New York — Local leaders train for local action
Nearly 150 local leaders gathered last month for the New York State United Teachers’ Local Action Project, at which they learned the latest strategies, techniques and tools to tackle challenges and opportunities back home.
Participants spent a week engaging in intensive union training at Saratoga Springs, hearing from experts on state and national issues, and learning from each other on what works locally during daily sessions. As part of the training program, the local education associations to which the participants belong must make a minimum three-year commitment. All told, 22 locals participated this year.
Since 1997, LAP has brought together local unions to learn proven strategies developed to increase member participation, build community support, close the achievement gap, and to achieve success in contracts, budget votes and other homegrown issues.
Washington — Educators vote to oppose charter school ballot initiative
Washington Education Association’s board of directors, representing nearly 82,000 public school educators, voted last month to oppose I-1240, an initiative on the November ballot that would divert taxpayer funding from existing public schools into a new system of unaccountable charter schools.
Washington’s educators are already offering creativity, flexibility and choice for allstudents in all public schools. Instead of diverting scarce resources from existing public school classrooms and spending it on unaccountable charter schools for a few students, we should be investing more in the innovative public schools we already have,” said high school language arts teacher and WEA President Mary Lindquist.
The WEA board of directors, in a statement, said I-1240 ignores the state Supreme Court’s recent ruling that the state is failing to meet its paramount duty to “amply fund” public schools as mandated by Article IX, section 1 of the state Constitution.
Texas — Emerging leaders train to win fight for public education
With the Texas state Legislature voting last year to slash $5.4 billion from public education, it is more important than ever to have educators who are trained and engaged in the ongoing legislative and political fight to “save public education in Texas,” said elementary bilingual education teacher and Texas State Teachers Association Rita Haecker to the 28 graduates, all younger than 40, of TSTA’s annual Emerging Leaders Conference in Austin.
“This is not a fight that we are going to lose,” Haecker said. The fight will continue, she said, until TSTA changes the policymakers in Austin, and the key to success in the political arena is organization.
“Texans all over our state support public education and want it to be the No. 1 priority for our children,” Haecker said. TSTA’s job, she said, is to continue to take the lead for quality schools and “find others to lead” through effective organizational efforts.
Louisiana — Educators ask voucher schools to hold off on using money
The Louisiana Association of Educators, confident that the courts will find the state’s new school voucher laws unconstitutional, sent a letter to voucher schools last month, asking them to hold off on using money from the voucher program. The letter, said middle school social studies teacher and LAE President Joyce Haynes, was in no way an attempt at intimidation.
“The letter was our way of ensuring that Louisiana students don’t have to pay for the unconstitutional maneuvers made by Governor Jindal and Superintendent White,” she said.
LAE attorney Brian Blackwell said, “The schools can still accept students on a contingency basis. The letter just provides an opportunity for the private or parochial school to agree to hold off using the money until the case has been finalized. The program is unconstitutional. We are trying to prevent the spending of public dollars on unconstitutional programs.”
Haynes said LAE’s focus remains on protecting the interests of the families who chose not to take part in the voucher program. “When will Mr. White and BESE look out for the best interests of the 99% of students who attend public schools,” she asked. “It’s time they recognize their constitutional duty and begin working towards making great public schools for every child in Louisiana, not just a select few.”