Thursday, April 13, 2006

SF Teachers Organize & Win a Fair Contract and Avert a Teachers' Strike; Patricia Rocio Vattuone - Rest in Peace and Justice

The SF Bay Guardian's "Dodged bullet: The issues and emotions behind the teachers strike that almost was" provides good teachers' insight into the SFUSD teachers/paras contract, including how former Superintendent Ackerman's large raise, golden parachute and lavish spending habits complicated the delicate labor negotiations.
San Francisco parent leader Lisa Schiff also provides a useful analysis of how the SF teachers' strike was averted and how parents and communities need to unite to fight for adequate funding in Beyond Chron
As a Board of Education member here in SF, I do know that the interim Superintendent Gwen Chan and the Board worked for several days around the clock to find common ground with the well-organized teacher's union [UESF] after the union members voted 87% in favor of a strike authorization.
Since the settlement is only 'tentative' until it is voted upon by the UESF membership and then the full Board of Education, what I can say is that teachers and paras in our district deserve to be treated as professionals and to be paid a living wage. The United Educators of San Francisco, and SEIU 790 before them, organized at the grassroots level building strong ties with parents, school sites, and social justice and community-based organizations to pressure the Superintendent and Board to treat them with respect and to win a fair contract.
As SF, Oakland and other districts continue to face ongoing and severe underfunding and de-funding by the existing public education system, Schiff is right to be critical of short term fixes like our much needed parcel tax for schools -

But a parcel tax is insufficient for the revenue we need, and it is a local and partial solution to a state and federal level problem. Our goal should be to sufficiently fund all schools, not just our own schools. In that way, we help everyone and help ourselves too.
She also asks crucial questions now being looked at by the state and with a new study by Stanford researchers which focus on the structural problems with the school funding system -

1. What do California school finance and governance systems look like today?
2. How can we use the resources we have more effectively to improve student outcomes?
3. To what extent are additional resources needed so that California students can meet the goals we have for them?
But like many other middle class parents, Schiff fails to acknowledge how the funding crisis disproportionately harms African American, Chicano/Latino and students of color.
My SF State colleagues Jeff Duncan-Andrade, Sean Ginwright, and Antwi Akom presented an incredible workshop at the AERA [American Education Research Assn] conference on Tuesday which focussed not only on their work in Oakland schools like the East Oakland Community High School [founded by immigrant rights hunger striker Wayne Yang and others], but also on the importance of racial justice organizing among teachers, students and parents in the lowest income communities of color. Jeff, Sean and Antwi [and I] have been influenced by the important educational justice work of Pedro Noguera of NYU. [see below for more on the loss of Pedro's partner Patricia].
Schiff also leaves off the hook the big business power brokers like Eli Broad [KBC Homes], Don Fisher [GAP, Old Navy], Bill Gates [Microsoft],
Patrick Byrne [] who are reframing the education reform debate into one around high stakes testing, mayoral control of school boards, and standards and accountability.
For more on the business roundtable and the big business driven agenda which is 'reforming' our public schools today see Kathy Emery and Susan Ohanian's Why is Corporate America Bashing our Public Schools?. See also Nathan Newman's The Right Wing's War on the Public Schools
Rest in Peace & Justice - Patricia Rocio Vattuone [1957-2006]
Lastly my deepest sympathies go out to Pedro [and his 4 children Joaquin, Amaya, Naima and Antonio] on the loss of his partner of 25 years -Patricia Rocio Vattuone. Hundreds jammed the Daly City, CA memorial last night to remember Patricia. She was the former Director of Parent Relations for the SF Unified School District, but I knew her for over 20 years as an amazing student organizer, schoolbus driver, SEIU union activist, and mother.
Beyond Chron has great coverage on the upcoming 4/17 People's Forum on the SF Earthquake and building multiracial unity in times of disaster.
More on Pedro Noguera's work -
More on Jeff Duncan-Andrade's work -

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