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July 17, 2009
Arne Duncan's push to change teacher laws posts Hoosier victory
Will Obama officials succeed in their mission to use the Race to the Top fund to re-write state education laws? The state of Indiana, where a recent down-to-the-wire budget session featured a teacher-evaluation mini drama, offers some clues. The drama began with pressure from the Obama administration to repeal a law banning the use of student test scores in teacher evaluations. Alarmed, state education officials lobbied the state legislature, and lawmakers acted, inserting a repeal of the law into the state's budget. But mere hours before the new budget passed, lawmakers at the state House removed the repeal at the request of the teachers' union. The final budget includes a roundabout compromise allowing districts to use student data to assess teachers — but only in cases where federal grant money requires it. "We had a clear message from the secretary [Arne Duncan] that we were putting our ability to compete for the Race to the Top Funds at risk," a spokesman for the Indiana Department of Education, Cam Savage, said. State Superintendent of Public Instruction Tony Bennett has communicated frequently with the federal education department about Indiana's strengths in the competition for grant funds, Savage said. Bans on using student test scores to assess teachers seem to be the next group of laws on the Department of Education's watch list. States and districts already took note after Obama administration officials used the threat of denying Race to the Top funds to push against state laws limiting the spread of charter schools. Lawmakers in at least eight states have passed or introduced legislation since the end of May to lift their charter caps.
July 13, 2009
On D.C. stage, Weingarten urges officials to work with unions
From Randi Weingarten's speech to a national union conference in D.C., where she is now being joined by Secretary of Education Arne Duncan at a town hall-style meeting: I hope you're as outraged as I am when our critics say that unions are part of the problem, not the solution; that we are only in it for ourselves; that we represent adults against kids; and that we are a selfish special interest set against the public interest. We won't let them take away our jobs. We won't let them cut our pay. We won't let them plunder our pensions. And I will be damned if I let them define who we are. Because nobody-nobody-goes into teaching to feather his or her own nest. And this union, which proudly works on its members' behalf, has always been about something bigger. That is why we fight-24/7/365-for the social and economic conditions that will help our students do better in school. Apparently pins being handed out to members say "with us, not to us." The conference, called QuEST, focuses on best practices for teaching and learning. Weingarten is the president of the American Federation of Teachers, and her term as president of the New York City union expires at the end of the month. Her full prepared remarks are below:
July 10, 2009
Have teachers' key labor battles already been won?
Regular commenter KitchenSink, a principal, sparked an interesting debate in the comments section by making this claim (emphasis added): The muckraking days are over,…
May 19, 2009
Tweed's top educator could leave to lead Delaware schools
Marcia Lyles, the deputy chancellor for teaching and learning, testifying at an Assembly hearing earlier this year. Marcia Lyles, the head of the city's teaching and learning department and one of only a handful of veteran educators who reports directly to Chancellor Joel Klein, could be on the brink of leaving the school system. The answer hinges on an announcement tonight by a school board in Delaware, where Lyles and one other candidate are vying for the job of superintendent. The board of the Christina School District, a semi-urban, 17,000-student district comprising parts of two of Delaware's three largest cities as well as some suburbs, has narrowed down a cast of contenders to two finalists: a longtime Delaware educator who is now serving as acting superintendent and Lyles, a Harlem native who has worked in the city's public school system since the 1970s. Lyles would not confirm that she has been offered the job, but a member of the Christina teachers union, Harrie Ellen Minnehan, told me that rumors are flying in Delaware that Lyles will be announced as the new superintendent tonight — against the desires of teachers and principals, many of whom favor the Delaware candidate.
May 15, 2009
Highly anticipated UFT, Green Dot contract is on the way
The highly anticipated teachers' contract for the Green Dot charter school in the South Bronx, which has been heralded as an innovative collaboration between a Los Angeles-based charter school operator and the union president Randi Weingarten, is expected to be finalized as soon as today. The contract is being closely watched for signs of just how flexibly Weingarten is willing to negotiate a teachers' contract — eagerly by supporters of looser protections for teachers, and with gritted teeth by veterans who believe strong job security is crucial. The original Green Dot charter schools in Los Angeles raised many veterans' eyebrows here because the schools' contracts do not include the concept of "tenure" for more senior teachers. The contracts do guarantee teachers protections against unfair dismissal. Steve Barr, the charismatic leader who founded Green Dot, told me Wednesday that he expects a contract by the end of the week. "It should be finalized this week; I would be very surprised if it's not," Barr said. Barr has said in the past that he expects the New York contract to be similar to the one negotiated in Los Angeles.
April 22, 2009
Most schools already meeting the mayor's call to service
Part of the million pennies raised by schools through Penny Harvest. Photo from ##http://insideschools.blogspot.com/search?q=%22penny+harvest%22##Insideschools##. City principals will have to submit plans in October explaining how they’ll meet the Mayor Bloomberg's new service requirement for schools, but it shouldn't be an onerous task for most of them. Most schools, particularly at the high school level, already engage in some service, according to Department of Education spokeswoman Kerri Lyon. At Manhattan Bridges High School in Midtown, for example, students have always been required to log 40 hours of service before they graduate, Principal Mirza Sanchez Medina told me yesterday. Other schools announced service initiatives this week that were planned before Bloomberg's announcement: Students from the Academy of Urban Planning and the Bushwick School for Social Justice planted 16 trees in between their campuses in honor of Earth Day, and kids at Harlem’s PS 57 pitched ideas for community-improvement grants to Scholastic’s Be Big Fund. For the many schools that already engage in service, the mayor's initiative should expand the number of volunteer options available to students, Lyon said. And schools that have never participated in service before can start slowly, such as by joining Penny Harvest, the popular program where kids donate pennies to charities of their choice, she said.
April 2, 2009
Charter schools won't have to pay union wages on construction
Charter schools will not have to pay union wages on construction projects, as New York’s Department of Labor had ordered them to do, a state…
March 30, 2009
One KIPP Academy employee did ask for the union's help
One confusing point in the ongoing saga between the KIPP charter schools and the city teachers union is exactly how many KIPP teachers actually want to belong to the union. While 16 teachers at the KIPP AMP school in Brooklyn submitted cards to the state labor board saying they want to join the United Federation of Teachers, at least one of those teachers changed her mind after submitting the card, and teachers at two other KIPP schools the union has tried to represent are resisting the push. Yoav Gonen described the union's effort at those schools as "meddling" in today's New York Post. But add at least one more person to the ranks of KIPP teachers who are actively seeking union help: A staff member on the payroll of KIPP Academy, one of the original KIPP schools, who turned to the union after the charter school network allegedly decided to move him to a new school and dock his pay. The teacher detailed his complaint in a January letter asking KIPP Academy's principal, Blanca Ruiz, for a meeting where he would be represented by a UFT official. The union sent me the letter but whited out the name of the teacher who filed the grievance, and the union did not make him available for an interview.
March 11, 2009
After Obama's speech, AFT highlights a program in Indiana
It's one thing for Randi Weingarten, the teachers union president, to say she's behind President Obama's reform mission to track teacher performance — as long as he gets the details right. It's another for her to lay out what those details are. That's what her national union, the American Federation of Teachers, did today, by way of a press release from Anderson, Indiana. Yeah, I've never heard of Anderson either, but apparently teachers there passed a program that will mentor struggling teachers — and give evaluations that point out their strengths and weaknesses. “PAR is an example of an innovative, successful union-led education reform,” said Dal Lawrence. “It shows just how inaccurate the stereotype is that teacher unions are anti-reform or anti-accountability.” Here's the full release, which is from the Anderson union but was sent to me by the national press shop:
March 6, 2009
Arne Duncan avoids taking a side in the KIPP vs. AFT debate
Secretary of Education Arne Duncan weighed in yesterday on the debate over whether the KIPP charter school in Brooklyn, KIPP AMP, should unionize, as…
February 25, 2009
State teachers union will now represent lifeguards
New York State United Teachers, the state chapter of the city teachers union, just announced that the union is on the brink of adding about 500 1,200 lifeguards into its fold. The lifeguards used to belong to another union, but they sought out NYSUT hoping it would offer "stronger representation," according to the press release below. Most of NYSUT's 600,000 members are teachers (and most of those are in New York City) but the union also represents some groups that aren't affiliated with schools, including hospital nurses, group home workers, and day care providers. Read background on how lifeguards got unionized here. Here's the NYSUT press release: Lifeguards join NYSUT seeking a voice, better pay & improved safety ALBANY, N.Y. February 25, 2009 — Along with their whistles, sun block and rescue buoys, some 1,200 state lifeguards, including nearly 500 who protect beachgoers on Long Island’s shores, will be carrying something else on their stands this summer — a NYSUT union card. New York State United Teachers announced today that state-employed lifeguards who protect pools, lakes and beaches from Lake Erie to Montauk are affiliating with the 600,000-member union. The NYSUT Board of Directors will formally vote to accept the new local union — known as the New York State Lifeguard Corps — on Saturday, ending a nearly six-year legal odyssey that started when lifeguards began seeking better pay, improved training and safety equipment, and a voice in their working conditions.
February 12, 2009
Union: KIPP charter leaders are waging an intimidation campaign
The city teachers union is accusing the elite KIPP charter school network of waging an intimidation campaign against teachers who are trying to unionize. The dispute began in January, when teachers at a Brooklyn KIPP school shocked the charter school world by petitioning to join the powerful United Federation of Teachers. At the time, Dave Levin, KIPP’s cofounder and the superintendent of its New York City schools, indicated that he was open to working with the union — even though many KIPP supporters oppose working with unions, which they argue block schools’ ability to teach at-risk urban students by imposing strict work rules on schools. (KIPP stands for the Knowledge is Power Program.) Now, the union is accusing Levin of urging teachers not to unionize and painting a bleak picture of what will happen if they do. The accusations are cataloged in two complaints the UFT sent to the state labor board in the last nine days arguing that KIPP is improperly blocking teachers’ ability to unionize. The latest complaint, filed Wednesday, adds to complaints first aired in a Sunday New York Times story reporting that KIPP is resisting the teachers' organizing drive. The complaints accuse a KIPP human resources official of telling teachers that he is concerned that the Brooklyn school will lose its affiliation with the KIPP network if they organize; they accuse the school's founding principal, Ky Adderley, of sitting in the hallway every day to monitor teachers, and they accuse Levin of making a rare attendance at a staff meeting to encourage teachers to reverse their decision to unionize. Levin and a KIPP spokesman did not return telephone messages requesting comment today.
February 4, 2009
KIPP management so far hasn't recognized teachers' campaign
A page from a manual helping charter school leaders resist unionization. Labor-management relations may be off to a rocky start so far at KIPP AMP, the Brooklyn charter school where teachers shocked the charter school community last month by petitioning to join the powerful United Federation of Teachers. The trouble is that KIPP management has so far declined to recognize the teachers' petition, something the leaders have 30 days to do — or else defer to a more contentious process, the state labor board. Allowing the labor board to decide whether to recognize the petitions opens the door for KIPP to make a legal case against unionization. The 30-day period ends next Thursday. It is not clear why KIPP is not recognizing the petitions, or whether the charter school network will do so by Thursday. Union officials said they recently sent the charter school network a reminder letter, restating the 30-day deadline, but KIPP has still not recognized. Dave Levin, the KIPP co-founder and superintendent of New York City KIPP schools who will have to make the final decision, has not returned my requests for comment. Briscoe Smith, the senior vice president and counsel at a Manhattan-based foundation that helps charter schools fight unions (and is loathed by the UFT), said he has not consulted with KIPP. But he said it is possible for managers to challenge workers' efforts to unionize.
January 28, 2009
A prediction on who the major players will be in control debate
This interesting comment went over the New York City public school parents list serve yesterday, from Robert Bowen, a parent of grown public school children…
January 23, 2009
How teacher layoffs would happen, if they come, which they could
A week from today, Mayor Bloomberg plans to release his proposed budget for the next fiscal year. Yesterday, though, he was in Albany to…
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