Bill Franks & Mike Pyne
As the school year began, members of the Whitnall Area Federation of Teachers were discussing two disturbing trends. Class sizes had started high and were continuing to grow as the district accepted many open enrollment students. At the same time, many experienced teachers were either finding jobs elsewhere or considering leaving because of the district’s extremely slow progress in implementing a compensation plan. With many classes exceeding 30 students and as they faced the loss of highly qualified teachers, WAFT members were concerned about the impact on their working conditions and student learning conditions.
Kathy Evert, a fourth grade teacher at Mazomanie Elementary in the Wisconsin Heights School District, is one of a group of teachers from around the country invited to the White House for President Barack Obama’s celebration of Teacher Appreciation Day on Tuesday, May 3. At the event, according to the White House, President Obama will recognize the National Teacher of the Year as well as other outstanding educators from across America.
Following the introduction of a UW-Madison faculty senate resolution of no confidence in UW System President Ray Cross and the Board of Regents, faculty around the UW System were vocal in their call for accountability at the top of the System.
Union members understand the value of community. One of the most fundamental reasons people join and participate in unions is because they know that whether it's at work, at home, or in our communities, we are all stronger - and happier - when we work together to make our lives better. The members of AFT local 3497, the McFarland Federation of Teachers, put those values into action on March 17 by helping to provide a meal to McFarland residents through Shared Table.
Public school support staff perform work that keeps their schools running, work that is essential to the educational mission of Wisconsin’s public school system. Unfortunately, this work is too often undervalued by school district administrations, who frequently ignore pressing issues that make it hard to recruit and retain the best school staff. So, after five years of pay freezes, reduced take-home pay, and declining benefits, members of AFT local 4018, the Eau Claire Schools Classified Staff Federation, decided they’d had enough, and made plans to take their issues directly to the school board.
The first version of the employee handbook for the Ashland school district was created with extensive input from members of the Ashland Federation of Teachers (AFT local 1275) and the Ashland Federation of Paraprofessionals (AFT local 4232), with representatives of each union sitting on a handbook committee with the administration. However, the following year, union members were surprised to see substantial changes made without any opportunity for employee input. Members of both locals met to discuss the issue, and decided to organize their coworkers and take the issue to the next district school board meeting, where they would petition the board to re-form the handbook committee as a permanent working group.