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Progressive Democrats of America – PA 12th CD Chapter

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Faculty Organizing at the University of Pittsburgh: Why a Union, and Why Now?

Posted by carldavidson on November 24, 2016

By Anupama Jain

New People

Oct 22, 2016 – There’s something in the air in Pittsburgh! From Robert Morris to Point Park, Steel City-area faculty are organizing to join the ranks of unionized labor. To some, this might be little surprise: Pittsburgh, is a city with a rich history of labor organizing. At the same time, when one thinks of Pittsburgh labor history they might think of workers smelting steel or armed Pinkertons at the Homestead steel mills. This isn’t entirely off base: in fact, Pittsburgh-area faculty are organizing with the help of the United Steel Workers including faculty at the University of Pittsburgh.

But why unionization, and why now? There are many reasons, but three important ones are: 1) labor contingency and uncertainty worsens learning conditions, 2) teachers and researchers need a stronger voice in negotiations with administration, and 3) academic freedom is an increasingly valuable commodity in an age of emerging social consciousness about inequality.

Focused, appropriately compensated teachers can do their best work,but one class of teachers, adjuncts, teach on a pay-per-class basis. Because the compensation for these classes is very low, adjuncts often teach at several different universities, and many must work other jobs. Moreover, these positions are renewed on an ad hoc basis, often with little lead time before classes start. One colleague of mine would teach two classes at Pitt a semester, a few more at Point Park, and also tended bar in the evening. The only job he could count on having come next semester was the gig tending bar. For many, teaching is a vocation chosen not for monetary benefit, but for the value of teaching itself. But running around town, barely making ends meet is not a recipe for the best teaching. The unpredictability wears both on the teachers —who struggle tol pay their bills—and students, who may be excited about particular instructors and their classes, only to scroll through the catalogue and see no hint of the instructors because they have not yet been renewed. For other, less-contingent faculty, increasing demands for service and research also eat into teaching time. Appropriately compensated faculty are more capable of directing time and effort into education.

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Posted in Education, labor, Organizing, trade unions | 1 Comment »

What Pennsylvania’s Faculty Strike Means for the Future of Labor

Posted by carldavidson on November 6, 2016

By Neil Cosgrove

The New People via Portside

Nov 1, 2016 – The faculty of the 14 Pennsylvania state-owned universities went on strike from October 19th to the 21st, 2016, somewhat less than three days.  Around mid-afternoon on the 21st, a tentative contract agreement was reached with the State System of Higher Education (SSHE), ending the strike.  As part of the agreement, the Association of Pennsylvania State College and University Faculties (APSCUF) "agreed to a salary package that was significantly lower than that of the other unions" that had recently bargained with the State System.

As labor battles are traditionally viewed, making concessions on salary and benefits would have to be considered a defeat.  But the faculty union regards the result of the strike as a clear-cut victory, a victory that preserved what many regard as one of the best university faculty contracts in the country.  For the 16 months since the system’s previous contract with the faculty had expired (June 30, 2015), the Pennsylvania State System had tried to destroy that contract, but was forced by the strike to withdraw most of the 249 changes the Chancellor and Board of Governors had sought.

The most significant of those withdrawn changes, the ones that ultimately forced the faculty to strike, were obvious attempts to break the union by driving a wedge between tenured and tenure-track faculty and the growing number of temporary and adjunct faculty.  What makes APSCUF a strong union is that adjuncts work under the same conditions, including teaching loads, benefit packages, and salary scale as so-called "regular" faculty.  Adjunct faculty at State System schools like IUP, California and Slippery Rock generally regard themselves as an integral part of the universities in which they work, not as an exploited proletariat paid a ridiculously low per-course stipend, without access to offices or benefits, and forced to teach each term at multiple institutions in order to make a low-income living.

Moreover, APSCUF’s 2011-15 contract limited the number of temporary faculty a university could employ to 25% or less "of the full-time equivalent of all faculty members employed at that university." Compare that to estimates of adjuncts constituting close to half of the faculty at colleges and universities across the country.  In 2015, median per-course pay for adjuncts was $2700.  At Pennsylvania State System universities, full-time temporary faculty at the bottom of the salary scale received a 2014-15 salary of $46,610.  If such a faculty member taught only a quarter, half, or three-quarters of the normal teaching load of four class sections per term, they would receive the appropriate fraction of the stated salary.  Moreover, the contract required that temporary faculty members who had "worked at a university for five full, consecutive academic years in the same department" would be given tenure-track status if approved by the department. 

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Posted in Education, labor, trade unions | Leave a Comment »

First Faculty Strike in PA.State System History Begins

Posted by carldavidson on October 19, 2016

By Susan Snyder
Philly.com

Oct 19, 2016 – Faculty in Pennsylvania’s 14 state universities are on strike, the first in the system’s 34-year history.

The Association of Pennsylvania State College and University Faculties union announced shortly after 5 a.m. that a strike could not be averted, likely bringing education to a halt for 105,000 students in the state system universities.

The decision followed five consecutive days of bargaining that went into last evening and broke off after 9 p.m.

"At 11:35 p.m., we made a last attempt to negotiate through back channels," said union president Kenneth M. Mash, a political science professor at East Stroudsburg University. "We waited until 5 a.m. We are headed to the picket lines, but even on the picket lines, our phone will be on, should the state system decide it doesn’t want to abandon its students."

Mash said he would be picketing outside the Dixon Center in Harrisburg, where the chancellor of the state system, Frank T. Brogan, has his office.

There is no limit on how long a strike could last. Mash said faculty will return when negotiators reach a contract.

The state system has said it intends to keep campuses open, including residence halls and dining facilities and operate as close to normal as possible. But it does not intend to hire replacement workers. It remains to be seen how many, if any, faculty cross the picket lines to work.

"I think none of us ever wanted it to end up here," said Amber Holbrook, a West Chester social work professor who was among the more than a dozen faculty members picketing outside the system’s Center City campus. But, she said, the system’s proposed changes would make it "hard to recruit and retain faculty."

Negotiations broke down over health insurance costs and salary increases

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Posted in Education, labor, trade unions | Leave a Comment »

Memo to Tom Wolf and Harrisburg: An Eye-Opening Description of Pennsylvania’s Failed School Funding System

Posted by carldavidson on December 14, 2014

By Valerie Strauss
Washington Post

Dec 11, 2014 – Many school reformers today like to say that “money doesn’t matter” in making schools work and that holding students and teachers more “accountable”   — largely through standardized test scores — is what is needed.

Certainly a great deal of money can be used poorly but that is not the same thing as money doesn’t matter. It is, however, a good mantra for people who want to ignore the severe and consequential funding inequities that persist in the U.S. public education system across the United States.

According to this 2013 report on school funding by the Education Law Center:

    In fiscal year 2010, the most recent year for which data is available, state governments, on average, funded 43.5 percent, or $259.8 billion, of the total amount spent on public education. School districts and other local sources were responsible, on average, for almost 44 percent of all public school spending or $261.6 billion. The federal government, on average, provided almost 13 percent of the total revenue received by public schools, or $75.9 billion.

With most of the money coming from state and local sources, disparities are inevitable, especially because in most places local sources are dependent on property taxes, meaning that poor areas have less money to spend on schools. Federal money given to low-income areas doesn’t close the gap.

So how inequitable can school funding be within a single state? Let’s look at one of the most troubled in this respect, Pennsylvania.

Here’s some testimony from Michael Churchill of the Public Interest Law Center of Philadelphia, given to a public hearing of the Basic Education Funding Commission in Pennsylvania about school funding:

    Pennsylvania’s system of funding schools is a failure by every criterion: equity, adequacy, predictability, fairness. Too many students in too many schools are unable to meet state standards of what children should know and be able to do. Too few are going on to college or are prepared for well paying jobs. No one is responsible to calculate how much it will cost districts to provide the necessary instruction and support. The inequity of the system is glaring: the amount of public resources spent on preparing a child to succeed in the adult world varies from $9,000 to $27,000 a year, which is a quarter of a million dollars difference over a school career from K to 12th grade. But it is not only unfair to children, it is unfair to taxpayers where the tax burden can vary from the equivalent of 8 to 36 equalized mills of tax effort for homes with the same value. And in the ultimate insult, the districts bearing the highest tax burdens frequently have less dollars to spend on their students than districts with tax burdens half the amount.

    The reasons for these multiple failures are simple:

    1. Too few state dollars result in too high reliance on local dollars;
    2. The system does not take into account how much it costs to educate children.
    3. State dollars are distributed on a basis which does not reflect the tax effort of the district.

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Posted in Education, Harrisburg, Youth and students | Leave a Comment »

Wolf’s Challenge: PA ‘One of the Worst’ in Funding Its Schools

Posted by carldavidson on November 12, 2014

Schools, Parents Sue Pennsylvania Over ‘Educational Caste System’

 By Deirdre Fulton

Beaver County Blue via Common Dreams

Nov. 11, 2014 – Six school districts, seven parents, and two statewide associations sued [1] the commonwealth of Pennsylvania on Monday, claiming legislative leaders, state education officials, and the governor have failed to uphold the state’s constitutional obligation to provide a system of public education that gives all children the resources they need to meet state-imposed academic standards and "participate meaningfully in the economic, civic, and social life of their communities."

According to the complaint [2] (pdf), "state officials have adopted an irrational and inequitable school financing arrangement that drastically underfunds school districts across the Commonwealth and discriminates against children on the basis of the taxable property and household incomes in their districts."

"The disparity in education resources has created an educational caste system that the Commonwealth must eliminate." —Wade Henderson, Leadership Conference on Civil and Human Rights

As a result, the plaintiffs claim that hundreds of thousands of students throughout the state lack basic educational supports and services—functioning school libraries, up-to-date textbooks and curriculum materials, reasonable class sizes, guidance counselors, school nurses, vocational-ed and college prep classes, academic tutoring programs, and more.

"My child is in classes with too many other students and she has no access to tutoring services or support from paraprofessionals, but our elected officials still expect and require her to pass standardized tests," said [3] Jamela Millar, parent of 11-year-old K.M., a student in the William Penn School District. "How are kids supposed to pass the tests required to graduate high school, find a job and contribute to our economy if their schools are starving for resources?"

The state NAACP and the Pennsylvania Association of Rural and Small Schools joined the suit on behalf of their members. Urban, suburban, and rural districts are represented among the plaintiffs. While the state-run Philadelphia School District did not join the legal action, two Philadelphia parents are part of the suit and the Philadelphia Federation of Teachers issued a statement in support on Monday.

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Posted in budget crisis, Education, Youth and students | Leave a Comment »

At Visit To Aliquippa HS, Wolf Talks Schools And Taxes

Posted by carldavidson on October 14, 2014

Tom Wolf with Mayor Dwan Walker (Photo Credit: KDKA)

By Jon Delano

BEAVER COUNTY (KDKA) — Students in Aliquippa had the day off — except for the undefeated football team hard at practice.

But that didn’t stop Democratic gubernatorial candidate Tom Wolf from pushing his education plan at the high school.

“We’d like to welcome you all. If you’ve never been here before, this is Aliquippa,” quipped Mayor Dwan Walker.

Walker, with State Rep. Rob Matzie and school superintendent Dave Wytiaz, briefed the candidate before a short press conference.

“I’m here because this is important to me as a Pennsylvanian,” said Wolf.

“Education actually matters,” he added. “It doesn’t matter because I’m running for governor. It matters to all of us who want to build a business in Pennsylvania. It matters to all of us who want to build a family in Pennsylvania. It matters to all of us who actually care about a society where people can actually get a head. This is how we transform lives.”

By imposing an extraction tax on natural gas drilling, Wolf pledged to bring state funding of education back up to half of school spending

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Posted in 2014 Election, Aliquippa, Education, Youth and students | Leave a Comment »

Six Arrested in Philly Protest at Corbett, Christie Campaign Stop

Posted by carldavidson on June 10, 2014

Teachers, Parents and Students Spotlight School Cuts

By Allison Steele and Julia Terruso
Beaver County Blue via Philly Inquirer

June 10, 2014 – As many as 1,000 protesters, many angry about school funding, blocked traffic and waved signs in Center City on Monday afternoon, hoping to disrupt or at least deflect attention from a fund-raising stop by Govs. Corbett and Christie.

"Our members are here because they’re being mistreated," said Jerry Jordan, president of the Philadelphia Federation of Teachers.

Six people were arrested for obstructing the highway – a summary offense – after sitting down on 17th Street. Police did not use handcuffs as they led them away.

The names of those arrested were not available Monday night, but a statement from the coalition group Fight for Philly identified them as "parents, activists, and retired teachers."

The two Republican governors were scheduled to appear Monday evening at a private fund-raiser hosted by the Republican Governors Association. The association did not release details of the event, including its location.

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Posted in 2014 Election, Education, GOP, trade unions, Youth and students | Leave a Comment »

Follow the Money: Don’t Expect Much from Christiana by Way of Supporting Teachers and Public Schools

Posted by carldavidson on April 8, 2013

Representin’ Like A Representative: A Look At Jim Christiana’s Campaign Cash

Jim Christiana with his wife in NyCity as posted to his Twitter feed.

Jim Christiana with his wife in New York City in front of a car fire, as posted to his official Twitter feed.

By John Paul – Founder of BeaverCountian.com

Published on April 07, 2013 at 7:03 pm

State Representative Jim Christiana (R-Beaver) received more political contributions last year than all of the other five state reps for Beaver County combined, money the candidate used to help finance a lavish lifestyle, an investigation by the Beaver Countian has revealed.

Campaign finance reports from 2012 show Christiana received nearly $310,000 in political donations. Democratic Representative Rob Maztie came in a distant second, bringing in just shy of $84,000. Representative Jim Marshall, the county’s other Republican representative, received only $52,675 in contributions.

In just one month, between March 6th and April 9th of last year, Christiana’s campaign saw donations to his campaign in excess of $88,000. He brought in half of that sum again between April 10th and May 14th, another $48,000. The months between May and October saw an additional $164,400 added to his coffers. Despite extensive spending by the candidate, Christiana’s campaign account had over a quarter of a million dollars sitting in it at one point during the last election cycle.

By comparison, Christiana’s rival in the last election, Democrat Bobby Williams, raised just over $20,000 during his entire campaign.

While Representative Christiana failed to respond to inquiries from the Beaver Countian made at the end of March, Beaver County Commissioners say they were stunned to learn just how much money has been flowing through his hands.

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Posted in Education, elections, GOP, Right Wing | 1 Comment »

Students, Youth, Debt and the 1%

Posted by carldavidson on December 31, 2012

Posted in Education, Wall Street, Youth and students | 6 Comments »

 
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