QUOLKE’S CORNER 7/13/11

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QUOLKE’S CORNER #99
MAYOR JACKSON AND THE CONVERSION TO CHARTER SCHOOLS
Two weeks ago the Governor signed into law his first biennial budget. A budget that included many anti-teacher provisions such as performance based compensation that is based predominantly on student test scores and measures that have yet to be developed, weakening of seniority for lay-offs and recalls, and a Cleveland only provision that allows the mayor to convert any Cleveland school to a charter school with the stroke of a pen and eliminate collective bargaining rights for those working in that school.  All of this comes as no surprise and I hope that everyone has had a chance to read the summary from our attorney, Susannah Muskovitz, which has been posted on our website since June 30.
What was a surprise is that one week ago the Mayor was on the front page of the Plain Dealer declaring that there is “a high possibility” that he will use the option. Also surprising is that he considers this the only provision in the budget that “has teeth”. The surprise does not come in the fact that the Mayor would be interested in utilizing this provision (he did advocate for putting Senate Bill 5 provisions back in the budget bill in his letter to the Governor) but that he would let the Plain Dealer be the vehicle for announcing his intentions. In the Plain Dealer article, the Mayor says “Am I willing to do what is necessary to educate children? That, I’ll do.” (An admirable statement…willingness CTU also shares). Yet, in the same article, Board Chair Denise Link “acknowledged that the ability to remove a school from the union might give the district more leverage in negotiations”. Hmm, I think the Mayor and the Board Chair should get on the same page…is it about the kids or is it about the Union and about the adults.  I think we all know what they are all thinking, but that the Board Chair is the only one that would say it to a reporter. 
Nevertheless, none of the provisions that were advocated for via the letter or that eventually made it into the budget should have been in the budget. If this legislation is so critical, it should have been separate legislation that would have had normal debate and challenges. It should not have been tucked into the budget in the final hour. 
The Mayor, The CEO, The Board Chair, business leaders and legislators must get over this blame-the-teacher/blame-the-union mentality. For there to be success in this district it must be a partnership. People who sit on the sidelines and claim to be “reformers” who want to blame the Union for all the ills that plague our city – will not lead the schools to academic success. They are not reformers…. they are performers. For there to be real academic success (not just one day of success on a test, but real life-long learning) we need to work in collaboration. The most successful schools can point to meaningful collaboration and work that comes from the bottom up and not the top down. Why? Because real learning cannot take place without the teachers, paraprofessionals, nurses, social workers, psychologists, speech language pathologists, and sign language interpreters that work with the students in school buildings each and every day.
Before any law in Ohio takes effect in Ohio there is a 90 day waiting period. We have already begun researching and meeting concerning our options and next steps. As in my last update, I do not want to discuss what will happen in this public forum. A meeting is being scheduled for all Chapter Chairs and Delegates and a second meeting is being scheduled for the Chairs and other interested members from Innovative Schools who were mentioned in the Charter School conversion article. More information will be forthcoming.
These past 6 months have been trying for all of us. We will continue to fight for you and with you as we face each obstacle. I leave you with a quote from AFT President Randi Weingarten “Let’s refuse to be defined by people who are happy to lecture us about the state of public education – but wouldn’t last 10 minutes in a classroom.”
In Union
David