Posted in AFT, Corp Interest, JimHorn, NEA, Privatization, Ravitch

Under the Ravitch Umbrella

Diane Ravitch posted information about the AFT and NEA move to unionize teachers at charter schools.

What Happens When Charter Teachers Join a Union?

The NEA and AFT are actively trying to organize charter teachers. This is challenging because of high teacher turnover and often hostile charter management. As the numbers show, they have had limited success, but Cohen says that the unions have softened their opposition to charters in hopes of establishing unions in more charters.

Her post references an article at the American Prospect discussing labor’s push to unionize charters…a distinctly non-union part of the education world.

When Charters Go Union

In 2014, the Annenberg Institute for School Reform at Brown University released a report that documented a host of charter school problems, ranging from uneven academic performance to funding schemes that destabilized neighboring schools. The report laid out national policy recommendations designed to promote increased accountability, transparency, and equity.

The AFT and NEA came out strongly in support of the Annenberg standards, and have been working to promote them to state legislatures and school boards around the country. Leaders in the charter world, however, were less than pleased. The National Association of Charter School Authorizers (NACSA), an organization that seeks to influence the policies and practices of state authorizers, called the standards “incomplete, judgmental, and not based on research or data.” Michael Brickman, then the national policy director at the Thomas B. Fordham Institute, a conservative education policy think tank, said the Annenberg standards would stifle charters’ innovation by “bludgeoning them with regulation.” He accused the authors of “standing in the way of progress” with their “overzealous statutory recommendations.” (The president and CEO of NAPCS, Nina Rees, told me she actually likes the Annenberg standards, but doesn’t know if they should be adopted across the board.)

In response, Jim Horn, at Schools Matter, took time off from fighting the privatization of public education to update his attack on Diane Ravitch, the Network for Public Education, and Anthony Cody, claiming that they’re pro-charter. [This is not the first time he’s gone after the Ravitch branch of the pro-public education movement. See HERE and HERE, or just search his blog for Ravitch.]

Ravitch Rationalizes NEA/AFT/NPE Pro-Charter Position

The anti-reformy groups and self-promoting individuals that crouch under the Ravitch umbrella, along with the bloggers who are kept in line by NPE’s censorious Anthony Cody and Jon Pelto, go about their business pretending that the corporate unions are allies of corporate education resistance. Nothing could be further from the truth.

First of all, I agree with Horn that the NEA and AFT are not as anti-reformy as I would like them to be. I’ve written against Dennis Van Roekel’s support of CCSS and “reform” in order to get a “seat at the table,” Lily’s misguided support of the CCSS, how NEA endorsed President Obama in 2012 completely separating him from the work of his Education Department, and the fact that neither Randi nor Lily seems serious about rejecting corporate funding from “reformist” foundations.

However, I disagree with his description above about those who agree with Diane Ravitch and Anthony Cody. I’m a member of both the Education Bloggers Network run by Jonathan Pelto and the NPE that he references above. Neither Diane Ravitch, Jonathan Pelto nor Anthony Cody dictate what gets written on this blog, nor do I hesitate to disagree with Ravitch, Pelto, Cody, or anyone else if I choose to.

I also don’t agree that the Education Bloggers Network or the NPE “pretend” that there is nothing wrong with the AFT and NEA positions on education reform. However, instead of lashing out angrily at them, those of us who are sometimes “under the Ravitch umbrella” understand that the unions are made up of teachers…and it’s in our best interest to try to get them to change rather than just berating them because we disagree. That’s why Diane Ravitch put both Randi and Lily on the spot earlier this year by asking them if they would refuse “reformy” foundation money. That’s why the crowd cheered when they answered in the affirmative (even though Lily walked back on that position later). That’s why thousands of us across the nation are working hard to influence voters, legislators, teachers, and parents to join us in the fight against privatization and “reform.”

Furthermore, I don’t think Horn’s “my way or the highway” attitude is productive. Even if I do agree with his positions on school reform, I find his attitude towards the rest of us to be condescending and his language bordering on abusive. His attacks sound more like the anonymous trolls who populate the comments sections of political web sites rather than an educated, pro-public education advocate. If he doesn’t like what you stand for he does indeed argue against you, often with good reason…but he paints with a wide brush and tells you to go to hell in the process. This is, of course, his right…it is his blog after all, and I’m sure he really doesn’t care what I think, but it’s counterproductive.

His attitude plays right into the corporate “divide and conquer attitude” so popular with “reformers.” If we are busy blasting each other for not being “pure enough” in our pro-public education policy making, then we are that much weaker when we need to work together to end the misuse and overuse of testing, the destruction of the teaching profession and the privatization of public education.

Horn needs to quit playing the equivalent of the education “Hunger Games” by fighting those would should be allies instead of focusing his energy on Gates, Duncan, the Waltons, and the rest. It’s helpful…and even important to speak our disagreement when we differ on particular issues, but we need to stand together against the real enemy.

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The narrow pursuit of test results has sidelined education issues of enduring importance such as poverty, equity in school funding, school segregation, health and physical education, science, the arts, access to early childhood education, class size, and curriculum development. We have witnessed the erosion of teachers’ professional autonomy, a narrowing of curriculum, and classrooms saturated with “test score-raising” instructional practices that betray our understandings of child development and our commitment to educating for artistry and critical thinking. And so now we are faced with “a crisis of pedagogy”–teaching in a system that no longer resembles the democratic ideals or tolerates the critical thinking and critical decision-making that we hope to impart on the students we teach.

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Stop the Testing Insanity!
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Retired after 35 years in public education.

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