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

Friday, December 13, 2013

Is TURN Trying to Take Over Your Union?

I received the following letter from a teacher in California, who is concerned about her local union in California being taken over by the Broad-sponsored embeds from The Union Reform Network (TURN).  If your local has been taken over by TURN, please contact me to share your story.

Her letter below is followed by my response:

Dear Mr Horn,

I am a union rep in __________ California . . . , and my union leadership has begun looking into the possibility adopting TURN in conjunction with the school district.  I am, however, having a difficult time finding any resources about TURN and its cohorts, other than ones that speak well of the program.  There is little criticism available on the web, other than your highly appreciate insights, and that makes me nervous because it reeks much like a party line that everyone has to follow.  I am leery to say the least, but I wonder if you would not mind providing me with some leads, or articles, or unions who have adopted TURN and have been disappointed.  Patrick Dolan is coming to speak at our district on Monday and Tuesday of next week and I would like to have some questions for him on top of the ones I will ask about Broad, ALEC, and Urbanski.  I appreciate your help and any research that you may have.


Name Withheld

Hi __________,

I have forwarded your request for info on TURN to critic on the Board of the MTA here in MA.  I will pass along anything he sends me.  In the meantime, here are a couple of links that may be useful. Patrick Dolan is being shipped around the country but TURN  to drum up new support for corporatizing unions.  As far as I can tell, he is seen as the intellectual godfather of the movement. His hand-drawn charts try to capture how top-down management may be viewed as bottom-up governance.

It's total crap. Every place that TURN has gone, teachers have been losers in terms of job security, benefits, teacher autonomy, professionalism, and the student-teacher relationship.

There is a reason that Eli Broad provided the seed money for this outfit. It is based on the outlandish notion that the only way teacher unions can be relevant is to adopt corporate education reforms that are anti-teacher and most often anti-public school. What we have seen in places like Chicago where the teachers' union took a stand against school shutdowns, higher teacher pupil ratios, budget cuts, and inhumane learning environments for children, the public has been wildly supportive of such efforts. When teachers stand up for children and when unions make social justice their primary goals, the public responds with support and parents and parents feel as if they have allies.

The Teacher Reform Network, as it is called, supports more charter schools, teacher evaluation based on test scores, and the next testing delivery system, the Common Core.  My question would be something like this: how does it benefit teacher unionism  or help teacher unions grow and children prosper if teachers and their unions become tools of the oppressive corporate structures whose primary aims our school privatization and more profits for the education industry, as well as maintaining social control through unending testing regimes?

Another possible question: why does TURN  support unscientific teacher evaluation schemes such as value added, which are harmful and unfair to teachers? Or, why does TURN support school turnaround models that depend upon corporate segregated charter schools?

Below are two more links that you might find helpful, the second one with the names of locals where TURN is controlling the union, and the other from Philadelphia School Network with some interesting points in education union reform history.





I suggest that you share your information with a colleague you trust, or colleagues you trust, for this upcoming meeting. There is strength in solidarity, even if your numbers are small at this point.

I often feel like the voice in the wilderness when I provide these critiques of the teacher reform network or the current leadership of AFT and NEA. For some it sets off their lizard brain reaction, that part way down below cognition where fight or flight, fear and fancy, control responses. It sometimes triggers, too, that kind of George Bush Way of looking at the world – you are for unions and everything they do or you're against unions and everything they do. Surely this is a false dichotomy.

 For unions to survive and thrive, I make the case that they cannot become more like corporations in order to do so. They have to nurture and take care of their members, rather than to sell them down the river with unscientific and untried corporate reforms.

If we continue to stick our heads in the sand and pretend that everything that union leaders advocate and support and have bought and have been paid to do has to be supported in the name of solidarity, then our workers will continue to be exploited, schoolchildren will continue to suffer, democratic institutions will continue to weaken, and unions will become more and more irrelevant.

There is much work to be done to restore integrity. We can't begin by pretending that no such need exists.

Jim Horn

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