Tuesday, August 09, 2011

Tennessee teachers' caucus "very contentious" on Obama endorsement

The Labor Notes blog mentioned the state's labor union contingent at a recent meeting of the National Education Association. Tennessee Education Association was reportedly more factious than they indicated on their website:

major controversies at the gathering in Chicago last month received national visibility. First was the early endorsement of President Obama’s re-election bid, advocated by the national leadership despite some resistance from several state affiliates, including the California Teachers Association.

Most of the debate occurred within the state caucuses, which was very contentious in some states, such as Tennessee ....

The context for the union’s debates is all too evident. Public education is the major battlefield not only over adequate funding for public services but also over the very ideology of government: How do we value government-run services and the workers and unions who provide them?

Teacher unions are portrayed as rigid and intransigent, attempting to protect members (often the most senior) who are “incompetent.” We are labeled as obstacles to “real reforms” that would help students and parents, many of them facing blatant economic and racial discrimination.

Rarely do we hear about how curriculum has been bastardized to conform to numbing standardized tests or about how charter schools are massively subsidized, taking public money while showing little accountability to the public and fighting teachers’ attempts to unionize.

Instead, the ills of public education are supposed to be solved by instituting divisive merit pay to reward “good teachers,” undermining seniority, and ousting “bad teachers.”

All this, while more and more working-class young people are pushed out of the education system and have their opportunities severely curtailed. At the center of these policies is the Obama administration and its Department of Education, using its “Race to the Top” funding mechanism to further this agenda.

Some of these themes that so concern labor are air-brushed into a Gates Foundation-funded marketing video, which includes comments from the TEA president, a gaggle of Tennessee Republicans and a few red-state Dems, and Francine Hunt, a leader with Stand for Children, which was one of the sponsors of this video.

That is quite a production. We will see if the glossy, feel-good expectations materialize or whether "education reform" saps resources, maintains a firmly stratified caste system that allows only a few without wealth scant chance to succeed and eventually lowers the boom on the teachers it includes in it marketing campaign now. And campaign is the right word. This is a political campaign and the teachers unions should be concerned if not just a little unhinged.


  1. While I have not been able to pay the amount of attention to this issue I would like to (or should), I can't help to notice how it is similar to what has been happening with the "for-profit" education sector.

    Though there are many "for-profit" schools that offer a legitimate degree (Nashville Auto-Diesel College, many local salon schools, certain para-legals programs)that can lead to a real job, there are other for-profits that are there to merely profit the managers and share-holders of these "schools." These schools have been in the news lately.

    The "big debate" seems to lay along the same fault-line:

    Can "government" be trusted to educate? And is "our money" being spent wisely?!

    (That is the public relations talking point.)

    How soon will it be before institutions like Vanderbilt University fall prey to those who insist that the federal money our great teaching universities receive is better spent at "charter universities?"

    Will these new "charter universities" pay professors $12.00 per hour to teach medical students? (Arguing that medical school is part of the health-care crisis? And that "charter medical schools" can teach medicine more "efficiently" than schools like Harvard and Vanderbilt?).

    Will lobbiests and insiders soon convince our state and federal legislators our 150 year-old university system is "hog-wash?" And that there is a better way?

    To some degree they already have.

    For nearly two decades, "conservatives" have be-rated our university system for planting and harvesting "liberals."

    These Wizards of Oz have been hiding behind their curtains for years, hands on their pocket-books and looking for ways to make the stack of money inside their wallets grow.

    This attack has been relentless.

    The Wall Street companies (and hedge funds) that own such schools as Kaplan and Phoenix rake in BILLIONS via federal student grant programs.

    They claim they are supplying a "service" to students who did not receive a good public education (the same public system that they are attacking).

    This is a divide and split strategy.

    If they have their way, we'll soon see a Kaplan School of Medicine somewhere down on West End.

    And they'll give an entirely new meaning to prostate exams.

  2. For-profit explains so much of the alleged education "reforms" coming out of DC's Dept of Ed.

    No Child Left Behind (NCLB) set unattainable targets for public schools and Race to the Top set up public schools for privatization. It's a vicious law that guarantees failure and initiates the sell off of our public schools under the guise of "saving poor kids" to the same sociopaths from Wall Street who gambled away 25% of the world's wealth.

    In just one example of the influence of billionaires behind public/private school"partnerships" watch this video. This is where the money goes for the not-for-profit, billionaire funded, Stand for Children

    The video was shot at the Aspen Ideas Festival of Stand for Children co-founder Jonah Edelman, explaining how he, Rahm Emanual, and Arne Duncan's senior advisor, tricked the Chicago teachers.
    Edelman immediately apologized for bragging about the $600 million he spent buying Illinois politicians in the state legislative races. It's a rare event when the public gets a glimpse into the souls of the rich and powerful.


    Remember- it's for the kids...

  3. It would serve teachers, and their union, not to march in lockstep all time with the liberal wing of the Democratic party. I believe they can find common ground with many others in the political process.