and let me know the response. I don’t mean from among the suits. I’m not a suit. I have been in the classroom for 30 years, ten as president of my local (unpaid), attacked by the suits in my state association for opposing linking teacher evaluation to student performance on state standardized tests.
        So, yes. Lecture me about what I must think the union is.
        And then go out and argue your position among the members. See how they respond to your jubilation at the union’s eradication.
        Yes. Do that. And let me know how it goes.

      3. this is not an attack by people who, for the most part, are not in the NEA or the AFT…

        I think that the teachers pushing for this are courageous… in my travels around the net, finding stories to post on , and in my 3D talking with teachers from all over the country, I hear many, mnany express their dis-satisfaction with what they see as union leadships’ sell out to the ed deformers…. AND I AGREE WITH THEM – I’ve had numerous conversations with Randi Weingarten asking why she continues to agree to ed deform policies that hurt teachers and their profession – her excuse: “we have to engage with the reformers”…. uh, sorry, no one does not have to engage with one’s abuser…

        I’m a parent… I applaud teachers who stand behind the moral principle of “first, do no harm”… ed deform in all of its many incarnations HARMS CHILDREN… GO FOR IT TEACHERS – HOLD YOUR UNION LEADERSHIPS ACCOUNTABLE AND IF THEY WONT STEP UP, DUMP THEM… if its good enough to sign on to a DUMP DUNCAN campaign, why is it bad to DUMP UNION LEADERS WHO ARE DOING THE PROFESSION AND CHILDREN HARM?

      4. Whatever one believes about the role of the national and many state leaders of the two national teacher unions, any group that claims that they will be jubilant at the eradication of our union will only strengthen the leadership’s hold.

      5. The Common Core (sic) $tandards is an arrogant, anti-student and anti-teacher attempt to destroy education as we know it. The CCsic$ plan promises to is make creative teaching impossible, will finish the job of turning schools into test prep factories with more testing than ever seen on planet Earth, and will bleed funding away from places where it can actually help children, handing over billions to the publishing and technology industries, adding to their already ill-deserved profits.
        United Opt Out’s statement that they will “advocate for the erosion of support for the NEA” if the NEA remains silent is a mild reaction.

  2. Fred,

    They may not negotiate with their children’s lives but they seem to have no problem bullying and threatening in the name of their children. These people think this type of rhetoric will invoke cooperation? Unbelievable!


  3. Albert Einstein once stated, “A question that sometimes drives me hazy: am I or are the others crazy?”

    The time has come to ask a serious question: Who is crazy? Those who are no longer willing to remain silent and blind to the counter-productive and suspect actions of the NEA, or those within the NEA who have placed public education, real student learning, and support for teachers second to partnering with those who are undermining these very concepts?

    What should be done if the NEA does not strongly come out against policies that are destroying a healthy and rich learning environment for student learning and for the teachers who facilitate such learning? Students are having their curriculum slashed and their ability to experience real learning stripped from their schooling. Parents are fed up with the test-centric focus of schools and are demanding that the unique needs, abilities, and complex and year-long accomplishments of their children be recognized. Teacher morale is being decimated as the value of all that they do throughout the year is being erased and replaced by the results of single tests. Meanwhile, the national union leadership has issued only soft, hesitant, and passive objections to these policies, choosing instead to protect their ability to partner with those who are undermining public education at every turn.

    We are not calling for the end of NEA- we are calling for its success. We strongly believe that an organization that protects our children and promotes the individual professionalism of teachers has great value. However, when NEA bases its policy and action on how it enhances their ability to partner with destructive entities, rather than on how it supports student learning, parental input, and the ability of teachers to meaningfully impact the learning of children, the world has, indeed, gone crazy. Or corrupt.

    The nation is waiting for NEA to find the voice of those who it represents, not those who stand to profit from its weak resolutions and hypocritical actions. We want the NEA to succeed. We need it to succeed. However, we are not willing to redefine success at the expense of our children.

    If NEA fails, it will be at their own hand and by their own choice.

    1. Your message needs a great amount of refinement. Your focus needs to be on a change of leadership ONLY. It really is that simple. The talk of the NEA failing is not an accurate description of the situation, the union is it’s membership, the leadership IS NOT the union. Since those at the top (management) have not listened to the owners (membership) management needs to go. THAT will send a message like nothing else.

  4. This challenge is in NO WAY an attack on unions. My husband is an officer in the union and unions quite frankly saved the life of my grandfather. I am 100 % behind unions, as long as unions do not lose their focus. History has taught us that without a care and a strong voice from the locals, the power of unions can potentially become contaminated. As Burke said, “Those who don’t know history are destined to repeat it.”

    We are calling for the NEA to save itself before it becomes too late.

  5. Thank you, Fred, for bringing up the “C” word. However, I think that the NEA is the one that has gone crazy. At least, the national leaders and those who set its strategy. The resolution that is currently being passed around is as weak as depression-era tomato soup: One squeeze of catchup and the rest is all water. Yes, many signed it, but lets be real. The resolution is like asking for less bullying or less domestic abuse. There are a lot of acronyms being passed around concerning what NEA stands for these days, and they are not very flattering. If they won’t come out and clearly say “NO” —then who will?

      1. Don’t let the heat got to you. It is like a sauna here. I had the pleasure of working with some great teachers from Chicago this week. We are convinced there is a conspiracy against us (Ya think?). Do us proud.
        Why do they always schedule teacher stuff in the worst heat of DC?

      2. Thanks. But I’m a tough old bird. It’s like a sauna here in Chicago too. Just movin’ from one sauna to another. The great thing about Chicago teachers is that they didn’t just blame the leaders. They became the leaders.

  6. I wrote the “bittersweet jubilation” line. Cooperation, negotiation, and political games? Meh, that time has passed. You can have your union, I take care of my own.

  7. Like Laurie I am an advocate of strong unions-they have the power and solidarity to change the course of policy when they put their hearts and minds to it! The NEA is no different. The call is to the NEA to step up and take actions against the ed reform weapons of mass destruction: the imposition of the common core, high stakes testing and use of HST in new teacher evaluations –none of which will stop unless we make clear and decided actions to oppose them. The reformers are ruthless and unscrupulous. The times of asking “pretty please” and endless discussion with them are over! We hope the members and leaders of the NEA will understand the United Opt Out letter is not meant as a threat-it is not meant to divide us- but serves as a strong APPEAL to the NEA to step up as the leaders. The NEA has within its power to change the course of the national conversation around public education policy if it chooses to do so. But what is its choice to be? Until all of us as individuals and collectively as unions take a real active stance against this madness it will not stop. We do not wish to fight-we wish to unite. Before its too late.

    1. If it is is meant to unite and not divide, it is possibly the worst written unity statement I have ever read. As for me, I support the statement by FairTest. It is a strong statement from a group and groups that have a long history in this fight. Is there more to be done? Certainly. But the last paragraph of your statement cannot be interpreted as anything other than an attack on my union. And the author, who has commented on this blog, agrees that it is an attack on the union. So, you guys must get your story straight.

      1. Fred wrote: “Is there more to be done? Certainly.”
        The its time to do it. It’s time to do more. That’s all I’m sayin’
        we hope the NEA will choose to put common core, HST and teacher evaluations back on the table for discussion and use all that is within their power to fight these reforms-everything else is a distraction

      2. Read the statement, Morna. That’s not all your saying. There is always more to do. But everything else is not a distraction? The fight for collective bargaining rights in Wisconsin, Indiana, Ohio, Florida, Michigan and here in Illinois? A distraction? The right to strike in Chicago? A distraction? The longer school day in Chicago with no added compensation, no added art, music or PE? A distraction?

      3. your examples are all strong illustrations of what NEA and other unions have the power to do-i applaud those efforts! and those are important successes! we are not attacking the union-we are advocating that its leaders stand up against some very specific items which serve as the cornerstones of corporate reform

      4. The NEA, for all practical purposes, is the national leadership that sets its policy, establishes its partnerships and direction, and gives it its identity.

        If the current leadership fails to support the needs of the classroom students and teachers, then room must be made for those who will.

        We hope that those who define the essence of the NEA step forward and do the right thing. Truly we do. The mass of teachers in classrooms throughout middle-town America also wish this. However, if the NEA (as defined by its leaders) continues to act in ways detrimental to those it serves, it is time for a major change.

        Educators deserve a union that represents their needs, and not one that has become too cozy with the administration and corporate leaders to be effective. If NEA is no longer able to do effectively serve its constituents, then the leaders must be pushed aside so that new leaders, with a new identity, new policies, and new directions can take over. Such changes are not easy or painless, but are sometimes necessary.

        If the current NEA fails to stand for those they truly represent, it MUST be replaced by a union that will. However, it will be with “bittersweet jubilation” that this replacement will occur. Bittersweet, because the change will be based on disappointment. Jubilation, because we know that the new group, in whatever form it takes, will be made of those with the conviction, passion, and commitment to not waiver.

        This year is critical in determining the future and construct of public education, and the NEA will play a key role in the outcome. Unfortunately, the stakes are too high to passively stand by and wait to see what will happen. If the NEA must become a Phoenix in the process, then so be it. What matters most, at this point, is the ultimate the outcome. The stakes are that high, and our future is that uncertain.

  8. Perhaps your union leaders – leaders of a union of TEACHERS – need to remember Plato’s words:

    “Do not train a child to learn by force or harshness; but direct them to it by what amuses their minds, so that you may be better able to discover with accuracy the peculiar bent of the genius of each.”

    Plato said this 2,000 years ago; no-one goes around saying Plato was a fool…

    IF the agenda really is to find and nurture the genius in each child, why do teachers implement ed deform policies that stunt childrens’ genius?

    And why do their union leaders play footsie under the table with the ed deformers, enabling, in fact CONSPIRING with them, in this abuse?

    It’s as simple as that….

    1. Okay. Here’s my policy. You have had a chance to make several comments on this issue. The last one being a full-out attack on not just the union but on all teachers who according to you implement policies that stunt children’s’ genius. Teachers are abusing students, you say. And our union leadership is conspiring with the rank and file teachers to carry out this abuse. You are done here. What the world doesn’t need is another place for teacher bashing.

      1. That’s really sad, Fred. I’ve seen this reaction to criticism (even indirect criticism) of union decisions at the top, or open statements that, regardless of the bull that comes out of the education deform crowd, which can be discounted as self-serving and anti-education, there actually some problems with public education that need to be addressed. If teachers aren’t willing to criticize their own (or worse, if they’re forbidden from doing so, a la the way that many police departments seem to operate), we’re no longer a profession. That gives succor to the enemy. It makes plausible to many people the wild claims of some critics that there’s an “Education Mafia” out there that refuses to care more about education and kids than it does about protecting the incompetence of some lousy teachers (and even more about protecting the interests of its leadership).

        You keep objecting that people are attacking “your union.” But that’s not the way it seems to me, at least as far as the comments here are concerned. And as far as the tone of the statement you are calling “crazy,” there’s a reason that small groups of people in very large, impersonal organizations tend to resort to that sort of rhetoric if they feel sufficiently marginalized and powerless within the bigger group. It’s called desperation. In order to be heard, it seems that it’s necessary to scream and threaten.

        I recognize several of those leaving comments here. While I may not agree with them all the time, I believe that they’re sincere, deeply concerned individuals who are anything but corporate education deform types or supporters of such people. They’re not anti-union, they’re not anti-teacher, and they’re not anti-public schools. But they do have legitimate complaints about specific union decisions and policies, specific teachers, and specific school policies and actions.

        Are we now at a place where there is no forum for people of mutual good will to talk about both how to fend off the corporate deform movement AND how to improve the quality of public education at the institutional and classroom levels? If so, we’ve already lost to the bad guys. And in fact, we’ve become the bad guys ourselves.

        Does that mean I, too, am “done” here?

  9. UOON, your message needs a great amount of refinement. Your focus needs to be on a change of NEA leadership ONLY due to it’s failure to properly represent the positions and demands of the membership. It really is that simple. The talk of the NEA itself failing as a whole is not an accurate let alone useful description of the situation. The union is it’s membership, the leadership IS NOT the union. Since those at the top (management) have not listened to the owners (membership) management needs to go. THAT will send a message like nothing else can. Until you do this messaging/position revision, you will appear to be an insurgency and will be in the unfortunate position of giving aid and comfort to your enemies.

  10. What is all this talk of “my union?” It’s our union! And our union has been hijacked at the leadership level. It is “our” job to force the leadership to reevaluate its position and if need be remove the leadership and rebuild. If “your union” doesn’t step up to these demands our union will be all that is left to rebuild our great system of public education–a system of public education that is about to be destroyed because “your union” refuses to stop deformation of OUR public school system.

    1. I get what you are saying, Tim. Although it was not written in the most elegant of prose. Now, we get to see how it works for you. I assume you are a delegate and will be at the NEA RA this week. I’ll be watching with great interest to see how well your statement of ultimatum works with the members of our union.

      1. I am not a delegate and it is not “my statement of ultimatum.” It is a statement developed by listening to the teachers in classrooms who speak daily about their plight and how their union reps fail to take these issues to the leadership for fear of reprisal. This is the voice of dehumanized teachers that wait daily for the union leadership to stand up and advocate for them–not negotiate. There was and is a time for negotiation but that must be done only when this insanity stops.

      2. You are not alone in believing that this is no longer a time for bargaining and negotiating. Scott Walker says that too. We were in Madison surrounding the Capitol building a year ago demanding teachers’ rights to negotiate. Walker said the time for negotiating was done. But you’ve had your say here. Fair enough.

  11. Right now collective bargaining is nearly dead. I would hardly say it has much breath when I work under conditions where bargaining agreements are superseded by MOUs signed by complicit leadership and forced on bargaining unit members, where due process, job security, and liviable wadges are gone at the snap of a fictitious VAM score or the pass off of precious tax paid money to corporatist that grow richer as I write; where a teacher new to the field can never earn job security, where support staff members get even less protections than the shoddy protection currently afforded educators, where 25k bonuses are paid to teachers who have done no more or no less than the teachers/tutors/paras/mentors that laid schematic platforms for each of them to springboard from, where rich men – unaware of what constitutes quality pedagogy – write the rule book on education , and where the horrific narratives of student causalities mount like the Viet Nam War death toll. As an educator in Florida that is suffering because of weak labor leadership, I have come to realize that under the current leadership, it will continue to die a slow and painful death as the cancerous overgrowth of corporatism and complicit leadership rings the death knell. UOO is not calling for the demise of organized labor. They are predicting the future of an end to organized labor if we continue to have leadership that compromises the values and principles of collective bargaining and quality pedagogy. People are always too quick to call those that expose the painful truth about the frailty of union leadership union busters. Wake up and smell the coffee. Our working conditions stink to high heaven, and they are not supposed to be like that when one has good union leadership and good unions.

    1. One more time: Not only do I not disagree about the need to reform and replace many of the union leaders at all levels of our organizations, I am actively engaged in that fight. The issue here is that Opt Out said explicitly that if the NEA RA did not support a specific resolution regarding testing then Opt Out would advocate the eradication of the NEA. This is in spite of the fact that the NEA has already endorsed a national statement initiated by FairTest and signed on to by a broad range of respected education organizations and individuals, along with civil rights and political groups. Now that Opt Out has been challenged, their people run in all directions. Some say they didn’t mean to call for the eradication of a 3 million member union. Others blame teachers for abusing children. Others say they meant what they said. Interestingly, out of the hundred of visits to my post, the total number of defenders of this little group have been less than a dozen.
      Perhaps you all are just tempests in a very tiny teapot.

  12. No, Fred, these folks aren’t crazy. They’re just fighting for sanity in ed policy, something the NEA stopped doing when they went after people opposing NCLB.
    I hope the NEA will face the fact that the ‘seat at the table’ they hold so dear is only a place to serve teachers up on a platter.

  13. In Indiana, teachers, students and parents are fighting to hold on to our public education system daily. NEA has done nothing in the last year to slow what is happening here and I am not able to meet any teachers who are less than highly critical of the organization. I can understand 100% the frustration within UOO. It is not misplaced. In Indianapolis, we have reformers running us ragged. Three to four educations events per week, millions awarded to “blended learning” leeches monthly; and it is truly hard on a family for a parent who cares to live on that sort of schedule. Sorry I didn’t get on here sooner, as you noted the lack of support Klonsky… I was at a “community conversation” listening to Stand for Children blab about great ideas next to our new Deputy mayor of Education. Meanwhile the teachers in town are too busy to join us fighting REPA II which will strip teacher certification requirements, devalue their talents and cause great suffering in our schools. From the view we have here, it is time to take a strong stance. Not to negotiate. Or else, the numbers we have on the ground fighting this day-to-day will wear out and dwindle.

  14. Common core, HST and teacher evaluations have got to get back on the discussion tables and voting booths in NEA. Without these prime issues being brought forth and demanded accountability of our legislators and pubic officials, all students, teachers, parents and communities will continue to suffer. I cringed when hearing of 40 public schools closing in Phily and seeing it coming shortly to Indianapolis. The time for negotiation is way past. I, as a first-teacher of my children and parent, would support the NEA all the way through a nation wide strike on these issues…and I work as a Human Resources Professional! My and all children are not learning and their teachers are not able to teach in USA public schools because of these issues. It is time for the NEA to lead the charge in the war on public education deformitites that have been orchestrated against us! The question is will the members of NEA hold their leaders accountable? Will they open their mouths despite fear of retribution from their union leaders? Will they openly challenge their leaders who have negotiated the professionalism of their profession away? Will they stand up for the children they passionately serve(d)?

  15. Calling for the NEA to stand up courageously against the corporate takeover of public education, the eradication of joy intrinsic to true learning, and the implementation of Common Core (which by “raising the bar” above the already utopian standards of NCLB will only hasten the demise of public education, particularly in our inner cities) is a calling for the NEA to mean something, to mean something important. It is a call for survival of the NEA, not a call for its demise. An NEA (and AFT) which continues to minimize, trivialize, and compromise against the forces aligned against public education will find itself in turn compromised, minimized, and trivialized. What use is an NEA that signifies little more platitudes? Such an NEA will destroy itself despite the passion of its members and in the end, much to the chagrin of said members, have only itself to blame.

  16. The difference is simple. Some want NEA to organize the teachers, to their point of view, of course, a p.o.v.which I don’t disagree with too much.
    Others know that first you have to organize yourselves to change the NEA so that they do what the membership wants. That’s the hard way. It’s what many of us have done for years. It’s the Fred way. It’s my way. If many of these folks are not delegates in DC fighting to change NEA from within, running for leadership positions, talking at mikes, they are taking the lazy way out by demanding that YOU do it for them. It seems some want to hand off the football and have YOU run through that line.

    1. well, as a teacher-loving, union-supporting parent, I look at where the NEA and AFT have taken teachers/students in the past few years, AND I have to come to the conclusion that if you have been trying to change the organisations’ direction, you have FAILED… your way doesnt work and we – all of us, especially our children – have run out of time….

  17. The people at UOON are trying to save the unions that have been hijacked by a small cadre of prosti-suits who have sold the union (educators) down the river, while making backroom deals to maintain their own salaries and power structure. As for membership, I am, indeed, a member of the AFT and VP of my faculty union, but my first temptation if I were to meet Randi or Dennis is to spit in their faces before I tell them why.

    The future of unionism has to be based on the social justice mission that includes the rights of all people, rather than just Dennis, Randi, and their Rep Roundtables.

    1. I act in accord with the social justice mission. I differ over the jubilant eradication – spit in their eye strategy.

  18. While I think their email goes a bit too far, I wish more teachers within the AFT and especially the UT would also revolt against our current leadership aka UNITY. Chicago was able to do it with CORE. Randi has ties to both Gates and Broad. Our new evaluation system is a travesty. The provisions of the \’05 contract led to teachers becoming zombies instead of having classrooms of their own. They are known as ATRs and they are discriminated against daily with little to no union help. Randi gave Klein what he wanted on a platter. She did the worse to the DC teachers and the Colorado teachers by allowing VAM to dictate the future of their professions. Then she did it again in NYS by allowing 40% of the evaluation to really equal 100%.

    I know there are teachers in NYC also trying to enact change within the system, like MORE, GEM and ICE, but hopefully they understand the importance of a strong union. Change takes time and it also has to have some finesse.

    Last year at this time the NEA gave an early endorsement to Obama rather than fight the RTTT agenda. Teachers were angry. This email is full of anger, although justified, and therefore will backfire. Teachers better learn the fine art of communication if they wish to enact change. And demanding the union be dissolved does not constitute change. If this new group wants to succeed, then they can\’t act so radically and irrationally. The problem here is not so much the content, but the extremist nature of the message. I hope you can find a way to help them grow and mature.

  19. “Do not go gentle into that good night … Rage, rage against the dying of the light”

    Safe travels and Godspeed.

  20. As a union member who witnessed the bleating from Massachusetts Teachers Association leadership as they hurried us into the slaughterhouse built by Stand for Children in the name of ‘we are too weak’ and ‘this is the best we can do’, I am ready to demand new leadership or build a new union. I am also a bit astonished by the attack from this blog on the call by UOO. These are people who have a deep sense of the violence being inflicted on children by high stakes testing and the dangers of education reform. To accuse them of aligning with education reformers feels like an ugly rhetorical trick and not worthy of your commitment to a strong organized effort to defend public education. The problem with the leadership is not only that they continue to sell out in the name of having a place at the table. (These people need to read more Greek tragedy. Then they would know that they feed you before they kill you.) The leadership has failed because THEY have refused to organize the rank and file to fight back against the horrors of education reform. Here in Massachusetts, Paul Toner was telling local leaders NOT to give out information about Stand for Children while he was cutting the ugly deal. He undermined the potential organizing and then said that the rank and file would not support a fight. We need a fighting union, not one that panders to education reformers and the politicians of both parties who support them. We need to fight for a fighting union—time to take it back—or make it new. Here is Massachusetts some of us are organizing to do just that: fight for a fighting democratic union committed to social justice. The call by UOO draws a critical line in the sand. How many battles were lost because they were never fought? Organizing involves all kinds of strategies. I support this one.

  21. Fred, I understand your feeling of being attacked but as a 20-year member of the AFT and 11-year member of the NEA (here in FL we are members in both) and a former chapter leader (15 years) I’ve got to say that I, and most of the teachers in my district and state at least, are fed up with the both the NEA and the AFT.

    We don’t have time for the old-fashioned politicking of the yearly conventions. We are facing eradication of our very jobs and loss of our licenses after 3 years of low ratings based largely on the current FCAT testing regime that has been dogged with problems and scandals from day one. And yes, many of the “reforms” we are being forced to employ in our classrooms are harmful to children and their learning. We either comply or get fired. Offering a resolution from the floor of the convention won’t change that anytime soon.

    We could spend another couple of years jawboning, cajoling, building alliances, and offering weak-tea resolutions. By the time that happens we will be unemployed and teachers no more and therefore not members of the NEA and AFT anyway. The urgency we are facing doesn’t allow for traditional-style union politics. The UOON statement may be harsh but it rings true. There won’t be much of a membership left to play politics in a few years after these VAM firings start to decimate our numbers and the newly-passed “compromise” laws with ALEC and SF and all the other deform groups start to kick in with the NEA and AFT leadership’s blessing and imprimatur. If we aren’t employed we won’t be paying dues and the membership will plummet anyway. What power will the NEA and the AFT have then?

    If the leadership doesn’t wake up soon and change things very fast the membership out here in the classrooms facings annihilation will leave them behind and find another way to save ourselves. Desperate times call for desperate measures. It’s as simple as that. Seeing Randi Weingarten and Dennis Van Roekel taking money from, socializing with, agreeing with some of the most egregious statements/programs, and partnering with the very people who have orchestrated all the horrors that we are facing is more than a slap in the face and a call for drastic, immediate change.

    Think of the teacher in LA who committed suicide when his “poor” rating was published in the paper. Look at the teachers in NYC being hounded by the tabloids over their VAM scores. Look in the faces of teachers around the country who cry themselves to sleep at night and cry on the way to work every day because things really are that bad. Business as usual just won’t cut it any more.

    1. Brian,

      Thanks for your concern. My feelings aren’t hurt. I’ve been writing about the same issues you describe. As a local leader (unpaid) and always a classroom teacher for many, many years, I have battled both administration, the board and often my state and union leadership. In fact, they would be quite surprised to hear some of the accusations thrown at me these last few days.

      My issue is not over the urgency of the fight.

      But the fight within our unions must be led and fought by the members.

      Secondly, it must be fought to make our unions stronger, not to eradicate them.

      Third, it must be fought over issues and program, not simply slogans.

      And fourth, we always must distinguish between the members and the leaders, between those at the top and those at the bottom.

      And even the leaders must be given room to change.

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