“Everyone’s voice matters” unless you don’t want to be a union member

“Everyone’s voice matters” unless you don’t want to be a union member

©Depositphotos.com/Margaret Paynich

©Depositphotos.com/Margaret Paynich

Well, well, well…here is an email Randi sent out today to supporters….and some of my comments.


Make no mistake: This case is not about individual liberty or the First Amendment. It is an outright attack against unions to prevent us from representing our members and using our voices to fight for our families, our schools, our colleges, our healthcare facilities and our communities.

First of all this case is about staff who do not want to be members. But since you point it out, I think you would be serving your members BETTER with voluntary dues because you would need to actually listen to them ALL and not just the policy wonks in DC to craft your policy. And the fact that in CA you have to pay the whole amount up front and then go through a cumbersome process to get a refund? I want to keep all my money for myself. I shouldn’t have to pay ahead and get my money back. The Government does that but unions ARE NOT THE GOVERNMENT. Though they certainly act like the are.


This case would undermine our unions and challenge nearly 40 years of precedent—and the court agreed to hear it barely a year after it dealt a blow to workers with its decision in Harris v. Quinn. In fact, the conservative justices on the court used the Harris v.Quinn ruling to invite cases like this one, showing just how political they really are.

40 year old precedent means times have changed and we don’t need that 40 year old law anymore. Unions had a role, but it’s getting outdated and they don’t want to give up their enormous power over the government. Well they don’t have control of the Supreme Court and I would say the “blow” from Harris vs Quinn is a further indication that you’re going to keep losing. How many times have teachers unions sneakily support candidates and campaigns? And you are calling the lawyers “political”? Better look in the mirror.


In the end, this case comes down to a fundamental question: Do unions have a right to collect a fair share from the people we represent, to ensure that we’re able to speak for all workers?

Define “fair share”. I don’t think 60-70% of the total dues is fair. I haven’t seen an accounting of how all those funds are spent. Maybe if you didn’t spend years on end stonewalling negotiations it wouldn’t cost so much to collectively bargain. Maybe you just need to spend 60-70% unnecessarily so you can justify continuing to collect it. Also, you’ve done such a good job of enacting terrible laws like salary scales and tenure that all those benefits are already there. If you want to say that teachers are benefiting from your negotiation for the whole, why can’t that member just negotiate for his/her self instead? 


The attack on labor by those who don’t want working families to have a voice has intensified. It has moved from the statehouse to the courthouse. But our affiliates understand that engaging our communities and our members, and organizing new members, are the key to repelling those attacks and growing a strong middle class.

These people DO want these teachers to have a voice. You are smothering them with your forced dues. These lawyers are the only ones standing up for teachers who don’t want to be in the union. You are not standing for those teachers. You are literally standing on a wad of bills smothering them. Get off of them. Collect your money voluntarily. And actually listen to ALL of the teachers, not just the ones who help you make your case. Plenty of teachers aren’t being heard by YOU. 


I’m proud that, at times like these, the AFT is still growing. We passed the 1.6 million mark last summer

Um, that’s because teachers are leaving you and you have to make up your cash with other disciplines…..


and like AFT Michigan, which has held strong despite the so-called right-to-work law in place there.

I’m amazed even mentioned Michigan, while your cohort MEA is literally ruining the credit of teachers who don’t want to be part of the union as retribution for a law that PROTECTS workers by letting them choose to be part of the union or not to be.

“Everyone’s voice matters” unless you don’t want to be a union member.

Analysis of district/union collaboration in Lawrence, MA

Analysis of district/union collaboration in Lawrence, MA

©Depositphotos.com/Margaret Paynich

©Depositphotos.com/Margaret Paynich

In this last post, I took a look at the state takeover / Turnaround plan in Lawrence, MA. Being touted as a true collaboration between districts and unions I wanted to dig a little deeper to see what may have transpired and potentially what could draw success in the future.

A strong leader is something I believe both unions and pro-reformers want. Lawrence was fortunate to have a leader that was willing to forge a middle ground by investing time in human capital. A strong leader on either the union side or a firm pro-reform side (or one that is simply neither) may not be able to bring about results. Finding strong leader talent is difficult, but often a very important piece.

Jeffrey Riley was appointed by the MA Education commissioner and was awarded all the powers of a superintendent and a school board. He did not have to negotiate with unions and didn’t quite at first. It appears he worked to implement certain reforms and then seeing some progress proceeded to work with unions to solidify.

Expanded learning time is usually promoted by both unions and pro-reformers, but unions only if teachers are being paid for it. Lawrence likely was able to make pay available through grants – we’ll have to see how they are able to keep it flowing through changes in school funding. It’s generally a given that expanded learning time, executed correctly is greatly beneficial to students. So what are districts to do if they can’t immediately find the money to pay teachers for the extra time? I see the teacher perspective of wanting to be paid for the extra time, but really how much extra is it? At one point someone decided that 7 hours a day was all students needed. Now it may be 9 hours. Should students have to suffer without expanded learning time in districts where there isn’t extra money for teachers?

Generally speaking unions are against charters – unless they are running them. Lawrence was able to put together a collection of charter management, union management and LPS management in the turnaround plan. So, I guess unions aren’t all against charters, all the time?

Lawrence is using a myriad of data to evaluate students and in turn teachers. This is not usually something that unions go along with. So maybe unions aren’t all against data for performance?

Successful building principals have autonomy to make changes in their own school, including staffing. However teachers did receive 2 1/2 hrs of collaborative planning time (likely assisted by the expanded learning time) in which to analyze student data and make curriculum adjustments. It was not clear on the specifics of professional development, but there appears to have been more offered.

I took a look at the Lawrence teacher’s contract and found some interesting items:

  • It provides the superintendent wide sweeping authority to make changes to school operational procedure throughout the year
  • Under Teacher hiring and promotions, Article 26: “In filling positions, principals have the authority to select the best qualified staff from both internal and external candidates without regard to seniority.” It is often the case that if a senior member of the district’s faculty wants a position he or she will get it. This allows more leeway to have the district make the right decisions for kids.
  • Another win for kids, in Article 35, when there is a reduction in force district is allowed to consider data and teacher evaluations over seniority:

“The Superintendent has the right to lay off teachers and other district staff due to reductions in force or reorganizations resulting from declining enrollment or other budgetary or operational reasons. The Superintendent will establish the selection criteria for layoffs of teachers and other district staff. Such selection criteria may include, but are not limited to qualifications, licensure, work history (including elements such as discipline, attendance, evaluations, etc.), multiple measures of student learning, operational need and the best interests of the students. Where all other factors are equal, seniority may be used as the deciding factor.”

This is also probably largely due to the law Stand for Children MA passed in 2012 which made job performance, not seniority, the primary consideration in teacher staffing decisions in every public school in Massachusetts, with the new evaluation systems being a key component of how job performance is measured.

  • Still not sure why teachers are allowed 15 sick days per year when they only report to school for 183 days (in Lawrence). Most professional jobs give you 1-2 weeks of paid leave and maybe a few sick days or those are included in the 1-2 weeks. The fact that they can accrue up to 200…what would someone do with 200 days of sick leave???

Fifteen days of full pay shall be allowed during the school term from August to June in case of illness. Any or all of the fifteen (15) days of full pay that have not been used may be carried over to the following year’s allowance and such allowance may be accumulated to two hundred (200) days of full pay.

  • Health insurance premiums which are usually a hot debate on contract negotiations are not clearly outlined. Unless teachers are buying into the statewide health insurance plan.
  • Article 66: The career ladder is one of the more interesting elements to the contract. Each level of advancement is based on certain performance evaluations, although no salary can be decreased due to evaluations, I assume the teacher would stay at the same level. I believe that in those cases the consequences of the evaluation system come into play. Often if you are at a needs improvement or unsatisfactory level for “x” number of years there are improvement plans and opportunities or consequences that take over. The career ladder also allows for excellent teachers to advance through the ladder commensurate with their evaluations. A new teacher could be eligible for the salary of a veteran teacher within 5 years.

A Novice teacher shall advance to Developing I and a Developing I teacher shall advance to Developing II annually provided that the teacher does not receive an end-of year evaluation rating of “unsatisfactory.”

A Developing II teacher shall advance to Career I and all Career level teachers shall advance a level annually provided that an end-of-year evaluation rating of “proficient” or “exemplary” is received, with “proficient” or better ratings on all four standards. A teacher with an overall end-of-year rating of “proficient” who has achieved less than “proficient” ratings on all four standards may still advance to the next level with the recommendation of the building principal and the approval of the Superintendent.

A teacher who does not receive the requisite evaluation rating can appeal for a review of the evaluation to the Evaluation Committee.

If no end-of year formative or summative evaluation is completed for a teacher, the teacher shall advance to the next level.

A teacher may advance on the salary scale more rapidly than described above with the recommendation of the school principal, subject to the approval of the Superintendent. Any such advancement will be limited to two levels above what the performance plan would otherwise provide, provided however that a teacher may not advance to Advanced or Masters status without going through the review process that applies district wide. The union shall be notified of all such advancement decisions.

Novice, Developing, Career, and Advanced teachers shall not have their salary reduced based on their performance evaluation.

Based on past experience and performance, a newly-hired teacher may enter the Lawrence Public Schools above the Novice level based on a principal’s recommendation and Superintendent’s approval.


The career ladder:






Level 4

Level 3

Level 2

Level 1


Level 2

Level 1


  • Article 67 – Expanded learning time pay is included in this contract. It is not clear to me when the ELT pay is issued – as time is accrued throughout the year or as a lump sum at the end of the year. Also, I’m not sure if the pay is based on each increment, or just a flat rate at the end. For example, if a teacher works 1525 hours,  does he/she receive a one time payment of $3,000, or does the teacher receive $2,000 for hours 1400-1449, and $2,500 for hours 1450-1499…etc. FYI $2,000 for 50 hours of work is $100/hr.

Beginning with the 2014-2015 school year, teachers working an extended day shall receive stipends in the following amounts based on hours worked:

1400-1449 hours             $2,000

1450-1499 hours             $2,500

1500-1549 hours             $3,000

1550-1599 hours             $3,500

1600-1825 hours             $4,000

Total teacher hours during the normal school day for the year shall not exceed 1,825 hours, excluding functions outside the normal school day, such as parent meetings, after-school functions and other similar activities.

These stipend compensation amounts shall be included in base pay, or otherwise considered as part of the teacher’s annualized salary, for retirement purposes.

Here are some comments from AFT union leaders reported in the Education Week article:

Randi Weingarten, the president of the American Federation of Teachers, who is generally an outspoken opponent of state takeovers, has been highlighting the progress in Lawrence as an example of transformation that’s possible when the union and the district work together.

“Lawrence is succeeding because of the work between people—including the superintendent, the teachers, and parents, and now, the city administration,” she said. “Let me be really blunt. Anybody who thinks that it’s structure rather than human capital will make a huge … policy mistake.”

Frank McLaughlin, the president of the Lawrence Teachers’ Union, praises the gains and Mr. Riley, though he credits strong leadership and an infusion of resources for the positive momentum, not the state takeover itself.

It appears that concessions can be made in the right environments. I think it’s worth noting that Mr. Riley basically made it mandatory that teachers join the union. I’m sure that went a long way to making the negotiations easier….you know so AFT can bank every dollar! 😉

If you believe Randi’s tweets are legit, I deserve same courtesy

©Depositphotos.com/Margaret Paynich

©Depositphotos.com/Margaret Paynich

There have been more accusations lately that my tweets are “paid for.” Let’s be clear. Every single person who works for any organization (and is paid for it) who ALSO tweets on behalf of that organization is getting “paid to tweet” including Randi W. The accusation (that no one bothers to specifically articulate) is that I don’t actually believe or write my own tweets but that I post them exclusively because I am paid to do so.

Do you believe that Randi W earnestly believes the words that she writes? If so, then it is extremely disingenuous to accuse me of such a thing. Especially since Randi makes over 1000x what I make. So I would say if anyone had an incentive to “post what they are paid to write and not what they believe” it would be Randi W. If I were making $500K a year I’d do whatever you told me to do.

All I am saying is that if Randi is legit, then you need to give me the same courtesy. My tweets and blog posts are supported by my experience and not a reflection of what anyone instructs me to write. Anyone who knows me personally will tell you that I am brutally honest and not afraid to express my opinion and my thoughts.

Here is the bio posted in the About section of my blog:

Originally from Warwick, RI, I earned a political science degree at Trinity University in Washington D.C. Soon after I earned a School Counseling Master’s degree at Assumption College. I completed my school counseling practicum at a middle school in Worcester, MA, an undeserved middle school with a diverse population.

While in Worcester I took a position as a parent organizer with Stand for Children MA. STAND MA had just successful passed legislation tying tenure to teacher evaluations vs. the traditional unionized model. Naturally, this campaign destroyed Stand’s relationships in Worcester a heavily union city. I took on the role of rebuilding our image in Worcester. The previous organizer wasn’t actually organizing, she was just working the policy angle. I told everyone that I was here to be an organizer and as long as I am here, that’s exactly what I intend to do. We won back a great deal of respect and relationships in the year I was with Stand and had even turned one of our greatest dissenters.

Right now, I am an education blogger and real estate agent while I build the capital to start a community based school counseling organization focused on middle school students. I had always wanted to be a teacher, but when I was in high school, I thought teachers didn’t make enough money, so I decided to go into politics to help teachers make more money. I started out strongly in support of unions.

I particularly remember blindly supporting a Warwick Teacher’s union demand in 2003 when I graduated from high school. It wasn’t until Junior year if college that I realized teacher pay is a massively more complicated issue and not at all what I expected. We advocated and my younger sister gained admission to the public charter school, The MET in Providence, RI. The MET champions alternative education, something all school should look closer at.

One of my saddest experiences were as a guidance intern in Worcester. I could work diligently with a student for a 30 min session – but know that I have to send him right back to the awful teachers for the majority of the day. There were maybe a handful of great teachers in the school, a handful of down right disrespectful, uninterested, unengaged teachers full of entitlement and the rest were pretty mediocre. And I know this is not unusual.

I also volunteered with Communities in Schools in Atlanta at one of the lowest performing middle schools in DeKalb County, GA. I observed ineffective unengaged substitute teachers, mediocre teachers and even spent time with a  TFA/Harvard Education graduate. Even with all the tools and strategies that I know great teachers possess, it was still extremely difficult to maintain progress in class and class composure. One student asked my why she can’t have a quiet classroom. I had no idea what I should tell her.

We need wide, sweeping, dramatic change. That’s why I support education reform. While unions are not the exclusive reason we aren’t moving forward they have their hand in it and definitely make efforts to hold us back. We need great teachers and great principals in EVERY school.

Other notable roles in education & community I have held:
East Lake YMCA Volunteer of the Year Award 2014, Atlanta, GA – for my work building a middle school college and career readiness program

Decatur Citizens Police Academy Training

Treasurer & Voter Outreach Coordinator, DeKalb (County) Young Democrats

Board Member, Advisory Board for Alisha Thomas Morgan for State School Superintendent

Neighborhood Watch Coordinator, Midway Woods Neighborhood Association, Decatur, GA

United Way VIP Board Program Graduate

DeKalb County CASA Volunteer

Communities in Schools Volunteer, DeKalb County middle school

College Track volunteer, East Lake YMCA Teen & Youth Development Center, Atlanta, GA

Worcester Organizer, STAND for Children Massachusetts

Mentor, Refugee Independence through Service Enhancement (RISE) Program

Mentor, Real Connections Program, Rhode Island Foster Parent Association

Providence Children’s Initiative, Promise Neighborhoods Project (Harlem Children’s Zone model), Providence, RI

Volunteer, Math Volunteer Program, Newport Public Schools, RI

Lead Organizer, Moderate Party of RI, Warwick, RI

Volunteer Team Leader, Young Heroes Program, City Year Rhode Island

Executive Assistant, USAction, Washington, DC

Research Intern, Center on Education Policy, Washington, DC

News Blogger, This Week In Education with Alexander Russo 

Intern, The American Board for Certification of Teacher Excellence (ABCTE)

Intern, U.S. Department of Education, Washington DC

Intern, Office of Senator Jack Reed, Washington DC

Tutor, Maya Angelou Public Charter School and Academy       

Tutor, Project North Star

AEA spews lies in response to “School Choice” March

Hundreds of people participate in a National School Choice Week rally as they make their way up the sidewalk along Dexter avenue to the Alabama State Capitol, Wednesday Jan. 28, 2015, in Montgomery, Ala. Parents and students rallied on the lawn of the Alabama Capitol Wednesday, urging state politicians to provide more publicly funded education options.(AP Photo/Hal Yeager)

Hundreds of people participate in a National School Choice Week rally as they make their way up the sidewalk along Dexter avenue to the Alabama State Capitol, Wednesday Jan. 28, 2015, in Montgomery, Ala. Parents and students rallied on the lawn of the Alabama Capitol Wednesday, urging state politicians to provide more publicly funded education options.(AP Photo/Hal Yeager)

 The Alabama Education Association (AEA) supports the efforts of all parents everywhere seeking the best possible education for their children, be it in public, private, religious, or home schools. However, AEA must stand against those that seek to divert scarce public education resources into ideas that have been shown not to improve student achievement and, instead, foster fraud and waste of taxpayer funds.

Funds for traditional public school may be scarce, but you have to understand that your traditional public schools have not shown the success students need and changes are necessary. Standing in the way of reform is supporting the status quo – which from this last post, indicates that African American boys are graduating at a rate of 54%. How can the AEA support such a low graduation rate? “Foster fraud and waste taxpayer money”? That sounds like fear mongering – and the only one wasting taxpayer dollars are the schools who are not providing quality education to all students. 

AEA Associate Executive Secretary Dr. Greg Graves said, “Just as with the oral argument before the Alabama Supreme Court on AAA, while public school educators and students went about the tasks of teaching and learning, children were taken out of the classroom to be used as pawns and set decoration by those who seek to dismantle and destroy public education. The numbers from AAA show that it is predominantly being used to subsidize parents who already send their children to private school and those in school systems without a ‘failing school.’ Studies have shown conclusively that students in charter schools perform no better, and often worse, than students in public schools and that charter schools are rife with fraud and abuse of taxpayer funds. Instead of investing in strategies that we know improve teaching and learning, such as smaller class sizes, better training and professional development of teachers, and additional resources for students with challenges, we are only looking at ideas that divert money from public schools into private hands. ”

Ah Dr. Graves – how long have AL public schools been on the current path? They haven’t gotten it right yet and you are asking for more money to continue on the same inadequate path? There are just as many studies that show smaller class sizes at a certain number don’t impact learning. Better training and Professional development of teachers? I think part of that is the role of your Schools of Education to prepare adequate teachers…and how long has it been since a majority of your teachers attended a school of education? I hope that to determine the professional development needs of your teachers you are administering an effective teacher evaluation to pinpoint their exact areas needed of improvement. Diverting money from public schools to private hands…you what really strikes me about that? Parents who send their kids to a non public school are still paying their fare share of the taxes to support public schools their kids are not attending. That’s like saying, “Oh, I gave you a defective car? Oh I’m sorry, but you need to finish paying for that car and buy a new one, there is just nothing else I can do if you want to have a car to drive.” While not all charter schools are successful, plenty of them are. Parents clearly want choices. But remember, Dr. Graves exclusively represents teachers – not parents, not students, not the community. His only job is to look out for teachers. 

Graves added, “Despite the rhetoric from those who are looking to divert public school funding, parents have always had a choice between public schools, private schools, and home schooling. For the last decade under No Child Left Behind, most parents in what are now called “failing schools” also had the choice to transfer to other public schools in the same district. What is being presented as “choice” is nothing but a way to starve public education and make charter and private school operators rich.”

Yes, parents have had the choice between sending their child to the failing school their tax dollars pay for, or shelling out the own extra money to pay for private school. Great options! Oh, so I don’t have to send my child to my failing school, but I am responsible for transportation to and from another school in the district that I choose that is not failing? Why can’t parents have a choice of school, choice of public schools within their own attendance zone? The only people getting rich are union staffers –  nearly 600 staffers at the NEA and AFT are raking in six-figure salaries, and of course, Randi Weingarten makes $557,875