Approximately 150 school districts from 40 state sent teachers, school board members and administrators to the Denver Educational Summit this week. The summit was organized by the Obama administration and was an attempt to get labor to support his corporate Ed Deform agenda.
Arne Duncan told teachers at the meeting that unions and school leaders had to shed their old divisions, which is an absurdity when you think about. If by school leaders he means administrators, then the divisions are built-in by the very nature of the relationship. Admin is the boss, the teachers are the employees, an adversarial relationship by definition. He asked teachers to be more open-minded about pay and evaluation systems, which highlights the absurdity of his plea: bosses want to get more work out of employees for less pay and unions, if they are worth their dues, fight for better pay and working conditions. The only way for this “old division” to be shed is for teachers to collaborate with admin to destroy their own pay and working conditions, something that the union bosses have been increasingly willing to do.
The fact that the conference was organized with the collaboration of the NEA and AFT should be a good indication of the mass delusion suffered by the mainstream education union leadership. AFT boss Randi Weingarten chastised naysayers, saying “We’re not here to sing Kumbaya. We’re here to do the hard work.” The hard work she was referring to was that of cutting terrible deals with Duncan and administrators that sell out teachers and then having to convince us that it was really in our own best interests.
To lighten the tensions between management and labor, Second City comedy troupe served as a scab propaganda wing for Duncan by doing skits pretending to be a bickering union leader, superintendent and school board member.
The reality on the ground had nothing to do with teacher-led reform or any kind of true partnership where teachers have any power. It was pure propaganda, with the bulk of the summit spent trying to convince teachers that performance pay schemes are really wonderful. Another newish trend in the teacher-bashing craze was also highlighted in this conference: “Examining how teacher contracts affect students.” The goal here is to appeal to the martyr complex that is so common among teachers. (e.g., If it’s good my students, then I’ll try it, even if it means I have to give up my weekends). However, this version of the appeal to martyrdom is a direct assault on unions. They are the big impediment to student progress, not student poverty, or lousy administrators, or obsessive testing, or underfunding of schools. Teachers getting paid a decent wage, having job security and due process, these are now the big roadblock to closing the achievement gap.
Whenever the term labor-management is used, workers should immediately be suspicious (if not nauseated). The summit in Denver is a case in point.