Tuesday, May 24, 2011

FWEA Bargaining UPdate Meeting

FWEA will host a mass FWEA member meeting Thursday, May 26 at 4:15 pm at the Anthis Career Center Auditorium. Please bring a photo ID and sign in. Updates on the Indiana's new education legislation and bargaining information will be shared.

Thursday, May 12, 2011

Tony Bennett's Doctoral Dissertation- Article by Doug Martin

By: Doug Martin Wednesday May 11, 2011 6:49 pm

Indiana Superintendent of Public Instruction Tony Bennett sees teachers and their unions as worse than Staphylococcus aureus (MRSA) snaking throughout the locker rooms and hallways of Indiana’s public school buildings. Yet, after setting out on his pilgrimage to prove in his doctoral dissertation that teachers’ unions were negatively influencing Indiana education, the former principal and basketball coach stumbled across a rude awakening. His research suggested the direct opposite.

In The Effects of Just Cause Contract Language on Teacher Dismissals in Indiana Between 1999-2004, Bennett (2005) discovered that school corporations in the Hoosier state “have not encountered measurable resistance by teachers’ unions against their recommendations to dismiss teachers” (p. iii). Additionally, Bennett wrote: “Just cause contract language has not presented insurmountable hurdles for school corporations as they work to improve teachers’ performance and behavior” (p. iii). Neither did he find administrators claiming they were in any way handcuffed from holding teachers to high standards (iii-iv).

Given that many doctoral candidates statistically analyze survey data, one can give Bennett the benefit of the doubt for not doing enough preliminary work before embarking to disprove his own thesis. Yet true scholars change their arguments to fit the data, elaborate on those arguments, add more sources to back up those arguments, and put that knowledge into practice in the real world. If anything, you’d think that after confirming his ideas wrong, coach Bennett would be out in full-force tailgating for the teachers’ unions every step of the way. Sadly, this will never happen.

Truthfully, Bennett has staunchly supported school privatization for years as a way to one day financially cash-in.* With the plutocrats now applauding his every rant and rave, the counterfeit Bobby Knight of State School Boards might very well become a millionaire as soon as he exits the superintendent’s office and fully joins the charter school cartel. Or they may just laugh him off, since I don’t think Tony Bennett is bright enough to write believable school-reform propaganda. But, then again, neither are many of the Ph.D.s/Ed.D.s who are spitting out and spinning the research funded by the school privatizers. Although he’ll never be a straight-shooter, Tony Bennett could still become a dribbling hero after all.


* Among those who donated to Bennett’s campaign for Head School Chief were Christel DeHaan, co-founder of Resort Condominiums International (RCI) who runs her own charter schools and is a member of Mitch Daniels’ Educational Roundtable; Hoosiers for Economic Growth, a pro-school choice front group which receives money from the Walton Family and Amway wife Betsy DeVos; Patrick Byrne, CEO of Overstock.Com and leader of Milton Friedman’s Foundation for Educational Choice which was behind the “Why Not Indiana?” ads; internet school company, K-12, INC.; Apangea Learning, an online tutoring group whose CEO used to lead Channel One Communications (a news program which runs with ads in the Indiana public schools); Jason Bryant, who manages Imagine Schools’ charters in Fort Wayne; McGraw-Hill, publishers of Indiana’s textbooks, ISTEP tests, and long-standing friends with the Bush Family; Todd Rokita, now U.S. Representative for Indiana and co-member with Bennett of Purdue’s Indiana Council for Economic Education’s Director’s Circle; Jeff Abbott, member of Bennett’s educational transition team and the Indiana Policy Review Foundation, the local branch of the right-wing State Policy Network; Indianapolis Chamber of Commerce, who helped found the Charles A. Tindley charter school; Rollin Dick, of the charter operator GEO Foundation and former CFO for Conseco; Anne Shane, former Teach for America Indiana board chair, now of the Mind Trust; David Shane (Anne’s husband) from TechPoint, a former Daniels’ Policy Advisor for Education and Employment and now member of the Indiana State Board of Education; Neil Pickett, member of the Indiana State Board of Eduction and CEO of Clarian Health; Chris Faulkner, right-wing political consultant who employees Indiana State Board of Education member Jo Blacketor.

For more insight into the state board and dissertations, see the Fort Wayne Journal Gazette’s coverage of plagiarism allegations against another Indiana State Board of Education member, Gwen Adell, and Karen Francisco’s call to Mitch Daniels to suspend Adell immediately.

Wednesday, May 4, 2011

Can You Make a Teachers Job More Difficult ?

Could You Make My Job More Difficult?
"I work in a small school." It's what I tell myself every time I find myself stealing staples from office staplers or drawing Venn diagrams on twenty papers before class because all of the copiers are broken. It's like, "This is why I moved to New York," which is what I say every time I talk education with a bunch of progressive educators, get tickets to see Diane Ravitch speak, visit authors' apartments for book clubs, or watch people live their lives in the Manhattan skyline at two in the morning. But one is a positive thing, and the other isn't.

In an effort to focus on the positive, I explained last week why I love working at my school. As much as it's a great opportunity for me, it's also an INCREDIBLE hassle. I think if people were more aware of the absurdities teachers deal with on an everyday basis, they might be less inclined to label schools 'failing,' or blame teachers for society's shortcomings.

In December, I wrote about a few of the things that make my job difficult. There are so many more, though. It seems like incredible amounts of meaningful work are often sabotaged (intentionally and unintentionally) at every level of education. Moreover, teachers are regularly put in precarious legal situations that would make any sane person reconsider their job on a daily basis. The result is that I complete so many tasks that are a waste of my time because of poor organizational management and political ineptitude. Here are a few examples from my daily experiences.

1. Getting paid is a job in itself.
For the first time in my career, I have to clock in and out of school for 'per session' pay - i.e. money I'm being paid for taking on additional work at school beyond my regular teaching duties. At the end of the pay period, I have to take my pay stub, fill out a form, get my admin to sign off, and hand it to the secretary. What should be a simple task often turns into a cat-and-mouse game. The admin is often not in the office when I need a signature, and the secretary regularly leaves school at 3:15pm, which is the minute I get done teaching my last period. Also, I often have to make copies of the time card, which would be no problem if our copiers weren't regularly broken or being used by someone else. This process often takes at least twenty minutes of my day.

2. Going to the bathroom is a hassle.

Student bathrooms are locked to prevent gang activity and smoking. When students want to go to the bathroom, they first have to get a key from the main office. The key is (surprise, surprise) often stolen. It's not rare that students leave my room for twenty minutes to go to the bathroom only to come back and tell me they went to three different people in two different offices, and nobody had a key. Students are told by office staff that teachers have the key; teachers can open the bathroom for them. That'd be fine if it wasn't an enormous liability for me to leave the rest of the class unattended during the school day. I could lend them my keys, but I bet they'd be stolen pretty quickly, too.

My basement bathroom
Then there's the matter of the faculty bathroom. The only easily accessible bathrooms are on the first and second floor, but they're student bathrooms. It is, of course, another liability for teachers to use them. Teachers are instructed to use the teacher bathroom on the other side of the building in the basement. This turns out to be quite the Double Dare challenge during the three-minute break we have to change classes (during which time we also have to move materials and cart textbooks from room to room, sometimes on different floors, which requires waiting for the elevator). Most teachers risk the liability.

3. Keeping classrooms clean and kids supervised is overwhelming.

Really? Pancake on the floor?
Teachers travel from room to room at my school. In a rush to make it from one class to another, teachers forget to do a lot of things - e.g. take worksheets with them, make sure kids clean the inevitable mess they make on a daily basis, or lock the door. As a result, classrooms often look awful by the end of the day. I usually spend thirty minutes cleaning this up before I can ever start any work after school.

My class after four teachers
It's a liability to leave students in classrooms by themselves. Anything they steal or break our administration has told us can be held against us, no matter what time of day it occurs. That sucks because there are non-teachers who use our classrooms. If I lock my door to keep kids out, I will inevitably be called away from a meeting later in the day to let the Bronx Arts people in, and because those people aren't on staff, they don't care so much about locking the door when they leave, especially since they don't have a key. Teachers are also liable for leaving windows open. Kids might get electronics and weapons through them they couldn't through the metal detectors.

4. Our building is falling apart.

The ceiling in our principal's office has been leaking water for weeks. Plastic was used to cover the leak up, but the office also doesn't get heat like the rest of the building. Last week, a portion of the ceiling fell on our principal while writing an email.

In the classroom, teaching can be a hassle when the building pipes make it sound like you're living in a popcorn bag. I've seen teachers yelling at students, not because students were being disruptive, but because the pipe noises required it.

And then there's the heat. On the first and second floors, it's often outrageously hot. Some kids open the windows to the freezing air outside, and other kids yell at them for it. Conflict ensues. Teaching gets harder.

5. The kids' diets are abysmal.

I often wonder if teaching the kids about the Industrial Revolution is worth my time at all when their brains are made out of Pringles. The kids do not understand, at all, the importance of healthy eating. They're not even aware they're eating poorly. A number of students have argued with me over the quality of fast food. "Mister - fast food makes you strong! It's good for you!" I sigh and try to explain to them.... It is, alas, of no use.

And whoever is responsible for the lunch the students receive in the cafeteria on the SIXTH FLOOR should be shot. Many of my students who are already going hungry at home avoid eating lunch at school because it's so bad. I keep bananas, almonds, and raisins in class to feed my kids when they can't work because they're so hungry. This, of course, takes time away from learning.

6. Technology makes my life more difficult.

Our school has some technology. We have a laptop cart and five projectors (for twenty-five teachers), but when my AP asked me yesterday why nobody was making use of the technology, I rolled my eyes and went into a fifteen-minute monologue about how technology makes my life more difficult. If I want to check the laptop cart out, I have to get it in the morning and push it to the room I'm using that day. I have to worry about kids stealing laptops and me having the pay the price. I have to somehow make sure the laptops are being used appropriately and that I get them all back by the end of the period. I have to somehow ensure a decent lesson despite the kids' desire to do anything but work once you put a computer in front of them. Finally, I have to figure out how to cart it from class to class for the rest of the day (or at least until I have a planning period) even if I don't want to use it with other classes. The same goes for the projectors, which are pretty hard to use when you don't have any white wall space in your room.

Then there's the matter of the teacher computers. As I mentioned before, the only computers teachers can use are located in a tiny teacher room on the second floor (there are usually five or six working computers for twenty-five teachers). The door doesn't lock and it's a hassle to keep students out when teachers aren't using it. The computers are loaded with viruses. A colleague of mine recently watched his work disappear from his jump drive after catching a virus from one of them.

This is to let you know that the following is my conclusion.

The saddest thing is that I've still only mentioned about a third of all the absurdities administrators, teachers, parents, and students have to deal with regularly at my school that I know about. I believe there are probably many more that I'm ignorant of and probably participate in regularly, probably quite blissfully.

To all the people working in policy whose jobs seem to entail making my life more difficult, I'm here to tell you that you're doing a fabulous job. Underfunding inner-city schools, feeding other people's kids food your dog might not eat, and writing asinine mandates really keeps me challenged.

And to all the education pundits who've never spent a day teaching in a school like mine and like to argue that spending more money on education shouldn't be part of the answer, you can go fuck yourselves.
Posted by The Reflective Educator Labels: NYC Public Schools, policy, Small Schools, Teacher Stress, The School Day

Monday, May 2, 2011

Legislative Update from President Schnellenberger

May 2,

Dear ISTA Members,

Last Friday, April 29, the long session of the 2011 General Assembly concluded. During this session, several education bills were passed that will directly affect you as an educator.

I want you to know that ISTA is already working to evaluate the new legislation line by line to find out exactly what its effect will be on you, on our public schools and on the more than one million students our public schools serve. ISTA is currently developing strategies which will allow it to advocate successfully for you as implementation of these new laws begin.

Over the next few weeks ISTA will be in contact with you to share what the new landscape of public education means to you, your colleagues, your school and your community and will provide local leaders with the additional training and support they will need to successfully advocate at the local level.

During this session ISTA was able to improve some of the proposed legislation to make it somewhat more palatable. However, because of the current political makeup of the legislature, ISTA was not able to affect as much positive change as I would have liked.

The success that ISTA did experience during this legislative session was the direct result of the efforts of thousands of ISTA members like you. Your phone calls, emails, attendance at rallies, hand-written letters and face-to-face meetings with legislators often made the critical difference when legislators cast their votes on bills directly or indirectly affecting public education and school employees.

I offer my sincere thanks to all of the ISTA family for standing firm against anti-public education forces. Again, by standing together and working together we can achieve more than any of us can alone. As Winston Churchill once said, “If we are together nothing is impossible, if we are divided all will fail.”

I know, and I want you to know as well, that while the work regarding this particular legislative session is over –ISTA’s work representing you in the changing landscape of public education, in our state and indeed in our country, is really just beginning. In fact, because of the legislation which was passed, there never may have been a time that the work ISTA does, and will do, was needed more than at this critical time in public education.

Finally, I want you to know that ISTA will be leading the way in providing the support, training and resources you and your locals need as we move forward through these changing times.


Nate Schnellenberger, ISTA President

Sunday, May 1, 2011

ISTA President's Speech at April Representative Assembly April 2011

Thank you, Teresa.
What a powerful message.
Isn’t it amazing that on some level, history always has a way of repeating itself?
Indiana and many other states across our country are currently in the midst of some very powerful times as workers’ rights are being assailed by anti-union governors and state legislators.
Basic rights we have taken for granted are under attack from Alaska to Florida, from Texas to Wisconsin and just about every where in between.
Clearly what is occurring in our country is a national agenda aimed to diminish worker rights, to weaken unions and to give total control of the work environment to management.
The current attacks on the working class are the civil rights issue of our time.
Here in Indiana our governor and some legislators are advancing that agenda by supporting legislation that would drastically weaken many of the basic rights we, as educators, hold as core values.
Their legislation will limit collective bargaining, negatively alter teacher evaluation and compensation systems, eliminate the cap on the number of charter schools, and divert financial resources already budgeted to public schools to private institutions.
Colleagues make no mistake about it; these are not “education reforms.”
We all know that this education agenda has almost nothing to do with “reform” but has everything to do with a political agenda designed to weaken our association.
We know that if education reform were the objective then we would be seeing proposals to:
Decrease – not increase class sizes,
Increase – not decrease class offerings,
And to increase – not decrease funding for remediation programs.
So instead of focusing on real education reform, those things that actually help our children in public schools, this agenda is focused on diverting resources away from public schools.
Hoosier common sense should tell us that their real objective is to defund or “fiscally starve” our public schools so that it becomes more and more difficult for public schools to be successful.
Let’s be clear; the ultimate goal of these proposals is to weaken Indiana’s public education system and to weaken our association so that in the future our detractors would have free reign to do what they want - without facing any questioning.
But I know I’m preaching to the choir here.
You have heard this before and you understand it.
So let me shift direction and take a few minutes to answer questions some of you have sent me.
I have heard these first four questions or ones similar to them from several members.
First question:
Have we been working with other unions, like IFT and the AFL-CIO?
Yes we have held joint rallies and joined forces legislatively with both IFT and the AFL-CIO. We also meet on a regular basis with the AFL-CIO labor council.
Have we tried to work with Republicans as well as Democrats during this session?
Yes, even before the session started -right after the election we began to meet with leaders and others from both parties to discuss education issues. Those meeting have continued throughout this session and we hope to continue them even after this session is completed.
This question is from Rick Marshall North Knox Co-President.
How will members retain their current level of Governance representation considering consolidation of Governance UniServ Districts?
Rick, even though in the future service regions may change there will be no need to alter current governance districts.
Therefore what you point out will not occur.
Crystal Flath from Southwest Sullivan Education Association asks.
Has ISTA discussed lowering our dues?
This is a great question because I don’t think that everyone knows how our dues amount is determined.
Our dues are determined by a formula contained in our bylaws.
Each year dues are determined at 1.4% of the Average Beginning Teachers Salary of the previous year as reported to Indiana Education Employment Board.
Because this formula is dictated according to bylaw it can only be changed by amending the current bylaw which can only be done by delegates at the annual Representative Assembly.
Here is a question from Sara Litwicki, a member in Crown Point.
What do you see in the future for ISTA if/when the Republican House and Senate pass the legislation that is currently pending.
Actually I think Sara’s question is getting to the same point as one I received from Dan Potter, the vice-president of our East Allen teachers local.
So I’ll try to answer both at the same time.
Dan says, Nate, I have fielded questions about the future of ISTA.
These questions relate to whether people are going to retain their membership next year in light of impending collective bargaining legislation.
How will ISTA work to insure their relevancy to members?
These are not only two excellent questions, but they are questions we must all be able to answer.
In reference to Collective Bargaining and how will changes in that law affect how we operate in the future.
First, there is still a Collective Bargaining Law. Granted that it has been restricted but there are still things we can and must bargain.

We will still need to represent members legally and at the bargaining table for salary and benefits.

Secondly, ISTA was advocating for educators and public education long before there was collective bargaining.

Remember ISTA was formed in 1854 and the collective bargaining law was not passed until 1973.

Third, there are a number of states that do not currently have a collective bargaining law and they do a great job advocating for the rights of educators and promoting public education—and educators continue to join.

Virginia, North Carolina, Texas and Tennessee are successful ones that come to mind.

Fourth, without all of the previous protections and provisions of collectively bargained contracts our members will need their association even more than ever.

But let me emphatically say that ISTA is much bigger than just collective bargaining.

Collective bargaining is one part of what we do for our members and the need for our association to continue to advocate for and to work for our members in all areas will most certainly continue.

As for what I see as future work for ISTA?

That question reminds me of a quote from John F Kennedy, “When written in Chinese, the word “crisis” is composed of two characters – one represents danger and the other represents opportunity.”

I believe we have a great opportunity to enhance our power through some different channels and we will need our members help at the grassroots level to do it.

We will still need to be politically active during election season, both locally and statewide.

We will need to engage in collective action and carry out our 18-month program designed to elect pro-public education and pro-public educator candidates. That takes collective action and resources.

And we must be serious about finding Democrat and Republican candidates who are public education friendly.

Then we must support them again at the grass roots level in primary and in the general election.

We can only do this if our members stay committed and work together for the good of all.

We must advocate for public education just as we have in the past but we must be more focused in doing so.

Folks, think about it, what would it be like without ISTA?

What would it have been like during this legislative session?
(talk about changes we made)

Without ISTA who is going to stand up for educators?

Now, please think about this.

How do those who want to destroy our organization and therefore have complete control over us as educators and over public education achieve their agenda?

How do they win?

There is only one way - and that is if “we” give them what they want.

If we and our members become self centered and forget that unions are about collective power and say nope I’m not joining. Then they win.

If our members forget that all of us together can accomplish more than any one or small group of us can on our own. Then they win.

If they are, in fact, successful in dividing us, and separating our members from their own interests, then they win.

I will tell you that our detractors are counting on you to give up on this fight and turn your back on your union.

I believe that our fabric is stronger than that and that we will not be fooled that easily.

Friends, we can make one of two choices.

We can decide to give up and say there is no hope.

That will only assure that there will be no hope.

Or we can decide to stay together and work together and fight together, like those leaders who came together to form this association in 1854.

Through the passion and resolve of our members our organization has risen to meet challenges in the past and if we have the will, it shall do so again.

As Winston Churchill once said, “If we are together nothing is impossible, if we are divided all will fail.”

One thing I have learned during the last two years is that trying times make you discover things about yourself that you never really knew.

Folks I know this, trying times are not a time for fear, or for panic, or for giving up –either individually or as an association.

Trying times are a reason to reach inside ourselves and to summon the courage to do something that our detractors think we cannot do.

The choice is clear.
We can either let others determine our future for us, which they are most certainly anxious to do, or we can determine it for ourselves.
I know which choice you want to make.
In these powerful days we need to again be the authors of our own story, the captains of our own ship, and the architects of our own future.
In these powerful days we need to seize the opportunity to make our association stronger, not to give in to those who would destroy her.
In these powerful days we are the stewards of the future and the responsibility is ours to keep the advocacy alive for our generation and for all those who will follow.
Let me end with this thought.
In this time of turmoil, let’s remember where we started from in 1854, and why.
Thank you.