As Wait, What? readers know, under the guise of Governor Malloy’s “education reform” law, the City of Hartford has handed the Milner School (including all of its students and the school’s publicly-funded budget) over to the Jumoke Academy.
A quarter of Milner’s student population is not fluent in English and four in ten go home to households where English is not the primary language.
On the other hand, Jumoke Academy, who is now in control of Milner’s curriculum and student environment, has absolutely NO experience in working with bilingual students. In fact, Jumoke reported on their official state school profile reports that they’ve never had a bilingual student nor have they ever had a student who went home to a household other than one that speaks English.
Considering that more than 40 percent of Hartford’s children go home to households that don’t use English as their primary language, the Jumoke data is a pretty strong statement about their total unwillingness or inability to attract and educate nearly half of all of Hartford’s students.
It begs the question why Jumoke was chosen by the City of Hartford and the State of Connecticut to take over the Milner School?
Meanwhile, late last spring, one of the key items that held up a final vote on Malloy’s “education reform” bill was the need to find an appropriate mechanism to ensure that the rights of Connecticut’s unionized teachers would be properly represented in any “turnaround” plan.
The process that was finally adopted required negotiations between the teacher unions and the cities and, if necessary, an expedited binding arbitration process, if the teachers and the municipality could not come to an agreement.
The history of binding arbitration in Connecticut goes back thirty-three years when, following the great Bridgeport teacher’s strike of 1978, Connecticut passed the Teacher Collective Bargaining Act. After the Bridgeport Teacher strike that saw more than 250 teachers sent off to jail, Connecticut adopted landmark legislation that ended teacher strikes once and for all, and, in return, instituted a binding arbitration process.
Although the Hartford Teacher’s Union and Christina Kishimoto, Hartford’s Superintendent of Schools, sought to negotiate an agreement about the impact to the teachers who were employed at the “former” Milner School (as required by the law), last week, those teachers rejected that proposed agreement by a three to one margin.
Their opposition was based on the fact that it appeared to the teachers that the Jumoke Academy and the Hartford Superintendent did not reveal all of the details of the changes that Jumoke was proposing to their working conditions.
Hartford Superintendent Kishimoto responded with a series of emails, each more confrontational and harsh than the last. Much of the story is highlighted in the Hartford blog, Real Hartford.
In one, Superintendent Kishimoto wrote that she was going to, “be holding the HFT [Hartford Federation of Teachers] accountable to the MOU [Memorandum of Understanding] that they signed…We stand on strong legal ground. I will be reaching out to the Commissioner around expediting this matter since it does mean withholding of our funds until this matter is resolved. The ratification of the MOU should have been purely procedural…”
First, one would assume that Hartford’s Superintendent actually read the new law and should have known that the expedited binding arbitration process that she “threatens” is not only part of the law, but required under the law.
Second, and more importantly, while the high-paid Superintendent may not fully appreciate the nuance, the United States, and American unions, function in accordance with the basic rules of a democracy.
Citizens, and in this case Hartford Federation of Teacher members, have a right and obligation to vote on any contract. In this case they did, and the contract was rejected.
The fact that Hartford’s superintendent then resorted to threats is, quite simply, bizarre.
Hartford’s Superintendent of Schools works for the Hartford Board of Education.
The Democratic Party controls the majority of members on the Board of Education.
In fact, Hartford’s Democratic Mayor actually appoints that majority of members on the Board of Education.
With Chicago’s teachers striking, and the nation facing an election of profound proportions, one would have thought that the Democrats on the Hartford Board of Education, and the Democratic leadership of the City of Hartford, would have moved quickly to reject the language and confrontational approach of their employee, the superintendent of schools.
However, instead of rising to the moment, as of now, at least, Hartford’s Democratic leadership has remained especially quiet.
Quiet at the very moment that they had an obligation to speak up, loud and clear.
But it’s not too late; Hartford ‘s Democratic Leaders could still reprimand the Superintendent for her actions, and they could certainly make it clear that Democrats stand for the right of employees to collectively bargain.
As Democrats, we understand that collective bargaining is a fundamental right and a vital principle of the Democratic Party.
Furthermore, we appreciate that collective bargaining produces better public policy for all involved.
Hartford Democrats, can you please step up the microphone and make your position clear.