Bristol Federation of Teachers

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Education Ruling Appealed — September 17, 2016
Restorative Justice: More Than Just “Kumbaya?” — September 16, 2016
Furlough Vote Results — September 14, 2016
BFT Happy Hours! — September 11, 2016

BFT Happy Hours!

Mark your calendars! The BFT Happy Hours for the 2016-17 school year have been scheduled for September 30, January 27, and June 2. All current BFT members are welcome to attend. There is always great food, free drinks, and fun conversations!

Happy Hours  start at 2:30 PM and continue until 5:30 PM, and are held at Nuchies Restaurant in Forrestville.

Landmark Education Ruling in Connecticut! — September 7, 2016

Landmark Education Ruling in Connecticut!

The 11 year CJEF court battle to radically revamp education funding in Connecticut came to an end today (although an appeal to the Connecticut Supreme Court is expected).

The judge ordered a sweeping overhaul of education in Connecticut, including teacher evaluations, and the full ramifications of the ruling are being analyzed by lawyers across the state. More information will be made available here as legal interpretation emerges.

The full 90 page ruling is here

Hartford Courant article with video

Hartford Courant summary/analysis

CT Mirror article

New York Times article


Courthouse News Service

NBC 30 article

Associated Press article

Statement from AFT CT…
Jan Hochadel, president of AFT Connecticut, made the following remarks on today’s Superior Court decision in Connecticut Coalition for Justice in Education Funding (CCJEF) v. Rell, which challenged the constitutionality of the state’s PreK-12 finance system:
“More than 10 years ago we joined with parents, municipal leaders and other stakeholders in CCJEF to ensure equitable educational opportunities for all students in Connecticut’s public schools. The judge’s decision today calling for a new funding formula puts us on the path toward realizing that goal.
“But the court has called for much more beyond a new system for Education Cost Sharing (ECS) between the state and local communities. At 254 pages long, the decision contains a lot for our members to review, process and assess. We expect a lengthy dialogue over what it all means for Connecticut’s public schools going forward.
“As a starting point, we intend to fully evaluate the judge’s comments regarding accountability, which were not just disappointing, but disrespectful of education professionals. The fact is that our members have long advocated for evaluation and assessment tools that better inform classroom instruction and ultimately help improve student outcomes.
“That’s why we have been actively engaged in the work of the Performance Evaluation Advisory Council (PEAC), in addition to many other education committees with stakeholders. That’s where, by working together, we’re developing accountability strategies that are not just sensible and wise, but fair and equitable.
“Importantly, the court’s decision today reinforced that the state needs to be accountable to our schools and educators — not just demand accountability from them. That means ensuring all public schools and their professional educators have the resources and tools their students need in order to learn and thrive.”



Teachers Unions Help Fire Bad Teachers? — September 6, 2016

Teachers Unions Help Fire Bad Teachers?

Think teachers can’t be fired because of unions? Surprising results from new study.

Complete Study can be found here.

How many times have you heard it said it is impossible to fire a teacher with tenure?

Not only do politicians and policymakers say it, but, it turns out, so do people like Whoopi Goldberg. On her TV talk show “The View” in 2014, she said: “Parents are not going to stand for it anymore,” she said. “And you teachers, in your union, you need to say, ‘These bad teachers are making us look bad.’”

Those who think tenured teachers can’t be fired may be interested in new research by Eunice Han, who will join the economics faculty at the University of Utah in the fall. She has a PhD in economics from Harvard University and she is a senior research associate at LWP, Harvard Law School”?  (You can read the report, “The Myth of Unions’ Overprotection of Bad Teachers,” below.)

Han found that “highly unionized districts actually fire more bad teachers.” That’s what she told Jennifer Berkshire, author of the Edushyster website, where this originally appeared. Berkshire, who gave me permission to publish this, is a freelance journalist and public education advocate who worked for six years editing a newspaper for the American Federation of Teachers in Massachusetts.

Certainly there are teachers working today in America’s public schools who shouldn’t be, but the new research sheds new light on unions and tenure. Here’s the interview:

EduShyster: It’s a well-known true fact that teachers unions make it much harder to get rid of bad teachers. But you conducted a study for the National Bureau of Economic Research that purports to find the opposite. In fact, you titled your study “The Myth of Unions’ Overprotection of Bad Teachers.” Tell us about what you found.

Eunice Han: What I found is that the facts are the opposite of what people think: that highly unionized districts actually fire more bad teachers.

EduShyster: That sound you just heard was of jaws collectively dropping. While we give readers a chance to recombobulate themselves (and arm themselves anew with anecdotes), can you walk us through your argument? And feel free to use a formula.

Han: It’s pretty simple, really. By demanding higher salaries for teachers, unions give school districts a strong incentive to dismiss ineffective teachers before they get tenure. Highly unionized districts dismiss more bad teachers because it costs more to keep them. Using three different kinds of survey data from the National Center for Education Statistics, I confirmed that unionized districts dismiss more low-quality teachers than those with weak unions or no unions. Unionized districts also retain more high-quality teachers relative to district with weak unionism. No matter how and when I measured unionism I found that unions lowered teacher attrition. This is important because many studies have found that higher-quality teachers have a greater chance of leaving the profession. Since unionized districts dismiss more bad teachers while keeping more good teachers, we should expect to observe higher teacher quality in highly unionized districts than less-unionized districts — and this is exactly what I found. Highly unionized districts have more qualified teachers compared to districts with weak unionism.

EduShyster: You’re an economist and your study takes a basic tenet of microeconomic theory, that as the price of labor rises, less labor will be employed. We hear this argument constantly, except, as you point out, in the case of teachers unions, which have somehow figured out how to have their expensive cake AND not get fired for eating it on the job.

Han: We know that unions increase salaries and benefits, but people also argue that unions make it harder for teachers to get fired. Rarely do you see those two things happening at the same time. Based on microeconomic theory, as salaries go up, employment goes down because the employers can’t afford both unless there is some dramatic increase in revenue. This is especially true in districts that are under intense financial pressure. Think about the economic argument that you hear being made against raising minimum wages for fast-food workers, that paying employees more will trigger higher unemployment. But for some reason, when it comes to teachers unions the claim is made that they are getting both: higher salaries AND higher employment. I thought that something was missing so I decided to investigate. This is the first study to rigorously test this assertion.

EduShyster: In 2011, four states essentially eliminated collective bargaining for teachers, which gave you an unusual opportunity to test your argument in a real-life laboratory. What did you find?

Han: Indiana, Idaho, Tennessee and Wisconsin all changed their laws in 2010-2011, dramatically restricting the collective bargaining power of public-school teachers. After that, I was able to compare what happened in states where teachers’ bargaining rights were limited to states where there was no change. If you believe the argument that teachers unions protect bad teachers, we should have seen teacher quality rise in those states after the laws changed. Instead I found that the opposite happened. The new laws restricting bargaining rights in those four states reduced teacher salaries by about 9 percent. That’s a huge number. A 9 percent drop in teachers’ salaries is unheard of. Lower salaries mean that districts have less incentive to sort out better teachers, lowering the dismissal rate of underperforming teachers, which is what you saw happen in the those four states. Lower salaries also encouraged high-quality teachers to leave the teaching sector, which contributed to a decrease of teacher quality.

EduShyster: You conclude that teachers unions are a net positive for educational quality. (Note that I’m looking over my shoulder even as I type these words!) But I think what a lot of people reading this will want to know is what impact unions have on student achievement.

Han: Since there’s currently no data on student performance by school district levels with nationally representative samples, I use high-school dropout rates as a measure of student achievement. My study found that unions reduce the dropout rates of districts. This is where my study differs from some earlier ones that found that unionism either had no impact or had a negative effect on the dropout rate. I define unionism more broadly than those earlier studies. It’s not just collective bargaining that matters; it’s the union density of teachers in a district that’s important. Union density measures the strength of the union, because even when teachers can’t engage in collective bargaining they can use their collective “voice” to influence the educational system. What I found was that union density significantly decreased the high-school dropout rate, even in districts without collective bargaining agreements. This is important because, as the research of [Harvard University’s] Raj Chetty and others has found, the upward mobility of an area is higher when the dropout rate is lower. So, when unions, via high union density, reduce the dropout rate, they improve the educational attainment as well as the welfare of all children in the area.

EduShyster: Your study upends so many assumptions people hold about teacher unions, and I’m helpfully including another link here in hopes that they will peruse your findings in detail. If there’s one thing you’d like them to take away from your research, what would it be?

Han: I hope that people open their eyes to these results and move beyond their prejudice. I used to share that prejudice before I did this study. Obviously, if people can accept the findings of my paper, the direct policy implication is that we should be promoting union-friendly environments.

Here’s the study:

Han Teacher Dismissal Feb 16[1] on Scribd

Are Teachers Underpaid? — September 5, 2016

Are Teachers Underpaid?

News Report with Video:

Read the full report from the Economic Policy Institute

The teacher pay gap is wider than everTeachers’ pay continues to fall further behind pay of comparable workers

Charity Softball Game — August 31, 2016

Charity Softball Game

In an effort to promote unity while strengthening the community, Bristol residents Rippy Patton and Steve Bashaw have partnered with the Bristol Police and Fire Departments, EMT’s and local teachers to create a charity event entitled “We Are One.”

On Saturday, Sept 17th, at 6pm, there will be a softball tournament at Casey Field on Lake Avenue. Teams consisting of a mix of the city’s First Responders, teachers, and local leaders will play together, and engage the public to demonstrate community pride and unity in light of the many national issues that are a concern to many.

“There are many people in the community who want to do something positive,” stated Patton, who also serves as 2nd Vice President of the NAACP Bristol Chapter. “This seemed like a good opportunity to bring various groups together.”

“Bristol is a sports town,” stated Bashaw, who serves as a physical education teacher in the Bristol Public School system. “What better way to show unity then by on a field, with players and spectators alike cheering each other on. It’s the ultimate team-building with a community twist to benefit the kids.”

Admission is free, however participants and spectators are being asked to make a free-will donation or donate a book bag or any type of school supplies. Volunteers will be needed as the goal is to “Stuff a Cruiser” with enough supplies to make a significant donation to the United Way of West Central Connecticut’s  Adopt- A- Child Back to School Program.

If you cannot attend but would like to make a donation, please send a check to the United Way at 200 Main Street, Bristol, and note “We Are One” on the check.

For additional information, please feel free to email Patton at

Pre-Retirement Workshop —

Pre-Retirement Workshop

This year’s Teachers’ Pre-Retirement Seminar with Retirement Specialist, Michael Cooper, will be held on Saturday, October 15, 2016 from 8am-12pm at the Washington Middle School in Meriden, CT. This seminar will be free to all our teacher members. To register, members can sign up here or call the AFT-CT office at 860-257-9782.

Furlough Day Vote — August 28, 2016

Furlough Day Vote

The BOE has asked the BFT to consider a furlough day during the 2016-17 school year. The furlough would occur on Friday, December 23, 2016. On that day, all schools and Central Office would remain closed, and students and employees would NOT report to work. In exchange, all employees would give up their salary for that one day. The BOE believes that the furlough from this single day would help save the BOE budget more than $300,000.

Since this is a change of salary, BFT members must vote on the issue. The vote will be held on Wednesday, September 14, the same day as the steward and grade level VP election. Voting will be held at each individual building.

Why December 23? This date would extend the holiday vacation, help save on heating costs, and presumably minimize instructional impact since it is historically a day with a greater amount of student absences.

Would only teachers take the furlough? No, it would impact all employees of the BPS. But, since the schools and Central Office would be closed, all employees (administrators, teachers, custodians, secretaries, maintenance, etc.) must agree (through their respective unions) to the furlough.

How would the single day pay be deducted from our salary? If BFT members agree to the furlough, the payroll department would spread the amount (different for each individual due to the salary scale) of that single day over the remaining 2016-17 paychecks. Since there are 27 paychecks this year, that would leave about 25 paychecks to spread out the loss in salary from that single day.

Other questions? Post below, and it will be responded to ASAP.

The issue will be discussed at the first meeting of the BFT Executive Council on Tuesday, September  6, 2016 starting at 4:oo PM at Nuchies. All BFT members are welcome to attend.