Truth first. I am not a fan of unions. I particularly do not like teachers' unions. I think they have ruined our profession and protected all the weak sisters.
And I just read a piece about the new president of the National Education Association (NEA). You've got to love her. If she can pull off what she wants to do in the six years of her term in office it will be wonderful.
She takes office at a time when former friends and current foes alike are all over the unions. Even the court in California has ruled that the teacher tenure laws long supported by the unions are unconstitutional because of the potential damage to students. The Republicans are working to remove the dues checkoff from payroll and removing charter schools' staff from the requirement to belong to a union. Even Democrats are joining the courts in challenging seniority rights and the tenure laws.
In steps Lily Eskelsen Garcia. She has quite a life story. She is the daughter of a Panamanian mother and the granddaughter of a Mississippi sharecropper. She started her career as a salad maker lunch lady in a school cafeteria. She put herself through undergraduate and grad school and is the first person in her family to graduate from college. Oh and she also won Teacher of the Year honors in Utah. Her first husband committed suicide and her son who she adopted at 4 has been in jail more often than not for drug abuse and associated crimes.
She loves Common Core, is appalled by the testing that has taken over teaching and schools and wants the politicians to let the professionals manage their profession. Good luck on that last one.
Both the American Federation of Teachers (AFT) and the larger union NEA, have officially supported the Common Core Standards. Neither is happy about the implementation nor the link of teacher evaluation to Common Core testing results.
She has her work cut out for her. Union membership is dwindling for a variety of reasons. The remaining membership is divided on whether to go nuclear and blast the Obama administration and Secretary Duncan or to keep a lower profile and work within the system. The NEA has already called for Duncan's resignation. And there is already a splinter group called Badass Teachers Association whose membership is angry about the path education is on but is more angry at the response from the unions.
So Garcia has to figure a way to focus the union while at the same time keeping all its membership pulling in the same the same direction. It would be good if she could create a united front with the AFT, something that has never happened. Unlike the NEA, there are no term limits on the AFT President and she has held office for a very long time. Of course Garcia did have the AFT President's daughter Rabbi Sharon Kleinbaum perform her second civil marriage ceremony to a man who speaks little English and Garcia speaks little Spanish. Her husband remains in Mexico waiting a visa. Lifetime Channel are you listening- there is a movie here.
Through all the stress, Garcia will be comforted by a salary of $283,124 and another 100K in benefits. Guess the days of union organizers struggling just to survive financially are done.