Letters to the Editor

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STRIKE: Teachers out of touch with reality

Letter by Kathryn Falchetti, Tacoma on Sep. 16, 2011 at 12:08 pm with 53 Comments »
September 16, 2011 4:14 pm

I am a mother, a former Americorps volunteer in Tacoma’s schools and by nearly every measure a bleeding-heart, liberal, progressive Euro-Socialist. I do not support the teacher’s position in this strike.

That the teachers want a pay raise and smaller class sizes in this economy is barely worth comment.
The fact that teachers refuse to submit to evaluations with any kind of consequence – i.e. who is transferred where – shows that they are out of touch with today’s world. Nearly every working adult is evaluated by their supervisor, with real consequences to their pay or promotions.

The teachers say that the district’s proposed evaluation (with a six-point rubric) is too subjective and it is better to stick with the current “objective” system of seniority.

Seniority, for all it’s objectivity, tells us very little about teachers other than years of service and nothing about whether they fit within the culture or needs of a particular classroom or school.

Teachers themselves should know that the most objective evaluation of students –
true/false or multiple-choice tests – shows us very little about actual learning. The best evaluations – projects, essays, presentations – are graded somewhat subjectively, with very real consequences in their grades, college prospects, etc., by the teacher’s themselves.

It’s time for teachers to suck it up and enter the world the rest of us live in.

Leave a comment Comments → 53
  1. What a concept! And maybe passing on to their students what it means to be an employee.

  2. You are misinformed. No teacher I know wants a pay raise or smaller class sizes. They have agreed to take the pay cut. They have already agreed to larger class sizes for this year, even though that could mean cutting additional teacher jobs.
    Additionally, the proposed evaluation is not a 6 point rubric, it is a 10 point evaluation, and 6 of the points are subjective WITHOUT A RUBRIC AT ALL. That is what teachers asked clarification about during the bargaining process, and as I understand it, the district has been unable to provide any clarification on that issue. No teacher I have spoken to is against subjectivity or even the proposed evaluation itself, but they would like to see the rubric for those subjective measures. That does not seem unreasonable to me.

  3. Check the TPS website- they have the latest TEA proposal in Labor Negotiations- yup- they now want a pay raise, decrease in class size and very strict rules about seniority being the trump card when filling jobs and transfers. They are very empowered not that they have been on strike and enjoyed so much encouragement.

  4. PumainTacoma says:

    Well said Kathryn. Good letter.

  5. rosie12, Thanks for the reference. I looked at the proposal and I see in the margin that they have written “NOT PROPOSAL” in the margin surrounding the paragraph regarding pay. That leads me to believe that they are not including salary as part of their proposal. Correct me if I am wrong.

  6. Get the facts Kathryn and get back to us. It’s not about money…

    The website is not ‘the latest”

    Since you’ve been a volunteer in the classroom Kathryn…how do you evaluate a teacher dealing with a kid that has threatened them with violence? Do they get an exceptional rating, or is that the norm?

  7. update on the website as of 9/15/11:

    The Tacoma School Board has proposed increasing class sizes, cutting teacher pay and implementing flawed policies for determining how teachers are assigned and transferred.

    Tacoma teachers want to protect class sizes, and they have proposed staffing policies that provide flexibility for administrators but are consistent and fair to teachers. So far, the board’s negotiators have rejected the teachers’ proposals.

  8. geeterpontiac says:

    Very good letter.

  9. BigSwingingRichard says:

    The union will try at all cost to hold the door to the path of reality closed for the teachers.

    Call me crazy, but basing staffing decisions on a teachers ability to have a birthday might not result in the best qualified person getting the job.

  10. tree_guy says:

    Teachers should be shifted around, reassigned if you will, to various schools during their careers. This would make them better teachers. Teachers don’t own their own classroom regardless of what the union thinks.

  11. Contract issues aside- When little Joey grows up and has an arrest warrant issued for him for failure to appear in court or obey a court order, he can say his teacher told him he can pick and choose which court order he wants to obey. A great lesson in civics.

    So, when the strike is over and done with all the kids can say their teacher is a scofflaw!.

    This isn’t civil disobedience like in the 1960’s to overturn or repeal unconstitutional or unjust laws. It’s a total failure of adults who cannot sit down and talk together. They must be getting ready to be politicians in the OTHER Washington.

  12. Most of them are not aware of real life. School is not real life!

    The vast majority of teachers started at “K”, went through the years to “12”, then added four more years of college and popped right back into the classroom as teachers to fill out a career.

    Never once actually holding a real job, in the real world.

  13. Dear Dcr628,

    I completed the K-12 thing and went on to get a graduate degree and have held jobs in the real world ever since. Teaching is as real as it gets under the completely flawed ‘No Child Left Behind Law’.

    Anyone who says otherwise is completely misinformed.

  14. harleyrider1 says:

    Tacoma school teachers earn more per hour than most licensed professionals in Tacoma. Just take a minute and do your research.

    Think pay per hour, which is what most of us get paid.

    Unfair? Really? Oh, it’s all about the kids I’m sure.

  15. spotted1 says:

    tree_guy, I agree with you but only in part. While it is good for teachers to get out of the position they are in at intervals, it is not always a benefit. Teachers should move to get out of their comfort zone, but just moving them is not the best reason.

    You may move a very good teacher to a place where they will be a failure. While moving teachers because of performance looks good up front, you have to ask why the teacher is successful. Sometimes it is beacuse of the well to do kids in their class. Sometimes it is because of the school climate. Sometimes it is due to the teaching team. Sometimes it is because of the adminstrative support. Just moving a teacher without considering these issues can is not appropriate.

    Yes, teaching teams should be considered for movement. But moving certain people into a position just because you think they might be successful, without considering the climate, can cause more problems than it fixes.

  16. Anyone who hasn’t actually worked as a teacher has every right to hold their uniformed opinions. They aren’t being honest, however, if they think their opinion is based on reality.

  17. When even the admitted socialists realize how RIDICULOUS the TEA position is, it is time to rethink the striking teachers position. The WEA orchestrated this strike, Andy Coons is a willing, dim-witted pawn of the WEA. I believe he really is so ignorant that he believes in what he is doing.

    Kathryn-thank you for having the clarity of character to state your progressive “euro-socialist” political beliefs. So many that are progressive socialists are afraid of that word! I am the exact opposite politically, but appreciate someone that can at least honestly acknowledge their ideologies. It’s refreshing!

  18. I haven’t worked as a teacher, mainly because I wouldn’t last long…would probably get fired. I also haven’t worked as a cop or a firefighter. I do help pay the salaries of all those people. My opinion does count. With the economy the way it is teachers aren’t basing their demands on reality. Would be a different story if the city/county/state were flush.

  19. taxedenoughintacoma says:

    I think it is time for the district to take a bold and decisive step. It is time for union busting. Get through this year, and then the school board sets the pay scale for the following three to four years at 0 percent increases. The teachers can accept having a job or resign.

    Then advertise in all of the teaching colleges that Tacoma Schools will be hiring several hundred teachers for September 2012. There are a lot of young, bright, graduates that will jump at the opportunity. What we lose in experience, we will gain in enthusiasm and desire to be part of a quality, middle/upper middle class school district.

    After a few transition months, the new teachers will be fine. We will not miss the complacent, going through the motions, only in it for the big paycheck teachers. Those teachers that accept the terms, but don’t show up in September in protest, are immediately terminated. Those teachers that accept the job, but silently protest by not doing their job properly will have an employee review at the end of the year and will be terminated.

    And do not allow the teachers union to darken the door again. I want a non union district or give me my voucher like they do in Indiana.

  20. alindasue says:

    taxedenoughintacoma said, “After a few transition months, the new teachers will be fine.”

    Do you want your children to be the guinea pigs all the new teachers learn on during the “transition period”? New teachers are great, but they start out best when they have the company of more experienced teachers to guide them through the transition, as they currently do.

    “It is time for union busting.”

    The results of this last decade or so’s “union busting” trend are already being seen as fewer employers provide pensions or retirement plans (or allow employees to keep a job long enough to collect one), the percentage of jobs that provide medical benefits has decreased, and the number of jobs that are “part time casual” employment seems to increase.

    Unions were started because at the time unsafe working conditions and unlivable wages were the norm for the average American worker. After the last union has been busted, what’s to stop employers from returning to those days? Sense of decency? Yea, right – only if it fits in with their bottom line.

    You may say that we laws in place now that prevent workplace abuses, but would we have those laws without unions? How long will those safeguards last once the unions are gone?

  21. I call False Flag – I know of no Leftist who would use the term “Euro-Socialist” to describe themselves. These self-listed “credentials” smell like bovine excrement.

  22. harleyrider1 says:

    Excellent letter – well said Kathryn, especially since you have been a teacher and live in this State. Well said.

  23. Well bBoy, I’ve been in the classroom off and on for 30 years, and I find this whole mess very fishy. Given our current economy, given the really big issues facing our culture, and given the fact that thousands of people are out of work, I think the reasons for this strike are shameful, frankly.

    Further, I know for a fact that many teachers do not want to be on the picket line but are there because they fear what will become of them when it’s all over if they defy the union orders. And yes, I said orders. I wonder if these poor teachers know that they are part of Obama’s “army.”

    This is thuggery at its worst and it makes me ill.

  24. sozo – I made no comment regarding the merits of the strike – I commented on the letter writer’s claim about herself.

    Gotta say…….You’re being pretty elastic with your logic to try to connect a LOCAL issue with comments made by the leader of a completely different Union and with the President……

    Since I don’t live in Tacoma anymore this issue doesn’t affect me – can’t wait till this is resolved so we can get some letters on other topics to create tangential posts about.

  25. Again – the ONLY people I ever have heard making references to “Euro-socialists” come from the Right.

    The letter would have been stronger without the attempt to misrepresent where it came from.

  26. especially since you have been a teacher

    She doesn’t make that claim:
    “a former Americorps volunteer in Tacoma’s schools “

  27. AlabamaGeorge says:

    harleyrider1 says:
    “Excellent letter – well said Kathryn, especially since you have been a teacher and live in this State. Well said.”

    She didn’t say she was a teacher

  28. AlabamaGeorge says:

    “think the reasons for this strike are shameful, frankly.”

    Shameful that teachers want control of class size?

  29. theglovesRoff says:

    can’t wait till this is resolved so we can get some letters on other topics to create tangential posts about.

    Do you miss karnitos bB?


  30. I would like to see a fitness evaluation done on all teachers. By the looks of a great number of them, they are grossly overweight, and have trouble walking the picket lines. That’s probably the hardest thing many of them have done in years. John Stossel had an interesting show on Fox today titled “Stupid in America”. It of course was about this train wreck called Public Education and the corrupt teacher’s union that support them. Hopeful signs are on the horizon such as more charter schools and internet instruction. I hope to see within the next ten years, class room teachers will be a thing of the past, and the unions will be in the garbage bin of history where they belong. The sooner the better.

  31. BigSwingingRichard says:

    Good idea frosty, but I might add another requirement.

    Have all teachers take the Advanced Placement Exam in the subject are they teach. This exam measures a person’s understanding of a specific subject area at the college level.

    Short of this, lets let all teachers take the Iowa Test of Basic Skills for 12th graders. Lets see how they score on an academic basis. If they fail this exam in June give them until August to pass it as a condition of employment in September. This would, I am sure, solve the seniority issue.

  32. John Stossel had an interesting show on Fox today titled “Stupid in America”.

    There is so much material to mine in that sentence by frosty…….fighting the temptation to say something snarky.

  33. You opened the door to others by using the word “anyone” bBoy.

    As for your response Alabama…think about it. At this time in the USA, do you honestly think walking out of the classroom over class size (or over transfer policies) is a reasonable idea. Times are tough.

    I’m actually quite concerned about what this strike is actually teaching the kids. Any reading, writing and ‘rithmetic they learn when they finally go back will pale next to the example this strike is setting for them.

    Shameful, yes.

  34. the example this strike is setting for them.

    I guess whether or not one thinks that is a good or a bad example is based upon “Which Side Are You On”


  35. I think people should have the right to go on strike if they want to. I agree that times are tough, but I’ll let the worker take that into account before they make the decision to strike. Of course, the Tacoma School District could always fire its entire teaching staff (well, the 87% that voted to strike anyway), but good luck filling that many positions (actually, good luck finding any scabs willing to work under the conditions the other teachers walked out on). The right to Unionize is something guaranteed in the First Amendment (right to free assembly), I actually moved back to Washington from a non-union state (Georgia) because the working/living conditions are better here. If you’re worried about students, then you better give into the teachers demands faster.

  36. Great letter, great responses for the most part. Together it has opened my thinking about the matter.

  37. fiveohoh says:

    Kathryn, good post but am left wondering if you still feel the way you profess in the opening paragraph? It would make me change from Progressive to conservative right quick.

    “I am a mother, a former Americorps volunteer in Tacoma’s schools and by nearly every measure a bleeding-heart, liberal, progressive Euro-Socialist. I do not support the teacher’s position in this strike.”

  38. fiveohoh says:

    beerboy- pop a top and maybe more conspiracies will appear.

  39. I sure am glad i don’t live in that third world Tacoma. Fire all the administrators who make to much anyway and take from the classroom. Those crying now will surely cry louder when their child does not receive an education because of too large class sizes, and transferring a teacher in the middle of school. I say stand with the teachers if you believe in a good education, they are after all in the trenches. Most comments are parents wanting somebody to babysit their brats all day. The parents are ignorant.

  40. who needs a union? in one respect-and one only-teachers and i share a certain aspect of our jobs. we are both in demand.

    in my wallet i carry a particular credential that enables me to be my own union. employers in my field beg for the training and experience i possess.

    i dont need some sleazy union “protecting” me! if my employer fails to give me what i expect, i’ll take myself somewhere else.

  41. AlabamaGeorge says:

    “Times are tough” – the new negotiating ploy of management.

    Despite “tough times” the CEOs and Executives are always making their money

    CEOs making 100 times the working class – That’s shameful

  42. AlabamaGeorge says:

    “frosty says:
    I would like to see a fitness evaluation done on all teachers. By the looks of a great number of them, they are grossly overweight, and have trouble walking the picket lines.”

    Sort of like the view of walking into the local VFW, Amvets or Animal Fraternal club

  43. AlabamaGeorge says:

    “Short of this, lets let all teachers take the Iowa Test of Basic Skills for 12th graders. Lets see how they score on an academic basis. If they fail this exam in June give them until August to pass it as a condition of employment in September. This would, I am sure, solve the seniority issue.”

    Could we submit Congress to the same test?

  44. I am not opposed to unions in principle, but I am VERY opposed to union tactics in this situation. They were once very important and led to equitable pay and benefits for workers when unscrupulous, greedy bosses were left unchecked. The school administrators in NO WAY fit that description.

    I am not opposed to striking even. I am opposed to the union creating a situation where individual teachers who cannot, with integrity, break the law, who go back to work knowing that they will be shunned or worse for the rest of the year by their collleagues.

    This is wrong, period.

    The union is unscrupulous. They inflict punishment on people who do not go along with them. They are the epitome of un-American because the foundation of this country is freedom….freedom of speech, freedom to act in accordance with one’s conscience in such matters as this; freedom that is impaired by the pressure they exert on union members, teachers compelled to join the union and have dues taken from their pay automaticall. Does the word compelled give you pause? It should.

    The union methods are insidious and unethical. dead wrong and I don’t care what anyone says tio try and excuse them.

  45. itwasntmethistime says:

    Good letter.

    For the most part I don’t disagree with the general principle of the district being able to place a teacher where he/she is most needed except…….. I don’t quite trust them. Every program seems to be designed to reduce the achievement gap, not raise raw scores district-wide. I suspect the district will funnel all the top teachers to the lowest-performing schools, which will weaken the better schools.

    If I was a teacher I wouldn’t work on the hilltop or in the east end. I don’t need my car broken into every week and my husband would quickly tire of having to come get me from work all winter because it’s too dangerous to walk from the building to my car in the dark.

  46. commoncents says:

    Does anyone actually think that eliminating the unions would actually serve to keep salaries down? Does anyone truly think that a new teacher is a good thing?

  47. “Times are tough” – the new negotiating ploy of management.

    See it all the time. And yet what is being termed “shameful” is the Union not giving in to management taking advantage of tough times.

    beerboy- pop a top and maybe more conspiracies will appear.

    A conspiracy, by definition, requires more than one person. Since I questioned whether the INDIVIDUAL who wrote the letter had misrepresented herself I didn’t put forward a conspiracy theory.

    Perhaps you should spend a little less time coming up with “clever” plays on posters’ screen names and more time studying your vocabulary words – there will be a test.

  48. AlabamaGeorge says:

    Union methods and unions are tried and true historically.

    To say you support one and not the other is ridiculous.

  49. Great letter. I support most unions but our state’s teachers union is another story. They are in a world of their own. I agree that cutting administration pay or even jobs would do more for schools than anything. In Clover Park we are administration heavy and have been for years. It is crazy how many “assistants” each school has, let alone what we have at the “headquarters”. I would rather see some big cuts there than in teachers. That being said, it never fails that every single year the union picks school districts to strike, without fail. EVERY SINGLE YEAR. I find it appalling in this economy that anyone goes on strike. It seems just a tad foolish for any reason. I am sorry but that is just the way it is. My job has been outsourced — my wages went down to where they were in the 70s. We had no choice. We just have to increase our production which is damn near impossible if the work isn’t here or you are older and cannot produce as you did when you were younger. The competition is overseas so we had to lower our rates or get out. No raise in 20 years and a HUGE cut in pay back to my wages from 1978, so don’t expect any sympathy from me. Cry me a river teachers — it is getting old.

  50. modyfied says:

    Thanks, Kathryn,
    Everyone here is talking about the fairnesss, or unfairness, real world vs. education world. I am with you, This is an at-will state, regardless of union affiliation or not.
    The real world says, if you don’t like your pay, or the working conditions, you may leave at any time to work elsewhere.
    Teachers, are you really working for the students, or yourselves?
    Read, again, the above statement, and I guarantee the strike will go on, filled with teachers only doing it for themselves…

  51. Okay then Alabama, given your definition I decidely do NOT support the union.

  52. sozo – there was little question as to which side you are on, even with your claim that Unions were once doing important work.

  53. I thought it quite evident.

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