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Strike Means 350,000 Out Of School

“Chicago Teachers Go on Strike”
by Stephanie Banchero
Wall Street Journal
September 10, 2012

Chicago public-school teachers went on strike Monday, canceling classes in the nation’s third-largest school system, after marathon contract talks with city officials ended Sunday night without a deal.

The teachers’ strike is the first in Chicago in a quarter-century and the first in a big U.S. urban district since one in Detroit in 2006. It follows months of acrimony between the Chicago Teachers Union and Mayor Rahm Emanuel.

The city has canceled classes for some 350,000 students, though about 144 of its 681 schools were scheduled to open Monday, staffed by district workers, to provide breakfast, lunch and basic activities.

Karen Lewis, head of the Chicago Teachers Union, said it was a “difficult decision and one we’d hoped to avoid.”

She said the two sides weren’t far apart on wages but said they couldn’t agree on other issues, including health benefits and the new teacher-evaluation system.

David Vitale, president of the Chicago Board of Education, who was at the negotiating table, said the city offered teachers a 3% raise the first year and 2% annually for the next three years—which would cost about $400 million.

“We believe we have been as responsive as we know how and within our financial capability,” he said during a late-night news conference. “This is not a small commitment at a time when our financial situation is challenged.”

The conflict comes amid broader tension during the economic downturn between public-sector unions and state and local governments trying to plug budget gaps.

The Chicago battle has pitted Ms. Lewis, one of the country’s抯 most vocal labor leaders, against Mr. Emanuel, one of its most prominent mayors and the former White House chief of staff for President Barack Obama. The Democratic mayor has made efforts to overhaul the city’s public education a centerpiece

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Teachers Unions Demonstrate Real Agenda

Chicago Strike One More Indication That Rhetoric Rings Hollow

CER News Alert
Washington, D.C.
September 10, 2012

The teacher’s union leaders have, for the last few years, worked hard to correct the impression that their focus is on job protection, and that they, too, like the rest of the nation, are frustrated with the slow pace of school improvement. The alleged willingness of the unions to engage in conversations about teacher quality and to call for an end to failing schools has all been interpreted as a sign that they have turned the corner. Some of us have remained unconvinced, recognizing that many often confuse action with rhetoric. The Chicago teacher’s strike of 2012 settles the issue once and for all. Parents and students are left without the education their taxes support. Taxpayers in general are beholden to union demands that are focused on rights and protections, not on kids. Chicago remains among the worst performing school districts in the nation, yet instead of embracing the mayor’s rational, modest proposals to begin instituting limited performance evaluations, union leaders begin acting more like the Chicago thugs of old than the leaders they want to be considered today.

At a time when everyone in this nation is tightening belts, and with education the key to economic solvency, educators should be encouraged to stand up for accountability not ordered to strike over it.

This move by the American Federation of Teachers-affiliated Chicago Teachers Union proves the point that has been written about often: the fancy public relations ploys and rhetoric about quality is no substitute for action. The unions are thwarting even the most modest efforts to measure teacher quality. We said last year that New York’s much praised performance agreement with unions was unlikely to result in any substantive change and we were right. Just

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Daily Headlines for August 10, 2012

Rhee Is Wrong And Misinformed
CNN Blog, August 9, 2012

A few days ago, CNN interviewed former D.C. schools chancellor Michelle Rhee about American education. Rhee, predictably, said that American education is terrible, that test scores are flat, and that we are way behind other nations on international tests.

FROM THE STATES

ALABAMA

Alabama Shows Improvement On AYP
Montgomery Advertiser, AL, August 10, 2012

Thursday’s Adequate Yearly Progress numbers, the last Alabama will receive if it is successful in opting out of No Child Left Behind requirements, show modest statewide improvements in student proficiency and challenges for Montgomery County Public Schools.

CALIFORNIA

LAUSD Negotiate Revisions to Teacher Evaluations
Bell Gardens Sun, CA, August 9, 2012

By Dec. 4, teachers and principals in the Los Angeles Unified School District (LAUSD) will face revised performance evaluation criteria to comply with the California Stull Act that requires student progress data be used as part of the evaluation process.

Assembly Democrats Too Cowardly To Vote
San Gabriel Valley Tribune, CA, August 9, 2012

But then it came before the Assembly Education Committee, which shamefully bowed to the state’s powerful teacher unions and rejected the bill. All this took place while teacher union lobbyists communicated to committee members that they “were watching.”

DISTRICT OF COLUMBIA

Let Principals, Not Tests, Rate Teachers
Washington Post Blog, DC, August 9, 2012

The D.C. schools continue to be one of the worst places to learn and hardest places to teach in America , but its leaders are making sensible, if slow, changes in the right direction. The latest smart adjustments are in teacher evaluation.

FLORIDA

Polk Gets Approval For Six ‘Step Up Academy’ Charter Schools
The Ledger, FL, August 9, 2012

The Polk County School District got the go-ahead Thursday to open six charter schools for at-risk students.

Ormond Firm Elects To Redirect Taxes To Help Students
Daytona Beach News-Journal, FL, August 10,

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The Blob Remains a Roadblock

John Stossel reflects on what’s standing in the way of making the U.S. education system work better for all children — the “Blob.”

Jeanne Allen of the Center for Education Reform says that attempts to improve the government monopoly have run “smack into federations, alliances, departments, councils, boards, commissions, panels, herds, flocks and convoys that make up the education industrial complex, or the Blob. Taken individually, they were frustrating enough, each with its own bureaucracy, but taken as a whole they were (and are) maddening in their resistance to change. Not really a wall — they always talk about change — but more like quicksand, or a tar pit where ideas slowly sink.”

So don’t let officials who are part of the Blob fool you for touting a reform agenda (for example, a teacher’s union president), because chances are the changes they’re praising aren’t the substantive changes that will bring innovation and quality that the United States school system desperately needs.

Newswire: July 31, 2012

Vol. 14, No. 31

GONE FISHING. Well, actually, most of us don’t fish, at least not in the water, but we do need a breather and most of you are away anyway and not paying much attention to email. Those of you who are reading email (or at least this one) will be excited to know that when we return next week, it will be to share some exciting news with you about our future communications. While you’re still reading, however, be sure to check out…

LIONS AND TIGERS AND BEARS, OH MY! Many of us are so tired of hearing all the great publicity surrounding the new unionism and how progressive they are all getting, when actually and just as we’ve predicted, it’s all about the PR and not about the substance. Nowhere is this more clear than in AFT Union President Randi Weingarten’s speech to her annual confab in Detroit Friday. Forget the Kumbaya at the Olympics — for the AFT, Friday was another reason to divide and conquer. Read more about it here.

ALL THE NEWS THAT’S FIT TO PRINT? Sometimes. Fit or not, the Media Bullpen brings you real-time news from around the country, with a little commentary and a score board to help you get in the game of educating the public. While you’re waiting for our big announcement next week, be sure to keep your Browser on the Media Bullpen.

BATTER UP! Enjoy the week.

Lions, and Tigers, and Bears! Oh My!

Despite all the rhetoric that the unions are finally ready to embrace reform, AFT union prez Randi Weingarten took to the podium Friday at her group’s national convention in Detroit to lambast those who would dare challenge the status quo and to instill fear in her dwindling membership that there is a “new normal” that threatens their very existence with efforts to shift the old power structure from unions to individuals most affected by the system. This “new” regime (actually, Randi, it’s hardly new — we’ve been at work for more than 20 years!) wants testing, standards, choices and performance pay (Lions and Tigers and Bears, OH MY!)

Rather than ponder the atrocities outside the doors in Detroit where fewer than 9 percent of African-American kids graduate in 4 years, where reading scores are below 15% on a good day, and where families and school officials both are exiting for better learning environments (like the new schools starting there), Randi believes it’s not the system, but some bogeymen that are to blame.

“Sure, we can blame ALEC, or the Koch Brothers, or Eli Broad, or the Walton Foundation, or Mitt Romney—and we’d be right to do so.”

Never mind that with the exception of Walton, the aforementioned have had little to do with real education reform progress. If there’s blame to be had, put in on the hundreds of thousands of teachers and parents who have elected officials willing to buck the status quo, and who then create their own alliances, their own schools, their own choices, rather than wait for the AFT, NEA or other ed groups to fix the problems — again.

With a brighter option available to more people than every before, it’s that reform revolution that

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Newswire: July 3, 2012

Vol. 14, No. 27

NEVER GIVE UP. Perseverance fuels Washington state’s latest ballot drive to approve charter schools. So far, charters have failed at the ballot box in 1996, 2000 and 2004. But the landscape nationwide has changed; 41 states now permit charter schools and the concept has won fans from both sides of the aisle. Washington’s Initiative 1240 calls for 40 charter schools to open over a five-year period. Students would be selected via a lottery and only non-profits approved by the state would manage the charters. The local union cries foul because high donors are financing the signature drive. As if the NEA has never before heavily funded a campaign promoting its interests. A call out to Washington voters. You have until Friday to sign the petitions!

NEA’S DRAMATIC DROP IN MEMBERS. Nationwide, union membership is plummeting – down 100,000 since 2010 reports NEA President Dennis Van, who optimistically says they may be smaller, but stronger. Unlikely. USA Today observes that the decline goes hand-in-hand with the rise of choice and charters. Intriguing, too, that President Obama is sending his V.P. to address the diminishing throngs. Schedule conflict…or snub.

THAT WAS EASY. Long, drawn out contract negotiations are a thing of the past in Detroit, it appears. Roy Roberts, state-appointed emergency financial manager recently slammed down a contract, described as an “act of tyranny,” by the Detroit union leader. The terms have not yet been revealed, but the goal is to provide stability for the workforce while paying heed to the enormous debt incurred by the school system, factoring in shrinking enrollment, by 100,000 students, in the past 10 years. Tyranny also could be used to define the abysmal state of affairs far too many students are forced to endure in a system that couldn’t pick itself

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Newswire: June 12, 2012

Vol. 14, No. 24

CORBETT’S CRUSADE? Many are asking the big question- how is it that a candidate who ran and won on making school reform his first priority hasn’t been successful in achieving real reform since he’s taken office? Meanwhile, the Governor has weighed in on the debate on online schooling, criticizing the notion that online schools should be well-enough funded to provide choices that hundreds of parents use and demand. For almost 18 straight months the Corbett team has permitted the Republican House to ignore SB 1, a pathbreaking school choice bill that passed last year. Then, an effort to improve the state’s charter law to incorporate higher education in authorizing has been stalled by the status quo supporting school districts. The Governor is now taking aim at cyber charters as if cutting their funds will close the state budget gap. As Governor Corbett himself said at a school choice forum during the campaign, good education is the key to economic solvency. The Pennsylvania House adjourns June 30 but there is still time to do a real reform package, if the will is there.

“TEAR DOWN THIS WALL.” Today is the anniversary of the famous Reagan challenge to Gorbachev at the Bradenberg Gate, calling on the Russian leader to destroy the Berlin Wall that separated a country and kept half in abysmal conditions. How fitting that a similar wall holds back kids in the U.S. from social justice parity and, in Pennsylvania and elsewhere, stands as tall and solid as it was when many who were elected and promised to fight the status quo two years ago.

SWIFT BOAT OF REFORM. With far too many schools drowning academically, especially in Detroit, no wonder parent trigger is winding its way through the Michigan Legislature in order to make

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Newswire: June 5, 2012

Vol. 14, No. 23

WISCONSIN RE-CALL. Labor’s credibility is on the line today as voters in Wisconsin go to the ballot box for the gubernatorial recall election. Governor Walker’s all-out assault on collective bargaining sparked this most expensive election in the state’s history. Although most political pundits are giving the edge to Walker, voter turnout is key to the outcome. But, others suggest that if labor, including teacher unions, take a loss, it may not be as unexpected as thought…

LOVE’S LOST ON LABOR. Public opinion of teacher unions, even among teachers themselves, is on the wane. That’s according to a survey released by Harvard’s Program on Education Policy and Governance and the journal Education Next. Between 2009-2011, the annual poll found little movement, with about 40% of respondents neutral in their views of teacher unions. But, this latest poll finds unions losing ground. Among teachers surveyed, the drop is even more dramatic. In 2011, 58% of teachers had a positive view of unions, dropping to 43% in 2012. Teachers holding a negative view of unions nearly doubled during the same time period, from 17% to 32%, all of which could explain the NEA’s reported loss of 200,000 members by 2014. The researchers responsibly say the decrease in teacher support could be due to an opinion that unions are not doing their job in Legislatures nationwide, given the hard hits they have taken on benefits, evaluations, etc. However, they also note that dwindling teacher support could emanate from a realization that unions are putting up roadblocks to meaningful reform.

UNION LIP SERVICE. Given the results of this poll and reform trends nationwide, Washington Post columnist Jay Mathew’s characterization of union “tolerance” and support for charters and evaluations is befuddling at best. In a recent column on Obama

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A Paige In History

Coverage of Candidate Romney’s education plan received varying reviews. His agenda aside, newspapers also reported that Romney appointed an advisory team which included former Education Secretary Rod Paige. Yet rather than tell the readers something about Paige’s past accomplishments, the only thing numerous newspapers felt worthy to use as a descriptor is that Paige once called the NEA a “terrorist organization.”

Let’s start with the fact that he did so because during his tenure iN Washington, the NEA held hostage any legislator who didn’t agree with their viewpoints. This is not new for the leading labor union in the country, which politicians fear as they run for office. But those facts aside, the Post reported that “Romney’s Education Policy Advisory Committee includes several prominent opponents of teacher’s unions, including Paige, who as secretary of education in 2004 labeled the National Education Association a “terrorist organization.” No context. Zip. The AP story from which the Post clearly drew had the same.

Paige’s career as Houston TX superintendent is well regarded to this day, as is his tenure as the leader of a dramatic, bi-partisan reform plan that took shape amidst a 9/11 world. He’s an author, a contributor to numerous education efforts and a man worthy of much more than one phrase to describe his tenure.

All corners of the political spectrum should call on the press, bloggers included, to save the drama for the Style section and focus on the big ideas espoused by both candidates that will shape the outcomes in every classroom for every school-age student nationwide.

–Jeanne Allen, Founder and President of the Center for Education Reform

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