Cost of the status quo is way more expensive

Cost of the status quo is way more expensive

Just read this great article by a parent who works in a public charter school. Charter schools are not immune to the problems of traditional public schools – But you also can’t

©Depositphotos.com/Margaret Paynich

©Depositphotos.com/Margaret Paynich

read this article and proclaim traditional charters are superior. Please focus on the content of the article, about parents making choices for their own kids.

These are two former blogs about this very topic – what parents decide for their own kids:

When the only option is a failing school & Sounds good in theory, but not in practice

This article is written by a parent working in the same school her own child attended.

My 8-year-old daughter’s class was chaotic after her first-year teacher got married in Chicago and then relocated to Texas after Christmas break. It was hard enough to bring on a new teacher in the middle of the year, but the situation was only exacerbated when the replacement teacher was also brand new to the profession. (In fairness, my daughter’s class of 28 students was difficult to manage even for more experienced teachers. Teachers had to tap into their inner guru each and every day.)

My administration was trying to work with the replacement teacher, but it was painful for me to watch professional development attempts being made for a novice teacher who was in full crisis mode. Assurances from my school leaders that, with more instructional coaching, the class would gradually get better in time, fell flat with me. It was now February—how much more time could my child afford?

The complacency that the administration goes through in keeping this teacher, or hiring her in the first place. I talked a little bit about how teacher education needs to be improved in this blog but I am tired of administrations doing what they can to help (even if it’s ineffective) and settling for that being the best they can do. We need all of our kids to have an excellent education and large part of that is a great teacher.

My kid wasn’t ambivalent; she knew what she wanted. In fact, she begged me to transfer her out of the school that she had once loved. Even at 8, she was willing to say goodbye to all her friends to gain a sense of emotional safety and sanity.

I love my school and count many of my colleagues as my friends. The teachers (including my daughter’s former teachers) work extremely hard, and it’s obvious that they care about the students. And since it’s a charter school, parents like me feel fortunate that our kids’ names were pulled from the lottery and granted admission. I’ve often lamented that all kids and parents don’t have access to good schools like this one, district or charter.

But now I found myself contemplating the unthinkable—transferring my little girl out.

Parents are dealing with these struggles every day. Charter or traditional public school we need to make sure that every child has an effective teacher. I keep saying that our kids aren’t going to get those days of lost education back. We need to care right now about getting the best kids in the classroom.

The mom continues…

Last week, a colleague passed on a powerful article about the author Doug Lemov, who wrote “Teach Like a Champion,” to my principal, who then passed it on to me. These bits from the article gave me peace about the decision I made:

The evidence suggests that a child at a bad school taught by a good teacher is better off than one with a bad teacher at a good school. The benefits of having been in the class of a good teacher cascade down the years; the same is true of the penalty for having had a bad teacher.

In 1992, an economist called Eric Hanushek reached a remarkable conclusion by analyzing decades of data on teacher effectiveness: a student in the class of a very ineffective teacher—one ranked in the bottom 5 percent—will learn, on average, half a year’s worth of material in one school year, whereas if she was in the class of a very effective teacher—in the top 5 percent—she would learn a year and a half’s worth of material. In other words, the difference between a good and a bad teacher is worth a whole year.

Here you go. Evidence that our kids are literally loosing out by not having a great teacher. Parents are left with very few options if they feel their child is not getting an adequate education. And sometimes they choose another school, yet they shouldn’t have to. While education theorists and unions and the media are criticizing themselves daily, our nation’s kids are sitting in classrooms with ineffective teachers. We need to spend more time “on the ground” with kids and teachers and less time in the ivory towers of “theory” and “rhetoric.”

The mom ends:

It means that if any one of my students’ parents were to have insight into the day-to-day happenings in the school or classroom the way I am privy to it as a staff member, would they trust that their child was getting the absolute best education possible?

In other words, it means that educators need to approach our practice with the same diligence we would have if our own biological child sat in every single class.

My household operates on a tight budget, so the $700 a month private school tuition bill I now have to pay really hurts. But now that my little girl is excited about learning again and is able to focus in class, I realize that the cost of the status quo was way more expensive.

GA AFT affiliate opposes OSD – big surprise!

This is AFT GA OSDa flyer I found by the GA affiliate of AFT, which I honestly didn’t even know existed! The beauty of non unionized states. It’s incredible how the union can’t seem to defend it’s own work by it’s own teachers but also stands in the way of all efforts to bring reform.                                                                                                                                                                                   While there are some mixed stories about the truth about education in New Orleans, it has improved and this flyer undermines the progress that has been made in NOLA. I’ve discussed before how Unions blatantly ignore success (unless of course it’s THEIR success).

As I just wrote in Please free our schools from the current education monopoly! there is story after story of schools doing more with fewer resources and that money is not the silver bullet. It’s just all the unions care about and Democrats step in line with unions.

Why are politicians pushing these reform efforts? Because what we are doing now is not working for the minority, low-income students. We need to do something NOW to give parents choices.

Disproportionately suspend and expel students? Why don’t you just look at your neighborhood schools? We need sweeping school discipline reform that incorporates counseling and school guidance not disdain and punishment.

Less local accountability? How well has that been going with the corruption of school funds, the shuffling of ineffective teachers & principals, nepotism at the school department and parents who feel they have no where else to go?

Charter schools do not have the mammoth budget that the larger school district has so there are fewer resources available to develop specialized instruction for special education students and ELL. As I wrote here, parents often choose a traditional public school for it’s special education resources or a charter may make the appropriate referral to a school better suited. That’s not exclusion, that’s caring enough to make sure the child has the best education that can be offered.

Yes, they sidestep some of the standards that traditional public schools are governed by because that is how you break down the monopoly and allow the autonomy teachers, principals and students need to be mores successful.

Please free our schools from the current education monopoly!

Please free our schools from the current education monopoly!

©Depositphotos.com/Margaret Paynich

©Depositphotos.com/Margaret Paynich

This post and response by AJC writer Maureen Downey and local attorney Glenn Delk, a school choice advocate reminds me why we need education reform – and not just because of mishandled funds.

Maureen Downey writes an opposition piece opposing Gov. Deal’s Opportunity School District bill defending our need for more funding and questioning how the state could allow these circumstances of cutting education funds for years  – and suddenly come up with an idea and begin caring about students.

But students have suffered since 2003 from $7.6 billion in funding cuts. Hardest hit by the cuts were rural districts that could not make up the lost funds through local property digests, and low-income children for whom lower class sizes and after-school programs mean the difference between passing and failing

When districts complained to the Legislature, the reply was succinct: Do more with less.

Glenn Delk reminds me that it is not just that schools aren’t spending the funding correctly, but that the monopoly that is our education system needs to be broken down.

Like the teachers’ union, the school boards’ association and the superintendents’ association, Ms. Downey chooses to ignore the cold hard fact that, contrary to her claim that we have to rebuild communities before academic performance can improve, organizations such as KIPP, Basis Schools and High Tech High have proven low-income minority students, can and do perform at world class levels without spending more money, if freed from the current monopoly.

For example, Basis students, while receiving $6,500 per student, far less than Georgia’s average of $9,000, outperform the entire world on the international tests.

Ms. Downey and opponents of giving students additional opportunities to escape the monopoly known as district-run schools should attend the April 22 screening in Brookhaven of the documentary, “Most Likely to Succeed.” The movie shows what is possible when the best and brightest are hired to teach, treated as true professionals with freedom and autonomy to teach students who’ve chosen to attend and expected to take ownership of their education.

The movie focuses on High Tech High, a San Diego-based charter network, which, while operating on $7,200 per student, has managed to achieve an 88 percent graduation rate from college. More than 8,000 students apply annually for the 400 slots, while 1,500 teachers apply for 50 positions. High Tech High has no admission tests, with students chosen by a random lottery.

History shows us that monopolies do not give up their power voluntarily.

So yes, schools can be successful and bridge the community gap with less funding. It just needs to be focused in the correct ways. I have heard a former top KIPP administrator in GA talk about the way they engage parents and students in their school community. He admits it is hard work. You can’t just wake up one day and the system is perfectly in place. But these are key samples of things that schools could do now. You know what holds school up from community engagement? Uninterested and unwilling staff and teachers. Charters like KIPP and the MET, build in an expectation that all of their teachers and staff will engage with parents and students regularly and after school hours if necessary. He mentions students who choose to attend these schools and are expected to take ownership of their education. I remember when a Warwick, RI city councilor told me that she mentored kids at the MET and they didn’t respond well to taking ownership of their education. Just because a student doesn’t latch onto an idea initially doesn’t mean it isn’t a skill that needs to be learned and can be learned. I guarantee you that those students who don’t do well taking responsibility are just as lost in traditional public schools.

But, since we are on the topic – please we need to only be paying salaries for effective teachers, effective principals, no excess in school admin positions in the multiple 6 digits, remove the nepotism, and actually make sure that what is “discovered” at the district level is actually being implemented in each school.

Union in Taylor, MI tried to circumvent right-to-work law and lost

Labor Laws

©Depositphotos.com/Margaret Paynich

In this post I mentioned that teachers in the City of Taylor, MI were suing to release the security clause which was the union’s attempt the force automatic dues payments for 10 years, regardless of what the law states.

The Michigan Employment Relations Commission ruled Friday that teachers in the Taylor Public School District are not bound by their contract to pay union dues for the next 10 years, saying the provision violates the state’s right-to-work law.

Michigan’s law, which took effect in 2013, makes it illegal to require employees to join a union or pay fees comparable to union dues as a condition of employment. A number of teachers unions negotiated new contracts shortly before the law took effect to avoid falling under the measure, which makes financially supporting a union voluntary.

The Employment Relations Commission ruled that the security clause violated the states right-to-work law provision of forcing dues payments. 

“For Taylor teachers, the ruling is clear that the extraordinary 10-year union security agreement should not bind the teachers,” Wilcox said. “They should be free to withdraw their financial support from the union. The commission held that Taylor Federation of Teachers’ and the Taylor School District’s action was intended to delay the application of PA 349 for 10 years beyond its legislatively mandated effective date.”

Wilcox said that other districts with similar contracts “should be very concerned about this decision, as it could easily be applied to them.”

The ruling reinstates the teacher’s ability and freedom to withdraw financial support of the union. The commission agreed that the provision was intended to circumvent the law that was likely to pass at the time.

I hope that other districts with similar contract provisions such as the security clause do follow in their footsteps and protect the worker’s right to withdraw financial support.

You believe every lie your union tells you, don’t you?

©Depositphotos.com/Margaret Paynich

©Depositphotos.com/Margaret Paynich

I’ve been talking about the new right to work law in Michigan and the fall out from it in these two posts:

Teachers Union puts up smoke screen while they deny workers their rights

MEA attempts to ruin credit of 8,000 teachers

I just can’t believe the lies every time I read an article on this issue.

With the teachers given a 31-day window in August to decide, representatives for the state’s largest public-sector union are imploring them to stay or risk losing their clout in how schools are operated.

“If I don’t stand up and stay in my union, then we don’t have a voice,” said Chandra Madafferi, a high school health teacher and president of a 400-member local in the Detroit suburb of Novi.

Hmmm, OK. Lets read these two posts again:

WHY TEACHERS HAVE NO VOICE

Unions do what they want, without majority of teacher input

And, how about this one?

MEA attempts to ruin credit of 8,000 teachers

And tell me again what “voice” teachers are giving up by cancelling their union membership and keeping an extra $1,000 for themselves? They didn’t even have a voice to begin with, so how can they give it up?

A significant number of dropouts would deliver a financial blow to labor in a state where it has been historically dominant. Previously, employees in union-covered jobs were required to pay fees for bargaining and other services even if they didn’t want to belong.

“There is a lot at stake,” said Lee Adler, a lawyer who teaches labor issues at Cornell University and represents firefighters’ unions in New York. Public-sector unions, he said, “don’t have a history of being able to do massive recruitment of members who will voluntarily pay dues.”

Ah yes. It’s not actually about giving teachers a voice, it’s about….union dues! What I love the most about the this law is that it doesn’t allow the “collective bargaining fee” that non union members were required to pay previously, which was suspiciously similar to the actual amount of dues for a member.

Bingo – the reason I want teachers to pay the dues independently. If recruitment is much harder with voluntary dues, then maybe the union will actually have to change in ways that will attract teachers for the right reasons. Unions have been spending taxpayer dollars at will for too long!

With contracts covering roughly three-quarters of the 1,100 school workers’ bargaining units expiring, the Koch brothers-backed Americans for Prosperity bought a full-page ad in the Detroit Free Press with a form that teachers could send to their union to drop out. A free-market think tank has mailed reminder postcards about the Aug. 31 deadline.

“We are making sure that every eligible member who wants out of the union has the ability to do so,” said Vincent Vernuccio, director of labor policy for the Mackinac Center, which has worked in the Legislature to limit collective bargaining and promote charter schools.

Union officials charge that the group’s “desperate” campaign is aimed at union busting, not worker freedom.

“This is an organization bent on the destruction of not just this union but frankly of the public education system we all believe in,” said Doug Pratt, the state education association’s director of member and political engagement.

So while some groups are helping to provide information to help union members make their own decision (because remember the union was not educating their members adequately about the 31 day exit period) which actually does equate to worker freedom – MEA says the group is destroying public education as we see it.

I’m sorry first of all, they are simply informing teachers of their rights (something the union fails to do, but claims to protect teachers) which has nothing to do with destroying public education.

You know what is destroying public education? The MEA disenfranchising 8,000 teachers for forcing them to pay dues that the state already decided aren’t required. What has MEA done lately to improve public education. Alot of Nothing!

In Novi, Madafferi, 40, said she’s worried that some younger teachers won’t see the value of union membership. She said she has worked to explain the problem with “freeloading,” or benefiting from union negotiations without paying dues. Members pay up to $640 annually to the state union and $182 to the National Education Association, along with local dues.

As I said in this post, “A free-rider problem? Because workers benefit from the union’s contract negotiations and don’t have to pay. Someone PLEASE enlighten me about how the “collective bargaining fee” is calculated. If you are negotiating on behalf of 100 or 10,000 teachers do you really do more work? Free-rider problem, what a bunch of absolute baloney!”

Novi special education teacher Susan Bank, 60, said she plans to save the money, having gone several years without a raise.

“What am I getting for the over $1,000 in union dues I’m paying?” Bank said. “Now that we have the new law, the rules of the game have changed.”

Labor experts say Michigan unions will have to find other ways to demonstrate their value even though they still have collective bargaining power. In neighboring Wisconsin, more than one-third of teachers dropped their union membership after a 2011 law effectively ended collective bargaining for most public employees. But in right-to-work Alabama, nearly 80 percent of teachers voluntarily belong to the union and pay dues, said Adler.

Exactly. Unions in Michigan will have to demonstrate their value, just like any other benefit. The article notes that in right-to-work state Alabama, nearly 80% of teachers voluntarily pay their dues. Maybe MI needs to visit AL. I would say union presence is better in right-to-work states where the organizers actually have to work to get members voluntarily, instead of tax payers handing over cash directly to the union for doing very little work.

MEA attempts to ruin credit of 8,000 teachers

©Depositphotos.com/Margaret Paynich

©Depositphotos.com/Margaret Paynich

In my last post, I discussed the new Michigan right to work law.

By March of 2014, a year after the law went into effect, we have some news. Remember the teachers who filed lawsuits over the timing of their request to leave the union?

As a result, the Mackinac Center, a free market think tank in Michigan, filed a lawsuit against the MEA for attempting to force teachers to stay in the union and to continue to pay dues against their will.

Shortly after the lawsuit was filed the union informed the teachers named in the lawsuit that they were no longer members and back dues were no longer being sought.

Those suits were settled in the plaintiff’s favor, but in the words of the article:

“There is nothing unique about the situations of Ms. Chanski and Mr. Arthur, yet the MEA insists on treating some 8,000 other teachers differently by threatening to ruin their credit by turning them over to a collections agency,” Wright said. “We think the MEA should comply fully with Michigan law and realize that teachers are able to make up their own minds about whether or not they see a benefit to being in the union.”

The MEA admitted last Wednesday during a hearing at MERC that it has created a policy to go after about 8,000 teachers who so far have refused to pay dues in cash or give the union credit card or bank account information as part of its “e-dues” scheme. A federal appeals court rejected the MEA’s attempts last year to block a state law prohibiting school districts from deducting union dues as a payroll function.

“What public school employees who are still under a union contract have to ask themselves is what is different here,” Wright said. “They should ask themselves why the MEA was willing to let these two people go, but appear perfectly willing to stick it to anyone else who attempts to exercise their worker freedom rights.”

MEA admitted that 1,500 teachers correctly followed the process of declining union membership and dues in the 31 day window in August. However, another 8,000 have refused to pay cash or give over credit or debit card info to have the union enforce dues payment that was just made legal to refuse to pay. They have devised a plan to to “go after” 8,000 teachers – I’m sorry, this is supposed to be a teachers union, that protects teachers? And they are attempting to impact 8,000 credit scores for what? To forcibly collect dues that the state has declared teachers don’t have to pay?

Do you see what I mean now when I tell you that unions say one thing and mean yet another? This proves yet again that unions are only in this business to collect dues (they have to pay their national talking heads 500K a year after all) and not about protecting teachers and definitely not about kids.

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.