Sunday, November 13, 2011

Times have changed. We must "Reimagine and Reinvent" the MTEA.

Welcome to “Public Education: This is what democracy looks like.” I invite you to sign up to receive notification of my blog posts – which I plan on updating on a weekly basis. Please comment on the posts, and/or email your opinions.
As recent statewide and national events have made clear, we need more public discussion in this country, not less, on essential issues of democracy, public education and the common good.
One of the issues this blog will address is the need to improve teaching and learning in our public schools. Here in Milwaukee, the teachers’ union is committed to a new vision of unionism that protects and promotes teachers as educational leaders.
In particular, Milwaukee Teachers’ Education Association (MTEA) has launched a campaign to “Reimagine and Reinvent” the MTEA.
 Like many teacher unions, for decades the MTEA followed a “bread and butter” union model based on contract negotiations and contract enforcement as the main union focus. This “industrial model” has several limitations in this post-industrial era. In Wisconsin, the need to reimagine and reinvent teacher unionism is further propelled by state legislation that now prohibits collective bargaining for most public sector workers.
I have been a classroom teacher and social justice advocate for more than 30 years. My vision of a strong teachers’ union rests on a tripod of concerns. [For a more detailed explanation, click here.]
One leg involves “bread and butter” unionism — ensuring family-supporting wages/benefits, and decent working conditions. The second leg rests on professional unionism — understanding that educators must take leadership roles in guaranteeing quality teaching and learning in our schools. The third leg is social justice unionism — promoting strong relations with parents and community groups not just on issues of public education, but to work for justice and democracy in our communities.
This vision fuels the campaign to “Reimagine and Reinvent” the MTEA. [For my speech to MTEA leaders outlining the need for the campaign, click here.] Our goal is go beyond the traditional structure of union building representative and educational assistant chairs in each school. We also envision four additional leaders in each school including: Parent/Community advocate; social justice/equity advocate; democracy advocate; and a teaching/learning advocate.
Above all, we envision a vibrant, reorganized union. Times have changed. We need to:
• Move from collective bargaining to collective action
• Reclaim our classrooms and reclaim our profession
• Build collaborative public schools that serve all students
• Work with parents and community to promote democracy and justice
• Improve our union’s internal communication, public relations, and our capacity to organize and mobilize our members.

We live in difficult and complicated political times. But these are also exciting times. We are building the future.

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