Michelle Sanchez, Secretary-Elect of SDEA wrote on this blog last week a disturbing account about proposed changes to the SDEA bylaws which would allow the board to censure ‘subversive’ groups and board members within the union.
What defines a subversive group? What exactly is the group under discussion being accused of subverting? Michelle made the assumption in her post that the discussion was aimed at the Breakfast Club, and this blog. Exploring that idea, I believe that the mature response to criticism is to take it seriously, so I went to the SDEA official website to educate myself a little about our union to make sure that what we are doing and saying as the Breakfast Club, is aligned with the stated mission of SDEA.
I started at the History of SDEA page, which doubles as an astoundingly well-written mission statement. If you haven’t read it, I think it is worth your time. The excellent and brief history essay found here establishes the union and its struggles over the last 85+ years. From a union bulletin in 1934:
“The attack on public education will again be renewed by its enemies with greater intensity. Reduction of educational costs, curtailment of curricula, breaking up of the solidarity and morale of the teaching profession will be attempted by the production of new legislation. Bills will be introduced covering tenure… removal of the constitutional guarantee and the state fixed charges for school support, doing away with physical education and other curricular activities… [and the] elimination of adult education.”
80 years ago, they faced the same eternal pressure to budge, relent, and collapse to financial suffocation. SDEA has been a stout ridgepole, protecting and fighting for educators against this permanent emergency mentality that often leads to the idea that the place to make up a budget deficit is in the pockets and couch cushions of teachers.
From a founding member of SDEA, in 1946:
“On teachers being told that ‘It is up to the teachers to show where [the money for a raise] can be found…’
…I must confess that my ire has risen a few points higher each successive time that I have hear this stock alibi in the last 40 years … it isn’t the teachers’ obligation to go to the Board of Supervisors and ask for an increase in the budget. It’s the obligation of the Board of Education. I condemn the idea and the too prevalent practice of determining what the level of the teachers’ salary shall be by the amount which remains in the supervisors’ budget after every other public expenditure has been taken care of. The quality of service to youth should not be only such as is attracted by crumbs.”
It’s no mistake that just at the moment that the salary restoration agreed to in our contract is about to kick in, that we are being told it is time to concede and open that contract to renegotiate. It isn’t an accident of history. It isn’t because of the financial collapse or anything else. Don’t be fooled, this is a perpetual request that happens in good times and bad.
A clear mission statement at the bottom of the page emphasizes:
- Openness and transparency in SDEA decision-making
- Creating a place where ‘every person is heard and their ideas evaluated’
- Speaking up to school board members
- Supporting each other with active involvement
The Breakfast Club, far from violating these union principles, is exercising them. We want openness and transparency in union decision-making, just like anyone else. We have a voice and relate with many teachers in our district, and want our ideas heard and evaluated. We speak up to school board members, and are trying to be actively involved. This is not subversion; this is what we are supposed to be doing according to SDEA.
In the next post, we’ll take a look at the ‘Organizing’ page of the SDEA site to see if we can get some more insight into what SDEA asks from us as members.