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What the Demise of Hostess and Twinkies Mean for U.S. Schools

November 16, 2012

News of Hostess, the company that produces Twinkies, Wonderbread, and other food items close to the hearts of many Americans, has surely hit your ears or eyes by now. Although there’s more to the story, the company essentially called it quits because its current cost structure was no longer profitable. A large part of that unprofitable structure? Union wages and pension costs.

Well it just so happens that pension costs are also wreaking havoc on the traditional public education system in America. Spending on education is increasing while American students are falling behind, yet stories of teachers paying for supplies out of pocket still permeate the media, fueling this notion that any sort of cuts to education is just wrong. Stories of what is eating up large education budgets and why ever-increasing spending never actually reaches students, however, are few and far between.

The reality is the current cost structure of the U.S. education system is, like Hostess, no longer profitable, and it’s coming at the expense of taxpayers and students. At least Hostess can shut down and say enough is enough…

by Michelle Tigani

Borrowed Time

clock(Originally posted to the National Journal‘s Education Experts blog)

The common theme running through many (too many) teacher evaluation proposals is time. We need time to create new evaluations. We need time to observe a teacher (after taking the time to build them up). We need time to create a plan based on our observations. We need to give them time to prove they can get better (or not). We need time to figure out if they should be doing something other than teaching.

The problem with ‘borrowing time’ is that no one wants to quantify what that means – how much we need, how soon, and whether we really even need more to begin with.

Before ‘Race to the Top’, states grappled with the notion of paying teachers based on performance, and some attempted modest measures, but most fell short. ‘Race to the Top’ further encouraged evaluation systems, but guidelines conveyed no urgency and states needed simply to promise changes. Evaluation systems adopted have proved fuzzier than many originally thought. Now with budget struggles in states and more understanding that first-hired/last-fired policies actually harm kids (what a discovery!), state lawmakers on both sides of the aisle are pushing hard to put hard, firm measurements with consequences in place…

Read the entire post HERE.

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At Odds

takeoverAndy Rotherham (via Eduwonk) has some fun dissecting today’s New York Times article on the unionization process within two Brooklyn-based KIPP charter schools (“Teachers at 2 Charter Schools Plan to Join Union, Despite Notion of Incompatibility“):

First, Jeanne Allen of the Center for Education Reform says that “A union contract is actually at odds with a charter school.”  “Actually” is the wrong word there.  The more accurate way to say that would be, “could be.”  Why?  Well one example is the unionized and highly sucessful Green Dot Public Schools, another is KIPP Bronx, which has been unionized for some time.  And there are others, good and bad.  What matters is what’s in the contract not unionization per se.

Beyond the quote as printed, what I actually said was that unions and the charter CONCEPT are at odds. Green Dot (Andy’s example) created its own contract, one that works within its model (though results in NYC will be interesting). What KIPP schools are experiencing is the equivalent of a takeover, even disguised as a restructuring, where management will no longer be able to set the tone or culture of their schools. That might work for some teachers who believe their work conditions are the most important aspect of their school, but this move puts students second. This thinking is what brought us the system failure that, to date, un-co-opted charter schools have sought to correct.

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Unionization = Student Achievement?

knowledge

Knowledge is power, KIPP’s moniker, might need to be more aptly applied to the parent company’s involvement and understanding of local school issues. The knowledge of what was afoot in two more of their NYC schools to convince teachers there to unionize may have helped them avert the rising mediocrity that will no doubt color this otherwise No Excuses school model. One wonders what campaign was hatched to convince so many KIPPsters that a regulatory environment would be preferable to the freedom they now enjoy.

Union leaders in NYC blogging yesterday provide some clues:

In a letter delivered to co-principals Jeff Li and Melissa Perry this morning, the teachers said that they had decided to unionize in order to secure teacher voice and respect for the work of teachers in their school. We want “to ensure that the each day,” they wrote.

The letter stressed that the decision to organize was directly connected to the teachers’ commitment to their students. “ strong and committed staff,” the teachers wrote, “is the first step to student achievement.” Unionization, the teachers believe, will help create the conditions for recruiting and retaining such a staff.

“We organized to make sure teachers had a voice, and could speak their minds on educational matters without fearing for their job,” says KIPP AMP teacher Luisa Bonifacio.

“For us,” KIPP AMP teacher Emily Fernandez explains, “unionization is ultimately all about student achievement, and the ability of teachers to best serve students at this crucial middle school time in their education.”

Mutual respect and validation?

Unionization is all about student

Read More …

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