Unions do what they want, without majority of teacher input

©Depositphotos.com/Margaret Paynich

©Depositphotos.com/Margaret Paynich

In my last post I talked about how teachers should pay the union dues directly, so they can have more control over the actions of their union and because I think it’s veering on an illegal use of taxpayer monies.

I also think that unions would have to pay more attention to their teachers if they had to actually collect the monies. You might be surprised to think that teacher’s don’t have much say in their union. Isn’t it there to protect teachers and represent them? I’m not entirely sure which teachers unions are representing, but its not the majority of teachers.

I can tell you from my own experience as a student in my public schools that the teacher who were younger, more innovative and wanted to make change were easily rebuffed by union officials. So much so that they are scared to go against the union. Scared to speak up? Oh and by the way, the same people you are scared to speak up against, are taking your money for union dues without any say from you.

Now that I think about it, it’s like taxpayers who are scared or unmotivated to approached their legislators about how their own tax money is being spent.

Bottom line, these people are taking your money, more or less without your say so and then are spending it on who knows what.

When I was an intern during my school counseling program, I worked for a counselor who was retiring the next year. She was in a group of teachers who all sat together at lunch and literally gossiped about everyone and made lots of off handed comments about their retirement, their workload, making everything seem like a big sham. They were in it for them first and it at all, the kids second.

Dmitri Mehlhorn has a great piece called: Why Teachers Have No Voice. He makes some very compelling points.

He talks about how his mom was a teacher and when she became a union rep, saw that while she was trying to adovcate for student achievement to be the union’s goal, it was really about job protection and salaries. He says his mom retired early and still worries about ineffective teachers.

A close look shows that many teachers believe in parent engagement and choice. When the chips are down – in other words, when it comes to their own children – public school teachers are twice as likely as other parents to send their kids to private schools. When I had an ineffective teacher as a child, my mom pinched pennies to put me into a private school for a few years. Teachers do this for reasons eloquently explained by Ray Salazar, a Chicago Public Schools teacher who wrote about his choices for his own children and why public education should offer more choices for all parents.

More than anyone else, fellow teachers know how other teachers teach. The most disturbing thing for my as a school counselor intern was that no matter how much time I spend working with a student, I still have to sent him back to the 5/6 ineffective teachers. There is nothing I can do to help him overcome that. And it feels like all the work I do unravels as soon as he walks out the door. I suspect that is why teachers often make choices other than public school for their kids, because while a parent may fight the system to get what their child needs, a teacher knows the fight could be futile, or even detrimental to their own job.

Three quarters of all teachers and an even higher percentage of highly recognized teachers believe it needs to be easier to dismiss ineffective teachers. Unfortunately, teachers feel that they have no voice outside their classrooms.

It is still excruciatingly difficult to dismiss ineffective teachers, while 3/4 of teachers believe it should be easier.

Dmitri’s mom is not the only one to realize that unions aren’t what we need them to be:

My mom’s experience, however, alerted me to the sincerity of those who have concluded that reform unionism is a mirage. Former Los Angeles Mayor Antonio Villaraigosa, who concluded that teachers’ unions have been an “unwavering road block to reform,” started his career as a teachers’ union organizer. Civil rights leader Howard Fuller traveled a similar path: starting his career as a public sector union organizer, but eventually concluding that the unions prioritized political power over student interests.

I, myself, used to be vehemently for teachers, no questions asked. I assumed, naturally, that the teachers deserved the contracts they asked for because teachers are the foundation of our society. I blindly supported teachers until I started to perform more research. Now I see the evidence everywhere.

Union leaders tend to be unrepresentative. A 2005 survey of membership and leadership by the National Education Association found that only 15 percent of teachers are actively involved with the union.

If unions are going to useful in a positive way, they need to embrace more of their membership. And I think they should get to know all of them better by requiring them to pay the dues out of pocket instead of automatically through their paycheck.



65% of teachers support: hiring + firing decisions based on teacher’s performance in the classroom, not seniority

I happened across this article from PennCANThe path to success in 2015: Money AND reform” and wanted to share this piece of research:

Third Way, a prominent Democratic think-tank, recently commissioned Jeff Pollack, a prominent Democratic pollster, to analyze voter sentiment on education reform.

The results will be surprising only to those not involved in the daily grind of education policy.

Sixty-five percent of teachers and 86 percent of all respondents said that they either “strongly support” or “support” the following policy proposal: Ensure “hiring and firing decisions are made based on a teacher’s performance in the classroom, not seniority.”

PennCAN found similar results in a poll we conducted in 2013, as have other education reform organizations that have done polling on this issue.

Seems like the only people who don’t want to hold teachers accountable for classroom performance are teachers unions.

The article also talks about how we need Money AND Reform to make a serious positive impact on our kids’ education. This is a message that was loud and clear when I worked at Stand for Children. Stand started as an advocacy group for all children’s issues. It transitioned over time to focusing exclusively on education issues, mostly funding policy. After years of securing hundreds of thousands of dollars for education, the achievement gap still persisted. Instead of sticking to the status quo, they decided that money AND reforms were going to be needed to move our education system forward.

Unfortunately it’s not just about more money. It’s how we spend it and what programs are being utilized. And we must have an excellent teacher in each class and we can only determine that through effective evaluations.

PennCan’s article continues…

Ask any business leader and they will tell you of their disbelief that there is even a debate around this issue. Ask any political insider about this issue and they’ll say it’s impossible to get it done because of opposition from the teachers unions.

But the tide is turning and it isn’t just because teachers themselves are with us. It’s because of lawsuits like Vergera, where Los Angeles County Superior Court Judge Rolf Treu ruled that seniority and tenure laws have a disproportionately negative effect on minority and low-income students by placing and retaining ineffective teachers in their schools. Politics usually eats policy for breakfast, until the policy becomes so bad that it’s indefensible.

Seems like the truth is that Education reformers want money AND reform and unions just want to pour more money into the system…we’re not against reforms unions want, but unions aren’t inclusive of the reforms necessary to move our education system forward. In essence, education reformers want to see more done to improve and unions want to exclude reforms that are helping students.

2015 will be an interesting year for PennCAN–we have a newly elected Democratic Governor who based his campaign on the development and implementation of a new school funding formula and a Republican legislature that isn’t interested in throwing more money into the same old system.

To be successful in this political climate, advocates will have to devise a plan for bridging this gap. Luckily for us, PennCAN agrees with both the Governor-elect and the Legislature. We have always been and always will be the organization that fights for more money AND more reform. In the next few years, we hope to have both.


This sounds like pontificating on your part…

I started refuting Anthony Cody’s post in this blog: You know what is on its last legs? Status quo education , Now I continue with his next claim…

Charter schools: We were told that charter schools were where innovation was happening. Freed from the dual constraints of district management and union contracts, these schools were going to show the laggards in public schools how it should be done. Some even claimed to have “figured out” how to overcome the effects of poverty on student achievement. So the billionaire geniuses of corporate reform insisted that all barriers and regulations on charters be removed or minimized. This requirement was written into Race to the Top and NCLB waivers. Want federal money? Better open the door for charter schools. Want special grants from the Gates Foundation? Open the doors to charters in your district.

But now charter proponents admit they have no secret sauce beyond excluding students who are difficult or expensive to educate. Their plan is to “serve the strivers,” and let the rest flounder in an ever-more-burdened public system. The states where regulations are weakest, like Ohio, have charters that perform worse than the public schools, and even the self-described fan of free-markets, Margaret Raymond, lead researcher at CREDO, recently concluded that using market choice to improve schools has failed. In the state of Washington, where Bill Gates and other reform titans spent millions to pass a law allowing charter schools there, the first charter school to open is struggling to stay afloat, having suffered massive staff turnover in its first year. How ironic that 13 years after the corporate reformers labeled their flagship of reform “No Child Left Behind,” that now their leaders are left defending leaving behind the very children they claimed their project would save.

This sounds like pontificating on your part….Can you source this exact language? “But now charter proponents admit they have no secret sauce beyond excluding students who are difficult or expensive to educate.” I’d like to see it. Just because you say it or wrote it does not make it so. (Thought wouldn’t you love it if you could be right for once?)

Yes, there are charters that don’t perform as well as their traditional public schools. Apparently, though I have not seen the evidence or proof myself, some charters expel or exclude some students. But that is NOT a characteristic nationwide. In fact they traditionally operate themselves in areas to serve low income underserved children. You want to talk about expulsions? Why don’t you check on the school discipline policies (or lack thereof) in all of your traditionally public schools and then come back and talk to be about charters expelling.  Take a look at the movement happening in state legislatures nation-wide because of the school suspension issues in ALL schools. Instead of addressing the fact that status quo education policies, including the ineffective school discipline procedures, that are going on in traditional public schools you’re just trying to draw attention elsewhere. Why don’t you clean up your own house?

 You20141105_193833‘ve mentioned Ohio and California. What about all the other charters? Were those the only ones you can find that were under performing? I wish I could point to only  2 states where traditional public schools were underperforming – unfortunately that’s not the case. What about KIPP school? Democracy Prep? Big Picture Learning  Schools? We have some stellar charters here in GA – Drew Charter and Ivy Prep.

 Also, I’ll have you know that I believed that charters were started to try new education strategies for public schools to learn from. Well, I was informed this fall by Howard  Fuller himself, a father of charter schools in MN that charters were not started to test out new ideas for traditional public schools (though I still believe this is a goal we  should strive for), but that they were created simply to offer parents and students an alternative to their only choice of a public school, which may not be meeting student  needs.

 But feel free to keep writing nonsense, because it gives me plenty of material to work with.

How is boycotting Coca-Cola helping teachers or kids?

I recently came across this article on twitter about AFT banning coca-cola products…..I’m sorry what?

He writes:

Earlier this month, the American Federation of Teachers decided to ban Coca-Cola and Coke products from its events and facilities.  In their never-ending search for groups and companies to demonize, AFT has opted to score cheap political points with their base, instead of turning to a company that is a natural ally and working toward a common purpose.

The teachers union – America’s second largest – is basing this new ban on allegations of human rights violations that were described in a trio of books published nearly a decade ago. AFT has opted to focus on these outdated accusations to create media buzz and promote its own self interests instead of looking at the facts and nurturing a relationship with a company with common interests.

Signs of the common purpose between AFT and Coca-Cola are everywhere. Just look at where the union has spent its money and you will also see significant spending from – you guessed it – Coca-Cola. Among them are the Clinton Global Initiative, the Center for American Progress, and numerous political candidates.

This sounds to me like AFT is continuing to create disarray with those who it should be teamed up with AND creating unnecessary attention for the sake of….getting attention – while not helping to advance the causes of education. Like that time they created an entire media campaign around a magazine cover that really didn’t have anything to do with advancing education? 

Here is Coca-Cola’s rather eloquent response (maybe AFT could learn some PR lessons from Coca-cola):

We have a great deal of respect for the American Federation of Teachers (AFT), its leadership and its work. I have known and worked with them for many years, and I believe their leadership is as committed to their mission as we are to ours.

The AFT resolution pertaining to our company is based on outdated and erroneous allegations that we have repeatedly addressed. So we have initiated a dialogue with their leadership to discuss this resolution. We look forward to continuing that engagement to share the facts about our work and our commitment to respect human rights.

We will reiterate to them our aspiration to be one of the most inclusive companies in the world, where rights are respected and employees are valued. This aspiration is anchored by our foundation of policies, including our Human Rights Policy, Supplier Guiding Principles, and Code of Business Conduct. These policies are designed to ensure both our company and our suppliers meet our high workplace and human rights standards. … (click the link above for the whole response)

…When we meet with AFT leadership, we also will share information about our commitment to the UN Guiding Principles on Business and Human Rights, which we formally endorsed in 2011, and the work we have done to incorporate these principles into our existing human rights and workplace rights efforts across our entire value chain.

We look forward to further engagement with AFT leadership and continuing to build our valued relationship.

And, tell me again how boycotting coca-cola is helping teachers, or kids?


Showtime’s “The Affair” features NYC Rubber Room

This past Sunday, Showtime’s Season Finale of “The Affair” featured a NYC rubber room!! I could not believe it. I thought that rubber rooms were reserved for documentaries like “The Rubber Room” or “Waiting for Superman.” As someone who is well versed in education policy it was great to see a mostly coveted education practice making its way into the public sphere through the realm of television.

Go here to see the only clip I could find featuring the rubber room

affair rubber room

The video doesn’t offer commentary. In the show, we see Noah, the main character having sex with another person in the school, then going into the  principal’s office, then showing up at the NYC Dept. of Education. There he punches a time card and sits down. He learns from his neighbor, Victor, that  Victor has been waiting 2 years for his resolution to come of the accusation. Noah asks if he can get a newspaper and the “proctor” says “If you leave this  room, you are quitting your job. In order to keep your job, you need to be in this room until 3:15 everyday.”

Noah asks if he can use the restroom and the proctor says “You need to give me your license and I’ll give you a hall pass.”

Later, when he admits to his wife that he’s been accused of sleeping with someone at his school and hasn’t been to work, she says to him, “You’ve been in the rubber room?” Like it is something everyone knows about! Except, apparently this reviewer of the show:

What the hell is a rubber room? Did I hear Helen right when she was talking to Noah about his many bed buddies during their time apart? That’s what she said when referring to him being caught with another teacher in school, right? Is that some sort of weird Montauk slang? I’ve never heard it, though then again, I could just be crazy.

Everyone else got it:

He casts a lascivious eye to a pretty fellow teacher at school and proceeds to have sex with her right there in the classroom. But he’s busted and sent to some sort of grown-up detention for disorderly teachers. He arrives at the Department of Education and learns that he just has to sit around and kill time indefinitely. His seat mate, Victor, who has read Infinite Jest twice is incredibly well read and has been hanging out in this “rubber room” for two years. Noah decides to make use of his time and start back on his book.

Sexual recklessness has had consequences personally and professionally. Helen has kicked him out of the house; schtupping in the classroom after school has resulted in Noah being removed from the classroom. (The idea of a detention room for teachers who are suspended with pay is a solution with ‘government bureaucracy’ written all over it.)

And even the commentors of these reviews know what a rubber room is:

Noah was sent to the infamous NYC Dept. of Education reassignment Center or “Rubber Room”, a not very nice holding pen where teachers who have been accused of wrongdoing wait for their hearings. They do collect full pay as they are technically not guilty of anything during the wait.

As a teacher of 39 years for NYC I am proud that I never had to spend a minute in the “rubber room”. They were supposed to do away with that wonderful establishment of punishing us and giving us secretarial duties in some cases. It was not a happy place especially if you did nothing wrong.

Interesting.. I’m a young teacher and have never heard of such a thing. Is it only for professors with tenure? Or is it something used on the East Coast?

New York City. You might be able to find the New Yorker article on it and there also was a documentary film made about The Rubber Room a few years ago

May be unique to the NYC Dept. Of Ed, but boy is it infamous here in NY.

I worked in the Board of Education for a couple years as a school secretary. There is a “rubber room” and they do nothing there, but get paid for it. Most of the time its cause the teacher did something indecent, immoral or aggressive.

I have a friend who has been in the Rubber Room for 2 years because one of her students jokingly reported to a friend that she never checks for homework 😦 even if true, does not meet any of the above criteria 😦

You can thank your teacher’s union for the rubber room!

Is it bashing or good marketing?

I never seem to be able to run out of examples of how inappropriate the language is used against education reformers. I’ve changed this person’s handle to [twitter handle] to protect their identity.

The article I posted was a response to a commentator on an original blog post about how much money unions spent on elections this year. In no way did the blog writer, or myself “bash” unions. See definition below. The writer simply is citing facts of actions that we believe the public has a right to know when considering what they hear and read in the media about education. As I have written before, the constituency of unions is teachers, not the education system or students. And that was confirmed here in this post.


verb \ˈbash\

: to cause or allow (something, such as part of your body) to hit something very hard or forcefully

: to hit (someone or something) very hard or forcefully

: to hurt or damage (something) by hitting or beating

1:  to strike violently :  hit; also :  to injure or damage by striking :  smash —often used with in
2:  to attack physically or verbally

Evidenced here in this post, anti-reformers are constantly on defense and will say and do anything to refuse taking responsibility. If anyone is to blame for “bashing” its the anti-reform movement for continuing to lodge personal attacks and grave insults at others.

So the double standard is that when I write a targeted post to uncover issues I believe to be important, its considered “bashing”, but when anti-reformers personally attack others for their views, its called “good marketing?”

  1. Maggie Paynich@educatinspires  Nov 18

Unions spend time defending their political power instead actively improving public ed http://goo.gl/xCquUv  [twitter handle]

  1. [twitter handle Nov 18

@educatinspires Why are you tagging me in this?

  1. Maggie Paynich@educatinspires  Nov 18

[twitter handle] I share education policy commentary that I feel should be shared with people who talk about education on twitter

  1. [twitter handle] Nov 18

.@educatinspires Feel free to share education policy commentary with me. Union bashing’s not policy analysis, so please spare me those links

  1. Maggie Paynich@educatinspires  Nov 18

So when unions attack others personally it’s called good marketing? But when we point out the behavior its called bashing? [twitter handle]


Diane Ravitch is the “hoax”

ICYMI, Diane Ravitch was in TN recently.

She demonstrated exactly what is wrong with the anti-reform movement. The only hoax in the room was Diane Ravitch.

the “narrative that the reformers have been constructing is itself a hoax.

“They say that our schools are failing. Again and again it’s on the cover of magazines and in the news media — our schools are broken, our schools are obsolete.

“Our test scores are not flat or declining,” she countered. “Today, test scores are the highest for every group than they’ve ever been in history.”

Are all schools failing? Certainly not. But there are definitely millions of students who do not have access to a quality education and they are being failed by our system everyday. This can not be denied. Though, apparently, Diane Ravitch thinks every child is receiving a great education!?!?! I hear stories like these all the time.

She claims that education reformers are putting all our schools in one basket “failing.” Yet she seems to have no problem putting charter schools and every other reform we’ve been putting in place to combat poverty and provide an equal and quality education to every student in the “bad” basket. Hypocrisy everywhere.

This reminds me of how the anti-reformers viciously attack their opponents instead of act like adults and have a real conversation.

Diane would rather block her opponents that actually listen to them. Because maybe they would be right and she would be wrong? That can’t be. Not for a professional with a laundry list of accolades…and not a single day in a K-12 classroom.