Baraboo educators send strong message: There is no room for hate

WEAC Region 5’s Baraboo Education Association members knew they wanted to send a strong message after a widely criticized photo of students who appeared to make a Nazi salute went viral in November.

The image raced across social media platforms on a Monday morning. “When your week starts with a public rebuke from the Auschwitz Memorial Museum in Poland, you know you’re in a bad place,” said Kari Nelson, an English teacher at Baraboo High School and BEA President. “We immediately recognized that our response, as a union, had to acknowledge the world’s shock and distress, but that it also needed to be a visible message in our respective school buildings.”

The BEA Executive Board sprang into action, promoting a “No Room for Hate” T-shirt fundraiser to benefit the Auschwitz Memorial Museum, the first of many groups to condemn the photo. The T-shirt’s stark message? No room for hate. This classroom. This school. This community. This state. This country. This world. 

The BEA pledged a matching gift of up to $500, but after 180 members of the Baraboo School District’s staff joined the fundraiser, the final donation rose to $2,100.

“The Auschwitz Memorial Museum was one of the first international organizations, dedicated to educating the world about anti-Semitism and the horrors of the Nazi death camps, to publicly rebuke our students, school, and community and to offer their educational resources to us,” Nelson said. “All of Baraboo is working together to learn and heal from this experience – which is great to see. Our union wanted to do something immediate and tangible to help.”

Teachers, administrators and support staff wore their T-shirts on Pearl Harbor Day, December 7.

“These symbols continue to be taboo because of the agonizing history they represent. We needed to let our students know that we will be vigilant when it comes to discrimination, bullying and hate in our buildings,” Nelson said.

“After all, with no room for hate, we have lots of space open for acceptance and care and love.”

More Resources:

The Wisconsin Education Association Council works to give teachers resources so they can foster hate-free schools where all people are respected and celebrated. Here are some of the many programs and resources WEAC and the NEA offer:

Black Lives Matter at School
Diversity, Equality and Social Justice Resources
Combatting Islamophobia
Safe and Welcoming Schools for LGBTQ+ Youth
Creating LGBTQ Inclusive Schools
Virtual Book Study on Racial Justice
Take Action on Racial Justice
Combatting Institutional Racism

If your local is interested in trainings for educators, or partnering with your district on any of these initiatives, email us at communications@weac.org.

Advocacy by Eau Claire educators leads to postponement of school board action on proposed benefit changes

At a meeting packed with nearly 100 members of the Eau Claire Association of Educators and supporters, the Eau Claire School Board voted unanimously Monday night not to cap health and dental benefits at the current 2018-19 rates and postponed changes to other post-employment benefits (OPEB) for the time being.

Many educators at the meeting spoke out against the proposed changes.

The Eau Claire Leader Telegram reported that ECAE President Mark Goings told the board that while he understands the district faces budget challenges, punishing educators is the wrong way to go.

“You are being asked to balance the books in a system that’s rigged against us,” Goings said. “Staff is the greatest cost, but staff is also the district’s greatest asset.”

The Leader Telegram also quoted Dan Wilson, a special education teacher in the district:

“We have been there for the district,” Wilson said, “but will the district continue to be there for us? If reasonable changes need to be made, then take the time to get all the facts and the data and the information. Then at that point, let’s talk about it.”

WEAC locals are successful in 98% of recertification elections

Ninety-eight percent of 2018 fall recertification elections for WEAC locals passed, according to results released by the Wisconsin Employment Relations Commission. In all, 229 of 234 elections were successful.

The overwhelming support for local unions mirrors similar results in recertification elections since 2011.

“In the local associations holding recertification elections, educators show tremendous support for the union,” said WEAC President Ron Martin, a middle school teacher. “Unions play a very strong role in their local schools and partner to ensure the best for students.”

Recertification is a hoop created by the Legislature to limit employee rights. It requires that an association interested in being named the district “bargaining agent” pay for an annual election and the threshold for victory is half of the eligible voters voting yes, plus one. That’s a bar even the American president doesn’t have to reach to be elected. All educators, union members and non-members, vote in recertification elections and, if an educator does not vote, the state counts it as a vote in opposition.

Local associations across Wisconsin determine whether they will seek recertification based on their own unique circumstances. Whether or not a local chose to participate in recertification, and whatever the outcome of the vote, it’s important to stress that the union still exists. The union exists anywhere educators unite collectively to improve their schools for their students, expand their professional skills, and advocate for shared interests like school safety and opportunities for all children. No legislation can take away that right.

The complete election results are posted on the Wisconsin Employment Relations Commission website.

Labor leader Phil Neuenfeldt dies

A great leader of the Wisconsin labor movement, Phil Neuenfeldt, has died. Neuenfeldt, president emeritus of the Wisconsin AFL-CIO, died in his home November 4.

“Phil Neuenfeldt stood side-by-side with WEAC members during our most tumultuous struggles, always insisting that whether in the public or private sector, union brothers and sisters stand together,” said WEAC President Ron Martin. “As Phil would expect, those of us who mourn his passing will carry on to advance solidarity in Wisconsin.”

Martin urged WEAC members to re-commit themselves to getting out the vote in advance of Tuesday’s election.

“Phil was with us on the steps of the state Capitol back in 2011, and vowed never to give in to inequity and division,” Martin said. “Let’s do him proud by rolling up our sleeves in these final hours of the campaign to bring home a win for the working people of Wisconsin.”

Here is a brief clip of Neuenfeldt speaking on the steps of the State Capitol during the 2011 uprising (thanks to Citizen Action of Wisconsin):

Rivers Falls educator Maggie Watson uses personal touch to advocate for her union

River Falls educator Maggie Watson, a member of WEAC Region 1, displays one of the handwritten posters she created for each district staff workroom explaining the benefits of an active union. Maggie says a handwritten poster will always get teachers’ attention in a way that printed advertising won’t.

– Thanks to the Region 1 Connections newsletter for sharing this great photo

NEA Today: Why We Are Red for Ed

This spring, educators, joined by students, parents, and community members, donned crimson shirts and took to their state capitols with a message: Our students deserve better than tattered textbooks and leaky ceilings. Educators deserve better than bottom-of-the-barrel pay and having to pay out of pocket for basic classroom supplies.

The team at NEA Today took a look at how moments in several states across the country turned into a national movement we call #RedForEd, and how that movement will propel us to the ballot box and beyond.

The walkouts in West Virginia, Kentucky, Oklahoma, Arizona, Colorado, and North Carolina were a siren call across the nation. And importantly, people are listening.

Check out the new NEA Today feature: “Why We Are Red for Ed.” While you’re there, take the #RedForEd pledge and join millions of voices fighting for our nation’s public school students and educators.

It is now up to each of us to help the #RedForEd movement continue. We must deliver pro-public education voters and candidates to the polls this fall. In the long term, we must protect the nation’s public schools and transform our unions.

Support Kenosha Education Association members in their efforts to win respect – and a fair cost-of-living pay increase

http://bit.ly/KEArespect

At the September Kenosha Unified School Board meeting, educators respectfully shared their concerns with the district’s offer of a 1.25% cost of living increase. In a spontaneous and unplanned response to insensitive comments made by board member Gary Kunich at the meeting, educators walked out of the board room.

The KEA followed up with the Facebook video message below and this statement:

As people who dedicate their lives to shaping positive futures for our students, teachers deserve to be addressed with more respect than with veiled threats of layoffs or being told to research other districts if they are unhappy.

When you disrespect the Kenosha Education Association, you are disrespecting the dedicated teachers, education support professionals, social workers, counselors, librarians, and therapists of Kenosha who work to serve ALL of the educators and students of our public schools.

KUSD is asserting that, on average, teachers would receive a 3.18% increase. This average is being calculated by combining a 1.25% cost-of-living increase with level and tier movement on the salary schedule.

KEA continues to believe that all educators deserve a full 2.13% cost-of-living increase to keep up with inflation, in addition to movement on the salary schedule. The two are separate, not interchangeable, and both necessary to competitively compensate teachers employed by KUSD.

Cost-of-living increases are essential to maintaining the value of the salary schedule and ensuring that teachers are maintaining the same standard of living as everyone else. Level and tier increases are critical to reward and retain current teachers and to attracting new educators.

You can support the Kenosha Education Association by using the following link to send a message to KUSD board members and superintendent: http://bit.ly/KEArespect.

Wisconsin voters strongly support quality public schools over tax cuts, poll analysis finds

Wisconsin voters have made their priorities clear – they want quality public schools – but lawmakers are not listening. That is the analysis from the Wisconsin Budget Project of last month’s statewide poll by the Marquette University Law School. In the poll, voters said in many ways that they support quality public schools in the state. In response to one question, 61 percent said they prefer more money for public schools, while just 32% said they prefer tax cuts.

“One of the remarkable aspects of the poll results,” the analysis said, “is the degree to which they show that Wisconsin voters across the entire state place a high value on education. … Wisconsin residents believe that excellent public schools are important to the state’s success, and are concerned that recent changes have harmed public schools. Cutting taxes ranks relatively low among voter concerns, the poll showed.”

According to the Wisconsin Budget Project analysis:

“Voters all across the state place a great deal of value on Wisconsin’s schools, with nearly half (49%) naming K-12 education as among the two most important issues facing the state, according to the August 2018 poll from Marquette University Law School. In contrast, only 13% of voters identified tax cuts as among the most important issues.

“When presented with a direct trade-off between increasing resource for schools and cutting taxes, a significant majority of Wisconsin voters said they favor spending more money on schools (61%) than reducing property taxes (32%).”

The analysis continued: “One of the remarkable aspects of the poll results is the degree to which they show that Wisconsin voters across the entire state place a high value on education, and that concern about the quality of Wisconsin’s public schools is not limited to voters in more liberal-leaning areas of the state. In areas like Green Bay/Appleton and the suburban counties surrounding Milwaukee, both areas with high concentrations of conservative voters, respondents indicated that that education is a much more pressing issue than tax cuts, and express concerns that schools are worse off now than in the past.”

It concluded: “The reduced funding for public school districts didn’t occur because the state lacked resources. Wisconsin has enough state revenue to overturn the past budget cuts to schools, but lawmakers have chosen instead to use that revenue to pass billions in new tax cuts, many of which wind up in the pockets of the wealthy and well-connected.”

Read entire Wisconsin Budget Project analysis:

Wisconsin Voters Choose Education Over Tax Cuts – Wisconsin Budget Project

A new poll shows that Wisconsin residents believe that excellent public schools are important to the state’s success, and are concerned that recent changes have harmed public schools. Cutting taxes ranks relatively low among voter concerns, the poll showed. Voters all across the state place a great deal of value on Wisconsin’s schools, with nearly …

 

DPI honors 5 Friends of Education, including Wis. Public Education Network

From the Department of Public Instruction

Five organizations across the state are being named 2018 Friends of Education for their work on behalf of Wisconsin school children. State Superintendent Tony Evers will recognize the groups during his annual State of Education Address and Awards Program September 20 at the Capitol in Madison. 

“These organizations are transforming young lives,” Evers said. “From strengthening school and business partnerships, to advocacy for teachers and public education, to volunteering and providing financial support, they are making a difference for students and schools in their communities.” 

Evers will present his Friend of Education awards to 

  • Wisconsin Public Education Network (WPEN).
  • Boys & Girls Club of the Wausau Area.
  • Metropolitan Milwaukee Alliance of Black School Educators Inc. (MMABSE). 
  • Rhinelander Partners in Education.
  • Service League of Green Bay.

The awards ceremony follows the noon State of Education Address in the Capitol Rotunda on September 20. Wisconsin’s five 2018-19 Teachers of the Year will also be recognized. Additional information about each Friend of Education award recipient follows. 

The Wisconsin Public Education Network is a loose, nonpartisan coalition of parents, community members, educators, board members, school districts, advocacy teams, and professional organizations united in the shared support and concern for the 860,000 children attending Wisconsin’s public schools. The organization’s advocacy is driven by a simple belief: that every single child in every single public school in Wisconsin deserves an equal shot at a successful future. WPEN’s grassroots efforts have members attending hearings, generating local action on education-related legislation, coordinating local-level days of action, and working with local teams to help pass school referenda. The relationship-based organizing model focuses on local-level action with statewide impact, providing thousands of Wisconsinites with the tools, credibility, and confidence needed to share their stories and concerns for public education. Accepting the award on behalf of the thousands of supporters connected under the WPEN umbrella will be Heather DuBois Bourenane, Marcia Engen, Chris Hambuch-Boyle, Jenni Hofschulte, and Melissa Prochaska.

For 23 years, the Boys & Girls Club of the Wausau Area has enriched and transformed thousands of young lives. The first club house opened in 1997 with approximately 500 members. Today, the organization serves over 2,500 youth at four sites with meaningful activities such as field trips throughout the Wausau area, the Teen Cuisine cooking class, reading programs, and athletic opportunities. Support for growth and activities is through the generosity of the local community and commitment of the club’s board and staff. Receiving the award on behalf of the Boys & Girls Club of the Wausau Area will be Kim Larsen, assistant executive director, and Casey Nye, board president. 

Founded in 1969, the Metropolitan Milwaukee Alliance of Black School Educators Inc. (MMABSE) is a source of support for teachers and administrators committed to the education of African-American children. MMABSE and its members work with Milwaukee Public Schools’ Black and Latino Male Achievement Department to address disparities in the lives of black and Latino young men. MMABSE retirees volunteer in schools participating in the Dr. Seuss Read Across America event. Through its annual Bowl-A-Thon, MMABSE members raise funds to provide student scholarships. The organization convenes one of the largest teacher appreciation events in Wisconsin, recognizing outstanding teachers at its Annual Teacher Gala. Receiving the award for Metropolitan Milwaukee Alliance of Black School Educators will be Patricia Kline, member; Past President Rogers Onick; and current President Darrell Williams. 

Rhinelander Partners in Education is an all-volunteer, nonprofit organization focusing on strengthening the ties between local businesses and schools and providing learning opportunities inside and outside the classroom. Rhinelander Partners in Education exposes students to their community and potential careers through efforts like Careers on Wheels and Mad Money, as well as by providing guest speakers and job shadow opportunities. The organization works with local businesses, organizations, and public and private schools to make Rhinelander a better place for generations to come. Receiving the award for Rhinelander Partners in Education will be Board President Ben Meyer, Vice-President Teri Maney, and co-founder Leah Van Zile. 

The Service League of Green Bay is made up of friends, activists, philanthropists, and dreamers bound by a single goal: to meet the physical, educational, and emotional needs of the children in Brown County by providing volunteerism and financial support. The Service League provides many needed resources for children and young people through child-focused efforts, such as Basics for Babies, Basic Necessities, and Teens for Independent Living. The Service League’s largest annual event is the Back-To-School store, which provides new clothes, sneakers, school supplies, and dental screenings to over 1,500 elementary school students. An additional 1,500 backpacks loaded with school supplies go to middle school children. At the Back-To-School Store, children are paired with a volunteer shopper and independently choose items they want to start their school year off right. Accepting the award on behalf of the Service League of Green Bay will be Board President Lauren Wooton and Immediate Past President Anna Burnette.

Support for public education is growing ‘community by community,’ Arizona Education Association president says at Wisconsin forum

Arizona Education Association President Joe Thomas (center) was welcomed to Wisconsin by former Green Bay Education Association President Amanda Van Remortel and Appleton Education Association President Chris Heller.

Advocates for public education will win the fight “community by community,” Arizona Education Association President Joe Thomas said Wednesday in a session at the Wisconsin Public Education Network Summer Summit in Appleton.

“You won’t win it at the Capitol,” Thomas said. “You will win it community by community, and it will show up at the Capitol.”

Thomas recounted the events surrounding last spring’s massive Arizona walkouts and rallies that led to a 19% increase in teacher salaries and large increases in public school funding.

The movement, Thomas said, came somewhat as a surprise in the wake of a similar uprising in West Virginia. The movement, he said, was a grassroots one. The union did not start it or organize it but helped manage it, as best it could, he said.

“It exploded in different ways,” he said, “but the piece that was most important to us and most successful to us was that we did very actionable items where people could understand what they were being asked to do, and we gave people the freedom to do it in their own way.”

The unity movement began with educators, parents and supporters wearing red T-shirts. “It became kind of the thing to do by Week 2,” he said. The union did not create the T-shirts, and there was no single design: People were creating their own Red for Ed shirts.

Over a few weeks, everyone was wearing red, and in the fifth week, Arizona Educators United – the independent grassroots group that took over leadership of the movement – created a list of five demands, based on surveys (which indicated overwhelming support for walking out if the demands were not met). The demands were:

  • Bring back $1 billion in school funding that had been cut.
  • Bring back salary schedules.
  • Provide competitive wages for education support professionals.
  • Provide 20% raises for teachers in that budget year.
  • Allow no more tax cuts until the state is 25th in the nation in per-pupil funding.

Rallies started at 5,000 people and grew to 75,000 at the State Capitol. Educators and supporters participated in pre-school walk-ins throughout the state, with 110,000 participating statewide during the second week, which Thomas called “our most powerful moment.” They also conducted massive “stand-outs” along the streets of Tucson and Phoenix.

“We needed the community to understand our story,” he said.

“Nobody wanted to have to do this. But the entire school structure was turned on its head because the school employees were saying, ‘We’re done! We’re done with the cuts. We’re done with the underfunded classrooms. We’re done with the overpopulated classrooms. We have to do this!’ ”

Thomas said the movement brought many new people into union ranks, especially young educators who had never before been involved.

“The learning we had was … we had so many young members and so many young leaders step up in the movement, and that is because they had space to do it. And that’s what we have to keep replicating.”

“We had so many people who went down who had never been to the Capitol before, or had only been at the Capitol for a field trip, that got to see how the sausage was made, who got to see legislators listen to them tell their stories about their students and schools and then completely ignore them and vote against students and schools,” Thomas said.

Thomas said these were among the key learning points:

  • Messaging is very important, and a constant focus on kids is critical. “All of this is about better schools for your kids.”
  • Work deeply with the community, including local businesses.
  • Social media is critical for organizing. In Arizona, it wasn’t the AEA that led the social media effort; it was grassroots messaging and organizing from educators, parents and supporters throughout the state that had the biggest impact.
  • “This was not only an education movement. This was a women’s movement, this was a union movement, this was an equity movement. … Everyone was there.”
  • “Trust your members,” he said. “We didn’t tell them what to do all the time. We told them what they could do, and they figured out how to do it, and they will see things you didn’t see. And we have so many people – an estimated 150,000 for the whole six days – who will never be the same.”

Watch Joe Thomas’ 21-minute presentation: