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MTA responds to ad campaign by Center for Union Facts

The Center for Union Facts, which is headed by right-wing lobbyist Rick Berman, launched a $1 million anti-teacher union ad campaign on March 11. Anne Wass, MTA president, denounced the ad campaign as "a grossly distorted smear campaign."

"Before taking their message too seriously, consider the source," she said. "Being on Rick Berman's hit list puts us in some pretty good company when you realize that he has also attacked Mothers Against Drunk Driving and the Americans with Disabilities Act."

The campaign is full of false information about teachers and teachers unions. Wass notes that the specific charge that teachers and their unions have been "blocking reform" couldn't be further from the truth in Massachusetts.

"We have been advocating for a whole host of reforms," Wass said, detailing just a few of the MTA's recent reform initiatives.

"We have been promoting the concept that all children deserve a well-rounded education that includes the arts, foreign languages, physical education and guidance services," she said. "The drive to increase test scores should not deprive low-income children of an education that fosters creativity and independence.

"We support the experimental Expanded Learning Time initiative, including the provisions that ensure that local associations are part of the process in developing and ultimately approving these programs.

"We are promoting our own recommendations for narrowing the achievement gaps contained in our report ‘Fulfilling the Promise of Education Reform.’

"We support improved training, selection, mentoring and evaluation of teachers, as detailed in the expansive Educator Quality bill.

"We are the leading force behind the TeLLS survey initiative, which is designed to give classroom teachers and administrators a voice in which education policies and practices work and which do not," she said.

Wass also disputed the notion that the MTA protects "bad teachers."

"We believe that incompetent teachers should not be in the classroom," she said. "Teachers who are floundering need training, effective evaluations and support. If their performance still doesn't improve, they should be dismissed or counseled out of the profession," she said.

"We expect districts to honor teachers' due process rights," she continued. "Those rights do not include the right of an unsatisfactory teacher to remain on the job."

The National Education Association has put together the following information about The Center for Union Facts and its current anti-teacher ad campaign.

The Center for Union Facts is a secretive front group for individuals and industries opposed to union activities. It is part of lobbyist Rick Berman's family of front groups including the Employment Policies Institute."   [Sourcewatch (http://www.sourcewatch.org/index.php?title=SourceWatch)]

Rick Berman will attack anyone if the price is right. He has gone after Mothers Against Drunk Driving, attacked the Americans with Disabilities Act, and lobbied on behalf of tobacco companies. In 2006, USA Today reported that conservative groups pay Berman's lobby shop upwards of $10 million a year. Berman refuses to disclose his financial backers, but some information such as this has become public.
 
At the Conservative Leadership Conference in October 2006, Berman announced his plan, quoting mobster Al Capone: 'You can get further with a kind word and a gun than you can with just a kind word.'

The target of this smear campaign isn't a few schools' teachers, and it isn't even just teachers' unions. It's every working family.

According to Michael J. Mishak and J. Patrick Coolican of The Las Vegas Sun: 'What's really at stake is the Employee Free Choice Act, labor's top priority in Congress. The measure would make it easier for workers to organize, stiffen penalties for employers that violate labor law and mandate that once workers form a union, the employer must come to the bargaining table or submit to mediation and arbitration.'
 
Berman and his cohorts see working people who are working together as a threat to their political interests.
 
If they succeed in these scare tactics against teachers, they’ve vowed to move on to other unions.

The Center for Union Facts does nothing to solve the real problems facing education. Rather than blaming teachers, let's talk about real solutions.

We need programs that really help struggling schools, such as reducing class sizes, providing quality training for teachers and principals, and providing adequate textbooks and supplies for all students. Attacking unions and their teachers doesn't further these goals, and in fact serves to undermine public support for public education.