Over the course of the past few years, we have seen many challenges that, if successful, would be detrimental to our profession. These include charter schools, teacher performance evaluations tied to standardized testing, the ConCon and now Janus. Even though we are still fighting against these threats, each one has the potential to change the course of public education as we know it. Each of these challenges can also be seen as an opportunity when looking at them with the proper lens.
We’ve all heard the saying “Strength in Numbers.” Nothing could be more important when it comes to unions. Many of our adversaries have plenty of cash. Think of the Koch Brothers and other billionaires that have used their money to influence policies and laws for their own benefit. This money has been used to buy elections from the highest in our land down to local town seats. Let’s be honest, it’s worked out pretty well for them so far.
As with any pendulum, once it swings far to one side, it is bound to swing back. From what we have seen in the past two years, it’s starting to swing back. This change in direction is all because of our strength, people! Everywhere you look, people are getting fed up. It’s happening all across the country with teachers taking a stand for change, in West Virginia, Oklahoma, Colorado and Arizona, just to name a few. These teacher have organized together in grassroots fashion for better pay and working conditions. And guess what, they're getting what they’re fighting for!
Right here in New York, our legislature is pushing a bill to return teacher evaluations back to the local districts instead of Albany. While it’s not perfect, it is a step in the right direction. There are active negations right now to get rid of APPR entirely. Two years ago this would have been unheard of. What has changed to make this happen? We made this happen. As a union, we educated our members, organized and took action. Our members attended phone banks, went door to door in neighborhoods and even had some uncomfortable conversations to get our message across. Don’t forget the car magnets that could be found everywhere. With all of these actions, we were able to get a school teacher, Christine Pellegrino, elected to the NYS Assembly in a district where she had little chance. We voted down a 20 year ballot proposition by an unheard of margin.
All this has made people around the country take notice. Our politicians are much friendlier now that they have been reminded what we, together as one, are capable of. Now, with the Janus decision looming, we must continue to come together as one and fight for what we believe!