NPI's Cascadia Advocate

Offering commentary and analysis from Washington, Oregon, and Idaho, The Cascadia Advocate provides the Northwest Progressive Institute's uplifting perspective on world, national, and local politics.

Friday, June 8th, 2012

LIVE from Providence: Educational Opportunity & Economic Dignity

How is edu­ca­tion­al equal­i­ty linked to the eco­nom­ic sit­u­a­tion on the ground? I came to this dis­cus­sion between the Amer­i­can Fed­er­a­tion of Teach­ers and Ilyse Hogue of the Nation. Like many of the pan­els so soon after the Wis­con­sin recall, con­ver­sa­tion start­ed out about the attacks which have been made against unions, and the fact was once again empha­sized, once out of many, that 60% of Wis­con­sin vot­ers felt that a recall should only be used for offi­cial mis­con­duct. Ran­di Wein­garten, the pres­i­dent of the AFT, dis­pelled the rea­sons for these attacks and talked about con­ces­sions which were made by the union and how remov­ing their col­lec­tive bar­gain­ing was not about bal­anc­ing the bud­get, as Scott Walk­er con­tin­u­al­ly claimed.

Talk turned to social move­ment union­ism (rather than busi­ness union­ism which only ser­vices its mem­bers with­out a focus on orga­niz­ing), and how the prob­lem is not col­lec­tive bar­gain­ing, but eco­nom­ic inequal­i­ty, and how unions need to present a broad eco­nom­ic agen­da in order to both help unions and the coun­try. Eco­nom­ic inequal­i­ty is linked to edu­ca­tion because it is both hard­er for a child to learn and a teacher to teach when the child can’t sleep because their roof is leak­ing, as was exam­pled by Ilyse. In order to make things bet­ter, work need­ed to be towards revi­tal­iz­ing the whole community.

Wein­garten talked about the need to pro­vide com­pre­hen­sive ser­vices, whether it is sex edu­ca­tion, after-school ser­vices, or health­care, which only cost the school dis­trict the salary of the coor­di­na­tor for these ser­vices. She talked about the com­plex solu­tions that are need­ed and the dis­cus­sion which needs to be done around these issues, and how if we con­tin­ue to talk about “one-word solu­tions”, chil­dren will lose. See­ing as one-word solu­tions are paid atten­tion to a lot eas­i­er than com­plex, some­times obtuse debates, refram­ing might needs to be less than com­plex but in a way which com­mu­ni­cates the val­ue of teacher unions to pro­vid­ing edu­ca­tion­al excel­lence at school and eco­nom­ic sta­bil­i­ty at home.

Con­ver­sa­tion end­ed around the need to go into these com­mu­ni­ties, the need to build trust, the need to build state and local pow­er. This has been a trend this Net­roots Nation, talk­ing about focus­ing not just fed­er­al­ly, but in our very com­munties and per­haps a hyper­local lev­el. I would not be sur­prised if this is the trend of pro­gres­sive power­build­ing, and more atten­tion and fund­ing for local and state orga­ni­za­tions at least in Wash­ing­ton state would pro­vide a lot of returns for pro­gres­sive pol­i­cy­mak­ing. Build­ing state and local pow­er is exact­ly the type of con­ver­sa­tion we are try­ing to start in NPI’s pan­el on Revi­tal­iz­ing State and Local Blog­ging tomor­row afternoon.

There will be a vari­ety of ways that you can stay up-to-date on the pro­ceed­ings of our pan­el, includ­ing a live stream which will be post­ed on The Advo­cate and a Twit­ter feed at #usnet­roots. If pow­er is going to be built through state and local orga­niz­ing, com­mu­ni­ca­tion strat­e­gy and con­tent cre­ation is going to be a key to its success.

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