Tuesday, April 13, 2010

War Against Workers: Public Teachers in Arizona

Arizona last fall swept away nearly all contractual rights for public school teachers. This post addresses the consequences using one school district as an example.

The Arizona Legislature made sweeping changes to state teacher contracts earlier this year, removing seniority, salary and contract guarantees.

Changes under House Bill 2011 mean that school districts will be prohibited from
using tenure or seniority as a factor in determining which teachers can be laid
off. Additionally, school districts no longer have to honor seniority when they
rehire. http://www.azcentral.com/news/articles/2009/11/23/20091123edcontracts1123.html

What are the consequences? We see in the notoriously unprofessional Cave Creek Unified School District the results of this law's passage.

Facing budget cuts, Cave Creek Unified School District Administration decided without prior community consultation to cut one of its two middle-schools [while simultaneously opening a selective prep academy, which is another sickening story].

All of the teachers currently at the middle school selected for elimination--Desert Arroyo Middle School--have been informed that they are "surplus" even though many of these teachers have been with the district for many, many years and have advanced degrees and outstanding professional records. This school has an excellent reputation and has been recognized year-year-year as an outstanding school by the state.

The teachers at the other middle school (Sonoran Trails), tend to be more recently hired, but are not going to be considered for RIF-ing.

No even-handed, rationally-grounded, transparent evaluation of the merits of ALL middle school teachers is occurring.

This decision to prioritize one group of teachers, arbitrarily, over another defies reason.

This lack of reason is evident in the decision making about RIF-ing at another school in the district as well.

The elementary school, Black Mountain Elementary School, has removed from consideration for RIF-ing all teachers currently teaching multi-age classrooms, irrespective of their experience, teaching records, or advanced degrees and credentials.

Teachers who have been with the school for many years with master's degrees and proven records are being RIFed over (relatively) inexperienced, newly-hired teachers.

One teacher who has been RIFed has a master's degree, has taught multi-age, and is the only bilingual Spanish-speaking teacher at the school, which has a substantial recent-immigrant population of Spanish speaking kids. She alone is routinely assigned these kids because she can communicate with them and their parents. She is a proven teacher. Why is she being RIFed?

RIFed teachers have been informed that they will have to re-apply for any positions funding becomes available for, which means salaries are open for re-negotiation.

The Wagner Act of 1935 was passed with the intent of giving workers protections from arbitrary workplace power. Public employees were granted the right to unionize and to engage in collective bargaining in the 1950s for the same reasons.

The recession is given those who would like to wield arbitrary, prejudicial and self-interested power over workers free reign.

If workers do not unite and take a stand NOW we will return quickly to the 19th century workplace in which workers had absolutely no rights beyond the contracted wage, which often failed to provide basic subsistence.


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