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Articles: Unions

Arne Duncan, RESPECT, teachers

In 2002, Andrew Moore, the science and society program manager at the European Molecular Biology Organization in Germany, wrote a report following the first PISA (Program for International Student Assessment) assessment, “Learning from PISA.” Moore writes that to inspire students to remain competitive, our teachers in turn must also be trained with rigor and widely respected, as is the case in many countries around the globe, many of which outperform the U.S.

Retirement options for teachers and other school district employees could previously be compared to the “wild, wild west,” says Bruce Corcoran, managing director of institutional development for the K12 market at TIAA-CREF, national financial services company serving educators and other non-profit workers. Since the 1960s, public school workers have had a plethora of retirement options through 403(b) plans, although teachers have recently begun relying on them heavily as their pensions continue to shrink.

American Federation of Teachers President Randi Weingarten

About 12 percent of charter schools in the United States have collective bargaining agreements with their unions, either by a state mandate or as part of an individual school’s mission. These union contracts—the first generation of such agreements—generally include unique innovations and are more streamlined, according to a new study by the University of Washington’s Center on Reinventing Public Education (CRPE). Released on Dec.

Celina (Texas) Independent School District, roughly 100 miles north of Dallas, has 2,000 students across its four school campuses—and they're all Bobcats, says Lizzy Kloiber, secondary curriculum director, referring to the district's unifying mascot. The community is tight knit, she adds, with most teachers having grown up in the district, and families regularly mingle at church or at high school football games each weekend.

Before and during the tenure of Florida's former education commissioner, Eric J. Smith, the state made bold moves toward incorporating charter schools, began corporate "scholarship" programs that provide funding for students to attend private schools, implemented class-size caps that voters approved via referendum, and earned $700 million in federal money through round two of Race to the Top.

An estimated 8,000 people made the trip to Capitol Hill on July 29-31 for the Save Our Schools March. The rally, which was reportedly supposed to draw about 1 million supporters, was held to elevate issues such as putting an end to high stakes testing, provide equitable funding for all public schools, increase family and community leadership in forming public education policies, and increase local control of curriculum.

On March 9, Wisconsin Gov. Scott Walker signed a bill that ended collective bargaining rights for public sector employees and thus reversed an era of organized labor in the state. But it didn't stop there. Other states--Indiana, Idaho, Tennessee, and Oklahoma, to name a few--jumped on the bargaining rights bandwagon proposing and, in many cases, passing similar provisions. It's no wonder, then, why the appointment of Paul Kreutzer, a Wisconsin superintendent who was an outspoken supporter of Gov.

District administrators in Wisconsin would appreciate greater management leeway in negotiations with teachers' unions, but many say the collective bargaining restrictions crafted by Gov. Scott Walker and the republican-controlled legislature go too far. On March 9, the GOP senators of Wisconsin abruptly passed a stripped down version of the budget repair bill. The financial proposals were eliminated, although they kept the language ending many of the collective bargaining rights for public sector employees.

You can't walk away from the movie Waiting for Superman and not be convinced that public education in the United States is a dismal failure, that it's the sole fault of the teacher unions, and that the only solution to this obvious crisis is more charter schools. Wrong on all counts. The film depicts the classic "simple solution to a complex problem" by featuring a few examples of successful charter schools. It delivers a huge but unwarranted condemnation of the nation's public schools.


Collective Bargaining

Mark Roosevelt, superintendent of Pittsburgh Public Schools, says the district and its teachers union reached an agreement on a five-year contract that includes new pay elements focused on teacher performance.

Roughly 540 public schools in the United States offer single-sex classrooms. Vermilion Parish (La.) Public School District wants to add to that number— but it won’t happen without a fight from the American Civil Liberties Union.

It has been another tough spring for school districts across the nation. The economic crisis of the past two years is hitting school systems hard as districts plan for the 2010-2011 school year. State support to schools continues to decline, and the "soft landing" afforded by federal stimulus monies is a thing of the past. School districts must cut costs but find their options constrained by restrictive labor agreements in addition to the collective bargaining process itself. If ever there was a time for a new approach to bargaining, it is now.

"We've got to be willing to do something about test scores and to deal with ineffective teachers who have tenure and are hiding behind the union. It's coming to a head where the public is saying, 'We've had it now,'" declares David Cicarella of the New Haven (Conn.) Public Schools.

Statements like this one have become commonplace among reform-minded school leaders around the country. What makes Cicarella's comments remarkable is that they are not coming from a frustrated superintendent or enterprising principal, but from the president of the city schools' teachers union.

As the superintendent of the St. Mary Parish (La.) Schools since 2004, Don Aguillard faces many fiscal challenges in overseeing the rural district’s 1,500 employees and 10,000 students. But for the 2010-2011 school year, a new and significant financial burden will be added to his annual budget. In an effort to make up a large funding shortfall, Louisiana’s two largest teacher retirement systems will be raising their required employer contribution rates, one from 15.5 percent of salary to 20 percent, the other from 17.6 percent to 24.3 percent.