Fed Rep Reflection #2

April 2017

The April Fed Rep meeting was unusual in that constituency meetings were cancelled and in their place was a presentation by ATF President Ellen Bernstein about the district’s budget crisis. Ellen’s presentation was being given at the same time as the Board of Education was having a special, closed-door meeting to discuss the budget. Much of what Ellen stated in her presentation was published in the Albuquerque Journal the following day. It seems that Ellen had great insight into the closed-door meeting and served as a mouthpiece for the district aiming to pacify fed reps about the financial catastrophe.

The Friday prior to fed rep council, two members of AlbuCORE met with Ellen to discuss the idea of the district using their cash reserves to cover the budget shortfall. In this meeting Ellen refused to give any information saying she would not give a ‘private tutorial’ and told us the idea of using the cash reserves was uninformed. When asked why the position was uniformed, Ellen stated “because I know more than you.” Ellen was completely unwilling to share any facts on the budget with dues paying members and was staunchly opposed to organizing any efforts to prevent teachers being saddled with more work for less pay. This is harmonious with Ellen’s cozy relationship with the district and her reluctance to push back on leadership as she clearly prioritizes her friendship with the superintendent and the BOE over the union membership.

The tone of Ellen’s presentation was defeated. Her words regarding the cuts were, “not if, but how much…”. The gist of the conversation was that we need to prepare for the inevitable injustice of more work for less pay. It is easy to accept wrongdoing when one is personally protected from the fallout. Regarding furloughs, she presented inaccurate information on salaries. She said that both level two and three teachers currently earn a wage that is $2000 more than the required state minimum. However, level one teachers make only the state minimum and thus, could not be furloughed. She used this logic to convince us that furlough days were impractical and unlikely. This was wrong and was corrected in a subsequent email stating that level one teachers are indeed over the state minimum and can be furloughed. This misinformation was an attempt to placate members by leading us to believe furloughs were not an option, when in fact, they absolutely are. We need accurate information from our president, not alternative facts that sow confusion and false hope.

As Ellen discussed the crisis and encouraged us to accept the devastation of our schools, she consistently placed blame on the governor. While this is certainly a factor, Ellen’s complete absolution of district leadership and the BOE is highly problematic and indicative of collusion at the top that does not serve the membership. The idea that the district has no accountability is absurd. The district should be fighting the state. The current trend in the ivory towers is to slam the PED and their policies, while then legitimizing them by implementing standardized tests, lending credence to school and district grades, rolling over on budget cuts and cowering in the face of idle threats from politicians. This two-faced approach is ghastly in its weakness and damages our schools and professions. Yet, this is the stance endorsed by our union leadership.

In AlbuCORE, we believe in something different. The union – the rank-and-file – needs to fight. We need to engage our struggle through direct and collective action to prevent policies that reek of corruption. It is unfortunate that our union leadership is content to sit back and watch while we suffer – but that should not hinder the rank-and-file in our battle to defend our schools and communities. One thing is certain, the blame for this crisis does not lay with teachers or students, and we should not be made to shoulder the burden as unethical politicians and leaders at all levels offer platitudes and rationalizations for their malfeasance and incompetence. We are under attack – let us stand, fight and win!

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Make ‘union’ a verb again

AlbuCORE caucus of ATF responds to proposed budget cuts.

Making ‘union’ a verb again

Below is Mary Kelly’s (AlbuCORE’s HS VP candidate) full comment to the APS Board of Education:

“I stand before you today as an educator facing more work and a significant cut to an already almost unlivable wage. I am disappointed with the board and district leadership. You sit complacent and point fingers at the governor while our public school system is destroyed. Yes, state governance is poor, but your refusal to defend the teachers and students of this district against the onslaught from the state appalls me. You have implemented expensive testing without protest and then criticized families for opting their students out because you are so concerned about the district grade. You legitimize the PED’s corruption. You have done nothing to fight against the slashing of our budget. We are the biggest district in the state, that should not make us a target as you claim, but the district with the most fight and largest capacity for impact. Your inaction is deplorable. You are elected representatives with an obligation to your constituents. Instead of rationalizing the devastation of our schools and telling us to call our legislators, step up and defend the people you supposedly serve.”

2017 ATF AlbuCORE VP Candidate bios

Stephen Carvlin-Miller for Elementary School VP

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I teach primary Special Education at Arroyo del Oso Elementary School. I serve on our school’s Instructional Council, and I am the Fed Rep at our school. I have been a union member since I began teaching.

Public education is going to be increasingly targeted in the coming years. We need to organize so we are ready to fight for what matters.

I think our primary focus as a union should be building and supporting our members. Our collective power is our greatest strength. Many teachers don’t join the union because they don’t know what it does for them. We need to dispel those doubts by mobilizing action against pay cuts and deteriorating working conditions. Likewise, our union needs to implement a sliding scale for dues and transparency around how our dues are used. Transparency is also needed in negotiations with the district. Negotiations should be open and involve all members. We can’t expect members to be involved if they don’t know what’s on the table. And again, our bargaining power is vastly greater when we are organized. In tandem with building our local’s density, we need to build bridges with teachers around the state. This will give us the power we need to defeat regressive measures that come from Santa Fe and reinstate the legal right to strike.

Ultimately, organizing requires active and engaged members and we won’t have active members until our organizing reflects the needs and diversity of our peers. Here’s my short list of concrete projects to kick this off:

  • Education on the negotiated contract for existing & new members
  • Participatory budgeting to allow union members to direct ATF spending
  • Direct union staff to help build organizing committees at school sites

The fight ahead is going to be daunting but the union makes us strong!

Heather Ailes for Middle School VP

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I teach ELA and AVID at Hayes, am the AVID coordinator, and have served as grade level dean and in other leadership positions, including our instructional council. I’m a local organizer for anti-racist work and I believe this is a vital area where our union can lead the way in creating stronger schools and communities. We needn’t wait for the district to educate ourselves about combating racism with our students or providing vibrant ethnic studies at all levels.

I will push our union to engage all members in actions, large and small, that build up our schools and our profession. I believe our union will grow in numbers and strength when we offer rank and file members a variety of ways to be involved and to make our voices heard.

As a union, our power ultimately lies in our ability to withhold our labor. Currently in New Mexico, a strike is an impossibility, but we need a union, and union leadership, willing to discuss other robust opportunities for asserting our power within the system. Rank and file teachers are the backbone of our district. We have a powerful voice and we need to be organized–and willing–to use it.

Mary Kelly for High School VP

20170302_175147.jpgMary has taught social studies at Albuquerque High School for eight years, serves as department chair and is currently a fed rep. She has worked to restore the democratic process in the instructional council and helped organize an AHS study and action group.

She recently participated in the successful letter writing campaign demanding that the Board of Education cover the budget shortfall using cash reserves rather than harm students and schools with furloughs and layoffs.

Students in the female empowerment club that Mary sponsors, Strong Women Strong World, presented their own letter to the Board. She has participated in evaluation burning and pickets and rallies supporting immigrant populations.

Mary firmly believes that our union should promote democracy, social justice, equity and positive working and learning conditions through direct and collective action.

Fed Rep Reflection #1

March 2017

At the most recent fed rep council meeting, union leadership attempted to address concerns about caucuses, more specifically, the Albuquerque Caucus of Rank-and-File Educators (AlbuCORE). This topic arose shortly, and conveniently, after AlbuCORE declared their intent to run a slate of candidates for the constituency elections this May.

A caucus is a group within a larger organization that shares a common ideology. Ellen, union president, did not exactly state this, but emphasized that caucuses participate in conventions only. This is simply untrue. Caucuses can form and operate anywhere that people share common beliefs, goals and purpose that differ from that of leadership. She also stated that CORE was founded in Chicago not as an oppositional caucus, but a social justice caucus focusing solely on issues in the community. Again, this is misleading. While CORE is founded upon principles of social justice, unionism, and advocating for the rights of our students, families and communities, Chicago CORE is indeed an oppositional caucus. Ellen proved this point when she stated that the caucus ran candidates and eventually took democratic control of the teacher’s union in Chicago. As the caucus opposed the existing leadership, they sought to gain power through democratic means to move the union in a new direction that best represented the members. In discussing Chicago CORE as non-oppositional, Ellen sought to characterize AlbuCORE as exclusively oppositional to undermine us and the work we have done to strengthen our communities.

After this explanation of caucuses, Ellen opened the floor to questions about AlbuCORE. What occurred was not a Q&A session, but an orchestrated attack on AlbuCORE’s recent organizing work and philosophy. Selected members asserted that AlbuCORE is dividing the union, fighting the wrong battles and using the ATF name under false pretenses. This rapidly deteriorated into a battle between AlbuCORE members and those falling directly inline with the agenda of current leadership leaving most fed reps as mere observers to the spectacle.

AlbuCORE responded by defending the legitimacy of caucuses, stating that we believe in the union and the power of the rank-and-file and hope to increase membership and participation through organizing direct action around the issues we face. We are allowed to identify ourselves as members of the ATF local because we are dues paying members. It is also our strong belief that unity does not mean ‘get in line.’ Unity means using egalitarian methods, especially the power of the rank-and-file, to come together and fight for our schools and communities. Other union reps, unaffiliated with AlbuCORE, also spoke to the necessity of including competing approaches and viewpoints.

After this contentious debate, a few things became apparent. One, our union president is quite flexible in following protocol and Robert’s Rules. She has been known to use the rule book to silence dissent or throw it out the window when she feels that a deliberate onslaught against those calling for democracy is in order. Thus, in the future, AlbuCORE will demand that rules be consistently followed. Second, because Ellen called for AlbuCORE to be more public about their ideas, plans and agenda, we have determined that a standing spot on the agenda for our caucus to make announcements is necessary. We are in the process of reaching out to Ellen personally to secure this time. Third, we will now publish a ‘Fed Rep Council Report’ after each meeting to share highlights and the caucus’ collective perspective. As always, we welcome questions, inquiries and democratic discussion to move our union forward.

AlbuCORE Members Present at UNM HEP-CAMP Conference

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On February 24th, teachers, Michelle Perez and Amanda Short, presented the workshop, Activism 101 at the 7th Annual Southwest HEP-CAMP Student Leadership Conference in Santa Fe, NM.

The College Assistance Migrant Program (CAMP) at the University of New Mexico is 100% federally funded through the U.S. Department of Education. The residential CAMP program was established to identify, recruit, admit, and enroll migrant and seasonal farm worker students and provide them with academic, social, and financial support to enable the completion of their first year of college (http://unmcamp.unm.edu/).

For their workshop the teachers shared their personal experiences of organizing and becoming activists in their communities. Then CAMP students participated in role playing activities to help them assess and determine the needs of their school and community, using the activity, Write Your Own Organizing Conversation from Labor Notes (http://www.labornotes.org/sites/default/files/24WriteYourOwnOrganizingConversation.pdf) to to guide students in practicing these conversations. Students raised many concerns related to racism, ICE raids, and the treatment of minority students. These concerns led to heated discussions and questions about how to activate their communities.

Through Michelle and Amanda’s discussions and activities, students left the workshop with an “activist toolkit” to agitate their respective communities and an understanding of how to start organizing.

2017 VP Candidates

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AlbuCORE Platform

What is our union doing to improve our working conditions?

AlbuCORE seeks to strengthen the contract, increase democracy within the union, build and empower membership and grow our relationships within the community.

Expand Union Democracy

  • Term Limits for Elected Officers – two terms & that’s it
  • Transparent Union Budget – open our books
  • Direct Action Gets Results – mobilize the rank-and-file

Build Member Power and Involvement

  • Dues On A Sliding Scale – equitable dues for all
  • Fair Share Dues – if you’re protected by the union, support the union
  • Contract Education For All – know your rights

Fight for a Stronger Contract

  • Open Negotiations – open the doors and involve the members
  • Reclaim Our Right to Strike – no more clipped wings in our contract
  • Adequate and Equitable Prep and Collaboration Time for Teachers – all teachers
  • Cost of Living Increases – stop the pay cuts

Strengthen Our Communities

  • Defend Vulnerable Populations – safe schools for immigrant, refugee and LGBTQ students, staff & families
  • Fight Budget Cuts – fully fund our schools

 

Albuquerque Caucus of Rank and File Educators (AlbuCORE) is an organization of social justice educators and unionists committed to creating schools and workplaces that advance economic justice, racial justice, and democracy. We call for equitable public education as a human right. We assert that the workplace rights of educators are an essential element of public education and that the well-being of communities in which our children live is as much a part of our mission as the work we do in our schools. If you are an educator who values union democracy & social justice we invite you to join us.

AlbuCORE Meet-N-Greet: March 4th

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AlbuCORE is hosting our next Meet-N-Greet on Saturday, March 4th at O‘Neill’s on Central from 2-4. Come meet our candidates for the upcoming elections, find out how we will fight against the “Ugly Budget”, and help us plan our upcoming rally this Spring!

When: Saturday, March 4th

Time: 2-4 pm

Where: O’Neill’s Pub

Address: 4310 Central Ave SE, Albuquerque 87108

AlbuCORE delivers demand letters

APS Board urged to use reserve to cover funding cut

By Kim Burgess / Journal Staff Writer
Thursday, February 16th, 2017 at 12:05am

ALBUQUERQUE, N.M. — No furloughs, no layoffs, no pay cuts, no uncompensated work, no increased class sizes.

That was the message a teachers union caucus brought to the Albuquerque Public Schools Board of Education on Wednesday night.

About 40 members of AlbuCORE, a caucus within the Albuquerque Teachers Federation, protested outside district headquarters before the board meeting, appealing to APS to cover a $12.5 million budget cut exclusively from the $53 million cash reserve, rather than turning to furloughs or layoffs.

“We are in the midst of a crisis caused by the Legislature and the governor starving public education of funding,” Clayton Beverly, a Spanish and science teacher at Jefferson Middle School, said in an interview. “They need to find other funding sources.”

District administrators have stressed that the budget is so dire they must consider every option.

A message from the APS Budget Steering Committee, sent to employees a few weeks ago, says there is “little meat on the financial bones of Albuquerque Public Schools, which means anticipated cuts in state funding are going to hurt in the coming months and years.”

To save $10 million, the district could lay off 750 people or shut down completely for four days, according to the email.

“Before any of that happens, APS is dipping into cash reserves as much as it can and cutting spending on such things as school supplies,” the email states. “We wish we had more specifics. The only thing we can say for sure is that we’re working diligently to do what’s best for our students and our employees.”

Mary Kelly, an Albuquerque High School social studies teacher, said she found the Budget Steering Committee message threatening and upsetting.

“That was really poorly worded and, I think, very poorly handled by the district,” she added. “It scares people. … As a union rep at school, I had a lot of people come up to me and say, ‘Am I going to lose my job?’”

Albuquerque High junior Hannnah Fry is worried the cuts will impact her education.

While it may be fun to think about getting out of school four days early, Fry said it is important for students to have that time in the classroom.

During the demonstration, she held up a sign that read: “To define success, we need dictionaries” – a reference to the reduction in supplies.

A handful of protesters also addressed the board at the public comment portion of the meeting, handing out letters signed by dozens of teachers from across the district.

Board members said they sympathize with the activists’ stance.

“We have to make our voices heard,” said Board Vice President Lorenzo Garcia, who called for more outcry at the Legislature. “Enough is enough. … We have to stand up for what’s right.”

Steven Michael Quezada, whose board tenure ends this month, said the state government is “balancing the budget on the back of public education.”

“I call on the governor to sufficiently fund education,” he said.

APS is facing an unprecedented money crunch for the current fiscal year, losing $12.5 million in late January when Gov. Susana Martinez signed a bill that pulled a total of $46 million from school district cash reserves to help cover a massive state budget deficit.

The cut comes on top of the $12.5 million reduction instituted during October’s special legislative session – $9.5 million from APS operational funds, and $3 million for areas like transportation and instructional materials.

The district’s total budget is over $1 billion, with $688 million for general operations.

 

https://www.abqjournal.com/950984/aps-urged-to-use-reserve-to-cover-cuts.html

Community Based Pedagogy and the Struggle to Defend Public Education in Oaxaca, Mexico and New Mexico

We hope that you can join us in dialogue with our brothers and sisters from Oaxaca as we try to learn from their struggles and build an international movement that rejects neoliberalism and poses a liberatory, decolonial education that reflect communal values.

Keep updated on developments in Oaxaca by reading Educa Oaxaca.

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Download a flyer here: 11-12-flyer5-versions