US Indymedia Global Indymedia Publish About us
Printed from Boston IMC :
IVAW Winter Soldier

Winter Soldier
Brad Presente

Other Local News

Spare Change News
Open Media Boston
Somerville Voices
Cradle of Liberty
The Sword and Shield

Local Radio Shows

WMBR 88.1 FM
What's Left
WEDS at 8:00 pm
Local Edition
FRI (alt) at 5:30 pm

WMFO 91.5 FM
Socialist Alternative
SUN 11:00 am

WZBC 90.3 FM
Sounds of Dissent
SAT at 11:00 am
Truth and Justice Radio
SUN at 6:00 am

Create account Log in
Comment on this article | View comments | Email this article | Printer-friendly version
News :: Labor
Mass Teachers Labor Union Elects New Leader
21 May 2014
Teachers vote for change in Massachusetts
Amirah Santos-Goldberg, a member of the Massachusetts Teachers Association and Educators for a Democratic Union, reports on the winds of change blowing in her union.
May 13, 2014

HISTORY WAS made at the May 10 annual meeting of the Massachusetts Teachers Association (MTA) when delegates opted for change by electing Barbara Madeloni as the union's next president.

Madeloni, a member of the progressive caucus Educators for a Democratic Union (EDU), defeated Tim Sullivan, the current MTA vice president, by 97 votes in the race for president. The vote reflected growing opposition among teachers and staff to high-stakes testing and punishment, as well as increased enthusiasm among union members to take action in order to defend their schools.

This vote is extremely significant given that the MTA is the largest teachers union in the state, representing all K-12 teachers (except those in Boston), as well as some faculty and staff at various state universities and community colleges.

Madeloni, a former English teacher, is perhaps best known for refusing, along with her students at the University of Massachusetts-Amherst, to participate in a standardized teacher-licensing program co-developed by Stanford University and testing behemoth Pearson. Her campaign, led by EDU, is part of a growing movement across the country by teacher activists pushing their unions to organize against corporate school reform.

Union opponents of Madeloni's campaign tried to discredit her run for president as an "outsider's campaign," and she was criticized for a supposed lack of experience and insufficient connections to political insiders. But that is precisely what appealed to her supporters.

EDU based its campaign for Madeloni's presidential bid on the pledge to rebuild an active, member-driven union that is transparent that stands up to the corporate attacks on our schools and our union. For years, the MTA leadership has made concession after concession on issues of teacher evaluations, high-stakes testing and retiree health care benefits.

For many, the last straw was outgoing president Paul Toner's closed-door deal with Stand for Children, an education policy organization widely known for advocating pro-privatization and anti-union measures, to get rid of seniority benefits in case of mass layoffs. More recently, Toner admitted to meeting regularly with Stand for Children at a professional development event in Framingham, Mass.

In her final campaign speech, Mandeloni described the crucial difference between her EDU-backed presidential bid and the campaign of her opponent Tim Sullivan, who has been MTA vice president for the past four years:

You could choose to vote for the experience of the status quo--even though compared to four years ago, we face more testing, more turnarounds, a demeaning teacher evaluation system, weakened seniority and worse pension benefits. This is what we get when we think power lies in personal access to the political elite--talking to them instead of mobilizing our membership.

When Stand for Children comes back for its next bite out of our union rights, or [when] our political "allies" come after our pensions, and you know they will, do we once again cut an insider deal and declare "it could have been worse"? I don't think so. We need new leadership with experience--not with things as they have been, but with things as they might be.

- - - - - - - - - - - - - - - -

MOST OF the people who voted for Madeloni didn't cast their votes under the illusion that her election alone would be sufficient to stop the juggernaut of corporate ed "deform." Rather, her campaign inspired a sense that we can--and must--organize teachers, staff, students and parents across the state to engage in a serious discussion of what kind of action it is going to take to win back our schools.

As Kiely, a special education teacher in Holyoke, Mass., put it: "This new election gives people hope. It gives us more self-confidence to say that is not okay."

The grassroots organizing efforts of EDU's campaign were visible throughout the convention. The most confident and vocal contingent of MTA members came from Holyoke, one of the poorest and hardest-hit school districts in the state. Project Grad, a school privatization firm based in Texas, has already taken over one school and part of a second, and instituted a regime of high-stakes testing and evaluations, creating an environment that makes teachers feel they are constantly under threat.

Yet teachers, staff and parents recently won a victory when they took a proud and public stand against "data walls," which force teachers to publicly humiliate their students by showcasing their scores.

The combination of winning a victory against data walls and their disgust at the methods of Project Grad have persuaded more teachers to get involved in organizing with the union and with EDU. As Kiely explained, "In the past, there would be maybe five people at a union meeting. Now you can't find a seat. Before you had a union that didn't speak out."

Holyoke MTA members talked eloquently about how these school takeovers are negatively impacting the largely poor and immigrant communities that live in the school district.

One teacher was in the midst of explaining the double standard of accountability at public schools and corporate-run turnaround schools when Massachusetts Gov. Deval Patrick arrived at the MTA event to receive the Presidential Award. Unfortunately but not surprisingly, Gov. Patrick studiously avoided addressing such concerns.

To be sure, Madeloni's victory is just the first step. Most members of the MTA don't attend the annual convention, nor are they routinely involved in the union. Only 1,200 of the MTA's 110,000 members took part in the discussions and votes regarding the future of the union.

The essential next step is for teacher activists to continue organizing in our cities and towns in order to involve more teachers, staff, parents and students in the day-to-day struggles to defend quality public education as a right for all.

This work is in the public domain
Add a quick comment
Your name Your email


Text Format
Anti-spam Enter the following number into the box:
To add more detailed comments, or to upload files, see the full comment form.


Re: Mass Teachers Labor Union Elects New Leader
25 May 2014
Letter from a Teacher: Charter School Hell

The Obama administration has been leading the charge in a bipartisan nationwide assault on public education and teachers unions, attacking “failing” schools in black and immigrant communities and threatening teachers with layoffs (see: “Obama’s War on Public Education,” WV No. 967, 22 October 2010). Meanwhile, some of the country’s biggest billionaires and Democratic Party hacks are waging a rabid media campaign to blame teachers and their unions for the disastrous conditions of the public schools, while deceptively showcasing a select few carefully manicured charter schools as the future of education. Charter schools are an attack on the basic democratic right to public education. They further increase segregation in the schools, and for the majority of black and minority youth, offer nothing but a holding pen, while lining the pockets of the owners

* * *

I am forced to take on more than the average teacher and get paid less than the average teacher. I get paid thirteen thousand dollars less than a teacher with my experience at a public school in my area. I have to do a bunch of extracurricular activities that in a public school would be optional. I have to supervise four after-school activities a week. This adds an extra four hours to my workweek. In a public school a teacher would get paid extra for this. In the school where I work, I do not get paid anything for this. To be honest, I do not have it as bad as some of the other teachers in the school. I recently heard from two teachers at my school that they have to stay until 6 p.m. one day a week to supervise an after-school activity and they do not get paid anything for it. I must note that our contract states that we must be at the school until 3:45 p.m. I also have to substitute during my preparation period if there is another teacher absent. This happens at least once a week. The reason why we have to do this so often is that the school does not usually get a sub if there is a teacher absent. We do not get paid extra for covering for other teachers. Subs cost money, and why pay for a sub when you can just get the teachers to do it for free? I hear that public school teachers get paid around $30 to $60 for every period that they cover.

Of course we cannot complain about any of this, since we do not have a union to defend us. We also do not get tenure. Our contract is up for renewal every year. I have not been at this school long, but I hear that the charter school company that I work for does not usually give raises to teachers. I do not know what happens if a teacher asks for a raise, but I’m pretty sure that any teacher that insists on a raise is not rehired. If a teacher wants to quit, they have to give two-week notice, but the charter school company can fire a teacher for any vague reason, like “inefficiency” or “immorality.” Unlike a union shop, where a contract covers an entire workgroup, each teacher has an individual contract with the company, which leads to unequal compensation, benefits, etc. It is usually the case that when we show up at our weekly staff meetings we are told by the administration that we will have to do extra work, like supervising outside before the beginning of school or in the halls during passing periods, etc. Of course we cannot say no. They are not asking us if we can do it, they are telling us we should do it.

Charter schools are notorious for not providing enough funding for programs for students with disabilities, even though they get money from the state for such programs. This is also the case at my school. For example, I have a teenage student who cannot read or write above a first-grade level. This is a problem since a lot of reading and writing is involved in my class. I have other students with learning disabilities in my class, and I do adapt my instruction and assignments to fit their needs. These students are able to comprehend most of the material presented, although they need extra help. There are no adaptations that I can make to my assignments which will fit the needs of a student who struggles to read at a first-grade level. This student should be in a special education class where his needs will be better met. At the very least, this student should be provided with an aide to help him in the class. The reason that he is not in such a class is that we do not have one in our school. The charter company would have to spend some extra money to set up such a class. This is also the reason why he was not provided with an aide. The company is not willing to spend money on aides. There is a teacher at our school who works with students with disabilities, but her time is limited since she teaches general education classes. This is despite the fact that federal law says that even charter schools must provide special education to students with disabilities.

The school facilities are also not up to the same standard as your average public school. Our school is located in a commercial building. The charter school company rents out half of this building from some company. This does not seem that bad at first, but you might change your mind about this when you find out that the classrooms that we are in are also shared with other people who have nothing to do with the school or the people who own the building. The result of this is that things always get moved around or end up missing. I’ve found ways to deal with this but it frustrates me, since I know that I would not have these problems were I in a public school. Moreover, the building is not built well and things are always breaking. Door handles come off, faucets break and the ceiling begins to leak every time it rains. This is also the case with other charter schools that I’ve been to. One charter school was a warehouse, which had been used to store produce, and another used to be a car garage.

This charter company sees itself more as a business than a public educational organization. For example, we have a CEO instead of a superintendent. That is his actual title, CEO. It’s clear that the people in charge are in it for the money. And they are using that money to fatten their pockets and buy themselves eighty-thousand-dollar cars. I know that they have these types of cars because I see them parked in our parking lot whenever someone from the main office comes to observe our school! We don’t get paid on time, get raises, get subs, or get materials for our class because of the “current financial crisis” and yet these people buy Porsches and Land Rovers. But that’s how education works under capitalism.

All of the teachers at my school are tired and really want things to change. Recently I had a discussion with some of them about how we need to organize and how things would be so much better if we had a union. Just so you know, teachers at charter schools are overworked, underpaid, and furious!

Workers Vanguard No. 983
8 July 2011