Seattle – What happens when teacher union leaders step up to support teachers, students, parents and public schools

For those union members, education advocates and parents who are consistently frustrated by the fact that some union leaders spend more time maintaining their close relationship with the power elite than fighting for their members and public education, the recent teacher strike in Seattle, Washington is proof that real champions have been stepping up in Seattle, Chicago, at the state level in New York and Massachusetts, and elsewhere.  These teacher union leaders are making a fundamental difference in the fight to improve public schools and provide greater support for teachers, students and parents.

For an update on the Seattle Teacher Strike check out, The surprising things Seattle teachers won for students by striking.

The post appears on Valerie Strauss’s blog, The Answer Sheet.  Strauss is a reporter with the Washington Post and her bog is one of the most important resources in the nation for information about education policy and the unprecedented assault on public schools and public school teachers by the Charter School and Corporate Education Reform Industry.

If you don’t read Strauss’ blog you should book mark it and sign up for her regulator updates at:

In The surprising things Seattle teachers won for students by striking, Strauss writes;

Seattle teachers went on strike for a week this month with a list of goals for a new contract. By the time the strike officially ended this week, teachers had won some of the usual stuff of contract negotiations — for example, the first cost-of-living raises in six years — but also some less standard objectives.

For one thing, teachers demanded, and won, guaranteed daily recess for all elementary school students — 30 minutes each day. In an era when recess for many students has become limited or even non-existent despite the known benefits of physical activity for children, this is a big deal, and something parents had sought.

What’s more, the union and school officials agreed to create committees at 30 schools to look at equity issues, including disciplinary measures that disproportionately affect minorities. Several days after the end of the strike, the Seattle School Board voted for a one-year ban on end suspensions of elementary students who commit specific nonviolent offenses, and called for a plan that could eliminate all elementary school suspensions.

Other wins for students in Seattle’s nearly 100 traditional public schools include:

Teachers won an end to the use of student standardized test scores to evaluate them — and now, teachers will be included in decisions on the amount of standardized testing for students. This evaluation practice has been slammed by assessment experts as invalid and unreliable, and has led to the narrowing of curriculum, with emphasis on the two subjects for which there are standardized tests, math and English Language arts.

Special education teachers will have fewer students to work with at a time. What’s more there will be caseload limits for other specialists, including psychologists and occupational therapists.

Seattle teachers had said they were not only fighting for pay raises but to make the system better for students. It sounds like they did.

Every teacher union leader in the country should be looking to Seattle for guidance on how to fight back against the forces seeking to destroy public education in the United States.

Hartford, Steve Perry and his threat make the Washington Post

Let the celebration begin!  Connecticut has made national news!

Oh, but wait… it’s not quite the type of news that will bring tourists to the Still Revolutionary state or induce businesses to move to Connecticut.

The story is about Capital Prep Principal Steve Perry and the controversy that has consumed Perry and his bizarre rhetoric and antics.

The media outlet:  The Washington Post’s Answer Sheet, the nation’s leading education blog.

Valerie Strauss begins her article with the Perry’s now familiar tweet;

The only way to lose a fight is to stop fighting. All this did was piss me off. It’s so on. Strap up, there will be head injuries.


And the Washington Post reporter then adds;

“That’s not a tweet that any school principal or teacher who I know could publish and keep their job, but for Steve Perry, the out-there founder and principal of the publicCapital Preparatory Magnet School in Hartford, Conn., it was just another day on Twitter.

Perry is a school reformer in the scorched-earth camp of Michelle Rhee, and has a Web site that identifies him as ”America’s Most Trusted Educator” and notes that  his “heart pumps passion and produces positive change,” and that he is “the most talked about innovative educator on the scene today.” He is the author of  the book “Push Has Come To Shove: Getting Our Kids the Education They Deserve — Even If It Means Picking a Fight.” He is a  traveling partner with Rhee, a vitriolic union-basher, a prolific speech maker  and an even more energetic tweeter (he’s put out more than 31,000). His Web site also says he is a CNN and MSNBC contributor.

The tweet above was one in a fusillade that Perry unleashed after the majority of the Hartford Board of Education on Tuesday rejected a deal, supported by Hartford Mayor Pedro Segarra and the school board’s chairman, Matt Poland, to allow Perry to stop being a public employee and run the public school, along with a second school, through a nonprofit charter management company that he founded and for which he serves as president. The Courant reported that Perry is listed in state corporation records as president of Capital Preparatory Schools Inc., registered in February 2012. The organization is also listed on Guidestar, an online information service specializing in nonprofit organization, as being at the same address in Hartford as Capital Preparatory Magnet School.

Perry originally started Capital Prep as a charter school, but  it became a grade 6-12 magnet school in the traditional public schools system because, he has said, he didn’t have enough resources to do what he wanted as a charter. He adopted a year-round school calendar along with a tough “no excuses” operational approach that some parents heartily support.

Perry’s Web site says: “Capital Prep has sent 100% of its predominantly low-income, minority, first-generation high school graduates to four-year colleges every year since its first class graduated in 2006,” though critics say that characterization shades the fact that the school has a high attrition rate; for example 35 percent of the students in the class of 2011 who entered as freshmen did not reach their senior year, according to a New Jersey teacher who authors a popular blog under the name of Jersey Jazzman and who has been writing extensively about Perry.

Perry is at least as well known for running a school as for making inflammatory statements about things he doesn’t like, especially but not exclusively teachers unions. For example, he said the following this year at a forum hosted by the  Minneapolis Foundation and co-hosted by Minnesota Public Radio, as reported by the Perry-friendly Education Action Group Foundation:

“I know in polite company, you’re not supposed to talk about the unions,” Perry said. “But I will. I know you’re here. I hope you hear me, because I’m tired of you. Every time you fight to keep a failed teacher in a school, you’re killing children, and that’s not cool.

“Every single time you make a job harder to remove someone who is simply not educating, and everybody in the building knows they’re not educating, you’re killing your profession, you’re killing our community and you’re making it harder on yourselves.

“It’s high time we call the roaches out and call them for what they are. I’ve been to too many cities where the excuses pile up, one on top of the other. You know what happens with those excuses? They kill our kids.”

His appearance drew heated criticism and praise, which you can read about here.”

The Washington Post’s Strauss then goes into a detailed review of Capital Prep’s and the fact that Perry’s rhetoric about the success of his schools fails to stand up to the most basic review.  You can read the full details here:  Principal gets mad and tweets: ‘Strap up, there will be head injuries.

And Strauss closes with the observation;

“Meanwhile, Perry keeps sounding off when the mood suits him, as Jonathan Pelto,  a former member of the Connecticut House of Representatives who now provides commentary on politics and public policy at his blog, Wait What?, consistently reports.  Assuming Perry didn’t mean to be taken literally with his “Strap up, there will be head injuries,” nonsense, his comments still beg this question: Why do his bosses allow him to say things that would get just about anybody else fired?”

You can read the full article here: