I believe in collective bargaining, and I believe that at any time you’re talking about wages workers have to be at the table. President Obama July 2007 Campaigning for President
Perhaps the first problem with that statement is that collective bargaining is not only about wages.
If you are still deceiving yourself about the Democratic Party being a friend to teachers’ unions please step out of your time warp. Those days are gone—the only connections are the campaign checks the unions hand over to the Democratic Party. Let’s look at the facts.
It was recently announced that ex-Press Secretary Robert Gibbs, with former Obama campaign worker Ben Labolt, in a dark looking organization called the Incite Agency, will now be leading the California version of the Vergara case with lawsuits against due process, seniority, and job protections for teachers.
They will work with ex-CNN anchor Campbell Brown, who apparently sees herself as the New York Dave Welch. Welch was the California anti-teacher businessman who bankrolled the plaintiffs against teachers getting due process in Vergara v. California. Brown is also seen as a right wing extremist Republican—she is married to Dan Senor who advised Mitt Romney and he sits on the board of Students First (SF). SF is Michelle Rhee’s group to go after teachers.
Gibbs working alongside Campbell Brown…that right there should make you wonder.
Not to burst your bubble, but I don’t think President Obama will be putting on any blue suede shoes to go marching on behalf of teachers anytime soon, and here are more reasons if you are still not convinced:
1. He chose controversial Chicago superintendent, non-educator, corporate backed Arne Duncan, over well-respected educator Dr. Linda Darling-Hammond, to be Secretary of Education.
2. While slamming No Child Left Behind, his Race to the Top builds on NCLB and is considered an even worse program.
3. He pushed for the states to drop the cap on charter schools even though research studies indicate they are no better than traditional public schools, and sometimes worse. Also, these schools do not serve students with disabilities, students with second languages, and students who are low level or who don’t conform to the rules of the school.
4. He did nothing to support the teachers and other public union workers in the Madison, Wisconsin uprising in 2011.
5. He did nothing to support the teachers during the Chicago Teachers Union strike in 2012.
6. Rahm Emmanuel, Obama’s right hand man and the Mayor of Chicago, is all about the kind of school corporate reform that is anti-teacher union and anti-public school.
7. The President always talks about too much testing, but he endorses performance pay based on test scores.
8. The President supports Teach for America, calling them activists and public servants. What does he think real teachers are?
9. He is looking to get rid of special education services by testing the hell out of students with disabilities then accusing teachers of not adequately teaching these students on grade level.
10. And now his press secretary is leaving to attack teachers unions.
It doesn’t get much clearer than that. There are probably additional reasons too. How sad, that this president, who came into office with so much power and support, couldn’t have done this instead:
1. He could have put a moratorium on the high-stakes testing of children.
2. He could have made it the law of the land that every child get a certain amount of time during the day for recess and that all children get Physical Education. Just eating the food from the garden isn’t enough.
3. He could have thrown his support behind revamping the university schools of education to create truly professional teachers who are certifiable in the areas they will teach. Also, he could have investigated the influx of unregulated online teacher preparation programs that now infiltrate the country. This includes the ABCTE.
4. He could have encouraged Future Teachers’ programs in our public high schools to elevate the role of teacher and inspire young people to consider teaching as a long-time career. Contrary to what many think, I know some wonderfully smart young people who would love to be career teachers.
5. He could have squelched the inaccurate message that has been promoted for decades now that teachers are lazy, second rate citizens, even child molesters (see Campbell Brown on Morning Joe and then read here), who bilk the government of funds while enjoying their summers off. President Obama could have become a true friend of teachers.
6. He could have rejuvenated the arts, for arts sake, in all public schools—not just a couple schools to show it works to improve test scores.
7. He could have organized a panel of real educators and parents to review programs in other countries, like Finland, and pulled the best practices for America’s schools.
8. He could have bolstered the free public school system in this country and demonstrated its success to countries around the world who struggle with this concept.
9. He could have returned charter schools to their original model as learning labs, run by teachers, not outside businesses, supported by the community, and overseen by parents and the local school board.
10. He could have placed real educators in the Department of Education instead of those from outside corporations with no understanding of children and their needs.
11. He could have gathered parents of students with special needs to find out what they really need—how public schools could work harder to make life easier for challenges they face.
12. He could have gathered teachers to find out what they really needed, too. Why do teachers burn out?
13. He could have visited schools and looked at the legitimate difficulties instead of shutting them down due to test scores.
14. He could have truly sought to create more preschools, supporting Head Start, and helping to provide real wrap-around services for the poor.
15. He could have sought the help of real early-childhood experts to help create the best preschools in the world for parents who want them.
16. He could have created a grant program for teacher-created and led innovations, to inspire teachers to do research and do new cutting-edge projects with their students.
17. He could have created better mental health screening programs in public schools and increased counselor and classroom support for troubled students.
18. He could have capped class sizes in specific classes and searched for better school design where class sizes would be lowered especially in K-3rd grade.
19. He could have helped steer funding towards fixing school buildings, including attention to building codes that would make schools safer in tornadoes and earthquakes.
20. And as an African-American, he could have uplifted African-American teachers who are so badly needed to help poor children of color and to also bridge the divide in our public schools and country.
Oh President Obama! What a difference you could have made. Instead, your legacy, like the legacies of the recent Presidents before you, will one day show how you tried to destroy one of the most democratic institutions in America and the teaching profession that could have made it truly great.