Educate All Students: Larry Miller's Blog

March 7, 2011

Diane Ravitch on the Wisconsin Uprising

Filed under: Uncategorized — millerlf @ 4:01 pm

2/22/011 Washington Post

“If there is no organized force to advocate for public education in the state capitols of this nation, our children and our schools will suffer. That’s the bottom line. And that’s why I stand with the teachers of Wisconsin. I know you do too.”

As I write, thousands of teachers are staging a protest in the state capitol in Wisconsin against proposed legislation by Gov. Scott Walker that would destroy their collective bargaining rights. Others stand with them, including members of the Green Bay Packers and other public sector workers, even those not affected by the legislation, namely, firefighters and police.

Gov. Walker demanded that the teachers pay more for their health benefits and their pension benefits, and they have agreed to do so. But that’s not all he wants. He wants to destroy the union.

I wrote an article about this contretemps for CNN.COM, not realizing that the teachers had already conceded the governor’s demands on money issues. They agreed to pay more for their health benefits and pension benefits. The confrontation now is solely about whether public employees have the right to bargain collectively and to have a collective voice. Monday’s New York Times made clear, both in an article by Paul Krugman and in its news coverage, that the union is fighting for its survival, not benefits.

It’s time to ask: why should teachers have unions? I am not a member of a union, and I have never belonged to a union, but here is what I see.

From the individual teacher’s point of view, it is valuable to have an organization to turn to when you feel you have been treated unfairly, one that will supply you with assistance, even a lawyer, one that advocates for improvement in your standard of living. From society’s point of view, it is valuable to have unions to fight for funding for public education and for smaller class sizes and for adequate compensation for teachers.

I recently visited Arizona, a right-to-work state, and parents there complained to me about classes of 30 for children in first and second grades, and even larger for older students; they complained that the starting salary for teachers was only $26,000, and that it is hard to find strong college graduates to enter teaching when wages are so low.

I have often heard union critics complain that contracts are too long, too detailed, too prescriptive. I have noticed that unions don’t write their own contracts. There are always two sides that negotiate a contract and that sign it. If administration is so weak that it signs a contract that is bad for kids, bad for the district’s finances, or bad for education, then shame on them.

The fight in Wisconsin now is whether public sector unions should have any power to bargain at all. The fight is not restricted to Wisconsin; it is taking place in many other states, including New Jersey, Ohio, Tennessee, Pennsylvania, Florida, Illinois, and elsewhere. The battle has already been lost in other states.

I have been wondering if advocates of corporate school reform, such as Bill Gates, Eli Broad, and Michelle Rhee will come to the aid of the teachers in Wisconsin. I have been wondering if President Obama and Secretary Duncan, who were quick to applaud the firing of teachers in Central Falls, Rhode Island, will now step forward to support the teachers in Wisconsin. I have been wondering if Secretary Duncan, who only a few days earlier had led a much-publicized national conversation in Denver about the importance of collaboration between unions and management, will weigh in to support the teachers. I am ever hopeful, but will take care not to hold my breath.

If there is no organized force to advocate for public education in the state capitols of this nation, our children and our schools will suffer. That’s the bottom line. And that’s why I stand with the teachers of Wisconsin. I know you do too.



1 Comment »

  1. Diane,your article is exactly what I have been saying for years. The behavior of Walker takes me back to the days of George Wallace. What about the children in our districts are they not important to our community and to the global world? We must stop Walker turned Wallace from destroying our community and the education our children. It is my beleive that we should be in the campiagn that I am now moving forward with parents,”Every Child, Every School -Let US Meet the Challenge. This would never happen in outlines communities. Walker has brought the wrath of GOD upon this state. The word of God says, “What you have done to the lest of mine you have done on to me.” Walker is only concerned about the wealthy children – well God says be concerned for all children. Walker has cursed our state. GOD will have the last say in this matter. As, we move forward going to Madison, we must fight for the children in the urban and rural areas of our state.As, Scott Fitzgearld said, bust the union and Pres. Obama won’t have a chance in 2012. What kind of Politician is he that they would try and break the backs of families to put a Republican in the White House – how sick of them. The quote that I have been advocating for years, “For these are all of our children we shall either profit by or pay for whatever they become.” James Baldwin.I STAND WITH PUBLIC EDUCATION – CHOICE and CHARTERS School will not be able to educate the masses of the people. If it was about ALL CHILDREN – there is no way WALKER would push his agenda. Our children are important to us too. He is digging a ditch for us he better dig Two! “EVERY CHILD-EVERY SCHOOL – LET US MEET THE CHALLENGE.

    Comment by Pastor Linda Gaskin — March 10, 2011 @ 3:58 pm | Reply

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