Thursday, July 28, 2011

Disappointing news

We are disappointed to hear the news from our partners across the street, the MTEA.  We had asked the Milwaukee Teachers' Education Association to consider pension contributions of up to 5.8%, and had pledged to use the resulting money to restore up to 200 of the 519 employees we had to lay off in June. Most of the laid off workers were MTEA members.

The MTEA surveyed members on the question of returning to the bargaining table for pension discussions. Today, the results of the survey were announced on the union's web site, in an open letter from their president.   Here's the link:

We had such hope. Today’s news is deeply disappointing.

We continue to look for opportunities to restore programs and services for students. As we have stated previously, with the budget challenges as they are, restoration of programs, and certainly the restoration of the jobs of any of the 519 employees laid off in June, will require the discovery of new money to the district, including funds from sources such as union concessions.

We are determined to continue to forge a partnership with our teachers that will yield the best outcomes for children. We will be prepared for the start of classes Monday for year-round schools, and September 1 for all remaining MPS schools. We will be prepared to serve our students and families.

Monday, July 18, 2011

The time is now

The time is now, teachers. 

I am aware that the leadership of your union, the MTEA, has sent a survey to you, asking if the union should enter into negotiations to consider financial concessions that would decrease the number of layoffs.  

That survey will be the single most important piece of mail you will get this week.  Please read it, and spend time thinking about your response.  The MTEA has asked for surveys to be returned by July 25th.     

I make my personal pledge that the dollars the district would earn back from such concessions would be immediately used to bring back teachers we had to lay off in late June.    Every cent we get back will be used to bring back teachers.

These are teachers who may have been in the classroom next door to yours.  They are teachers with whom you have shared break time, and whose children’s names you may know.  There are families on the line here.  Not only is it the teachers’ families, who are struggling to adjust to lives without an MPS paycheck, but it is students’ families – because we strongly believe teachers are the most critical mover of student achievement.

I am grateful to MTEA leadership for surveying members.  I have been eager to hear a response to my June 27 request for negotiations, and I had hoped it would be a response that is truly democratic, reflective of what the rank and file truly wants.   It seems that desire is shared by MTEA leaders, who said this in a document that accompanies the survey:

 “During these difficult times, we need to become an even stronger, more democratic union. We may have differences on how best to proceed. But in the end, we need to emerge with even more solidarity for the struggles ahead – to defend and build our union, our public schools, and our communities.  It is in this spirit that we ask for your input.”

Thank you for considering financial concessions.  Please return your survey to the MTEA by July 25.   When you indicate your preference, I hope you will make it a vote FOR your colleagues and FOR the students.  Make it a vote of support for talks that could restore staffing in many schools. 

Without this positive step, moving together on behalf of children will be a little harder for everyone.