Most people wouldn’t jump at the opportunity to attend a three-hour meeting after work hours. But on May 29, the board meeting of ASPIRA of Pennsylvania, a non-profit that runs four charters schools in Philadelphia, was packed with teachers, students, and other staff members. Holding signs that read “Let’s Work Together,” a group of 30 from the Olney Charter High School quietly sat through the last board meeting of the academic year, waiting to hear if ASPIRA would continue to resist their efforts to unionize.
Put aside for a moment the particulars of the Chicago teachers’ strike and look at the broader picture. Rahm Emanuel is only one of a number of Democratic mayors and governors who are going after public-employee unions. In Los Angeles, Mayor Antonio Villaraigosa is also at loggerheads with the city’s teacher union. In San Jose, a Democratic mayor and city council scaled back the city employees’ pensions (and so did city voters when they were asked to ratify that decision). In New York, Governor Andrew Cuomo has tangled with a number of public-sector unions. The battle between management and labor seems to have spread to the very center of the Democratic Party.
I wrote yesterday about the Obama administration's ambitious, yet somehow narrow definition of school reform. Today in the Washington Post, Randi Weingarten, the nation's most influential teachers' union leader, speaks in rather harsh terms about the administration:
The New Yorker's big political story this week is an attack on the New York City teachers' contract, by Steven Brill. By now, most people who follow education news know about the "Rubber Rooms" in big city school districts -- reassignment centers for teachers who have been found guilty of misconduct or incompetence but who continue to earn a regular paycheck and accrue pension benefits. Brill visits one such Rubber Room and highlights the cases of a few teachers inside. One is an alcoholic whom the United Federation of Teachers falsely claimed was removed from her job due to discrimination against older teachers. Another has a history of filing merit-less lawsuits.