65 Percent Delusion
Oklahoma The push for the so-called “65-percent solution,” now active in at least 18 states and the District of Columbia, has moved to Oklahoma. Supporters of an initiative to keep at least 65 percent of public school money in the classroom submitted enough signatures on petitions to advance the proposal to the state’s Supreme Court. The Secretary of State’s office has completed its count of the signatures gathered for the proposal, which may appear next month on Oklahoma ballots. The Oklahoma Education Association (OEA) is challenging the proposal, according to OEA President Roy Bishop.
“The 65 percent idea would do so much harm to our schools,” he says, “and the average person may not ever realize what this proposal would do until it’s too late.” Opponents call the initiative deceptive because it implies that budget savings would be achieved by cutting administrative costs (see “Call It 100 Percent Wrong,” page 10).
The petition states that teacher salaries, school supplies, special education programs, computers, libraries and librarians, field trips, athletics, art, and extracurricular activities would be considered classroom expenses. These expenses do not include transportation, cafeteria, utility, maintenance, and administrative costs; nursing; and counseling services. More information is available at http://www.okea.org/
Teachers, ESPs Fight Outsourcing
Alaska After the Mat-Su Borough School Board voted to privatize custodial services last July, the Classified Employees Association (CEA) and NEA-Alaska filed a grievance challenging the proposal. Teachers belonging to the Mat-Su Education Association (MSEA) joined education support professionals (ESPs) in their fight, saying that custodians are a valuable part of the education team whose loyalty and service would be lost if a private contractor were hired.
Replacing low-paid jobs that offer benefits with lower-paying jobs without benefits would damage the Valley’s economy, said CEA President Ron Rucker.
Outsourcing would also strain public services such as health care when the uninsured contract workers or their families get sick, Rucker added. Soon after, Rucker and CEA’s vice president and treasurer were laid off. This action prompted charges that school district officials targeted the leaders to stifle further debate on the issue. For more on the situation, visit http://www.neaalaska.org/ .
Florida The Florida Education Association (FEA) has discovered a new way to define its agenda and create higher visibility for public schools. It’s called the I Pledge Campaign, and organizers hope to collect more than 1 million signatures demanding change, particularly in four areas: smaller class sizes, improved school funding, support for schools in need (in lieu of vouchers), and competitive wages for teachers and ESPs.
FEA kicked off the campaign in June. For more information, see http://www.feaweb.org/ .
Sound Strategy Pays Off
Indiana East Allen’s school board ended its 30-year tradition of collective bargaining with its predominantly female groups of ESPs. Efforts to reverse the decision went nowhere, as did a gender discrimination complaint with the Human Rights Commission.
“It certainly hurt morale,” said Wendy Walker, a school nurse and Indiana State Teachers Association (ISTA) ESP of the Year. Like her father and children, an d many other East Allen ESPs, Walker graduated from the local high school. “Collective bargaining is huge job security for all of our people,” she said. ESPs formed a PAC, marched in parades, questioned candidates in open forums, met with reporters, and identified candidates for school board seats up for election in May. The intense efforts paid off with landslide victories at the polls for bargaining-friendly candidates.
Quick and Cool Settlement
New Jersey Members of the Egg Harbor Township Education Association (EHTEA) held their first negotiations meeting with school board members a full year before their contract was to expire this summer.
"I don’t want to see us in the newspaper,” President Kathy Waszen told members. “Let’s work to get a fair and timely settlement.”
The school board apparently agreed, and by January had signed a successor agreement through June 2009. Not only were health benefits protected, but the contract also included an overall 5 percent increase in each year of the agreement. By the 2008—09 school year, EHTEA’s first salary step for teachers will be $45,500.