Leaving Finland

Lake Jyvasjarvi I have never lived anywhere for 5 months other than Jyvaskyla, Finland. As my Fulbright journey concludes, there is so much to still digest. It will take months, if not years, to truly assimilate all the learning. Before I left Southern California, I wrote about the what I would miss the most from home and what I  looked forward to experiencing in Finland. It is safe to say I met my goals. Top 7 Goals 1. Discussing Education Helsinki Workshop Through professional development programs, Fulbright Finland connected teachers with scholars and researchers, for the purpose of putting inquisitive minds together. The Making Democracies Resilient to Modern Threats seminar provided participants with fascinating research and presentations. 2. Nordic Model Bus station in Espoo What does an efficient and earnest country look like?  It looks like Finland. Yes, people pay higher taxes, but get so much in return. I for one appreciated the well-maintained ro

Two Teachers, Two POV's

This email exchange landed in my inbox this week and shows the complexities of the issue of seniority, bargaining rights, and ed reforms.  L.A. Academy is ground zero for this debate, and we are working to try to reach a coherent, reasonable approach to all of these issues.  Of note, both teachers have been RIF'ed in the past 2 years.  (Exchange reprinted with permission of authors.)

Email #1

From today's LA Times.  Interesting to see that the "reform" effort in Colorado was headed by democrats and that the Colorado chapter of the AFT eventually supported the reform in exchange for some changes they wanted. This is just one more indication that teachers are losing the public relations battle with our "just say no to everything" approach.  It's no longer just Republican union-busters coming after teachers, but pretty much the whole political establishment.  I really fear that if California teachers' unions continue to say no to all reforms they are going to be ignored and we will have something really bad rammed down our throats.  Better to get a seat at the table and try to help create something we can live with than to stand in the street yelling when no one is listening and lose everything.  Read article here. (Dave D'Lugo)

Email #2

With all due respect and affection, while it's clear that teachers are losing the public relations battle, your characterization of our approach is just plain false. "Just say no?"  We didn't "just say no" to pilots--which was a controversial initiative that thinned the contract and limited teacher protections.  We fought out butts off at the
HOR (UTLA House of Representatives) to get people to support it, warts and all, and won. BTW a bunch of good teachers are being ousted from their school because of a misuse of the pilot idea and the below-named "School Choice" garbage, but most of us who supported it are still glad we did.

We didn't "Just say no" to the "school choice" process either.  We, frankly made a decision that I hated and did get a seat at the table in a choice process that gives no choice to the communities and gives publicly funded schools away. Then we all rallied behind that unfortunate decision, rolled up our sleeves got involved and went out and won our schools back--even though the process was corrupt and stacked against us. And we're going to have to work even harder on the next round of schools because of that.

And we didn't "just say no" to furloughs, even though the district still hasn't rescinded all the
RIFs (forgetting about last year) and less than a week after the deal, promptly dripped 300 mill+ on capital funds for school improvement with money that could have hired us all back.  You're not at the area meetings or the HOR lately, so you have no idea how infuriating this was to people.  Many wish now they had "said no" to the furloughs, and though I ultimately disagree, I absolutely understand why they feel that way.

The notion that they'll stop coming after us if we agree to take a seat at the table is ludicrous.  The forces stacked against us have one goal: the elimination of public sector unions. They want to create a right-to-work environment. You've worked in that, so have I.  We know how bad that is. That's what they want, Dave. We have worker protections precious few Americans have, and they're inconvenient to people in power. Notice how they never talk about bad administrators, but bad teachers--few as they are--are worth writing articles and articles about. What about overworked, underpaid excellent teachers who haven't had a COLA raise in four years and have to worry if they lose their jobs every year? Again, there is an agenda at work here, whether any of us want to see it or not.

The Colorado decision is not good, and
Weingarten is not making friends among her rank and file with her "seat at the table"approach.  Read the new piece in the NYT Magazine about unions and seniority. It's also very much stacked against us, but provides a little complexity.

You're clearly very passionate about this Dave. I'd like to invite you actually get involved in these discussions. With a little bit of participation and effort, you can be sitting on committees with officers and BOD members and getting your voice heard, and more than likely helping to direct our union.

But reading mainstream media articles that have a clear agenda against us will not get us anywhere if we don't do something.  As for the rest, I just hope you realize that this story is far more complicated than you indicate in your email. If you got involved, you'd truly know all the layers of complexity and then you'd be able to use your more than astute mind to help us figure out what to do about it.

We could really use the help. (Joe

My two cents to both Dave and Joe:

I think the union should embark on some reforms NOT because we want a seat at the table (as a history teacher I keep thinking of Neville Chamberlain and his failed appeasement of Hitler).  I don't want to go down as the sucker who sold out the union in return for nothing.  Yet at the same time, we as teachers have identified areas of improvement for our union, such as the one I am most concerned about:  seniority based lay-offs.  We know what that did to our school.  I advocate making layoffs district wide, not by school site.  If there is s 5% layoff in our district, each school should lose 5% of its staff.  This is fair.  If you don't want to be in the 5%, go to another school where your seniority will put you in a safe place.  This is reform-minded, its right, and we can push internally  We wouldn't be doing it to prove anything to anyone, yet we would reap the benefits.
Just a thought. (Martha Infante aka avalonsensei)

photo from ancientfaith.com


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