Thursday, March 3, 2011

Fighting For Our Schools: Winning Strategies

This is the space to discuss strategies to improve working and learning conditions in our schools.  What negotiating tactics are most effective?  When are concessions productive and when do they weaken our cause? How do we get more money into education?  How do we reach the public and let them know what we see on the ground?  How do we reframe the issues so that teachers are at the vanguard of a real reform movement?  Add your questions and comments!


  1. This seems like the place to continue the discussion on the calendar vote blog concerning the ideas relative to working contract hours only.

    My sense is that this option seems radical and possibly premature, though I am open to further discussion and willing to change my mind about that. In any event, it is worth continuing the discussion of what that might look like, as I feel things are only going to get uglier and it may truly become necessary at some point.

    Kristin suggested on the main thread that perhaps that time is now, in order to show the public the necessity for a vote for the tax extensions in June.

    Are there any other thoughts on this?

  2. My sense is that if people in this union are not ready to resist salary cuts in a VOTE, they are not ready to work contract hours only, an arguably bolder action. But the time when they/we are ready may not be far off, I agree.

    It also pains me, as Chris wrote earlier, to think of turning away students. I am 60% this year but most mornings I come between an hour and 2 hours early, for periods I don't teach or have prep, and am used to tutoring and checking in with students who have free periods or who TA for teachers who release them, etc. I am also here every single Guided Study but since I don't teach 1st or 2nd, I might not have to be? I want to meet with the kids. I look forward to it.

    Point being, on a personal level it would be tough to go there. However, I think many students would be relieved to see us standing up for them. They deserve better conditions in schools and so do we.

    Who am I kidding? I said I was going on a posting strike and yet here I come, crawling back after only 1 half hour.

  3. I agree that our coworkers are clearly not ready for something so radical. But they will never be unless we start kicking up a little dust and talking about all possibilities.

    I agree that it would be very hard to limit myself to contractual hours, because the job so clearly requires so much more than that and our students are the ones who will suffer from such a move. But in the face of such negativity and criticism, it seems that something fairly radical is warranted.

    Is there any other way of seriously calling widespread attention to the reality of the crisis as we see it on the front lines? Is there any other way of letting the public know just how "lazy" and "greedy" we aren't?

    Let's get some ideas rolling here, people! There must be a better way.

  4. I think the whole metaphor of a "furlough day" is a bunch of Orwellian language-twisting. This is a 4% pay cut and we need to call it such. We really need to stop pretending like we are paid by the day. We are salaried employees, who are paid to do a job. We are now being asked to accomplish the same job, in less time, for less pay. This is the sacrifice we have made. This is how it needs to be framed for the public. I truly believe that most of the public perceives a furlough day as if we have given ourselves more holidays when we already get "summers off."

    The campaign should be, "We have given up 4%. What about you?" If the people of California do not vote on Brown's tax extensions, then we will be in even more dire straits than we already are. Dedicated teachers do not take a furlough day "off" but use it to plan lessons, grade papers, etc. We have taken a pay cut. That's the framing. "We have given up 4%. What about you?"

  5. Being clear and specific about what we are giving up is important because the perception is definitely that "furlough days" are just more days off for teachers. But I think the question "What about you?" sounds pretty accusatory to a general public where many are already making sacrifices themselves. The ones who haven't given up much (because apparently having a lot of money is reason not to give any of it up) won't hear that message, won't respond to "What about you?"

    But I am definitely in whole-hearted agreement that a change in vocabulary and rhetoric is needed.

  6. I think the rhetoric should be, "What about YOU, Wall Street Banker?" A sign I saw at the Wisconsin Solidarity Vigil a couple nights ago read simply, "Tax the Rich! They'll be okay."

  7. I think we need to start planning and discussing how to make sure the tax extension passes. Obviously, the public has less reason to vote for it now that they know teachers are willing to personally pay for a large portion of the financial shortfall, but if we lose six days off the school year next year, their children are not getting the education they deserve and need.

    Today at lunch we in the MHS English department started throwing around names for these proposed "furlough" days. Clearly, "furlough days" doesn't truly communicate the damage being done by these lost days. "Salary cut days" are true enough for us teachers, but do little to inform parents about what their kids are losing. Kristin suggested the term "lost learning days" and I think that is closer to what we need to communicate. Any other ideas?

    And how can we get the word out? It needs to happen ASAP, as our state representatives need to put pressure on the legislature even to get the Governor's tax extension proposal on the ballot. We can't even begin to plan how to reach the voters before June if this critical first step doesn't happen.


  8. I am late to this discussion, and this is a small comment, but I like that my sons' school calls their furlough days "budget cut days." I would also like to send an automatic response to any email received on a furlough day stating "I am on a budget cut day. I will not read or respond to any email I receive today. Please resend your email on the next business day."

    I really feel the pain of giving our students less attention, but we only have so much energy and attention to give--this is not the same as dividing love, which can grow without limits. If we have many more students, each may have to receive a smaller slice. And then maybe parents will take notice.


  9. There were a couple names thrown around the room. Lost learning days, loss of learning days, loss of education days, etc. Whichever we go with, I think it is better than something referencing salary or budget cuts. Whatever money we are saving from the furlough days is the equivalent of putting a gauze pad on a bullet wound to the heart: no matter how hard we press, that gauze pad won't solve the real problem.

    Right now, the public isn't interested in teachers losing money. But they would be interested in their children losing out on education. (Hopefully, anyway. But that's another issue.) Frankly, I think most educators are more worried about how furlough days affect our teaching and our ability to do right by our students, as opposed to the loss of money (which is still a major concern for people).

    One thing we can do is set up a form letter of sorts that people can use to fill in their names and add any additional comments. This can be emailed to our congress members. We can do regular mailed letters as well. I've signed and sent a few of those for various efforts I hear about.

  10. Heather, I like the automatic response to the email.
    Kristin, let's do the form letter.
    "Budgetary cut days" is good.
    I like to think of them as Budgetary crimes.