Friday, September 12, 2014

An Open Letter To My Union, MEA/NEA: Stop Backing The War Party

Students in Newark walked out of class calling for support for public vs. privatized education for its citizens, and a return to local control of how education funds are spent. Source: 
I kind of needed irony guard yesterday morning while reading the Maine Education Association (MEA) newsletter in my email.
AT LEAST 5  KIDS IN YOUR CLASS ARE PROBABLY HUNGRY On Tuesday the Legislature held its third public meeting for the Task Force on Student Hunger in Bangor. Representatives from a variety of stakeholders spoke on the importance of providing our students with adequate meals so that all students have the chance to optimize their learning.  
One in 4 (25%) of Maine's students experience food insecurity, with over 45% of our kids qualifying for free or reduced lunch.  According to the Good Shepherd Food Bank some ways to identify hungry students are:
  • food hoarding  
  • anxiety about when meals will be served  
  • rushing to get to the cafeteria and/or being one of the first in line for school meals  
  • complaints of headaches, stomachaches, or falling asleep 
Your school may qualify for the Backpack Program through Good Shepherd, a program that provides food for families and students.  You can learn more here (large PDF file please allow time for it to download). 

HELPING KIDS COPE Recently there have been many stories in the news that are upsetting, even to adults.  These are particularly difficult for children.  We need to be letting kids know that our schools will protect them and are safe havens.  The American Psychological Association has put together some resources at their website.
And here is the feedback I sent the MEA, my union as an educator in Maine, and an affiliate of the National Education Association (NEA):

Regarding the high incidence of child poverty in Maine, and the many disturbing stories in the news that teachers need to support students in handling...

One of the reasons so many news stories are upsetting is that the Democratic Party, which the MEA/NEA unfailingly supports, is a war party. More than 50% of the discretionary federal budget each year under Democratic leadership has gone to the Pentagon and its contractors. Now President Obama has announced he will (continue) bombing Iraq and Syria, ostensibly to fight ISIS which the U.S. and the Saudis helped create, fund and arm. Then there is Ukraine, where the Obama administration is backing the neo-Nazis.

If the MEA/NEA cares about the well being of students as much as it says it does, it must stop supporting the war party. Any war party.

For years I implored the MEA to get involved in Maine's Bring Our War $$ Home campaign, waged to bring pressure on Congress to redirect military spending to needs at home. They never even dignified my requests with a reply must less joined us. Because they are beholden to the Democrats, who have not just stood by but actually helped gut the social program that made the U.S. prosperous and literate once upon a time. Like free, quality public education.

Hats off to students in Newark, N.J. this week who blocked traffic to protest the privatization of education in their high poverty city.  State control of the schools there has hastened a charter school takeover.
“We are building a movement to take back democratic local control of our schools,” Kristin Towkaniuk, president of the Newark Students Union to Eye Witness News. “Our action…will be an escalation demonstrating the community’s unrest over Chris Christie’s efforts to privatize our public schools.” 
You can read more about students' impressive organizing and resistance here. Follow events on twitter:#OurNewark.

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