Wednesday, April 25, 2012

Fighting for Relevant Reform

The Minneapolis Federation of Teachers is holding elections this spring.  The following is a highlight of a speech I gave as a candidate for re-election to the Executive Board:

Teacher unions cannot continue to fight to simply stay relevant, we must fight for what is relevant.  Our union, at the national, state, and local levels, has tried to deal with the neo-liberal corporate attacks by looking for areas to collaborate, to compromise, and to get a “seat at the table.”
Fighting to sit at a table set by education deformers like Bill Gates, Arnie Duncan, and Wendy Kopp is to accept their premises and to immediately silence any questioning of the need for the table.  To sit at the charter school table is to accept the argument that competition will make schools better and ignores the fact that by definition, competition results in both winners and losers.
Instead of trying to out-reform the self-appointed “reformers,” we must work with students, parents, and the community to revitalize our public schools.  The Chicago Teachers’ Union, under the leadership of the Caucus of Rank and File Educators (C.O.R.E.) is already doing this.  In New York, teachers in the Grassroots Education Movement (G.E.M.) are also doing this.  Brian Jones, who spoke in Minneapolis in March, is a member of G.E.M. and helped to create the documentary, An Inconvenient Truth Behind Waiting for Superman.
The documentary outlines some of the real reforms we need.  They include, among others:
·      More teaching – Less Testing
·      Anti-racist Educational Policies
·      Culturally Relevant Curriculum
·      Qualified and Experienced Educators in every Classrooom
·      Democratic and Social Justice Unionism
·      And Small Class Size

We need to work with parents to build the public schools our students need and deserve.  To do this, we also need to work to create the community our students need and we all deserve.

Robert Panning-Miller