A Teachable Moment

Former local teacher union pesident Morty Rosenfeld periodically attempts to make sense of the increasingly senseless world of public education.

Look to Montana

I’ve been finding it hard to write about education in recent days. The deluge of dispiriting news from Washington most days makes the problems in our classrooms seem unimportant compared to the tangible daily across the board decline of our nation. I’m half way through Michael Wolff’s book, and, if even a quarter of it is accurate (and I think much more is), our country is in the deepest shit it’s been in for quite some time. I doubt that we have ever had an assemblage of self-seeking, bumbling nincompoops like we have now.

Yet, it was good to read this morning that rather than wallowing in despair, our union brothers and sisters in Montana are putting the final touches on a merger that will bring all public sector union members into one organization. Most people don’t tend to think of Montana as a hotbed of progressive unionism, but in many ways its history is a good deal more progressive than many places we think of as liberal leaders. The union teachers in Montana were one of the first to see the wisdom of merging the NEA and AFT organizations in their state. Now, facing attacks like the Janus Case before the U.S. Supreme Court, they are taking the next step and recognizing that what they have in common with their fellow public sector workers is infinitely greater than what separates them. Where are the leaders in places like New York and California with the imagination and will of the unionists in Montana? Bravo, Montana. May your merger inspire other state union leaders.

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NEA Meetings

I’m off today to the meetings of the National Council Of Urban Education Associations (NCUEA) and the National Education Association (NEA). Since the spread of the corporate education reform movement, these meetings of union activists from across the nation have provided insight into the breath of union opposition to this movement. It’s been interesting to watch our national union leaders retreat from initial support for high stakes testing and its linkage to teacher evaluation and the Common Core State Standards as state and local leaders who deal with these so-called reforms every day push back. Last year’s NEA convention saw the body vote to demand Arne Duncan’s resignation, Duncan the federal government’s poster-boy for corporate, data driven school reform. It will be interesting to see if this year’s meeting produces a call for more militant action. I even dare to hope that the new NEA leadership will ask the almost 10,000 assembled delegate activists to engage in some coordinated action upon their return home.

Also of interest at this meeting is a proposed resolution calling for an end to the unequal representation of state affiliates that belong to both the NEA and the American Federation of Teachers (AFT). Merged states like New York are underrepresented at the NEA, delegates being allotted based on the number of NEA members in the New York NEA at the time of its merger with the AFT’s New York State United Teachers (NYSUT). As a leader who has advocated for a national merger, I am very interested to see if the representatives to the NEA convention can do the right thing and fully embrace the merged states. While I doubt that this resolution will pass, just the fact that it will be discussed is a significant step forward.

I’ll be blogging from these meeting both on convention business and other matters relating to public education. I hope my readers will stay with me over the summer.

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