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Union takes progressive stand on class size, testing, and education in general

October 15, 2010 pm31 7:30 pm

Strong resolution. By? UFT? No. AFT? No. NEA? No. The United Electrical Workers. Go figure. But it’s worth the read. Hat tip to Monty Neil of Fair Test, via Leonie Heimson of NYC Public School Parents.

http://www.ueunion.org/policy_se.html

UE Convention Resolutions Public Education: Stop the Attacks and Fund Quality Education for All


One of the first demands of early labor organizations was universal quality
education. At a time when only the rich could attend decent schools, labor
leaders saw that access to publicly-funded schools was the only way that the
working class and the poor could achieve basic literacy skills. Labor
leaders knew that education was tied to the ability to organize and exercise
political power.

We find ourselves in an ongoing battle to prevent not just the erosion, but
the outright destruction of public education. That many public schools are
inadequately funded means poor equipment, crumbling buildings, and larger
numbers of students in each classroom. Rather than fund public education
adequately, conservatives push for privatization and subcontracting,
practices which reduce jobs, and turns janitors, cooks, maintenance workers,
educators, and many others into low-wage contract workers who receive few or
low benefits.

The Obama administration has announced its intent to reform the No Child
Left Behind Act (NCLB), the current incarnation of the Elementary and
Secondary Education Act put into effect during Lyndon Johnson’s
administration. While the stated goals of NCLB are laudable, namely
improving student achievement and closing skills gaps between students of
different backgrounds, the Act is flawed. Schools that already face
challenges because of poor funding or the demographics of the area they are
in are forced to conform to a “one-size-fits-all” standard based on
high-stakes testing, and then punished by having funding withdrawn. Vouchers
redirect taxpayer money away from public schools to private institutions,
which are not accountable to the public or to elected officials. The Obama
administration has requested a $1 billion increase in funding, yet no
details of Obama’s intended reforms have been given.

Barack Obama has also expressed support for merit-based teacher salaries.
Excellent teachers deserve to be rewarded, and the potential for higher
earnings as a result of hard work would help to recruit and retain talented
individuals who would otherwise choose a career in the private sector.
However, a system of merit pay is not the answer to poor teacher salaries
and poor student performance. Administration of a merit-based teacher pay
system would be a bureaucratic nightmare, prone to corruption and
dishonesty, and would undermine cooperation and collaboration between
teachers. The No Child Left Behind Act has already shown that universal
standards don’t work when applied to real-world education, in which students
come from different economic, cultural and linguistic backgrounds. The way
to attract superior teachers is to pay teachers what they are worth.

Private commerce has no place in public education. Schools that are starved
for funding turn to corporate sponsors for help or contract services out to
private companies. Corporate sponsors flood the schools with commercial
messages, and undermine teachers’ attempts to have students to think
critically. Private companies are not responsible to the public for the
quality of service they provide. This same commercialism is rampant in
public colleges and universities, leaving many vulnerable to intellectual
and moral corruption. At the same time, the cost of public education at the
undergraduate and graduate levels is becoming more and more prohibitive,
putting working and middle class families deeper into debt for services tax
dollars are supposed to provide.

Higher education workers are also facing a crisis as their employers replace
full-time positions with “contingent” faculty. Adjunct instructors are paid
a fraction of the wage a full-time professor would receive, and these
contracts have no benefits. Job security is nonexistent for these workers.
Along with vouchers and standardized tests, growing dependence on part-time
workers is a further indication of corporate and profit-driven motives in
education. This trend inevitably leads to a decrease in the quality of
public education.

Public schools, funded adequately and fairly, with certified teachers and
full-time faculty, who have long-range educational plans that teach basic
skills and critical thinking to all students is the only way to resolve this
problem. We support public education because it promotes the best interests
of everyone when all members of our society are well educated and able to
think independently.

THEREFORE, BE IT RESOLVED THAT THIS 71st UE CONVENTION:

1. Calls upon all levels of the union to demand and promote:
1. Federal funding that achieves an excellent public education at all
levels, including early childhood and adult learning programs;

2. Restructuring of federal, state, and local taxation and funding
systems so that all public schools are funded fairly, without regard to
income levels of local school district residents;

3. A reduction of class sizes to a manageable student-to-teacher ratio
at the primary, secondary, and college/university levels;

4. An increase in the salaries of all public elementary and secondary
education teachers which reflects the value of their role in educating
future members of society;

5. Barring the use of taxpayer-funded voucher programs that siphon off
much-needed funds from public schools and route them to private schools;
6. Elimination of high-stakes testing, which pressures teachers and
administrators to “teach to the test” or risk financial ruin, and therefore
puts tremendous emotional and psychological pressure on children who are
forced to endure such high-stakes tests;

7. Removal of commercial/corporate sponsorship that tends to interfere
with the academic freedom of students and teachers and the
decision-making freedom of elected school boards and other publicly-employed
professionals;

8. Preservation and enhancement of the arts, foreign language and
multilingual education programs, whose elimination most often
hurts poor and working-class children’s education;

9. Preservation and enhancement of vocational education programs for
adolescents and adults;

10. Full and appropriate services and accommodations for students with
disabilities;

11. Full funding of Head Start;

12. Passage of conflict-of-interest legislation that prevents
individuals with ties to for-profit schools and to for-profit corporations
with school contracts from serving on school boards or boards of regents;

13. Elimination of privatization and contracting out of school
services;

14. The teaching of labor history and other aspects of history which
present a full view of the economic, social, and political history of the
U.S. in public schools, colleges and universities; and support of local
labor education centers;

2. Calls on the union to work with other unions and push for a change in
the Family Educational Rights and Privacy Act (FERPA) in order to ensure
that all employees have the right to unionization;

3. Supports all campaigns which advocate universal access to free public
higher education.

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