Thursday, November 8, 2012

Obama Should 'rethink' K-12 policies for second term

CHICAGO (EAGnews) – Among the well-wishers for President Obama’s triumphant re-election is Chicago pal and domestic terrorist-turned-professor Bill Ayers.
     On the website, Ayers writes:
     “Dear President Obama: Congratulations!
     “I’m sure this is a moment you want to savor, a time to take a deep breath, get some rest, hydrate, regain your balance, and take a long walk in the sunshine. It might be as well a good time to reflect, rethink, recharge, and perhaps reignite. I sincerely hope that it is, and I urge you to put education on your reflective agenda.”

While Ayers has in the past joked that Obama launched his political career in Ayers’ house, he has been dismayed over Obama’s appointment of Arne Duncan as Secretary of Education and the administration’s use of mild “corporate” reforms that involve competition and accountability.
Ayers continues: “You have opposed privatizing social security, pointing out the terrible risks the market would impose on seniors if the voucher plan were ever adopted. And yet you’ve supported—in effect—putting the most endangered young people at risk through a similar scheme. We need to expand, deepen, and fortify the public space, especially for the most vulnerable, not turn it over to private managers. The current gold rush of for-profit colleges gobbling up student loans is but one cautionary tale.
“You’ve said that you defend working people and their right to organize and yet you have publicly and noisily maligned teachers and their unions on several occasions. You need to consider that good working conditions are good teaching conditions, and that good teaching conditions are good learning conditions. We can’t have the best learning conditions if teachers are forced away from the table, or if the teaching corps is reduced to a team of short-termers and school tourists.”
Since Obama partly owes his re-election to organized labor, which holds the same views as Ayers, there is a chance that the president will follow his old friend's advice in a second term. That would spell trouble for Duncan and some of the logical reforms he has pushed through over the past four years. 
Hang on taxpayers, parents and other concerned citizens. The next four years should be a bumpy but interesting ride.


Teachers in Illinois’ Geneva school district are threatening to walk out on students over failed negotiations on raises and retirement enhancements.
At the district’s recent school board meeting, several residents spoke up about the situation and the message to the members of the Geneva Education Association was clear: Don’t let the door hit you on the way out!

At issue is a one-year salary freeze, including a freeze on automatic “step” raises, in the first year of the three-year union contract, the Chicago Daily Herald reports.
“Do not negotiate. Let’s hire replacement teachers. When they go on strike, that is their cause, love ‘em for it, but they should be replaced,” Geneva resident John McCormick said at the meeting, according to the Herald.
“McCormick said he checked with the Kane County Regional Office of Education and found that it has 10,500 jobseekers in its files,” the news site reports.
Retiree Win Church said the community simply can’t afford the union’s demands.
“We have given you increases when the economy was good,” Church said. “We’re not in a position to pay out … what you are used to.”
     Sandra Ellis, with the Geneva Tax FACTS watchdog group, pointed out the selfishness of a teacher strike and how parents and students take the brunt of the union’s frustrations.
“The GEA appears indifferent to their victims,” she said.
The board later went into closed session to discuss the union’s latest offer. Hopefully, they’ll heed the public’s advice.
State rules say the GEA must wait until at least Friday before walking out. The district says schools will remain open, but students will be kept busy with “activities.”
Thankfully, they won’t have to watch and listen to their teachers complain about their jobs, because the school board adopted a policy at the recent meeting to prohibit protesters and picket lines on district grounds.
The policy also prohibits protesters from blocking school entrances and exits, and calls for the district to pursue criminal prosecution for violators, the Herald reports.


Republican legislators and teacher union leaders are trading in their bitter political disagreements for happy talk and promises of bipartisanship as they attempt to find common ground about how to improve Idaho’s education system.
The newfound spirit of cooperation comes the day after Idaho voters overwhelmingly repealed three “Students Come First” education reform laws. The reforms were among the most far-reaching in the nation, addressing everything from curtailing collective bargaining powers for school employees to putting laptops into the hands of every high school student and teacher in the state.

Gov. Butch Otter, a Republican, said lawmakers and education “stakeholders” need to come together and review the newly scrapped reforms one by one, to find what is salvageable.
“I do think what we need to do is take each … idea of reform and sit down and say, ‘What did you like about it? What didn’t you like about it? If you had a chance to change it, how would you change it?’ And those things that we can agree on … (are) what we ought to go forward with,” the chastened Otter said, according to The Spokesman-Review.
Republican state Senator John Goedde, who chairs the Senate Education Committee, is wary of Otter’s new approach.
“If the union is sincere in looking at reform, I think they need to be included,” Goedde told the Spokesman-Review. “But if it’s going to be ‘not only no but hell no,’ which has kind of been their prior approach to this, then it’s a futile effort to include them.”
If Otter’s “inclusive” approach to education reform prevails, the results could be a predictable and unfortunate mix of increased K-12 spending and nominal accountability measures for teachers. In other words there might be no reform at all.
The meaningful policies – ending teacher seniority protections, restricting collective bargaining privileges and allowing merit pay – will remain in the dust bin.
On Wednesday, Idaho Education Association President Penni Cyr echoed Otter’s call for conciliation and urged lawmakers to meet union leaders “at the table.”
“We believe that together we can be a model of reform for the nation,” Cyr said, according to the news site.
Considering how a number of state teacher unions came roaring back life on Election Day, the idea that Idaho’s “kumbaya” approach might become a model for education reform across the nation is exactly what we’re afraid of.


Indiana Superintendent of Public Instruction Tony Bennett, a respected leader in the national education reform movement, was defeated Tuesday in his bid for a second term by a former local teachers union official.

Bennett gained national attention over the past four years by working with state officials to expand Indiana’s private school voucher program, install new evaluation systems for teachers and schools, limit teachers union collective bargaining privileges, expand the number of charter schools, take over chronically failing schools, and implement many other reforms.
His defeat puts some of those reform plans in jeopardy, reports
"It's a huge loss to education reform efforts," education reform advocate David Harris said, adding that many of Bennett's reforms will likely "endure."
In his concession speech, Bennett told supporters he wanted to "sign off by saying I have no regrets." 


On the surface, Michigan’s Proposal 2 was an effort to enshrine union collective bargaining privileges in the state constitution. But some people on both sides of the issue saw it as an early referendum on the idea of making Michigan a “Right to Work” state.

If the final tally was any indication, Michigan might be fertile ground for a Right to Work ballot initiative. Proposition 2 was defeated with 58 percent of the vote, signaling public dissatisfaction with the greedy union agenda.
State Rep. Mike Shirkey said he’s making it his mission to turn Michigan into the next Right to Work state, and intends to introduce a bill to do so, once he gets Gov. Rick Snyder on board, reports.
Right-to-work rules prohibit union membership as a condition of employment, making union dues optional.
Shirkey said he will introduce Right-to-work legislation “when I know for certain that I have the support of the governor.” Snyder, meanwhile, maintains that Right-to-Work isn’t on his agenda, but wouldn’t say Wednesday whether he would veto efforts to make it law, BridgeMI reports.
Michigan Chamber of Commerce President Rich Staley told the Detroit News that Tuesday’s results on Proposal 2 – 58 percent against, 42 percent in favor – represent a statewide referendum on Right-to-Work. He said Big Labor, led by United Auto Workers President Bob King, needs to face the facts.
“Bob King got his wish – there was a referendum on Right-to-Work, and he lost – not by a narrow majority, but by really an overwhelming substantial margin,” Staley said. “People shouldn’t be surprised when actions have consequences.”
It seems like Michigan’s labor unions are already gearing up for a fight, which, if successful, would send shock waves throughout the country. Big Labor has been a dominant force in Michigan's politics for decades. Not only is the state home to the UAW, but its largest teachers union, the Michigan Education Association, has been around since before the Civil War. (It was originally known as the Michigan State Teachers Association.)
Michigan House Speaker Jase Bolger’s spokesman, Ari Alder, told BridgeMI that his boss iced right-to-work legislation at Snyder’s request earlier this year, but the defeat of Proposal 2 obviously means the issue is back on the table.
“The unions have opened the door to having this debate and the Speaker is happy to walk through it,” Alder said.

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