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Does fixing schools have to punish teachers and their union?

By Ron Whitehorne on Apr 1, 2013 02:06 PM

Education reform's dominant narrative, in both the nation and Philadelphia, assumes that the traditional protections that unions provide for teachers need to be sacrificed in the interest of improving children's education.

While the well-compensated CEOs and hedge fund managers who feed regularly at the public trough are portrayed as disinterested champions of poor children, unionized teachers are characterized as being motivated by narrow self-interest. It really rankles me. 

Let me say at the outset, I don’t think unions have always acted to the benefit of children. There is room for debate about the wisdom of specific policies, particularly in an earlier period, when unions made little effort to build real partnerships with the community. But in the current environment, treating teachers with some degree of fairness and heeding their concerns over job security, compensation, and due process just isn't part of the conversation.

The Renaissance schools initiative is a case in point. When a school is identified for this treatment, its teaching staff is reconstituted -- all teachers and other PFT members are force transferred, with up to half eligible for rehiring. That option almost always goes unexercised. The school’s new staff are considered “at will” employees, working without any of the protections afforded by the union contract.

Built into the premise of reconstitution is the idea that teachers deserve the blame for a school’s low performance. But virtually all the schools targeted for the Renaissance treatment are schools serving high-poverty neighborhoods. Most of these schools have had high rates of principal and teacher turnover. Given these conditions, do we really want to say that hard-working, committed teachers are failures? And if these same teachers transferred to magnet schools, would they then be deemed successful?

Turning around these schools may well require some staff changes. We know that some schools do develop a culture of failure and low expectations. But with reconstitution, the District is using a meat cleaver when a scalpel would do.

There is research that indicates that reconstitution is at best a risky proposition. There are examples of turnaround schools where the union has partnered with the administration without resorting to punitive measures. None of this gets much attention. The view promoted by our portfolio enthusiasts, like Mayor Nutter and the School Reform Commission, is that Renaissance charters work, so why look at alternatives that might be fairer to teachers and work for students as well?

At the end of this year, the number of Renaissance charter schools will grow to 20. While some of these schools have improved climate and test scores, it is much too early to declare Renaissance schools a success. One of the clear consequences is a steady decline in the percentage of unionized teachers in our schools. The Renaissance project, along with rapid growth in charter enrollments, threatens the viability of the union and with it the protections afforded to teachers with a union contract.  

Why should those who are not teachers care? In the short term, the continued use of reconstitution means that teachers will be less likely to opt for assignments in low-performing schools, or, if already there, will be more likely to transfer. This can only exacerbate the problems at those schools.  

In the longer term, unions are the last line of defense in the struggle against the corporatization of education. With an unchecked, market-driven school system, lowering costs and boosting profits will be the order of the day. Students, particularly those with special needs, are not likely to fare well.

The weakening of unions correlates with declines in living standards and the growth of poverty in our city and country. That should give some in the educational advocacy community, who profess to care about these things, a reason to pause before they hop on the Renaissance bandwagon.

Ron Whitehorne is a retired teacher and is on the steering committee of the Philadelphia Coalition Advocating for Public Schools (PCAPS).


The opinions expressed are solely those of the author.

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Comments (43)

Submitted by Anonymous (not verified) on April 1, 2013 2:00 pm

If it is the unions that are standing in the way of fixing schools, then the answer is yes, wholeheartedly.

Submitted by Anonymous (not verified) on April 1, 2013 3:12 pm

Do we believe court employees jam justice? Do we fear EMTs might collude to halt health in our communities? Should we torment traffic engineers and accuse them of thwarting speedy travel? No!

Stop scapegoating teachers and their unions for the ignorance they oppose everyday.

Submitted by Anonymous (not verified) on April 1, 2013 6:59 pm

Thank you, Ron :-)

Submitted by Ms.Cheng (not verified) on April 1, 2013 6:33 pm

Of course fixing schools does not have to punish teachers and their unions, and corporations are not viewed favorably at all. It is the utter frustration with the status quo that pushes parents to allow corporations to gain a foothold. What appears to be deliberate union and teacher bashing is despair/desperation on the part of parents/caregivers.

Going forward in this climate, it is, as you say, the unions that have the greatest lobbying power to effect real reform if the focus moves to protecting the dedicated teachers, not just the politically connected. The institution of tenure needs to be redefined for example. Right now it protects the politically connected teacher who is allowed to remain for years, not necessarily the dedicated one who goes "above and beyond". Can teachers elect a review board from among their peers that can offer the same protection? Can this board weigh in on evaluations? How about requiring the District to allow teachers to evaluate principals?

Then there is the issue of public disclosure of financial decisions, whether the granting of contracts or broad policy. Numbers and strategy must be clearly disclosed, not hinted at or given in conflicting pieces. This is a right of teachers as this affects their employment security.

The PFT can represent teachers and act as a political balancing power that can reform the SDP without breaking it apart.

Submitted by Education Grad ... on April 3, 2013 4:29 pm

Ms. Cheng,

I agree with your points that the utter frustration is a reason so many parents have chosen charter schools and to support turning neighborhood schools over to charters. I also agree that the unions need to promote real reform that focuses on protecting and reinforcing the good, dedicated teachers, principals, and other personnel. Unions can no longer just equate seniority with quality. Workers should be earning seniority through excellence, not just by surviving.

I will focus on teaching because that is the area I know best. As a new member of the PFT, someone who believes in unions but also sees some of their weaknesses, the PFT has the support of much of the public because of its opposition of school closings. However, the PFT cannot just be concerned with jobs, but with the quality of its workers. As I wrote in my previous comment on this article, this means focusing on teaching quality as opposed to just teacher quality. The focus needs to be on practices which directly improve teaching, things like lesson study and PD in, for example, helping teachers best utilize curricula and implement PBIS. There needs to be a focus also on making sure that teachers are applying and implementing the best practices, not just attending the PD sessions.

This focus on teaching quality also means taking feedback from students and parents seriously. If parents have complaints about a particular teacher, then the principal and the PFT rep need to take seriously the need to help this teacher so that his/her teaching improves and the classroom is better for children. PFT reps should be taking seriously concerns about teaching quality in their building. This is the 21st century. Information is widely available. There are better systems for measuring teaching quality than in the past, e.g. Charlotte Danielson's A Framework for Teaching. Assuming that seniority = quality doesn't fly anymore.

This is why I have pointed out the story of hearing a teacher and PFT rep tell a parent complaining about her child's teacher that, "I'm the PFT rep. I can't say anything." As I wrote previously, this is a very counterproductive response and communicates a lack of concern for the parent and the child. This response also communicates that the union is more important than the education that children are receiving. This response makes the union look bad and is terrible informal public relations for the PFT. A better response would be something like, "I hear that you have concerns about your child's teacher. The best person with whom to speak about your concerns in the principal."

I also agree that teachers should be able to evaluate principals and teacher input should be a part of the principal's evaluation score. The District does allow teachers to provide feedback about administrators. This is posted in the Additional Information section under Teacher Survey. That said, I don't know if this has any bearing on the evaluation of the principal or if the surveys are just for public information.

EGS

Submitted by Education Grad ... on April 1, 2013 6:38 pm

Ron,

I enjoyed your article. Piggybacking on your point about the dangers of corporate school reform, there is a great article on the self-interested motives of school reformers and the danger of corporate school reform called The bait and switch of school “reform” by David Sirota (http://www.salon.com/2011/09/12/reformmoney/). I encourage everyone to read this article.

I have 2 points relating to the current focus on teachers unions and teachers.

(1) Teachers unions. It's important to remember that teachers in all of the "best" school districts in the area --- Springfield (Del. Co.), Lower Merion, Radnor, Haverford, and Penn Delco, among others --- are unionized. Where are the complaints about unionized teachers in these districts?

One reason why school reformers are targeting large cities like Philadelphia is that the teachers unions in these cities are large. Therefore, promoting "reforms" that reduce the number of unionized teachers in large districts makes a bigger dent in the unionized workforce than targeting teachers unions in smaller districts. For example, the Walton family and Wal-Mart are anti-union and the Walton Family Foundation by and large supports policies that favor schools with non-unionized teachers, namely charter schools. My point is not to throw charters under the bus, but rather, to reveal a reason behind why organizations like the Walton Family Foundation support charter schools as a way of weakening unions.

I also agree with Ron's point that the union does not always act in the best interests of children. For example, although there are provisions in the PFT contract stipulating that the SDP must provide adequate supplies and textbooks. At the same time, I hear time and time again that teachers have to pay for materials out of pocket. I have read teachers comment on this website that the PFT does not take complaints about lack of supplies seriously.

When I was student teaching, I also observed a parent talking to the teacher/PFT at the school. The parent was making a complaint about her child's teacher. The reply of the PFT rep was "I'm the PFT rep. I can't say anything." This is a very counterproductive response and communicates a lack of concern for the parent and the child. This response also communicates that the union is more important than the education that children are receiving. Flat out, the "I'm the PFT rep. I can't say anything" response makes the union look bad and is terrible informal public relations for the PFT. Instead, a better response would be something like, "I hear that you have concerns about your child's teacher. The best person with whom to speak about your concerns in the principal."

(2) Teachers. One of the main issues I see with the current set of reforms that people like Bill Gates and Michelle Rhee champion is the focus these reforms place on teachers and the qualities of teachers. I think that there needs to be a paradigm shift in how people think about teachers and teaching. There is a fantastic article called "Teaching, Rather Than Teachers, As a Path Toward Improving Classroom Instruction" by James Hiebert and Anne K. Morris (both of the University of Delaware) from the Journal of Teacher of Education. The provide great arguments for a paradigm shift toward a focus on improving teaching instead of improving teachers. Anyone who is a student at a university would probably be able to access this article. I haven't tried accessing it through a Free Library of Philadelphia database, but that's worth a try also. Here's a link to the abstract: http://jte.sagepub.com/content/63/2/92.

Regarding the pervasive notion in our country that good teaching is tied to the innate characteristics of individual teachers, Hiebert and Morris write the following:

"The opposite, and darker, side of the coin is the growing assumption that teaching would improve if the poor teachers could be exposed and weeded out. Joel Klein, chancellor of the New York City public school system; Michelle Rhee, former superintendent of Washington, DC, schools; and 14 other superintendents published a "manifesto" in the Washington Post (Klein et al., 2010) claiming that the obstacles to removing incompetent teachers made their job of improving the education for their district's children very difficult. One could just as easily believe that it is the poor teaching methods that are to blame and it is these poor methods that must be weeded out and replaced by better ones. But this is not the direction U.S. education has taken" (p. 98).

Hiebert, J. & Morris, A. K. (2012). Teaching, Rather Than Teachers, As a Path Toward Improving Classroom Instruction. Journal of Teacher Education, 63(2), pp. 92-102.

In sum, the current direction of school reform targets unions and the targeting of unions has a political agenda. Yes, there are problems with the teachers unions, but the solution is not to do away with the teachers unions. In addition, the focus on teachers is counterproductive. There needs to be more of a focus on teaching practices, requiring a paradigm shift in how most Americans think about teachers and teaching. With the advent of the Common Core State Standards, there is now a de facto national curriculum which makes it possible to train teachers in the best teaching methods for teaching content.

Education Grad Student

Submitted by Anonymous (not verified) on April 3, 2013 5:35 am

I think reformers are targeting urban districts because that is where the problems are.

When you have a large district with a single contract governing every detail of work rules, school assignment, discipline, retention, across a wide range of schools, by definition you need a large bureaucracy to manage that and there is little leeway left to indepedent schools.

The union and the bureaucracy are co-dependent and intertwined. Generally large organizations (private and public) make it easier to hide incompetence. Public sector bureaucracies are worse and especially in Philly which has one of the least effective public sectors in the USA.

ESG, since the dawn of unionization are there ANY examples of effective, centrally managed large urban districts? This is a serious question.

When you are talking about Radnor, Lower Merion, the districts are relatively small organizations. There is no Montgomery County School District. The politicians in these areas (Democrats and Republicans) are responsive to taxpayers, unlike Philly where you have a political machine whose main purpose is to allow various constituents to feed off of taxpayers. So the suburban districts are generally well run, or at least not grossly mismanaged like in Philly.

Submitted by Ms.Cheng (not verified) on April 3, 2013 7:27 am

Perhaps it is not size so much as poverty that attracts mismanagement. Camden has only 12,000 students,and an elected school board (take notice Mr. Migliore). Smaller than Lower Merion, and a per child funding of significantly more, $24,000 vs. $18,000 in Lower Merion. Definitely problems there.

So what is it about poverty that attracts mismanagement and corruption?

Submitted by Ms.Cheng (not verified) on April 3, 2013 7:22 am

Well here I am answering my own question. It's probably the education level or critical thinking skills of the caregivers that invites the predators. This just adds more urgency to the mission of (public) education.

We bought our home with a FHA loan, and this put us on a list for loan sharks. We were flooded with mail of outrageous offers of "you deserve this and that, so take another loan with us." Fortunately I had good public school math teachers.

Submitted by Anonymous (not verified) on April 3, 2013 10:28 am

Poverty attracts political machines, which are the opposite of effective government.

Political machines exist to buy the votes of the poor and stupid relatively cheaply to enable corruption and self-enrichment by government insiders.

There is an incredible overabundance of poor, stupid, and insider in Philly. And a long history of machine politics.

The ultimate machine move was when Philadelphia bought the Gas Works in the 1970's one of the dumbest most corrupt actions in US municipal history. No other city in the country owns a gas company. But it let the pols here give 150,000 people free natural gas (many undeserving "connected" people) and some 10,000+ workers a full pension at age 48. 160,000 guaranteed machine loyalists.

Meanwhile, the potential opposition to the machine is the average taxpaying citizen. Which is why the machine was historically ambivalent to 100's of thousands of taxpayers leaving the city. At some point in the future, they knew a diminished tax base would reduce the scale for their self-dealing (the city could not finance a PGW like boondoggle nowadays). But in the interim, the machine was happy to let those who cared about effective government to vote with their feet.

Submitted by Education Grad ... on April 3, 2013 2:10 pm

Ms. Cheng,

My understanding is that Lower Merion's per-pupil funding is around $26,000 per year. Where did you find the $18,000 number?

$24,000 is a lot of money, but it's important to compare it with schools in New Jersey because of differences in how states fund education.

EGS

Submitted by Ms.Cheng (not verified) on April 3, 2013 3:59 pm

EGS, you're absolutely right. I had the number of students in Lower Merion incorrect. They have about 7,300 students only. So they are smaller than Camden District, which has 12,000, and the spending (which nearly matches funding) is indeed closer to $26,000 per student. Apologies. Figures can be obtained from the State's website,using "expenditure" and "enrollment" data.

Then what is Camden getting for $24,000 per student and more students (should mean more pooled resources) than Lower Merion? It is a different State, yes, but I can't imagine that the cost of services is that much more there.

Submitted by Education Grad ... on April 3, 2013 4:15 pm

Ms. Cheng,

We all make mistakes, it's cool! You do make the important point about the small size of the Camden district. I think this is important to ask why it is not performing (however one measures that) at the same level at districts of similar size. It is important to look at poverty and SES. Many school reformers don't want to look at SES factors, put SES and poverty matter. No, they are not everything. Teaching matters. Leadership matters. Curriculum matters. But there is consistent research to show that poverty is an important factor in education. It can't just be put to the wayside.

EGS

Submitted by Anonymous (not verified) on April 3, 2013 4:26 pm

Why is NJ incomparable to PA?

Submitted by Education Grad ... on April 3, 2013 4:26 pm

It's not incomparable, but in order to compare, it's important to account for the different funding formulas and how the state allocates funds. States fund education differently and the similarities and differences need to be clear in order for comparisons to be fair.

EGS

Submitted by Diane Mohney (not verified) on April 1, 2013 6:18 pm

Excellent commentary by Ron Whitehorn.

We have unions to thank for holding the line on class size, making sure that teachers have adequate supplies, and making sure that conditions in schools are safe and healthy. Teachers' working conditions are children's learning conditions.

Turning schools over to for-profit entities makes it possible to put profits before what children and teachers need for proper learning and teaching, especially if school staff risks job loss for complaining, i.e., standing up for what's right.

Further, I greatly fear the loss of democratic control over curricula when for-profits are running schools and determining what is taught. Teachers must have unions to turn to when the question of what should be taught arises. In a recent case in Pennsylvania, science teachers were able to raise objections to the injection of non-scientific ideas, creationism, into the science curriculum of their school district. Had they not had a union, those teachers would have risked the loss of their jobs.

Submitted by Education Grad ... on April 1, 2013 6:06 pm

Diane,

Your point about the democratic control of curriculum is EXTREMELY IMPORTANT!!! Thank you for raising this issue.

EGS

Submitted by Anonymous (not verified) on April 1, 2013 11:08 pm

What for profit entities are running schools here?

Submitted by Rich Migliore (not verified) on April 2, 2013 9:13 am

Mastery, KIPP, Scholar Academies, String Theory, Universal. All of the companies which will be "given schools" by the SRC.

Why would any entity want to expand other than for the profit motive?

Just because an entity is set up as a nonprofit, does not mean that the purpose of it is not for profit.

That is not to denigrate anything that they do and especially not to denigrate the hard work and dedication of their teachers and principals, but we need some basic honesty in this discussion.

I always like to point to Blue Cross as a prime example. Blue Cross is set up as a "nonprofit." The CEO of Blue Cross makes over $20,000.00 per week as his salary.

The nonprofit is a type of "business organization" created to shield the entity from taxes.

Submitted by Education Grad ... on April 2, 2013 4:44 pm

Rich,

I agree with you that there is a profit motive or expansion motive with non-profits. Another motive, related to the expansion motive, may be a mission motive. A Renaissance operator may also deeply believe in the model of its schools and desire to expand in order to help more children receive a better education. Renaissance operators may believe that taking over schools is a positive endeavor for children and communities, whether or not there is evidence to support these beliefs. However, some of the CEOs of these charter management companies have business backgrounds and are most interested in running a non-profit business. There may be a tinge of altruism to their efforts, but business people don't generally go into business for altruistic reasons. Also, if a CEO has enough altruism, I would also argue that he/she would (a) treat and compensate employees respectfully and fairly and (b) allow for democratic governance and transparency.

EGS

Submitted by Anonymous (not verified) on April 2, 2013 4:21 pm

"Why would any entity want to expand other than for the profit motive?" A little cynical, don't you think?

So according to your reasoning, any organization that wants to grow to serve more people is only interested in profit? Not to maybe expand their mission to more people. So organizations like Doctors Without Borders, Brady Center to Prevent Gun Violence, Big Brother Big Sisters, and St. Jude's Children Hospital, along with hundreds of other non-profits just want more money?

And how is any of this different than any large government organization, like the SDP? The highest paid education job in Philadelphia is Dr. Hite. Lots of people at 440 make +$100k. So the district is set up solely to make people "profit"?

Yes, there are charter school admins making too much money as there are SDP officials making too much money, but your point seems to be that any organization where people get paid money for work is somehow dirty. It's bizarre.

Submitted by Rich Migliore (not verified) on April 2, 2013 7:42 pm

What did I say which would make anyone think that any organization where people get paid money for work is somehow dirty. You must have a guilty conscience.

I believe all teachers in Philadelphia should be making way more money than what they do. I believe the contract demands of the School District are absurd and offensive to anyone who believes in the profession of teaching and that the quality of teachers matters.

I believe everyone should be paid a reasonable amount of compensation for what they do. I do not see anything wrong with people in the field of public service being paid well.

I am certainly not cynical at all. I believe the saving of our public schools will come soon and the new generation of bright, young, dedicated teachers will be the leaders of that movement.

Like the Good Poster above said, most of us went into teaching for idealistic reasons. There is idealism, and then there is realism. And then there is realism cloaked in idealism.

The purpose of a school district is to educate its children and serve its community. It is a "public trust." The purpose of any business is to make a profit.

A man or a woman is judged by his or her actions, so is an organization.

Submitted by Anonymous (not verified) on April 3, 2013 4:18 am

Based on Rich's logic, the school district is not a non-profit either since there is a long legacy of patronage jobs, contracts to donors, uncompetitive support services and various other people profiting.

You think you know everyone's motives and are fit to judge, yet you ignore the very obviously profit motives of various groups who have historically fed off the district.

Submitted by Ms.Cheng (not verified) on April 3, 2013 7:27 am

Oh absolutely. This is where a lot of the Title I funds went to - "professional" posturing instead of directly to the children for who it was meant. But now the SDP is facing consequences of its "feeding off the public trough" ("takes one to know one"). These children, as neglected as ever, are the ones creating the "raison d'etre" for charters and management companies. Professing concern for these children now is the most hypocritical stance ever.

Submitted by Rich Migliore (not verified) on April 3, 2013 10:45 am

No, that is not my logic. That is your logic.

I assure you I have never ignored the profit motives of various groups and that I do not judge anyone personally. Everyone wants and deserves to be fairly compensated for what they do as professional educators.

What I have done though is spent 34 years of my life teaching kids to read, observe, learn, think analytically, think critically, be aware of the world around them, and draw appropriate inferences and conclusions from the facts as they see them.

I also taught students that learning is a life long endeavor and they should think for themselves and have the courage to stand up for themselves and what they believe in.

Do you have a problem with that logic?

Submitted by Anonymous (not verified) on April 3, 2013 4:30 pm

Do you know how much the head of Kipp makes? I am curious how it compares to the head of the PSD.

The KIPP CEO should make much more, in my opinion and objectively in the opinion of parents who choose to send there kids there.

If you have a general issue with management being overpaid and overcredited relative to workers in America, that is a fair argument. But it has nothing to do with letting parents choose whether they want an alternative to the district.

Submitted by Anonymous (not verified) on April 3, 2013 4:57 pm

You wrote: "...objectively in the opinion of parents..."

Opinions cannot be objective. They are subjective. Once you misuse a word, you lose credibility in your arguments.

Submitted by Ron Whitehorne on April 2, 2013 10:52 am

Mosaica runs Birney, a Renaissance Charter School.   This is a for profit company with contracts all around the world and a high powered corporate leadership.  To learn more go to: http://www.schoolsmatter.info/2010/04/mosaica-education-inc-and-lack-of.html

 

While charters legally must be non-profit, they can hire EMOs like Mosaica to operate their schools.

Submitted by Rich Migliore (not verified) on April 2, 2013 10:32 am

Exactly, Mosaica is set up as a for-profit corporation. It also was allowed by the PA Charter School Appeal Board to "found" Collegium Charter School in West Chester.

The Pennsylvania Supreme Court affirmed the Charter School Appeal Board's decision to overrule the elected school board of the West Chester School District and allow Mosaica, as a for-profit corporation, to found a charter school which it was going to operate.

Submitted by Education Grad ... on April 2, 2013 4:43 pm

Rich,

When did this situation you are describing happen?

EGS

Submitted by Rich Migliore (not verified) on April 2, 2013 7:45 pm

Collegium Charter School had applied for a charter in 1998. It had been set up by Mosaica, and in its application it stated that it had an agreement with Mosaica to manage the charter school. The West Chester School District turned them down They appealed to the Charter School Appeal Board which overruled the district. Then West Chester School District and the taxpayers appealed the CAB's ruling.

The Commonwealth Court opinion explains all the details so you should read it first. It can be found here:

http://caselaw.findlaw.com/pa-commonwealth-court/1090532.html

The Supreme Court opinion does not really explain the whole set up accurately, but they had no problem with allowing a contractual relationship with Mosaica and affirming Commonwealth Court.

The Supreme Court opinion can be found here:

http://caselaw.findlaw.com/pa-supreme-court/1140936.html

After you read it let me know what you think. Then you will see how utterly boring a lawyer's life is.

It is way better to be a teacher! Way more fun. Way more rewarding even if the money isn't quite as good.

The value of the smile of a kid whose life you have affected in a meaningful way is one of the most precious things in the world!

Submitted by Education Grad ... on April 2, 2013 9:30 pm

Thanks Rich. I will take a look at the legal decision. I briefly considered law school when I was in college. I realized it wasn't for me, particularly since law often involves a lot of conflict and I'm not exactly a conflict-seeking person. I love teaching! I just hope and pray that with the current school reforms, the teaching profession doesn't become so unbearable that I feel like changing careers.

EGS

Submitted by Joe K. (not verified) on April 2, 2013 8:06 pm

Does John Q. Porter still run Mosaica? He's a wonderful person having been chased out of Oklahoma City for misappropriation of funds. I believe Ackerman was also in cahoots with him to some degree. You just can't make this stuff up.

Submitted by Joe K. (not verified) on April 2, 2013 8:06 pm

Does John Q. Porter still run Mosaica? He's a wonderful person having been chased out of Oklahoma City for misappropriation of funds. I believe Ackerman was also in cahoots with him to some degree. You just can't make this stuff up.

Submitted by Anonymous (not verified) on April 3, 2013 11:34 am

We do have democratic control. Presumably, the creationism was a democratic initiative by some school board in Pennsyltucky, but not one you (or I) support. In that case you want the right to overrule democratic control.

What you mislabel democratic control is really union control over the curriculum, which is quite contrary to democratic control. Parents of course have no real input or choice in the matter.

Even with charters, the state sets the testing standards which defines a core curriculum.

Submitted by Education Grad ... on April 1, 2013 6:33 pm

Here is another article about how companies are profiting from privatizing public schools:

Privatizing Public Schools: Big Firms Eyeing Profits From U.S. K-12 Market by Stephanie Simon
http://www.huffingtonpost.com/2012/08/02/private-firms-eyeing-prof_n_173...

EGS

Submitted by Anonymous (not verified) on April 2, 2013 11:00 pm

I'm shocked, an article about "Privatizing Public Schools" in the Huffington Post. Couldn't you find a more left leaning paper?

Submitted by Darryl Johns (not verified) on April 3, 2013 1:59 am

I am not an Educator, nor am I given to flights of fancy over conspiracy theories. However, I recently read a list of SDP proposals to the PFT in advance of the next contract talks. With hundreds of millions of dollars in deficit I fully expected to see a list of potential 'give backs' directed to the union.

In the pages I read there was a small section about proposed salary reductions. That wasn't surprising. What did surprise me were the following other proposed changes:

- Teachers may no longer use reasonable force to protect
themselves from attack or injury
- Elimination of requiring the district to provide a sufficient
number of instructional materials and textbooks
- Elimination of class size
- Elimination of Employee Lounge
- Elimination of drinking fountains
- Elimination of providing a clothing locker and desk to teachers
- Elimination of caseload limits for counselors and requirements
of one counselor in each school
- Elimination of rooms for counselors that provide privacy and
confidentiality, a telephone, file cabinet that locks, and a door

What do these items have to do with saving money and improving education within the district? If I thought that the SDP was run by inept managers before, this list provides confirmation. The
list also is a direct affront and attack on the union.

There are numerous other questionable demands in this proposal from the SDP to the PFT. Would the SDP make such demands on it's charter operators? If you think such would be absurb if propogated to the charters then a conspiracy to privatize public education doesn't seem so farfetched.

Submitted by Ms.Cheng (not verified) on April 3, 2013 7:37 am

You missed Dr. Hite's explanation. Basically he said these guarantees are not found in professional contracts (though I'm one to believe that you can never have too much in writing - look at credit card agreements for example), but not having them in writing did not mean that the SDP would not provide them.

Here's the link to the conversation on Radio Times, Mar. 5 on this with Marty M-C: http://whyy.org/cms/radiotimes/2013/03/05/proposals-for-a-new-philadelph...

The expert on negotiations, Andrew Rotherham, agreed that the presence of these terms showed an historical lack of trust between the PFT and the SDP. He said there is always a lot of "drum beating" prior to actual negotiations. I agree these "drum beats" are a very bad start.

Submitted by Annonymous (not verified) on April 3, 2013 8:27 am

Even with the items in the contract we do not have everything. There is NO trust between the PFT and the School District because the district screws those in the classroom first and protects the powers that be at 440.

Submitted by Anonymous (not verified) on April 3, 2013 11:52 am

I have very little support for the union.

The idea that teachers can't defend themselves if physically accosted is unreasonable.

It reminds me of the idiot administrators (invariably in suburbia) who suspend a 7 year old for making a gun out of play-dough because of their non-sensical absolutist policies.

Submitted by Darryl Johns (not verified) on April 4, 2013 7:37 pm

Thank you for the link to the Radio Times broadcast. I listened to the participants and was surprised by the lack of specifics. There is always a rhythm to any negotiation. The initial salvos always involve items to which neither side is wedded. But too many of the District's demands were nonsensical and not even worthy of further discussion.

In fact, Dr. Hite dismissed a number of his own demands to the union, such as class size and not being responsible to provide sufficient instructional materials for students. In doing so he came across as disingenuous.

How do you negotiate in good faith with a someone who is not trust worthy?

Submitted by Joe (not verified) on April 8, 2013 9:57 pm

Darryl--Yes, it is hard to deal honestly with someone who is dishonest and that was Hite's biggest problem down South. He is quickly becoming Ackerman Part 2 which is exactly why he is even here. The Broad Foundation Handbook is his bible and if you notice, whenever he gets asked a question he can't answer, he reverts to that handbook as though he's a puppet or a robot of some sort. At least Ackerman had some pizzaz to her style of lying.

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