Tuesday, September 15, 2009

Back to school

This morning our girls got on the school bus for the first time this school year. It was a long time in coming.

Teachers of the Kent Education Association went on strike three weeks ago because their contract had expired and the Kent School District was not bargaining in good faith. The district responded by filing an injunction which resulted in a court ruling ordering teachers back to work.

From the beginning we have been supportive of the Kent teachers, for one simple reason. We know them. It is the teachers who have provided our daughters with a great education the four years we have lived here.

I did not know the newly hired school superintendent, or the school board when this all started. What he have learned about them does not bode well for us supporting them in the future. The board treated concerned parents with contempt in several cases, and cancelled a scheduled board meeting on Sept 9. A Kent Parents Coalition has formed to hold the school board accountable for their actions.

I support the right of workers to organize and to strike if necessary. Exceptions are made for first responders such as police and fire who are forbidden to strike and subject to binding arbitration for that reason. But binding arbitration was not ordered for the Kent strike. The teachers were simply ordered back to work, contract or no. That was wrong.

Sunday night we attended a teacher support rally where a tentative agreement was announced. The contract was ratified Monday morning. My wife took my daughters to our school Monday to see their teacher, who was already there hard at work getting ready for school to start today.

We are glad this is over and school has started, but in one sense school started earlier, as our family has learned valuable lessons in civil disobedience these past weeks.

Thursday, September 10, 2009

The price of a speech

In his speech to Congress on health care reform last night, President Obama proved how valuable it is to have an orator who communicates with clarity, confidence, and power.

A CNN poll of viewers who watched the speech found that 1 in 7 who saw it changed their mind and now support President Obama's health care reform plan. In a few minutes, he reversed what it took millions of dollars in television ads and months of astroturf organizing by the Republicans and their corporate supporters to achieve.

It seems clear that this is part of the Obama playbook: let the opposition attack and exhaust themselves in unhinged attacks, remain cool, and counterstrike with a powerful speech directly to the American people that calls the opposition out for their stupidity and lies and resets the debate. That is exactly what President Obama did last night.