Connect with us

News

Teacher Walkouts: A State By State Guide

The West Virginia teachers strike in mid-February started a movement. Here’s a look at what the issues are and where it’s spread, including Colorado, Arizona and Kentucky.

Published

on

It’s been nine weeks since teachers in West Virginia walked out of their classrooms to protest low wages and rising health care costs. That sparked a movement that has spread to a handful of other states where teachers have fought — or are fighting — not just for higher wages but also increased spending, more pay for support staff and, in some cases, to stop proposed changes to their pensions.

In fact, so much has happened in the past two months that we thought we’d put together a refresher, state by state.

Arizona

Thousands of teachers across the state are expected to walk off the job tomorrow. That’s after Arizona educators voted overwhelmingly last week in support of an organized protest. Their demands include an increase in school funding — enough to return to pre-recession levels — and a big lift in salaries, enough to get them to the national average of $58,950. In 2016-17, Arizona teachers earned $47,403, on average.

“I think that educators are ready to stay out for the duration and force legislators to strategically invest in our schools the way that we did ten years ago,” Joe Thomas, president of the Arizona Education Association, tells NPR. AEA, the state’s largest union, is working hand-in-hand to coordinate the walkouts with Arizona Educators United, a grassroots organization behind the state’s #RedforED movement.

“The educators of Arizona sent an incredibly strong message,” Noah Karvelis, spokesman for Arizona Educators United, tweeted after the walkout votes were tallied. “We will not allow our legislature to neglect our students, families and educators any longer.”

In an attempt to avert a walkout, Gov. Doug Ducey, a Republican, promised teachers a 20 percent pay raise by 2020, tweeting: “I am committed to getting teachers this raise and am working to get this passed at the Legislature. We need teachers teaching, and kids learning.”

The governor’s office says the money would come from a combination of increased revenue and small cuts. In a fact sheet, Ducey’s office explains that the state can spend more money on schools and teachers because “revenues are on the rise and have been higher than originally projected, combined with a reduction in state government operating budgets through strategic efficiencies, caseload savings, and a rollback of governor’s office proposals.”

But Thomas and Karvelis — and the teachers they represent — aren’t buying that explanation. “No funding tricks, no one-time fixes, no smoke and mirrors” says Thomas, “our teachers were absolutely disgusted.”

He and Karvelis rejected the governor’s proposal because, they say, not all teachers would receive pay hikes — and the money for those that would get them would come at the expense of other important programs.

Colorado

Teachers in Colorado are also set to walk out Thursday or Friday. Several hundred showed up at the state Capitol last week to voice a range of familiar concerns.

Teacher pay in Colorado is relatively low. The average teacher salary is $46,506, compared with $58,950 nationally. According to one study, the state ranks last in wage competitiveness. Also on teachers’ list of complaints: underfunding of schools and efforts to scale back pension benefits.

But there are a few important differences between Colorado and the other states that have seen teacher protests. And those differences mean that lobbying lawmakers for a salary or funding increase isn’t as straight-forward here — even with the support of Gov. John Hickenlooper, a Democrat.

For one thing, Colorado voters passed a Taxpayer’s Bill of Rights in the early ’90s. Here’s how reporter Jenny Brundin of Colorado Public Radio explained TABOR for NPR’s School Money project:

“It required that voters, not lawmakers, have the final say on tax increases, and it capped tax revenue. Anything the state raised over that cap — typically in boom years — would be refunded to taxpayers.”

In short, teachers have to take their funding arguments to the people.

“It’s gotta be a ballot,” says Kerrie Dallman, president of the Colorado Education Association, the union that represents 35,000 educators across the state. While previous ballot measures to raise school funding have failed, Dallman says Colorado teachers will try again in November.

Another big challenge for teachers boils down to two words: local control. Even if lawmakers are willing to repurpose money from elsewhere in the state’s budget to raise teachers’ salaries, Dallman says, they can’t. Not easily, anyway.

“We don’t have a statewide salary schedule, and so, when new money is freed up, it really is up to a local school district whether or not they want to agree to a raise,” says Dallman. “That’s the beauty of local control.”

Oklahoma

While protests are just gearing up in Arizona and Colorado, the dust is settling in Oklahoma. Though the outcome, and what to make of it, is still in dispute.

Teachers walked out on April 2, hoping to win increases in school funding and more pay for support staff. Lawmakers passed a $6,000 pay raise for educators in late March — before the walkout had begun.

After striking for nine days and winning no new concessions, teachers returned to their classrooms. The move, which was supported by union leaders, frustrated some protesters.

“In reality, we are truly, literally in a worse position than when we started,” says Larry Cagle, who leads a grassroots teachers group called Oklahoma Teachers United. “The unions were horribly complicit in this meltdown.”

Cagle says independent teachers led the way to the strike but made a mistake allowing the state’s largest teachers union, the Oklahoma Education Association, to negotiate on their behalf. He worries that the new money lawmakers have promised teachers simply won’t materialize.

Ed Allen, leader of the Oklahoma City chapter of the American Federation of Teachers, says that’s not something teachers need to worry about. It’s up to lawmakers, Allen says, to follow through on the deal, and, “if the money isn’t there, they are going to have to find the funds to pay for it.”

The unions aren’t completely satisfied with the strike’s outcome either. “Quite frankly, we’re angry that the legislature — the Senate in particular — wasn’t willing to talk about funding any more for education,” says OEA President Alicia Priest. “That is an indictment on our legislature, and that’s where the anger should be directed.”

Still, union leaders say, these walkouts did achieve something. Priest says the bill to raise teacher pay is part of the OEA’s three-year plan to make up the $1 billion in education funding that has been cut in the past decade.

Politically, the Oklahoma strike tested union strength and credibility in a state where employees can’t be compelled to join a teachers union or pay union dues. More than half of all states are so-called right-to-work states — including Arizona, Kentucky, and West Virginia.

“It has been harder and harder to draw our younger teachers into the union and see the need for the union,” says Allen of the Oklahoma City AFT. But, he believes, “it’s a teacher’s cost of doing business, your union membership.”

For Cagle, though, the experience provides a cautionary tale for other states considering a walkout: “If there’s one thing that Arizona needs to know today — it’s don’t give the union the mic. Because they’re not powerful enough.”

Kentucky

The fight here isn’t over teacher pay, exactly, but teacher compensation. A pair of studies — here and here — show teacher salaries in Kentucky are more competitive than they are in either Arizona or Oklahoma. But the commonwealth’s pension system is in trouble. Its unfunded obligations have ballooned in recent years, and lawmakers have struggled to contain them.

“Over the last 10 years, they have essentially doubled the amount of money they’re putting into the pension plan, and it’s still not enough,” says Chad Aldeman, the editor of teacherpensions.org.

Recently, Kentucky’s Republican governor, Matt Bevin, warned: “If we don’t change anything, the system will fail, and most of the people now teaching will never see one cent of a retirement plan.”

So, in a surprise move last month, Republicans fast-tracked a dramatic reimagining of the state’s pension system, including something called a cash-balance plan for new teachers, by attaching it to a sewage bill.

“The biggest difference is, with the existing plan, you know exactly what your retirement is going to be before you retire,” says Beau Barnes, general counsel for Kentucky’s Teachers’ Retirement System.

Under this new cash-balance plan, which is somewhere between a traditional pension and a 401(k), Barnes says teachers won’t know how much money they’ll receive each month until they leave the classroom. In short: It introduces a new level of uncertainty in a state where teachers don’t enjoy the safety of Social Security.

When teachers realized this was happening, thousands converged on the Capitol in Frankfort to protest the pension changes. While these changes are here to stay, Republican lawmakers did override the governor’s veto of a new, two-year operating budget that increases per-student spending, in part, by raising the state’s cigarette tax.

West Virginia

And finally, the beginning: A statewide strike in West Virginia ignited the movement by teachers around the country. On Feb. 22, educators left their classrooms, demanding higher pay and relief from rising health care costs.

Teachers didn’t head back to class until March 7, a day after the legislature passed a 5 percent pay raise for all state workers, including teachers. The governor has also convened a task force to explore ways to rein in health insurance costs.

Copyright 2018 NPR. To see more, visit NPR.
Continue Reading
Advertisement

News

‘I pray for Donald Trump, I do’: Bishop Michael Curry addresses US divisions

The preacher who shone at the royal wedding has returned home to the progressive Reclaiming Jesus movement

Published

on

 

Powered by Guardian.co.ukThis article titled “‘I pray for Donald Trump, I do’: Bishop Michael Curry addresses US divisions” was written by Lauren Gambino in Washington, for theguardian.com on Sunday 27th May 2018 11.49 UTC

Faith leaders working with Bishop Michael Curry to turn his sermons of love into a movement see his invitation to preach at the wedding of Prince Harry and Meghan Markle as a moment of divine intervention.

“God used a royal wedding to have the gospel preached probably to the largest audience at one time,” said Jim Wallis, a progressive Christian leader and a founder of the Reclaiming Jesus movement. “My dear friend Bishop Curry was just being himself in that pulpit. But God made that happen in all kinds of humorous and miraculous ways.”

For 24 hours after the ceremony at Windsor Castle last week, Curry rivaled Pope Francis as the most recognizable faith leader in the world. He was interviewed by major networks on both sides of the Atlantic. Fans asked for selfies. He was even parodied on Saturday Night Live.

Then the first African American leader of the Episcopal Church returned home, to embark on a new mission. He wants to address what he and other clergy behind Reclaiming Jesus call “a dangerous crisis of moral and political leadership at the highest levels of our government and in our churches”.

“My hope and prayer is that what we’re really doing is helping the average Christian person of faith find their voice,” Curry told the Guardian. “We’re trying to find a way to bring people together and the values that we share is our starting place for doing that.”

The 65-year-old, who was born in Chicago and raised by his grandmother after his mother’s death, is the descendent of slaves and sharecroppers in North Carolina. His presence at Westminster Abbey, a reflection of Markle’s African American ancestry, was a symbolic moment for two countries riven by race and class. In his speech, Curry invoked Martin Luther King Jr and slavery, telling the couple: “Make of this old world, a new world.”

Bishop Michael Curry gives an address during the wedding of Prince Harry and Meghan Markle in St George’s Chapel at Windsor Castle.
Bishop Michael Curry gives an address during the wedding of Prince Harry and Meghan Markle in St George’s Chapel at Windsor Castle. Photograph: WPA Pool/Getty Images

That was the message he brought to Washington on Thursday, when he linked arms with prominent progressive leaders and led hundreds of Christians in silent procession to the White House. On the sidewalk facing the seat of American power, the elders read from a declaration as hundreds raised votive candles.

The Reclaiming Jesus movement, like other progressive religious groups, is asking people of faith to reject policies that ban refugees and immigrants from the US and equivocations on white supremacy – without joining a political side.

“We don’t tell people how to vote,” Curry said. “We don’t tell people exactly what policies they must stand for. We identify what are the values that will guide you in your life. But the rest? That’s between you and God.”

The lengthy founding document lists six core principles the co-signers hope will help shift the conversation around what they believe are the core teachings of the Bible: a focus on the poor, the vulnerable and the disadvantaged. It does not mention Donald Trump by name but it does repudiate his policies and the forces unleashed by his election.

It calls on Christians to denounce the “resurgence of white nationalism and racism in our nation on many fronts, including the highest levels of political leadership”, and rejects Trump’s America First agenda.

The response from Trump’s most ardent evangelical supporters has underlined how deep divisions are carved – and how difficult it will be to find common ground.

“There is nothing wrong with putting America first,” Robert Jeffress, a pastor at First Baptist Dallas and a prominent member of the president’s evangelical advisory board, told Fox News. “That is what a government is supposed to do. That is God’s responsibility for government. As individual Christians, yes, we put others before ourselves but government doesn’t do that.”

Jeffress said Curry was “sincere” in his message but also “sincerely wrong” in his understanding of what the Bible says about the role of government.

Curry said he had expected a strong reaction to the Reclaiming Jesus declaration.

“It’s a spiritual document and spiritual documents are moral and ethical statements so they have implications,” he said. “We identify cultural maladies – we’re not pointing the finger at anybody. We’re not blaming anybody.”

Asked if he prays for the president, Curry replied without reservation: “I pray for Donald Trump, I do. He’s a child of God, just like the immigrant is a child of God.”

Pastor Robert Jeffress with Donald Trump in Washington.
Pastor Robert Jeffress with Donald Trump in Washington. Photograph: Bloomberg/Bloomberg via Getty Images

If Curry had an audience with the president, he said, he would tell him the same thing he tells himself and anybody else he prays for: “Live by the practice of love for your neighbor.”

“Selfish, self-centered living by any or all of us is what the Christian tradition has meant by sin all along,” he said.

Before the vigil, Curry returned to the pulpit to deliver a soaring if brief sermon at the National City Christian Church.

“Love your neighbor,” Curry said, in the magisterial cadence now recognized around the world. “Love the neighbor you like and the neighbor you don’t like. Love the neighbor you agree with and the neighbor you don’t agree with. Love your Democrat neighbor, your Republican neighbor, your black neighbor, your white neighbor, your Anglo neighbor, your Latino neighbor and your LGBTQ neighbor. Love your neighbor! That’s why we’re here!”

Among those listening were John Carr, who runs the Initiative on Catholic Social Thought and Public Life at Georgetown University. He said what he saw on Thursday was not a political movement but the “rise of the religious middle”.

“In these incredibly polarizing and frankly demoralizing times,” he said, “we need a moral message that’s anchored in faith not ideology and politics”.

guardian.co.uk © Guardian News & Media Limited 2010

Published via the Guardian News Feed plugin for WordPress.

Continue Reading

News

Rudy Giuliani admits ‘Spygate’ is Trump PR tactic against Robert Mueller

  • President’s lawyer gives meandering CNN interview
  • ‘It’s for public opinion’, he says of claims of campaign informant

Published

on

 

Powered by Guardian.co.ukThis article titled “Rudy Giuliani admits ‘Spygate’ is Trump PR tactic against Robert Mueller” was written by Tom McCarthy, for theguardian.com on Sunday 27th May 2018 13.47 UTC

Former New York City mayor Rudy Giuliani said on Sunday that his repeated imputations of a supposed scandal at the heart of the Robert Mueller investigation – which Donald Trump calls “Spygate” – amounted to a tactic to sway public opinion and limit the risk of the president being impeached.

“Of course we have to do it to defend the president,” Trump’s lawyer told CNN State of the Union host Dana Bash, who accused him of being part of a campaign to undermine the Mueller investigation. Trump has repeatedly called the special counsel’s work a “witch hunt”, despite its producing five guilty pleas, including by three former Trump aides, and evidence of Russian tampering in US elections.

“It is for public opinion,” Giuliani said of his public campaign of dissimulation. “Because eventually the decision here is going to be impeach or not impeach. Members of Congress, Democrats and Republicans, are going to be informed a lot by their constituents. And so our jury – and it should be – is the American people.

“So Republicans largely, many independents, even some Democrats now question the legitimacy of [the Mueller investigation],” Giuliani said. “Democrats I would suggest for their own self-interest, this is not a good issue to go into the midterms.”

As Giuliani acknowledged the political nature of his public campaign against Mueller, Trump advanced that campaign on Twitter, lamenting what he said were “young and beautiful lives … devastated and destroyed” by the investigation of alleged collusion between the Trump campaign and Russia.

“They went back home in tatters!” Trump wrote. It was unclear who he was talking about.

Trump, Giuliani and other allies claim reports that an FBI informant monitored linkes between Trump aides and Russia show there was a “spy” on the Trump campaign. Senior figures in the intelligence community have rubbished such claims.

On ABC’s This Week on Sunday, the Democrat Adam Schiff, ranking member of the House intelligence committee, said: “This is part of the propaganda machine. Let’s spread a completely fallacious story and then say it needs to be investigated, and give it a life of its own.”

Giuliani is a former US attorney for the southern district of New York. In his CNN appearance, he called former CIA director John Brennan and former director of national intelligence James Clapper, both fierce critics of Trump, “two clowns”.

“I have no regard at all for Brennan or Clapper. I think they’re two clowns…” Giuliani said. “They’re not civil servants as far as I know.”

Clapper told the same show: “In the space of a week I’ve progressed from being the dumbest intelligence officer on the planet, from President Trump, to a clown. So it’s progress, I guess.”

Michael Hayden, another former director of the CIA, told ABC Trump was “simply trying to delegitimize Mueller … and he’s willing to throw anything against the wall.

“From the outside looking in, from everything I know, everyone has handled this just about the way it should have been handled.”

Giuliani’s month-old job as a spokesman for the president has been marked by confusion, contradiction and scandal. He began by saying money used to seal a 2016 hush agreement with the porn actor Stormy Daniels had come from Trump, who had earlier flatly denied, on camera, any knowledge of the $130,000.

“We’re not changing any stories,” Trump told reporters. Trump has denied having an affair with Daniels.

Giuliani also said earlier this month Trump would have had his personal lawyer, Michael Cohen, pay off women in addition to Daniels “if necessary”. Giuliani told ABC he had “no knowledge” of any other payments to women.

Trump has repeatedly excused and praised Giuliani. “He started yesterday,” Trump said on 4 May. “He’ll get his facts straight. It’s actually very simple, there has been a lot of misinformation really.”

guardian.co.uk © Guardian News & Media Limited 2010

Published via the Guardian News Feed plugin for WordPress.

Continue Reading

News

Harvey Weinstein appears in court charged with rape and other sexual offences

Disgraced movie producer handed himself in to New York police on Friday morning over claims by two women

Published

on

 

Powered by Guardian.co.ukThis article titled “Harvey Weinstein appears in court charged with rape and other sexual offences” was written by Amanda Holpuch and Jamiles Lartey in New York, for theguardian.com on Friday 25th May 2018 16.51 UTC

The disgraced Hollywood film producer Harvey Weinstein has been charged with rape, a criminal sex act, sex abuse and sexual misconduct for alleged incidents involving two separate women, after he earlier surrendered to authorities in New York.

During a brief court appearance on Friday, Weinstein remained quiet as his lawyers agreed he would post $1m (£750,000) bail and wear an electronic monitoring device. He also surrendered his passport, and agreed not to travel beyond New York and Connecticut.

A prosecutor told the judge that the investigation was ongoing, and that authorities have encouraged other survivors to come forward.

“The defendant used his position, money and power to lure young women into situations where he was able to violate them sexually,” she said.

Speaking outside court, Weinstein’s lawyer, Benjamin Brafman, said his client intends to plead not guilty. He called the charges “constitutionally flawed” and “not factually supported”.

It is the first criminal case to be brought against Weinstein since the revelations about him erupted last October and sparked the #MeToo movement.

Weinstein, 66, was led in handcuffs, with a detective on either side holding his arms, from the police station into a waiting car. A few minutes later he arrived at criminal court in Manhattan, and was marched in by the detectives to be arraigned on the charges. He has denied all allegations of non-consensual sex.

Weinstein was stone-faced and sullen, and did not respond to questions from reporters.

A statement from the New York police department said: “The NYPD thanks these brave survivors for their courage to come forward and seek justice.”

Weinstein surrendered to police early Friday morning at the NYPD first precinct in Tribeca in lower Manhattan, where the Weinstein Company has its headquarters and where many of the alleged offenses are said to have taken place, either at the offices or a nearby hotel.

 

He stepped from a black SUV wearing a dark jacket over a light blue sweater and white open-necked shirt. He was carrying three books under his arm. He went into the police station before a crowd of news cameras. He did not respond to shouts of “Harvey!”

Two law enforcement officials told the Associated Press the case will include allegations by Lucia Evans, an aspiring actor who has said the Hollywood mogul forced her to perform oral sex on him in his office. She was among the first women to speak out about the producer.

One official said it was likely the case also will include at least one other victim who has not come forward publicly.

After Weinstein’s arrest, Rose McGowan, one of his most prominent accusers, told the UK’s BBC Radio 4: “It’s a concrete slap in the face of abuse of power. I hope we emerge victorious and, if anything, we have emerged victorious, no mater what, because people are listening now.”

Lucia Evans told the New Yorker in a story published in October that Weinstein forced her to perform oral sex during a daytime meeting at his New York office in 2004, the summer before her senior year at Middlebury College.

“I said, over and over, ‘I don’t want to do this, stop, don’t,’” she said.

The Manhattan district attorney, Cyrus Vance, had been under enormous public pressure to bring a criminal case against Weinstein.

A grand jury has been hearing evidence in the case for weeks.

In March, Andrew Cuomo, the New York governor, took the extraordinary step of ordering the state’s attorney general to investigate whether Vance acted properly in 2015 when he decided not to prosecute Weinstein over a previous allegation of unwanted groping, made by an Italian model. That investigation is in its preliminary stages.

More than 75 women have accused Weinstein of wrongdoing. Several actors and models accused him of criminal sexual assaults, but many of the encounters happened too long ago for any prosecution. Rose McGowan said Weinstein raped her in 1997 in Utah, the Sopranos actor Annabella Sciorra said Weinstein raped her in her New York apartment in 1992 and the Norwegian actor Natassia Malthe said Weinstein attacked her in a London hotel room in 2008.

The statute of limitations for rape and certain other sex crimes in New York was eliminated in 2006, but not for attacks that happened prior to 2001.

New York City police detectives said in early November that they were investigating allegations by another accuser, the Boardwalk Empire star Paz de la Huerta, who told police in October that Weinstein raped her twice in 2010. She is not one of the victims in the case on Friday; hers was still pending, officials said.

Authorities in California and London are also investigating assault allegations. Britain has no statute of limits on rape cases; some of the allegations under investigation there date to the 1980s.

Two of the books Weinstein carried into the police station have been identified as Something Wonderful: Rodgers and Hammerstein’s Broadway Revolution by Todd S Purdum, and Elia Kazan: A Biography by Richard Schickel.

Something Wonderful was published last month. Weinstein might see something of himself in the story of successful showmen impresarios credited with changing the cultural landscape.

There are also possible parallels in the story of Elia Kazan, the immigrant director of groundbreaking, multi-award-winning classics such as On the Waterfront and A Streetcar Named Desire. Originally a communist, Kazan was later scorned by much of liberal Hollywood for testifying before the House committee on un-American activities in 1952. When Kazan was awarded an honorary Oscar in 1999, dozens of audience members chose not to applaud and 250 demonstrators picketed the event.

Schickel’s 2005 biography also documents Kazan’s many affairs. Three times married, he had affairs with many female actors and leading ladies including Marilyn Monroe. Yet Kazan’s reputation as a formidable Hollywood artist weathered political and personal scandals.

guardian.co.uk © Guardian News & Media Limited 2010

Published via the Guardian News Feed plugin for WordPress.

Continue Reading

Popular

Copyright © 2018 News This Second