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Archive for February, 2011

Independent Egyptian Unions To Wisconsin And American Unions:
“We Stand With You As You Stood With Us.”

The speaker in the following video, Kamal Abbas, is General Coordinator of the the Centre for Trade Unions and Workers Services (CTUWS), an umbrella advocacy organization for independent unions in Egypt. The CTUWS, which was awarded the 1999 French Republic’s Human Rights Prize, suffered repeated harassment and attack by the Mubarak regime, and played a leading role in its overthrow. Abbas, who witnessed friends killed by the regime during the 1989 Helwan steel strike and was himself arrested and threatened numerous times, has received extensive international recognition for his union and civil society leadership.

KAMAL ABBAS: I am speaking to you from a place very close to Tahrir Square in Cairo, “Liberation Square”, which was the heart of the Revolution in Egypt. This is the place were many of our youth paid with their lives and blood in the struggle for our just rights.

From this place, I want you to know that we stand with you as you stood with us. More »

Livestream From Wisconsin Protests

This is what democracy looks like.

Inquiring Minds Need To Know…

Just in case any you have some urgent questions for Governor Scott Walker on why he wants to turn Wisconsin in an authoritarian banana republic where public sector workers are denied their rights.

Here’s his official e-mail address:  GovernorWalker@wisconsin.gov.

Here is the switchboard for his office: (608) 266-1212.

And here is his fax number: (608) 267-7888.

UPDATE: The Wisconsin AFL-CIO is collecting donations to help provide food and water for union members as they rally in Madison.

Gung Hay Fat Choy

Chinese New Year Parade in Flushing

Chinese New Year Parade in Flushing

[Editor's note: Little Miss Sunshine is a third-year teacher in an elementary school in Queens.]

Feb. 3 was the kick-off of Chinese New Year, a 15-day celebration filled with food, family, and bright colors. I work in the heart of Flushing, which boasts a large, and growing, Chinese population. This year I have a self-contained beginner ESL 3rd grade class. This is my first year teaching 3rd grade, after three years of teaching ESL kindergarten. And though Chinese New Year was a celebration in my class in the past, it was a modest affair, with some books about the holiday and Chinese food.

I thought this year’s celebration would be no different, but when we came back from winter break in early January, my students couldn’t stop talking about their plans for Chinese New Year. I quickly realized that this holiday is a much bigger deal than I originally thought. More »

Workers Triumph in Middle East; Threatened in Middle West

Harold Meyerson writes in the Washington Post:

In Egypt, workers are having a revolutionary February. In the United States, by contrast, February is shaping up as the cruelest month workers have known in decades.

The coup de grace that toppled Hosni Mubarak came after tens of thousands of Egyptian workers went on strike beginning last Tuesday. By Friday, when Egypt’s military leaders apparently decided that unrest had reached the point where Mubarak had to go, the Egyptians who operate the Suez Canal and their fellow workers in steel, textile and bottling factories; in hospitals, museums and schools; and those who drive buses and trains had left their jobs to protest their conditions of employment and governance. As Jim Hoagland noted in The Post, Egypt was barreling down the path that Poland, East Germany and the Philippines had taken, the path where workers join student protesters in the streets and jointly sweep away an authoritarian regime.

But even as workers were helping topple the regime in Cairo, one state government in particular was moving to topple workers’ organizations here in the United States. Last Friday, Scott Walker, Wisconsin’s new Republican governor, proposed taking away most collective bargaining rights of public employees. Under his legislation, which has moved so swiftly through the newly Republican state legislature that it might come to a vote Thursday, the unions representing teachers, sanitation workers, doctors and nurses at public hospitals, and a host of other public employees, would lose the right to bargain over health coverage, pensions and other benefits. (To make his proposal more politically palatable, the governor exempted from his hit list the unions representing firefighters and police.) The only thing all other public-sector workers could bargain over would be their base wages, and given the fiscal restraints plaguing the states, that’s hardly anything to bargain over at all.

More »

Pre-K Kid vs. Pre-K Kid For The Spoils

Incoming kindergarten students have already been pushed into cutthroat competition against their peers. The coveted trophy is a spot in one of Chicago’s 500 allocated slots for classes for the “gifted.” There are more than 3,330 entries so far, and parents are fighting with all their resources and ingenuity to give their own kid an advantage in this Darwinian survival challenge.

They are coaching their kids themselves and those who can afford it have engaged professional tutors to plant test-acing strategies in their kids’ minds. They are racing to figure out how to crack the secrets of the test so that their kid beats the next guy’s kid to the fast track.

The training centers are commonly referred to as “boot camps.”

This story, reported recently in the Chicago Tribune, provides a perfect example of the pathological role that testing is playing these days. Not only does it substitute for curriculum, it also spoils and supplants the beautiful innocence of childhood. More »

“The Civil-Rights Issue of Our Time”

On Friday, Feb. 11, PBS aired an education-themed episode of its “Need to Know” program. Segment topics included the turnaround of Brockton HS in Massachusetts, an Illinois school’s novel approach to physical education, and a University of Maryland program focused on attracting and retaining science and math majors. Jon Meacham presented an essay calling public education “the civil-rights issue of our time”:

And Dr. Susan Szachowicz, principal of Brockton HS; Zakiyah Ansari, parent leader with the Coalition for Educational Justice; and Dr. Pedro Noguera, Professor of Education at NYU participated in a round table discussion:

Watch individual segments from the episode, as well as web-only content >>

New York Teacher

New York TeacherA bit late, but in case you missed it… highlights from the most recent issue of New York Teacher:

Governor says layoffs aren’t necessary
In an unusually impassioned budget speech, Gov. Andrew Cuomo on Feb. 1 called on legislators to get a broken Albany budget process under control this year. But, in contrast to Mayor Michael Bloomberg’s threat to cut 21,000 city teachers, the governor said his education cuts could be managed without layoffs.

State of the City ‘another Bloomberg snow job’
Mayor Michael Bloomberg blasted public employee pensions, current layoff rules and educators serving in the Absent Teacher Reserve in a State of the City address on Jan. 19 in which he said he would shrink the cost of government by going after public employee benefits rather than raise taxes to meet this year’s budget challenges.

1,000 rally against school closings
Wielding signs reading “instruction, not destruction” and “we fight for our schools,” more than 1,000 parents, teachers and students protested against the mayor’s policy of mass school closures outside the Feb. 3 Panel for Educational Policy meeting at which the panel voted to close 12 more city public schools.

Protesters walk out of ‘sham’ PEP meeting …
Calling the process a sham, some 2,000 parents, students and educators on Feb. 3 stormed out en masse from a meeting of the mayor’s Panel for Educational Policy before it voted to shutter 12 struggling New York City public schools.

… after first vote set the stage
Despite overwhelming opposition from parents, teachers and students, the city’s Panel for Educational Policy early on Feb. 2 in its first of two meetings voted to shutter 10 struggling New York City public schools. More »

Respect For All Week

Respect for All Week

This week, Feb. 14 to 18, has been designated Respect for All Week in New York City schools. During this week, school communities will raise awareness of Respect for All, the Department of Education’s program to combat bullying and harassment on the basis of race, color, ethnicity, national origin, religion, gender, gender identity, gender expression, sexual orientation or disability. More information is available on the DOE’s website.

UFT’s New TV Ad Urges Bloomberg to Protect Schools and Teachers

The UFT launched a television ad campaign on Feb. 12 urging the mayor to protect teachers and schools, not millionaires. UFT President Michael Mulgrew said, “Instead of making his No. 1 priority attacking teachers, the mayor should join our effort to extend the millionaire’s tax to add several billion dollars to the state budget, eliminating any possibility of layoffs.”

Sulejman: Stop Breaking the Law!

An action alert from the Chicago Alliance of Charter Teachers and Staff:

Sulejman DizdarevicNegotiate with Teachers Now!

Sulejman F. Dizdarevic — attorney with Belongia, Shapiro & Franklin, LLP — and his fellow Board members at Chicago Mathematics and Science Academy are subverting the rights of their teachers and violating Illinois labor law by refusing to negotiate a contract.

In June, teachers freely chose to form a union to improve their working conditions and the learning environment of their students. They followed Illinois labor law and have been recognized as the legal bargaining representatives for the school’s teachers.

It’s time Mr. Dizdarevic — attorney and CMSA Board member — followed the law too.

Send Sulejman Dizdarevic an e-mail telling him to respect teacher’s rights >>

Truth Rheeduced

Michelle RheeTheir lips were sealed. Those poor kids who had done nothing wrong and yet wound up in the class that Michelle Rhee (U.S. Education Secretary Duncan’s pet) taught for the blink of an eye before rising by merit of the Peter Principle to the D.C. schools chancellorship adhered by adhesive tape to the gentle persuasion of Rhee’s own fanciful discipline code.

Yes, she taped the mouths of her students shut! She spilled their blood as the tape was ripped off. Now there’s a page from Rhee’s “reform” school!

Any New York City teacher resorting to such violence would be in big trouble and rightly so. But not Rhee. As a cult figure spoken for and adored by the wannabee slaughterers of public schools and propagandists against organized labor (and the pesky baggage of human rights we proudly carry), Michelle Rhee’s transgression was diligently caused to vaporize. For the most part, the media and her corporate acolytes finessed, trivialized, or ignored it all together. More »

Will Governor Cuomo Take On Outrageous Charter Superintendent Pay, Too?

Thomas Nast's "The 'Brains'"When Governor Cuomo announced cuts of $2.85 billion in state education aid in his recent budget address, he suggested one way in which economies could be made by local school districts — the downsizing of the extraordinary salaries of district superintendents in the wealthier suburban school districts. While the returns from slashing superintendent salaries will fill only a small portion of the prospective holes in state education aid, we find ourselves in agreement with the governor that public school educators paid with the taxes of New Yorkers should not be earning the sort of bloated salaries which are prevalent among the greedy Wall Street crowd which brought us this great recession. There is something wrong when a superintendent of a school district serving 6600 students receives an annual salary more than double that of the governor himself, who leads a 19.4 million person state.

But if Governor Cuomo is going to take a consistent and principled stand on this question, he needs to address the fact that the salaries of suburban school superintendents are not the only egregious cases of living high on the education hog, at the expense of students, teachers and the public. In recent years, charter school boards have approved increasingly large and exorbitant salaries for the leaders of relatively small charter school networks in New York City, compensation packages which often dwarf those received by their district school counterparts. More »

PBS’s “Need to Know” Airs Education-Themed Edition on Feb. 11

As the nation debates how to get the best performance out of students and teachers, PBS’s “Need to Know” presents an hour devoted to success stories in teaching. The program highlights three dramatic stories of academic transformation — focusing on literacy, physical education and science education.

This edition of “Need to Know” will air in NYC on Channel 13 on Friday, Feb. 11, at 8:30 p.m.

View the press release for more information >>

The Mayor Has No Clothes On

For all of the citation of statistics that purport to demonstrate persistent failure, the policy of mass school closure of Mayor Bloomberg and the New York City Department of Education is entirely arbitrary and capricious in its application, as likely to be wrong as right about the schools on which it passes judgment. You don’t need to take the UFT’s word for it: the decisions of the Department of Education itself provide all the necessary evidence. More »