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Divided on Unions

Posted on Mar 1, 2011
AP / Robert Durell

Karen Wallace, right, and Meryleigh Brainerd, both teachers in Calaveras County, join in a candlelight vigil in front of the Capitol in Sacramento last week to express sympathy with union members in Wisconsin.

In the national battle over the future of unions, labor’s greatest danger is division among liberals over schoolteachers’ rights in dismissals, evaluation testing, assignments, promotions and tenure.

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On one side are the two nationwide teacher unions—the National Education Association and the American Federation of Teachers. On the other are the Obama administration and liberals such as Los Angeles Mayor Antonio Villaraigosa.

Watching are parents concerned about the public school education of their children. In fact, they are probably more worried about education than the deficit, the tea party or any other domestic issue. Worry is a powerful force, enough to prompt this parental army to turn on the teachers unions—and other public employee unions—if children are seen as getting shortchanged in school. As Ezra Klein put it in The Washington Post last week:

“… [T]he future of the union movement is in the hands of the teachers unions. Most people don’t have much contact with the janitors at their city hall or machinists in Chicago. But they do have contact with their child’s teacher and they do read about how well the schools are doing.”

In Los Angeles, Mayor Villaraigosa and the American Civil Liberties Union have taken on the teachers union—the United Teachers of Los Angeles (UTLA)—over the seniority issue and the union’s insistence on a provision that last hired is first fired when layoffs are made during budget cuts. The school district, citing seniority rules in the UTLA contract, fired large numbers of young teachers at schools in impoverished South Los Angeles, where the students are overwhelmingly African-American and Latinos. 


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The young teachers had volunteered to teach in those schools and by all accounts generally were doing a good job. But seniority rules in the union contract mandated that they be fired, and the young teachers had to take their energy and skill to the unemployment line. The ACLU maintained they were replaced by less talented veterans, including large number of substitutes. Siding with the civil liberties union, a judge ruled that the school district can’t fire new teachers in schools in poor areas because the high faculty turnover hurts students.

Villaraigosa, who was once an organizer for the union, told a nonpartisan public policy group that “there has been one, unwavering roadblock to reform: UTLA union leadership. While not the biggest problem facing our schools, they have consistently been the most powerful defenders of the status quo.”

President Barack Obama, a centrist liberal, and his education secretary, Arne Duncan, supports some ideas the unions oppose:  merit pay, charter schools (which are privately operated) and publicly funded schools without union contracts. They also favor relaxation of seniority rules and evaluation of teachers based on student test scores. The administration’s Race to the Top program gives big grants to states that require such evaluations.

The controversy over the teacher evaluations illustrates the complexity of the problem. An increasingly popular way of evaluating teachers is through the “value-added system.” A student who is average one year normally would be expected to be average the next. If test scores show an improvement to above average, the teacher is given credit. If the score falls, the teacher is blamed.

The unions oppose it. The system is imprecise, with a substantial margin of error. But it’s a measurement. “It’s like batting averages,” said David Tokofsky, a former Los Angeles School Board member. A batting average is a measure of a hitter’s ability in baseball, but, as Tokofsky pointed out, there are other statistical measurements as well. Judges of baseball players’ abilities look at all the measurements, as well as intangibles such as attitude. It’s the same with teachers and student test scores. Scores should be just one part of the process of evaluating teachers. 

By resisting such changes, the teachers unions are playing into the hands of Republican conservatives such as Govs. Scott Walker of Wisconsin and Chris Christie of New Jersey and their campaigns against public employee unions.

The changes championed by Mayor Villaraigosa and President Obama are not union busting. They are not a return to the pre-union days, when teachers were fired for their politics during the McCarthy era or dumped for no good reason by principals who didn’t like them. What the liberal reformers want is an end to union contracts that impose dubious paperwork and seniority rules and too-easy tenure requirements. They want more charter schools—privately run, publicly financed institutions that make their own rules within state and district standards.

They want teachers to be evaluated in a fair, systematic way. “Education may be the most important issue of our time,” Villaraigosa said. “It is an economic issue, it is a civil rights issue and it is the foundation for the common values that bind us as Americans. … A quality education should not hinge on your ZIP code, or your parents’ tax bracket or the color of your skin.”

If the teachers unions are perceived as getting in the way of improving education, parents of all income levels, including the poor, will punish them and vote against candidates who support the unions. And the public workers unions are likely to suffer with them.

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By john horse, March 21, 2011 at 11:43 pm Link to this comment
(Unregistered commenter)

I’m confused.  Mr. Boyarsky says that our present system of evaluating teachers is “is imprecise, with a substantial margin of error.”  Yet he is arguing that this “imprecise” error-ridden system should be used to determine whether a teacher is fired or not. 

I don’t have a problem with evaluation of teachers or with student testing.  I do have a problem with the present system of high-stakes testing.  The reason why student test scores are an imprecise measure of the quality of teachers is because, according to studies (going all the way back to the Coleman Report), teacher only account for about 1/3 of student achievement.  The other 2/3 is the student’s socio-economic status.  The problem with this so-called reform is that it is based on a faulty assumption - teachers are responsible for 100% of student performance.  If your analysis is not correct then your solution to the problem will probably not work.  Testing can be useful in identifying areas that a teacher needs to improve upon.  However, tests are being unfairly used to make summative evaluations regarding the quality of the teacher.  The effect of this policy will be to devastate public education.  I fail to see how this is in the interest of parents, teachers, union members, nonunion members, and most especially of students

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By lhutcherson, March 4, 2011 at 8:45 am Link to this comment
(Unregistered commenter)

A shameful and deceitful hit piece, and
a typical stealth attack apparently learned in some right-wing training school.  Try to pit the teachers against the other unions, divide and conquer.  This description of the situation is entirely at odds with reality and ignores the lackluster performance of charter schools as well as standardized testing, AND ignores the fact that non-teacher-unions states are all at ROCK BOTTOM in education rankings.  Ask Michelle Rhee if she’s found a new job yet, while you’re rhapsodizing about how wonderful Rat-Race (to the Top of the Taxpayer Giveaway Heap) is. Here’s a news flash—Charter schools are a idea for a pilot program that has been hijacked into a racist, classist, attack on all but the rich, with the ultimate goal of turning the less-than-fabulously-wealthy into uneducated serfs.  Standardized testing is destroying any hope of education, the budgets have been obliterated, the charter schools will take poor taxpayers’ money to school the rich, and you think the teachers are to blame. Nice.  I hope I never have to trust your judgment on whether it’s safe to cross a street.  And Obama a centrist liberal?  HAHAHAHAHAHAHAHAHAHAHAHAHAHAHAHAHAHA! Moderate THIS!

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By Morpheus, March 3, 2011 at 10:54 pm Link to this comment


We can’t solve our problems the old way. Don’t get distracted. We have to think big or we will continue to be nickeled and dimed to death.


Read “Common Sense 3.1” at ( )
We don’t have to live like this anymore. “Spread the News”

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By omygodnotagain, March 3, 2011 at 9:02 pm Link to this comment

In order to complete the process of turning this country into an oligarchy of the rich, we must first make sure that the population as a whole is uneducated and easily fooled. Just like they were fooled by the Change agenda of Barack Obama, who is certainly not a liberal, but a hard core corporatist. The last thing they want are well educated people who demand reasonable wages, when they can get them for a tenth of the price overseas.
One of the reasons schools are having a tough time teaching kids, are the divisive social and economic troubles caused by falling wages, the break up of families, the failure to control our border, trash media and a host of other dysfunctions. In the LA school system as estimate 120 different languages are spoken, how is one supposed to teach to that. Anyone who has spent years and survived teaching in LA deserves a Congressional Medal of Honor.

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By Inherit The Wind, March 3, 2011 at 6:25 pm Link to this comment

The right-wingers simply do not understand that they are cutting their own throats when they kill unions, particularly public service unions.

Look how Ronald Reagan damaged the flying by firing all the air traffic controllers.  Flying has NEVER been the same, we simply now accept the once-occasional delays as routine.  Between that and the TSA’s incompetence certain air routes have been killed. It is now faster door-to-door to take the train from Penn Station in New York to Union Station in Washington than fly—and easier and safer, too.

Kill the Police unions and cut wages and bennies and you’ll get shitty cops.
Kill the Fire Fighters unions and cut wages and bennies and you’ll get shitty firemen.
Kill the UFT and cut wages and bennies and you’ll get shitty teachers.

Ronald Reagan killed Patco and cut wages and bennies and we got shitty air traffic controllers.

You don’t saw off the limb you are sitting on.
You don’t drill holes in the bottom of the boat you’re floating in.
You don’t poison the well you drink from.

Unless you are a bat-shit-crazy Re-thuglican living in dream world awaiting The Rapture.

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By AR, March 3, 2011 at 6:20 pm Link to this comment
(Unregistered commenter)

Obama is wrong about charter schools.  They are a Trojan horse to destroy public education and to transfer more money to the rich in this case to educate their children at public expense at private schools.

It is a mistake to put NEA and AFT in the same basket. AFT has ALWAYS favored high standards for teachers and the dismissal of incompetents.

Without unions, teachers are at the mercy of the political agendas of boards and principals. All you have to do is look at Texas.  On second thought don’t change TX and Mississippi.  Leaving them dumb will mean better jobs for the other 48 states.

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By Mark, March 3, 2011 at 5:27 pm Link to this comment
(Unregistered commenter)

Liberals and conservatives have decided to demolish teacher unions—which isn’t very surprising since they’re both taking money and marching orders from corporations. The same for media pundits like our pal above.  These toadies and their fatcat bosses just can’t wait to plunge us back into the Gilded Age and leave us helpless and hopeless.

As a teacher myself, I can say all of Obama’s proposals are simply an extension of Bush’s No Child’s Behind Left.  Public schools aren’t “broken”—that’s utter crap.  We just need money!  Give us the military’s budget and see how long we stay “broken.”

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By olddog, March 3, 2011 at 2:03 pm Link to this comment

Just another brick in the wall!!!

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By Leefeller, March 3, 2011 at 1:52 pm Link to this comment

Maybe the Unions should make concessions, but like everything else education and what education should be differs from state to state.  If the states have free run on education, people like Waker could possibly instill his own agendas.  In the great state of Texas for example, they would have Jefferson taken out of the text books, so it would be depending on the proclivity of the individual state. 

Different education standards from state to state happens right now, look at Mississippi? Even with federal standards they cannot get their act together, so we blame the teachers? So let Mississippi educate people on their own, that will work really well.

I disagree with Bill Boyarsky on who is really concerned about childern education is it the parents? Now that they are unemployed instead of holding three jobs, parents can stay home and teach their kids about starving. Is it the Unions? They have worked to garner wages, benefits and other options for their members. Is it the government? Surely not the Republicans, they would dismantle any existing government service by labeling it socialist, including the schools and now even the for profit post office.

I guess, I believe the governemnt should provide basic services, (SERVICES)  which covers many things, from schools, to the postal service and I would add a national medical plan. 

You know when Obama was touting us about hope and change,  this is not the change I had hoped for!

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By BA Lambrakos, March 3, 2011 at 8:52 am Link to this comment
(Unregistered commenter)

A CEO, a Tea Party Member and a Union Worker walk into a bar.  They all sit down
at a table with 12 cookies on it.  The CEO calmly reaches out and takes 11 of the
cookies.  The CEO then leans over to the Tea Partier and whispers, “I’d watch our
for that Union Guy, I think he wants a piece of your cookie.”

I’d laugh if it didn’t make me want to cry.

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By RayLan, March 3, 2011 at 6:50 am Link to this comment

The only function that prevents the public sector from being a dictatorship is the right to strike.

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By ruthru, March 2, 2011 at 11:41 pm Link to this comment
(Unregistered commenter)

Mr. Boyarsky is calling Villaraigosa a liberal.  Is he aware of the relationship that Villaraigosa has with Eli Broad? Since when are liberals defined by how well they take care of billionares? Villaraigosa is destroying public schools in Los Angeles.  His fervor for corporatizing public institutions is well known here. He is not a liberal.  He’s a corporate butt boy like his buddy, Obama.

Mr. Boyarsky, please extend the scope of your research beyond the Villaraigosa website.

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By ardee, March 2, 2011 at 9:39 pm Link to this comment

A rather confused and shortsighted understanding of unions and seniority from Mr. Boyarsky, an apologist for the Democratic Party. As such he opines against unions, specifically the Teachers Unions, possibly because his party has refused to stand up for a group that has been staunch supporters of his own party forever. A shallow article and as transparent as they come.

Seniority is a strength of unionism actually , and to say that teachers with seniority are worse than those fresh from college may be a bit of a stretch. Given that new teachers are filled with enthusiasm, eager to test new theories perhaps, and certainly some older teachers have become jaded or may even be going through the motions. But, as a general rule, those doing the job longer have a greater expertise than those new to the task. A bit of propaganda supporting Obama’s abandonment of the teachers?

I find this article, from a known democratic party partisan, quite disturbing actually. I think it signals an abandonment of unions by democrats, a really, truly stupid and perhaps even suicidal move. But I have come to expect such from that party, how low they have fallen indeed.

I ask, yet again, what the heck is a “centrist liberal”? Some new and alien species being brought into existence to lend some aura of validity to the rightward swing of Mr. Boyarsky’s chosen party.

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By tdbach, March 2, 2011 at 6:40 pm Link to this comment


How was I wrong? What I said is that Charter schools have turned out to be prettymuch as you described them (although I might argue, at least here in Mass, they are not supposed to be for-profit). But what we the public were sold when they pushed for the idea of charter schools was to provide a laboratory for educational innovation while providing competition (and supposedly incentives for improvement) for public schools.

My argument is that this was a ruse to cripple teachers unions, open the floodgates for “market” style vouchers, and get education dollars to subsidize private schools. But, ironically, the concept of charter schools as a laboratory for educational innovations could be a good thing, if it were designed as advertised.

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By kerryrose, March 2, 2011 at 6:23 pm Link to this comment


Your information is wrong.  Charters are for-profit and non-unionized.  Administration makes 2X that of public school Administration, though.

Teachers do not have to be certified.  Most charters cherry pick students and others are subject to a painful ‘lottery.’

Some Charters have had good results, but the great majority have scored worse than comporable public schools.

Charters also decimate neighborhood public schools by creating sad lotteries and destroying any sort of community that sustains it.  The people who run Charters are businessmen not educators.  Profit is the motive and there is not educational innovation.

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By rollzone, March 2, 2011 at 5:49 pm Link to this comment

hello. in no way do i compare the teachers’ unions in
Wisconsin and California, but in name. the fate of
labor unions may be more reflective of local market
tolerances, and not sweeping national standards.
babysitting children in class is different than
wiring a house in that you hope by the end of the day
you have contributed to the betterment for society of
a human animal, whom you would one day be able to
welcome into your home. teachers are only one of the
players on that stage, and were once mere students
themselves. unions only increase the politics and
waste, but if they feel too weak without them, unions
need local relativity. a teaching association must
not over burden the local economy, or it will only
harm the entire educational institution.

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By David B. Cohen, March 2, 2011 at 3:55 pm Link to this comment
(Unregistered commenter)

Obama is such a liberal on education that his agenda fits in perfectly with Jeb Bush
and Newt Gingrich. 

Unions appear to defend the status quo when politicians and administrators offer
short-sighted, simplistic, and un-workable, politically crafted solutions to our
problems.  When the proposed changes are viable and reasonable, unions have a
proven track record of negotiating for reform and innovation.  (See Denver, Ohio,
Minnesota, some districts in CA, New Mexico, for starters). 

That said, I think teachers unions have some work to do get ahead of the curve,
draw more attention to their proposed solutions and get less caught up in a
reactionary mode, even though I generally agree with their reactions.

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By peteb91, March 2, 2011 at 1:10 pm Link to this comment

First they came for the communists,
and I didn’t speak out because I wasn’t a communist.

Then they came for the trade unionists,
and I didn’t speak out because I wasn’t a trade unionist.

Then they came for the Jews,
and I didn’t speak out because I wasn’t a Jew.

Then they came for me
and there was no one left to speak out for me.

So keep on thinking this in Wisconsin won’t effect you, their coming for you soon.

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By olddog, March 2, 2011 at 12:57 pm Link to this comment

The people of this country chose a long time ago for BLOOD,BULLETS and BOMBS!!! Wake up people. Education,healthcare reform.None of these things are possible as long as the people support the military industrial complex. Live Better Work Union!!!

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By tdbach, March 2, 2011 at 12:54 pm Link to this comment

As I understand it, charter schools were originally conceived as testing grounds for fresh approaches to education. That seems like a great idea, as all things are subject to inertia, including our school systems. We get stuck in our ways. And – not to be too trite about it – if we’re not making progress, we’re going backwards.

The problem is, charters haven’t been incorporated in such a way to fulfill that mission. It’s just been, “Give us a proposal, and if we think it makes sense we’ll let you open a charter school and give you x-dollars per pupil attending.” There are no useful ground rules that I’m aware of. There is no mechanism for capturing innovations that are proving themselves and applying them in the standard public schools.

This, I believe, is how it should have been done:

1….A charter school’s charter lasts a finite time (10 years might be reasonable), after which point the school is dissolved.
2….A charter school must take all comers, first come, first served. No exceptions. That way it can reflect as closely as possible the demographics faced by the public system.
3….Every year, a charter schools evaluate and report in detail the educational programs employed and the results
4….Teachers for charter schools come from the public school system and return to the public schools in regular rotating shifts (with perhaps 4-year stints), bringing with them learnings from their charter experience.

The point being, charters are supposed to be an educational laboratory, not a school-choice alternative. They are supposed to enrich and enliven the public schools, not suck all their most motivated students and parents away until what’s left is a wasteland.

As it stands, charters are a way for middle class and upper-middle class families to send their kids to a private school without having to pay for it.

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By DavidByron, March 2, 2011 at 12:21 pm Link to this comment

Obama is a right winger obviously.  Progressive sites always lie all the time about crap like that.  Why do their readers put up with being constantly lied to I wonder?

The split is between the right and the right and the split is called “good cop, bad cop”, although increasingly it is played as “bad cop, fucking insane cop”.  The split is an illusion, an act.  They are all bad cops.

Its class warfare and nothing more than that.  It’s not complicated, so why can’t Pwoggie sites say it?

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By JeffersonSmith, March 2, 2011 at 9:28 am Link to this comment

More uninformed criticism from Bill Boyarsky, noted blowhard and self styled “expert” on all national issues of import. I live in LA, and know this story, UTLA is the only reason that class sizes haven’t been increased to 60, that teachers have some control over their class rooms and that Administrators haven’t destroyed LAUSD. Let’s talk about the millions wasted on school buiding projects that are both over budget and over schedule, let’s talk about the lack of sufficient books, supplies and support materials for the teachers and students, let’s talk about the impact of “main streaming” students with significant physical, emotional and cultural/language challenges into classrooms already over crowded, while making teachers cope with no assistance for these problems.

Let’s talk about the safety and security of the school campuses where “LA School Police”, are allowed to roam unmonitored and unsupervised on campus while assaults, vandalism and theft rise every year and gang activity goes unchecked in the general area after school. One campus cop in LA shot himself two weeks ago and tried to blame it on a gang related drive by shooting.

Villaraigosa is an unprincipled and corrupt politician who thought he could use the school issue in LA to boost him to state wide office and then onto the national political scene as a “serious” Democratic voice. This ambitious plan for political self-promotion might have worked, if he could have kept “it” in his pants and not publicly betrayed his wife and family.

Arne Duncan is as effective in “Education Reform” as Larry Summers and Tim Geithner were in “Wall Street Reform”. To call Obama a liberal of any stripe is just not borne out by his actions. He may be a liberal or progressive on the stump, but in practice he’s just another triangulating, self-serving centrist, neo-liberal, mannikin with a “New Democrat” label on his forehead.
This article isn’t worth the time it took to read it, pure Union bashing and propaganda, meritless, shallow and intellectually dishonest.

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By Rachel Levy, March 2, 2011 at 9:12 am Link to this comment
(Unregistered commenter)

This is incredibly simplistic and misinformed. VAM may be unreliable, “But it’s a measurement”?!?! Why don’t we just measure the height of students and correlate it with the height of their teachers. That, too, is a measurement.

The reforms the author “reports” on or neither new nor have they been proven to work, nor are those Democrats pushing them particularly “liberal.” In fact, in many cases the reforms have been proven not to work. But that’s okay, right? Professional educators should go against all that their training and experience tells them that works to provide quality education. They should just take one for the team and destroy our public education system in the process. What’s the big deal, right?

And on top of everything else teachers unions are blamed for, if the GOP and big business are successful in crushing all unions then that, too, will be the teachers unions fault? Come on. Are the teachers unions also responsible for the author’s car breaking down?

I expect higher standards for publication from truthdig than this. If pieces like this continue to be published here, I will read (and donate) elsewhere.

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By Michael, March 2, 2011 at 9:06 am Link to this comment
(Unregistered commenter)

Calling President Barack Obama a centrist liberal is quite a stretch. He is a center-right politician and his actions in office exhibit this for anyone who has been watching.  Merit pay, charter schools and publicly funded schools without union contracts is an example of this too.  The higher purpose of education is to turn out human beings who can think, who can evaluate, who can critically look at the world.  The approach this supposed “liberal” president is taking is right along the lines of Bush’s No-child-left-behind, which is the wrong approach.  To see what education should be in any country that calls itself a democracy, read Paulo Freire’s Pedagogy of the Oppressed.  Rather than churning out parts to be put in the world of capitalism, it promotes turning out citizens to function in a world of democracy.

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By JLawrence, March 2, 2011 at 8:51 am Link to this comment

I also have to ask, since when has President Obama been a “liberal”, Mr. Boyarsky? (answer:not since his campaign)

The problem with our education of children is mostly cultural disintegration with bad parenting high on the list—not bad teachers. Teachers are the scapegoats, and easy marks at that. The promotion of charter schools will only continue the destruction of public education; into a for-profit system. (You should hear what our new Florida Gov is trying to do!) And yes, ‘Waiting for Superman’ is propaganda, which Mr. Boyarsky has swallowed hook, line and sinker. By the way, my mother taught high school for 38 years—I know a bit on the subject, and with all this mad rush to ‘evaluate’ teachers, everyone should keep in mind that teachers cannot pick and choose their students; it’s the luck of the draw with ‘entitled’ parents of our ‘entitled’ children in our ‘entitled’ culture usually being way out of control.

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By marta, March 2, 2011 at 8:21 am Link to this comment
(Unregistered commenter)

A revolution is what the Koch Party wants just like in the Arab countries.—Oust the leader, divide the people, weaken the country for an easier takeover,- by the elite neocon oil companies like Koch Industries,Halliburton—and the Zionist of Israel.

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By kerryrose, March 2, 2011 at 7:45 am Link to this comment


Your information is laughable and right out of a Fox News program.  Most of what teachers unions fight for is for children; Class sizes, schedules, curriculum, textbooks.

Turning on teachers like your corporate whip masters demand will not solve your problems or the country’s.

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By Morpheus, March 1, 2011 at 11:09 pm Link to this comment

Our country is out of control. The states are in despartion. And the people are in shock and denial.

Read “Common Sense 3.1” at ( )

We don’t have to live like this anymore. “Spread the News”

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By PatRM2, March 1, 2011 at 10:18 pm Link to this comment

One small comment on this…the lumping of President Obama with liberals seems a bit distracting.  I have trouble with anyone writing blogs or articles, presented on any progressive site, that thinks President Obama is a liberal.  Calling him a progressive is stretching it, and no doubt to many people he can easily be confused with the left because the dems have moved so far to the right.  It is time to get back to being liberal.

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By PatrickHenry, March 1, 2011 at 9:37 pm Link to this comment

It doesn’t work that way in trade unions.

The employer calls the hiring hall and a man or a woman is sent to the job.  If he or she is proficient in the skill required of the job they work.  If his or her skills are not up to journeyman standard, they are fired and a new ‘man’ is sent from the hall.

This is why apprenticeships are so important with unions providing the best apprenticeship training and journeyman training.

Of course manners, appearance and professionalism matter but showing up on time and production matter most.

Some journeymen solicit their own work and get it when others don’t due to their reputation, something built over time within a union.

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By TAO Walker, March 1, 2011 at 9:21 pm Link to this comment

How come nobody else around here seems to be wondering how it is that the “self”-styled “crown of creation,” the “exceptional”-ist allamericanpeople cohort of the subspecies homo domesticus, is failing utterly and miserably to prepare their young to fulfill the Organic Function of Humanity within the Living Arrangement of our Mother?  Could there be any CONnection between that fatal failure and their growing inability to prepare their kids adequately for even their impoverished half-life as “individuals” in a “civilized” society?

Having theirownselfs been CONned into thinking they must meet the demands of a make-believe eCONomy, rather than be responsive to the needs of our Living Arrangement, they’ve foolishly CONstricted their own and their Childrens’ Natural Comprehensive Sentience to the lethally limited CONfines if its “rational” faculty.  Now they’ve “thought” their way into a predicament they can’t possibly think their way out-of.  Trying to buy or shoot their way out isn’t going to work either….obviously.

So it isn’t any wonder, really, that they’re all groping blindly around in a den of inequity, deafened by its din of inequity, beset with the endless CONflict endemic to their degraded CONdition.  When “education” is carried on a people’s “books” as a “cost,” it’s dead-certain to become unaffordable much sooner than later….and now they’ve arrived en masse at that DEAD END.   

Meantime, here in Indian Country, there’s no “money” or “power” or “prestige” at-all in The Tiyoshpaye Way….just whole healthy free wild Human Life.


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By TDoff, March 1, 2011 at 8:17 pm Link to this comment

It is not surprising that some staunch union supporters question the validity of the current teacher’s unions, which exist to provide for the welfare of the teachers, not the students. What if the Firemen’s Unions operated on that premise, and first rescued all adults from burning buildings, leaving children for last? I’ll bet support for Firemen Unions would rapidly fade.

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By gerard, March 1, 2011 at 8:03 pm Link to this comment

One big problem is that school systems have heirarchies.  Some people have more “clout” than others.  If a principal “doesn’t like” a teacher,he/she can get that teacher fired, sooner or later—unless there are some limitations on the power structure.  Principles or supervisors lean over backward to cater to board members who have political clout locally, tempted to make decisions that are more in the interests of the politics of the district than of the teachers or students.
Parents often feel they are right even when they are not, and if they “get it in for” a certain teacher, they will find a way to get her fired—unless, unless .... Without a tenure system, teachers can be fired when their salaries rise, if the distict is short of money.
  Unions work to prevent such injustices.  They are successful unless anti-union propaganda gives them a black eye in the public’s mind—a common tactic to weaken teachers’ power.
  Unions work to prevent arbitrary dismissals.
  A rising salary tends to assure teacher status and sometimes performance.
  All these conflicting elements and more tend to make public schools a battleground and a convenient kicking post for taxpayer complaints. Without union, teachers would be even more vulnerable.
  In a school district where I worked for 10 years, things tended to be fairly stable—largely due to the diplomatic skills of a union district coordinator, expert at “interest-based bargaining.” She often apprehended problems before they became rancid.  It helps a lot to know how to work with all different kinds of people—an all too uncommon skill.
  Even under the best circumstances, operating a school district is like herding cats.  “Private enterprise” is no more adept at it than public administration—and far less democratic because, by their very nature, “private enterprisers” are looking to make a buck, regardless.

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kerryrose's avatar

By kerryrose, March 1, 2011 at 7:50 pm Link to this comment

The media is full of the attempt to characterize the ‘way teachers are perceived.’  Seems to me that is what GOP politicians are doing, what the media is doing, and what propaganda like ‘Waiting for Superman’ is doing.

Teachers do not have to scramble to fight this war that attempts to characterize them as lazy and stupid.  Teachers unions need to educate the public about the failures of NCLB and Arne Duncan’s history of closing public schools in order to make them profitable.  The unions must fight the war against the Ulterior Motives of ‘Education Reform.’

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mrfreeze's avatar

By mrfreeze, March 1, 2011 at 7:40 pm Link to this comment

I hate to seem like a total jerk, but here’s what’s ultimately going to happen with “education” in America:

1) With a lack of tax revenue coming from property taxes and tight family budgets (e.g. school levies will fail more frequently), the public schools will deteriorate into oblivion. Changes are, they will become nothing more than inadequate “learning-centres.”


2) The wealthy will simply do what they always have: send their kids to private schools.

In either case, the teachers’ unions will become defunct….

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