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October 15, 2008

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Amazing, for two reasons.

First, that the school board debated anything publicly.

Second, that Sonja Henning is not only completely wrong on such a critical issue, but also completely duped by such a nefarious ballot measure.

Simply amazing.

I think Sonja is wrong on this one too. But her instincts to push back against the teacher's union are good. Many folks in Portland see that the teacher's union is an obstacle to needed educational reform.

The teacher's union is an obstacle to needed educational reform? Spare me that tired old right wing analysis, please. Here are a few factors I consider major obstacles to educational reform.
How about Henning's employer, Nike, which pays minimal taxes in this state and then expects us to kiss their butts when they resurface a playground and put the swoosh on it?
How about No Child Left Behind, which has decimated education, lined the pockets of "educational consultants", and turned schools into mind-numbing factories?
How about the "school choice" movement, which says that a good education for every child in every neighborhood is no longer a right in America; that children and parents should be allowed to COMPETE in a marketplace of schools? This has exacerbated segregation all over the country and assumes that in the educational "marketplace" some kids are just going to lose.
How about the war in Iraq? The bailout of Wall Street? The tax breaks for the rich? Don't you think that might have affected educational reform , when that much money is flowing to the richest people and essentials like public education are repeatedly underfunded?
How about the increase in class size? The cutting of classroom aides for students whith special needs?
Blaming the teachers and their unions who are doing the best they can in a very difficult situation is simplistic and really, just cruel.

Hate to break it to you, Anne, but it's not just the right wing. Our man Obama's all about charter schools and "pay for performance" (i.e. merit pay) for teachers.

He draws the line at vouchers; that's the only thing he could find to disagree with on John "school choice is a civil right" McCain's education policy positions. I'll hold my nose and vote for him anyway.

But let's not forget it was a Democrat who put the final nails in the coffin of the New Deal social welfare state, finishing the work his two Republican predecessors couldn't quite manage. It's going to take a lot of push-back to prevent Obama from finalizing the damage to our public schools started by Bush's "ownership society".

By the way, hate to freak folks out, but during our live blog of the debate last night on Willamette Week's site, Beth Slovic brought up the specter of Vicki Phillips as Sec. of Ed. under Barack "doubled the number of charter schools" Obama.

Lest we forget, Phillips was a political appointee of Democratic PA Gov. Ed Rendell.

You are right, Steve. I said it was the right wing who was attacking unions but really unions are under attack from all sides. I know Obama's education policy well and it is in line with Phillips' neo-liberal ideology. I noted that in the debate when Obama and McCain were talking about vouchers v. charters. Phillips is in line with Obama: pro-charter but not for vouchers. This is important to know, Steve, as we have many battles ahead of us. And I have heard the Phillips for Secty of Ed more than once too.

Phillips is certainly poised for Sec. of Ed. I thought it more likely under Clinton than Obama, but actually I see I had that backwards, now that I know more about Obama's anti-union, anti-common school education policy positions.

Obama's views on education are certainly troubling, but in the last debate I think he was just playing smart politics. In the primary he came out pretty firmly against merit pay. He'd said clearly that he's rather reward teachers for doing more and taking on greater responsibilities, a position I wholeheartedly agree with.

The generally campaign has seen Obama move to the center on a number of issues, including education. As Jeremiah Wright said, as a politician who wants to get elected, Obama will say what he has to say. We can view that as either smart politics or wobbling on the issues.

Bottom line is that I'm willing to bet that Obama won't cross the teachers' union on either merit pay OR on non-union charter schools.

As a matter of principle, I'm still voting for Nader in Oregon. For all I know, he may be wrong on education too.

BTW, there's no way in hell that Obama will name Phillips Secretary of Ed. If he does, that will merely provide more fodder for our blogs.

Sonya Henning's outburst was shocking, all the more so because her backers at Stand for Children are OPPOSED to Sizemore's Measure 60.

Who knew that Henning was at heart anti-union?

Well, Sonja's an attorney specializing in "defending employers against claims such as sexual harassment; race, age, gender and religious discrimination; wrongful termination, and more."

Not much reason to think she'd have any sympathy for labor, since she's making a legal career of defending management. There's more:

Sonja's representative experience includes:

* Assisting in the defense of Nike in a racial discrimination trial, resulting in a jury verdict for the defense

* Representation of several clients before the Equal Employment Opportunity Commission and Oregon's Bureau of Labor and Industries, defending claims including age discrimination, wrongful termination, retaliation, gender discrimination and religious discrimination

* Assisting in negotiations of employment agreements, as well as arbitrations and settlement negotiations stemming from alleged breaches of employment agreements

I'm anything but right wing and I didn't mean to suggest that the teacher union is the whole problem. Its only part of the problem. Teachers do sometimes protect their own interests at the expense of students. Its too bad that education has to work from such a small pie such that teachers are faced with that ethical choice. And its not fair to expect teachers to be selfless. They look out for No. 1 just like everyone else. We need to try to expand the pie so that teachers can get what they need without taking from the students.

Sorry Trueblue. I am just sick of politicians, Democrats and Republicans, blaming unions for everything. I see these teachers (and nurses, custodians and other public servants ) working under increasingly bad situations, yet still doing their jobs with good will day after day. Then I look at the CEO's and consultants getting mind-boggling amounts of money and it makes my blood boil.

Your feelings about the overall inequity of the current system are well justified.

I was recently challenged to cite a single instance of when PAT put the interests of students before their own. I didn't have to think very long before I came up with the teachers' union giving a full week of work for free when the district was ready to cut two weeks from the school calendar.

Sure, they're mostly concerned about the welfare of their members -- that's precisely the purpose of a union.

If the teachers aren't taken care of, how the hell can we expect them to take care of the students?

Teachers' unions have turned a low-paid, predominately female job with no respect into a legitimate profession. It's absurd to blame unions for any of the problems currently facing public eduction, which generally boil down to inadequate funding at every level. Collective bargaining brings professional educators to the table and gives them a voice in education policy.

I'm curious to hear examples of how PAT "is an obstacle to needed educational reform."

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