The New Labor Forum has a bi-weekly newsletter on current topics in labor, curated by the some of the most insightful scholars and activists in the labor world today. Check out some highlights from the latest edition below.
The wildly successful teachers’ strike in West Virginia earlier this spring has not only inspired walkouts in Oklahoma, Kentucky, Colorado and Arizona, but has managed to turn the tide in the all-important realm of public opinion. According to a recent survey by The Associated Press-NORC Center for Public Affairs Research, a full 78 percent of Americans believe that teachers are underpaid. And remarkably, slightly more than half approve of teachers’ strikes to defend public education and protest low pay. Given the fact that members of teachers’ unions currently represent fully a quarter of all union members nationwide, this growing support for teachers holds extra importance.
Here, we offer a piece by New Labor Forum Editor-at-Large Steve Fraser, who examines the conditions that have caused red state teachers to shed the respectability and ambiguity of middle-class status to wage a working-class rebellion. And in a piece written for today’s newsletter, Chris Brooks suggests what teachers’ unions will have to do to keep up with a movement spurred by the rank-and-file, in defense not just of themselves, but also of the children and communities they serve. We also include an op-ed by Paul Krugman, who reveals how the tax cutting protocol of right-wing state governments has led to wage and benefit cuts for teachers and four-day school weeks and substandard conditions for students. And these circumstances, it seems, have finally caused the broader public to reject the conservative propensity to scapegoat teachers for the failures of a public education system plagued by unequal funding and fiscal austerity. We will continue to assess the lessons and inspiration this uprising offers a debilitated labor movement and political movements of the burgeoning resistance.
Table of Contents
- Teaching America a Lesson/ Steve Fraser, TomDispatch.com
- What Should Unions Do After The Strike Wave?/ Chris Brooks, New Labor Forum
- We Don’t Need No Education/ Paul Krugman, The New York Times
- Amid Strikes, Americans back teacher raises/ The Associated Press, NORC Center for Public Affairs Research
Photo by Charles Edward Miller via flickr (CC-BY-SA)
By Dyckman Welcome
Data suggests that public education is most effective when parents, teachers, students and school administrators collaborate to focus on the individual needs of a child. A one-size-fits-all model of educating and measuring student achievement works well for some children, but leaves others desperately seeking public education alternatives.
One alternative to the current system of public education fueling political debate is the expansion of school choice through school voucher programs. According to supporters, implementation of voucher programs would create a market driven system that improves educational standards benefiting all of America’s children. The problem is, the school voucher system has been implemented in other parts of the world, and failed, even as it appeared to initially succeed. Continue reading Sweden’s School Choice Disaster
This post was originally featured at the Gotham Center.
By Stephen Brier
The issue of who should control NYC’s public schools, like the poor, apparently will always be with us. These days, or at least since Michael Bloomberg’s mayoral reign, that control centers on how many years the city’s mayor will be allowed to play K-12 education’s top dog: one year or more? The answer to that question currently resides exclusively in the partisan clutches of Republicans who control the New York State Senate. They don’t like to miss an opportunity to stick it to the current occupant of Gracie Mansion, grudgingly doling out one year of mayoral control at a time to Bill de Blasio.
But control of the city’s public schools used to be a much larger and much more consequential issue than how many years the mayor gets to call the shots. Half a century ago this issue of control of the public schools roiled the city politically and racially, dividing thousands of parents of color from the overwhelmingly white (and largely Jewish) public school teachers and administrators. Continue reading Who Should Control NYC Schools?
This post was originally featured at Labor Notes.
By Penny Lewis
With the election of Donald Trump as president and Republican majorities in both the House and Senate, we are entering a period of existential crisis for unions and our organized power. The coming months and years are going to call for a spirit of maximum solidarity.
In this short piece I describe the likely form and substance of the attacks. Here I’m limiting my discussion to issues that most directly implicate unions, though there’s plenty more for workers to fear from the incoming administration—including increasing privatization and broad-brush deregulation, as well as efforts to pit workers against one another by fanning the flames of racism, sexism, and hostility toward immigrants. Continue reading What’s Coming for Unions under President Trump
Last week at the Murphy Institute, I had the pleasure of meeting Erika Ewing, an Educational Engagement Strategist who works with the CUNY Creative Arts Team. She had just finished running a workshop which engaged high school students in rigorous conversation about the film “Birth of a Nation” following an arranged screening of the film for them at an AMC theater.
In the piece below, Ewing discusses the responsibility of educators to be open and honest with youth about American history, the ways in which non-traditional approaches to education challenges young people to think constructively and critically and how promoting more open discussion of films like Parker’s “Birth of Nation” plays a seminal role.
— Zenzile Greene, Arts and Culture Editor
“Don’t let your past define your future.” It’s a quote we’ve all heard some version of before. But when we’re confronted with our own dark pasts, how easy is it to take this advice? Continue reading Birth of a Nation and Culturally Responsive Education
What’s the future of CUNY? To understand what might come, it helps to look at what’s passed. How did CUNY become what it is today? What’s at stake in preserving an autonomous CUNY?
An editorial by the Editorial Board of the New York Times today starts to tell the story, and does so by citing Murphy Consortial Faculty Member Steve Brier’s book, co-authored with Michael Fabricant, “Austerity Blues: Fighting for the Soul of Public Education”:
As the City University professors Stephen Brier and Michael Fabricant explain in their forthcoming history, “Austerity Blues: Fighting for the Soul of Public Higher Education,” Nelson Rockefeller, who essentially built the state’s public higher education system, wanted to absorb New York City’s colleges into the state university system at the beginning of the 1960s.
The proposal met fatal resistance from alumni, business leaders and education officials who had great affection for the city system. They understood the city to be different from the rest of the state, in civic and cultural terms, and considered free tuition essential to much of its population. (Mr. Rockefeller had also proposed charging tuition in exchange for state aid.) The merger idea was dropped, and the city system — renamed The City University of New York in 1961 — remained independent, even though it would receive state support.
The state Legislature took the same view. It gave the state formal control of the city system while recognizing fundamental differences: on the one hand, a loose federation of 64 campuses scattered about the state; on the other, a city system described in state law as an engine of advancement for the poor and disadvantaged and having “the strongest commitment to the special needs of an urban constituency.”
Read the full editorial at NYTimes.com.
Photo by Alex Irklievski (Alex Irklievski) [Public domain], via Wikimedia Commons