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Home » Newswire Weekly » Newswire – April 24, 2018

Newswire – April 24, 2018

UNIONS STAGE WALKOUTS. In case you hadn’t heard, the national teachers’ unions are staging/pushing for teacher walk outs across the country. In case theyhadn’t heard, the nation’s report card says less than 50 percent of our kids are proficient in the basics – with the percentages being dramatically less if you’re a minority or at-risk student. The exception to this persistent years-long rule can be found in the states that have seen dramatically more opportunities offered to kids…

LIKE ARIZONA — where charter students boast larger NAEP gains than any state. Ironically, despite this success, teachers are being pressured to walk out, even among the leading charter schools. This was anything but organic – In fact, West Virginia labor leaders claim to have inspired Arizona’s walk out this week.

BUT IN COLORADO…  Scores have remained stagnant and the achievement gap unacceptably wide. In fact, Colorado is near the bottom of states in making progress in closing that gap. Despite that, teachers across Colorado are also planning walkouts. Their gripe is funding. It should be achievement.

A friend in Colorado shared a letter from the Douglas County School District, excerpted below.

“…teachers across Colorado are attending rallies at the State Capitol later this week to call for increased education funding. Many districts decided late last week to close school on either Thursday, April 26 or Friday, April 27. We have been monitoring time-off requests carefully over the last few days. Yesterday, requests increased significantly, such that there are not enough substitutes in the system to cover all classrooms across our district.

“As a result, our neighborhood, magnet and alternative schools will be closed on Thursday, April 26. District charter schools, that manage their own staffing, will remain open and operating on a normal schedule. [Editors note:  we would like to repeat that last sentence. “District charter schools, that manage their own staffing, will remain open and operating on a normal schedule.”] …we recognize that this presents challenges for many of our families. However, with over 500 of our educators out, we will simply not be able to provide a safe and effective learning environment for all of our students.

“WANT TO KNOW WHEY THEY ARE STRIKING?” According to the Denver Post It’s about pay and benefits and spending of course.  (The Post doesn’t mention the four-day school week that more than half of schools now have in CO, by the way.) Nor is there coverage anywhere about the “School-Staffing Surge,” the phenomenon that has dominated US public schools for more than 50 years. It goes like this: “Public schools grew staffing at a rate four times faster than the increase in students over that time period. Of those personnel, teachers’ numbers increased 252 percent while administrators and other staff experienced growth of 702 percent, more than seven times the increase in students.” And the number of teachers since prior to NCLB have grown more than twice that of students!

BUT THERE’S MORE TO IT THAN EVEN THAT.  We agree that “There’s an important conversation to be had about teacher pay, benefit costs, and how to attract and honor terrific teachers — and pay fairly professionals who put in a solid day’s work,” as one of the nation’s leading education policy experts Frederick Hess of the American Enterprise Institute posits. “And, like many, we think the gains that Oklahoma’s teachers have now won are reasonable and appropriate.

But it appears that, even more than in the case of West Virginia — where teachers returned to work with a comparatively Spartan 5 percent pay bump — Oklahoma’s walkout is quickly becoming detached from efforts to ensure that dollars are spent responsibly. When teachers who have already claimed a massive win are shuttering schools over demands for retiree cost-of-living-adjustments and the need to “staff-up” other state agencies, it seems farfetched to say that student concerns are still front and center.”

Let’s be clear: The unions want to make teacher pay a defining issue. But it’s not, or at least it shouldn’t be. The defining issue is educational excellence. Pay should not simply be an award for time spent at a job. But few teachers are paid for their success or for being great educators. They’re paid for their longevity, based on fixed pay scales designed to achieve “fairness” instead of reward excellence. It’s a system that’s been legislated and lobbied for by the unions (and which has helped massively in sustaining the unions) who are now urging protests – not to improve education, or reward excellence – but to, simply, increase teacher pay.

FINALLY, IN PUERTO RICO TOMORROW…  teachers will walk out to protest not pay but the introduction of choices for kids trapped in failing schools. These walkouts are hardly spontaneous uprisings by local teachers. Indeed, AFT President Randi Weingarten was overheard “…plotting a teachers’ strike to shut down schools in Puerto Rico…” Yes, you heard it right, as did all her fellow Amtrak passengers who were able to hear her surprisingly unguarded cellphone conversation with an unknown co-conspirator. The gist of the story is that Weingarten was calling for teachers to use personal and sick days, not for their intended purposes, but to stage a strike, which she cautioned should not be called a “strike” but, rather, union members serving as “human shields for kids.” Read about it here.

ONE MORE THING.  These latest union-led shenanigans are, in part, what the Janus case that’s before the U.S. Supreme Court (and Friedrichs before that) is all about. If you’re a teacher and you don’t agree with what the union is doing, and how it’s using the money it takes from you in dues: tough!  You have to pay up anyway. A ruling in favor of Janus would change that miscarriage of fairness and justice.