It has been clearly proven that the leadership of the major teacher unions and organizations are in bed with the privatizers on Wall Street.  I have chronicled this for some time now, arguing that the teacher unions basically suffer from a divorced and overpaid executive supported by a pool of passive paying dues members.

Randi Weingarten is perhaps the best symbol of this capitulation to Race to the Top, Arne Duncan and the likes of Bill Gates, Elye Broad and corporate friends.

However, the rank and file of the teacher unions are a bit peskier than the executive leadership for they have far more to lose.

Kevin Hart and Félix Pérez, two reporters writing on education in the state of Connecticut highlighted in the NEA featured articles section  that:
“Proponents of privatizing public education have spent the past few years on a perpetual road show, travelling state to state selling a toxic mix of education reforms that are unsupported by research and silence the voices of teachers, and rebutting any and all efforts to improve public education. They flood the airwaves with apocalyptic-sounding advertisements and even assemble phony grassroots groups to give the impression of public support.
But this spring, the tired act was booed off the stage in Connecticut. The Connecticut Education Association (CEA), an affiliate of the National Education Association, worked to rally educators and parents to expose the privatization agenda behind a series of proposed reforms, and to help craft meaningful, teacher-led reforms that work for all students” (http://neatoday.org/2012/06/18/how-connecticut-educators-beat-back-privateers-to-lead-reform-effort/).
According to the reporters, trouble began brewing this year when a New York-based private equity firm and Michelle Rhee’s Students First organization began muscling in on the school district and advancing a series of ‘deforms’ that would expand for-profit charter schools — despite research showing that their students tend to perform worse academically than those in neighborhood public schools—and would silence the voices of educators and weaken their job security.  Rhee of course was and is doing the bidding of her plutocratic employers who see big profits in charters and eventually vouchers.   Research is of no use to them unless they pay for it so it is not unusual to see Rhee moving along in face of evidence to the contrary.  After all, this is the woman who allegedly cheated on student tests to covet favor with the ruling class of D.C.
Rhee, a former chancellor of Washington, D.C., public schools, has spent the past several months working with some of the most reactionary members of the ruling class in Connecticut and their paid for legislators to advance a sickening agenda that puts private profits ahead of children.  Her Students First (an oxymoron that cannot go unmentioned) group spent $790,000 on advertising in Connecticut to try to advance her unproven—and, in many cases, thoroughly disproven—reforms (ibid).
Phil Apruzzese, a math and science teacher from Wethersfield, Connecticut, and president of the CEA, a local of NEA and a rank and file union activists said that Connecticut state educators were “being told by wealthy and powerful interests—from CEOs to charter management companies to out-of-state, ultraconservative, anti-union organizations— that their voices should not count” (ibid).
This of course is the same message given daily to working people who are not only told their vote will not count, but are also told that any struggle is futile in face of billionaire plutocrats intent on destroying public education in favor of commodity schools.
Contrary to the NEA nationwide, CEA and its members are not newbies to this debate and they have staked out their claim that they will not be bullied by the moneyed class or their doughy union leaders.
The reporters noted that:
“CEA was a driving force behind the establishment of CommPACT schools—eight inner-city schools that have a team of teachers, principals, and parents with new powers and flexibility to transform their schools from within. The union also offered “View from the Classroom: Proven Ideas for Student Achievement,” a series of research-backed, teacher-led reforms that could improve education for all Connecticut students” (ibid).
Rather than capitulate or worse, collaborate with the forces of capital looking to distill education down to a saleable commodity while at the same time robbing students of learning opportunities, CEA and its members worked through various media outlets to educate the public about the right way to improve the state’s public schools.  They were also a constant presence at the state capitol, making sure their voices were heard and stressing to legislators and Governor Dannel Malloy the importance of getting ‘reform’ right.
And they come out in a show of force: more than 100 people, about half of them public school teachers, packed a state legislative hearing room in February to testify on questionable and potentially harmful proposals in Governor Malloy’s initial education agenda.  They were all their to redefine ‘reform’ in moral terms, as it should be, not in monetary terms.
CEA and its members worked with legislators on both sides of the aisle to advance a bipartisan reform bill that raised education standards, honored collective bargaining, and took a collaborative approach to addressing critical issues of quality in schools. Thousands of CEA members turned out at an April rally designed to keep the bill moving through the legislative process and to encourage Gov. Malloy to sign it.  They did this by going to parents and to the community, not simply by organzing amongst themselves.
On May 15, their efforts were successful for Malloy signed the CEA-supported bill that included investments in proven reforms, such as quality early childhood education, early literacy, and health and social supports for disadvantaged students.  Stripped from the bill, among other things, was language that would have expanded the number of for-profit charter schools operated by national corporations.
Not wishing to be left out of the struggle, overpaid NEA Dennis Van Roekel left the dining table and his privatization buddies where he was struggling with a bottle of Perrier to comment:
“The key takeaway today is that parents and educators know what is best for their students.  Most importantly, educators had a seat at the table in shaping policy and their expertise was essential in leading to decisions that will benefit students and schools. Connecticut students won, because elected officials listened to the experts–Connecticut parents and educators” (ibid).
Yes, they had a seat at the table but it was not due to buying them in advance on line or going to the national NEA for advice.  These teachers forced a seat at the table due to long standing organizing, a moral commitment to teaching over profit, and years of solidarity and the hard work of going door to door to inform parents of the draconian efforts being led by Rhee and her paymasters.
While they were doing all of this, Van Roekel was tucking his napkin under his chin and chatting with his corporate buddies about how to sell the whole charter/voucher idea to members.
The real message here is that despite the union leadership that would rather capitulate to charter schools, the rank and file chose to fight.  When we fight, we have a chance to win and this means re-oxygenating teacher unions and ‘firing’ the union leadership that simply cannot perform.