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Rouge Forum Update

Ohanian Comment: If you don't become part of the resistance, then you are part of the problem.

Dear Friends,

As school winds down, it appears the resistance heats up. Integrity is coming forward. Can the resistance be sustained, or make sense?

It may be that the collision of NCLB restrictions, the wars, and $130 a barrel is prompting school resistance. In the past few weeks we have seen:

  • New York City teacher Douglas Avella's 160 students turned in blank tests. Avella was sent to the notorious $65 million per year NYC "rubber room," where disciplined teachers live in limbo but get paid, and then may be fired. One student said, "The school system's just treating us like test dummies for the companies that make the exams."

  • Twenty-six University of California students were arrested protesting a 10% fee hike (95% in the last six years) in the last month, 16 at a Board of Regents meeting at UCLA.

  • A North Carolina teacher refused to force his special ed kids take the exams he knew they were scheduled to fail.

  • As we know, Carl Chew of Seattle refused to proctor the exams.

  • In San Diego, school workers, like thousands of others, are whipsawed with threats of layoffs. It began with the new superintendent announcing 1200 support personnel layoffs and more than 900 teacher layoffs. Rank and file teachers from Hoover High organized the initial Fightback Demonstration with more than 1000 parents, kids, and educators marching on the school board meeting. Several demonstrations, organized by SDEA and the PTA followed. Only the rank and file led demonstration noted the connection between the economic crises, oil, and the wars. Now, all the support personnel layoffs remain on the table. More than 300 teachers are scheduled to lose jobs. The superintendent found some money. Maybe he can find more. But Las Vegas actively recruited many of the educators wrongly given notices and many of them left.

  • In Detroit, the new superintendent of the collapsing system threatened to open Small Schools based on the failed Chicago Model, then virtually disappeared. Community leaders are wondering where the $280 K, a year boss is.

  • In D.C. the AFT Local, WTU, appears to prepare to bargain a contract that dumps seniority.

    WTU is one of the more notoriously corrupt locals of the American Federation of Teachers. Past leaders are in prison for embezzling hundreds of thousands of dollars of member money. One top WTU leader sued the others for similar activity in April.

    The AFT is the more urban and smaller of the two US school worker unions. Other top AFT officials, like Miami's Pat Tornillo, are also in prison for embezzlement, while the former Broward County, Florida AFT boss is in jail for molesting children. Both served on key AFT boards which helped develop and promote the NCLB. The AFT in New York City, the bellweather local of the union, recently agreed to a merit pay scheme. AFT has overseen the near-complete collapse of urban schooling (Detroit would be a prime example) and done nothing of note but collaborate.

  • The coming NEA and AFT conventions in early July should be interesting. Activists will seek to bring forward motions against the NCLB and the wars while the leaders of the big school worker unions will do all they can to focus on nothing but crowning new presidents (NEA with Dennis Van Roekel at $450,000 a year and AFT with Randi Weingarten at $600,000 a year) and the billion dollar election spectacle
  • .

    At issue is whether or not there can be sense made out of all of this---and sense then connected to organization. Only the Rouge Forum in the US has connected the wars, the NCLB, racist high-stakes exams, and the militarization of schools. We did that even before the NCLB existed, warning middle school teachers in 1997, "you are teaching the combatants in the next oil war." Here is a recent piece, one of many.

    Our Rouge Forum Louisville conference adjourned with many, many suggestions for what to do: test boycotts, driving recruiters off campus, rejecting union concessions and building a spirited Fightback movement uniting school workers, parents and students, and organizing teach-ins for the fall as well as our own conference in 2009.

    The Rouge Forum Steering Committee will take the lead in that. Meanwhile, could you spread the word of the Rouge Forum? Tell friends and colleagues that there is an organization fighting back, leading, and making the kind of sense that makes real solidarity possible. We don't live off foundation grants whose owners typically run the organizations they fund. We have no dues. Money comes strictly from volunteers. We seek to build a mass base of people who can forge the resistance against an opposition that is well organized and ruthless while, at the same time we build a caring community where people can demonstrate their own creativity and expertise. Ask others to join us!

    The Rouge Forum No Blood for Oil (with those good-for-the-rest-of-your-life anti-war posters cheap!) is updated at www.rougeforum.org.

    — Rich Gibson
    Rouge Forum





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