Teachers Union Conventions Reflect Common (Core) Frustrations


At national conventions of the two major teacher unions this month, controversy flared over the Common Core, a standardized curriculum largely funded by the privatizers at the Gates Foundation. Motions at the National Education Association and the American Federation of Teachers proposed to resist the program because of its link to standardized testing. In the AFT, two militant locals, the Chicago Teachers Union and United Teachers Los Angeles, led the Common Core fight. There were competing motions, with the passage of the weaker one reflecting the position of AFT President Randi Weingarten that Common Core is viable if it’s not connected to standardized testing. While there were not equivalent motions at the NEA Assembly, the debate on Common Core was still very vigorous, especially concerning its funding by the Gates Foundation.

Free Cooper Union Plans To Take Board Of Trustees To Court

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The Committee to Save Cooper Union is pursuing legal action as a last resort after Cooper Union’s Board of Trustees and administration proceeded with their plans to abolish a 150 year tradition of free tuition enshrined in the Charter of the school, refusing alternatives that would preserve free tuition. A Working Group of faculty, students and alumni elected by their respective constituencies had developed a sustainable plan for preserving free tuition that was supported by the Faculty Union, the alumni association and students. The President and Board refused to accept this plan and chose to press on with their plan to charge tuition. After carefully evaluating all of the legal options for both legal and cost-effectiveness, the Committee to Save Cooper Union decided that the best approach is to seek an injunction against charging tuition in New York Supreme Court. This option also allows us to petition the court for formation of “The Associates of Cooper Union” as required by the Cooper Union charter. The Associates would serve as a check on the Board of Trustees since the Associates’ elected Council can remove Trustees by majority vote. This route also allows us to petition the court for an audit, as provided for in the charter, to help provide more detail on the fiscal mismanagement happening at Cooper Union.

Petition To Reinstate Marijuana Scientist Takes Off

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A petition demanding that the University of Arizona reinstate a research scientist fired after she won federal approval to study marijuana for military veterans with post-traumatic stress disorder has received more than 27,000 signatures. Dr. Suzanne Sisley, a Department of Psychiatry faculty member and researcher at the school, was suddenly terminated last week for reasons she maintains were related to her research. She won federal approval in April for the long-delayed veterans study, when the Department of Health and Human Services signed off on the project. Ricardo Pereyda, an Iraq war veteran with PTSD who said he’s been treating his symptoms with marijuana since 2010, started the Change.org petition to reinstate Sisley, which had nearly 28,000 signatures Tuesday night. “The university must reinstate Dr. Sisley, providing her with the necessary space and resources she needs to conduct her research,” Pereyda wrote in the petition. “Her study could mean life or death for many veterans.

Protesters Arrested At Govs Meetings Over Jobs, Incarceration…

Protest at Govs meeging in Tennessee

Governors from across the country are in Music City to tackle key issues including education, health care and jobs. Saturday, protestors gathered outside the Omni Hotel demanding to be a part of the conversation. Legislative Plaza served as a meeting point for the hopes and dreams of dozens who gather under a collective front called the Freedom Side. With signs and tape over their mouths they walked in silent protest through downtown to the Omni, straight for the National Governor’s Association meeting. “We just want to talk to the Governors about four issues,” protestor Jayanni Webster said, “The criminalization of black and brown youth, living wage jobs, equal education and democratic rights.” Protesters were greeted by the Tennessee Highway Patrol, who created a barrier to prevent them from entering private property. After learning no one would come out to speak to them, five protestors tried to walk inside and were arrested and charged with trespassing.

Mass Public Sector Walk-Out In England

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Tens of thousands of teachers are walking out of the classroom today in protest against pay, workload pressures and pension changes as the Coalition government downplays the extent of the strike. As many as one million public sector workers are staging industrial action, with health workers and civil servants joining teachers in a mass demonstration against austerity measures. The National Union of Teachers (NUT) says more than 20,000 teachers could take part, with nationwide rallies and pickets planned for towns and cities ranging from Cambridge, Leicester, Swansea, Torquay and the Isle of Wight. The strike has been condemned by the Department of Education (DfE) as disrupting to pupils’ education and harming the reputation of the teaching profession, while the government said that it actually expects most schools to open their doors. A Cabinet Office spokesman said: “The vast majority of dedicated public sector workers did not vote for today’s action, and early indications are that most are turning up for work as usual.

Cameron Plans Strike Crackdown On 1 Million Public Workers

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David Cameron has been accused by union leaders of being a “Bullingdon bully” after he vowed that the Conservative election manifesto would tighten the screw on strike laws in response to what he regards as Thursday’s illegitimate mass walkout of up to 1 million public-sector workers. Cameron attacked the low turnout thresholds in union strike ballots and challenged the validity of mandates to take industrial action derived from ballots conducted more than a year ago in some cases. The prime minister said: “I think the time has come for setting a threshold. It is time to legislate and it will be in the Conservative manifesto.” In a sign of how the political battle may unfold, the education secretary, Michael Gove, will accuse the teaching unions of not standing up for education but for their pay and pensions. On Newsnight on Thursday, Gove said teachers who were joining the strike were a minority.

F**K FIFA: Why A Majority of Brazilians Think The World Cup is Bad For Brazil.

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In this episode of Acronym TV, Derek Poppert of Global Exchange talks with Dennis about his Re-Think The Cup series. In a recent piece from the series, FIFA: Return The Beauty To The Beautiful Game, Derek writes: “So who wins the World Cup? While it may seem that decision is still getting played out in stadiums across Brazil, FIFA president Sepp Blatter is surely laughing from his luxury suite. The winner had already been decided well before the first match even began. FIFA’s 4 billion dollars in untaxed revenue from the event is the trophy. It appears to be of little interest to Mr. Blatter or other FIFA execs that this trophy has come on the backs of 200,000 low-income people being forcefully evicted from their homes to make room for the event, 8 construction workers dying in the frenzied rush to erect stadiums on time, or 14 billion dollars in Brazilian taxpayer money being spent on the tournament in the face of poverty, inequality, and widespread social issues within Brazil.”

The Limitations And Possibilities Of Student-Labor Coalitions

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In April, New York University found itself the subject of uncomfortable scrutiny when Michael Powell reported in the New York Times that Daniel E. Straus, owner of the HealthBridge and CareOne nursing home companies in New Jersey and Connecticut and a board member at NYU law school, had subpoenaed the emails, text messages and personal writings of two NYU law students, Luke Herrine and Leo Gertner. The two were part of a growing movement of NYU undergraduates and law students calling attention to working conditions at Straus’s facilities, and they had been helping to circulate a petition to the law school dean asking for a meeting to discuss Straus’s presence on the board. The next day, with somewhat less fanfare, a one-line memo was sent to NYU law students by their dean, informing them that Straus would no longer be on the school’s board. The Straus Institute for the Advanced Study of Law and Justice, which Straus has funded since 2009, will close at the end of the year. (Although the timeline of the closure decision is unclear, Herrine, one of the subpoenaed students, believes it was due to the controversy.)

Middle School Students Break Dress Code, Called

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A group of Georgia middle school students decided they had enough of the school dress code and would violate it together in an act of civil disobedience. The school, Cowan Road Middle, found out about the plan and suspended the students for…terrorism. What? According to WSB-TV (emphasis added): “To me it was just a bunch of 13-year-olds acting crazy,” said Christopher Cagle, the father of a suspended honor roll student. Cagle said the principal called the students’ actions terroristic threats. He said the principal was too swift and severe with the punishment.” Violating the school dress code is indeed a violation of school policy, but to elevate it to a level where one could be indefinitely detained, without charge or trial, is going way too far.

Rethinking The Fourth Of July With Historical Truths

Boston Massacre showing the death of the first casualty, Crispus Attucks. In reality, the vast majority of Africans in America fought against the revolution seeking to end their enslavement.

Ray Raphael offers some context for the Declaration of Independence: In 1997, Pauline Maier published American Scripture, where she uncovered 90 state and local “declarations of independence” that preceded the U.S. Declaration of Independence. The consequence of this historical tidbit is profound: Jefferson was not a lonely genius conjuring his notions from the ether; he was part of a nationwide political upheaval. Similarly, Raphael reports: [I]n 1774 common farmers and artisans from throughout Massachusetts rose up by the thousands and overthrew all British authority. In the small town of Worcester (only 300 voters), 4,622 militiamen from 37 surrounding communities lined both sides of Main Street and forced British-appointed officials to walk the gauntlet, hats in hand, reciting their recantations 30 times each so everyone could hear. There were no famous “leaders” for this event. The people elected representatives who served for one day only, the ultimate in term limits. “The body of the people” made decisions and the people decided that the old regime must fall.

Academic Sweatshop: My Life As An Adjunct


When I was 19 years old, a college professor changed my life. I took his Feminist Political Thought course and realized for the first time that I could be smart and capable. I decided I wanted to give students what he had given me. I talked to professors about what it was like to teach college and it seemed perfect. There would be time for artistic and intellectual work, a chance to foster curiosity and critical thinking, building community, freedom to work a flexible schedule mostly from home, good wages and benefits, and opportunities to contribute to research. I knew this course would also make my family proud. I come from a long line of working-class union employees who spent their lives in tobacco factories, brickyards, construction, and working for the state. They had little choice of jobs and stayed with them until they retired.

Brooklyn College Says No To Koch Millions

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Brooklyn College of the City University of New York has a new academic credential. Unlike an estimated 150 colleges and universities that have taken $56 million from the billionaire libertarian industrialist Koch brothers since the 1980s—and then integrated their extreme right-wing agenda into business classes while censoring other views—the New York City college keeps rejecting Koch cash, an aggrieved libertarian business school professor complained in a detailed report by InsideHigherEd.com. The libertarian professor, Mitchell Langbert, apparently approached the Charles C. Koch Foundation twice—in June 2013 and again this January—seeking multi-million dollar grants to expand Brooklyn College’s business faculty. Langbert’s effort, however, were apparently rejected by his supervisors, who did not want to pursue the grants. “The professor said that in the summer of 2013, he was in unofficial but promising talks with representatives from the Koch Foundation about a $4.3 million grant to advance market-based economics at Brooklyn College,” Inside Higher Ed reported. “The grant would have funded the hiring of multiple faculty members and graduate students, and established an honors program and an institute on markets at the college.”

Nevada Students Protest Outrageous Clinton Speaking Fee

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Hillary Clinton is in hot water over a $225,000 speaking fee she will reportedly receive for an upcoming appearance at the University of Nevada, Las Vegas. UNLV students are demanding Clinton to return what they see as an “outrageous” speaking fee for an October event and have criticized the school for paying her so much money at a time when tuition is scheduled to spike by 17 percent over the next four years. “We really appreciate anybody who would come to raise money for the university,” UNLV student body president Elias Benjelloun told a Nevada television station. “But anybody who’s being paid $225,000 to come speak, we think that’s a little bit outrageous. And we’d like Secretary Clinton, respectfully, to gracefully return to the university or the foundation.” Benjelloun said the potential 2016 presidential contender should donate her fee to the university. But this wouldn’t be Clinton’s biggest speaking fee. The Wall Street Journal reports Clinton received $300,000 for speaking to students at UCLA in March.

Will Teachers Union President Challenge Rahm Emanuel?

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Chicago Teacher’s Union President Karen Lewis has met with election attorneys and is expected to make a final decision in August about whether she will challenge Rahm Emanuel for Mayor. A source close to Lewis said she’s seriously considering a run. The Chicago mayoral election takes place February 2015. “Definitely, the talk of Lewis running is ramping up to a new rate of speed,” a political operative involved in past mayoral elections said. Chicago Public Schools’ announcement Thursday of more than 1,000 layoffs, including 550 teachers, catches CTU off guard. “This decision further demonstrates the disdain for public education and the lack of leadership and vision for the city from our mayor and his hand picked Board,” the union said in a statement. “Do we want ‘Star Wars’ museums or public, neighborhood schools? Do we want presidential libraries or librarians for every child?”

Teachers Protest Gates Foundation Involvement In Education

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A group of teachers is holding a rally Thursday evening in Seattle to denounce education reform measures they say have been an attack on public education and let corporate interests and high-stakes testing trump real student learning. The target of their protest: The Bill and Melinda Gates Foundation, whom the teachers say has used its monetary power to push corporate reforms and is symbolic of measures—like Common Core Standards and over-testing—that don’t let educators be the decision makers of education policies. The action, organized by the BadAss Teachers (BATs) of Washington, whose vision is to “educate teachers, parents, students and communities on the long term consequences of current education reforms,” begins with a rally and will lead to a march to the Gates Foundation headquarters. Julianna Dauble, full-time teacher in Renton, Washington and organizer of the action, told Common Dreams that the Gates Foundation “bought us Common Core,” in addition to promoting other things like charter schools, increased testing and Race to the Top, without a democratic process that involves consulting teachers.