A couple weeks back, the refomers in Philadelphia were in full “sell” mode on hiring issues – full site select and mutual consent. Jon Cetel, of the advocacy group PennCan, took to Twitter:
Whoa! Look at all these diverse groups who support this reform. I’m sure they will respond thanking Mr. Cetel for uniting them on on this issue.
Yeah…no. Turns out that most of the groups do not support Full Site Select as Cetel lays it out and even the groups who do find his tactics, a polite golf clap as the governor starves our schools, as absolutely horrific. While he was writing Op-Eds, they were marching and going on hunger strikes against PennCan’s actions. Advocacy, indeed.1
And this wouldn’t be a big deal if it wasn’t so utterly common. I’m starting to worry that being part of the conversation means being part of the problem.
Let’s stick with PennCan. Check out “Living With LIFO” :
Respect means your voice becoming our ad campaign. Can you feel the warm and fuzzy?2
For contrast, here’s teacher Kathleen Melville of Teacher’s Lead Philly3 testifying before the PA House Democratic Policy Committee (emphasis mine):
Beware of two dangerous red herrings in the current discourse on education reform. The first is seniority. This is an issue that has been blown way out of proportion and used primarily to demonize teachers’ unions. Its proponents claim that giving principals the power to hire staff regardless of seniority will significantly improve learning outcomes. I agree that there is value in hiring staff that fit with a school community’s particular goals and culture. In fact, I would be happy to see the School District of Philadelphia begin a transition to full site-selection by instituting it for all new hires. To insist on eliminating seniority now, however, at a time of record lay-offs and catastrophic instability, strikes me as nothing less than an ingenuous political maneuver designed to cut loose Philly’s most experienced and highest paid teachers. I fear the move toward a system that values inexperience, compliance, and cheapness over experienced professionals with strong, informed opinions. I see the push for eliminating seniority as an effort to push out experienced teachers in order to reduce costs.
There’s nuance, balance, and detail. It doesn’t fit in with the narrative of “Teachers Hate LIFO” or “Everyone Loves Full Site Select”. It doesn’t work in Michelle Rhee’s speaking tour, where teachers are screened and cherry-picked for questions. It can’t be turned into a policy weapon, though it won’t stop some people from trying.
And for us teacher-activists4, this poses a real problem. If I go to a panel talk with reformers, am I supporting their claims that they engage a wide community? Are we the moral defense for groups that are profoundly anti-teacher? If I show up for a conference, do the facilitators then run around screaming “We meet with teachers ever day” when attacked for a push to cut pay and benefits and due process?
I realize this sounds spiteful and speculative, but the proof is there. Teacher’s voice has been weaponized against teachers. Unless we can talk about this without being called spiteful, speculative, or extremists , teachers and their voice will remain second-class citizens.
And just FYI: Count me among those who support real site select. This isn’t a policy issue, it’s a process one ↩
And FYI #2: Count me as one of those who isn’t in love with the current seniority system. Seriously, process matters. ↩
FULL DISCLOSURE: I have attended Teachers Lead Philly events and eaten more than my fair share of their snacks ↩
“Running a blog no one reads doesn’t make you an activist” OK, cool, good talk. No no, just cutting some onions, no big deal ↩