Thursday, March 17, 2011

Class War Tennessee Style

The Duncan/Obama dream of looting the public sector for the private gain of corporations is coming to fruition in Tennessee, which is using a portion of its federal Race to the Top money to create 40 new charter schools in the state's two largest cities.

One of the major goals of Gov. Bill Haslam has been to lift the cap on the number of charter schools in the state. According to, Gov. Haslam said, "We need to get some scale here, and adding two or three schools a year is not going to get us where we need to be to change the trajectory of education." Interestingly, Haslam did not regurgitate the usual lies about charter schools being better for kids or improving educational outcomes. Changing the “trajectory” is, of course, what all the Ed Deformers want, but not in a way that will benefit kids. They are interested in taking away public and teacher oversight and increasing the profits of private educational profiteers.

The funding for the 40 new charter schools in Memphis and Nashville, will come from a Race to the Top grant of $10 million, plus $20 million from private sources like Hyde and Ingram foundations and the Walton Family Foundation.

Haslam has also been pushing a bill that would make it more difficult for public school teachers to earn and keep tenure. The legislation would require teachers to have five years of service in order to earn tenure, rather than the current three, and it would make it easier to revoke it for poor teaching performance.

Meanwhile, several districts in the state have been attempting to sweep away collective bargaining rights for their teachers. Rutherford County suspended contract negotiations in order to await a ruling on collective bargaining, while Sumner County’s school board unilaterally ceased to recognize its local teachers union in October, arguing that it didn’t represent a majority of its teachers. Sen. Jack Johnson has co-sponsored a bill that would end the right of teachers unions to negotiate pay and working conditions with school districts. According to Johnson, ". . . the problem is these unions have created a hostile, adversarial relationship with their school boards,"

Lies, Damned Lies and Capitalist Lies
The problem is that an adversarial relationship always exists between workers and bosses, by definition. The teachers and their unions did not create it. Bosses are always trying to squeeze more work out of their employees for less pay, benefits, autonomy and safety protections. This is the nature of capitalism, and the same dynamic trickles down to the public sector. This is why the IWW wrote in the preamble to their constitution, “The working class and the employing class have nothing in common.”

Unfortunately, many teachers refuse to accept this reality. Indeed, some are convinced that they are “Teachers first, and workers or unionists second (or third, or fourth).” As a result of this kind of thinking, they gladly take on more responsibilities, longer hours and increasing stress, without increasing pay or compensation.

As far as hostility goes, it should be abundantly clear that the hostility has been entirely coming from the bosses, not the unions. The bosses and the pundits have been ranting and seething about the greedy, selfish unions, some going so far as to call them terrorists. They have threatened to call in soldiers and force them to work at gunpoint. They have tried to strip them of their rights to collectively bargain. All the unions have done is to give up more and more pay and benefits concessions in exchange for the right to exist, hardly a hostile behavior.

Here is an example of hostile: The Rutherford County administrators walked away from the negotiating table to wait and see if collective bargaining will be destroyed. The underlying message is “We don’t want unions and we don’t want to negotiate. We want to make unilateral decisions that affect your pay and working conditions.”

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