From MTEA President Bob Peterson's Desk
January 24, 2013
Dear MTEA Member,
I wish you a happy new year as we begin the second semester. I also thank you for the work you do every day helping students not only academically, but also socially, physically, and emotionally. We should be proud to be MPS educators, as MPS is the only institution in Milwaukee that has the capacity, commitment and legal obligation to serve all children.
We also should be proud MTEA members. The legislature and the courts continue to try to limit our rights and our influence. They are determined to weaken, if not destroy, public sector unions and public institutions where we work and which serve everyone, particularly
the most vulnerable in our society. Whether it’s the state legislature that seeks to expand the voucher program, or the Milwaukee Common Council that charters national franchises like Rocketship, these schools seriously threaten the future of MPS and undermine principles of democracy and public accountability. As educational historian Diane Ravitch has said, “Privatizing our schools makes as much sense as privatizing the fire department or the police department.”
In the past few months we’ve made some gains: In August our members helped win primary elections which sent a new set of Milwaukee legislators to Madison, people who strongly support public schools and unions. In November, hundreds of our members canvassed their
school neighborhoods and helped elect Senator Tammy Baldwin and President Obama. This fall we pushed the MPS administration to restore a key section of the expired EA contract so that as of January 3, EAs who cover a class will get additional compensation if they cover the same classroom two days in a row. Just recently, Superintendent Thornton wrote to his administrators that they should support the MTEA–initiated “School Collaboration Compact,” which will allow our members to push building-level administrators to treat staff with respect.
In addition, the MTEA staff and full-time release organizers are in the schools daily, assisting with individual member concerns and working with building committees to grow union power. The new MTEA Center for Teaching, Learning, and Public Education continues to provide more PD services for members, and our labor management committees are pushing the district to improve professional development, safety and discipline and other issues important to our members.
The MTEA has re-crafted its publications and communication policy. Our website is updated regularly, emails and surveys inform members and solicit input, and our new publication, MTEA Advocate, is uniting our members. The teaching and learning e-newsletter Re-Imagine shares teaching ideas and PD opportunities with members.
Challenges and Opportunities in 2013
This year will be full of challenges. But with those challenges come opportunities:
1) For the first time in the state’s history, people outside of Milwaukee are finally waking up to the dangers of voucher schools.
2) In Milwaukee several alderpersons and grassroots leaders in the Black and Latino communities are openly questioning why the city should be chartering any new schools. I have put forth a call for a moratorium on all new charter schools in the city.
3) Our members are more organized at the school level than ever before. We have more functioning building committees than in the past, and school-based canvassing has shown the power of our members making direct ties to surrounding neighborhoods.
4) We have the chance of improving the composition of the Milwaukee School Board and dramatically changing the Wisconsin Supreme Court in April – which could prove vital when the state court case against Act 10 gets to that level.
5) Anticipating a very difficult legislative and state budget session this spring – given the Republican domination of both chambers of the legislature – the MTEA started building a coalition of community organizations, parents, and unions to fight back. After several months of work, the Wisconsin Childrens Coalition has grown state-wide and is preparing for the battle ahead.
6) Because of our increased member involvement at the school level and our focus on organizing all members, we have the potential through collective action to influence the school board on key issues. On Thursday, January 31, starting at 5:30 p.m. at the MTEA Building, please join me and hundreds of other MTEA members as we stand for justice for the EAs, a fair contract for teachers, and class size relief, library, art, music and physical education for all students.
7) And please plan on coming to our membership kickoff event at Serb Hall at 5:00 p.m. on February 13 to hear Chicago Teachers Union President Karen Lewis, and enjoy live music, food and refreshments as we kick off our membership continuation campaign. We need to let Gov. Walker, the courts, and the School Board know that just because Act 10 has attacked our union rights, we will stand strong and stand together to fight for our rights, fair contracts and handbooks, and in defense of quality public education.
“All Labor Has Dignity”
Just weeks before Dr. Martin Luther King was assassinated helping Memphis sanitation workers in their strike for union recognition and a collective bargaining agreement, he gave a moving speech where he said “All labor has dignity.” He said that “nothing worthwhile is gained without sacrifice… that we must stay together… we know that we can get more together than we can apart … this is the way to gain power. Power is the ability to achieve purpose and to affect change.” We can only do that together.
I urge you to join me on Thursday, Jan. 31 at 5:30 p.m. at the MTEA office and on Wednesday, February 13, at 5:00 p.m. at Serb Hall.
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