America supports red state teacher revolt and wildcat strikes. We don’t support testing for teacher evaluation.

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The Associated Press-NORC Center for Public Affairs Research has a poll out today that may surprise some, but not me.

The poll demonstrates that the public agrees that teachers aren’t paid enough and would pay higher taxes to remedy the situation.

A majority supports the walk-outs and wildcat strikes that have swept across the south and west from West Virginia to Arizona.

On April 19, 2018, teachers in Arizona voted to walk off the job to demand increased school funding, joining the movement for higher teacher pay that began in February in West Virginia and has spread to Kentucky, Oklahoma, and Colorado. In a recent survey conducted by The Associated Press-NORC Center for Public Affairs Research, 78 percent of Americans say teachers in this country are underpaid, but fewer approve of walkouts by teachers to demand pay raises and increased school funding.

Fifty-two percent approve of teachers striking to protest low teacher pay and school funding cuts, while 25 percent disapprove and 22 percent neither approve nor disapprove.

When asked about how teachers should be compensated, most said that it should be based on training and education levels.

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Not student test scores.

This flies in the face of current so-called reform efforts.

 

How many angry Kentucky teachers will follow the KEA back to into school?

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Hundreds of angry teachers closed schools across Kentucky a week ago Friday. They called in sick to protest the pension theft bill that passed through the Kentucky legislature earlier that week.

From the eastern half of the state bordering West Virginia to the northern region near Ohio, 29 school districts were unable to hold classes.

Monday, the start of Spring Break, thousands of teachers protested at the Kentucky capitol, a part of the national teacher revolt that started in West Virginia and has since hit Oklahoma and Arizona as well as Kentucky.

National union leaders seemed to be as caught off guard by the rank and file revolt as were the state’s politicians. Much of what has gone on has been organized through Facebook and closed on-line groups of local teachers and education employees.

National Democrats are hoping to use the teacher revolt against Republicans in the November election. On the other hand they are conflicted about being connected to teacher unions and the verbal support has been tepid. No national Democrat has personally shown up in support of any of the states’ teacher revolts.

Kentucky teachers are supposed to return to classrooms this Monday morning.

The Kentucky Education Association met this past weekend in a state meeting and voted to return to work.

Teacher strikes are illegal in Kentucky.

But the movement of rank and file teachers has not entirely united around the instructions of the historically feckless KEA.

Nema Brewer has emerged as a rank and file leader among classified (non-teaching) school employees. She established the group KY 120 United. 

For weeks, teachers across Kentucky have taken to platforms such as Facebook to vent their frustrations over not just a trying legislative session, but over years of perceived disrespect toward their profession.

Some of the coordination has taken place within “secret” Facebook groups, where only teachers and other school-based staff are allowed to join. At least three such groups have sprung up over the past month, including the largest, “KY 120 UNITED,” which Brewer created. 

But as more teachers find solidarity online, the inevitable has occurred: In a group of thousands of people, not everyone agrees on the best step forward. Online posts reveal a growing fissure among the state’s educators.

While some have pushed for a statewide sickout similar to the one that shut down nearly 30 school districts on March 30, others have questioned what that would accomplish.

“I’m not calling in sick unless there is some kind of plan to go along with it. We’ll lose the public if school closes for no reason,” read one post in a secret group viewed by Courier Journal.

Brewer said similar discussions are taking place in the Facebook group she created, which, as of Friday, had more than 39,000 members. 

Speaking with one Kentucky teacher this weekend I was told, “The sickout may happen in Jefferson County where there is a shortage of substitutes. Combined with some teachers who are angry,  the Jefferson County schools may have to close because the Governor has indicated we will lose our sick days as a result of the ‘reform.'”

This Kentucky teacher told me, “I support Nema. We come at this from slightly different angles. She is from the classified group. I am a teacher. But we are both on a sinking Titanic,” he said, referring to the Kentucky school system.

Thursday. West Virginia teachers have not cooled off.

West Virginia schools were supposed to be open today after a one-day cooling off period.

They are still closed.

After a promise by the governor of a one-year 5% pay raise for teachers but no promises on the sky-rocketing cost of health care, the offer did not satisfy thousands of teachers who had already been willing to challenge the law banning strikes and had walked off the job last week.

In 2016, when the West Virginia legislature ended collective bargaining in the state, the current chaos impacting students, families and teachers could have been predicted.

The West Virginia law against public employee strikes and without a legal process to resolve differences, the 2016 law has come back to bite West Virginia’s political leadership in the ass.

Yes. Workers can always withdraw their labor.

Nobody can force us to work.

But the process of collective bargaining – including the right to strike – gives labor greater power to define and negotiate for their interests.

Illinois is a good example.

Prior to 1983 public employees had no state law that allowed for collective bargaining.

For years the state’s public employee unions rejected any collective bargaining law that included a ban on the right to strike.

In 1983 the environment had changed. Mayor Richard Daley, who had always opposed public employee collective bargaining because it undermined patronage, was dead. Harold Washington, who was pro-labor, was Mayor. Democrats controlled both state house chambers and there was a moderate Republican governor who also aligned with the state’s public employee unions.

Collective bargaining laws – including the right to strike – were enacted.

Guess what?

The number of strikes by public employees decreased because the right to collective bargaining gave labor a voice in the process.

The teachers in West Virginia have demonstrated great courage and militancy in the face of difficult odds.

But kids are not in school.

Teachers are not in classrooms.

And the political leaders in West Virginia have nobody to blame but themselves.

 

Quincy, Illinois teachers and staff ready to walk. IELRB posts state-wide current bargaining status.

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Teachers and support staff in Quincy, Illinois have been pushed to the point of establishing a strike deadline of November 20th if no agreement in collective bargaining is reached.

In its posting, QF (The Quincy Federation of Teachers) stressed that the issues are more than compensation, but what is best for students.

“Our negotiating team began these talks in late spring asking for limits on the number of students in each classroom and on caseloads, extended planning time and less paperwork, and meetings taking place outside of the work day,” the QF posting said. “With these items in place, teachers would be able to provide more individual attention to each student, as well as have time to plan and execute quality instruction.”

At the same time, QF said its members are asked to take on more responsibilities, but are not compensated, and the union sought a “fair wage” for hourly employees as a step toward attracting and retaining high-quality staff, providing high-quality professional development, and improving teaching and learning conditions.

“Our students deserve licensed staff and support staff that allow diverse learners to achieve their highest potentials,” the QF posting said. “The board is not listening to the union on these issues, and that is why we still do not have a contract.”

Bargaining status of all other Illinois school districts can be found on the State of Illinois Education Labor Relations webs site.

Chicago is a union town. Public schools and charter schools prepare for a shut down.

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“The Chicago Teachers Union is the most democratic union in the country,” President Karen Lewis told the crowd at The Girl Talk with Erika Wozniak and Jen Sabella last week.

It wasn’t boasting. And it really wasn’t a criticism of anyone else.

She was responding to the Chicago Tribune’s laughable  editorial attacking the second time Chicago union teachers voted strike authorization. The Tribune compared the CTU to North Korea.

Whatever.

The clock is ticking on the strike deadline of Tuesday.

As a result of a law that the state teacher unions, the IFT and the IEA, supported, the CTU and CPS can only bargain and the CTU can only legally strike over salary and benefits.

It was the same law that requires the CTU to get no less than 75% of their members  to authorize a strike.

It was the same law that links teacher evaluation to individual student test scores.

And it undermined teacher seniority and tenure rights.

And that was the law the IFT and the IEA supported as, in the words of IEA Executive Director Audrey Soglin, teacher-driven reforms.

“They did us a favor,” President Lewis laughingly said. “It requires us to mobilize our members.”

Trust me. Lewis doesn’t think SB 7 did them any favors.

It is also why there is so much talk about the 7% pension pickup and the ridiculous claim by the board  and the Mayor that what they have so far offered is a pay increase when it is a pay cut.

But don’t believe for a moment that the discussion at the bargaining table isn’t about class size, support services and adequate staffing, no matter what the law says.

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UNO union teachers prepare for first charter teachers strike in the country.

Meanwhile Chicago – the union town – is facing the first strike by charter school teachers in the history of the United States.

Teachers at the large and scandal-ridden UNO Charter chain voted overwhelmingly to strike October 19th if a contract isn’t agreed to.

The vote was nearly unanimous with 531 out of 532 unionized ACTS members voting to authorize a walkout.

Who was the one no vote? It doesn’t really matter, does it?

“Our members have overwhelmingly voted to send a strong message to management that they need to step up and do the right thing for our kids and our schools. Now it’s management’s turn to show their dedication to the employees they claim to value — and the students whose lives are in their hands,” Erica Stewart, a fifth-grade teacher at the Sandra Cisneros UCSN campus in Brighton Park and a member of the bargaining team told the Sun-Times.

 

East St. Louis teacher strike continues. Silence from the board.

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UPDATE – 10/9/2015 –

East St. Louis Federation of Teachers available to meet, but the district remains silent

Statement from the East St. Louis Federation of Teachers:

The union bargaining team is available to meet at any time to sit back down at the bargaining table and reach a compromise. The union side has been the only one to call for a meeting.  Since the strike began, the district team has not asked us to meet with them. In fact, Superintendent Culver has refused to make any counter offer or new proposal to end the strike. His priority needs to be on a compromise that gets our students back in school. The district team needs to come to the bargaining table with the authority to reach a settlement.

You can now use this link to donate to the East St. Louis Federation of Teachers Strike Fund and take a moment to sign this petition urging the Superintendent to negotiate a fair contract now.

McHenry board backs down on health insurance.

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In what appears to be some common sense on the part of the McHenry, Illinois school board, they have reconsidered their decision to cut off health insurance.

We had reported earlier that a union member who had just given birth and was fighting cancer and on leave FMLA leave had her insurance coverage revoked.

I’m glad to report that the board has reconsidered.

This from the teachers union in McHenry:

As of this morning, the association received verbal confirmation that insurance for all members will be reinstated. Last night, members of the Board of Education reconsidered the path that had been taken on insurance and righted this wrong. We appreciate their willingness to change their minds and show a clear display of good will. That said, we truly appreciate the outpouring of support from our community as well. We cannot do this without you.

McHenry board cancels health insurance of striking teachers.

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Schools remain closed with no bargaining scheduled until Thursday in McHenry, an hour northwest of Chicago. By Thursday, McHenry schools will have been closed for one week.

The McHenry teachers are fighting to preserve their salary schedule.

In a heavy-handed move that can only be described as cruel and heartless, the board has cut-off health insurance to the striking teachers.

We have saddening news to share with all of you. While we as teachers understand and accept the risks involved with a strike, there are several teachers that have not participated in the process due to the Family Medical Leave Act (FMLA). The School Board chose to cancel all of our Health Insurance policies (including those on FMLA) as of October 1st. This is truly disheartening for our members. For those out on FMLA, this is devastating. One of our members is currently fighting the battle of her life against breast cancer. She discovered this disease while pregnant with her 3rd child. She chose to fight for herself and her child, finding a way to fight the cancer and save the life of her baby. This situation has a tragic sense of irony as the School Board chose Breast Cancer Awareness Month to cancel her insurance plan. She gave birth to a healthy beautiful baby girl on October 2nd. Her fight continues.

We understand that this negotiation procedure is emotional and challenging for all stakeholders. But, there is no need to lose our humanity in the process. We had hoped that compassion and understanding would win out. We ask the board to reconsider penalizing those staff members that are on FMLA.

What many board members fail to realize is that often times strikes happen. It is a part of the collective bargaining process.

Unless their objective is to bust the union rather than come to a fair agreement, then the strike will be settled at some point, hopefully soon.

Actions like cutting health insurance will only poison the atmosphere between the teachers and the board for years to come.