Tuesday Reading List: Take 'Em Down, Forcing Teachers Into Schools, and The Dumbest Thing I've Ever Heard

Laura Faith Kebede of Chalkbeat followed the Memphis educator who spearheads the effort to remove Confederate monuments in that city:

Hours after white supremacists marched in Charlottesville, Tami Sawyer’s phone was abuzz ... The first messages were part of Sawyer’s role at Teach for America, where she serves as the local director of diversity and cultural competence. The others came out of her own activism — and her flurry of responses illustrate what life looks like for many educators stepping outside of the classroom to advocate for social justice ... Sawyer, a 35-year-old Memphis native, is the face of #takeemdown901, the newest campaign to remove two Confederate monuments from parks in downtown Memphis.

While the outcry over Confederate symbolism is national, the actual removal of statues requires local organizing and activism. When Bree Newsome removed the Confederate flag from the state capitol in South Carolina, for example, her dramatic action was enabled by years of grassroots actions. (See also: New Orleans). The other subtext here is the outsized role that people affiliated with Teach For America continue to play in community activism and movement politics. This doesn't seem completely coincidental, as Teach For America has become one of the largest recruiters of nonwhite teachers in the entire country.

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Meanwhile, Kate Taylor of The New York Times reports on an ongoing, and ridiculous, policy issue in New York City:

For a dozen years, hundreds of New York City teachers have been paid despite not having permanent jobs, sidelined in most cases because of disciplinary problems or bad teaching records or because they had worked in poorly performing schools that were closed or where enrollment declined ... But now, saying the city cannot afford expenditures like the $150 million it spent on salaries and benefits for those in the reserve in the last school year, the education department plans to place roughly 400 teachers in classrooms full time, possibly permanently. They will be placed in schools that still have jobs unfilled by mid-October. Principals will have little, if any, say in the placements. Neither will the teachers.
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If you're an educator, you know that a single person can have a dramatic effect on the performance of a school. Now, imagine the effect of putting hundreds of disgruntled teachers in schools, with the consent of neither the principal, the parents, or the other teachers. Moreover, guess which students are going to be most affected by this move? That's right ... the students whose families have the least resources and political power.

Speaking of terrible ideas originating from public employee unions, here's the team at Blavity describing a new effort from New York City's police union:

This weekend, a New York Police Department union, the Sergeants Benevolent Association, released a video that claims police officers are victims a type of prejudice called "blue racism" ... The Sergeants Benevolent Association that created the video is made up of 13,000 NYPD sergeants, both active and retired. The video fails to give hard statistics to support its claim that this new racism, "even more racist" than the old, skin color-based racism was on the rise. However, through news clips, it alleges that police officers are "a minority" suffering as "this strange form of racism continues to engulf the country.”

I don't even know where to start. The idea that officers face "racism" is a claim too ludicrous to rebut. Although twitter had some fun trying, as the Blavity team documented.

The common thread in these last two articles, though, is that these unions were formed to protect the employment and wages of public sector employees ... so we shouldn't be surprised when the protection of those employees is the main thing they do. We should not expect the police union in New York to suddenly advocate to protect communities of color, nor should we expect the teachers union to suddenly prioritize the well-being of low-income families. It's possible to agree with the unions on big-picture policy issues while being unequivocal about the fact that, in these two cases, they are advocating for dreadful ideas that are bad for vulnerable families.

Have a great day!