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Aug 072011

This week the Wall Street Journal reported on an internal power point document that brags about the strategies used by the leadership and lobbyists of the American Federation of Teachers’ union to undermine parent groups in Connecticut.  The document demonstrates what parents and reformers are up against in the quest to clean up public school education.  RiShawn Biddle of DropOut Nation first uncovered the document on August 2nd entitled “How Connecticut Diffused the Parent Trigger” and explains how the union did it.   The document has since been taken off the AFT website.

While AFT  President, Randi Weingarten has repeatedly gone on the record as saying that she and the AFT support systemic reform in education and a collaborative approach with the community (she even echoed that sentiment to me directly at a Yale Leadership in Education Conference that I attended this past spring) the power point presentation demonstrates an attempt to kill parent voice in different parent and local communities,  confuse the community on what the educational issues are as well as the power they have over state legislators.

Let me restate that Red APPLES is pro- reform and pro teacher (despite the attacks we get for publishing information and data that we come across)  but  this document  is being posted  because  it provides a small glimpse into the concerted organizational leadership and strategy used by the AFT to slow-down or outright oppose any change that is directed by local communities, parent groups and/or even their own state teacher groups like  the CEA (Connecticut Education Association!)   It’s a bit of a David versus Goliath scenario, and it really doesn’t need to be.  Is education reform really about ongoing teacher development and kids anymore or is it about maintaining power from those historically in charge ?

Now lets examine our own backyard.   Given the  educational challenges Norwalk  faces (like the rest of the nation) not to mention the  personal attacks on the new superintendent or different members of the BoE, who undoubtedly try to serve in the best interests of the children;  can some of our troubles be tracked back to an overall strategy  by union leadership (either teacher or administrator or both ) to keep the community so fraught with chaos that it will undoubtedly slow down any attempt to change or improve the system?  Or are we just that disorganized?   I don’t believe in conspiracy theories and genuinely believe that Norwalk is making great strides with regard to  improving its test scores and 98% of staff are working extremely hard under the most challenging and stressful of circumstances  financially and managerially.  But,  just imagine WHAT could be accomplished, if somehow the various educational leaders in Norwalk somehow behaved as if we were all in this together?  Check out the power point presentation and draw your own conclusions.

Now, more than ever it is important for parent groups, school districts, boards of education and union leadership to come together on local reform initiatives.  Increasingly businesses and foundations will be looking for cities and school districts that have good working relationships with their union leadership as educational reforms move forward.  Let’s hope Norwalk is on their shortlists.