The Massachusetts Teachers Association elected a “new” president in Boston this weekend — former Concord Teachers Association President and Barbara Madeloni-anointed-candidate, Merrie Najimy.
So now what? Let’s dig in.
A faithful lieutenant to Madeloni, Najami lost her bid to become Madeloni’s #2 two years ago to Erik Champy. This year Najimy bested him for the MTA’s top spot by about 154 votes — and despite the gloating Facebook posts, the totals indicate the union continues to be divided when it comes to leadership direction.
Oh, yes. Not all is rainbows and butterflies in labor land.
(Only about 1,600 out of 110,000 MTA members even bothered to vote in the election.)
Many members continue to question whether continuing Madeloni’s radical agenda that centered mostly around issues other than building the profession and negotiating strong contracts is a good idea. And now that Madeloni has blown-through a good chunk of the MTA’s reserves on her personal crusades and pet projects, it’ll be interesting to watch what happens to the union and their network of front groups in a post-Janus environment.
Overall what does this all mean? Who knows.
Unlike Madeloni, whose half-baked ideas about what’s best for our kids stem from a lack of experience teaching in the K-12 system, Najimy actually does have experience teaching in elementary classrooms from kindergarten to third grade — which is encouraging. However, her experience is limited to the upper-crust Concord Public Schools, meaning no direct experience dealing with the issues of teachers, students or families in urban districts or addressing the achievement gap.
Concord is of course is one of the top ten median income communities in the Commonwealth where the average income is triple the statewide average. The school system has an incredible amount of resources, and is 92% white. (Less than 3% of the population in Concord is black or brown. Seriously.)
So what does that mean about the experience the next President of the MTA brings to the table? Likely more activism-based-in-theory-and-rainbows instead of direct experience and context leading to more unrealistic and bombastic fights around testing and accountability. Because after all, the easiest way to stop having a problem with underperforming schools and the achievement gap is to simply stop the testing that shows us there is a problem! BOOM!
What’s problematic about a union president without experience working in the communities that need help the most?
Take for instance a public debate I had with Madeloni two years ago during the ballot question campaign. When I challenged her on what parents were supposed to do NOW about schools that are CURRENTLY FAILING our kids, it was very easy for her to tell me that it was my job as a member of society to “sacrifice for the greater good” and “be patient” so the system would improve for everyone.
I suppose that’s easy to say when your kids aren’t prime candidates for the school to prison pipeline and no concept of the fact that sentencing my children to a failing school could ultimately sentence them to a life of poverty, incarceration, violence or death.
When these children are an abstract concept you read about in a book instead of the faces you wake up to every morning, I suppose it’s hard to understand the sense of urgency parents are feeling RIGHT NOW.
(EduMom’s Editor-In-Chief, David Lorenzo on Mommy’s bed. He’ll be in kindergarten next year and needs to read at grade level by third grade to avoid becoming fodder for the school-to-prison pipeline. He is not a chapter in a book.)
And I know I’ve only been in the world of education advocacy for about five years, but I still struggle to understand why I’m supposed to check myself as a parent and fall in line behind the agenda of folks like Madeloni (who attended catholic schools, has no children, has no K-12 experience) and former Boston City Councilor Tito Jackson (former METCO/school choice student, no children.) I just don’t get it.
So in Najimy we end up with another fairly radical union activist with no experience in an urban district, educating children with trauma or extreme poverty — dedicated to the proven to be disasterous idea that simply throwing more money at education without any guarantee that the money will actually reach kids in the classroom to work on our growing achievement gap — or any mechanism to determine whether it’s working — will “Save Our Public Schools.”
I’m sure we’ll see some remix of the MTA’s “Save Our Public Schools” campaign, (which is more like the “Our Kids Can’t Read, But As Long As They Feel Good About It — Our Job Is Done Here. Also, Give Us More Money!” campaign.)
(EduMom is not great at bumper-sticker length campaign slogans. You can’t be good at everything.)
Adding to the entertainment this weekend was the presentation of the “MTA President’s Award” to UMass Professor Maurice Cunningham, who I think we can officially say has jumped the shark when it comes to being the independent arbitrator of truth and justice after this one.
Cunningham — a wealthy, white professor who lives the lux life in Cambridge (where per-pupil spending is almost $28,000 a year) likes to play social justice warrior on the interwebs — and fell all over himself thanking his beloved union president for giving him such an incredible honor for excellence in propaganda. I think there may have even been tears?
The Professor, a member of the MTA, who writes exclusively about the funding of education reform groups who dare to question the agenda of the teachers union has long attempted to present himself as some kind of independent voice and serious scholar — but after watching Mo fall all over himself gushing about his beloved union, you’d have to be crazy to see him as anything other than a cheesy campaign tactic.
(EduMom loves cheese, but not on her education policy.)
I’m sure this will trigger yet another anti-MPU post about how we’re evil and funded by dark money (AKA, any money received by a group that Cunningham doesn’t like regardless of whether it’s disclosed) and misguided theories about where we get our funding. (Still posted on our website.)
As for Barbara Madeloni — what happens next is anyone’s guess. You’ll remember she was fired from her position at UMASS while campaigning to become president of the MTA and only maintained eligible for election following arbitration with the college that allowed her to maintain her affiliation with the school but no formal position.
I’m sure she’ll find a home as a paid talking head that says the word “justice” alot — while those of us who actually have real skin in the education game (you know, the ones with kids in the system) will continue to be forced to endure lectures from the newly-elected crop of edu-elitists who have somehow convinced themselves that they are better equipped to make decisions for our children than we are.