Fearful Teachers Union Fighting School Reform in Western Colorado
This has been a particularly interesting election year. The Mesa Valley Education Association (MVEA) is pulling out all of its stops to see that it holds control of a union friendly board. It has been that way for many years, perhaps as many as 40.
The MVEA and other unions hold power by protecting even the weakest of members by virtue of tenure, in which it is almost impossible to remove a teacher after the three year probationary period. Tenure was dealt a blow by passage of SB191, the teacher effectiveness act, which was passed in 2010 with bipartisan support. SB191 effectively ends tenure for teachers who are ineffective after three years.
A study by a Harvard Group in 2012 addresses this subject: ‘Researchers Report Findings Showing Lasting Impacts of Effective Teachers.’ It states, “Teachers who raise test scores have long-term effects on students’ college enrollment and earnings as adults.” In addition, “Excellent teachers help students make approximately three times the progress of students who are assigned to teachers in the bottom 20-50 percent.”(opportunityculture.org) This is why tenure must go. However, as soon as this election is over, the Colorado Education Association (CEA), of which MVEA is a part, is challenging SB191.
The unions are the money behind Amendment 66, the billion dollar tax increase, which is on the ballot. It would fund SB 213, Senator Johnston’s School Finance Bill, which passed on a party line vote – not a single Republican vote at the senate or house level. This bill was rejected by Club 20, which is a body of 20 separate counties within Western Colorado as well as by the Grand Junction Chamber of Commerce. The unions want the new tax dollars and no reform! An MVEA group at Rimrock Elementary stated that if a single non-union supported candidate was elected to the Board of Education, the Union Contract will be thrown out and the teachers would receive pink slips in December. It hard to believe anyone would swallow these fabrications, but I am told these type of lies and fear tactics are common in the union environment.
In addition, the MVEA attacked the Douglas County School District as not performing and brought in a completely biased movie, totally lacking in credibility, which claimed that teachers are unhappy and the board is nothing but a business. However, a survey of the Douglas County teachers by a state organization measuring teacher satisfaction gives a completely different story. More than 71% of Douglas County teachers participated in 2013 TELL (Teaching, Empowering, Leading, and Learning) Colorado Survey, with higher participation than any other district in the Denver Metro area. Satisfaction was indicated in that 67% of the 92 questions showed improved satisfaction with 30% staying the same in 2013. In 2012 Douglas County had an unheard-of 48,000 applications for teaching positions (In comparison, District 51, about one third the size, had under 400 applications.) Over 90% of Douglas County licensed teachers stay in Douglas County, disproving the claim that “all the teachers are leaving.” The proficiency rate, according to School View, the Colorado Division of Education (CDE) website of district and school evaluations, puts Douglas County 11-18% percentage points above District 51, our district being below the state average. Check the numbers for yourself at the CDE website and look under Schoolview. Why wouldn’t we want to emulate those numbers?
The unions have given lots of money to Mikolai and Parrish, and the union president and others are campaigning within District 51 showing support of these two, as well as Williams. Who do you think these men are going to be loyal to: the union or what is best for the kids? I have already seen how Greg Mikolai will react, being loyal to the union. In last year’s negotiations all five board members said “no” to lanes (increased salary for educational credits), as research shows this costly practice has no bearing on increased classroom performance. When Ann Tisue and I had to leave after several days of negotiations, the other board members reversed that decision and granted the lanes. We had been told that if there were to be any issues we would be notified. This never happened and Ann and I found out what had transpired the following week.
The choice is yours. If you want the union, vote for their slate. If you choose not to have the union controlling your board and want vibrant, effective teachers, engaged students and a top quality curriculum vote the other slate: Kanda, Lowenstein, Sluder.
You do have a choice this year: keep the status quo or change to a higher standard by paying for better teachers, retaining them, and challenging the poorer teachers to step up and improve. There are many outside pressures to take away local control. Let us rise to a higher level, and take our kids there with us!
by Jeff Leany 11/5/13