Archive for the ‘Unions’ Category

Howard Stephenson and PCE’s Judi Clark, pushing the vouchers you can’t refuse

Don Corleone

Virtual Vouchers and the key to the public treasury

Early in 2010 when the Parents for Choice in Education (PCE) pirates began planning their 2011 campaign to sneak education vouchers through Utah’s back door, they knew they’d need a little more than a hijacked charter school association and a lobbying hitman to get their legislation passed.  Two strategies were crucial.  The first would be to split their wishlist into as many different moving targets as possible, but the second would be to have a legislator who could be trusted to shepherd the whole project to conclusion.

Utah Sen. Howard Stephenson - photo: Brian Nicholson, Des. News

After Sheldon Killpack, the Utah legislator and charter school go-to guy was suddenly indisposed last spring, PCE would be forced to turn to Utah’s lobbyist/legislator godfather, next to whom PCE/UAPCS lobbyist Chris Bleak is a mere piker.  I’m talking of course, about Howard Stephenson.

Stephenson, the Utah Taxpayer Association Don who is famous for never having seen a piece of pro-business legislation he didn’t like, and whose answer to the immigration debate is a full-employment act for bounty hunters funded by the runaway slaves themselves, wasted no time.  With PCE’s Judi Clark doing the drafting and Killpack’s abandoned campaign war-chest to draw from (Killpack donated an astonishing $4,000 to Stephenson in 2010), the result was a fistful of bills friendly to charters and hostile to school districts. Continue reading


Unmasking the anti-teacher/anti-public school rhetoric (VIDEOS)

Today, two great video tutorials to understand the truth behind the anti-teacher/anti-public school rhetoric, whether it’s coming from Parents for Choice in Education, their poster child Jeb Bush, or Barack Obama.  The attack on public education in Utah and the rest of the United States is not a partisan one.  It’s a neoliberal one.  Bush’s No Child Left Standing Behind is the godfather of Obama’s Race to the Top.  It’s a heads I win, tails you lose sort of thing: heads the privateers win, tails children (society) lose(s).

First, this one from Daniel Willingham, Professor of Psychology at the University of Virginia.  It’s a very short, engaging explanation of the problem with judging teacher performance through “value added measures” in order to hand out raises/bonuses.

In this second one, Karen Lewis, President of the Chicago Teachers Union explains to Paul Jay of The Real News Network why what U.S. schools are facing in this time of economic crisis is a “perfect storm of disaster”.  But she also explains how teachers are being unfairly “painted with the bad teacher brush,” how people have got to get over thinking of schools as “magic castles” disconnected from the reality around them, and finally, how using tests that are designed to measure student achievement as a basis for “high stakes decisions” about teachers/schools is a totally flawed concept. Nine minutes that will help you sort the truth from the hype.

A very clear example of why unions matter

Utah is well known for being a Right to Exploit state, which some people call Right to Work.  Unions here face an extremely hostile environment and unfortunately some of them react by performing almost as caricatures – buddying up with management, doing as little as possible, boasting to members about their accomplishments that in reality are pretty weak.  Yes, we have stories.

But the alternative is worse.

In the world proposed by Mike Morley and his friends at Parents for Choice in Education (and yes, they are the best of friends; in 2006 Morley received the “Distinguished Service Award” from Utah Grassroots, which claims to be a citizens group.  Donna Dahl is a board member and the group’s secretary.  She is also number two on the list of Governing Board members for the Parents for Choice in Education PAC, right behind Robyn Bagley.) there are no unions.  They’ll zero in on teachers unions for the moment, but really any union is a bad union because in their fantasy Ayn Rand world, the magical free market solves everything.

Here’s a look at how the magical free market is solving things for workers at the Mott’s apple juice plant in Williamson, New York.  Dr Pepper Snapple Group, which owns Mott’s has had a fantastically profitable year.  But due to the dreadful economy there is high unemployment in the area, and Mott’s can’t resist the temptation to jack profits even higher, at the expense of their employees.  They don’t need to cut wages but surrounded by a sea of hungry unemployed workers, they see that they can.

This is the world that Morley and PCE inhabit.  As the public school system is forced to make cut after cut, the pool of hungry unemployed teachers grows larger.  Some of them, desperate to work, go to teach at charters, where they can be fired at will, at any time, to make way for a cheaper teacher from the hungry sea.

Read and learn:  In Mott’s Strike, More Than Pay at Stake