Archive for the ‘Unions’ Category

1% Not Enough

March 28, 2013

It’s funny seeing the Robbinsdale Legislative Action Coalition complain about the governor’s plan for education. The LAC finally elects their people and they still complain.

From the LAC;


Governor Dayton’s budget plan calls for a one percent increase in the general education formula.  That 1% equates to approximately $52. per student.  There are 170 school days – is $0.31 a day really enough?  With budget targets on the horizon, you as a constituent, can make an impact.  Email or call your legislators today and tell them that the proposed 1% increase in the general education formula isn’t enough. 

OK they what should we cut to increase that? Should we cut transit? How about Health and Human Services? LGA? It would be nice to see some ideas, rather than just complaining.

Here are some other “features” in Dayton’s budget;

Governor Dayton’s budget  

Investments in E-12 learning – an increase of 1% in the general formula for FY2014


Increase in special education funding -$125 million investment beginning in FY 2015 by adopting the recommendation of the Education Finance Working Group.  

Teacher Evaluations – $10 million budgeted to create and implement a system that supports teachers and will continue to benefit all our student achievement.

With Dayton and the DFL in charge, you know these won’t have much bite to them.

Early Childhood Education Scholarships to ensure more children attend high quality preschool and child care. 

Fulfilling another liberal obsession.

English Learners – ensuring longer access to language skills to fully participate classroom learning. 

Investments to provide education, training and support for the prevention of school bullying.   

Bullying should be handled at the local level, no one size fits all policies.

So LAC should we cut some of the governor’s other “features” to increase the general formula? Again, it would be nice to see some real ideas.


Levy Fails in Osseo

November 17, 2012

From the Sun Post;

When the numbers came in, voters had narrowly rejected both proposed levies, and only 83 votes separated the school board candidates in third and fourth place. That’s less than a tenth of a percent difference.

Because voters rejected both proposed levies on the ballot, the school district expects to cut about $14 million from the budget over the next two years. That includes $2 million of reductions to “align staffing with enrollment” that were projected to occur regardless of the election’s outcome.

“One of the things that’s frustrating about this is that our expectations for our work and the accomplishments of our students doesn’t change,” Supt. Kate Maguire said.

One of the levies voters rejected was a 5-year operating levy that would have provided $9 million per year. The other was a 10-year technology levy that would have raised $5 million per year. The operating levy received 33,792 “yes” votes, or 49.9 percent and 33,908 “no” votes, or 50.1 percent. That’s a difference of 116 votes.

The technology levy garnered 32,470 votes in favor, or 48.3 percent, and 34,757 votes against, or 51.7 percent. The difference was 2,287 votes. “It’s heartbreakingly close,” Maguire said. “Certainly I’m disappointed, and I’m disappointed because I know what it means. We’ve been here before. And I know the good results we’re getting for students in our community. … It’s going to be difficult to sustain that progress with fewer and fewer (staff members).”

In spite of the disappointment, Maguire said she’s grateful to everyone who supported the levies and worked to inform others. The district has estimated cuts will result in the loss of the equivalent of about 200 full-time positions.

According to Maguire, the advisory committee that looks at long-range financial planning has already worked to identify essential services, such as those required by law. In November and December the school board will begin having work sessions to consider the budget. The board will provide direction to staff, and the district will begin identifying specific areas for reductions in next year’s budget.

Full Article

What’s Really Going on this Weekend?

October 20, 2012

So why are kids out of school this week? Here is  a cross post from the Education Freedom for Minnesota blog on a article;

So why are the kids really not in school this week? What goes on at these “teacher workshops?” Well here is an article from on the matter;

Each year, Minnesota government schools close for two days (just before the weekend, of course) so teachers’ union members can gather at a conference organized by their union. It’s meant to “inspire teachers,” reported, and the conference includes a session titled, “Using Persona Dolls to Promote Social Emotional Intelligence and Acceptance of Diversity.”

The union describes it this way: “Used around the world, persona dolls are lifelike dolls with personalities and stories you create. The dolls become members of your classroom community and children learn by empathizing with the dolls and giving them heartfelt advice on the same kinds of situations they struggle with daily in the classroom and on the playground.” That’s weird. Teachers are taking time away from the classroom to learn how to play with dolls?

Playing with dolls???

The conference also includes a workshop on how to teach about Islam. The union says about the session: “An expert panel will present information on teaching about Islam in the context of social studies and world religion. They will share perspectives on how educators can help improve intercultural communication and well-being for immigrant and refugee students and families from Muslim countries.”

That sounds nice. Who’s betting they won’t hear anything about the September 11, 2001 hijackers’ jihad or suicide bombers blowing up American soldiers or Israeli children? And why the focus on only one religion?

And of course no teachers union conference would be complete without a session about the importance of the upcoming presidential election (it will become an Obama rally), and a discussion about how education reform efforts are misguided and dangerous.

Yes, we must elect Democrats who will never hold Big Education accountable!

Couldn’t the union hold this session during the summer, or on a weekend, when there are no classes to interrupt? They have to annually take time out of the school calendar to hold their union pep rally and play with dolls?

Is it any wonder American students are trailing behind their counterparts in South Korea, Estonia and Luxembourg? Is it too much for union teachers to remain in in the classroom and focus on the basics, instead of cancelling classes to talk about their ideas of “social justice” and promote their union’s political agenda?

No kidding! Support education freedom today!!!!!

Townhall article

Education Freedom for Minnesota’s blog

Enrollment Up Slightly in 281

June 28, 2012

From the Sun Post;

Enrollment was at 11,519 students in Robbinsdale District 281 schools on June 6, the last day of school, an increase of 69 students more than were enrolled on June 9, 2011. Dennis Beekman, District 281’s executive director of technology, on June 18 gave the last of his three annual enrollment reports to the School Board.

“We do monitor enrollment very carefully,” Beekman said. Elementary and high school enrollment is greater than 2010-11 levels, though middle school enrollment is less than last year, according to Beekman.

While midyear enrollment attrition rate was similar to 2010-11, the high school midyear attrition rate was “significantly lower,” Beekman said, primarily due to midyear enrollment option transfers.

Average daily membership exceeded the original 2011-12 enrollment projects by 1 percent, according to Beekman.

It’s so nice to not hear complaining about declining enrollment!

“The primary reasons for the variation are a slightly larger kindergarten and less midyear attrition than anticipated at the high schools,” he said. Whereas there was very little attrition at the elementary level and some reduction in middle school enrollment, there was more attrition at the two high schools, Beekman noted.

Mobility is still supposedly an issue;

Regarding mobility in the elementary schools, Meadow Lake in New Hope, Northport in Brooklyn Center and Lakeview in Robbinsdale had the highest rates of student turnover. Meadow Lake had a 25 percent mobility rate, Lakeview had 26 percent and Northport had 35 percent.

Secondary attrition rates were higher at Robbinsdale Middle School than a Plymouth Middle School, and also higher at Cooper High School than at Armstrong High School, according to Beekman.

Click here for full article

RMS Parents Want an Investigation

May 6, 2012

Here’s an interesting article from the Sun Post. It;s interesting how there is no author listed;

Parents who came to a Robbinsdale District 281 School Board Listening Hour April 16 provided disturbing input about serious discipline problems at Robbinsdale Middle School.

Some students are afraid to use the bathrooms during school hours. Others report being late to class because of disruptive and intimidating activities in the hallways. We’ve been told that teachers and students are subjected to verbal abuse and physical threats.

We strongly believe those reports need to be investigated immediately. Anytime there are 1,300 teenagers in a building, there will be discipline problems. But parents must have a reasonable expectation that when those teens are in a school building, there are teachers and administrators who know how to deal with those problems.

The reports given to three School Board members and three District 281 administrators at last week’s Listening Hour weren’t opening-day problems. Eight months into the school year, the problems persist.

These aren’t one or two isolated reports of discipline problems. There are too many similar reports, and they are too consistent to be ignored.

Parents have a right to expect that when their children are in school, they are safe. And teachers, too, should have an expectation that they are able to do their jobs without fear of bodily harm or gross disrespect from students at the school. That expectation was not borne out by the testimony parents gave last week.

Yes, it’s near the end of a school year, but that is no reason not to take immediate action. The problem is too serious to delay until another school year begins. Input should be solicited from people in the trenches – including students, teachers, aides, hall monitors, food service staff and custodians – and what they say should be taken seriously.

District 281 has dedicated itself to erasing the achievement gap and offering a variety of program choices to attract new students and bring back those who may have left the district. But all the glitzy new programs mean nothing if students are afraid to use the lavatory in school or are fearful of what will happen to them in the hallways. And the dedicated staff people who teach in those programs aren’t going to stick around in a district that does not value them enough to ensure their safety and well-being.

Students who cannot follow the rules and maintain respect for their school, its staff members and their peers need to experience the consequences of their actions, no matter who they are, how old they are or what school they attend.

District 281 needs to take immediate action to ensure that students follow school rules, and that there are immediate consequences for those who don’t.

Anything less is an affront to the community members who are supporting their schools with tax dollars and who have entrusted their young people to the care of educators and staff people they assume are trained professionals.

Bus Service Issue Still in the News

April 20, 2012

Here’s a letter from the Sun Post about the recent decision to contract out the district’s bus service;

Even before March 5, when five of the seven Robbinsdale School Board members voted to outsource bus transportation jobs, the district administration was telling drivers that they will be fine, they can go work for First Student. Parents were assured that there would be no change in service and that they very likely could end up with the same trusted driver.

Well, that remains to be seen. First Student has held meetings with drivers, offering the opportunity to meet First Student administration and apply for jobs. I went to one of those meetings out of curiosity. First Student could not tell us what the wages would be. We were told there will be no sick time, no retirement plan and no bereavement leave. Family health care is completely unaffordable.

So how many of our current trusted drivers will be able to afford to work for First Student?

Something else that I found interesting was what was said about the routes. Our union leadership has long said that the routes are not efficient and that The Center for Efficient School Operations made our routes that way from the beginning (a few years ago when the district hired them to put our routes together).

Part of the conversation we have been having through all of this is exactly the need to make the routes better in order to save money. Center officials were at the First Student meeting and now says that they will not be changing the routes after all. Really?

All along we have been trying to tell the board members that this is not going to be what you think it is. July 1 isn’t even here yet and we already are finding that to be true.

Jean Woznak


Education Minnesota Man Lyndon Carlson to Run Again!!!!

March 22, 2012

Bad news for education reform coming from the Sun Post;

State Rep. Lyndon Carlson, DFL-Crystal, said last week he is seeking re-election to the Minnesota House of Representatives in District 45A. He will seek endorsement at the District 45 DFL convention on March 24.

After redistricting, District 45A includes parts of Crystal, New Hope, and Plymouth. First elected to the House in 1972, Carlson serves as the DFL Lead on the House Ways and Means Committee. He also serves on Capital Investment and Taxes.

Yes 1972! Richard Nixon was president! Elvis was alive! Barack Obama was 11!

A retired teacher, Carlson said education is one of his top priorities. 

Have you ever earned a private sector paycheck?

“Quality education is not only a right in our society, but also the most important responsibility we have to the next generation,” Carlson said.

A right? You have the right to the opportunity to get a great education but an education is earned! Yes it is earned!!!! And of course the DFL definition of a great education is more money, more money, more money!

“We must provide an educational system that prepares students with the skills and knowledge to excel in a rapidly changing world.”

Then instead of the “one size fits all public schools” why can’t we have vouchers and tax credits so we can go to school where we want and seek out the kind of education we want? Oh wait, we forgot; then your financial backers at Education Minnesota wouldn’t be in charge anymore would they Mr. Carlson? And it’s all about the children.

Carlson has maintained perfect attendance in every legislative session since being elected.

Isn’t showing up for work your job?

“My experience and leadership have provided the citizens of northwest suburban Hennepin County a strong and consistent voice at the State Capitol,” Carlson said. “I’d be honored to continue working for the residents of this district – and for all Minnesotans in the next legislative session.”

And we’d honored to throw you a retirement party!

Carlson and his wife, Carole, live in Crystal. They have three children and six grandchildren. He is a lifelong resident of the area and is a member of the board of directors of the Northwest YMCA in New Hope. Carlson received a bachelor’s degree in social studies from Mankato State University and has done graduate work there and the University of St. Thomas.

Come 45A, elect someone else!!!!

Barb Van Heel’s Letter to the Editor

March 20, 2012

In light of the transportation issue being voted on at the March 5 board meeting, RAS chair Barb Van Heel decided to write an article in the Sun Post explaining the decision. Trouble is, it cleared up very little;

At the March 5 board meeting of Robbinsdale Area Schools, a majority of the board voted to contract out our student transportation operation effective July 1, 2012. This decision was made after nearly a year of detailed study comparing our current in-house transportation operation, which includes some contracted services, to the cost and level of service we could receive from contracting out all services.

Yes, we had a committee, then a committee to watch that committee, and then another committee to watch that committee.

Thank you to everyone who worked diligently to provide information needed for the board to make a careful and informed decision. Thank you to everyone who provided valuable opinions and feedback to the board on both sides of the issue. Several articles and letters appeared in this newspaper, and I would like to clarify some information.

It was recently stated that our administrative costs increased 18.75 percent in one year. It is true that administrative costs increased by that amount in 2010-2011, but this was not due to exorbitant increases in salaries or benefits. Administrators received the same 1 percent salary increase as other employees during the 2010-2011 school year. The increase occurred because the school board restructured contracts to decrease the amount of years of service pay that employees could accrue and decided to pay administrators for years of service they had already earned that were over the new threshold.

So then it is true that costs went up 18.75%? Restructuring is probably a good idea and it will hopefully save money in the long run, but still that is a large increase. And notice Van Heel says that the administration employees got a 1% raise but didn’t say what their increases were in benefits.

The restructuring also moved money from nonsalary items, such as expense allowances, to salaries, which increases the transparency in contracts.

So we moved the money from expense allowances to salaries? That may increase transparency but it isn’t a cut. They are simply shifting the money from one thing to another.

This restructuring started with our current superintendent’s first contract, which had more money in salary and less in other areas, including significantly less in severance pay than our prior superintendent’s contract. The restructuring actually saves school district and taxpayer money over the long term.

Again, while paying out less severance is good, that doesn’t do much for us now. With Dr. Sicoli signed on for the next three years, the earliest severance pay would be paid out would be 2015. And we are considering this a savings now?

Information was also recently stated regarding the special education depreciation aid. It is correct that we have not received any depreciation aid since the law was changed in 2005, which allowed districts to receive the aid. Instead, our district uses a cost allocation method to recoup additional aid through the state special education funding formula. This method is allowable under the special education funding formula, and it has been more advantageous to the district, as the district received more aid than would have been realized using the depreciation aid method. A district is not allowed to use both methods in one fiscal year. This aid calculation does not flaw any comparative study that the district has done; we will continue to generate the revenue regardless of the way we operate our transportation system in the future.

Sounds like a wash.

This decision will provide us with an estimated operational savings of more than $5 million during the next four years. These are savings that can and will be used to maintain class sizes and programs and services that directly benefit our students.

$5 million? Pardon us for being skeptical whenever government tells us they’re saving money, but we just voted to contract out busing even though we don’t have a contract to do so yet. How do we know what the savings are going to be exactly?

Budget dollars will be freed up to provide such things as additional staff development, curriculum resources and expanded use of technology, items that have been shown to make positive gains in academic achievement for all students.

It would be nice to actually see a plan and it would probably add more credibility to this decision. The bland statements about putting “money in the classroom” does little for people. How much staff development to we really need to “invest in?” What curriculum resources are we lacking? Expanded use of technology shouldn’t cost that much. It may cost some but technology is cheaper than ever. Think about what $1000 bought in technology 20 years ago versus today in terms of quality and use.

In addition to the operational savings, the planned capital investment dollars set aside for new bus purchases will be redirected into the classroom, as more than $2.6 million had been planned for bus purchases over the next four years. Just as important, this decision will reduce the magnitude of future budget reductions. I am confident that our administration will be diligent in their efforts to ensure that our students are safe and are provided high quality transportation services. No matter the economic environment, the board and administration are committed to good financial stewardship of our resources to deliver the best possible education to our students.

Count us as skeptics.

Barb Van Heel is chairwoman of the Robbinsdale District 281 School Board. She lives in Robbinsdale.

Well, were your questions answered?

Union Files a Grievance

March 16, 2012

Sounds the local union isn’t going down without a fight! From the Sun Post;

In response to the Robbinsdale School Board’s March 5 decision to outsource its bus transportation beginning July 1, a representative from the bus drivers’ union has filed a formal grievance. Shelly Johnson, a contract organizer for Service Employees International Union Local 284, said she filed a grievance March 8 with Supt. Aldo Sicoli on behalf of the bargaining unit, “indicating the violation of subcontracting bargaining unit work.”

Johnson said union officials would follow the grievance procedure outlined in the contract. According to attorney Sara Ruff, the first step is for the superintendent or his representative to discuss the grievance with a union representative within five days.

A response must come from District 281 within 10 days, according to the grievance timeline. “Hopefully, that will satisfy the grievance,” Ruff said. “If not, there are additional steps we can take.”

Johnson said the final step would be arbitration, if the grievance proceeds that far. A court case also could be an option, if the process continues, she said. She said the bus drivers were expecting the School District’s decision last week to privatize its bus service.

“They are disappointed and sad,” Johnson said. “This is their livelihood. There are people who won’t be able to pay their mortgages and who will lose their health insurance. No one was thinking about the larger impact on the community.” However, Johnson credited the bus drivers with “taking the high road,” despite last week’s outcome. “They continue to show up for work; I would not tell them to do anything different,” Johnson said.

The labor union, which represents 8,000 school service employees, including the District 281 bus drivers and custodians, is still in negotiations with the district on its two-year contract, which expired June 30, 2011.

Unions Flustered About Contracts

March 8, 2012

With the January 15 deadline to negotiate teacher contracts now gone, teacher unions are going nuts! From the Sun Post;

Beth Schultz, a kindergarten teacher at Earle Brown Elementary in Brooklyn Center, was scheduled to complete her master’s degree March 1. Normally teachers get raises when they finish advanced degrees. But Schultz doesn’t know if or when she’ll see that money. “My (students) are benefiting, but I’m not getting the recognition of financial compensation from that,” she said.

Like teachers in nearly half the school districts in Minnesota, Schultz has been working without a contract for eight months and counting. Because the state legislature last year eliminated the deadline for school districts to settle teacher contracts, there’s no sure end in sight. “I’m frustrated,” Schultz said. “I feel like we deserve a fair contract.”

And what would a fair contract be? Removing a deadline doesn’t mean a contract is unfair!

Teacher contracts, which are negotiated every two years, expired at the end of June. In the past, districts faced a financial penalty if they didn’t settle by Jan. 15. But not this year. According to Education Minnesota, the state teachers union, about 47 percent of the 338 districts in the state had not settled contracts as of Feb. 14, about a month after the usual deadline.

Schultz, a member of the negotiating team for the Brooklyn Center teachers union, was one of 47 teachers who came to the Feb. 13 board meeting to encourage board members to settle a contract soon. Brooklyn Center teachers aren’t the only ones trying to make their voices heard. As a sign of unity, nearly 500 teachers in the Minnetonka School District met school board members as they arrived at a work session Feb. 24.

Not surprisingly, Education Minnesota opposed the elimination of the negotiations deadline. In a Jan. 18 statement, the group’s president, Tom Dooher, called for its reinstatement. “When contract negotiations drag on, a cloud of uncertainty hangs over the community,” he said.

Ahh, poor Mr. Dooher! Did you lose your leverage over districts and by definition the taxpayers? It’s funny how Education Minnesota wants local control yet they want an artificial deadline that benefits them!

But the Minnesota School Boards Association terms the Jan. 15 deadline artificial and says it makes negotiations unfair. “What the Jan. 15 deadline has done for years is really tilt the negotiations in favor of the teachers union,” said Greg Abbott, spokesperson for the school boards association.


Minnetonka Supt. Dennis Peterson agrees. “I think during these difficult times, for most school districts across the state of Minnesota, having the deadline taken away has been helpful in the whole process, because it created an artificial climate for negotiations,” Peterson said. Abbott said penalizing districts for missing the deadline hurt students more than anyone.

And we thought Education Minnesota only cared about the children!

Abbot also said it was sometimes difficult for districts to meet the Jan. 15 deadline because of uncertainty regarding their financial positions. Last year that challenge was exacerbated by the state government shutdown. According to Abbott, many districts didn’t negotiate during the summer because of the uncertainty.

“You can’t promise money if you don’t know if you’re going to get anything,” he said. Even in the absence of a government shutdown, school districts often don’t finalize the next school year’s budget until the end of June.

Brooklyn Center School Board Chair Cheryl Jechorek said it’s difficult to make promises to teachers without knowing what the budget will look like. That’s especially true in Brooklyn Center, which is struggling to climb out of statutory operating debt. The elimination of the deadline will help Brooklyn Center make more informed decisions. “It’s better for the district, but I understand it’s frustrating for teachers,” Jechorek said.

“You’ve got to negotiate with the resources that you have,” Abbott said. “So if your reserve is gone and the state gives you nothing, you’ve got to think twice before you start giving increases.” Teachers say they know times are tight for everyone.

“Our intent is not to drive the district further into debt,” said Scott Rykken, a science teacher at Brooklyn Center High School and a member of the negotiating team. But he said teachers are starting to feel unappreciated. “The longer it goes, the more we feel less valued,” he said.

Give us a break! You feel unappreciated with your defined pension and tenure? If you feel unappreciated then quit!

Peter Eckhoff, president of the Robbinsdale Federation of Teachers, called drawn-out negotiations a “distraction.”

A distraction for who? Did you miss a few DFL fundraisers Mr. Eckhoff?

“As we sit in this unsettled state, there’s always a lot of questions about what will be the ultimate outcome,” he said. Ekhoff said people in the business community are often shocked that teachers and districts don’t have another contract in place before the original expires. He thinks the deadline gave at least some impetus to get a deal done in a timely manner. He suggested, however, that the state should consider an incentive for completing contracts on time rather than penalty for missing the deadline.

Although the Robbinsdale School District announced a tentative agreement with its teachers Feb. 17, pending school board approval, Eckhoff thinks the lack of a deadline slowed the process. “Historically we had been driven by (the Jan. 15) deadline to get our work done early,” he said. “This time it certainly wasn’t the same sense of urgency, at least that was my perception.”

Stephanie Crosby, executive director of human resources for Robbinsdale Schools, downplayed the effect of the change. “We went a couple of weeks over,” she said. “It wasn’t like we said, ‘We don’t have a deadline. Let’s not meet.’ … We did it as timely as possible.” Crosby said negotiators still came up with “a decent package that shows good-faith bargaining on both sides.”

You mean that’s possible without a deadline?

Jechorek offered similar sentiments. “We want it done too,” she said of the Brooklyn Center teacher’s contract. “(Our teachers) deserve whatever we can give them, but we have to live within our means. … We really want to treat them fairly.”But in many school districts it’s not clear when a fair settlement may come.

At least districts don’t have their backs against the wall!