Thursday, March 10, 2011

Of Calendar Votes and General Strikes

We in the Santa Rosa Teacher's Union recently agreed to salary cuts in the form of a tentative calendar which would distribute several furlough days throughout the 2011-12 school year.  The negotiating team approved two furlough days in the increasingly unlikely event that Jerry Brown's tax extension passes, and 6 furlough days if it doesn't.  I was thinking of entitling this post Calendar Vote: The Aftermath but that seemed entirely too grim and divisive; and no doubt it would have led to the childish amusement of renaming the first post Calendar Vote: The Final Countdown.  Can I help it if these are ominous times?  I don't mean to suggest that anyone who voted for the budget crime days did the wrong thing.  In these times, it's hard to know what's right.  All irony aside, I believe the 2 to 1 majority that succumbed to the Great Budget Appeasement of 2011 was trying to save jobs. (Ok, some, but not all, irony aside.)  That is how the union leadership presented its case for the negotiation, as a conciliatory gesture of mature sacrifice to ward off a greater evil, and so it was on that basis that educators gave their approval.  2 to 1.

Except at Montgomery, where I hear it was a 2 to 1 majority against the new calendar.  Are we Vikings on something called Charlie Sheen, or do we have a point about staking out a strong position and refusing to yield prematurely?  I do not wish to sow seeds of rancor between teachers over a vote that is now a fait accompli.  Teachers must stick together, and in all seriousness I respect the rationale of others who made a different calculation on the recent vote.  However, I wish we had stuck together with our librarians who perform an essential service to students and our schools. They, and we, lost those valuable positions, and the losses in this state are only slated to escalate.  We are heading for a financial bloodbath and I fear, at best, that the calendar vote was our last bandaid before the wounds are opened for good.  At worst, it was a signal to our enemies that we are willing to bleed slowly in the shadows until they deliver the coup de grace.

To appease means "to buy off an aggressor with concessions usually at the sacrifice of principles."  As I see it, the big conundrum in our district is whether we are at the mercy of an actual aggressor or simply an act of Economy.  Michael Brenner, a Professor of International Affairs at the University of Pittsburgh, dares to probe into the obscure workings of this god and reports back to us in his recent Counterpunch article.  It turns out there are mere mortals behind the curtain of our fearsome Economy, but mortals can be pretty scary in their own right, especially those who are bent on abusing power and engorging themselves with resources that should rightly belong to the earth and all of its dwellers.

With so much urgency surrounding the passage of Jerry Brown's tax extensions on income, sales and vehicle registration, and his push to get it on the ballot for June, consider the following undisputed tax rates:

CA Income Tax Brackets
Tax Bracket (yearly earnings) Tax Rate (%)
$0+ 1%
$7,168+ 2%
$16,994+ 4%
$26,821+ 6%
$37,233+ 8%
$47,055+ 10%
$1,000,000+ 11%

That's one giant step from 47k to 999k. You heard right.  If you make 50k you pay the same rate as the guy behind the gates with six cars, three homes and a yacht.  This seems unfair, aggressively so, and I want to know why reversing that injustice isn't on the table to save our schools, our healthcare, our fundamental human rights.  Do we really think the 999k yachtsman is creating tons of jobs?  Can we check? I'm mindful of the danger of using overheated rhetoric in these times.  Words like "enemy" should not be applied lightly and liberally to anyone with whom we disagree.  But when I read about the implications of Brown's
spending cuts that he and the Democrats in the legislature are pushing alongside the call for more tax revenue, I can't help but feel that there is an enemy among us, and I know that enemy by the name of Greed and Cowardice.  Okay, two enemies.  

Leave it to an English teacher to use personification to avoid blaming people.  I'm not comfortable assigning individual blame.  I'm too self-deprecating and steeped in my own flaws to point the finger at another.  But I gotta tell you, there are some very, very, greedy people in our midst who have absolutely no compunction about hurting the neediest among us.  With apologies to Jon Stewart (who earns my highest esteem for his hilarious takedown of Wall Street ideology,) Stephen Colbert, and their Rally For Sanity, evil does exist.  You know it, I know it, and J.K. Rowling knows it.  Sure, sure, liberals don't want to sound like Bush when he made his axis of evil speech.  I get it!  But sometimes, sanity lies in calling your enemy by its true name.  

Furlough day sounds way too comfortable, like a glass of red wine or a warm, expensive coat.  It comes from the Dutch verlof, or, permission.  Really?  Not too well paid to begin with, we are being granted permission to lose our much needed earnings, and we are even invited to lose them at sporadic times during the year so that we cannot easily recoup our losses at a time like, say, the start of summer?  Our students are allowed to lose important learning time when too many of the days that remain are hijacked by meaningless tests?  And these same tests cost money that is not going into the retention of actual human beings who have a real relationship with our kids, unlike a multiple choice exam which can't listen or talk or care?  Seriously?  People, we need a new name for these FDs, and fast.

Another thing we need to do is consider whether Jerry Brown has essentially hemmed himself into the position of selling out our union in order to pass the tax extension we are being told is our only hope.  (I'm still wistful over the potential to tax a yachtsman, or a hundred.) He didn't even have to put this tax extension to the voters.  It's almost like he doesn't want the final decision on his shoulders.  He could have MADE THE CASE for why extending the tax hikes for five years is vital to the well-being of our state and its people, and he could have tried to get this passed the straightforward way.  Did anyone hear him make a passionate case for this?  I guess it's hard to make a passionate case for a budget that already has something like $14 billion in cuts stinking it up.  And please don't tell me that austerity here is about taking the high road, the mature and practical road, or I will reintroduce you to the yachtsman.  

Just go for it, Governor Brown!  Let's tell him!  You don't have to make all these sleazy deals and cuts.  You can fight for what's right.  Remember Bobby Kennedy?  Yes, I realize it was the times, and yes, Jerry Brown is about as much like Bobby Kennedy as a furlough day is like a vacation, but come ON.  Show a little passion, a little verve, a little moral gravitas. These times are as electric as the sixties, and our elected officials need to start acting like it.

Admittedly, for the tax extensions themselves, (as opposed to an agreement to put them on the ballot), to go through the legislature, Brown still would have needed a two thirds vote, and yes, the Republican lawmakers would still have refused to budge.  But when you stake out a strong and principled (feigned or not) position, negotiations tend to go in your favor. Just ask our State Republicans who are sitting pretty on an awful lot of leverage.  The path to hell is paved with too many concessions.  

If you build it, they will come.  It applies to the leaders who need to craft the moral appeal, as well as to the people; we need to make them remember there is still a moral imperative, and we will toss them out of office if they can't dig it.  Remember, Wisconsin teachers didn't start fighting the good fight because their union leadership gave them the go ahead.  Teachers and their students had finally had enough, and they took to the streets.  How is the public going to see us for who we are if we can't make our case directly?  Negotiations behind closed doors have their place, but it may be time to open a few windows and let in the light.  We all could decide it feels good to step outside.


  1. I write from the east coast, where I am a lecturer on the School of Education at the University of Massachusetts Amherst. I hope you will bear with me as I sometimes use this blog as a place to muse with you, and allow myself to learn and be inspired to organize and resist.
    I am struck my your language Simone, by the way you, as direct as you are, couch you words in careful recognition that we cannot name ‘the other’ as wrong or bad too directly, that we need to be deeply respectful of all opinions. I find myself wondering about the ways our middle class liberalism damages our ability to see and respond to real dangers. Lately I’ve found myself watching films of struggle, individual and group, trying to make sense of how people come to stand up and fight back, of how they overcome fear and the stories we tell ourselves about working things out, about things not being as bad as they seem. So, we watched ‘Matewan’ , the story of the West Virginia mine workers strike in the 1920s. The violence of the mine owners, the stark reality of their greed and disregard for the humanity of the workers is overwhelming. Do we think that we have overcome this quality of greed and violence? Why do we protect ourselves from knowledge of the wrong human beings do to each other? To us? So, we watched “A Dry White Season”. Not a great movie, but a story for someone like me, a white middle class professional, to attend to very carefully. This story, of a white South African in the 1970s who comes to understand the violence upon which his life is built and his call to action in the face of that knowledge, challenges me: what do I daily turn from that I should speak out against?

    Yesterday a student sat in my office, slumped in his chair, telling me how the screen that protected him from knowledge of the workings of the world was being drawn back and now he could see. And this understanding, of the forces of neo-liberal power, of the corporate media and the buying of our elected officials , is shaking his very sense of how to move forward. And he wondered “what medication are Americans on” that we do not stand up and fight back.

    There is a relationship between the murder of 9 Afghan boys collecting wood on a hillside and the fact that 20% and rising of American children live in poverty and the dismantling of the public sphere and the disappearing of the vision of the public good and the dehumanizing of teachers by naming us as lazy and defining our work more and more as mere technocratic instrumentality—something to be done on-line for piece work. There is a shredding of our need and capacity to look in the eye of the other and see the human, to know that we build strength, hope and creativity in community with the other.

    So, I think about those robber barons and the white South Africans, and then I think of the people who resisted. They looked first and foremost at each other, at their neighbors in distress, and built community and organized. And they named the danger in a direct and forthright manner. And, while there was violence, most protested in peaceful resolve. And they won. They won.

  2. Barbara,

    Thank you for identifying the timorous border surrounding my bold remarks. Yes, as much of a critic as I can be, I do have a strong strain of middle class liberalism running through me. Whether it stems from the desire to be fair or the fear of being perceived as radical and thus, a target for censorship or repression, I'm not sure. Perhaps some of it is even an unwillingness to risk losing what privileges still remain for me in the status quo. I agree we need to see and respond to real dangers, and I am searching for the language and actions to do so.

    I am thrilled that you have joined our discussion. Your voice, long inspiring to me, is of great value here.

  3. Speaking of our librarians, their jobs are going to be cut for next year at the SRCS board meeting tonight. I wish I could show up to support our librarians; I hope many others do. This is a travesty!

  4. I wish we could take furlough days and pay cuts. Instead, we may be losing 37.8 teachers in the district.

  5. Simone, this blog was a great idea! It has meant a lot to me to be able to listen to the voices of my former colleagues. I felt so blessed to be part of the team at Montgomery, and yet, also must now be honest about what it feels like to be back in Massachusetts, historically and currently a strong union state and one that is 10th in the nation in per pupil spending. Number one, I have a job! A job that was so valued by the school community that it took three rounds of interviews and a screening committee of twelve to select me for this library/media teaching position. That alone speaks volumes to me in terms of how educational specialists are valued in my current district. Number two, I am working at one site and one site only, rather than three! Fact number three, not only is textbook distribution nowhere in my job description, there is talk of moving toward digital textbooks in the near future. I look forward to being part of the instructional team to lead the path in that and other technology integration efforts. Full-time Instructor, versus rotating, sometimes librarian, sometimes warehouse schlepper with useless degrees sitting on a wall! When I discovered I have a Smart Board in my library to teach with, I could have just keeled over with shock (actually, most teachers in the building have them). Not that this discussion is about shiny new educational tools, and who has what/more. My point is- yes, dollars do matter! We must do all we can to stand strong/united and fight to keep those already dwindling dollars pointed in the direction of public education. One guidance counselor per 200 students versus one per 500? Yes, that is going to have an impact on students. One nurse for three schools versus one for one school; yes, that is going to have an impact on students. Of course, we as educators know this. All of these educational services are vital to the well being of our students. Can we fight the evil that seems to me an ugly cocktail of corporate greed, ignorance, indifference, propaganda? I believe we can, but not until we choose to truly stand strong together and fight for the good of our country's voiceless children.

  6. Sabrina, welcome! Which district? Furlough days/pay cuts certainly seem like the lesser of evils in the face of job losses, a last minute reprieve before the economic death sentence. However, I suspect they are increasingly the nasty prelude to the job losses we all fear more than a preemptive strike against those losses. I think we would have a better chance of winning this battle if we held fast to certain basic values and refused to yield.

  7. Here are the memberships of the California Republican caucuses in the assembly and senate--if you know someone in one of these districts, get them to make some noise through calls and emails.

  8. Cathy, well said! So glad you're with us even though you're far away, and very happy for you that you have found a position worthy of your talents and training. We must stand together from coast to coast and it's good to have our unforgettable colleague posting from the strong union state of Mass. Now that we have two Massachusetts educators posting, perhaps we can entice more to join us. We want geographical diversity! This is a national, no, international, movement and the assault on education is part of a multi-front assault on human rights and democratic values. We can and must unite in determination to fight back, and as Barbara said, "name the danger in a forthright manner." Then we will win. We will win.

  9. Donna, James was at the board meeting tonight for awhile. Perhaps he can give us a report. Was there a riot?

  10. No riots. Lots of support showed up for support counselors at Elsie, and not as many for librarians (if my impression was correct). Disappointing. Probably realted to relatively low levels of publicity even among our ranks.

    Sonja Benford asked a great question that I didn't hear answered (though I had to leave--I guess the topic may have come up again later). She asked--citing minutes from a January board meeting--why librarians were not slated to be cut at in January, but that they had gone on the chopping block as of the time of our calendar vote. It seems related to reducing furlough days from 3 to 2 for our calendar vote, but no one has said if this is true or not.

    At least while I was there, the question seemed to be ignored by the board. Makes me want an answer all the more.

    Andy's report (which I believe is available for viewing on the cite) demonstrated education reductions over the years, and called for us to admit we have a revenue problem and not a spending problem in this state. Yup. So what are we going to do about it?

  11. That information about the tax brackets seems like a damn good place to start. I have to say I was completely ignorant of that information prior to this post. It's quite ridiculous to see that and I have no idea how it hasn't come up before now. Well, that's a lie. I have a very good idea why certain people would squelch it, but not why we should continue to ignore it.

  12. We can't afford to ignore it any longer. If we can't afford education, then we can't afford the rich.

  13. My self-obsessed thought had been "I have achieved my comfort let me enjoy it in peace." Well that peace is an illusion, but struggle means sacrifice. What am I willing to give up? I do not think a little bit of time venting is going to do it. Will standing around a capitol building do it? I am in search of a new plan,all I see is people using 21st technology to organize 20th century means of protest while they may be more efficient they may not be more effective. What is the new plan? As a child of middle class comfort and the father of a middle class family I am not ready to sacrifice the comfort of my family for a union that is stuck in the past. Thankfully they ask for very little a few phone calls, a vote for folks, and requests to stand around somewhere and that's about it. This feels so stale, AND this not Egypt, Bahrain,Tunisia, we need a different plan. Most of us are employed, pensioned, and can sort of afford health insurance. So many more in this country are NOT. Reagan burnt down the unions quite a while ago. Standing around waiting for our turn to burn something down is not going to bring differing minds together.

  14. Anonymous, I think your question about what we are willing to sacrifice is so important, and one we need to keep honestly active for ourselves. For me the questions include what am I holding back from doing that needs to be done in order to save my hold on employment, a small pension and health insurance. As a contract faculty, when I speak out I risk all of those things--just for speaking out. So I try to pay attention to when I silence myself and why. As you note, there are people who have no job, pension poor health care. What is my obligation to them? That is a real question and not a navel gazing question. I can live a protected life and talk myself into silence, but I am trying not to. I am astonished and disheartened by the ways colleagues talk themselves into silence, tell me explicitly I should not speak out for fear of retribution, rationalize choices that are bad for children, deny the reality of how we are dominated by the cold and greedy neo-liberal corporatists.
    If we are not Egypt, etc., it is because we live and prosper in the belly of the beast. So how do we fight? What are the 21st century means?

  15. A link addressing the connection between Egypt and Wisconsin:

  16. The beast has created the revenue, which in turn has created quite a bit of economic destruction, by which our jobs, pensions, and poor healthcare have been funded. The handlers of the beast are us. We loyally consume and pay our property taxes, sales taxes, income taxes with faint hope that they will be well handled. And then turn around and vote for people that are not capable of real world decision making, because of party loyalty and the joy of being re-elected. 21st century means for resistance may be realizing that our votes for parties that economically are eerily similar is really not a choice or freedom at all. If we are upset about the schools, then do we let our own children attend them. Do we we encourage the public to keep sending theirs?

  17. It seems to me that a lot of the education mess is situational. It also happens to come at a time when the public/government are demanding education results but believe that our financial crisis can only be solved through fiscal restraint. These are two competing interests and we will all decide which one is the more pressing. I don't blame Andy or the union for the situation we are in. Would I like to see changes to the calender and our contract? sure, but I'm not going to strike over it. With 8.6% unemployment and 11% in California, I know my family could not afford to have me out of work. I would also add that the teacher strike in the 80's killed the SRTA, and I'm not sure how much solidarity we have had seen since then. I know for myself I was hired just after the infamous "cafeteria plan" and in my opinion it sold out younger teachers for those getting ready to retire; it divided the union in a way that has never healed. I guess in the end I'm just glad to have a job, and even though tenure has its problems, its pretty nice when faced with a dismal job market.

  18. Anonymous: I don't think it's about not sending our kids to the public schools because we are not happy with them--it's about opening the eyes of the public to the real costs of misprioritizing private comforts over public good.

    M.H.: I love you--I literally can't count how many people I've told you are one of the smartest people I've had the pleasure of meeting since becoming a teacher--but, in my opinion, we have to strike "I'm just glad to have a job" from our discourse. Being on the ropes economically (as I can tell you I am for reasons other than having a family, which I understand--and state without irony--is more pressing than any reason I might have) cannot stop us from at least saying what we need to say. Words spoken respectfully and thoughtfully, fortunately for us, cannot cost us our jobs.

    I'm glad to have a job. Elated to have one might be closer, since both friends and family of mine are twisting in the wind. But we've got to call something "over the line" when we see it that way, and we've got to help our public track the consequences of our district's decisions.

    I'm not against Andy, and I respect the position he's in. I do think, however, that our community could use a little more assertive leadership from our union as a whole. We're all on the hook for that--we should all know the issues, we should all be spreading the word. I'm not doing it yet, but I really hope to soon.

  19. Solidarity is definitely lacking when the site from which this blog sprang only had 40 people actually vote in the union election and typically can only net about 20-30 at site union meetings. At MHS the union seems to be for many simply a body to support us when we find it absolutely necessary. SRHS experiences a different level of participation. Why is that? Difficult to expect many to sacrifice more or inform others if they do not want to pay attention themselves. Maybe the union model has outlived its usefulness. Is there a different institutional model to protect workers' rights and guarantee high quality work?

  20. If we want to open eyes to the public, then maybe as teachers we should demand parents not aid us in neglecting their children. Maybe we need to open our classroom doors and advertise to students that we will be available for those hours that our union has decided are unnecessary. The calendar has already been set, but we have options. We could simply do our job, so many are in their classrooms at nights and on weekends anyway, and IB and AP teachers often host review sessions on weekends. Let parents know. Tell them on Back to School Night, tell them on your teacherweb page, just tell them that we will do our job regardless of situational issues. No one may show up, but we would have least not given up the moral high ground and participated in the injustice perpetrated on our students. Some may say but I already give up so much time. Fine just give up that time in a place where students can receive your help and the community knows that you are available. 6 hours of instructional time in a school day times how many days we end up with divided by thirtysomething weeks of school, I know we already do more than that. Let's just do it on campus and invite our students to join us.

  21. This comment has been removed by the author.

  22. Anonymous, I like your idea insofar as it promotes public awareness of our commitment to our students and does not surrender the moral high ground. However, I wouldn't want it to perpetuate the Superteacher myth, the idea that a few preternaturally devoted and gifted teachers can transcend, well, everything. They may cut our pay, but we will STILL be in our classrooms because we're just that devoted. I'm concerned that message will lead to the conclusion that something is wrong with all the teachers who are NOT willing to work for no pay. The public needs to understand that excellent teachers will not obviate the need for a radical restructuring of national priorities. We teachers, no matter how committed and altruistic, cannot singlehandedly fend off poverty and the war on the working and middle classes that is destroying the democratic potential of public education.

    Also, to echo a remark Grant made toward the end of the first Calendar Vote thread, I think we need to model for our students what it means to stand up for ourselves. More and more, students and teachers are being infantilized and shut out of an active engagement in education. Students are increasingly victims of a mechanized and technocratic approach to pedagogy that reduces them to products; we do them no service by appearing to conduct business as usual on off hours when we should be sounding an alarm about what education is threatening to become, a for-profit business instead of a prerequisite for a thriving democracy.

    I am as attached to my middle class privileges as the next person, and had this just been a calculation of what I stand to gain or lose personally over the next few years, I might have steered clear of this blog. I want to protect and provide for my son, and I do feel extremely fortunate to have tenure given how many are in dire straits. Gratitude is not the same as security, however. Any security I feel these days is illusory, as is any presumption of shielding my son from the rapidly unfolding nightmares of our times without political engagement.

    I have got to fight to make this world better for my child, for my students, and for all the young people who will inherit it. I'm hoping more and more people make the same calculation of personal and global risk, and wake up to their true undivided nature. We are all bound by the same collective risk, the risk of acting and being punished by the powerful interests arrayed against justice, or the risk of doing nothing and letting sociopathic corporate greed destroy us. Public education is a breakwater against these profit-driven storms that are wrecking our democracy, and we can't relinquish it to private interests. If we do, I believe we are quite literally extinguishing the hope for a better future. I know we are putting what remains of our democracy in mortal danger.

    Enough! More and more people are going to get intimate with that word through a mixture of desperation, fear, hope and compassion. People take to the streets en masse for different reasons, and if I can nudge just a few people along with this blog then the discomfort of publicizing my views will have been worth it to me. Each of us here has something to say that I want to hear. I don't think it's about venting, providing relief for pent-up emotions. That's for locked rooms, private conversations, hidden journals or, occasionally, social networking sites. But this is not a social networking site. This is a forum to discuss the intersection of education and politics. And it's public. And every identifiable poster who has contributed thoughts here has done something brave, as far as I'm concerned.

    And it's only the beginning. Unions will stay relevant as long as people do. People, it's time to take charge of our union.

  23. I am sorry you find anonymity less than brave. However I believe there is value to it. A discussion this important is beyond personalities and individuals, from what I have read its about principles and communities. Our students also need to know that sometimes change comes from loudly doing what is right over and over until people cannot deny the injustice that they are a part of. Sometimes that work is faceless. Furthermore, to fight such a significant and powerful set of foes: apathy, corporate oligarchy, community disinterest, the downfall of education and democracy you will need a variety of tactics. For every NWP (National Women's Party) there will need to be a NAWSA (National American Woman Suffrage Association), for every Black Panther there will ALSO need to be a NAACP. For every I.W.W. there will be an AFL-CIO. To create significant change you need a coalition of differing viewpoints who may support myriad tactics but share a cause and dedication to the fact that change will take time and discipline to achieve. For some of us the Union is tired, tone-deaf, and part of the problem in creating the technocratic miasma that hurts students. Too many personalities in the union (SRTA, CTA, NEA) have made decisions that have been divisive, self-serving and ultimately fruitless. I believe that participation levels in union voting bear this out. Not all of us want to be the tip of the spear, or its wielder. Some of us would rather just quietly craft and sharpen that sucker at night, while during the day going about our humble business of quietly learning about the depth of the problem from the inside and discovering the chinks in the armor. Don't mistake keeping your head down for fear or sleep, sometimes it just means you are working hard.

  24. All of anonymous postings belong to me, apparently anonymity is not ok. I am sorry if I offended with my facelessness. As my comments I do not apologize for them. I do believe that if we intend to change hearts and minds then we need more than just a union, a sign, and a phone bank. To often in the last decade it has placed personalities before principles and educators and students have suffered. Nationally and state-wide it has meant acquiescing to the technocratic miasma which now loath. I do not think taking back the union is enough. There are too many non-unionized voters out there who do not sympathize with our union plight. Unfortunately, our public voice is associated only with unions. We need to ALSO represent ourselves as individual educators to the public. I think advertising our after hours time, and availing ourselves to students is a simple way we can take advantage of the only truly radical thing about us which is our obsessive dedication. Other powerful movements: Civil Rights (Black Panthers), Women's Suffrage (National Womens Party), Gay Rights(ACt-UP)the union movement itself (I.W.W.) have taken advantage of a radical group who provoked the public to take a side and pushed harder for a response. Due to the nature of our work we do not have that, and it is a necessary element. We need to also organize those teachers who are not going to listen to our union. Having served as a site rep. and been a concerned member, I do not believe it has the strength to solve these daunting issues on its own.

  25. I agree that we need a variety of tactics and a coalition of differing viewpoints. I respect your perspective on anonymity. When I chose the settings, I deliberately left anonymity as an option because I want maximum participation and I realize people have their reasons for remaining anonymous. It's not a contest of bravery, but I do think it is valuable for some to attach their names to their views, not to flaunt personalities but to communicate that we won't be intimidated into silence.

    In any event, you are making important contributions to this discussion and your energy here is needed. We need to counteract the apathy that everywhere threatens to overtake us.

    I don't mean to suggest that our Union is now what it should ideally become, only that people need to unify in order to be strong. Yes, there will be individuals working behind the scenes, but there is an undeniable need for a critical mass of people to take a stand, openly and together. I believe it can happen, though certainly not overnight.

  26. You did not offend, Jim! Keep posting, please!

  27. Jim, I really appreciate your comment about our only public voice being the union. I agree that we have to find a way to make our individual voices heard. In reality, though, that is difficult to do when you're already spending close to 90% of your life on the job. Perhaps this blog is a small first step?

  28. I think that part of the reason people are not sympathetic to our cause is because we are seen as state workers that just do a job like everyone else. Other state workers have been taking 2-3 non paid days off a month. In the spirit of fairness I have struggled with the question asked by two friends of mine who work for the state, "Why shouldn't you have to do your share and take a pay cut as well? Five days is nothing compared to 2-3 a month." Also students don't understand how they suffer in this. Extra days off from school is a perk for them.
    However, with the cuts to education funding and having to teach the same number of standards in less time, the expectations of change and positive results put on us by our society and government are completely unfair. Also the fact that we are judged by tests that students have no investment in in our district is ridiculous! I have watched some of my strongest students randomly bubble because the test doesn't affect them. When students take the CAHSEE, its different because if they don't pass, they don't graduate. We need to have the people around us see how much we invest and care for their kids. Although I understand the need to take a stand somewhere, I know that there is no way I could just teach within our contract hours. I have kids who need extra help and can't afford a tutor. They need us and we will attract more support by showing the sacrifice that many of us make to our profession. It is the ones who arrive at 7:45 and leave at 3pm who are unavailable and not invested in the students that give us all and tenure a bad name. I don't think many people realize how hard we work. We get summers off, but will work 10-12 hour days planning, grading and teaching. I signed up for this profession knowing that I would not always be rewarded monetarily, but I feel that we have been taken forgranted by our society and that needs to end.

  29. Anonymous, I truly believe the best case we can make to the public is that we working people are all in this together. The very few at the top would love to divide us and distract us with resentments over who is suffering more in this recession. A better question would be who is NOT suffering. Who is raking in profits and getting tax breaks on the backs of children and their teachers, and working people everywhere?

  30. Thanks for launching this blog, Simone. It is most definitely an important first step.

  31. Thanks Simone for doing this!