Final Thoughts on the 2011 Legislative Session


By Sharon Gallagher-Fishbaugh

As I sat in the Senate gallery on the last day of the 2011 session, I was struck by the significant amount of work we have to accomplish over this next year. Recently, the governor of Wisconsin stripped the teachers of their rights to collective bargaining and locked the people out of their beloved Capitol building. Idaho teachers have lost their bargaining rights. At this moment, battles over the education of our children, the respect and governance of our profession and our association are taking place in literally every state in our country.

Utah is no different. We may not be a collective bargaining state, but our children and our teachers have lost a great deal this session. Parents for Choice in Education (PCE), the voucher proponents, have submitted a slate of legislation, in cooperation with some members of the legislature, designed to privatize our public education system, institute a national anti-association education reform model and dismantle public schools.

Sen. Howard Stephenson is on record stating that the UEA is all about protecting mediocrity. Are you a mediocre teacher? Apparently the answer for a large number of our legislators is ‘yes’! Legislation passed this year includes revamped evaluation systems; curriculum mandates; exploration of eliminating “career status” based on test scores; exploration of performance pay; elimination of association leave; elimination of “seniority” as the basis for reductions in force when evaluations are equal; diverting scarce funding to charter schools and specific technology providers; giving schools a single grade with no resources for improvement; and a focus on the 8 percent of our children in charter schools to the detriment of 92 percent of our children, including the most needy.

Make no mistake—this is a national agenda. Utah is not immune from the impact of those who want to destroy our traditional neighborhood public schools. The push to revive vouchers is alive and well in Utah. Privatization is alive and well in Utah. A movement to minimize our Association is alive and well in Utah.

We are the advocates for our children, our profession and our schools. We must act now! We may have lost a few battles, but together we can win the war! 


What the Union Did for Me

Date Posted: 5/11/2011 1:44:38 AM
Name: Nancy

When I was teaching in Idaho, the parents and the principal wanted me fired. But the IEA came to my defense and saved my job. I worked there for 3 more years, then I came here to teach in Utah. This is a good place. I do feel like the state legislature does appreciate what we do. I don't really get the impression that they think we're mediocre.

"We collaborate "

Date Posted: 3/18/2011 1:27:54 PM
Name: Susan McFarland

In the Salt Lake School District, the Salt Lake Teachers' Association collaborates with the local school board and Superintendent. This is absolutely necessary for high performance by students and teachers. We collaborate because we are educators who are dedicated to the success of public education.

What the Union Does

Date Posted: 3/18/2011 12:12:25 PM
Name: Tom Nedreberg

I've watched the union do these things: 1. Pursue and Celebrate Excellence 2. Protect Dignity 3. Advocate for Children 4. Facilitate Discussion about Education 5. Demonstrate Democracy in Action 6. Fight for Teacher and Student Rights 7. Stand for Principles of Fairness 8. Put forward Inovative Ideas 9. Partner with Groups furthering Education 10. Giving a voice to Teachers

Teachers are awesome

Date Posted: 3/18/2011 7:14:32 AM
Name: Judy Lee

I have been a teacher for 32 years, and I truly believe that teachers are among the best people I know. Not only are we driven to do all we can for the benefit of the kids, but we love to share ideas and help other teachers be their best as well. I am more hurt than angry that some legislators denigrate some of the most caring and hard-working segment of our society: teachers.

Protecting Mediocrity

Date Posted: 3/17/2011 4:40:56 PM
Name: Scott

Cammeron, Cammeron, Cammeron--I will speak to the Utah Education Association, of which I have been a member for my 25 year teaching career. Without the Association public education in Utah would long ago have been trampled into the dirt by the state legislature. The UEA is the only group out there speaking for the children. There are powerful local and national forces trying to destroy public education and privatize it. These people don't care about children, they want to make money. In all of my years, meetings, and dealings with the UEA, the welfare of the children of the state always comes first. These people are caring, thoughtful, dedicated professionals who love to do what they do: work with young people.

Representing Teachers and Students

Date Posted: 3/17/2011 3:49:20 PM
Name: Karen Loveridge

The UEA is the primary advocate for public education. Teachers need a voice, and the UEA provides that voice. When the State Office of Education, Governor educational committees, or other groups are talking education and/or education reform, it is the UEA that is often the only one who has actually taught in a public school classroom , communicates with other teachers and can provide the current teacher/classroom reality perspective. As for why a union is needed – in these days of lobbyists, a union is critical. There are heavily financed lobbyists who stand to make a lot of money if public education money can be diverted to private enterprises. The middle class (and teachers are middle class) do not have lobbies representing their interests. Without the UEA, not only would teachers have no voice, public education would have very few advocates on capitol hill, where most of the decisions that affects teachers AND students are made.

What do Unions Do

Date Posted: 3/17/2011 2:18:17 PM
Name: Marlene Irons

I guess if I were to respond to the question about what Unions do. They work with employers to solve problems and issues. Unions protect the Due Process Rights of the members. Unions negotiate salary and benefits. Unions are the reason we are different than other countries. We promote a quality education for ALL Children, not just the rich and famous. I believe the salary and benefits we have today are much better than they would be if we did not have someone or a group advocating for the work we do.

Thank You

Date Posted: 3/17/2011 2:05:24 PM
Name: Sharon

Mary Ann and Steven, Thank you for your comments. The fact that you took the time to respond is a great beginning. We must educate our neighbors, friends, colleagues, and non-members about our work. It is all about building relationships with one another and our policymakers. Attending caucus meetings, arranging with your local to engage in conversations surrounding your local's ability to improve relations and engage parents. Just a few ideas and I know there are tons more out there I thank you for your passion and your work on behalf of Utah's children.

donate my time

Date Posted: 3/17/2011 2:02:31 PM
Name: Stuart

When I coached the girl's basketball team at Millard High, I took two weeks of my summer vacation without pay and took my players to tournaments so that they could achieve more. I am highly offended by the comment that UEA protects mediocrity.

Do Unions do besides protect mediocrity?

Date Posted: 3/17/2011 1:50:03 PM
Name: Paul Chadwick

The question was asked, "What do Unions do besides protect mediocrity?" I find this a curious question since the leading issue of it is an assumptive statement on the very nature of a union. Most unions were created in part, to help protect the rights of employees. So the assumption being made is that only employees that are mediocre or worse would be in a position where their rights would need to be protected. Therefore, if we follow the logic of the assumption than only those employees that are above average should retain their employment. Now, if we adopt the assumption for our standard than how do we judge the remainder of the employees? Will not a new group eventually become the “new” average? So what is mediocrity? Is not the average of the group being measured? Every group will have an average. For example, every student achievement test (SAT) uses for its base the average score which determines the effectiveness of the test. If the test scores rise than the test’s difficulty is increased to restore the baseline. Likewise, if test scores lower the test is simplified to bring scores up. Thus SAT scores are only reliable when compared as a group against the same test within a specified period of time. The average is always moving. What was considered above average ten years ago likely is only average today. I don't think average or mediocre is anyone's idea of neither a reliable measure nor something anyone wants to “protect”. Unions do more than protect worker’s rights. In the case of the Utah Education Association they are constantly working to improve education and the lives of children. If you do a little research, you’ll find the UEA supports many programs such as School Improvement Grants, and the “Prepared Not Scared” program provides students in education with training and support. They promote and advocate for programs to provide needed medical support and services to underprivileged children. The UEA Children At Risk Foundation serves hundreds of children needing extra tutoring, financial help or medical assistance. In short, the UEA works to ensure Utah’s public school classrooms are places where teachers and students have the resources they need to succeed.

What you can do

Date Posted: 3/17/2011 1:36:12 PM
Name: Jay Blain

Mary Ann, You can be involved by knowing who your Representative and Senator are and contacting them with your stories about your classroom. Let them know how their votes on legislation affect the students in your school. In addition, support public education friendly candidates when it is time to vote. Talk to your family and friends about their legislators affect public education and encourage them to support public education friendly candidates as well. Those are a few things you can do.

The purpose of unions

Date Posted: 3/17/2011 12:50:24 PM
Name: Jerry Monson

Cammeron, In response to your question, "What do Unions do besides protect mediocrity?". First of all, what makes you think that is the purpose of Unions, outside of a legislator making the comment? As far as education, the UEA has done exactly the opposite. The purpose of UEA is to improve education, as well as ensure due process for members. There are many ideas of how to change education, but many ideas are not founded on any research to show their effectiveness. UEA promotes and supports research based change that has been proven effective, so that the precious tax dollars that we spend on education are not wasted on unproven ideas and programs, but are rooted in proven, effective programs. UEA works to protect the rights of due process for teachers. I have personally witnessed the UEA being agressive in removing teachers that are not effective. When an ineffective teacher remains in the classroom, it is the responsibility of the administrator to help the teacher improve, or replace them. When improvement has not occurred, it was the Association leaders that pressed administration to replace the teacher. Tell me how that is defending mediocrity. The goal of the Association is to have a quality teacher in every classroom. When you learn more of what UEA stands for and fights for, I think you would see that trying to elevate education and those that deliver it is the real purpose of the Association. I invite you to learn more, to know for yourself what UEA "really" does.

What do Unions do besides protect mediocrity?

Date Posted: 3/17/2011 10:52:33 AM
Name: Cammeron Hodson

I am honestly inquiring...

"Roll Up Our Sleeves"

Date Posted: 3/16/2011 4:05:31 PM
Name: Steven Harper

It's time to roll up our sleeves and work together as teachers to support our UEA president, the most out-spoken, honest, and knowledgeable we've had in years. Organizing is not rocket science, but it does take a leader's vision & committed boots on the ground to fight against the well-organized foes of public education. !Venceremos!

What do we do?

Date Posted: 3/15/2011 4:42:54 PM
Name: Mary Ann Travis

Although I was raised in a Catholic school, I am presently a public school teacher. What can I do to help insure that all of our kids, I work in a Title 1 school, get all of the help that they need? Also, how do we protect our profession from being destroyed and the associations dismantled? Any suggestions?


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