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Forum Post: teacher-bashing at the Democratic convention By Theresa Moran

Posted 11 years ago on Sept. 10, 2012, 6:18 p.m. EST by flip (7101)
This content is user submitted and not an official statement

The teacher-bashing at the Democratic convention started Monday with a pre-release screening of the anti-union drama “Won’t Back Down,” sponsored by Democrats for Education Reform.

DFER is a political action committee made up of hedge fund managers seeking investment opportunities in education. The group supports privatization, vouchers, merit pay, teacher evaluations based on student test scores, and doing away with teacher tenure. It flaunts its hostility toward teacher unions.

The film, starring Maggie Gyllenhall and Viola Davis, shows a mother and a teacher battling an evil teachers union to convert their struggling public school into a charter through a “parent trigger” law.

While at first blush it sounds like a feel-good tale of community empowerment, the film has drawn sharp criticism from teacher advocates for its unfavorable portrayal of urban teachers and their unions.

The film shows “bad teachers” locking students in closets, making personal phone calls during class, forbidding bathroom breaks, and refusing to help students after school, citing fictitious “union rules” that prohibit them from doing so. The union, in turn, is cast as these teachers’ self-interested protector, with one union official attributing a made-up quote to teachers union leader Albert Shanker, saying she’ll start caring about children when they start paying dues.

“I don’t recognize the teachers portrayed in the movie, and I don’t recognize that union,” said Randi Weingarten, president of the American Federation of Teachers in a press release last week.

The average viewer would never guess that teachers across the country work an average of 53 hours per week, planning lessons, talking to parents, grading papers, and giving struggling students on-on-one help in addition to their daily classroom duties. In Chicago, the average number of hours worked is 58, according to a University of Illinois study.

They’d never guess that teacher unions like the CTU would be willing to walk out not only for better working conditions, but also in pursuit of a well-rounded, well-resourced education for their students.

Instead, viewers see lazy teachers who need to be removed and an obstructionist union standing in the way of making improvements for the kids.

Despite the mismatch with reality, the Democratic National Committee showed the film, which also played to a standing ovation at the Republican National Convention last week. The White House declined to weigh in on the decision to screen it. Reports say DNC Executive Director Patrick Gaspard, who spent nine years at SEIU 1199, made the call to show the film.

The DNC not only signed off on the screening, but some of the party’s best and brightest joined in on a panel to promote the “parent trigger” afterward. Sacramento Mayor Kevin Johnson, wunderkind Newark Mayor Cory Booker, and Antonio Villaraigosa, Los Angeles mayor and convention chair, joined corporate-education champion Michelle Rhee and Ben Austin of the California-based astroturf group Parent Revolution for the discussion.

In fact, Democrats aligned with the corporate education agenda were instrumental in the US Conference of Mayors’ endorsement of parent trigger as part of their education platform. Villaraigosa voiced his support for the measure at a June press conference after the resolution was passed, saying, “parent trigger is one of a number of tools we need to achieve the highest standards in our urban schools.”

The real story of parent trigger, however, is not exactly Hollywood material.

Parent trigger laws, in place in seven states, allow for schools to be gutted of their staff, turned over to private charter operators, or shut down completely, by a simple majority vote of parents.

Parent Revolution, which gets funding from foundations backed by Walmart billionaires, is behind the only two attempts thus far to pull the trigger.

At McKinley Elementary in Compton, outside Los Angeles, the group had already chosen a company to operate the hypothetical new charter school when Parent Revolution staffers began canvassing parents with petitions for “school improvements.”

Parents alleged intimidation and the Compton school board ultimately rejected the petition due to the lack of a legally required review process in choosing the charter operator.

When parents at Desert Trails Elementary in Adelanto, California, began questioning Parent Revolution’s proposed restructuring plans, a judge ruled that they couldn’t take back their signatures from the trigger petition. So much for democracy.

In March, a parent trigger bill was introduced in Florida, backed by Parent Revolution and Jeb Bush’s Foundation for Florida’s Future.

Heavy lobbying by the very parents the legislation’s supporters said it would empower defeated the bill.

The 330,000-member Florida Parent Teacher Association led a coalition of parent groups against the bill, including Parents Across America and Fund Education Now. They alleged that the legislation, called “parent tricker” by opponents, had nothing to do with empowering parents and everything to do with privatizing public schools.

Bashing Unions at Home

Watching these Democrats whip the anti-teacher wagon is no surprise to those who’ve dealt with them back home.

Villaraigosa, a former union organizer with the United Teachers of Los Angeles, has pulled away from his labor roots to become one of the corporate education agenda’s most vocal proponents. In a 2010 Huffington Post editorial, he called teacher unions an “unwavering roadblock to reform.” The L.A. mayor has also been a huge backer of school privatization, particularly through the city’s School Choice program that has closed scores of schools and handed them to private entities. (Teachers, meanwhile, fought alongside parent and student groups to keep schools in public hands and launch reform initiatives that met student needs.)

Villaraigosa was an active supporter of the corporate reform groups’ successful lawsuit that tied L.A. teacher evaluations to student test scores, going so far as to personally file an amicus brief advocating the change. Teachers say basing everything on test scores kills student inquiry and reduces learning to rote memorization and test practice.

Booker, a rising star in the Democratic Party and 2016 presidential hopeful, sits on Democrats for Education Reform’s advisory board. He has called teacher tenure “poisonous” and not only supported Republican New Jersey Governor Chris Christie’s sweeping attack on tenure, but also said it didn’t go far enough. The new law ties the granting of tenure to student standardized test scores, but still allows for seniority to be used in the case of layoffs.

Booker, who’s been a strong proponent of charters in Newark, has gotten some flak for his ties to hedge fund managers and venture capitalists. In his first mayoral race, Mitt Romney’s Bain Capital was among his biggest funders.

Even Democratic Massachusetts Governor Deval Patrick, who’s been openly skeptical about charter schools, supported an initiative that gutted seniority rights for teachers in the state. He even went so far as to say that he’d intended to tackle the issue himself.

Taking a Stand

And of course there’s Rahm Emanuel in Chicago, who has continued a decades-long push by Democrats in the city to starve schools in Black and brown neighborhoods of resources, implement test-score evaluations, close schools and fire staff, and open charters. Lately, he’s been pushing a longer school day and year, ignoring the many hours teachers put in after school and at home, and acting like more time—not resources—will fix what ails public schools.



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[-] 8 points by beautifulworld (23789) 11 years ago

If, as a society, we continue this attack against teachers we will be very sorry down the road.

[-] 3 points by DKAtoday (33802) from Coon Rapids, MN 11 years ago

Back to the blissful carefree days of living in caves and such?

[-] 2 points by flip (7101) 11 years ago

we are going down that road - how fast is the only question it seems - obama will walk us there a bit more slowly

[-] 4 points by beautifulworld (23789) 11 years ago

Exactly right. And, the teachers in Chicago are being bashed in MSM for striking. Sad. MSM, corporations, and their bought and paid for government has done a great job at degrading the worker in this country.

Labor needs to take a new stand outside of unions, somehow. I don't know how but something needs to be done to begin to increase workers' rights again as they've been diminished to nearly beyond repair.

[-] 3 points by flip (7101) 11 years ago

right - we will only get there by big time pressure from the bottom. maybe we need 4 yrs of romney and .ryan so that things will get bad enough to wake up the population. i am afraid obama will put them to sleep for another 4 yrs. then we will have the same choice in 2016 as we do now - mr cut government spending (except the military of course) or mr cut more - some choice!

[-] 1 points by beautifulworld (23789) 11 years ago

It's very disheartening. Most Americans have a blind nationalism that causes them to avoid looking at the truths. They somehow feel it is unpatriotic to criticize the state of affairs in their own country.

Does not a worker trade his labor for his work? Does he not have some rights in setting the wage and benefits? I think workers all over this country should strike. Turn down the low paid jobs! Suffer for a bit! Tell them you need more money! It would hurt short term but the capitalists would get the message. Corporate profits are at an all time high.

[-] 3 points by flip (7101) 11 years ago

correct again - watch chris hedges on democracynow.org today - he is on frightening and accurate - a bad combination

[-] -2 points by CarlAndrews (-113) 11 years ago

We must teach young Americans to think for themselves so they do not become Truthers or Illuminati overlords. The next Renneye is already in the making.

[-] 6 points by shadz66 (19985) 11 years ago

SOLIDARITY @ Chicago Teachers !!!

"It’s impossible to exaggerate the national importance of the teachers’ struggle in Chicago. If the Chicago teachers’ union — 26,000 members strong — goes on strike, many critical yet ignored political issues will go into the national spotlight, exposing nastiness that many politicians and labor leaders would like ignored until after the presidential elections.

"Such a strike would also have the potential to rejuvenate U.S. labor unions by showing them a way out of the never ending wage and benefit concessions demanded by private and public employers. In fact, the Chicago teachers have the potential to become the most important labor struggle in decades, based on the timing, political context, and national relevance of their fight.", from :

fiat lux ...

[-] 2 points by gsw (3410) from Woodbridge Township, NJ 11 years ago

be careful that the unions don't sell the teachers of Chicago short.

don't settle-unless you get what you need, and it will be nasty, long days, and get the public parents on your side now.

working in inner city is no piece of cake.

I'm sure their starting pay is $30,000. range, and they probably need a Masters Degree, to get started. Actually, the probably need post Masters, pro cert program. And they have to continue with more education, un-reimbursed supplies and off the clock hours worked.

If the teacher's unions fall, what unions can succeed?

[-] 1 points by shadz66 (19985) 11 years ago

There are far reaching implications and consequences of the Chicago Struggle for all American workers. Rest assured that The 0.01% Parasites are watching closely & manipulating where they can & the Closest eYe must be kept on The Union Leadership by the membership.

multum in parvo ...

[+] -4 points by brudlo (-454) 11 years ago

solidarity with people that make $74,000 + with adding in their benefits? solidarity with people that , who want a 30% raise ( they refused 16%) that are failures in their jobs. the graduation rate in the chicago schools is at about 50%. they do not want to be evaluated, after all that would show that they are doing a terrible job. what company would reward awful job performance with a 30% raise? they should be fired.

[+] -6 points by brudlo (-454) 11 years ago

the chicago teachers are paid $72,000+ in salary PLUS benefits. they want a 30% salary increase. they were offered 16% but turned it down. the chicago schools have a graduation rate of slightly higher than 50%. they are overpaid failures, like obama.

[-] 1 points by gsw (3410) from Woodbridge Township, NJ 11 years ago

they need to aim high, or they will get no raise, but only pay cuts.

[-] 1 points by gsw (3410) from Woodbridge Township, NJ 11 years ago

hell yes they need to aim high.

Tacoma school teachers struck for 8 days a year ago just to stay even, not take pay decrease, hopefully, unless economy gets worse, (and then they could cut a bit from salary) and keep class sizes the same.

It really sucked because the governor was called in to get the thing healed, and all the striking was to pretty much maintain status quo.

The new three-year labor deal keeps previous class-size limits intact -- teachers had sought to tighten them -- but holds the line against salary cuts and contains a compromise on the thorny issues of evaluations, seniority and staffing decisions. http://www.reuters.com/article/2011/09/23/us-teachers-strike-tacoma-idUSTRE78M08Q20110923

[-] -3 points by brudlo (-454) 11 years ago

half the kids in the chicago schools dont graduate. what exactly are the highly paid teachers doing to earn their salaries? i understand that they're against teacher evaluations. they're afraid of them, they're doing a terrible job and want more money , for what? more crappy results?

[-] 2 points by gsw (3410) from Woodbridge Township, NJ 11 years ago

The rates of graduation are not good, in these schools.

They may not be able to graduate just for seat time, as in my days in school, but they may need to also pass state tests, and there should be state tests.

But when you make schools competitive, and limit options in vocational tech and applied skills, and make all the students need to pass algebra, in order to graduate, some will choose to not learn math or pass tests.

it is not that the kids are stupid, that they can't learn, but that our system has been driven towards high stakes, getting to college results.

More kids would do better if they had vocational skills, and real-life apprenticeship programs.

I have 3 kids. Of these 1 did not graduate HS.

She did not see the value. She could pass the GED tests, but she chose to leave the country after passing two of four tests.

What would the school system, as it is structured, be able to do to keep her in school and graduate. I could not keep her in school.

Education was valued here in the home, and by her grandparents, but she was not interested in HS or college, even if there were financial incentives, and sadly, even if college were paid for.

The teachers should have evaluations. The school systems are changing, but the traditional ways of allowing seniority to be the only factor, is going away, and this change is hard, and the union will go ahead and help usher it in, in my opinion. (They are just going through a song and dance to get to that point, where they will be compelled to realize that they will need to accept the change, because that is the way the country is headed) There will be new, non-seniority based systems for reward, teachers will have to be competitive, and show their value, and be held to account, same as the students.

The teachers don't want failing teachers or failing students. But going to new systems, where seniority isn't always rewarded, is a really hard pill to swallow, because there has been a history in many industries where last hired first fired.

Now, for my child who chose to not graduate, even though she had all the advantages, good school system, good home, two parents, ability.

She has the choice, and has to deal with the consequences of not graduating.

Now for kids who do not have these supports, they can get sidetracked by other plans, or issues.

So right now, with my kids of HS graduation age, they are 50 percent not graduating.

I do not think the teachers were to blame for her not finishing HS. Well, they were probably tough on her, in her opinion. But they needed to run a classroom. They enforced rules, like no cell phones, and show up on time.

For fairness of salary, given education levels, and time on job, and cost of living in the area, $70,000 is what it takes to raise a family. It is nice teachers can make a living wage.

All people should have universal health care, All employed people should have a livable wage, and ready access to education, and means to increase skills, so they can work to the level of their ability.

The only way to make a particular kid graduate, would be to drag them to the class and sit with them, 24 hours a day.

Maybe that is what we should do. Send the parent to school with the kid, in certain circumstances.

Some kids may have undiagnosed mental issues as well, it is a big unrecognized problem in the general population. Probably, if there were more elective choices, and students could more customize their classes, go to running start, etc, there could be more better outcomes for some students.

If particular teachers ought to go, the principal of the school ought to do their job and see that this is done.

We do need to have better results in schools, but there are many factors that go into success in schools, and a lot of the problems schools deal with is that the kids come from situations of low skills and poverty.

I think we ought to focus as a country on the places with low performing schools and students, and treat the whole system, with health, food, adequate housing, and extra individualized to the child and family supports, mentors, after-hours supervision, summer school, even get the kid out of the inner-city take them to camp for a couple weeks in summer, or to college for summer courses. If we want to fix education, just sending the kids to school 6.5 hours a day, 180 days a year, (for those who show up every day....lots of kids have high absenteism).

I did see a model school I think in NYC, where the kids go to school, and it is like a boarding school, Sunday through Sat. Morning, I think it was, they live on campus and have a very structured environment. That school seemed to have success, but even so, some kids did not stick with it, but went back to their home school.

[-] -1 points by brudlo (-454) 11 years ago

what you're talking about is statism. no thanks.

[-] 0 points by Shule (2638) 11 years ago

Come now, whatever your political leaning, one cannot call Mr. President Obama a failure. Afterall, he has a job, I'm sure you'll never get.

[-] 1 points by friendlyopposition (574) 11 years ago

That makes him a success at becoming a President. Doesn't change the fact that he is a failure at being a President.

[-] 1 points by MattLHolck (16833) from San Diego, CA 11 years ago

I hope I don't have to be president

[-] -2 points by brudlo (-454) 11 years ago

carter was a president, and he was a failure too.any comment about the chicago teachers , their salaries, their demands? the 50% graduation rate?

[-] 2 points by Shule (2638) 11 years ago

$70,000/yr in Chicago is not really a lot of money. You're not going to be attracting top talent at that rate. In most other countries, take Germany for example, teachers are your highest paid professionals.

As to the fifty percent graduation rate, chances are the problem exists not so much with the teachers, but more so with the parents of those kids. Considering what the teachers have to contend with, I think what they are asking for is reasonable.

[-] -2 points by brudlo (-454) 11 years ago

the teachers know what the salaries are going in. no forced them to be teachers . in chicago. 30% raise is reasonable? the taxpayers , that pay the salaries of the teachers, on average dont make anywhere what the teachers do.

[-] 1 points by Shule (2638) 11 years ago

Most teachers become teachers because they are dedicated socially responsible people and are willing to forsake higher salaries. After awhile they realize they can't afford to keep on teaching at the salaries they are getting, and go on to significantly higher paying jobs. Yes 30% is reasonable to keep them teaching.

[-] -2 points by brudlo (-454) 11 years ago

30% increase in salary for a 50% graduation rate? . with those results anyone in private industry would be fired.

[-] 2 points by Shule (2638) 11 years ago

But just think what would happen if education was in the hands of private industry. They'd be graduating incompetent kids just to get the money....

The issues the teachers are striking for are not just about money, but are really about getting a better education system in place, and not changing the education system for the worse.


[-] -3 points by CarlAndrews (-113) 11 years ago

I agree that the problems have more to do with parents than teachers. I was a teacher for a while and this was certainly the case. The students who performed well were almost always the ones with parents that cared about their studies.

[-] 1 points by yobstreet (-575) 11 years ago

I support the parent triggers - trigger equality now!

[-] 0 points by SteveKJR1 (8) 11 years ago

Well, if our schools were in such great shape with such great union teachers why are the students of this country always in the "back of the class"?

I mean really, so much money has been pumped into public schools that you can take every studnt out of school and pay a private school $11,000 a year and still have money left over.

[-] 1 points by gsw (3410) from Woodbridge Township, NJ 11 years ago

that is a myth.

for students who are not in poverty, they score just as high as top countries on the international tests.

It is just our country has such a high rate of poverty, poor health care, and would you be thriving if you lived in a ghetto?


International Test Scores, Irrelevant Policies Misleading rhetoric overlooks poverty's impact


[-] 1 points by SteveKJR1 (8) 11 years ago

I don't disagree with you but let me ask -

When our student scores are compared to the rest of the world student scores are all class levels of society included in those scores with regard to the rest of the world, or just those not in poverty?

[-] 1 points by gsw (3410) from Woodbridge Township, NJ 11 years ago

Below, in next comment,answer this more fully, with information from the PISA (Program for International Student Assessment) link, which has a lot of good data, but yes, the samples are representative.

[-] 1 points by gsw (3410) from Woodbridge Township, NJ 11 years ago

From what I understand, all who are in school, no mater socioeconomic levels, were tested.

PISA is the largest international education study in the world. More than 60 countries participate, and together these countries represent nearly 90 percent of the world economy. Knowing how U.S. students perform on PISA provides us valuable information on how our education system compares with the education systems of the other countries with whom we collaborate and compete in the world economy.

What does PISA test? PISA assesses 15-year-old students' performance in mathematics, reading, science and, in 2012, problem solving and financial literacy. In 2012, PISA will assess students using paper-based and computer-based assessments. PISA is unique because it focuses on how well students can apply their knowledge and skills in these areas and it uses problems set in real-life contexts. PISA is administered every 3 years, with the next assessment in the fall of 2012.

What is PISA for? PISA results have been used by researchers and policymakers in the United States and around the world to chart national progress against international standards and to identify strengths and weaknesses in countries' education systems. Participating schools can also use the results to benchmark their performance against schools across the world. Students who participate in PISA are performing a national service, representing their country in an important education assessment. They can read about the results in the newspaper and know that they have contributed to an important source of information about education in their country and have influenced the national discussion.

Who sponsors PISA? PISA is a program of the Organization for Economic Cooperation and Development (OECD), an intergovernmental organization of industrialized countries. In the United States, PISA is conducted by the National Center for Education Statistics (NCES) in the U.S. Department of Education and its contractor, Westat.

Who is selected to participate? In PISA, each country is represented by a small sample of schools and students selected to reflect its population and educational contexts and to provide valid estimates of student achievement. In the United States, 240 schools have been randomly sampled to take part in PISA 2012. In each school, 50 students will be randomly selected to participate. The links below provide more information on why participation in PISA is important and what is involved in participating in PISA.



[-] 1 points by DKAtoday (33802) from Coon Rapids, MN 11 years ago

You might take an overall look at the health of society - as it is all connected.

[-] 1 points by gsw (3410) from Woodbridge Township, NJ 11 years ago

absolutely health is tied in to education success. when countries effectively address issues of health, and support for families, through leave, and other healthy family programs, the students and families do better, and the students do better.

[-] 0 points by DKAtoday (33802) from Coon Rapids, MN 11 years ago

True - but I was thinking more in the terms of the health of society overall. Homelessness joblessness struggling to keep a roof over your head. Working a full time job but needing food stamps medical aid Housing aid aid to pay the utilities because you do not have a living wage. Kids are not blind to these things and what they see ahead of them scares the hell out of them then they see that nothing is being done to make things better and they despair then they see the government bail out criminals and reward them for crashing the economy and the kids say why the fuck even bother.

[-] 2 points by gsw (3410) from Woodbridge Township, NJ 11 years ago

I agree with this too.

Kids feel the pressures of their parents, who are told whether they are "economic failures".

There is a lot of couch surfing kids, for many reasons.

Lots of kids don't have dental care.

Even nutritional food and sleep are very important, but stability and a caring home environment.

And the young generation can be discouraged when they see a bad economy, their parents work hard and play by the rules, and get struck down by bad misfortune.

And when they are older, they may see it all a pointless rat race for money.

I think we ought to take much better care of children and families here. Northern European countries can provide positive models.

It is to our country's detriment when they are maligned as "socialist" in a negative way.

They do not have so much economic disparity in Finland. People don't really want to have "more" than the average, and that is a cultural value of the people, from what I have read.

[-] 0 points by DKAtoday (33802) from Coon Rapids, MN 11 years ago

I agree. It is all related/connected. The puzzle is complete for those willing to look.

[-] -1 points by SteveKJR1 (8) 11 years ago

And why do you think that is? Do you think it may because of the upbringing of our youth in todays society - or is it because of how the government is brainwashing our children into believing that they will be taken care of even if they don't want to help themselves?

Private schools don't do that - at least not that I am aware of. When I went to a catholic school when I was growing up everyone was disciplined and listened - sort of like belonging to the 3rd reich. - but it worked

I never really did any research to see just how many kids are successful who go to a private/catholic school compared to a public school but I am willing to bet the success rate is around 95% compared to a 45% success rate in public schools. What do you think?

[-] 1 points by gsw (3410) from Woodbridge Township, NJ 11 years ago

here's some data for you


there is really no difference in scores for private schools. It is a bunch of corporate, free market, capitalistic propoganda that private schools are better.


[-] 1 points by DKAtoday (33802) from Coon Rapids, MN 11 years ago

When did you grow up? Was everyone's parents working ? Were they making a good living and spending time together as a family? Was perhaps many Moms at home during the day to take care of the kids? Did people have savings?

Or was it like today every one working as much as they can even taking on part time work if they can find it to keep a roof over their head.

When you were growing up - were there 8,000,000 homeless Americans?

Take a look at reality - this is not the same society we grew up in.

[-] 1 points by SteveKJR1 (8) 11 years ago

Look, we can go back and forth on what to do, what not to do, on, and on and on.

So I am going to propose this question to you?

If you had any amount of money at hand you needed to fix the problem how would you fix it?

[-] 0 points by DKAtoday (33802) from Coon Rapids, MN 11 years ago

It is not about having money at hand it is about proper actions.

But to address the immediate concerns? Iwould put people to work upgrading our infrastructure - not just roads and bridges. The energy/power grid. Get it updated. Thorium power plants. Hydrogen fuel cells. Liquid metal batteries for power storage and delivery. Solar panels for every structure. Use of Geo-thermal technology to help heat and cool homes and business. These would be starters on the way to a healthy society.

[-] 1 points by SteveKJR1 (8) 11 years ago

Ok that would get people to work - but what about those who don't want to work - as you seem to indicate this is where the problem is - what do you do with them?

[-] 0 points by DKAtoday (33802) from Coon Rapids, MN 11 years ago

I did not say there was a problem with people who did not want to work - You did - Just Now. And see you are going beyond having money in hand. Like I said it is not all about having money in hand.

People are back to work making a living ( LIVING ) wage. Working sane hours of no more then 40 per week. People are now spending time with their family again. They are developing savings. They are taking an active interest in their community because now they are living there and not just sleeping between shifts at work. The community is getting cleaned up. Kids see this happening and say OK maybe school isn't all BS and they see a future for themselves ahead.

Now you say people who don't want to work? Find out why that is. Work with them - do they need therapy? do they need education? do they need medication? do they need training? What do they need? Are they disabled? these are the questions to ask and answer. That takes people who are concerned educated and willing to work and find out and address issues.