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Education reform is more about crushing teachers than helping kids

They really do hate the teachers unions: Jeb Bush, the Florida legislature, the Waltons, ALEC, the Koch brothers, Bill Gates, Michelle Rhee and numerous others, often rich, very few of who were ever in a classroom. They are more interested in breaking teachers union than helping kids and that (and profits but that’s another piece altogether) is what is driving their reforms.

Here in Florida, the epicenter of the school reform movement, teachers and their unions have really taken a beating. There was Thrashers push to end automatic deductions for unions even though it cost pennies to do and he had plenty of exemptions for non-union deductions; there is the drive for more vouchers (for private schools) and charter schools, neither of which have union shops and their latest reform du jour, the parent trigger, is designed to give public schools to charter organizations. Furthermore pension deductions make being a dues paying member of a union difficult. Then throw in the destruction of what the legislature called tenure which was really just job protections that teachers only got after years of quality service, and it is quite obvious that the teaching profession has taken several devastating blows.

If Bush and the legislature were interested in helping our students, teachers and schools why are they pushing for reforms, charter schools, vouchers, merit pay and the parent trigger that have no evidence that say they work? If they cared about teachers why would there be this battle to increase Florida’s teacher pay which is already some of the lowest in the nation? Despite plenty of evidence that merit pay doesn’t work and a system that everybody admits is unfair Will Weatherford, the speaker of the house insists that is the way we go. Also why aren’t they investing in strategies that work like smaller class sizes (the class size amendment has been gutted by the way) and the arts, always the first to be cut? I will tell you why, it is because those things would lead to more teachers and more union members and they can’t have that.

Then think about what has come out of the reform movements mouths recently. Jeb Bush, his right hand woman Patricia Levesque, his spokeswoman Jarym Emhoff, Senate President Don Gaetz and Representative Carlos Trujillo have all attacked the teachers union in the last few weeks. Gaetz our senate president said he thought that some teachers might prefer to work at charter schools where they weren’t under the thumb of the union. The THUMB! He didn’t mention if they preferred working for less pay, fewer benefits and no pension. I guess he thinks we should just assume that. Trujillo accused the PTA and numerous parent groups and civil rights groups of being union lackeys when they came out against the trigger, something Michelle Rhee said was unconscionable and finally all Bush or one of his surrogates have to do is mention the union and his base sees red.

The thing is if we really do care about the future of our schools and children, shouldn’t we all be against the corporate takeover of public education? Shouldn’t we all be against charters and voucher programs that give students a substandard education? I get it that there are some great charter schools but I also know over 200 have closed in Florida aloneover the last decade.

Shouldn’t we all be against the erosion of democracy, which is what happens when you take control of public education away from duly elected representatives and give it to corporate boards, which is what the parent trigger will do? Shouldn’t we want reforms to be based on evidence and facts, not Jeb Bush’s gut and what’s best for the bottom line of his friends and supporters who by the way will profit off of his reforms? If the union is standing up for those things and our elected officials aren’t then why does hearing the word union make so many on the far right salivate like Pavlov’s dogs did when they heard a bell ring?

The Union has become their boogeyman. A word they use to scare and inflame their base. Blaming the union for problems in education especially here in Florida where the republicans have had total control of education for the last 15 years would be laughable if it wasn’t so maddening that some ill informed people actually are buying into what they are selling.

Think about it friends, this is a right to work state, people are not forced to join the unions, heck teachers can’t even strike so what real power to force reform or changes do they have. All they can do is educate the public about what is happening not that Bush, Gaetz, Trujllo and others listen to them anyway.

No, they only listen to the corporations and special interests who pay their salaries or who donate to their campaigns. They not our children and definitely not our teachers are whom they owe their allegiances to.

There are undoubtedly serious problems in education but what baffles me is why so many people point their fingers at teachers unions. It can’t be the high pay, great benefits or awesome working conditions because those things do not exist. The union also does not hire or fire teachers. So if a great teacher is let go or a poor teacher is retained that’s not something the union is involved with. In Florida the Union also didn’t create the FCAT, set budgets, nor did they create the policies that have seen the gutting of the trades and the arts. Yes it is true they are against merit pay but that should tell you something if teachers are against merit pay. If they don’t want it, why is it being forced upon them, doesn’t that seem like an unnecessary expense especially in these lean times?

The Union does speak against the wholesale use of vouchers and the accelerated expansion of charter schools but lots of people do for their problems are legion. They siphon resources away from public schools, they don’t play by the same rules nor do they have the same accountability and study after study says they don’t perform better than public schools despite these advantages. Even if you like the idea of vouchers and charter schools these FACTS should be disconcerting.

Unions do traditionally believe in last hired first fired like many shops do both, union and non-union. The thing is friends despite what Bill Gates, Ashley Smith Juarez and Gary Chartrand says, experience does matter, but once again unions have never fired anyone.

What the union does is try to get the best package for their members and here in Florida their non-members too and makes sure the various districts and the state follows agreed upon rules. Isn’t that what everybody wants? Isn’t that fair? It is truly baffling why people say it’s the unions that are holding back education.

The powers that-be, Jeb Bush and his ilk needed a scapegoat and at least initially teachers were the perfect patsy. As a group teachers are giving and nurturing, they have an almost pathological need to trust and help and as a result don’t always stand up for themselves when they should. Many teachers didn’t even realize they went from revered members of society to the lazy and selfish malcontents who caused societies problems. The damage of to the profession has been extensive. Most teachers don’t last 5 years and the mode for years of experience; the year of teaching that has the greatest amount of teachers is one. Gone are the days when teaching would be a career. But instead of making the field more attractive Jeb and his ilk have wheeled around and are now preparing to hit it in the other knee.

They hate the unions so much, they want to destroy any dissent so much, that they are willing to risk the futures of millions of our children… wow…

Welcome to Florida.

1 comment:

  1. Thank you for pointing out how our state's leadership has been working to marginalize our teachers in the public debate regarding public education.
    Even as our governor is signing legislation that reverses reforms that were passed in previous years, the state legislature believes that they know what is best for our schools and that they do not need any input from the teachers who execute their policies.
    If our elected officials took teachers' opinions more seriously, we would not have to be going back and undoing what we rushed to do in the first place.
    Our state's teachers unions are allowed under the state constitution to represent the men and women who teach our students. The efforts of our state teachers union to advocate and lobby are being limited and destroyed for the sake of exacting revenge instead of seeking their help in improving our schools.