On Tuesday, we highlighted some extremist quotes from local agitator/activist Michelle Fine that we thought were problematic and really divisive in a way that we think is bad for the education debate here in Montclair. This included a quote from a recent speech that she gave.
That speech betrayed something else that is pretty important. MCAS, which Fine helped start along with AFT teacher union operative Maia Davis, is not truly an independent group. Rather, it’s an allied, operational extension of the political organizing work that AFT nationally – and the MEA here in Montclair – are doing to attack common core standards and “to gum up the works”:
The AFT has initiated a massive investment of labor-community cooperation, and with the SEIU, the NEA, Schott Foundation, CEJ, Dignity in Schools, Journeys to Justice, they are mobilizing labor and community in rich coalition. In Montclair, NJ we find the brilliant and strategic organizing of the Montclair Education Association working in solidarity with Montclair Cares About Schools.
Shorter version: the work of the MEA and its organizing (through MCAS) is part of this massive national crusade that the AFT and it’s allies have launched. To us, this is emblematic of the problems around much of our political debate here in Montclair: rather than being focused on improving education, they’re leveraging our local schools to fight their national political fights. Our Vice-mayor/AFT Vice President Bob Russo admitted as much recently:
During the comment period, members of the public echoed the MEA’s concerns, including Deputy Mayor Robert Russo, who also serves as a vice president of the American Federation of Teachers union. Russo urged the board to respect teachers’ concerns and added that the AFT, New Jersey Education Association, and Montclair Board of Education are together in “fighting a national battle” regarding public education.
As we’ve said before, we believe that that sort of fight – focused on “gumming up” the works rather than getting things right – doesn’t help to improve our schools, it only makes it more difficult to manage them well. And that makes it more difficult to provide a good education for our kids
In the case of MCAS, it was organized by the MEA and their allies (including the AFT, as Fine notes) in order to help push their national agenda and serve as a second voice – ostensibly separate but pressing the same agenda aimed at attacking the administration and making it difficult to manage the district.