Teachers At A Crossroads: Time To Heed Dr. King’s Call

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By Craig Gordon for Living In Dialogue – Promoters of so-called school reform frequently exhort educators to “teach with urgency.” This slogan trumpets their supposed determination to immediately achieve educational equity without funding equitable teaching and learning conditions. Two presidential mandates—Bush’s No Child Left Behind and Obama’s Race to the Top—proclaimed this righteous resolve while severely damaging public education. Now President Trump and Education Secretary DeVos plan to accelerate the destruction with more charters and vouchers or tax credits to pay for private schools. The real urgency we face today is to finally address the systemic causes of inequality—in and beyond schools–and other interconnected threats to human survival, as Martin Luther King Jr. implored fifty years ago. With the scientific consensus on climate change and a renewed and growing threat of nuclear war, the urgency is far more evident today. Here is a key question for those of us focused on finally achieving educational justice: What would it take to provide all students with high quality education?

I Am Not A Hero Teacher

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By Staff for Gad Fly On The Wall Blog – I’ll tell you one thing I don’t need. I don’t need the state, federal or local government telling me how to do my job. When I plan my lessons, I need the freedom to teach children in the way that seems most effective to me – the professional in the room. I also don’t need some bureaucrat telling me how to assess my students. I don’t need some standardized test to tell me what kids have learned, if they can read or write. I’ve spent an average of 80 minutes a day with these children for five days a week. If I can’t tell, I don’t deserve to be in the classroom. And I don’t need my principal or superintendent setting my colleagues and me against each other. We’re not competing to see who can do a better job. We should be collaborating to make sure everyone succeeds. What do I need? My union, for one. I need my right to collective bargaining. I need the power to gather with my colleagues and co-workers so we can create the best possible work environment for myself and my students. I need due process, tenure, so I can’t be fired at the whim of the school board or administrators without having them prove my inequities.

Philly Teachers Call Off Work In Bottom-Up Campaign

Philly teachers organized their co-workers to participate in a mass call-off day this May Day. Photo: Caucus of Working Educators

By Samantha Winslow for Labor Notes – Teachers and their unions turned out for May Day this year in St. Paul, Minneapolis, Oakland, Los Angeles, Milwaukee, Chicago, and Seattle. They held teach-ins at schools and pickets outside, and joined citywide demonstrations in solidarity with immigrant communities. Philadelphia teachers wanted to show solidarity with the day’s themes—but also make a statement to the city about their own contract struggle. They’ve gone four years without a contract and five years without a raise. They’ve suffered school closings, freezes on steps and lanes in the pay scale, layoffs of school nurses and counselors, and the privatization of substitute teachers. The state-appointed school board even tried to cancel their contract, though it was rebuffed by the courts. So, to create pressure on the district, a group of teachers organized their own protest. “We are finally taking some action, after five years of not doing much,” said Tom Quinn, a teacher at the city’s largest high school, where more than half of teachers took a “personal day” on May Day. The 11,000-member Philadelphia Federation of Teachers didn’t authorize the action. Instead it was a rank-and-file group, the three-year-old Caucus of Working Educators, that enlisted 400 teachers from 24 schools to call off from work and join a series of May Day activities.

Support Education Activist Sarah Chambers

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By Michelle Strater Gunderson for Living in Dialogue. Chicago, IL – If you are fortunate, every once in a while you will meet someone who breathes the fire of justice. In my life Sarah Chambers, a special education teacher from Maria Saucedo School in Chicago, fills that role. Yet, this is the teacher who the Chicago Public Schools suspended last week pending a hearing that could lead to her firing. Sarah is everywhere in Chicago when there is a call to defend children with disabilities. She is the leader of the Chicago Teachers Union Special Education Task Force, the co-chair of the Caucus of Rank and File Educators, a member of the union’s executive board, and a negotiator on our latest bargaining team. So, why would the Chicago Public Schools send her a letter the night before our Spring Break removing her from the classroom?

Get To Know The BATS: Teachers Fighting Privatization

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By Marla Kilfoyle and Melissa Tomlinson in partnership with Read the Dirt for Popular Resistance. Chris Christie once told a Badass Teacher that he was “sick”of people like her. It was his response to the question posed by her sign: Schools in NJ are among the top 3 in the country. Why does Governor Christie portray our schools as failure factories?“You know what,”he said, “I’m tired of this. I’m so sick of you people. What do you want?”He pointed his finger in her face, “just go do your job.” It was 2014, seven years into Melissa Tomlinson’s career as a public middle school special education teacher in Buena, NJ—and six months after the founding of the Badass Teachers Association (BATs) network. Some might know BATs for their online activism and role in the campaign against Betsy DeVos. Organized horizontally through committees, we have chapters in every state, but all are autonomous to account for unique obstacles and local culture.

Indiana Teachers Sit-In Demanding Young Recuse Himself From DeVos Vote

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By Paulina Firoz for The Hill – A group of teachers in Indiana held a sit-in at the office of a senator they say should recuse himself from the vote to confirm President Trump’s pick for secretary of Education. The teachers say Betsy DeVos gave Sen. Todd Young (R-Ind.) $48,000 in donations last year, according to a report by local news outlet WTHR, which they say make his vote a conflict of interest. “Why would she pay so much, with so much desire to have this job if she were unqualified for it?” said one teacher said to WTHR at Thursday’s sit-in. Young is a member of the Senate Health, Education, Labor and Pensions Committee, which is scheduled to hold an executive session to vote on DeVos’s nomination on Jan. 31.

Wall Street Firms Make Money From Teachers’ Pensions

The ongoing measles outbreak in the U.S. has put a spotlight on vaccination rates among American schoolchildren. Photo: Reuters

BY David Sirota, Avi Asher-Schapiro And Andrew Perez for IBT – When Massachusetts public school teachers pay into their pension fund each month, they may not realize where the money goes. Wall Street titans are using some of the profits from managing that money to finance an education ballot initiative that many teachers say will harm traditional public schools. An International Business Times/MapLight investigation has found that executives at eight financial firms with contracts to manage Massachusetts state pension assets have bypassed anti-corruption rules and funneled at least $778,000 to groups backing Question 2, which would expand the number of charter schools in the state.

Seattle Teachers Wore Black Lives Matter Shirts To School

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By Sarah Harvard for Identities Mic – On Wednesday, 2,000 teachers in Seattle — alongside parents and students — wore Black Lives Matter shirts to protest against police brutality and promote racial equity, the Associated Press and KING 5 News report. Teachers organizing the #BlackLivesMatterAtSchool event told AP they held discussions about institutional racism and black history and used the event to rally people together. A Seattle Public Schools spokesman said in a statement that the district supported the teachers’ efforts and said it supports their First Amendment rights.

Nation’s Largest Teachers Union Endorses Teaching “Climate Justice”

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By Staff of The Zinn Education Project – In May, the Portland, Oregon school board passed the country’s first comprehensive “climate justice” resolution. The school board voted unanimously to “abandon the use of any adopted text material that is found to express doubt about the severity of the climate crisis or its root in human activities,” and called for all schools to teach a “climate justice” curriculum. The Portland resolution said that students in city schools “should develop confidence and passion when it comes to making a positive difference in society

North Carolina Teachers Arrested After 20-Mile March To Governor’s Office

PHOTO COURTESY OF ANCA STEFAN

By Liane Sterling for Reuters – Over 100 North Carolina teachers, public school workers, and parents tried to present to Governor Pat McCrory at the end of their 20-mile march to his office on June 14 and 15. After a decade of budget cuts and a general lack of resources, the teachers and parents have had enough. The group, formed by Organize 2020, a NC Public Schools grassroots organization, wanted to address a few points with McCrory. Namely, that he expand Medicaid, spend the budget surplus on students, and repeal HB2.

Mexico: Doctors Condemn Killing, Join Teachers

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By Telesur. As protests led by the militant CNTE teachers’ union in Mexico continue, the country’s doctors are set to join in the job action, calling for a national strike on June 22 to protest a neoliberal reform to the health system imposed by President Enrique Peña Nieto. The group #YoSoyMedico17, which is comprised of doctors, pediatricians, surgeons, anesthesiologists and nurses, has been joined by more than 200,000 physicians from 32 states in opposing the so-called Universal Health System reform by Peña Nieto. The medical professionals say the measure is a “disguised way of privatizing health in Mexico,” and said doctors were not consulted on the reform, according to Animal Politico. The doctors’ protest will join the ongoing national general strike by teachers.

Mexico: Brutal Repression Of Teachers Movement Kills Six

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By Jorge Martín for In Defense of Marxism – This is the latest instance of brutal repression by the Mexican government of Peña Nieto against the months long movement of teachers against an education counter reform. On Friday, June 17, thousands of police officers formed a human wall which prevented a teachers’ demonstration from reaching the centre of Mexico City, where their camp had already been brutally evicted days earlier. Thousands of teachers have been sacked from their jobs for refusing the pass tests which are part of the education “reform”, hundreds have been arrested including many of the leaders of the democratic teachers’ union, CNTE.

Major State Repression In Oaxaca: Several Killed, Dozens Wounded And Detained

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By Scott Campbell for It’s Going Down – The looming federal police attack on the people and striking teachers of Oaxaca, Mexico has begun. There are reports of between six and eight demonstrators killed Sunday morning at the teachers-peoples highway blockade in Nochixtlán, northwest of the city of Oaxaca. The eight dead that the movement is confirming are Oscar Aguilar Ramírez, 25, Andrés Sanabria García, 23, Anselmo Cruz Aquino, 33, Yalit Jiménez Santiago, 28, Oscar Nicolás Santiago, Omar González Santiago, 22, Antonio Perez García, and Jesús Cadena Sánchez, 19.

After Police Attack, Barricades Reappear In Oaxaca

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By Scott Campbell for El Enemigo Común – Teachers in Mexico have been on strike since May 15, demanding, among other things, an end to the neoliberal educational reforms being pushed forward by Mexican President Enrique Peña Nieto. For a roundup of events during the first 15 days of the strike, see the most recent Insumisión column. While things have been tense in Oaxaca, with Governor Gabino Cué announcing that he had hundreds of police ready to remove any teachers encampment or blockade, there have been no big confrontations until tonight.

Detroit Public Schools Shut With Teachers In ‘Sickout’ Protest Over Pay

A Zapatista mural in the town of San Pedro Polhó illustrates ideas about education. Photo by Dario Ribelo on Flickr

By Barbara Goldberg for Reuters – Detroit Public Schools closed nearly all of its 97 schools on Monday as hundreds of teachers called in sick to protest the cash-strapped city’s revelation that it will soon run out of money to pay employees. The shutdown due to “teacher sickouts” was announced on the website for Michigan’s largest public school system with 45,786 students, which has been under state control since 2009. Detroit Federation of Teachers Interim President Ivy Bailey said in a statement on Sunday that the district was “effectively locking our members out of the classrooms”