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What Are They So Afraid Of? [Updated]

To read the tabloid press and the right wing edu-blogosphere these days, one would think that the decision of the KIPP AMP teachers to organize with the UFT was something akin to the four horsemen of the Apocalypse riding into town.

Anti-unionist image of teachers organizing

Anti-unionist image of teachers organizing

What is extraordinary is the violent tone and tenor of much of this commentary, and the violence done to the most simple and straightforward of facts.

The Fordham Foundation’s Flypaper blog announced that the teachers at KIPP AMP had decided NOT to organize, in the latest iteration of its well-established practice of mangling story after story about teacher unions beyond recognition. This was followed by the usual mealy-mouthed update announcing that the truth was, well, the opposite of what it had just reported. For good measure, Fordham blogger expressed her outrage over the fact that under New York State public employee labor law,  employees have an unambiguous right to organize with a union — regardless of whether their employer approves of their choice. And she helpfully provides a link to the anti-teacher union organizing manual of the Atlantic Legal Foundation, the not for profit arm of the law firm Jackson, Lewis, the most notorious anti-union law firm in the US.

At the blog of Jay Greene and the United Cherry Pickers, Matthew Ladner suggests that what Rome is reputed to have done to Carthage is the right approach for an unionized charter school: “KIPP should pull the plug on these schools at the end of the school year, burn down the buildings and plow salt into the ground upon which they once stood.”  Does the resort to ancient campaigns of annihilation and extermination sound a bit extreme? Might observers reasonably conclude that this sturm and  drang is about nothing but a desire to eliminate unions? For Ladner, Vice President of the Goldwater Institute, extremism in the pursuit of anti-unionism is no vice, and facts are no obstacle on that road. He simply invents out of whole cloth a set of extreme fictions — imaginary KIPP AMP teachers set on destroying the educational program of the school and mythical 1000 page contracts — to justify his position.

Not to be outdone by its right-wing brethren in the edu-blogosphere, the New York Post weighs in with an editorial denouncing the KIPP AMP organizing.

What is it about teacher voice that so frightens the denizens of the far right, that even the prospect of democratic teacher input into decision-making in the educational workplace should be met with such rhetorical ferocity?


Salt in hand, blogging Centurion Ladner continues apace with the production of extreme fiction: in his alternative universe, the UFT — and not the DoE — created the rubber rooms, and filled them up by creating financial incentives for principals to send staff there. Perhaps he thinks no one will actually follow the link he provides.



  • 1 Ron Isaac
    · Feb 18, 2009 at 1:37 pm

    Exactly right. And shared decision-making must be embedded on the individual school level also. Principals ( especially these days when so many of them have so little actual experience and training as teachers and got where they are by cronyism and other illegitimate routes) should not be allowed to enjoy thedegree of power that would have been coveted by medieval monarchs. They should be frustrated in their attempts to wield it.

  • 2 Remainders: A fight over who’s responsible for rubber rooms | GothamSchools
    · Feb 18, 2009 at 7:22 pm

    […] The New York Post editorial board doesn’t want KIPP teachers to unionize. (Via Leo Casey.) […]

  • 3 jasonblons
    · Feb 18, 2009 at 10:38 pm

    I hope we are near the end of the anti-union swing in this country. The pendulum needs a push from us, not just Union members, but our families, friends, associates in our school communities, parents and concerned citizens. We need to mobilize because the concentration of wealth and power, particularly in the opinion-forming (print, video , radio) has been so severe in the past two decades. That workers should have decent salaries, pensions, health care, and educational opportunities seems to be very secondary to increasing profits and stockholder confidence. The notion of the good citizen corporation as an egalitarian force in a free society gets lip service on PBS advertisements, and tax-deductible donations pale in comparison to the furious lobbying for more tax breaks and cuts for the already wealthy.
    We must preserve and protect our own union, as it is among the last powerful remnants of the 20th century struggle for workers rights. The Kipp/Klein nonsense about union obstructionism is patently about removing the only strong voice teachers have in the public forum.