Friday, January 19, 2018

ECOT now ECOY…. Oh, Despicable Him by Kelly Ann Braun

*please note: words in bold type are links!*
The Electronic Classroom of Tomorrow will now be the Experimental Catastrophe of Yesterday.
The largest school in Ohio, the biggest charter scam in Ohio, has (at long last) lost their sponsor. They are closing their doors.
So, after actively fighting calculated greed and conniving thievery behind the nearly two decades of direct and indirect destructive effects of William Lager’s education entrepreneurial enterprise, one would think we (public education activists) would all be hooting, hollering and relishing the victory.
But that is NOT the case. Quite the opposite, I am personally, as are scores of others, scathingly infuriated with William Lager and ALL those who took those millions of dirty dollars all those years. He preyed upon dear families’ desperation. He exploited the needs of children. He downed his oversized ego dominos right into 1000s of brick and mortar classrooms. And now sickeningly, all who were robbed in the first place to pave the way to his riches will pay once again for his inevitable failed outcome.
12,000 displaced, dislocated, and disjointed students will now see their school year chopped cruelly in half. Above that number, how many (1000s upon 1000s) of frustrated parents will now scramble to obtain the papers necessary to transfer transcripts and medical information etc., to the next place in their child’s forced move? Additionally nearly 1000 staff and faculty are now also stuck in the full-fledged muckery mudslide and out-of-work midyear! What an utter, ugly, unacceptable mess.
I fear terribly, that huge numbers from this whole fiasco will just not graduate this year or complete the year. I honestly, in a totally guessing manner, believe that 1/3 will make their way to some other “non-profit-but-ridiculously-high-administrative-pay-via-tax-dollars” online schools, who, like ECOT, struggle to validate participation and attendance. 1/3 will make their way back into the overcrowded classrooms where the wrongly diverted monies to charters have caused teacher shortages. In the very same public schools where necessary specialty services of counselors, therapists, and nurses have been sacrificed, while the means to resource such through public tax dollars, paid for a private billion-dollar estate in Florida. And the final 1/3 will “lose” this entire year and need to repeat next year. I pray I am way off on my numbers. I want to be extremely wrong about this.
I find it depressing and unbelievable that it took 17 years before any fair and just legal motions could come against such crookery.  The millions that Lager threw back at ‘certain’ politicians for their campaigns was never a secret. I am disturbed that the fight for proper stewardship of Ohio’s education-denoted funds, took this long in order to get past the guarded back-door swindle deals.
I am so thankful for Senator Joe Schiavoni staying the course. He has spent years putting forth bills and legislation which were continually, intentionally misdirected to this or that committee to die. He never stopped though.  I witnessed first-hand, the hardball games that the GOP played to keep this corrupt circle of cash flowing. The intimidation tactics, the snide under-handed tricks, the boldface lies, the white-collar-crimes ignored, and the gang-like loyalty to those in the inner circles, were constant under Kasich’s administration. But, none of that caused Joe to yield or back down. He knew what was good and right for his constituents’ children. He knew what was good and right for Ohio. The harder the ones with lined-pockets came at him or against the truths, the more calmly focused and inexhaustibly determined he became to represent the true primary stakeholders. And yet, I know Joe is not whooping it up and celebrating this either. He is, I am positive, absolutely concerned for the all of the children, and families whose lives were just abruptly sent into chaos and uncertainty. He released this timeline and official statement just hours ago (I already had this blog 90% written).
I have humbly only been an education activist for coming up on five years now, and I have had to fight like crazy against quitting entirely or becoming concrete in cynicism. I know how grueling it is to put forth so much time and energy year after year after year, to only ever see the same disparaging rigged results. This is why my gratitude for anyone’s long-standing part in the fight for public education is so genuine.
While I am giving a very personal heart-felt and mind-solaced shout out to Senator Schiavoni for championing this cause all the way through to the bitter end, I would like to furthermore recognize others who have also remained steadfast in speaking against rampant charter scams in Ohio.
To all the sincere politicians who did not cave into to sizeable Lager donations, thank you more than I’ll be able to ever express.
To all my dear activist friends and other warriors who I have not met, who have advocated and fought hard for children for decades, I admire your dedicated endurance.
To all writers, I would like to express my gratefulness for those, who for so many (too many) years, researched, interviewed, compiled, wrote, and published articles with damning evidence against ECOT. I wonder how many of you 10 years ago, or 4 years ago, or 6 months ago, thought that surely when folks read your latest set of condemning facts that people in a pitchfork-manner would finally shut ECOT down. And yet, it did not happen for so very long that combined all of you have hundreds upon hundreds of ECOT or Lager-related articles in your files. To write with no change ever occurring over such a long course of time, takes a stamina that most do not hold. I hope that you will recognize that ALL of your archived articles paint a chronological record which will serve now as proof-positive that the privatization of public schools for profit (whether they hide under the misnomer of “non-profit” or not), does not work!
This is a very incomplete list, in no certain order whatsoever, of the writers who again and again covered the topic of DESPICABLE HIM (William Lager):
Greg Mild with the Plunderbund is a teacher currently. He is a digger of truths and facts; an artiste at using the Public Information Act. He wrote extensively about ECOT and William Lager for years and the topic is searchable on his site. Thank you Greg, you not only pieced chunks together, but you often wrote with straightforward underlying emote that matched my own. Here is one article from 2014, but numerous others can be searched and read.
Kevin Griffin is also a public education teacher, who like Greg, writes without being paid to do so. He denoted an incredible amount of hours, for quite some years also, and specifically targeted ECOT on his ECOT EXPOSED site. His page was an invaluable resource for those of us fighting to say “Stop…. stealing from our students!” Thank you Kevin for your persevering part in letting the public in on Ohio’s ‘chartergate’ secrets!
Jan Resseger is a sweetheart whose heart truly is for all children. I had a perchance meeting and car ride with her one time after a rallying march in DC, where I got separated from my friends, caught in the rain, and had no wallet. Her diligence in exposing ECOT and others is rooted in pure love for the true profession of education. Thank you Jan, for relentlessly calling evil and greed, exactly that. Her organized site, as I was looking up articles to cite in my piece, was where I was so struck with how very extensively this whole ugly topic has been covered for years without the ability to stop anything, until now.
Steve Dyer is a phenomenal number cruncher. I cannot count the times I and others launched our emails, research, actions and testimonies etc. from charts and statistics that Steve would provide. Thank you Steve, for countering the dizziness of trying to follow the contorted money paths by organizing and providing thoroughly logical sets of information on your 10th Period Blog!
Progress Ohio has put together an ongoing Charter School Scandal Chronology. ECOT is (was) the biggest, and one of the worst, but certainly a far cry from being the only charter scam being run in Ohio. Others too, are flooding monies to their ‘businesses’ disguised to look like public schools, taking full advantage of the non-profit status, and pumping that money straight to the top, and out the door so that a very few people are raking in the millions upon millions, while the children are the ones being completely shortchanged.
Doug Livingston, of the Akron Beacon Journal, was the first one who I personally found was on-target in speaking out about White Hat’s David Brennan and ECOT’s William Lager. Thank you very much Doug, for covering so much of it all for so long!
Patrick O’Donnell with the Cleveland Plain Dealer also has attended meetings and hearings, in order to report on ECOT so many, many times. Thank you Patrick for your writing and for tagging Ohio BATs on exactly what you know will involve and concern us!
The Public Education Partners (many who are also in Ohio BATs) ran an incredible action and managed to get different school districts to bill the ODE, using official resolutions, for the money lost to ECOT. The numbers were staggering when shown in that direct manner. Here is the writing start of that action. Here is a list of the 79 school districts that sent in resolutions via this awareness action.
Finally, I was truly grateful and at the same time completely irked at how very many times Diane Ravitch wrote about ECOT in her blog.  Diane is a Research Professor of Education at New York University and a historian of education. She is the Founder and President of the Network for Public Education (NPE). She is my inspiration and a treasured friend of education everywhere. Actually, when I spoke with her in person, she and I immediately had a ton to talk about. As soon as I mentioned I was from Ohio, she impressed me at how she was right on top of all of the current charter and other education scams being run in Ohio. She does not mince words; that is for positive. I am always grateful anytime she speaks of Ohio, for she has a very vast following. One also could search her blog site to find a slew of articles related to ECOT and William Lager. Unfortunately, ECOT is not just notorious in Ohio. It is sadly a nationally-known embarrassment.
In closing I would like to reiterate that this list is just a FEW of the ones who demanded transparency and accountability where taxes were abused and a full generation of children were involved.
In the last couple of days, as it looked more and more apparent that ECOT had run out of all finagling options, I heard an interview and read an article that remarked something to the effect that ECOT’s money troubles began last year.
No, No, absolutely not—- the money troubles did NOT begin last year.
The money troubles began when William Lager was scribbling out plans on napkins to remedy his personal bankrupt situation nearly 20 years ago, as this Columbus Dispatch article clearly lays out. The only way to entirely understand the end of this terrible scenario is by being absolutely certain on how the whole entire thing started in the first place. The main reparation that can come now, moving forward, is to not allow children to ever be figured into someone’s financial loss woes or financial gain schemes. Children are too precious to be belittled as mere business numbers and toxic desire for profit.
“Receive the children in reverence, educate them in love, and send them forth in freedom.” ~ Rudolf Steiner

Wednesday, January 17, 2018

Men, Too, Need No Longer Suffer in Silence the Pain of Sexual Harassment by Steven Singer

Originally posted at:

This is one of the hardest articles I’ve ever written.

I’ve started it several times. And each time I deleted it.

After all, what right do I have to talk about sexual harassment?

I wasn’t raped.

I wasn’t drugged, beaten or blackmailed.

No one physically abused me in any way that did lasting physical harm.

But I was misused.

I was harassed.

And I shouldn’t have been.

I was made a victim, and my victimizer was a woman.

That, alone, shames me to my core.

I’m a grown man.

We’re not supposed to care about things like this.

We’re supposed to be unfeeling, undisturbed, stoic cowboys with our eyes ever fixed on the horizon.

If anything, I should be the one accused, not the accuser.

Some would deny that you even CAN sexually harass a man.

They’d look at the cultural ideal of manhood as an emotionally stunted beast of burden, and say men are too callous and shallow to be susceptible to this sort of pain. After all, men are always ready for the next sexual encounter. Or we should be, because that’s what it means to be a man.

But they’re wrong.

Men have feelings, too. We hurt. We cry. And we can be scarred by unwelcome advances.

So what happened?

It was almost thirty years ago.

I was just a kid in middle or high school – 8th or 9th grade.

It was in pottery class.

I’ve always loved the arts. I used to draw every spare second. My notebooks were covered with doodles and sketches. Cartoon dinosaurs and skulls. Sometimes an alien or dragon.

And I loved working with clay, too.

For years my mother had a vase I made in that pottery class. It was fat on the bottom with a slender neck. Purple glaze on the outside with a blue interior. Mom displayed it proudly in her dinning room, sometimes with a few flowers inside, until one day it accidentally fell from a shelf and shattered.

I might have been working on that same vase when it happened. I really can’t remember.

I think it was a pinch pot.

I was standing at a table I shared with three or four other students, wrapping tubes of hand rolled clay around and around into the shape of a container, when someone came up behind me, grabbed my butt and squeezed.

I jumped in surprise, and said “Ohh!” or something.

Then I heard, “Hey, sweet cheeks!”

And laughter. All coming from the other side of the room.

I turned my head to see who it had been.

It was a girl I hardly knew though she had been in my classes since first grade.

Let’s call her Nancy.

She was a chunky but not unattractive girl from the other side of the room.

She walked back to her friends, both boys and girls, at her table, and they were all losing it over what had happened.

I blushed and turned back to my work, feeling like the clay my fingers molded.

I couldn’t even process what had happened.

Why had Nancy just walked over to me and pinched my butt?

It wasn’t even a playful pinch. It wasn’t grabbing someone with the palm of your hand and giving a squeeze. She had clawed into my flesh, secured a good hunk and pulled.

It was angry and mean.

I didn’t understand. What had I ever done to her?

I barely knew her. I hadn’t said more than ten words to her in eight years.

“You like that?” she asked from across the room.

I just kept working on my pot, looking at it as if it were the only thing left in the universe.

The others at my table were giggling, too.

I remember it like a scene in slow motion. Me rolling out and unwinding the clay. Everyone else laughing. Nancy smirking.

And then she came back and did it again!

I jumped and squealed.

But I did nothing. I said nothing.

She pinched me at least three or four more times. Maybe more.

And she said something each time.

And like it was on a script, always the laughter and guffaws.

Eventually I think I started to quietly cry.

That’s when it stopped mostly.

The others at my table were as silent as I was. When they saw my reaction, I think they got embarrassed.

We were all working with incredible concentration trying not to acknowledge what was happening.

I made sure not to turn and look behind me. But I could hear the snickers.

Where was the teacher?

The room had a strange L-shape. At the foot of the L was a kiln where she was diligently firing last week’s pottery. From where she was, she probably couldn’t see the rest of us working at our tables.

I don’t think she saw anything. She never said anything if she did.

When she returned to our side of the art room, she may have asked if I was okay. I’m not sure. I probably just shrugged it off. Maybe asked to go to the bathroom.

Why did this bother me so much?

Because I wasn’t asking for anyone to come over and touch me like that.

I just wanted to make my stupid pot. I just wanted to be left alone.

I didn’t want to be treated like anyone’s joke. I didn’t want my physicality to be the cause of anyone’s laughter.

It’s not that Nancy was a pariah or a terrible person or anything. If things had been different, I might have responded differently.

But when you’re a guy in high school, you aren’t allowed to be upset when a girl comes and pinches you.

You’re supposed to respond a certain way.

I couldn’t ask her to stop. I’m supposed to love it.

Even if it’s a joke.

Even if it’s a way to denigrate me in front of the whole class. Even if it’s a way to proclaim me the most undesirable boy in the whole room.

It felt like someone pointing at a banana peel in the trash and mockingly saying, “Yum! Yum!”

But I was the garbage.

It certainly made me feel that way.

I’m not sure why this has bothered me for so long.

Maybe it’s the feeling of powerlessness – that there was nothing I could do. Maybe it was a feeling that I should be reacting differently. I should be more assertive either telling her to leave me alone or maybe actually liking the physical contact.

I’m not sure how to explain it.

I was made to feel inferior and degraded.

Perhaps that’s why I’ve remained silent about it all these years. The only solution had seemed to be to forget about it and move on.

Yet doing so leaves a cold lump in your chest. Oh, it won’t kill you. But it’s always there. You just learn to live with it.

I suppose in writing about it, I’m trying to rid myself of that lump.

I don’t know if it will work. But I’m tired of carrying it around with me anymore.

We’re living in a remarkable moment. Women everywhere feel empowered to share their stories of abuse at the hands of men. Shouldn’t I feel empowered to share my story of abuse at the hands of a woman?

But there does seem to be a disconnect here. A disanalogy.

No matter who you are, everyone has been the victim at one point or another.

Whether you’re male or female, rich or poor, black or white – everyone has been on the losing side.

However, some people use that truth as an excuse to pretend that all groups have been equally targeted. They use it as a way to justify the marginalization and minimalization of women and people of color, for instance, groups that have been most often earmarked for abuse.

Let me be clear – I firmly reject that. I am not All Lives Mattering sexual harassment and abuse. Clearly, women have born the brunt of this burden and men have more often been the cause.

But that doesn’t mean that men are immune to being victimized or that women are incapable of being aggressors.

Perhaps that’s my point in writing this – to caution against easy expectations and easy labels.

Toxic masculinity exists because we have toxic expectations for men and boys. Our society molds them into the shape of our collective expectations.

And it’s time we allow them the space to be hurt so that they, too, need no longer suffer in silence.

Monday, January 15, 2018

Want to Know How to Beat the Billionaires Trying to Destroy Public Education?  Stay in the Union!!
By:  Marla Kilfoyle, Executive Director - The Badass Teachers Association and Melissa Tomlinson, Asst. Executive Director - The Badass Teachers Association

In late February the Supreme Court is scheduled to hear the Janus vs. AFSCME case. 

If you do not already know what this case is about, to put it bluntly: Janus is Friedrichs 2.0 and seeks to end mandatory agency fees (union dues) for unions. Janus, like Friedrichs, is an attempt to defund our unions so that they cannot operate.  

What does this mean in practice?  Currently, some unions have what are called agency fees.  Agency fees are a fancy word for union dues. Sometimes we feel it is best to explain this in the context of what it means for us as union members. Many union members belong to, for example, the AFT/NEA/NYSUT and a local. Teachers can pay  to belong to the national, state, and local union. The payment is usually done as a paycheck deduction. 
Here is what that affords a teacher at the local level: 

It gives you trained representation if you have to go into administration for anything disciplinary.

It gives you a trained team that negotiates a contract for all members so that individual members don’t have to go in and negotiate their own contract. 

It gives you a trained team that will file grievances for you if you feel that you have been wronged in the workplace. 

It gives you peace of mind, via a solid work contract, that your employer is not going to take advantage of you. 

It gives you a team that negotiates a wage in which we you live and pay our bills.

It gives you a team that negotiates your medical and dental benefits.
It gives you a team that negotiates conditions that benefit the children we teach (like extra help hours and Back to School Nights). 

The bottom line is that the trained representatives  that work for us as a union members are trained by the state and national unions to work on behalf of members. The training of representatives takes time and money. Representatives also get compensation for their time as they work for members outside the school day. Most union representatives, specifically officers work 24 hours a day, 7 days a week, 365 days a year. They should be compensated by members for their expertise, training, and time. 

History of the Billionaire Attack on Public Education
and Public School Teachers

The attack on public education and public education unions is rooted, we believe, in the attempt to silence teachers who are outspoken about a plethora of social issues. Teachers and their unions are at the forefront of advocating for all children in our schools (disabled students, students in  poverty,  LGBTQ students, students of color). Teachers have historically backed the Democratic party with both their votes and money because the party believed (notice the “ed”) in the promise of public education and historically supported the teaching profession.  

We believe that is no longer true.  

The attack on public education, public school teachers, and our unions is an attack that is bipartisan. Right wing conservative billionaires and neoliberal billionaires buy off politicians we elect to administer a one-two punch to public education, public school teachers, and our unions.  They attack us for  different reasons, but they believe in many of the same things.  In many cases, you will see large cross-over where they will work together to strip teachers of tenure, close schools, and support public school privatization. We don’t want to get into the weeds too much on this but want to present some examples for you.  

The Attack from the Right
The Koch Brothers own Koch Industries. It is the second largest privately held company in the U.S. They make significant contributions to libertarian and conservative think tanks. They plan to spend $889 million on candidates running for office and have donated over $100 million to advocate for free-market initiatives. They are responsible for Scott Walker and Mitt Romney.  They are responsible for funding the stripping of due process rights from teachers in Kansas and other states. The Koch Brothers are public enemy #1 to teachers, our unions, and public school children. One of the  most detrimental things they fund is the National Right to Work Committee (NRTWC).

What does right to work mean?

It means a right to be fired at will and the existence of no unions to protect worker rights. The NRTWC has been a national leader in the effort to destroy public and private sector unions by pushing to  make us a Right to Work nation. Currently, there are 28 states that are Right to Work. Unionized workers eat into their profits and also don’t, for the most part, support their political agenda. The Koch Brothers are heavily connected with NRTWC and give them tons of dollars. Since 1999 the NRTWC has pressured Congress to pass a National Right to Work Act. Senators like Rand Paul have sponsored this legislation and received over $27,000 in campaign contributions from the NRTWC. One of the most prominent arms of their attack on public sector workers and public schools is the Freedom Foundation. The Koch Brothers with their Freedom Foundation have led the fight to attack unions and teachers in this country. They have financed Rebecca Friedrichs to the Supreme Court, and they are currently financing Mark Janus in their attempts to destroy unions in this country.
The Mercer Family are the second group aligned with the right that is going after public education and public school teachers. They have donated generously to the Koch Brothers Freedom Partners Action Fund.  In NY, the Mercer’s fund, Reclaim NY, is an astroturf group that pretends to be about reducing government but instead seems to be pushing Mercer's far-right agenda. One man who went undercover to a training with Reclaim New York writes, “Reclaim New York achieves, or at least sets out to achieve, Steven Bannon’s goals. It takes advantage of people who want to become involved in grassroots activism. It lures them in with an opportunity to file FOIL requests, and then uses laws that were meant to hold government accountable to undermine those very governments.”  Reclaim NY PAC often backs candidates in NY that are anti-public education, anti-union, and pro-privatization.  Reclaim NY PAC, backed by Mercer, is also one of the strongest supporters of charter schools in NY.   

We can also count the current education secretary as one of the billionaires hoping to destroy public education and teacher unions. In November of 2016, Betsy DeVos was confirmed as the new Secretary of Education. Her appointment hearings were controversial and exposed a woman who had no business taking over the responsibility for public education in this country. DeVos, who is part of the Amway fortune, has never attended public school and her children have never attended public school. She has been a strong supporter (both financially and personally) of school choice. DeVos has an over three-decade history of attempting to get rid of public education. She waged war on Michigan public schools, and the impact is still felt today.  Jonathan Pelto writes in The Hill, “DeVos and her allies have found someone who will champion the cause of shifting massive public resources away from the nation’s public schools to subsidize the country’s private and parochial schools. Critics say that DeVos’ voucher plan would exacerbate educational inequality, that "voucher programs do not work to improve student achievement, and voucher programs and charter school expansion drain both money and social capital from the traditional public schools, creating even more of an imbalanced, two-tiered system.” DeVos was able to turn the state of Michigan into a Right to Work state with her large volumes of cash and influence. Matt Lavonis reported, “Michigan went right-to-work in 2012, thanks to legislation that was ushered into the former cradle of industrial unionism via the DeVos’ trademark combo of political arm- twisting and largesse.  Another DeVos-inspired law made it illegal for employers, including school districts, to process union dues, while simultaneously making it easier for corporations to deduct PAC money from employee paychecks. This summer the DeVoses succeeded in driving a final nail into the MEA’s coffin. The GOP-controlled legislature essentially eliminated pensions, among the last tangible benefits that teachers in Michigan receive from their unions. The union leaders I spoke to when I traveled through the state last year, reporting on DeVos’ education legacy, were candid about the increasingly precarious state of their organizations. But far worse lies ahead.”

The above examples only scratch the surface of what the “right” has attempted to do to public sector unions and to public education.  We wanted to make sure that the understanding of this was clear to those who chose to read this piece.  If we were to include the entire “right wing” web that is looking to destroy unions in this country this essay would be at least forty pages long! We do want to make a final note-with the impending Janus case coming, Koch funded groups could be knocking at your door and asking you to leave the union and join a fake union that will just offer you liability insurance. Our advice, decline and shut your door. Don't fall victim to the Koch brothers!

The Attack from the Left
Leading the charge from the left to dismantle public education and teacher unions are the Broad Foundation and The Democrats for Education Reform. Eli Broad is worth $7.3 billion.  Broad uses this money to fund lawsuits that attack teacher tenure and teacher unions. Broad helped to fund  Bain v. California Teachers Association which was the first incarnation of Friedrichs v. CTA and the current Janus case which seeks to end members paying mandatory union dues.  What this means is that in states that are not right to work people are allowed to unionize. In most of those states union members have to pay union dues (agency fees). In doing so, the union has elected leaders who act as the sole representative for the body (members) in a variety of things like negotiation of contracts, district meetings, and other work-related issues.  The Broad funded Bain case, again, sought to defund the unions by taking away mandatory union dues which would dimish the funding stream that unions need to stay in business.    

Perhaps the most insidious group that claims to be on the left are The Democrats for Education Reform.  We wrote about them in 2014:

“Another self-proclaimed progressive group is Democrats for Education Reform, a front for Republicans and corporate interests.  In 2014, DFER financed candidates in elections that sought to close public schools.  DFER supports the agenda of punishing children with High Stakes Testing, blaming teachers for "failing" schools, attacks teachers right to due process, and doesn’t seem to support providing equitable educational funding to help children. They are secretly funded by billionaire Eli Broad and many other hedge funders.   It is clear that the education agenda of the self-proclaimed Progressives has been, as Diane Ravitch writes, "to transfer  public funds to private management and the creation of thousands of deregulated, unsupervised, and unaccountable schools that have opened the public coffers to profiteering, fraud, and exploitation by large and small entrepreneurs."  This doesn't seem to be forward movement for children or education.   It sure seems like forward movement for the self-proclaimed progressives to make more money off the backs of our children and their public education.”  

Noted education researcher Julian Vasquez Heilig highlights from  The Nation in his article “You be the Judge: Are the @DFER_News Wolves in Sheep’s Clothing?”

“ DFER was increasingly anti-educator and more focused on privatizing education: “…DFER’s endgame has little to do with learning and everything to do with marginalizing public-sector unionized workers and bringing down the cost of taxes for social programs and… creating new business and investment opportunities in areas that are still publicly run…”

Finally, Sarah Lahm notes in Alternet, “With Neil Gorsuch now seated on the United States Supreme Court, the right-wing seems poised to realize its forever goal of dismantling labor unions. But conservatives aren’t the only ones anticipating the last days of public sector unions.  Challenging teachers’ job protections via “impact litigation” is an increasingly mainstream cause, drawing Democratic super lawyer David Boies, and high-profile Obama alums like Robert Gibbs and Ben Labolt. Now an education reform organization led by prominent Democratic party fundraiser Jonathan Sackler is stepping up efforts to reign in unions via the courts.”

Democrats for Education Reform are a front group for hedge fund billionaires who seek to push for privatization of public education. Standing in their way....unionized teachers who have a voice! In fact, in one case in California, DFER leader Gloria Romero led the attack on teacher unions in California and had some shady connections with the Koch Brothers.  

What does Janus Mean in Plain English

Mark Janus is a child-support specialist with the Illinois Department of Healthcare and Family Services in Springfield.  His union is the American Federation of State, County, and Municipal Workers (AFSCME) - Council 31.  Janus feels that his rights are violated because as part of his employment he feels he should not have to pay dues (agency fees) to a union whose mission he does not support.  His case has made it up through the state courts and is now at the foot of the Supreme Court.  Let’s not forget that it has gotten to the Supreme Court with the help of Gov. Rauner (a very anti-public education and anti-teacher union governor) as well as the Koch funded Freedom Foundation. Please don’t think for one minute that Mark Janus has financed this all by himself.   

How do we Beat the Billionaires?
First, let us address the elephant in the room. We know that there are disgruntled teacher union members out there. Some are angry because they did not like the early endorsement of Hillary by the AFT or NEA. Some are angry because they feel like the unions were not there for them when they needed them. Some are angry because they feel that leaders have compromised too much for a seat at the table. Some are angry because there is just no pleasing them. Some people are pleased with their unions and support them.  

Whatever the case may be at the end of the day, if workers leave the union they not only hurt themselves, they also hurt their co-workers, their schools, their students, and their community. In schools, children will feel the impact if a school loses its union (if a union falls under 51% membership a union can face the possibility of becoming decertified), and in return, the community would suffer.  

Noted education historian Diane Ravitch blogged about a study conducted by Midland and Rowell on what happened to Wisconsin schools and teachers when they lost their union:  “This issue brief examines the impact of the law on Wisconsin’s K-12 public education system and state economy. While this brief focuses on Act 10’s impact on Wisconsin teachers based on the data available, the same forces driving changes in the teaching workforce can also affect the broader public sector. Proponents of Act 10 insisted that reducing collective bargaining rights for teachers would improve education by eliminating job protections such as tenure and seniority-based salary increases. As Gov. Scott Walker (R-WI) argued, ‘We no longer have seniority or tenure. That means we can hire and fire based on merit, we can pay based on performance. That means we can put the best and the brightest in our classrooms and we can pay them to be there.’ However, the facts suggest that Act 10 has not had its promised positive impact on educational quality in the state. Teachers have lower pay, lower pension and health insurance benefits. There is more turnover as teachers move from one district to another seeking higher pay. Act 10 had its intended effect of smashing unions, which represented 14.1% of workers in 2011, but only 9% now.”
As BATs noted in our Amicus Brief to the Supreme Court for the Friedrichs vs. CTA case:

“Without the ability to effectively engage in collective bargaining, individual teachers will be left voiceless in protecting their livelihoods, the learning environments of their students, and the future of public education. Amici, therefore, appeal to this Court to reaffirm long-established precedent which fairly and properly balances competing interests.”
So how do we beat the billionaires and politicians trying to destroy our union who exist ON BOTH SIDES OF THE POLITICAL AISLE?


If you are disgruntled or disagree with your union - run for office.
Put yourself in a position to make policy decisions.  

If running for office is not in your wheelhouse, it is fine to disagree (privately or publicly) with your elected union leaders.  Many union members do and either write blogs or create caucuses within the union.  We have to exit the mindset that everyone has to agree.  We have to get into the mindset that questioning our elected leaders is a healthy thing.  

Often we hear the claim that our unions should not be so political and should just be concerned about education. We refute this claim because regulatory guidelines and decision-making for our public school systems are done by politicians and political appointees, at the state and federal levels. These people do not always have the best interest of the student in mind when making these decisions!! We need our unions to work IN POLITICS to protect the interests of children, schools, and teachers.
Politicians not the adults that are in the schools on a daily basis, seeing what our students face, knowing how these decisions affect education. Many politicians are influenced by corporate lobbyists, funded think tank policy papers, and hidden agendas that see our schools as dollar signs.
Only by presenting a united front of people, can we even begin to compete against that type of money and influence.

Some educators criticize the union for the social justice narrative that has been guiding policy and decision making. It is important to remember that the decision to take up the mantle of social justice stemmed from the voice of rank and file members. Meaning that you or your peers put forth a call to action and democratic votes which occurred on the floor of the annual Representative Assembly.

Don’t care for the direction that our union is taking? You have a voice to make change the same way. But to do that, you must be a member of the union.
If you feel the union has wronged you in some way, leaving will only hurt your co-workers, and most importantly the children in our schools.  

By being angry and stomping off with your union card you allow only billionaires and the politicians they have bought off the win!

In the end that will come back to hurt YOU but most importantly the children YOU teach!

Want to #BeatTheBillionaires ??

Stay #UnionStrong.