"A child's learning is the function more of the characteristics of his classmates than those of the teacher." James Coleman, 1972

Tuesday, July 24, 2012

Paul Toner and the TURNcoats

The other day one of my colleagues here in Massachusetts asked me if I knew that out in Ohio, where they have a Republican governor and legislature, teachers are about to be evaluated based on test scores.  When I responded that that was already a reality here in Massachusetts, she said flatly: When did that happen?

And so now are many teachers waking up and wondering, when did that happen, especially in the bluest of states, right?  This is the kind of stuff we expect where ALEC handles the legislative agenda, but Massachusetts, really?  Really.  The dirty deal was accomplished through close coordination between Stand on for Children and president of the state NEA affiliate, Paul Toner.  A movement to oust Toner is now underway, with a group of Massachusetts teachers angry as hornets that their lawyering union president has sold them down the river with a deal much like Ohio, Tennessee, Florida and other states where Republican governors reign.

One of those teachers, Tim Scott, sent me links to an organization within NEA and AFT that helps us understand Toner’s agenda.  It is called Teacher Union Reform Network (TURN), and Toner is an up and comer in this group, which is now aimed at undermining the values and rights of teachers for the benefit of the corporate overlords they serve.

TURN was started in 1996 by AFT President, Helen Bernstein, with a grant from the PEW Charitable Trust.  Kicked off in April, it was one of Bernstein’s last official projects (retirement bonus?).  From the LA Times:
The former teacher, who will conclude a six-year stint as UTLA president in June, said she decided to take the job because she views organized labor's role in school reform as being as crucial to the success of the changes as it is to the unions' survival.
"Unless the unions engaged in the process are seen as a real leader, nothing's going to happen," Bernstein said.
Buzz Wilms, a professor at UCLA's graduate school of education, compared the organization to similar movements in industrial labor unions, where adversarial relationships with management have become more cooperative in a common drive for improving product quality.
"It's always a delicate balance [to avoid] claims that they have cozied up to management too far," Wilms said. "If TURN succeeds, their members will still have their bread-and-butter issues close at heart, but they will expand their charter to include the quality of education and student achievement."

Cozied, indeed.  By 1999, TURN-coats were led by Adam Urbanski, who is now a VP for AFT and still a leader of TURN :


Huddled around a conference table in a fancy Seattle hotel, America's most reform-minded teachers union bosses sounded more like crusading politicians than advocates for the rank and file.
Why not tie teachers' raises to their ability to pass demanding tests? Even better, fire slackers who can't cut it. Or, most radical of all, pay teachers based on how much their students learn.
Until recently, union leaders had been loath to even whisper such ideas.
"In the past, being a union boss was like being a defense attorney. If you molested kids or were incompetent, my job was to get you off the hook," said Adam Urbanski, director of the Teacher Union Reform Network, a group of progressive union locals that held one of its regular meetings last fall in Seattle. "That's not flying anymore."
Indeed, unions nationwide are negotiating contracts with provisions that link teachers' skills to their pay. They are developing training programs to improve the skills of veteran teachers. In New York, Cincinnati and elsewhere they are helping administrators shut down failing schools and evaluating colleagues who are not making the grade.
Selling such ideas, however, can be a challenge. Teachers worry that their economic interests are being downplayed to serve a political agenda designed to improve the union image, while administrators often regard union reforms as encroachments on management powers. Many administrators also doubt that the types of reforms supported by unions--which sometimes carry a hefty price tag--will lead to gains in student achievement.
There is reason for skepticism. The results of union reform efforts have been difficult to document. Even members of the reform network say they are frustrated by the slow pace of change. . .
By 2001, Urbanski and the TURNcoats were collecting cash from none other than Eli Broad, to the tune of $10,000,000, for their work to undercut teachers:
Billionaire financier Eli Broad announced Wednesday that his educational foundation is making a $10-million commitment to school reform efforts in Los Angeles.
Speaking at the Town Hall forum downtown, Broad said the Education Venture Fund is already funding programs to train principals, give private school scholarships to children in overcrowded schools, support new charter schools and train volunteers.
"We are going to seek out, identify and fund action-oriented and promising initiatives," the financial services tycoon said after introductory comments by Mayor Richard Riordan.
Broad, chairman and chief executive of SunAmerica, donated $100 million in 1999 to a foundation for programs that are not being tried because they are considered too risky by superintendents and large foundations. The grants focus on large urban districts in three areas: management (down to the principal level), governance and labor relations.
In an interview, Broad said the foundation is concentrating its efforts in school districts such as Chicago, Seattle and San Diego, where the superintendents are known as innovators. But he said that he felt an obligation to work with the Los Angeles Unified School District because he is based in this city.
Among the foundation's efforts is a project with the Teachers Union Reform Network to develop a model collective bargaining agreement oriented toward quality teaching rather than work rules and grievances, he said. . . .

By June of 2001, Rod Paige was signed on as a supporter, as was NEA President, Bob Chase, who viewed it all as very positive development.


Los Angeles financier Eli Broad and leading teachers union reformers on Friday unveiled a nationwide pilot effort to improve student achievement by rethinking the way unions and management conduct business.
Union officials and school district leaders in four urban systems, including San Francisco Unified, will tackle some of organized labor's sacrosanct issues that usually prove divisive at the bargaining table.
In each district, labor and management might negotiate such items as the length of school days, incentive pay for teachers or peer reviews.
Traditionally, teachers unions have resisted making concessions on these issues, arguing that they would mean extra unpaid work, curb employee rights or have a divisive effect on rank-and-file solidarity. However, unions are under increasing pressure from state legislatures and parents to play productive roles in raising academic achievement. That pressure is expected to increase if President Bush's proposal to require standardized testing in all states wins congressional approval.
In each of the pilot districts, the sides will attempt to refocus contract negotiations on accountability, teacher quality and achievement instead of focusing exclusively on salaries, work rules, grievance procedures and other points that usually dominate labor talks.
"[Unions] have to be willing to try things that they weren't willing to try a decade ago," said Broad, who introduced the initiative in Washington alongside Education Secretary Rod Paige.
"One of the ways to make progress is to start with a collective bargaining agreement that makes student achievement the most important issue," Broad added.
The new approach is certain to test the fortitude of labor leaders. But the head of the Teacher Union Reform Network, a collection of progressive union locals that will oversee the project, expressed optimism.
Adam Urbanski, the head of the teachers union in Rochester, N.Y., predicted that better relationships between labor and management will allow the school systems to focus on classroom instruction and education itself--two issues that often land on the back burner during contract negotiations.
"This is not just about goodwill," Urbanski said. "This is about turning goodwill into results."
In addition to San Francisco and Rochester, the pilot effort involves school systems in Toledo, Ohio, and Montgomery County, Md. An education foundation established by Broad will spend $1.7 million on the four-year endeavor, the latest expenditure by the billionaire chairman of financial services institution SunAmerica Inc. into education reform.
Some teachers worry that altering the traditional posture of their unions could threaten the many rights they have won in collective bargaining. But others said they believe that better relationships will help reduce rancor and allow both sides to take risks.
"It's a very positive step," said Bob Chase, president of the country's largest teachers union, the National Education Assn. "We'll see what happens down the line. The important thing is that people are willing to do things that might make a difference in the lives of teachers and students."

Fast forward to 2010, and we find the network continuing to be funded by corporate foundations that have public school teachers in their crosshairs.  Coordination now is handled through another non-profit, Consortium for Educational Change, which is funneling Gates money to both AFT and NEA players who want to get in on the action.  Enter, Paul Toner.  Here is part of an announcement from April, 2012, that offers the expansion plans for TURN, so that the cancer is widely introduced throughout the NEA and AFT.

Expansion of the Regional TURN Satellites
Labor-Management Collaborative Partnerships to Improve Teaching and Learning
The Consortium for Educational Change (CEC), an Illinois-based network of teacher unions, school districts, and professional organizations that work to make school systems more collaborative, high-performing organizations, was awarded $2 million from the Bill and Melinda Gates Foundation to support the expansion of the Teacher Union Reform Network (TURN), a national network of American Federation of Teachers and National Education Association union locals.   With this funding, the five TURN regional networks will expand efforts to help educators and unions to lead the education reform movement on policies, programs, and practices that impact schools, teaching, and learning. The effort will be managed by CEC.

Organization and Mission: CEC is a 501(c)3 organization, affiliated with the IEA-NEA, whose mission is to improve student achievement by working with districts and schools in becoming collaborative, high-performing organizations.  CEC helps schools and districts accelerate student learning by bringing together teachers, educational support personnel, school administrators, school board members, and parents to stimulate and promote change in school structures and systems.  TURN is a nationwide network of more than 100 union locals from the American Federation of Teachers and the National Education Association that work together to promote progressive reform in education and teacher unions. TURN’s five regional networks:
·       Promote progressive teacher unionism.
·       Build relationships between TURN and key community leaders and allies.
·       Cultivate the next generation of teacher leaders to influence education policymaking.
Description of Project: CEC will provide the staffing and curriculum to work with the TURN network to build capacity for education reform at the grassroots level.   Dr. W. Patrick Dolan, author of Restructuring Our Schools:  A Primer on Systemic Change and Mary McDonald, Consortium for Educational Change assist the leadership of the TURN regions in building capacity to organize union-management teams to collaboratively address the challenging issues that often impede successful education reform efforts.  The TURN regions will leverage successes in these reforms in order to inspire a cultural shift within national and state union organizations to inspire education reforms that impact teaching and learning.   These regions include:
·      CalTURN                        
·      Great Lakes TURN               
·      Mid-Atlantic/Southeast TURN        
·      Northeast TURN                        
·      Southwest TURN                
Expected Outcomes: CEC is working with the TURN Regions to:
·       Recruit new teacher leaders to advocate for progressive causes.
·       Provide organizational learning, support and engagement through regional TURN meeting structures and communication vehicles.
·       Provide ongoing support for labor-management teams to jointly address policies, programs, and practices that impact teaching and learning.
·       Communicate successes by sharing learning with other TURN locals and regions.
·       Influence teaching and learning policies and programs at the local, state and national levels.

Useful Links:                www.turnexchange.net

Meanwhile, Toner continues to market himself as the logical successor to Dennis Van Roekel, who should have been sent packing last year, when he signed off on the Gates/Broad plan to base teacher evaluation on test scores.

Here are details on the TURN Northeast Satellite, with Toner listed prominently:

Are you looking for a place where progressive unions can discuss authentic education reform and the union’s role in it?  Where you can network with your union colleagues and learn from each other?  TURN is the place for you.

More than a decade ago, Adam Urbanski, President of the Rochester Teachers Association, Helen Bernstein, President of the United Teachers of Los Angeles and a group of progressive union leaders, founded the Teacher Union Reform Network (TURN).  Their vision was of an independent, union-led effort to strengthen the nation’s teacher unions’ capacity to promote reforms that would lead to better learning and higher achievement for our nation’s children.  Peer assistance and review, alternative compensation and transforming low performing schools are topics being addressed by many of the 50 member locals who are affiliates of both the NEA and AFT.  More information about TURN can be found on its website, www.turnexchange.net.

The high level of participation in TURN has resulted in an effort to expand the opportunity for unions across the country to engage in these reform conversations and has led to the creation of regional TURNs in the Northeast, Great Lakes, Southwest, California and Southeast/Mid-Atlantic. Participating locals are those that either are currently engage in specific reform efforts or have expressed an interest in exploring such efforts in the future.  

The national satellite effort is being financially supported by the Ford Foundation which believes that teachers have the answers to the problems that confront public education and are most productive when they are able to interact with their colleagues.

More information will be forthcoming.  Please feel free to contact one of the organizing committee listed below for more information.

Kathleen Casasa, Co-Director Northeast TURN; President Portland Education Association

Maureen Logan, Co-director, Northeast TURN, Retired Prof. Dev. Coor. Westerly, RI Teachers Association

Paul Toner, President Massachusetts Teachers Association

Christine Colbath-Hess, President Cambridge Teachers Association

Kathleen Skinner, Director of Center for Education Policy and Practice, Massachusetts Teachers Association

Adam Urbanski, TURN co-director; President Rochester Teachers Association

And here is a link to the February meeting in Boston, where GE’s man, Pat Dolan, drew his charts to demonstrate how CEOs plan to use union insiders to corporatize the schools.  Stay tuned. Story continues to develop.


  1. Important research. Thank you, Jim.

    Open Question: Do the people leading SOS still feel beholden to the unions?

    I hold union activists in high regard. Put an emphasis on activist, as in the CORE caucus in Chicago and GEM in New York City. These are folks who support unionism, as I do, but demand accountability. All union members need to demand this accountability.

    Let's see what happens at the AFT convention coming up in Detroit.

    1. Some of us that were original "leaders" of SOS did not feel the unions should have had such a strong influence on what was shaping up to be a real grassroots movement. I for one - although never seen as a leader but just the secretary - voiced my disapproval of having a union rep on our conference calls. I believe I said at the time "they have been co-opted." ..... I was later booted out but not until after the most crucial work was done in setting the stage for the march. .... In the end, the unions did not prove themselves truly supportive of the effort.

      Hindsight for organizers should have been that we would have better off without them "advising." Depending on our grassroots information coordinators - the real workers - probably would have produced better results.

      "Firing" me (although Gary Ratner & I still gave our NCLB presentation two years in a row) left SOS without a secretary to keep track of the first conference notes on the final day. I believe important input from our people was lost....and the rest is history as we see it.

  2. Is any of this up for discussion at the AFT conference?

  3. Randi Weingarten has been involved with the Broad Foundation for ten years. From the 2009 Broad Mission Statement http://www.broadfoundation.org/asset/101-2009.10%20annual%20report.pdf

    Page 11
    Teacher unions have always been a formidable voice in public
    education. We decided at the onset of our work to invest in
    smart, progressive labor leaders like Randi Weingarten, head of
    the United Federation of Teachers in New York City for more
    than a decade and now president of the American Federation
    of Teachers (AFT). We partnered with Weingarten to fund two
    union-run charter schools in Brooklyn and to fund New York
    City’s first incentive-based compensation program for schools,
    as well as the AFT’s Innovation Fund. We had previously
    helped advance pay for performance programs in Denver and
    Houston, but we were particularly encouraged to see New York
    City embrace the plan.

    Page 16
    The Broad Foundation invests $2 million in the
    Teachers Union Reform Network (TURN), a network of
    National Education Association and American Federation
    of Teachers locals.

    Page 20
    In 2005 the Broad Foundation makes a $1 million grant to
    the United Federation of Teachers in New York City to open
    two union-run charter schools in Brooklyn, the first such
    schools in the country.

    Page 21
    Caption to a picture of “Randi Weingarten getting a hug from Joel Klein, then Chancellor of New York City Schools
    Left to right in picture: Eli Broad, U.S. Secretary of Education Margaret Spellings, New York City Department of Education Chancellor Joel Klein and United Federation of Teachers President Randi Weingarten celebrate at the announcement of the winner of the 2007 Broad Prize.”

    Page 23
    With the support of the United Federation of
    Teachers, the New York City Department of Education implements
    a school-wide bonus program in 200 of its most
    challenged schools. The Broad Foundation invests $5 million
    to help fund the bonuses.

    Broad Foundation Re-Focuses, Changes Leadership
from Education Week - July 22, 2010

    “Another area where the foundation will put more emphasis is in building linkages with reform-minded union leaders, as it did in the District of Columbia, DiBiase said. The Broad Foundation has committed $10 million to help pay for the performance elements of the new contract negotiated by D.C. Schools Chancellor Michelle A. Rhee and American Federation of Teachers President Randi Weingarten.”

    Eli Broad describes close ties to Klein, Weingarten, Duncan
    from Gotham Schools

  4. How can children respect teachers and learn when they witness constant bashing and ridicule by the media and most notably by politicians. They are constantly labeled as overpaid, too many benefits, under worked and incompetent and now we expect children to respect them?
    In order to improve education in the US we don't need more dictates from the "education experts" (many of whom have never taught in a public school a day in their lives) but instead a change in attitude of the entire country.
    The current plethora of educational schemes will never suffice.
    We need an all out effort to popularize education like that which has been done with the NFL and rap music.
    You might say that can't be done but I will then point to the popularization of science and engineering in the 60s. It was done well and with great results. It yielded many of today's scientists and engineers who have catapulted us into the technological age of the twenty first century.
    Criticism, castigation and lip service will never cure the problem!
    Walt Sautter

  5. For more details on Broad and the Unions see:

    Who is Eli Broad and why is he trying to destroy public education?