Friday, May 29, 2009

THANK YOU for Standing in Solidarity with YOUR Association, YOUR Profession and for What is Right: An Editorial on Our Arbitration

On May 28, 2008 I was proud--and still am--to be a member of the LCEA. On May 28, 2008, I was proud--and still am--of being a member of the ISEA. On May 28, 2008, I was ashamed--and still am--in the behavior of our school district's advocates who represent our school system's leadership. I feel that this commentary is in order.

Tom McLaughlin
SWUU President, ISEA

An Editorial on the Arbitration of LCEA vs. LCCS
by Tom McLaughlin, SWUU President
“...The credit belongs to [those] who [are] actually in the arena, whose faces are marred by dust and sweat..., who strives valiantly; who errs and comes short again and again; because there is not effort without error and shortcomings; but who does actually strive to do the deed; who knows the great enthusiasm, the great devotion, who spends himself in a worthy cause, who at the best knows in the end the triumph of high achievement and who at the worst, if he fails, at least he fails while daring greatly. So that his place shall never be with those cold and timid souls who know neither victory nor defeat.”
--Teddy Roosevelt

I am relieved that the arbitrator's decision has finally arrived. As expected, he agreed with the Association on several main points. One of the many reasons that I continue to wear my membership as a badge of honor He agreed that Lewis Central does have the money to afford its teachers the raise they deserve; he agreed that when comparing salaries across the state that the Association's position and facts were "in-line" and "more-than-reasonable" when compared to other state averages; he disagreed, however, that our insurance issue (which was settled months before arbitration without contest) could be divorced from his decision. In short, he believed that it was this single issue (that our board did not contest for months) alone that "tipped the scales in favor of the school district.

We can be proud in the representation that our Association brought to the hearing. We can be proud in our customary "professional" behavior. We can be proud that we "held the line" after years of hallow promises that one day "when the district had the money, it would pay our teachers what they deserved." The day came--it went--and when all was said and done, a situation that could have been convivial was reduced to profanity and name calling. The district had the opportunit to give a "top-notch" staff a "top-notch" salary but it refused to do so; instead, it chose to use "hired guns" to demonstrate how it really feels about its teachers.

Although it kills part of this editorialist's soul to admit this, we should not be disappointed that our board contested our offer. It is the job of management to maximize the amount of productivity that it can yeild from the state's "third most educated faculty." We should, however, be disappointed with the language, the demeanor and the "attitude" that met our distinguished faculty at the arbitration hearing. Mr. Phillips, a 30 year veteran of the ISEA, was clear in his rebuttal statement that, "there are two sides to every story" and that this arbitration was "intended to tell both sides without "inflammatory language" and disdain.

In a situation like ours a "win-win" scenario might be a bit ambitious to expect. However, a "lose-lose" scenario is foolish. It's foolish for anyone who is a smart manager. It's foolish for anyone who is a strong leader. How could a competent leadership team hope to alientate the state's third most educated facutly. Apparantley, there was more going on at the table than reason.

Unfortunately, for us, the conversation "twisted" into a maze of terribly colored "ad homenum" arguments, profanity, polarization and disrespect. It was unneeded. It was unwarranted. It seems to characterize the feelings of our leadership and our board.

Mr. Hoskins was loose with language, generalizations, colored-points-of-view and quick with profanity. Mr. Gruhn's condescending, insolent and dismissive attitude might have been worse. One might not expect a "choral number" in an arbitration hearing; however, one should expect more than a premature, inappropriate eulogy.

Thank goodness that the LCEA and our district's teachers, our chief negotiator and our ISEA Uniserv Directors were present in great number do demonstate and model what professional behavior should look like.

I was ashamed of our community when I watched its advocates at work. There are more professional ways to make an argument that to use inappropriate language or to dismisse sound arguments with disdain. I was proud of our Association. We are in the arena each day, we stood our ground, we behaved professionally and--even if we lost the battle--we stood for what was right, what was righteous and we need to be proud of our solidarity, our strength and what we accompish (beyond the chuckling of our elected officials at the dismissive language) with our students each and every day.

We lose nothing by standing together for what we earn. We lose mountains by watching our leaders and their advocates throw stones at the castles and the dreams that we build.

Thank you for being the ISEA. Thank you for being the LCEA. Although I know you didn't hear it in the rhetoric at our arbitration hearing, thank you for changing live positively each and every day. Stand proud for standing unified against a district that promised to pay its teachers when it had the money. It had the money this year. We took freezes for two years. It chose to pay outsiders to prevent us from getting the $15.00 extra on the base vs. those in the trenches each and every day.

Sunday, May 17, 2009

Protesting L.A. teachers arrested outside district offices

1:24 PM | May 15, 2009

About 45 Los Angeles teachers and union leaders were arrested and booked for unlawful assembly outside school district headquarters today after they sat in the middle of the street and refused to move in an act of civil disobedience meant to protest possible layoffs.

Among those detained outside Los Angeles Unified District offices on Beaudry Street, between Third and Fourth streets, was L.A. teachers union leader A.J. Duffy. The protesters were warned four times by police via bullhorn to move out of the street before they were handcuffed. They were then led to a waiting Los Angeles Police Department bus.

The teachers' action was part of a protest against budget cuts that could include thousands of layoffs.

Schools throughout Los Angeles were disrupted today as thousands of teachers called in sick and hundreds of high school students walked out of classrooms to protest the budget cutbacks at the nation's second-largest school district.

Teachers said they planned to storm the district's headquarters and "jump on some desks" as an act of civil disobedience, according to a memo circulated to officials by schools Police Chief Lawrence Manion.

District officials said they did not plan to make arrests. But if arrests became necessary, they would let Los Angeles Police Department officers step in.

About 700 more teachers than usual called in sick today in the Los Angeles Unified School District, days after a judge ordered the teachers union to call off a planned one-day strike. Today's actions occurred despite a renewed warning from the judge against violations of his order.

On a normal Friday in May, about 2,300 of the district's 34,000 teachers would be out of class. Several hundreds of these are scheduled absences for school-related duties, such as meetings to update individual education plans for disabled students. But the overall call for substitute teachers was about one-third higher than normal.

The teachers' union Thursday requested hundreds of substitutes -- that it planned to pay for -- to allow selected teachers to leave class to participate in acts of civil disobedience, some of which were intended to lead to arrests.

A flier at one school called for teachers to put up anti-district posters on their classroom doors and to lead class discussions relevant to the labor dispute. This news was enough to send district officials hurrying back to court. L.A. County Superior Judge James C. Chalfant declined to issue a new order but warned that his original order remained in effect, according to district lawyers.

The union, United Teachers Los Angeles, has contended that its actions would not violate the court order.

Students have joined the fray, walking out of class at several high schools and holding sit-ins in support of teachers. About 500 students at Garfield High School in East L.A. walked out of campus this morning and sat in the central yard. Later, the students were moved to the bleachers, and a sound system was provided by the school so students could discuss why they didn't want teachers laid off. The group dispersed after a break and about 150 returned to the bleachers afterward.

At Jordan High School in South L.A., some 200 students gathered in the quad to show their solidarity with teachers and another 200 at Maywood Academy in Maywood walked out of class. Shortly after the nutrition bell rang at 11 a.m. at Franklin High School in Highland Park, hundreds of students chose not to return to their classrooms.

"We care about the teachers," Jasmine Guerrero, a senior, said in a phone interview. "But it's more about us. One teacher for 45 students, it's not a productive learning environment."

The mood was quiet this morning at Huntington Drive Elementary, an outpost on the district's eastern front, where Supt. Ramon C. Cortines sat in for Principal Roberto Salazar, who was attending his doctoral graduation at USC. Cortines arrived at El Sereno school shortly after 7 a.m. and after walking the campus, strode out front to talk with teachers picketing outside.

The union had scheduled pre-school picketing across L.A. Unified and a post-school rally in place of the strike to spare teachers the risk of $1,000 fines and the possible loss of their teaching credentials for violating the court order.

The presence of Cortines with picketers triggered rumors through the union network that Cortines was walking the line with teachers. That was not true, but he shook hands with each teacher, exchanged introductions and talked shop.

"You can't be doing this for a better principal," a teacher told him, thanking him for filling in. At least a dozen of the school's 45 teachers were picketing and cars honked their support as they drove past on busy Huntington Drive. Three teachers were absent. Student enrollment was normal for the school of 600 students.

Teachers at the school had voted strongly in support of the union's call for a one-day walkout, said faculty members, but some picketers also expressed relief that it would not be taking place.

"I did not want to walk out," said Maureen Barbosa, a special education preschool teacher who was walking the line. "But we also don't think our pay should be cut. I struggle to make a living and my husband could lose his job at any time."

She added that she could accept unpaid furlough days as a last resort. Cortines did not pass up the opportunity to launch a charm offensive.

"Obviously, the teachers here care about their kids," he said as he walked the asphalt playground. "You can see how much these children like their school."

Parent Adela Castellanas, who is taking a morning class for adults at the campus, also praised the school but told Cortines she was concerned about security at a middle school in the area.

UTLA has been vying to reverse the possible layoff of as many as 2,500 teachers. An additional 2,600 non-teachers also could lose their jobs under a budget plan aimed at closing a $596.1 million deficit. That projected deficit grew by about $250 million Thursday under the latest state budget revision from Gov. Schwarzenegger.

Thursday, May 14, 2009

Obama's Budget for Education

Not withstanding the nation's financial difficulties, last week President Obama released his detailed request for the 2010 federal budget. The President's proposals, if adopted by Congress, generally provide real progress in children's policy, especially when combined with the significant funding for children in the economic recovery bill. These include education and early childhood initiatives from preschool through college, as well as measures to reduce health disparities and increase job training.

With 13.7 million people unemployed and 5.7 million jobs lost since the start of the recession, expansion of services for vulnerable people is essential. The Coalition on Human Needs has released a detailed analysis on what this would mean for many children's programs. Some of those who will receive more help include:

Babies, Toddlers, and Young Children

Head Start and Early Head Start grow by $122 million in the President's plan, from a combined $7.113 billion in FY 2009 to $7.235 billion in FY 2010. The growth is in addition to the $2.1 billion in temporary economic recovery funding. Together, these proposals support doubling the number of children in Early Head Start to 115,000.

Children at Risk of Abuse/NeglectThe President proposes a new initiative for innovative approaches to foster care, funded at $20 million in appropriations for Child Welfare Research, Training, and Demonstration projects, which will rise from $7 million to $27 million. This project is intended to reduce long-term foster care placements.

The Hungry
The Women, Infants, and Children nutrition program (WIC) is up $917 million over FY 2009 (a 13 percent increase), which is now estimated as enough to support a 9.8 million person caseload.

LCEA members should CLICK HERE for more about what the President's budget means for children and families.

State cuts mean salary reduction for area teachers

Cuts by the Iowa Legislature to a program designed to supplement teacher salaries was met with mixed reactions from local school administrators.

The Phase I program, which cost the state $14 million a year, was designed to supplement teacher salaries and shore up teacher pay in the state's smaller districts, but was cut last week by the Legislature.

For the entire story CLICK HERE.

Monday, May 11, 2009

The 2009 National Teacher of the Year

Anthony Mullen from Connecticut marked his first day of recognition with a ceremony in the Rose Garden with President Barack Obama. A former New York City police officer, Mullen is interviewed here by NEA President Dennis Van Roekel and says that tough guys don't always finish first in the classroom.