Tuesday, January 28, 2014

A response to a Mail Trib online comment.

Article here. In response to comment by "John Morgan"

As so many are quick to tell teachers, if you don't like it, find a different job....

There are many professions where you CAN strike and no-one laughs at all.. and there are some where you strike at the jokes write themselves (Hello, NFL Referees). Additionally, if it were solely a question of better pay, the teachers would be a: less inclined to strike and b: have far less support. However, as has been pointed out in comments online, in media coverage, in the demonstrations, in the presentations to the school board and anywhere else anyone inclined to listen may care to look, the question is NOT just better pay, but also issues which are directly tied (by multiple piles of research) to student success and achievement. The two biggies:

  •  time to prepare built into the work day in predicable amount (as opposed to randomly and whimsically distributed in way that complies with total number) (side note, the stubborn refusal of some commenters here to address the prep time MIGHT be because it would give lie to their other assertion about how much time we actually work - "only 10 months" - maybe I'll tackle that one in a moment.);
  • student loads - the more individual attention a learner can get, the more we can be sure they are learning. The more students an individual teacher needs to track, the less time each student gets.

Why we are on strike? we aren't actually, yet. That comes in another week, approx. And it comes after the discussion of what we are expected to do (the working conditions) and what we will get for it (the compensation) have been underway for a year. If you had a boss who was incapable of coming to an agreement with you about the specifics of your job for over a year of talking? you'd laugh at that boss or you'd at least talk about what a waffling putz he was behind his back.

As for the insane no-one in the private sector gets them benefits? I worked in the private sector. I had awesome health care bennies, great 401k match, travel that could go to my personal milage account and 30 vacation days a year. So... again maybe you are the one who needs to be looking for a better job?

How is it fair? I'll answer that with the overly cliche "I believe the children are our future, teach them well and let them lead the way..." If you actually believe this is a great country, the foundation of that is a population that can read, write, problem solve, and critically think. Those are not skill sets that we can order from Amazon or go out and pick off a nearby tree, and in this day and age, we cannot dedicate one parent per household as an entire nation to take care of it at home. Public education is an absolute necessity in a democratic society because it IS an equalizer. Oppose socialism all you want, but capitalism without some check or balance becomes oligarchy and in a situation with wildly differing and stratified levels of wealth, equality of things other than wealth cannot help but suffer. Cry "freedom" all you want, but freedom is intended to be a companion to a roof and a meal, not a substitute for one, at least not in the wealthiest nation in the history of the world. If you want to return to some heroism of subsistence living, get a time machine or relocate to one of the few remaining neolithic cultures still isolated in the remote parts of the world.

I said I'd return to how much teachers work, so why not. You claim 40-50 hour weeks, twelve months of the year and hold up our 10 month, 40 hour week, mandatory days off and federal holidays...

First: If you are truly in a job that asks for 40+ hours for all 52 weeks and offers NO days off? you really should consider what other options might be out there OR you should consider if your employer can be individually negotiated with about a few things. As an aside: on the weeks you go over 40, is there additional compensation in the bargain? for some there is, other not... Just curious.

Second: The mandatory days off (by which I think you mean weekdays when there are no classes?) aren't actually days off. They are some of the days when we do get big chunks of time to grade work, record those grades, make contact with parents of kids who are struggling, make contact with support systems for kids in crisis, plan for the term to come... all things we are at risk of losing all or in part, btw.

Third: the Holidays? Every state and federal worker (aside from EMS folks, law enforcement and TSA, etc...), most banks and related financial institutions, get those days off. It's not JUST teachers. The people who do have to work them in a a broader sense, including nurses, some service industries, and even retail, usually get some compensation bumps and get a day in close proximity off instead.

The 10 months: We didn't actually ask for that. It was imposed by societal expectations over a century ago when industry and agriculture held different policy weight in decisions of this kind. An alternate calendar or three have been proposed over the decades and the inertia of American society has generally kept those talks from going far at all.

The 40 hours: HA!  ha ha ha! hahhahahahahaha... Ha  HAHAHAHA !  Ha! We are in the building 40 hours a week. The job as it is currently 'designed' MUST follow us home each evening and weekend. The average teacher puts in closer to 60 hours a week. Some are nearer to 75. Writing materials, preparing powerpoints, google image searching for visual aids, making copies, grading work on a set of rubrics that we are also being asked to design in time time originally given to us for the making copies and the grading, entering scores in gradebooks (physical or software), in some cases having to split a single assignment across multiple gradebook entries because it hits learning targets from several different facets of a discipline, etc... doing it for 1 course 180 times (secondary) or doing it for 6 courses 30 times (elementary) (or something in the middle for the multiple subject area secondary folks out there). Doing it those 180 times for at least one handout, essay question and gradebook entry per week. Heaven forbid they coach or do an activity, which is general compensated for about 1/2 the time it actually takes, but IF they do that, you might see an 80 or even 90 hour week (with enough extra compensation to maybe rationalize 55 to 60). Spread that over the 36 weeks of instruction and (depending on the district) 2 weeks structured preparation, almost every teacher is working the HOURS equivalent of a minimum 57 40 hour weeks. Some are closer to 70 40 hour weeks a year and a handful will exceed even that. I hope I don't have to tell you how many ACTUAL weeks are in a year.

So. How is this fair again?

Bet Curtankerberg won't like this one.

Sunday, December 15, 2013

Hey, Trib! Brave Op Ed. Not.

The Mail Tribune weighed in on the ongoing labor issues in the Medford School District with an unsigned OpEd that <snark>courageously</snark> tried to paint the teachers' union as the bad guys while simultaneously chastising the district for handling things in a less than graceful manner.

The original OpEd is HERE

I decided it wasn't an altogether bad piece of writing. It just needed some word-smithing in a few places. So, here you go, Trib. Fixed it for ya!
It's unfortunate that the Medford School District has taken such a shrill approach toward the Medford Education Association and its leaders as the sides stumble toward a possible strike. It's unfortunate the district gave its teachers more reason to walk by unilaterally implementing a contract a week before it was necessary.

We all know how this likely ends if it goes to a strike: Eventually, a deal will be struck that is relatively close to the proposals already on the table. But that will happen only after nastiness that damages the district and tears apart the community.

The contract negotiations, which have been going on for 10 months, took a major turn for the worse Friday. After a lengthy mediation session on Thursday ended with no agreement, the Medford School Board voted Friday to implement its last contract offer. While there were minimal tweaks made to the offer, it is essentially a proposal that has already been rejected by the teachers' union.

That won't make the teachers happy, but the real salt in the wound was the district's decision to implement its offer a week before the end of a 30-day cooling-off period. While there is nothing in state law preventing an early implementation, it seems like an unnecessarily aggressive act, especially when they are dealing with a group on the other side of the table that is already angry over the way negotiations have gone. Not helpful if the goal is to reach an amicable settlement.

That anger has already surfaced, as the ham-handed language of the district’s proposals has led to union leaders' comments and emails asserting the district lacked sincerity, betrayed the trust of teachers and was delivering a "slap to the face" of teachers.

Everyone understands that a proposed 12 percent raise over three years (10 percent in the first year) is not what it appears. Under the district's offer, the teachers would take on a 6 percent contribution to their pension fund that was previously covered by the district. They are being asked to work more days, would see the district's payments for insurance capped and would lose an early retirement insurance benefit. Add that all up and the 12 percent shrinks rapidly.

Teaching is a tough job and no one should suggest teachers are overpaid or undeserving of respect. That's one reason we've argued that the district should make concessions on the non-economic issues. Give teachers more autonomy and opportunities for collaboration and then hold them accountable for the results. Both sides win.

It's apparently too late now. The district also should do all in its power to show the teachers respect. They don't do that when they implement a contract a week before the end of the cooling-off period and do it in a meeting held during school hours so that teachers couldn't attend.

At some point, labor impasses become about ego and anger as much as what's in the contract. If that happens here, everyone loses — the teachers, the district and, most of all, the students. It's not too late for cooler heads to prevail, but so far, all the cool heads seem to work as teachers.

Wednesday, October 9, 2013

A little story

Once upon a time, a district came to its teachers and said, "Things are kinda bleak. Can you help?" and the teachers said, "yes." And then the district said, "We'll make it up to you, we promise..." and then the teachers waited.

And one negotiation cycle went by and the teachers accepted it when they were told, 'We aren't in a good position to make it up, yet... but maybe we will be some day soon." And the teachers waited.
And the next negotiation session came, and the district said, "It's close, but it's not there, yet... give us a little more time." And the teachers waited.

And then people from the district went on TV and to the newspaper and said "Lookee!! We are better off now!" and members of the legislature said "we've made things better, so schools can be better and teachers can get what they've given up in the past" and the teachers said, "Um...remember that thing we talked about?" and the district said, "No.. .what? You're crazy! We never said that. We can't do anything anyway, there's no money."

And the teachers said "But what about this thing you just said to the paper and TV?" and the district said 'What? What thing. Never said it. Isn't right. Isn't true. Wow. Look at those crazy teachers." And members of the legislature said, "We voted for more money and gave the districts more money."
And then the district wrote to the newspaper about how everything was fair and good and teachers were getting a great deal. And the people said "Yeah. You teachers are crazy, asking for stuff you were promised like that means anything, plus stop being so greedy."

And the teachers looked at each other and said, " Well. Apparently we are being toyed with by some, and ridiculed by others. But we are going to be content and take it with a smile. Fairness means earning less money in 2014 than we earned in 1998. We are reasonable, pampered people with a need to experience reality for the first time in our sheltered lives because Jake and Curt and Raymond have made us see the error of our ways and accept that despite advanced degrees and decades of experience, entry level, stagnant wages are all we deserve and to ask for anything more is worthy of public shaming."

Or not.

Reposted from a comment originally made here.

Tuesday, October 8, 2013

Oh to be old and wise

I'm a young sapling, still unfamiliar with how the world works and why...

It's a good thing I have the sage denizens of the comments section of the Mail Tribune to give me the light of their wisdom and knowledge.

Monday, October 7, 2013

Mail Trib Op/Ed is ridiculous..

My comment to an Op/Ed in the Mail Trib, found HERE
The PERS "pickup" in raw numbers is a 6% reduction in the gross pay, which, oddly, is the same % as the raise. Hrm. Math "iz" hard, but I am pretty sure X+6-6=X, so... that would look a lot like "no raise"... Then, wait, current pay is based on 190 days worked (we can have the fight over what counts as work and whether that is fair in some other comment), but the NEW pay is based on 196 days worked, so... going back to X+6-6=X, lets change that to read: (X/190)+6-6>(X/196)... that looks a lot like "pay cut" (and in case you're curious, the added +1 and +1 in the subsequent years actually don't make up the difference of the added days in the X/190 vs X/196 calculation)

And THEN, just for kicks, let's consider that $67,000 earning teacher... 15 years of experience, right? (this salary number is arrived at by reading to the bottoms of the "BA+75 credits" column of the 549c salary schedule, then adding the Master's and Doctorate degree bumps, so... um... how many teachers in the district is that?

OH WAIT, but what about the degrees and credits earned BEFORE they got their teaching license? Seems the new contract language is a little vague on that. Only credits and degrees earned after licensure count in the new language. Seems that if the teaching license came on the heels of an MAT program, following a BA/S in a subject area (many of the secondary teachers), then the Masters and somewhere between 45 and 60 of those post-Bachelor credits won't count. So now that teacher with 15+ years of experience actually maxes out at the 8 or 10 year level and has a max pay (assuming they did get their Doctorate (cough) after licensure) somewhere from $49 to $52k... and, boy howdy, if they were making $67k this year and dropped to $49 or $52k, pretty sure that is a "pay cut", too... <

I've been teaching since 1992 (and in 549c since 2005). My credential came from a post-baccalaureate program that didn't include an additional degree. No Masters bump, no Doctoral bump, and fewer than 15 credits earned post-license. Right now, I am maxed out as a 12th year teacher (despite actually being in a classroom now for 20+ years), but with the new contract, I get to be maxed out as a 6th year teacher, unable to ever move again on the pay scale until I go back for about a dozen additional credits... then I can max out as an 8th year teacher while I pile up 15 more to earn the salary of a 10th year teacher. My "PAY CUT" under this contract will be almost exactly $20k; approximately 1/3 of my income will vanish instantly upon adoption. I know my home mortgage holder will understand if I prioritize my 5 month old's food. I will, of course, be looking for a different job should the contract somehow be adopted. And drawing down my IRA to hold off the creditors.

I am sure glad Ms. Wallen and Ms. Killen have been so forthcoming about why this is such a good deal for the teachers and we must just be pitching a little sandbox fit by not skipping happily over to Oakdale Street to cast our hearty "Aye" in favor of adopting it. The offer is flawed. The offer is insulting. The PR spin is repugnant. The Board should be cowed in shame, but apparently has no concept of how completely uninterested I and most of my colleagues are in having our already stagnant earnings fall off a cliff in a year where MORE MONEY HAS BEEN MADE AVAILABLE TO OREGON PUBLIC SCHOOLS as a result of economic upturn coupled with legislative action in Salem.

The divergence from what was written in the article and what is REAL is staggering.

Those of you who believe we are parasitic leeches should be thrilled.

Thursday, September 5, 2013

So, this happened...

Once upon a time, there was me, and I was kinda cute...
<-- This is me at 14 months





Now there's this other kid, I think he's cuter...

This is Robert A. Doty at 16 weeks -->

Wednesday, August 7, 2013

Medford Contract Negotiations and the Mail Trib comments section...

In response to an article in today'sTrib:

The article itself leaves some things to be desired (it reads pretty much like a district press release with occasional counter-point from the MEA president), but then scroll down to the comments... particularly any contributions from Curt Ankerburg and someone going by Ian.

See, this is so simple if we can avoid philosophical questions like relative merit of having educated citizens and just stick to simple math. But comparisons of average work days to teachers is like saying 2+grapefruit=pastrami on rye. Where to even start.

From "Six Meetings Before Lunch"
Education is the silver bullet.
Education is everything.
We don’t need little changes. We need gigantic revolutionary changes. Schools should be palaces. Competition for the best teachers should be fierce. They should be getting six-figure salaries. Schools should be incredibly expensive for government and absolutely free of charge for its citizens, just like national defense.
That is my position.
I just haven’t figured out how to do it yet.
Perhaps I could begin with: A classroom teacher isn't an average full-time worker - for that argument, I'd include things like the extremely broad skill set that is needed (I could itemize in a sep post, if absolutely needed). By that measure, they aren't average at all, but exceptional. Then the fact that most teachers may only have 170 days of student contact and 190+ days of contracted time, but that if you measure actual HOURS, most teachers put in the same (or more) hours of work as the 240 day, 40 hour a week employee. How is that possible, you ask? Well, let's go with the idea that the hours spent in student contact require at least half again as many hours both preparing lessons and then providing critique and feedback to completed work. As much as 5-10 hours per week of this prep time is included in the contract of most teachers in most districts (it really isn't for Medford's elementary teachers, and the way the high schools' schedules rotate, it isn't a fixed number weekly for the secondary folks, but as a range, it holds up). That means 10-15 hours are on the teachers' own time. This is time that is absolutely needed to complete the required and expected job, but is outside the scope of the contract. So now 170 8 hour student contact days become (effectively) 170 contact days and 43 to 65 additional days worth of preparatory time. We DO this work on the Saturdays and the Thursday evenings of the school year. We effectively get paid for it while we sit "lazy" in July. Now we are up to 210+ to 230+ days... and in the 20+ days we are expected to work and aren't in contact with students (meetings, trainings, data entry of grades from those papers we marked at home over the weekend) and you are up to 230 to 250+ "days" of work. Lands right there next to 240, doesn't it? Seems teachers pretty much are average full-time workers, once one uses the right data set.

Now for the idea that teachers are fairly compensated so shut up or find a new job. How important are kids?  Are the best interests of students served by making sure they are taught be inexperienced teachers who are exhausted by trying to make ends meet? The hourly rate we pay babysitters is higher that many teachers are paid per student per hour... don't believe it? A 170 day contact schedule, with 6.5 hours of contact per day and a class size of 25 (HAH!!!) at $2 per hour per child is a shade over $53k. For a teacher with over a decade of experience in the Medford district now, the per child per hour pay is less than $2.25. Add in all the benefits and it might climb to $3.50.

So, do we want to live in a world where we consider our children so important that our investment in their education is less than we pay someone to babysit them? Or would we prefer a nation that values not only the education that is provided to our youth but also values those who provide it?