Who Holds The Power?

I don’t have the answers. What I do have are some essential questions. My bio states,

A New Day Is Dawning!“I feel a shared sense of frustration in the face of the attacks on the underpinnings of the middle class. But I am encouraged by the ever growing, concerted action I see.  We all have a part to play.  We all have a voice. Make a personal plan to act and share it with others. Empower yourself by reaching out to those around you who share your sense of urgency but may feel powerless.”

             A New Day Is Dawning!

So my personal plan is to activate myself, and as many others as possible to push back against the perpetrators of those attacks. I am well aware this fight will be a protracted one due to the highly organized and incredibly well subsidized nature of the opposition.  But it is a battle for the promise of the America’s Founding Ideals,

“We hold these truths to be self-evident, that all men are created equal, that they are endowed by their Creator with certain inalienable Rights, that among these are Life, Liberty and the pursuit of Happiness.

That to secure these rights, Governments are instituted among Men, deriving their just powers from the consent of the governed…”

and The American Dream, and I want my children and yours to have a fighting chance at realizing the attainment of these sacred American covenants.

Do we really hold the power to positively impact this situation?

That sense of frustration has been percolating for a long time. But I am truly encouraged by watching Americans advocate for an America that still believes we stand together to provide opportunity for all people.

I know that in my chosen field of public education, it won’t be the teachers who win the battle they have been fighting for years on behalf of our children. It is the parents who will continue to fight for what is truly best for students. Teachers have been systematically and brutally marginalized, are frankly being ignored and are, to varying degrees, fearful. Rather it will be those parents, armed with factual knowledge about unvetted, and unproven schemes that will bring sanity and true accountability back to the debate on so-called education reform.

Each day I read about private citizens taking action to prevent their four and five year-olds from being subjected to hours of standardized testing. Parents all over the country are joining the movement to opt out of standardized tests, in spite of the fact stiff sanctions are in place to prevent parents from doing so:

Mom to her son, “How did you do on the test today honey?” “Mom, I can’t discuss it with you, it might invalidate the test.”  


“Received a call from my daughter’s school asking when she would return, as she needed to take the (standardized test). I told her we were refusing the test. The Assistant Principal informed me that (my daughter) would have to repeat the third grade if she did not take the test… (Understand that I didn’t send in a refusal letter due to the fact that I am a teacher in the county, and I’m terrified it will affect my job.)”

This is the surreal landscape we have come to find ourselves.  There is no logic here. There is only never ending confusion and regression. But we are well on our way to understanding how to deal with the problem.  It is time for us to come together and collectively empower each other to raise our voices, share our plans and wield our power.


An Open Letter To All Teachers Opting Out Of Your Union.

An Open Letter to All Teachers Who Have Opted out of Your Union.

I know you have opted out of the Union, and since if I knew you personally, I would most likely respect you as an educator, I wanted to share my take on this situation. I don’t know what your reasons for your actions are, and don’t expect that you need to share them with me.  But I know that many of you,

  1. feel you just can’t afford the dues.  Perhaps you feel  

  2. the Union doesn’t do anything for you anyway.  Maybe you feel

  3. Unions have outgrown their usefulness.

Suffice it to say this long standing, well-funded and very carefully orchestrated attack on organized labor is not something I didn’t see coming.  I have been watching it evolve since President Reagan busted the Air Traffic Controllers Union (PATCO) in 1981. When organized labor allowed that to happen, the writing was on the wall. And the attack has been predicated on you feeling one or all of the above to be true.

My take is as follows:

We need the Union now more than ever.

This isn’t about me and not about most of you.  It is about the new teachers in your buildings; it’s about the future. It’s about all of those gifted and talented students you teach who dream of becoming a teacher one day. It’s about their expectation that they will be able to raise a family and own their own home.  It’s about what I and most retired teachers enjoy. That is not what those new teachers in your building have to look forward to now, in the later stages of their careers, and after they retire.

Unions protect workers—Your working conditions are your students learning conditions.

It is about those future teachers who may not agree with how things are being run and the protection they will lose.   I and many like me were the kind of teacher not prone to shrinking from a fight to do what was right for our students, even though it may be in direct violation of misguided board of education policy or arbitrary and capricious legislative fiat. That freedom of speech in the workplace was afforded you by the protection we gained being able to collectively bargain a safe and orderly environment for those students.  Our rights in our work environment were NEVER given to us; rather they were won by organized hard work as a member of a Union.

Teaching was, and is again becoming, a “Second Income Profession.” 

I was raised in a time when the teaching profession was not one that afforded educators the security to raise a family and own their own home.  My aunt was a third grade teacher and her salary was what paid for the two week vacation to Lake Charlevoix each year…that’s it! Luckily she was married to a Unionized Postal Employee.

After WWII and with the advent of the GI Bill of Rights, many young men returning from military service took advantage of the GI Bill to attend college.  Several of my high school teachers and counselors were from that group.  Prior to the Unionization of the teaching profession, special mortgage programs had to be set up for those teachers, so they could afford to buy a home.  Conversely, my father worked in an auto factory, and was able to enter the housing market, raise six kids and go on vacation every summer. The difference between teachers and factory workers was that auto workers literally put their lives on the line to obtain a living wage and some basic benefits. Teachers had to make a decision to fight for what they knew they deserved in order to bring the teaching profession into the middle class .  And every one of us is in their debt for those sacrifices.

The pendulum is quickly swinging back to a time when teachers are now qualifying for food stamps.  This will drive the best and the brightest from even considering entering the field in the first place. It is driving the best and brightest in your buildings to create a “Plan B” for their future which does not include being and educator. You may be one of them.

Think about the future of YOUR profession

I don’t expect this message to change the decision you have made.  But I sincerely hope it will cause you to deeply think about the future of your profession. Working people have NEVER realized improvement to their station in life through the kindness of their employer. And in the near future, when there are no restraints on the power of school boards and school administrations, they will continue to act from their natural predilection or because of bullying by their misguided legislature, to strip you of evermore of your hard-won rights.

The end of Unions is the end of Public Education—Period.  

I may be wrong about you, but I don’t think this is a scenario you envision as being good for the future of your students, your profession, your state or your country.

In Solidarity,

Fran Cullen – Retired Teacher – Traverse City Area Public Schools