How Teachers Unions Lead the Way to Better Schools

Amy B. Dean

Amy B. Dean

by Amy Dean

Diane Ravitch upends the “bad teachers” narrative.

Part of what I object to is the assumption that somehow the problems in American education are all tied up with teachers. The teachers are causing low performance, and if we could just find the ideal teacher evaluation system, we would be the highest performing nation in the world. I think that’s a false narrative.

I have a concern: Teachers are getting pummeled. Too often, they are being demonized in the media and blamed by politicians for being the cause of bad schools. Right-wing governors, power-hungry mayors and corporate “reformers”—all ignoring root issues such as poverty and inequality—have scapegoated the people who have devoted their lives to educating our children. Moreover, these forces are seeking to destroy the collective organizations formed by educators: teachers unions.

The stakes for our country could not be more profound. The labor movement and the public education system are two critical institutions of American democracy. And they are two that go hand in hand. Teachers unions have played a critical role in advocating for public education, but you’d never know it from mainstream media coverage. Therefore, there is a great need to lift up this tradition and highlight the efforts of teachers to collectively push for top-notch public schools.

To figure out how we can push forward on this issue, I talked with Diane Ravitch, one of the country’s leading education historians and public school advocates. A professor at New York University, Ravitch is a former Assistant Secretary of Education and the author of several books, including 2010’s The Death and Life of the Great American School System: How Testing and Choice Are Undermining Education.

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Obama Administration assaults teachers unions

by Duane Campbell

The federal Department of Education directed by Secretary Arne Duncan has proposed rules for school reform money that would prevent states such as California and New York from receiving funds under the so-called “race to the top,”  a $4.3 billion dollar part of the federal stimulus act.

Secretary Arne Duncan has an enormous fund of money and great flexibility to invest in some schools to reform, particularly in the areas of most failing schools.  However, the rules require states to use student achievement data to rate teachers.  The federal Department of Education has proposed rules to prevent states with such laws from getting money from a $4.3 billion-educational innovation fund. Continue reading

Beating the Odds, Independent PR Teachers Union Trounces SEIU in Representation Election

By Micah Landau

The Puerto Rican Federation of Teachers (FMPR) has done the near-impossible: solidly defeating one of the world’s most powerful labor organizations in an election for representation of Puerto Rico’s 42,000 public school teachers.

In results from the election, which took place over the course of several weeks in October and announced on October 23rd, just 14, 675 teachers voted in favor of representation by the U.S.-based Service Employees International Union (SEIU), while 18,123 voted “no.” Because of its legally proscribed strike activities, FMPR was banned from participating, and instead orchestrated a “Vote No” campaign. Given estimates that some 2,000 “no” votes were stolen, the big plurality to reject affiliation is a stunning defeat for President Andy Stern and the rest of SEIU’s international leadership.

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Teachers Strike in Puerto Rico

Teachers in Puerto Rico walked off the job on February 21, Michael Hirsch wrote about  the background  a week before the strike.  Talking Union will have an update in the near future.

“Underpaid and dissed, Puerto Rico’s teachers may walk out in defiance of anti-strike ban”

After two years of failed negotiations with their Department of Education employers, Puerto Rico’s 32,000 public school teachers in the Teachers’ Federation of Puerto Rico (FMPR), the commonwealth’s largest union representing the bulk of the island’s 43,000 pedagogues, are mulling a strike. The issues: higher wages — the starting salary is $18,000 per year and teachers want an 18 percent raise — and better working conditions. Teachers also want decision-making power on class size and class schedules as well as repairs to much-neglected school buildings.

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