The Promised Kinder, Gentler Teacher Contract Talks Have Devolved Into Union Mud-Slinging

You know who is frequently the most frightened person in the room? The bully.

That doesn’t justify or excuse their behavior, but it is a lens that can help explain why someone is willing to expend so much energy trying to cause another person pain or shame.

The leadership of the Minneapolis Federation of Teachers has spent a lot of energy over the last couple of months calling names and lobbing insults at Minneapolis Public Schools leaders, with whom they are attempting to negotiate a new contract.

They call the strategy they are using this year – and I am not making this up — “Common Sense Bargaining for the Common Good.” Just what is good or common-sense about bullying the person across the negotiating table?

Tuesday the federation put the illustration atop this post up on its Facebook page. In addition to being the exact opposite of a kinder, gentler negotiating strategy it’s riddled with errors, attempts to smear a number of reputable district leaders by lumping them in with one who is the object of a current scandal that’s completely unrelated to the “privatization” conspiracy theory being fanned here, and does not actually accuse any of the leaders of anything other than having laudable resumes.

The chart associates several of its targets with the high-performing charter school network KIPP. KIPP did not privatize schools in New Orleans, as asserted here, but it does outperform traditional public schools in many urban and impoverished districts.

More of poor KIPP alumni graduate from college than Americans as a whole; 44 percent vs. 30 percent. Four times as many KIPP grads from low-income families graduate from college than the national rate for all low-income high school grads.

Gold standard research last year from Stanford University’s CREDO found that nonprofit charter school networks like KIPP are among the most effective schools, providing the equivalent of two months more academic progress each year than their traditional district counterparts.

Hell yes, Minneapolis ought to hire veterans of KIPP schools.

Teach for America? Just last week the RAND Corp. – hardly a bastion of privatizers – released data showing that 85 percent of principals were pleased with the TFA teachers placed in their buildings and would hire corps members again. The principals least pleased? TFA alums now leading schools – which researchers hypothesized was the result of their higher expectations.

Show me a traditionally trained MPS teacher who was displaced by a TFA teacher. I double-dog-dare you, because you can’t do it. Also, those TFA corps members are MFT members, in whose supposed interest all this mud-slinging is being done.

Absolutely, Minneapolis ought to learn as much as possible from TFA about identifying and nurturing potential teaching talent.

The Harvest Prep network of schools does not have a long history of financial misdeeds and real estate scandals. Or a short one. Co-founder Eric Mahmoud has a conviction stemming from a soured real estate transaction in another state, but it didn’t involve or affect the schools.

This last one is bad. Like if MFT’s graphic artists were reporters they’d be a few giant steps toward unemployment bad.

In addition to making grants to charter schools, Minnesota Comeback funds programs in MPS. Including the “Grow Your Own” program that helps immigrants and other MPS staff of color secure teaching credentials.

So much for the union being about securing resources for teachers and teachers-in-training.

If being associated with Venture Academy is scandalous, then paint my name in neon. I serve on its board of directors, too. And I can tell you that last year our students saw 260 percent of a year’s growth in reading — many of them catching up after years of educational neglect in MPS schools.

Lastly, in addition to misspelling BOTH of Bryan Fleming’s names, well…  they might actually have identified a privatizer here. Fleming’s side consulting business does steer families to private schools. Not KIPP and not Venture. But the only reason to include him in this rogues’ lineup is to smear the other educators in it by association.

Common sense bargaining for the common good? Not so much.


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