WEAC Election Update: State, local results – and what’s next

Election results
Milwaukee County Judge Rebecca Dallet – recommended by the WEAC Board – won a 10-year seat on the Wisconsin Supreme Court Tuesday. WEAC had cited Dallet’s 21 years of experience, support for the role of unions in the workplace and support for public education. Dallet will be seated in August. Voters also decided to keep the State Treasurer’s Office, a position supported by public education advocates. And they approved the five largest school referendums in the state.

WEAC members in their communities worked within their districts on several of the referendums, including the Beloit Turner referendum that is reported to have lost by just two votes.

WEAC President Ron Martin, an eighth grade social studies teacher, credited the work educators are doing to raise awareness about how the politics of recent years has hurt students and schools. “The pendulum is swinging back to restore Democracy; it’s time and we’re not slowing down,” he said. “Wisconsin educators voted with their students in mind, and we’ll always vote for our students.”

Referendums
Voters supported 55 of 66 local school referendums — 83 percent — in Tuesday’s election, indicating communities are supportive of their public schools and willing to step up to fund them to make up for what the state has cut over the past few years. The passage rate is up from the fall elections, where 70 percent of referendum questions were approved, and the spring 2017 elections where 62 percent of referendum questions passed. Tuesday, the five largest referendums in the state all passed:

  • Chippewa Falls, $65 million
  • C. Everest, $60 million
  • River Falls, $48 million
  • Sparta , $32.5 million (two referendums)
  • Plymouth, $32 million

Of the nine largest referendums, seven passed and one of the others – in the Beloit Turner School District – is headed for recount after losing by only two votes.

A new law will benefit 13 of the districts with successful operating referendums, which are now eligible to receive a low revenue bump via an increased revenue ceiling for the next three years. That’s funding that can be used to improve student opportunities, hire educators and increase pay. The districts are:

  • Adams-Friendship
  • Almond-Bancroft
  • Benton
  • Ellsworth
  • Howard-Suamico
  • Kiel
  • Manitowoc
  • Markesan
  • Merrill
  • Mondovi
  • Randall J1
  • Shullsburg
  • Westby

See the complete list of school referendums here.

School Board Elections
Members of our local associations also recommended candidates in several school board elections, supporting candidates who support public school students.

Up Next: Special Elections
This is a big year in Wisconsin elections, and we’re already watching the next races shape up. After the governor was forced by the rulings of two judges to hold special elections in open Legislative seats, a field of candidates is coming forward. In Senate District 1 (Northeastern Wisconsin), Republicans Alex Renard and Andre Jacque have stepped forward. In Assembly District 42 (Southcentral Wisconsin), Democrats Ann Lloyd and Nicolas Schneider have announced their candidacies, along with Republicans Spencer Zimmerman and Jon Plumer. A special election primary election is set May 15, with the special election slated June 12.

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Agreement ends West Virginia strike, gives teachers 5% raise

National Education Association President Lily Eskelsen García issued the following statement, in reaction to Tuesday’s agreement that will allow West Virginia to attract and retain the best educators for West Virginia students.

“I am so proud of West Virginia educators and the West Virginia Education Association, without whom the West Virginia Senate would not have honored the agreement to give educators, school support staff and all public employees a 5 percent raise. They have stood in solidarity and made their voices heard to demand recognition of their professionalism and dignity because they know attracting and retaining the most caring and competent educators for West Virginia students is essential to their state’s success.

“While this is a good first step, West Virginia will need to make additional changes to ensure they can recruit the best educators in the future. Even with this raise they remain 43rd in the country for teacher pay, and unless the task force charged with addressing the health care system is successful, the victory will be short lived. It is important that the task force confront the serious challenges facing the state’s Public Employee Insurance Agency (PEIA) and generate solutions that are fair, equitable, and do not balance shortfalls on the backs of public service workers like educators, librarians, or state employees. I have complete faith in the educators of West Virginia to continue making their voices heard and ensure the task force is successful.

“Students, parents, administrators, school superintendents, community and faith leaders, and a bipartisan effort from lawmakers were also essential to reaching this agreement, and we can’t thank them enough for the outpouring of support they provided our educators over the past two weeks.

“This is a great day for West Virginia’s students and its future.”

Read more:

West Virginia leaders reach deal to end teachers strike

West Virginia’s striking teachers cheered and applauded Tuesday as lawmakers acted to end a nine-day classroom walkout, agreeing to grant them 5 percent pay hikes that are also being extended to all state workers. A huge crowd of teachers packing the Capitol chanted jubilantly, sang John Denver’s “Take Me Home, Country Roads” and some even wept for joy at the settlement.

West Virginia lawmakers reach deal to give striking teachers pay raise

West Virginia lawmakers said Tuesday morning that a deal has been reached to deliver a 5% pay raise to teachers, according to the governor and the committee meeting on the matter. Teachers have been on strike since February 22. At a committee meeting Tuesday, state Sen.

Family’s experiences in Minnesota, Iowa and Wisconsin illustrate impact of political climate on education, unions

In an Education Minnesota article, Sparta, Wisconsin, teacher Lauren Cody says her mother’s involvement in the union as a Minnesota Education Support Professional has instilled in her a deep appreciation of the importance of the union for educators and students.

Lauren, a fourth-grade teacher in her second year of teaching, says she joined the union because she saw the benefits the union has provided to her mom, Deb Cody, as a paraprofessional in Caledonia, Minnesota.

“My mom is active in the union, and that is what motivated me to also get involved,” Lauren said. “I have learned a lot from her experiences. I have seen her work through numerous injustices, and it has really opened my eyes to how imperative it is to be part of the union.”

The article emphasizes the negative impact of Act 10 on educators and education in Wisconsin and also the impact of similar legislation in Iowa, where Deb Cody’s son, Kalyn, teaches. Deb says the experiences of her children in Wisconsin and Iowa illustrate how critical it is that educators in Minnesota work to maintain their much friendlier environment for unions and public education.

“I feel strongly and talk often to others about the benefits of being a union member,” she said.

Read the entire article:

Education Minnesota – Minnesota Educator

As a mom, Deb Cody is of course proud of her children. As a paraprofessional, she is even prouder that two of her children became teachers. As a leader in her local union in Caledonia, Deb is nervous about losing collective bargaining rights because she sees the effect it can have on the education profession with her daughter teaching in Wisconsin and her son in Iowa.

Participate in the Working People’s Day of Action February 24 in Madison!

Around the country, workers are taking a stand against the continued assault on the rights of working people! Join the Working People’s Day of Action, 1:00 to 3:00 p.m., Saturday, February 24, 2018, at the State Street side of the Capitol Square in Madison.

AFSCME Wisconsin invites you to stand with your union colleagues, fellow workers and advocates to show all those who have taken away the rights of working people that they will be held accountable.

Speakers at the rally will address the power workers have to demand fair treatment, the proud history of labor, and the Janus vs AFSCME U.S. Supreme Court case. Arguments in that case will be heard before the high court two days after the rally.

Open the Day of Action flier.

‘Janus’ case is not just an attack on unions, it is an attack on racial minorities

In this column, published by The Daily Beast, journalist Barrett Holmes Pitner says unions have consistently provided a pathway into the middle class for American minorities. If the U.S. Supreme Court rules this year in favor of the Janus case, it will undermine unions and severely impact the ability of minorities in particular to achieve fair wages and benefits.

“Championing unions formed an integral part of the civil rights movement in 1960s,” writes Pitner, a politics and race-and-culture journalist, and an adjunct professor in the department of Environmental Studies at the State University of New York College of Environmental Science and Forestry.

“Dr. Martin Luther King Jr. and many other civil rights leaders linked social justice to the strength of labor unions to provide minorities with employment opportunities and a livable wage. Public-sector jobs have historically provided employment opportunities for African Americans before the private sector did, and the employment opportunities created within them provided the black community with job opportunities that never existed before.

“These unions also brought new protections to valued professionals within the black community, notably teachers. From Reconstruction through Jim Crow and beyond, teaching was especially important, given that white educators simply wouldn’t teach black children in many parts of the country. Many of our best and brightest have flocked to this profession.”

Read the entire column by Pitner:

Unions Helped Integrate America. The Supreme Court Could End That This Year.

This month the Supreme Court will hear oral arguments in Janus v. AFSCME, a case that threatens to severely weaken the collective bargaining power of America’s unions. This is not a column about the merits and demerits of public-employee unions.

Wisconsin Supreme Court bars access to public records created during union recertification elections

From Madison Teachers Inc.

Madison Teachers Inc. filed an action in Dane County Circuit Court in 2015 challenging the Wisconsin Employment Relations Commission’s (WERC) refusal to release voter lists during annual Union certification elections. Dane County Judge Peter Anderson ruled in favor of MTI and held that the WERC was required to produce the certification voter lists requested by the Union under the Public Records Law during the election period. The Wisconsin Supreme Court overturned the ruling in a decision released this morning, essentially adopting a new court-made exemption to the state’s broad Open Records law.

In a blistering dissent. Justice Ann Walsh Bradley stated:

“Despite Wisconsin’s longstanding public policy favoring transparency, for the third time in three years this court continues to undermine our public records law. Yet again, this court overturns a lower court decision favoring transparency of records to which the public is rightfully entitled. Once more we must ask, ‘[w]hat has the majority achieved with its opinion grounded in speculative, abstract, and unsubstantiated fears?”’”

The decision blocks the union’s access to a public record of the employees who have voted as of the mid-point of the 20-day election period. MTI was not seeking a record of “how” employees voted (that is rightfully kept confidential), but only a list of voters who had cast a ballot.

Since Act 10 was enacted, which requires public employee unions to stand for recertification elections every year, the WERC has provided the union with the information on who has voted only after the election was over. The decision will uphold the secrecy of WERC’s recertification elections, which it conducts entirely by electronic balloting.

Historically, and under WERC’s election rules, unions have a right to observe and monitor certification elections. As a result of the Court’s decision, unions will as a practical matter have no effective way to monitor the WERC’s administration of the elections or to track voting, as they would if WERC conducted elections at a physical polling place.

The Court’s decision will have far-reaching consequences for the Open Records law and is a blow to transparency and open government.

Spotlight on Locals: Tomahawk Education Association

WEAC Vice President Peggy Wirtz-Olsen presents Ann Swenty, Tomahawk EA Co-President, and Jon Marin, Tomahawk EA Treasurer, with a certificate recognizing them as a strong local affiliate.

By Peggy Wirtz-Olsen, WEAC Vice President

I interviewed Co-President Ann Swenty from the Tomahawk Education Association to ask her how her local has maintained strength holding steady with a membership of 77 teachers of their 100 teachers on staff.

“First and foremost, you must have a strong leadership team,” Ann told me. She credited her long-time treasurer Jon Marin for his “conscientious dedication to the union” and Angie McPherson, their local secretary, for her follow-through. “Angie gets things done, and she is always a voice for our members.”

Ann also discussed the local’s decision to switch to a Co-President team, training Allison Shantz to take the reins when Ann steps down. Allison has been teaching in Tomahawk for just a few years and was eager to not only join the mission of the local but to become a leader.

Tomahawk EA has a structure that trains building representatives to be leaders who are informed about policy and legislation that will affect them. Ann said it is part of the mission of their local to develop new members because no one will teach forever. If we can involve our new hires in the work of our local, our future will stay strong.

Ann also discussed local visibility as a key factor in their strength. She discussed how the local needs to be engaged in conversations with colleagues about their work. Ann also mentioned that the Tomahawk EA still meets regularly, one time a month, to discuss what’s happening. The leaders and members know that our union meeting is a place to discuss needs in their classrooms and their school buildings. The members know the regular meeting schedule, which is clearly publicized and shared with them, starting at the opening day luncheon for all teachers, hosted by the Tomahawk EA.  Even if the meeting only lasts 10-20 minutes, it’s a place for listening and information-sharing.

As part of their push for additional visibility in their tight-knit community, the Tomahawk EA launched a shop local campaign this past Fall. Each member of the Tomahawk EA has a card offering special deals to their members. Ann said that teachers are leaders in her community, with many serving as members of their churches and local boards. She said that she is often reminded when shopping locally when business owners say, “Where’s your card?” In this small community, they recognize Ann as a teacher and a supporter of their community.

Finally, Ann discussed the need for unity to maintain strength in her local. She cited the network of other leaders within both the region and the state that she and her fellow leaders can rely on for training and support, noting that leaders of the Tomahawk EA attended the WEAC Summer Leadership Academy this past summer at UW-Eau Claire to connect and broaden their network and to offer further training to Allison, her Co-President.

Ann encourages others who are struggling to reach out and to not go it alone. Ann said it is difficult to do this work as an educator with a full plate, but the support of her colleagues in her local, region, and state keep her going every day to be her best for her students.

Teachers say they are overwhelmed by constant policy changes

Nearly all respondents to an Education Week survey — 86 percent — said they had experienced new changes or reforms in the past two school years, and 58 percent said the changes are “way too much” or “too much.”

The teachers surveyed were most likely to say they’d had changes to their teacher-evaluation systems. Other common areas for reform were curriculum, professional development, and state testing.

About one-third of respondents said the amount of reform was “just about right,” but most teachers (84 percent) agreed that as soon as they get a handle on a new reform, it changes.

Read entire report in Education Week:

Majority of Teachers Say Reforms Have Been ‘Too Much’

Change is hard-particularly for teachers, who are generally taking dozens of students along for the ride. Yet the majority of teachers say they’ve faced major changes-related to what and how they teach, as well as how they’re evaluated-over the last couple of years in their schools and districts, according to a recent survey by the Education Week Research Center.

Closing gaps in teacher quality depends on fixing the root causes

A report claiming gaps in access to high-quality teachers is due to a labor shortage misses the point, a review shows. Instead, the root causes of the gaps must be addressed, like rigorous but alternative pathways to teaching and incentives for attracting and keeping educators in hard-to-staff schools.

Read the Review

The issue of gaps between the experience and quality of teachers in different areas of Wisconsin and the nation is on the minds of state leaders, policymakers, school leaders and communities. Research shows many schools face challenges in retaining high-quality teachers, especially urban school districts and small, rural school districts. Studies have also shown when schools don’t have access to high-quality teachers on a consistent basis these gaps can negatively impact students.

The Education Trust published recommendations for state leaders to close gaps created when experienced, highly qualified teachers shy away from working in urban and rural schools. The review of the Ed Trust recommendations showed the report missed an opportunity to address the root causes of the nation’s teacher retention problem and failed to explain the impact of previous federal and state policies on teacher recruitment and retention.

The review also found the report contained significant omissions and relied heavily on think tank reports to support its recommendations, including five of its own.

Furthermore, the report provided little or no guidance as to how to define, identify or access high-quality teachers. It did not provide tools or insights that help state leaders attract and retain high-quality teachers, nor did it identify ways for leaders to understand how to develop incentives and cultures that attract and retain high-quality teachers in high-needs schools.

The review was commissioned by National Education Policy Center with funding from the Great Lakes CenterWEAC partners with the Great Lakes Center to provide reviews of education-related studies. WEAC President Ron Martin sits on the Great Lakes Board of Directors and shares this academic review of a study about tackling gaps in access to strong teachers.

96 percent of WEAC local recertifications pass

Ninety-six percent of 2017 fall recertification elections for WEAC locals passed, results released Tuesday by the Wisconsin Employment Relations Commission show.

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

“In the local associations that chose recertification elections, educators continue to show tremendous support for the union,” said WEAC President Ron Martin, a middle school social studies teacher. “Unions continue to play a very strong role in their local school districts and partner with parents and their communities to ensure the best public schools 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.