For me, the yes vote in the US Senate from Senator Sanders on the Murphy Amendment to the new euphemistically titled "Every Child Succeeds Act" puts Sanders in the category of just another politician who wants to continue the George Bush-Barack Obama test and punish education policies. As Ravitch put it, "The Murphy Amendment would have continued, in fact intensified, the punishments attached to No Child Left Behind." Keep closing schools and firing educators.
This blog analyzed the situation in DC last week and concluded that anyone who supports public education should be satisfied that the Republicans united with two dissident Democrats along with one independent to defeat the Murphy Amendment before passing the overall "Every Child Succeeds Act". Gone are the days when I am going to take a politician at his/her word that he/she loves public school teachers and parents. The proof is in their record. On that score, Sanders failed the test last week.
Therefore, to support a letter that states right in the introductory paragraph, "We are educators and supporters of yours, from across the country," is a step I cannot take right now. I refuse to endorse another Democratic politician, even if he says he is a democratic socialist, who would vote for such an anti-public school teacher and student abomination of an amendment that continues test and punish. I may end up voting for Sanders as the lesser of the evils in the primary but no he is not our friend. Do not be fooled by Sanders or anyone else.
Haven't we been down this road too many times in the past few years with Democrats who say they are with us and then stab us in the chest and the back? See Barrack Obama and Bill de Blasio for some recent examples. I'm no Hillary Clinton fan and voting for Jill Stein and the Green Party so they can increase their vote percentages to hopefully make a breakthrough in this millennium is not something to look forward to in the 2016 presidential election either.
I will probably vote for a Democrat for president hoping they keep control of the federal bureaucracy and make judicial appointments because Republican Party policy goes against working people, teachers, public school parents and labor unions, all groups I belong to. However, the Democrats are not much better for us and on public education in particular, they are in some ways just as bad or worse.
We can delve into the reasons why most Democrats now vote against us and certainly the impact of the Supreme Court case called Citizens United, which has opened up the floodgates to corrupt money in politics and should be overturned, is right on top of the list. However, that is not my purpose in writing today. If working people, teachers, public school parents, students and labor unions want to turn around our national 34 year slide since Ronald Reagan fired the Air Traffic Controllers in 1981, there is only one course to take, one that is seldom taken anymore. It's called labor militancy.
- How could New York City get away with giving teachers a contract where we won't get paid for work we did from 2009-2011 until 2020 and embeds second class status to members called Absent Teacher Reserves?
- How can the city get away with keeping the anti teacher bureaucracy in place at the Department of Education even after the unions supported a so called worker friendly Mayor Bill de Blasio in 2013?
- How can the state of New York get away with changing the teacher evaluation system over and over as a way to try to fire teachers and say public schools are failing?
- How can President Obams get away with anti-teacher test and punish policies and praising firings of whole groups of teachers?
I could go on and on and have done so on this blog. The answer to all of these questions is they get away with it because labor militancy on a grand scale does not exist in the US. It is that simple.
Please don't tell me about the strike by teachers in Chicago or threats and local job actions elsewhere. These local actions are amazing but they only score small victories. After the 2012 strike, Democratic Mayor Rahm Emanuel still closed a bunch of schools and got rid of masses of teachers and the union was powerless to stop most of it. When we are threatened nationally, we need a national response that is strong and firm. Will we get it from our union leadership at the AFT/NEA or AFL-CIO levels? Of course not. We never do.
Let's spend our limited energy as NYSUT opposition Stronger Together Beth Dimino (who signed the Sanders letter) says "saving ourselves." We know the Supreme Court in the Friedrichs case could end public sector unionism as we know it. Without automatic dues coming in thanks to Act 10, Wisconsin has lost half of its public sector union members. As the video above shows, this is a national model and it might just succeed.
We have to fight to make members believe in the union again. We can't expect politicians who might be with us on some or even many issues to bail us out. The House of Representatives has been so gerrymandered that very few districts are competitive so even if the unlikely happens and Sanders wins the White House, the national political equation will not change radically.
Why there has not been a threat of a nationwide or statewide teacher or public employee massive job action or a general strike from the rank and file is beyond me? We have to stop expecting some ideal leader to save us at the government or union level because as my friend Sue Sutera said during the Jamaica High School phase out, "All we have is each other."
All of us together could be an unbelievably robust weapon if we would just try. More about that later.