State News Roundup for July 18, 2011

Utah – Hundreds Rally to Support Ogden Teachers

Nearly 1,000 people gathered in Ogden’s Liberty Park July 14 (pictures above and left) to support Ogden teachers in their fight against the Ogden Board of Education’s decision to not negotiate a contract with its teachers.

Ogden teachers were joined at the rally by colleagues from across the state who came to support their fellow teachers. Members of several other public and private employee unions, legislators, school board members from other districts, administrators, and Ogden parents also stood alongside educators to support the rights of employees to collectively bargain.

“The Board is demanding (Ogden teachers) sign a contract that has more than 100 changes from previous contracts and has given us less than 20 days to do it or we lose our jobs,” said Ogden Education Association President Doug Stephens. “This is wrong.”

“I do not believe that the members of the Ogden School Board are evil. Their actions, however, are misguided,” said former Salt Lake City School District Superintendent Donald Thomas in remarks to rally participants. “(Ogden Board members) have received some bad advice. What they have done is a violation of professional ethics and an attempt to break the spirit of its teachers. It will not work and it cannot stand.”

For more information and pictures, visit the Utah Education Association. To sign a petition in support of Ogden teachers, click here.

Massachusetts – Final State Budget for FY12 is Signed

On July 11, the governor signed the 2012 state budget for the new fiscal year. The $30.6 billion budget represents the fourth year in a row of budget cuts as a result of the recession and declining revenues. In FY11, federal stimulus funds helped the state provide needed funding for essential services, but such funding is not available this year.

The budget gap between maintaining current services and expected revenues is nearly $2 billion. In order to have a balanced budget as required by law, the governor and the Legislature chose to make significant cuts to local aid, higher education and safety net programs rather than to increase state revenues.

The loss of federal monies that helped protect higher education last year is not made up by state dollars this year. As a result, there was a final cut of 6.6 percent ($61.5 million) to college campus accounts.

Chapter 70 spending for preK-12 is slightly more than in FY11. Local aid was initially cut by 7 percent for all communities. However, due to unanticipated revenues at the end of the fiscal year, there will be additional funds going to cities and towns this fall, up to $65 million. Early education sustained a small cut, while most education grant programs are level-funded, with several increases to mitigate the cuts to local aid.

To get the full story and view budget spreadsheets for FY12, visit the Massachusetts Teachers Association.

Illinois – “379” Unions Protest at SIU Board Meeting

The SIUC Labor Coalition, comprised of all four locals on the SIUC campus, organized a collective action on Thursday, July 14th at the SIU Board of Trustees meeting in Carbondale. More than 50 IEA members gathered in the lobby outside the meeting room and together filled up the entire guest section – and then some.

Protesters displayed signs that simply read “379″ — since, as of July 14th, it is 379 days that SIUC employees have been working without a contract.

A banner that spelled out the message: “379 – Days Without A Contract” was unfurled as one of the locals’ leaders, William “Doc” Stodden, of Graduate Assistants United read a statement.

On behalf of IEA’s ‘SIUC Labor Coalition,’ Stodden read a letter to the BOT signed by each of the four SIUC IEA local presidents, on behalf of all four bargaining units.  The statement conveyed concerns about the gravity of the labor crisis at SIUC and the sincere hope that the BOT will join with the employees in practicing good faith collective bargaining rights on our campus.

Read more at the Illinois Education Association.

California – CCA Joins Thousands in Protests to Mark ‘State of Emergency’

In an inspiring show of solidarity, higher ed faculty joined their colleagues in grades K-12  in a week of events in mid-May to demonstrate that California is in a “State of Emergency” when it comes to supporting public education and essential public services.

The week’s events included campus protests, news conferences, meetings with legislators, four major regional rallies and five days of demonstrations and sit-ins at the state Capitol building by nearly 500 educators. By the end of the week, some 30 educators including Theresa Montaño, CTA Board member representing higher education, and David Sanchez, then president of CTA, were arrested in an act of civil disobedience and spent the night in jail.

Montaño wasn’t the only one to take a stand for education at the Capitol. CCA Secretary DeWayne Sheaffer, a counselor at Long Beach City College and local chapter president, spent his week in the capitol building as well.

For the rest of the story, visit the California Teachers Association.

Florida – An Organizing Drive that Doubled the Union

by Paul Ortiz

Florida is not Wisconsin. Wisconsin’s history is Robert LaFollette, the Progressive Party, and the birth of public employee unionism.

Conversely, Florida had the Rosewood Massacre and the Ku Klux Klan. A grand jury recently found that “corruption is pervasive at all levels of government.”

Republican Governor Rick Scott recently signed measures making it harder to vote, moving Florida back toward its Jim Crow past. We are one of several states with no department to enforce wage and hour standards.

Despite these obstacles, faculty members in Florida’s public institutions of higher learning have been building unions in our right-to-work state at an outstanding rate in recent months. At the University of Florida union density was about 20 percent last year. Now it’s over 40 percent and rapidly rising.

Learn more at the Florida Education Association.

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