Wednesday, June 30, 2010

Article of interest

Below is an interesting editorial on teacher contract negotiations.

Summertime but Seattle Public Schools and its teachers union won't rest easy
Contract talks between Seattle Public Schools and its teachers union ought to feature less Sturm und Drang and more collaboration around stark new economic realities.

By Lynne K. Varner
Seattle Times editorial columnist


  1. I hope you're keeping track of the comments calling Lynne to task for one more misrepresenting the situation... as I hope you are watching the comments on the Save Seattle Schools Blog thread re this article... as I hope you're watching the numbers on this informal poll being run by the Queen Anne News Online re the Super's performance approval rating... 71% of people who've bothered to vote think she's doing a poor job...

    Why dont you report that out to the communities you claim to be in partnership with?

    Why dont you report that back to your funders?

    Why dont you take notice of the fact that 12 school staffs have now voted no confidence in the super and 376 individuals have also: ?

    Why don't you work with us parents to get what we want happening in our school district for our kids, instead of being a front, a puppet and bully pulpit for the Billionaire Boys' Club?

    And dont tell me you are really, that your proof is the links you've made with disadvantaged communities... With no wish to be disrespectful, many of these communities have no idea what damage RTTT and the reform agenda will do to their kids... they've been sold PR/marketing spin and what they want to hear....

  2. Editorial is right on! Time for the unions to stop digging in and giving good teachers a bad name.

  3. The problem isn't that the teachers won't join the Reform movement. The problem is that the Reform movement made all of the decisions without the teachers. The Reform movement locks out the teachers and then chides them for not participating. How disingenuous.

  4. It's really the union, not the teachers themselves. There are plenty of teachers who want to help lead the Reform movement. Some have voted with their feet and either left teaching or went to private or charter schools.

    The teachers' union officials had decades to lead Reform, but they spent all that time fighting any hint of it. Now Reform has momentem and is going to roll over their sorry behinds.

    It reminds me of the butter vs margarine case study. The butter makers fought tooth and nail to squelch the newcomer margarine. Instead of actually taking part of the margarine market by making it themselves, the butter makers kept fighting until they have lost. Look at the shelves now and how little shelf space butter occupies. I'm sure there are other examples out there and I think the teachers' union will be another in about 10 years.

  5. Butter and margarine? Seems like a silly analogy- especially given all the unforeseen, later proven harms of trans fats.

    Anyhow, I do agree that there is sometimes a difference between the "teachers" and the "union". I would not say that the union had decades to steer the reform. They have been under fire for ages. A Nation at Risk was published in 1983, and the voucher push dates back to Milton Friedman's work in the mid 1950's. So teachers, schools and public ed have been challenged, sometimes with open hostility, for a half century. I think it's very difficult to simultaneously participate in the system (public school teaching) while building a new and improved system. Maybe the Union hasn't done a good job guiding and enabling their members to do both. Still, plenty of union actions benefit students as individuals and education over all- class size, support services, material availability... The unions may change shape, but I would hope they, and their experienced and inspired members, gain prominence in any reform discussions and actions.

  6. Re F4K's rather odd analogy...

    I eat butter, not marg...

    As my wise old mother used to say, the more you mess with nature, the more you tinker, the more you extract and substitute (with unproven ingredients) to cut costs and/or to introduce more products from which to profit, the more you upset the balance and create toxicity...

    I prefer natural, organic, seasonal foods myself, blemishes and all... the thing that reformers dont seem to want to allow for is time... children are all unique beings who need time and careful attention to mature into and realise their potential... just like plants... and they each have a season, particular to themselves...

    Contrary to the business reform model's basic belief, successful education is not scaleable and one method will not suit all children precisely because we are dealing with millions of unique, living individuals ... we are not factory farming chickens and pigs and cows (though that is what our schools and curriculum and school lunches increasingly appear to be doing) or producing machines...

    But then a business-based reform model also has built into it its structure, financial structure an acceptable level of loss/write off.... not so bad if we are talking about widgets, bad but not necessarily outrage-producing if we are talking about livestock raised for food, but completely unconscionable if we are talking about children...

  7. Why should the teachers' union participate in the reform movement? Do we expect the auto workers' union to lead the effort to reduce emmisions or improve fuel efficiency? The union has a function - to protect and improve teachers jobs, pay, benefits, and working conditions. That's it. It is unreasonable to expect the unions to take any action - let alone lead it - outside of their function.

    That said, anyone who is looking to make radical changes to the work of teaching should bring the unions in on the design of the changes and bring them in early. The failure or refusal to do so is simply stupid and arrogant. That's the Reform Movement. To expect the unions to jump in participate with a process they were locked out of shaping is also stupid. That's the Seattle Times.

  8. What has the union done to improve academics for children? What have they done to promote innovation? Why aren't they leading the charge to remove ineffective and down right destructive teachers? Who in the hell is going to improve the current state of public education? Are you happy with the way things are? If not, what ideas do you have to improve things? How do you know they will work for every kid? Charlie and Sahila, when is the last time you had to hire and manage teachers?

  9. Why is it the union's job to improve academics for children? Why is innovation the union's job?

    Will the State Superintendent, the School Board, and the Superintendent give the union this assignment, ask them to make these changes, and then accept the changes they make?

    As the last time I hired and managed teachers, what difference does that make? I can't hit a major league slider, but that doesn't mean I can't tell a good major league batter from a poor one.

    As for ideas to improve things, I have offered dozens. How about you?

  10. Charlie until you actually have to do the job of working with teachers and union rules, you're just speculating. Union contracts stifle innovation.

  11. I'm not speculating. I posed questions that FightingForKids couldn't or wouldn't answer.

    It is not the union's job to offer innovative ways to structure Districts or schools. Nor is it the union's job to improve academics for children.

    Don't confuse the teachers with the union.

    As for the contracts stifling innovation, I would remind you that there are two parties to every contract. It would be just as fair to say that District labor contracts stifle innovation.