Wednesday, May 16, 2012

"For the children" has lost its luster

In response to Mr. Robert Gowan's open letter advocating for Mayor Karl Dean's budget at On Public Education.

"I just ran the calculation on how much 53 cents will cost me. The property tax increase will cost half of what I spent on iTunes last month. The increase is about one-third of what I pay every month for cellphone service."

All this proves is that YOU have expendable income, Mr. Gowan. Not all the property owners and renters (both families and businesses) in Nashville are able to squeeze out more especially for a school system that is under-performing and under-serving a core student group that desperately needs a good education to break free of generational issues.  We're tired of tightening OUR belts, working harder to earn a bit more and waiting for raises that if they come are small. For all our sacrifices which were intended to help our own families we are rewarded by being told we can afford to sacrifice more.

The fact is that the 'it's for the children' argument has lost its luster with taxpayers. If Mayor Dean really wanted to, he could immediately fully fund the education (and safety) portion of his budget and let the rest suffer the consequences of a bad economy and bad financial management. But he won't. And don't be fooled. Once the Council passes that budget and that money goes on to MNPS, they are free to spend it as they wish--there are no guarantees MNPS will spend it as the Council or Mayor Dean intended. Oh, teachers will probably get their raise--union's must be placated for their political support--but all the rest...

Monday, May 30, 2011

The paper of record...

I guess the story was too fast breaking to allow a proofreader a quick gander.

Tuesday, March 08, 2011

Open Letter: HB130: Collective Bargaining

Speaker Harwell,

I’ve been forwarded a purported email from you to a constituent. If this portion is accurate:
We need to protect education, employers and jobs as best we can during these very tough economic times, and I am confident that we will reach a meaningful compromise that is good for our state and education.
"...compromise." I'm quite disappointed that you've apparently chosen to side with continued union control over our schools in an effort to come to a non-confrontational solution. This is an injustice to the students and taxpayers you've been elected to serve. Now is not the time to give ground. HB130 must be passed as is for maximum benefit to the students and for the taxpayers of this state.

I've spent some time on a school board. Nearly had a union rep come across the table at me because I dared to try and hold that 'professional organization' accountable for the status of the students. I've been in the meetings where we learned how tied our hands were because of the union employment contract. I've been in the union halls and seen how confident they are in their power over the system. You, and every legislator on the hill has experienced their muscle flexing as you dare to question their right to control the education system in this state. THAT should give everyone of you adequate reason to vote for this legislation. Voters sent you to the House, in part, to make this very change. You cannot compromise on that charge by them now. 

I have experienced the frustration of trying to improve a school only to have the union declare that an unsubstantiated number of their membership voted against the efforts. School board members who win are more often than not, greatly funded by unions and their volunteers. We even further accommodate them by holding these elections during the summer months when those teacher/staff volunteers are most available. The deck is so stacked in their favor that it's nearly impossible to overcome. One real way to level things is to remove from the playing field the requirement of collective bargaining. We're completely at the mercy of unions regarding their authority to be the bargaining agent. HB130 is our best hope at cleaning house and bringing freedom to these classrooms for both students and teachers. 

Beyond my concerned about the freedom of school districts to operate out from under the control of these unions I point out that we are in exceptional economic times and while the quote seems to indicate a  concern about jobs...taxpayers have been hit hard also. We're out of work. We're doing with less. We cannot afford to employ anyone who isn't pulling their fair share. Collective bargaining and unions do their job all too well and protect deadwood. Taxpayers can hardly pay for the necessities, let alone deadwood. It's an abuse of children to allow that deadwood to remain in classrooms--or anywhere in the system, frankly. The largest budget item in any school system budget is manpower and their benefits. Collective bargaining makes it nearly impossible to make changes to any portion of those budget items.

Finally, this is a right to work state. That should mean the right to hire and fire. If the firing is unjust, we have a court system to work it out. We don't need to tie the hands of good administrators and principals out of fear of being entangled with the union in a show hearing that unnecessarily consumes resources at a voracious rate. Are we hiring good administrators? Then free them up to administrate their schools and systems and dump collective bargaining.

I strongly urge you, as one who has been inside the system, to stand firm and pass HB130 without amendment. This bill is good for the children in Tennessee. It's good for the taxpayers. It's even good for teachers who are excellent at what they do. 

Most sincerely,

Kay Brooks

P.S. To the House Education Committee Republicans: Don't go wobbly. Stand firm. This bill needs every one of your votes. This IS an important issue. Give the full House the opportunity to vote on it themselves and vote this out of committee and on to the House membership for their action. 

Other posts on this topic:
Teacher Tenure
We Dismissed a Teacher
Thanks for the memories--NOT

Monday, February 21, 2011

Twofer: Homeschooler Bayne wins Daytona 500

This is gonna just irritate the fire out of the educrats and the folks who want so badly to tear down the Nashville race track. I had no idea when we watched the amazing end of that race that the Brooks' home would be celebrating a twofer.

Trevor Bayne, winner of the Daytona 500 yesterday trained at the Nashville Speedway. He was also registered with a church-related school here in Tennessee for his junior and senior year. Racing not being one of the sports TSSAA can keep homeschoolers out of, he was free to hone his skills. Homeschooling, being an efficient education delivery method, allowed him the time.

Congrats Trevor!

Sunday, February 20, 2011

Teacher tenure

Considering the upcoming legislation regarding teacher tenure it seems good to remind folks of two older posts regarding my experience as a school board member in the summer of 2006 with this issue.

The first post "We Dismissed a Teacher" provides some details on what we all had to endure trying to dismiss a tenured teacher.

It was an unpleasant task for everyone. It involved the lives of children, parents, co-workers, attorneys, union representatives, administrators, and eventually 7 members of the BOE and their staff. We heard nearly 30 39 hours of testimony that went long into the nights and reviewed a two inch stack of exhibits dating from October of 2002 involving two different principals in two different schools and several other education professionals that had interacted with this teacher.
The teacher was given extreme latitude in presenting their testimony. Often their comments went far afield and frequently included unsubstantiated charges and conclusions about the conduct of others and those were rarely challenged. I'm convinced that they had every opportunity to have their full say in their defense.

The second "Another Teacher Dismissal Hearing" provides more thoughts on the process, notes that my district seemed to have more than its share of these.
I suspect we need to do many more of these and I'm not sure any board can endure that many. It has been suggested that the law be amended to allow a separate board/committee to do this absolutely necessary work. Personally, I think the board needs to endure these. It's only when they get tired enough of this nonsense that they will find the backbone to hold the MNEA accountable for the quality of their advocacy of these members during negotiation times. It's that backbone that will demand that the director hire excellent teachers on the forefront.
Let me frame that comment by saying that during that time the BOE wholesale approved dozens of teachers for tenure. No information about their abilities or qualifications was offered. We were offered a list of names. They were approved without comment or question. No personnel records, citizen or parent or principal comments were provided.  Further, at that time, the BOE minutes weren't really public and so there was no opportunity for citizens to know who was on the list and thus have any opportunity to comment.

I firmly believe that we have excellent teachers. Those excellent teachers should be given a good bit of freedom to do what they do and should be paid well for their expertise and performance. I also firmly believe we have too much dead wood and any real professional organization would be encouraging the culling of that dead wood to increase the value of membership in that organization and thus the value of their members. The lives of these children are too valuable to continue to disallow real accountability via tenure.

Saturday, February 19, 2011

Thanks for the memories--NOT

I grew up in northern Wisconsin. I can vividly recall that in my small town, nearly every two years, we got more days off for teacher strikes than snow. Seriously. Lake effect snow had less of an impact on my attendance than teacher negotiations.

The teacher contracts in my hometown were for two years (smart) but expired on 12/31 (not so smart). That meant that every other Christmas season while preparations were being made for the Christmas programs and parties and we pushed to finish work before the Christmas break we'd also be given verbal propaganda that they trusted we'd take home to our parents. Parents where then expected to pressure the school board and city council on behalf of the teachers. It was a union town. Folks knew what they were supposed to do. It took me until the 9th grade before I figured out I was being used by teachers as a propaganda conduit to my parents. That's likely the beginning of my interest in politics.

So I look at all the comments, videos and news reports about what's going on in Madison and remember all too well what I could see outside my 7th grade Science class windows as teachers took turns picketing before the actual strike action was called, the news reports from the local paper and television stations and shake my head.  It's so sad to think how far they haven't come. It's OK to bankrupt a state and to demand that those hard financial cuts that must be made be made by someone else and not actually shared by all. All this from a group of people who want to be considered professionals but refuse to shed the shady shackles of union thug leadership and tactics. What sort of professional organization requires membership and the payment of tribute? Seems awfully 12th century feudal to me. And the children, well, they're children. Pawns caught between. That's just wrong and an abuse of the relationship they have with their authority figure teacher.

And to segue to our own recent legislation stripping the special rights of teachers here in Tennessee to have collective bargaining and increasing the years before tenure kicks in and assessing that tenure based on performance markers--I'm all for those. There's a lot more in those Educational Contracts than people realize. Read it sometime. Who gets a contract like that? They complained about Sarah Palin's bendy straws but these requirements are sacrosanct? Most of us are working without a contract at all, let alone a year long one, let alone tenure. 

And here's a tease of longer comments from a Tennessee teacher:

I’m a teacher in Tennessee. Our legislature is primed to pass similar legislature. Good for them. Time to give some of these incompetent teachers incentive to either do well or get out. Read the rest, scroll down.

Finally, a bit of that new rhetoric the left demanded after the shootings in Arizona.

Thursday, February 10, 2011 gets 'the Byrd'

Local Salemtown blogger Michael Byrd has a got a bone to pick with He's accusing them of stealing his content. There is a difference between aggregating teases to content and outright republishing without permission. Mike's fighting back and I'm thinking it's going to be effective.

I started to type into my browser window. Here's a screen shot of Firefox's suggested auto fill " Steals local content, refuses to rightfully attribute to local authors".

And then once I got to right there on their own front page is the accusation again " Steals Local Content, Refuses To Rightfully Attribute To Local Authors". Here's the screen shot:

The old saw about picking a fight with people who by ink by the barrel has been updated, Pixels are equally effective. Amplify this "Go get your own content".