Intercepts

A listening post monitoring public education and teachers’ unions.

Chicago Teachers Union Spanks Novelist

Written By: Mike Antonucci - Aug• 12•15

Here’s a story from the Tucson Weekly that I offer without comment:

The Chicago Teachers Union is pissed at a Tucson writer—who goes by the pseudonym Gabby Matthews—over a political erotica novel he wrote about a teachers strike that shut down part of Chicago’s public school system for about a week back in 2012.

The union has told the author they do not want to be associated with this “spanking novel,” titled The Teacher’s Strike, citing alleged trademark violations, according to the author. CTU’s communications director, Stephanie Gadlin, says a fictional Teachers Union logo on a shirt worn by the teacher’s character on the cover should be removed from both print and online copies, because it is way too similar to the union’s actual logo. The union also demands that any copies of the book already printed be recalled, a letter from the union’s attorney says.

The publisher and author have until Aug. 14 to comply, or the union will “take steps” to ensure they do obey, the letter says.

“I think the union is widely overreacting. It’s just a book…I wish they’d recognize it is a political satire and just have a good laugh at it,” Matthews says. He’d prefer not to reveal his real name, but he’s a local activist and educator, as well. “I expected more open-minded sentiment about sexuality and gender from a union that purports itself to be liberal and progressive.”

The book, which was released in July, tells the story of an “illicit romantic affair” between a male student of legal age and his early-20-something-year-old female teacher. It takes place during the teachers’ strike from three years ago.

The novel is described as work that “takes a sympathetic perspective on the Union’s struggle over educational policy inside Chicago schools. The main and supporting characters take part in the high-profile labor battles against city policies, personified in the book’s unseen antagonist, ‘mayor of the 1 percent,’ the unflattering title used by activists to describe Chicago Mayor Rahm Emanuel…At one point in the story, the book title’s double meaning becomes clear when the teacher spanks (or ‘strikes’) the student’s bare behind (and vice versa) in a romantic act of affection during intercourse.”

Matthews says he, as a writing tutor, and the CTU fight for the same things: education equality and labor rights, so why are they so mad?

An attorney with the union says they reserve the right to seek damages and relief from the profit that comes from book sales—in the case the logo is not removed, that is.

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What Happens in Vegas Could Happen Elsewhere

Written By: Mike Antonucci - Aug• 11•15

The first tentative steps towards a monumental break with historical trends are taking place in Nevada. A new law doesn’t exactly break up the Clark County School District (if I read the text correctly) but creates five school “precincts” within the boundaries of the district by 2018.

A committee is being formed to come up with a plan that must be approved by state legislators in 2017.

It is clear that the intent of the law is to reduce the 300,000+ student enrollment district to a manageable and more efficient size. But with the number of players involved and the amount of time before a decision is made, there is a danger that the process could actually add a layer of bureaucracy.

School districts have been getting bigger for decades. Sixty years ago there were five times as many districts serving far fewer students.

I’m pessimistic that breaking up large urban districts will catch fire across the country, but if it were to happen it could potentially be the biggest structural change the American public education system has ever introduced.

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Declassified: Indiana and Kentucky Internal Documents

Written By: Mike Antonucci - Aug• 10•15

Click here to read.

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Shortage-Term Memory

Written By: Mike Antonucci - Aug• 10•15

It’s August – a slow time for education news, so it is not unusual for media outlets to reach into the filing cabinet for those “evergreen” stories. Today’s topic is apparently teacher shortages.

I’m not going to repeat my litany of problems with teacher shortage stories. I’m not even going to insist that there is no teacher shortage. I just want to remind you of what happened to teacher hiring over the past 10 years. These numbers are courtesy of the National Education Association:

2003-04: 3,044,012 full-time equivalent K-12 public school classroom teachers

2007-08: 3,184,994

2013-14: 3,121,926

We may have a shortage of science teachers, but this isn’t rocket science. In the years leading up to the recession, reports of teacher shortages were constantly in the news. In response, America added 140,000 teachers to the workforce. The recession hit, and 63,000 of those teachers disappeared – either through direct layoffs, or attrition when veteran teachers retired.

How can there be a teacher shortage when 63,000 recently working teachers are still out there?

Well, it’s not impossible. Picture yourself as an aspiring teacher who reads about shortages in the New York Times. You go to considerable time and expense to get/renew your credential, travel extensively to interviews, and are finally hired by a school district. You perform well, but one or two years later, you are laid off because you are least senior.

When the next “shortage” arises, are you going to drop everything and re-enter that system? If there is a teacher shortage, it is self-fulfilling.

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Sunlight Through My Windows Pain

Written By: Mike Antonucci - Aug• 07•15

It will be a busy Friday at the EIA Operations Center as I bid a not-so-fond farewell to my twitchy Windows system and install a new Chromebox.

I became a Windows user shortly after the ordeal of writing my Masters thesis using Bank Street Writer on a Commodore 64 and a daisy wheel printer (Google it, kids.) Now I toss it on the trash heap of abandoned PC stuff like AltaVista, floppy disks, Netscape Navigator, the CueCat and Rocket Ranger.

We’ll be up and running normally on Monday. Enjoy your weekend.

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Shadow Boxing

Written By: Mike Antonucci - Aug• 06•15

When you walk into an open manhole the way New Jersey Gov. Chris Christie did last Sunday, you deserve what you get.

Christie would sometimes refer to punching bullies in the face when talking about his opponents, so CNN’s Jake Tapper asked him, “At the national level, who deserves a punch in the face?” Christie named “the national teachers union who’s already endorsed Hillary Clinton 16, 17 months before the election.” That is, AFT.

He was roundly lambasted for the statement. When talking about your political adversaries, you don’t mention punching, stabbing, shooting, Hitler, communism, terrorists or high explosives. It’s not only stupid, but counterproductive.

AFT president Randi Weingarten released a statement condemning Christie. “That he would threaten to punch teachers in the face—mostly women seeking to help children meet their potential and achieve their dreams—promotes a culture of violence and underscores why he lacks the temperament and emotional skills to be president, or serve in any leadership capacity,” she said. The union is promoting a petition demanding that Christie apologize, claiming he is “creating a culture of violence and intimidation.”

AFT knows how to crank up the Outrage Machine when it is politically advantageous, but the rest of us should take a short trip back to July 2014, when United Federation of Teachers president Michael Mulgrew gave an agitated speech in front of the delegates to the AFT Convention. Thanks to Norm Scott of EdNotesOnline.com, we got to see firsthand what would have been otherwise ignored. Here is the relevant 90-second snippet.

Mulgrew says of Common Core opponents, “I’m going to punch you in the face and push you in the dirt.” He also calls them “sick people.” Many AFT activists who are opposed to Common Core were offended by Mulgrew’s statement, but you will notice the crowd of delegates in the video cheering lustily. Many of these same folks probably signed the Christie petition.

No matter which side you’re on, if you want to be known for “tough talk” and decide to use violent metaphors, there’s a price to pay. And if you’re wearing boxing gloves, you shouldn’t complain about getting punched in the face.

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All the World’s a Stage

Written By: Mike Antonucci - Aug• 05•15

And all the men and women merely players, but how are you to play your part if you don’t have a script?

With the beginning of the school year fast approaching, brand-new teachers will suddenly find themselves in many unfamiliar situations – not only with students, administrators and parents, but with union reps. And thanks to the NEA Center for Organizing’s Back to School Organizing Guide, these reps have a “rap.”

Memorizing the kids’ names will be one thing, but memorizing your lines for the union rep will really help you start your education career on the right foot. Here’s the complete one-act play, with notes from the director:

Engaging a potential member in a conversation about a key issue they care about, like time to plan, testing, losing positions to privatization, etc is often an excellent path to membership and engagement. Sometimes it’s helpful to have a conversation guide when approaching a potential member about your organizing campaign. Here is a sample “rap”:

(Introduction)

Hi, I’m _____(introduce yourself) your colleague and I’m very involved with ____(Association).

(Identify issue/inspiration – open ended questions)

How is the school year going so far? What are you enjoying? What are your challenges? Why did you get involved with education? Are things getting better or worse?

(Agitation – help member/potential member realize that things can only improve by coming together)

(Based on response to open-ended questions) Who makes those decisions? Do you think they know what it’s like to be in the classroom/at school?

For Example – If issue was too much testing: You say there’s been less and less time to adequately do lesson planning and too much time spent on test prep and delivery. What are the other things that you have to do now? How does that affect your students’ education? Who decided that it’s more important to take 4 tests this year?

If issue was legislator/school admin: When’s the last time they were in the classroom?

(The Association Solution)

That’s exactly what educators/ESP all across our local, state and the country are feeling! No, it’s not fair! Do you think you have a better chance of addressing x issue by yourself or by standing together with the thousands of other educators in your school/district/state? That’s right, by standing together. Obviously, we have strength in numbers. We know from experience that when we act collectively through our Association we can achieve things like x issue (more planning time, reduced testing etc). Right now educators, parents and our communities across the state are coming together to make sure that every student thrives and has access to a great public education.

(Inoculation)

You just told me that you think we have a better chance to address these issues by standing together. How do you think things got this way? Who benefits from it? That’s why we have to come together and across our district/state to say enough is enough – but there are other well-funded special interest groups and for-profit companies that have been trying to take over public education. That’s why we have a strong organization: by coming together, we can take on these special interest groups and achieve x issue so that every student can thrive/so that we can make every public school a great place to learn and work.

(Commitment – The Ask)

So you just told me that x is the biggest thing you’d like to change, and that you think we can do it collectively. Do you support standing together with educators across our state by joining x Education Association? Here’s the membership form.

(Follow-up – Next Steps)

What’s next for this new member? Can you invite them to a beginning of the year social? A 10 minute meeting? A community forum that is coming up? Ask them to engage right away. And set up another time to talk in the very near future to find out more and build this relationship.

The most important thing is not to go off book. You will force the union rep to ad lib and that might ruin the scene. Welcome to public education!

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