Arts & Video
News Archives
About LaborNet

From: HAMILTON779@aol.com
Date: Sun, 11 Mar 2007 
Teachers, unions and the St.Louis School Board election
Below is a good presentation on teachers' labor rights and what has happened
to them and the St.Louis Public Schools since 2003. Nick Clement is Co-chair
of AFT Local 420's COPE political action committee... 

PEOPLE HAVE A RIGHT to expect just compensation for their labor.  When it is
not granted, it should be their right to withhold it without being sent to
jail, or having other punitive measures imposed on them as Chesterfield Rep.
Jane Cunningham proposed in 2005, such as taking the teaching certificates
of teachers who strike, or putting them in jail, or as Darnetta Clinkscale
proposed, stopping their health insurance which they had already paid for.
Now the state is saying a teacher living in the city will have his vote
overturned in two elections and possibly may not ever vote again for a board
member (if the mayor has his way).
The teachers union endorsed the mayor's slate in 2003, believing as many
did, their promises of lower class sizes, and higher salaries (which are, on
average, still one of the lowest in the region) and "reform" of the
They were told as soon as the election was over that their was no money for
raises or lower class sizes and benefits would be reduced.  The new board
did have $5 million for Roberti (plus expenses)  and new executive positions
were created with unprecedented 6 figure salaries. Millions were squandered
on any whim of the board. Mayor Slay said on public radio that these were
"courageous decisions" by his board.  The RFT ran a story showing the
Mayor's liaison to the board, Robyn Wahby, providing the "talking points"
for the mayor's four board members.
In spite of the board's betrayal of the public and the teachers, the
teachers union voted in August of 2003, with the only option being an
illegal strike and everything that might mean,  to accept the salary
By 2004, the district going downhill, and in the face of threats from the
legislature and the Mayor's board, and the Mayor, the teachers union voted
for a strike and they were right to do so.
The teachers union, parents, and students played by the rules and got
screwed over and over again.  When playing by the rules finally resulted in
an outcome disliked by our city's ruling class, they want to change the
Personally, I am proud of the Teacher's Union role in defending public
education and the St. Louis Public Schools.  As weak and disorganized as it
was, it was the only institution which seemed willing or capable of opposing
the destruction of our school district.  Of course there were parents who
worked equally as hard, but there was no potent parent institution.  Katie
Wessling made an attempt to start one.  I hope SOS will see how important it
is to maintain its own institution.  If you do, keep in mind you will be
attacked just like the Teachers' Union is.

St. Paul says that if you don't work you don't eat.  The flip side of that
is that if you work you should be compensated fairly.
Civic "leaders" talk about how important education is but when it comes down
to providing the funding for it, their actions say otherwise.
When Millionaire Bill Dewitt, owner of the Cardinals successfully extorted
public money from the city and state he was given the man of the year award
by the Regional Commerce and Growth Association.
Did any of these civic "leaders" suggest that Cardinal salaries be reduced
to pay for infrastructure and sales tax revenue given by the state and city?
Fat chance. The mayor raises the property taxes of the citizens, many by as
much a 100%, to balance the huge tax abatements and TIFs granted to his
favored individuals.    I contend that the Cardinals, and other sports teams
are largely tax supported entities which benefit an extremely narrow group
of interests (sports owners, players, advertising companies, tv and radio
stations.  People wonder why the major media in town always seem to be
against the interests of the people)  A new stadium was built in order to
accommodate more luxury boxes.  Who buys them?  Corporations who write it
off as an "entertainment" expense.
Those tax write offs are what pays for Albert Pujols' $200 million dollar,
10 year contract.  It is an obscenity.  I would like to be in their union.
Teachers are told they are greedy and don't care about children when they
defend their meager $40,000 a year salaries and decreasing benefits, while
Slay spares no public expense to guarantee profits to multi-millionaires.
Teachers who succumb to this constant negative barrage, vote with their feet
and leave. 
In my neighborhood $14 million in tax giveaways were granted to the
developers of Loughbourough commons.  It was prime South City real estate.
Did they really need tax incentives?   Now the  grocery store, Foodland on
South Grand, a fine store, has to compete with the Schnucks store, (members
of Schnucks family were big contributors to all of the mayor's school board
candidates). What will happen to the property when Foodland closes?

Is that fair? 

How will such a system of injustice be redressed?

The Smith-Al Amin bill{for charter schools and merit pay for teachers) is
aimed at the wrong group.
Do teachers determine the curriculum?   No, that is set by the district
which is attempting to align its curriculum with the state test, the test
determined by DESE and approved by the legislature.  State tests are created
and pushed by the large publishing companies, which readily change their
books depending on the latest fad from Harvard or Yale.   Waves of these
fads go through districts every 5-10 years.   There is constant change of
curriculum and recommended teaching methods which the teacher has nothing to
say about.
The teaching programs at colleges are determined by semiprivate national
accrediting agencies.  If you want to be an accredited teaching college you
do what they want.
Do teachers determine their class sizes?  No that will be determined by the
district which in turn will be determined by how much money is left after
the rightful revenue of the district is given away to political friends of
the mayor and the governor,  who accuse the teachers' union of being self
serving, and get plenty of free air time and print to do so.
Do teachers pick the students?   Is the homeless student who lives in chaos
and fear  going to perform just as well as the student who has a home with
responsible parents in a safe neighborhood?  As a teacher, which student
would you prefer in your classroom, knowing that his score on the map test
will determine your salary?
Our city ought to thank God there are teachers willing to take on such
thankless tasks.  
At Kennard our teams rejoice when a student who came to our school
performing at the MAP 1  level (or below) improves to the 2 or 3 level.  Is
it the top level?  No but it's significant improvement.   The MAP test won't
show that improvement, it will show that he didn't perform at the proficient
or advanced level.  There is no credit given a school for taking a student
from a proficient to an advanced level either.
When will we have a test for Legislators, or Mayors, or Aldermen?
Accountability is fine.  It seems to be most heavily applied to those who
have the least control over their circumstances...
Nick Clement

contact LaborNet

copyright 2006 © LaborNet