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.

Wisconsin’s anti-collective bargaining law has significantly lowered teacher pay, increased teacher turnover rates and likely harmed student achievement, new study finds

From the Center for American Progress

Following the passage of Act 10, legislation championed by Wisconsin Governor Scott Walker that eliminated collective bargaining rights and slashed benefits for public-sector workers, Wisconsin’s public education system has seen significant harm. Teacher compensation and experience have dropped drastically and turnover rates have increased — all warning signs to Congress and other states considering similar legislation.

Enacted in 2011, Wisconsin’s Act 10 virtually eliminated collective bargaining rights and slashed benefits for most public-sector workers. Now, the American Worker Project at the Center for American Progress Action Fund has unveiled new research showing how damaging Wisconsin’s Act 10 has been to the state’s public education system. In Wisconsin’s public schools, teacher compensation and experience have dropped significantly and turnover rates have increased — all of which negatively impacts Wisconsin families and students. The analysis was unveiled on a press call Wednesday with Wisconsin Senate Democratic Leader Jennifer Shilling, Illinois Senate Pro Tempore Don Harmon (D), and Minnesota State Rep. Carlos Mariani (DFL).

“Governor Scott Walker and Republican elected leaders in Wisconsin said that Act 10 would benefit schools and families alike. They couldn’t have been more wrong,” said David Madland, senior fellow at the Center for American Progress Action Fund, senior adviser to the American Worker Project, and co-author of the analysis. “What has actually happened is that Wisconsin’s public education system has suffered a major blow since anti-union legislation was enacted. An attack on teachers and other public sector workers doesn’t just hurt those employees — everyone in Wisconsin will bear this impact.”

“As a result of Act 10, teachers receive significantly lower compensation, turnover rates are much higher, and teacher experience has dropped significantly,” said Senate Democratic Leader Jennifer Shilling. “Rather than encouraging the best and the brightest to become teachers and remain in the field throughout their career, Act 10 has demonized and devalued the teaching profession and driven away many teachers.”

The American Worker Project analysis used data collected by the Wisconsin Department of Public Instruction and found:

  • Reduced teacher compensation. In the year immediately following the law’s passage, median compensation for Wisconsin teachers decreased by 8.2 percent in inflation-adjusted terms, with median benefits being cut by 18.6 percent and the median salary falling by 2.6 percent. Median salaries and benefits continued to fall during the next four years so that median compensation in the 2015-16 school year was 12.6 percent — or $10,843 dollars — lower than it was before the passage of Act 10.
  • Higher teacher turnover rates. The percentage of teachers who left the profession spiked to 10.5 percent after the 2010-11 school year, up from 6.4 percent in the year before Act 10 was implemented. Exit rates have remained higher than before, with 8.8 percent of teachers leaving after the 2015-16 school year — the most recent school year for which data are available.
  • Greater percentage of less-experienced teachers, and a decline in overall teacher experience. The percentage of teachers with less than five years of experience increased from 19.6 percent in the 2010-11 school year to 24.1 percent in the 2015-16 school year. Average teaching experience decreased from 14.6 years in the 2010-11 school year to 13.9 in the 2011-12 school year, which is where it remained in the 2015-16 school year.
  • Higher rate of interdistrict moves. Interdistrict moves — when a teacher leaves one Wisconsin district to teach at another the next school year — has increased from 1.3 percent before the passage of Act 10 to 3.4 percent at the end of the 2014-15 school year.
  • Possible reduction in student performance and outcomes. Peer-reviewed research on Act 10’s effects on student outcomes has yet to be published, but several academics have produced working papers examining the law’s impact on Wisconsin students. This research is consistent with the authors’ findings that Act 10 has led to reduced teacher experience, increased exit rates, increased interdistrict teacher transfers, and thus has likely reduced student outcomes. Indeed, a recent working paper found that Act 10 had reduced statewide student achievement on science and math.

The American Worker Project’s research is particularly relevant because members of Congress as well as state elected officials in Illinois and Minnesota are considering similar legislation to attack public-sector employees. Meanwhile, Governor Walker, who championed Act 10 in his first term, just announced his bid for a third term. The U.S. Supreme Court will also soon hear arguments in Janus v. American Federation of State, County, and Municipal Employees, a case that could significantly weaken public-sector unions and teachers’ ability to collectively bargain.

Click here to read “Attacks on Public-Sector Unions Harm States: How Act 10 Has Affected Education in Wisconsin” by David Madland and Alex Rowell.

New report illustrates how strong unions make stronger communities

A new report, Strong Unions, Stronger Communities, details more than a dozen examples from across the country of how working people who belong to strong unions are making their communities stronger and leveling the playing field for everyone. The report was released Wednesday by the NEA, together with its union partners AFT, AFSCME and SEIU.

The report illustrates how strong unions are making important and often invaluable contributions to our communities every day, whether it is training young people to pursue careers in nursing, or negotiating with employers for better equipment and staffing levels to reduce emergency response times.

“Through better public services, good jobs and better opportunities for students, labor unions are key to making sure that working people have a chance to get ahead in an economy rigged in favor of the wealthy and powerful,” the report states.

“What makes these contributions possible is the freedom of public service workers to come together and pool their resources so they have the strength in numbers they need to speak up for their families, their co-workers and their communities,” it says.

“But that freedom is under attack at the Supreme Court in a case called Janus v. AFSCME that aims to diminish the ability of working people to stand in strong unions to advocate for the things our communities need. We hope that by writing op-eds, letters to the editor, statements and by posting to social media, you will draw renewed attention in the face of this unprecedented attack to the value our unions add to our communities.”

Click here for a toolkit to help you weigh in and lift up the examples in the report.

Read the entire report:

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Teachers’ mental health declining due to job stress, political discourse, survey finds

The growing stresses of teaching, coupled with the coarseness of the nation’s political debate, is taking a heavy toll on the mental health of teachers, according to a survey released Monday by the American Federation of Teachers and the Badass Teachers Association, a grassroots organization focused on social justice.

Well over half of the educators surveyed – 58% – said their mental health was “not good” for seven or more of the previous 30 days. That is up from 34% just two years ago.

The summary of the survey – titled “2017 Educator Quality of Work Life Survey” – says safe, welcoming, healthy schools flourish when teachers and school staff are empowered by support and respect on the job.

“Educator working conditions have a direct effect on the learning environment of our students. Teaching is a difficult job, and working conditions are a strong predictor of teacher turnover — more so than other factors like teaching in a high-poverty school,” its says.

“Studies have shown that teachers in high-poverty schools with good, supportive working conditions are likely to stay. The people who know teachers best — those who are part of their school and local communities — respect them the most. There’s a large and growing body of research that shows that community engagement and collaborative practices in schools and districts improve student outcomes. We can ensure safe, welcoming, supportive learning environments for kids when communities, parents, educators and administrators work together to build supportive working environments for teachers and school staff.

“Fostering safe, welcoming environments in schools is even more critical in our current political climate. A study released by UCLA in October 2017 shows that since January’s presidential inauguration, high school teachers across the United States are reporting more stress, anxiety and bullying among their students than before.”

Randi Weingarten, AFT president, is quoted in USA Today as saying that over the past few years, teachers have swapped one kind of stress — an intense national focus on standardized skills tests — for another, the nastiness of our political debate.

“This notion that being coarse and tough and enabling hate is OK is highly, highly, highly disruptive and problematic in schools and goes completely against what parents and teachers know is absolutely important for kids, which is a safe and welcoming environment,” Weingarten said.

Key findings of the survey include:

  • The people who know teachers the best — parents, co-workers and students — showed much more respect for teachers than elected officials and media members, many of whom rarely set foot in a classroom.
  • While educators felt most respected by their colleagues, they also indicated that their direct supervisors showed them much more respect than their school boards, the media, elected officials and U.S. Secretary of Education Betsy DeVos (86 percent of respondents did not feel respected by DeVos).
  • While the majority of educators felt they had moderate to high control over basic decisions within their classroom, their level of influence and control dropped significantly on policy decisions that directly impact their classroom, such as setting discipline policy, setting performance standards and deciding how resources are spent. This lack of voice over important instructional decisions is a tangible example of the limited respect policymakers have for educators.
  • Policies that support healthy interactions in schools are tremendously important. The survey found that educators experience workplace bullying at a much higher rate — more that three times as high — than other workers. While most educators reported that their schools have workplace harassment policies prohibiting bullying, a smaller proportion of respondents said that their schools or districts offered regular training on bullying.
  • These and other factors contribute to an unhealthy work environment. Teachers reported having poor mental health for 11 or more days per month at twice the rate of the general U.S. workforce. They also reported lower-than-recommended levels of health outcomes and sleep per night.
  • The stressful workload, the feeling of having to be “always on,” the lack of resources, and the burden of ever-changing expectations take a toll on educators, and the health problems educators face are compounded by deficient building conditions, equipment and staff shortages, and insufficient time to prepare and collaborate with colleagues.
  • Respondents overwhelmingly agreed that strong educator unions are vital.

Read the USA Today summary:

Survey: Teachers’ mental health declining amid job stress

A long list of anxieties – around school budget cuts, bullying, coarse political discourse and the shaky status of immigrant students – is taking a toll on teachers, a new survey shows, with more educators now saying their mental health is suffering than just two years earlier.

Read the entire survey report:

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Bill would weaken grievance process for teachers

A bill that is being circulated in the Legislature –  SB 419/AB  503 – threatens teachers’ rights to access the statutory grievance procedure that includes review by an impartial hearing officer.

WEAC has issued an Action Alert.
Tell the bill’s authors about your concerns!

Note: Teachers in the Milwaukee Public School System would not be impacted by this bill, because they are not covered by the nonrenewal statute.

“The proposed change to the statutory grievance procedure would create a number of inequitable situations,” said WEAC President Ron Martin. “Treating teachers unfairly results in low morale and will only worsen the teacher shortage, and that hurts students.”

Current law requires local government units, including school boards, to have grievance procedures in place that address employee terminations, employee discipline and workplace safety. The proposed change would essentially preclude access to the grievance procedure for teacher nonrenewals and any form of discipline where there is not a financial consequence – such as a letter of reprimand.

The current laws governing grievances and nonrenewals provide separate and independent rights. Under the nonrenewal law that applies only to full-time teachers, teachers have the right to a private conference with the school board prior to a decision to nonrenew. Under the grievance statute, employees must have access to a review process after a decision has been made, including a hearing before an impartial hearing officer, which allows the employee additional time and opportunity to prepare and submit testimony and evidence related to the nonrenewal. Therefore, it is critical that the legislature allow teachers access to both procedures.

Allowing teachers who have been nonrenewed access to the grievance procedure is crucial considering the stigma associated with nonrenewal. School district employers make hiring decisions based upon whether an applicant has been nonrenewed. Applicants for teaching positions posted on the Wisconsin Education Career Access Network (WECAN) are required to complete the WECAN Standard Application which asks: “Have you ever been non-renewed for reasons other than budgetary or program elimination?” Being nonrenewed suggests a teacher’s employment was ended for performance reasons or misconduct, and affects that teacher’s future employability. Thus, access to the grievance procedure is vital.

The bills have been referred to committee, and no public hearings are set. Read the fiscal estimate.

Unions call Janus case ‘a political effort to further rig the rules against working people’

The following statement was issued by members and leaders of AFSCME, AFT, NEA, and SEIU – the nation’s four largest public sector unions – in response to the U.S. Supreme Court’s decision to grant Certiorari in Janus v. AFSCME Council 31, meaning it will hear the case:

The Janus case is a blatantly political and well-funded plot to use the highest court in the land to further rig the economic rules against everyday working people. The billionaire CEOs and corporate interests behind this case, and the politicians who do their bidding, have teamed up to deliver yet another attack on working people by striking at the freedom to come together in strong unions. The forces behind this case know that by joining together in strong unions, working people are able to win the power and voice they need to level the economic and political playing field. However, the people behind this case simply do not believe that working people deserve the same freedoms they have: to negotiate a fair return on their work.

This case started with an overt political attempt by the billionaire governor of Illinois, Bruce Rauner, to attack public service workers through the courts. And, in a letter to supporters detailed in The Guardian, the CEO of the corporate-backed State Policy Network (SPN) reveals the true intent of a nationwide campaign of which Janus is a part: to strike a ‘mortal blow’ and ‘defund and defang’ America’s unions. The merits of the case are clear. Since 1977, Abood has effectively governed labor relations between public sector employees and employers, allowing employers and employees the freedom to determine labor policies that best serve the public. When reviewing the legal merits of this case, it is clear that this attempt to manipulate the court against working people should be rejected.

“For decades corporate CEO’s and the wealthy have fought to enrich themselves at the expense of the rights and pocket books of working people, and that harms families in communities across the country. As the nation’s largest union, we know this fight will not only impact the lives of educators, but it also impacts the families of the children we educate. We won’t back down from this fight and we will always stand up to support working people, our students and the communities we serve.” – Lily Eskelsen García, President, NEA

“More and more, the economy is working against working people, including the families whose children I teach. My union gives me a voice and a seat at the table to advocate for my students, my colleagues, and my community.” – Sonya Shpilyuk, NEA member, High School English teacher, Montgomery County, MD

“This case is yet another example of corporate interests using their power and influence to launch a political attack on working people and rig the rules of the economy in their own favor. When working people are able to join strong unions, they have the strength in numbers they need to fight for the freedoms they deserve, like access to quality health care, retirement security and time off work to care for a loved one. The merits of the case, and 40 years of Supreme Court precedent and sound law, are on our side. We look forward to the Supreme Court honoring its earlier rulings.” – Lee Saunders, President, AFSCME

“My work as a Child Protection Investigator for the Illinois Department of Children and Family Services is vital to the safety of our state’s most vulnerable children and families. This court case is yet another political attack on the freedom of my colleagues and I to speak up to ensure that we can safely and adequately manage our caseloads, which reflects our commitment to safety and public service to our communities.” – Stephen Mittons, AFSCME Council 31 member, Child Protection Investigator for the Illinois Department of Children and Family Services

“Unions are all about fighting for and caring about people—and in the public sector that includes those we represent and those we protect and teach in communities across America. Yet corporations, wealthy interests and politicians have manufactured Janus as part of their long and coordinated war against unions. Their goal is to further weaken workers’ freedom to join together in a union, to further diminish workers’ clout.

“These powerful interests want to gut one of the last remaining checks on their control—a strong and united labor movement that fights for equity and opportunity for all, not just the privileged few. And under the guise of the First Amendment, they want to overturn a 40-year precedent that’s been reaffirmed numerous times. In other words, this would be a radical departure from well-established law. We believe that after resolving a similar case last year, the Supreme Court erred in granting cert in Janus, and that the trumped-up underpinnings of the plaintiff’s argument will rapidly become clear before the full bench.” –Randi Weingarten, President, AFT

“My union just went through a lengthy contract fight in Philadelphia. We had to fight hard to protect our students’ basic needs, such as having at least one nurse and counselor in each school and ensuring that kids had necessary textbooks and materials. And we had to fight back against the district’s desire to eliminate class sizes and get lead testing for the school’s water fountains. Most people assume that the union only fights for teachers’ rights, when in reality, most of our contract is there to protect the basic rights and needs of our students. Those rights are at grave risk in Janus.” – Jeff Price, AFT Local 3 member, Teacher at Central High School, School District of Philadelphia.

The anti-worker extremists behind this case want to divide working people, make it harder to pool our resources, and limit our collective power. But SEIU members won’t let any court case stand in our way of sticking together for good jobs and strong communities.” – Mary Kay Henry, President, SEIU

“By sticking together in our union, we’ve lifted the wage floor to a $15 minimum wage, protected and expanded health care benefits for our families, and won more funding for our schools. Together, we’ll continue to fight to ensure all students have the support and services they need to succeed in school. That’s why the extremists are attacking us, to stop our progress. But we plan to stick together no matter what and keep standing up for quality public services.” – Edna Logan, SEIU Local 99 member, Custodian at Esteban Torres School, Los Angeles Unified School District.

Teachers make far less than other similarly educated professionals, report finds

Teachers in the United States make less than 60 cents on every dollar made by other professionals with comparable education levels, according to new data from the Organization for Economic Development and Cooperation. In addition, U.S. teachers work longer hours, at every grade level, than teachers in other countries, according to the OECD’s annual “Education at a Glance” report. According to Education Week, the OECD data found that a 7th grade teacher puts in 1,366 hours at school each year, including more than 980 hours of teaching—which is nearly 270 more hours of teaching than the international average.

“Teacher salaries are low compared to other similarly educated full-time workers,” according to the report. “This is a key obstacle for attracting young people into teaching.”

Read the entire report:

Education at a Glance 2017 | OECD READ edition

Education at a Glance: OECD Indicators is the authoritative source for information on the state of education around the world. With more than 125 char

Read a summary in Education Week:

Teachers’ Pay Lags Furthest Behind Other Professionals in U.S., Study Finds

Young college graduates have a lot less incentive to become K-12 teachers in the United States than in other countries, according to the latest data from the Organization for Economic Development and Cooperation. While American educators out-earn teachers in other countries, they trail those with similar education levels in other professions more than teachers in any other OECD country.

Unions are essential to a fair economy and vibrant democracy, report says

Unions not only help people earn decent wages and benefits, they are essential to a fair economy and vibrant democracy, according to a new report by the Economic Policy Institute.

“Unions — when strong — have the capacity to tackle some of the biggest problems that plague our economy, from growing economic inequality, wage stagnation, and racial and gender inequities to eroding democracy and barriers to civic participation,” the report says.

However, the report adds, “it is because they are effective and necessary for shared prosperity that unions are under attack by employers who want to maintain excessive leverage over workers and by policymakers representing the interests of the top 1 percent.”

The report says:

Unions fought for — and work to strengthen — many of the humane standards and norms that protect and uplift Americans today. These essential laws and programs include Social Security, child labor laws, antidiscrimination laws, health and safety laws, unemployment insurance, compensation for workers who get hurt on the job, the 40-hour work week, and the federal minimum wage. Unions were a major force behind all the Great Society laws on discrimination, housing, and voting rights.

As union coverage has declined and the voice of workers has correspondingly diminished, many of the key workplace standards past generations counted on have been eroded. For instance, there has been an erosion of overtime pay protection, slashing of workers’ compensation programs, and a decline in the real value of the minimum wage, which is lower now than it was in 1968.

The report says although union membership is on the decline, there is evidence that young people – who are experiencing a labor market with lower wages, diminishing benefits and fewer worker rights – are more supportive of unions than older workers and could lead a movement to help unions regain strength. Almost half (48 percent) of workers polled said they’d vote to create a union in their workplace tomorrow if they got the chance.

“Certainly, Americans of all ages, occupations, races, and genders have a vested interest in making sure our economy works for everyone,” the report concludes. “To promote an inclusive economy and a robust democracy, we must work together to rebuild our collective bargaining system.”

Read the entire report:

How today’s unions help working people: Giving workers the power to improve their jobs and unrig the economy

Americans have always joined together-whether in parent teacher associations or local community organizations-to solve problems and make changes that improve their lives and their communities. Through unions, people join together to strive for improvements at the place where they spend a large portion of their waking hours: work.

Lack of support, low salaries, over-testing contribute to high teacher turnover, report says

Two-thirds of teachers who leave the profession are beginning or mid-career educators who are walking away from the job for reasons other than retirement, according to a report released this week. The report from the Learning Policy Institute says common reasons for teachers leaving the profession include a lack of administrative support, low salaries, testing and accountability pressures, lack of opportunities for advancement, and poor working conditions.

The report says turnover rates are lowest in the Northeast, where states tend to offer higher pay, support smaller class sizes, and make greater investments in education. They are highest in the South. Shortages also persist in specific areas: mathematics, science, special education, English language development, and foreign languages. In addition, turnover rates are 50% higher in Title I schools, which serve more low-income students.

Teacher attrition in the United States is about twice as high as in high-achieving jurisdictions like Finland, Singapore, and Ontario, Canada, it says.

To stem teacher turnover, the Learning Policy Institute says, “federal, state, and district policymakers should consider improving the key factors associated with turnover: compensation, teacher preparation and support, and teaching conditions.”

The report says:

Addressing early attrition is critical to stemming the country’s continuing teacher shortage crisis. It is also important for school effectiveness. The cost of attrition to student learning and district budgets is significant. Teachers are the number one in-school influence on student achievement. Research finds that high rates of turnover harm student achievement. In high-turnover schools, the inexperienced and underqualified teachers often hired to fill empty spots also have a negative impact on student learning.

Read the entire report:

Teacher Turnover: Why It Matters and What We Can Do About It

This new study looks at who is leaving, why, who is impacted, and policy considerations.

Read more from edsource.org:

Don’t slam the desk on the way out. If fewer teachers quit, the shortage would end

Credit: Tue Nam Ton for EdSource Teachers in America are dropping out, leaving the profession at twice the rate of teachers in high-achieving school systems like those in Finland and Ontario, Canada. And they’re departing in large part because their principals do not support them, according to a report released Tuesday.

Janesville teachers applaud school board vote to scrap teacher ‘merit pay’ system linked to Educator Effectiveness program

The Janesville Education Association applauded a unanimous decision by the school board this week to scrap a system that tied teacher compensation to the state’s Educator Effectiveness program. The system had been put in place over teachers’ strong objections, and the board has now concluded that it has been ineffective, created large amounts of paperwork and discouraged teachers from taking innovative approaches to education.

Following this week’s school board action, a group of administrators, teachers and others will meet to develop a new system for determining pay raises.

“The JEA applauds the current school board for untying Educator Effectiveness and teacher compensation,” said Janesville Education Association President Dave Groth, a science teacher at Janesville Parker High School. “The JEA’s goal was to work with the district to create a teacher compensation system that attracted and retained the best teachers for the students in Janesville’s schools. Despite the JEA’s objections, the district administration and school board insisted on trying a ‘merit’ pay system that incorporated the Educator Effectiveness evaluation system. Educator Effectiveness was not designed to be linked to compensation, and history tells us that so-called merit pay does not work in education.”

Groth said the JEA looks forward to working collaboratively with school district administrators and board members “to create a teacher compensation system that is fair, predictable and rewards loyalty to the district and professional development to ensure the children in Janesville school district have the best professional educators.”

“We also look forward to a transition to a new system that makes sure all teachers are treated fairly,” Groth said.