On Thursday Jan. 31, the World Socialist Web Site (WSWS) published the article, ‘An answer to the Washington Teachers’ Union’ (WTU) by Nick Barrickman and Jerry White.
The Washington Teachers Union has issued a notable amount of questionable rhetoric in blogs and press releases recently, but the lack of meaningful content in a time of considerable crisis has become so blatant and flagrant that even the WSWS has published a critique of WTU President Nathan Saunders.
On Jan. 23, Examiner reported that DC Public Schools (DCPS) fiascoes had ‘gone global,’ citing the article, “One in ten Washington, DC public schools to be closed,” by Adam Sagitov and Nick Barrickman on the WSWS.
On Jan. 24, WTU posted an entry on its ‘Teachers Lounge’ blog, entitled, ‘WTU addresses ‘World Socialist Web Site’ article’s false claims.’ In the blog, the WTU accuses the WSWS of posting an article that “completely misrepresented” the union’s position on the Chancellor’s school closing plan.
The WTU wrote,
‘According to Sagitov and Barrickman the Washington Teachers’ Union appears to have ‘embraced the decisions’ to close the 20 traditional public schools initially proposed by Henderson and that ‘we acknowledge DC Public Schools’ responsibility to efficiently manage public school facilities and resources.’
The writers, Barrickman and Jerry White responded:
‘In all fairness, the union “appearing” to embrace the closures was not a part of our analysis. What the authors actually wrote was that WTU President Nathan Saunders “embraced the decisions, with the small caveat that qualified teachers be rehired elsewhere in the aftermath of the closures.
‘Nothing the WTU writes contradicts this. As the WSWS wrote, the WTU fully accepts the closures and will do nothing to fight them.
‘In an effort to sidestep this fact, the WTU writes, “what the authors conveniently omit in the very next sentence is the Union’s ‘responsibility to advocate for families, including students and good teachers who will ultimately be displaced—through no fault of their own—but as a result of fiscal challenges and changes in school needs.”
‘But this only proves our point. While thousands of parents, teachers and students want to fight the school closures, layoffs and the further attack on the right to public education, the WTU declares that its job is to be the advocate for those who “will ultimately be displaced”!
‘Moreover, as the reference to “fiscal challenges” makes clear, the WTU accepts without question the lie peddled by Henderson and DC Mayor Vincent Gray that school closures and teacher layoffs are necessary because there is just not enough money.’
In a further effort to refute the WSWS, the WTU wrote,
‘We have called for a serious dialogue about the effects of market-driven education reform that looks beyond the more immediate challenges presented by school closings and even insisted upon all stakeholders—including the Mayor, City Council and the Chancellor—to renew their commitment to support public education as the primary source for educating the District’s children.’
But according to the pro-charter web site DCSchoolReform.org, Saunders has been involved in the formation of a task force designed to press city charters to open their doors to students displaced by closures. On the committee with Saunders are Chancellor Henderson and DC public charter school board chairman Brian Jones. The committee even released a document asking charters to help “ease the transition for students, families and communities impacted by these closures.”
Barrickman and White conclude:
‘Far from opposing the looting of the public schools by charter school profiteers, the WTU is intimately involved in the process. Moreover, the sister unions of the WTU in Los Angeles, New York and elsewhere have gone directly into the charter business.
‘The American Federation of Teachers, (AFT) to which the WTU is affiliated, and the National Education Association were among the first to endorse Obama during last year’s election. They are partners in the reactionary ‘Race to the Top’ scheme, which, just like Bush’s ‘No Child Left Behind,’ is aimed at victimizing teachers with punitive test score-based evaluations, shutting historic neighborhood schools and privatizing public education.’
Examiner points to another statement by Saunders that supports their position.
On Jan. 18, in a blog titled ‘Washington Teachers’ Union Responds to DCPS School Closings,’ he wrote,
‘As a result of attrition from retirement, licensure adjustments and resignations, we will protect our interests. ‘
In other words, by standing idly by, hoping enough teachers retire, get fired, fail to renew their licenses or resign, they will actively “protect” their dues-paying members’ interests as 15 city schools close and hundreds of jobs simply disappear. Apparently this is their idea of effective advocacy.
The WTU is losing membership, dues revenues and collective bargaining power at an alarming pace. Unless the WTU has a plan to recruit charter schools to collect pro-rated, reduced membership fees from lower-paid charter school teachers, the only interests that seem to be ‘protected’ here are those of the private sector.
That may be why the WSWS argues that:
‘The fight against school closings must be organized independently of the WTU, the Democratic Party and the corporate interests they serve.’
The Socialist Equality Party is calling on teachers, parents and students to form action committees like the Journey for Justice, a national movement which convened in DC at the US Department of Education this week to oppose all school closings, layoffs, budget cuts, and privatization schemes.
Because public education is based on the fundamentally egalitarian and democratic principle that everyone should have access to an equal quality education, WSWS believes that this is incompatible with an economic system whose fundamental premise is inequality.