And so it goes, another South Florida election filled with technical errors, fraud, and delayed results. This time it was not for the President of the United States, but for the President of the United Teachers of Dade. If you have been following this blog, or are at all familiar with UTD politics, you know by now that this is not the first incident of disputed UTD election results.  Somehow every UTD election turns out exactly how UTD leadership wants it to. Current UTD leadership has already been found guilty of election fraud, further litigation is still pending and a lawsuit has already been filed for this week’s election. I’m sensing a trend.

This time it took the union over two days to count the votes of maybe 7,000 teachers. Apparently there was a technical glitch in the scantron machines used by Votenet, a company hired by UTD to ensure “a fair and accurate” election. Glitch or no glitch, in previous elections where all 22,000 teachers were allowed to cast votes which were calculated by paper ballot, results were known the following morning. Is it that difficult to have each school site union steward tally the votes (with outside observers) and then add all of the school site votes together?  This time union stewards were not even encouraged to keep a tally of their school site results. One of the points of contention in past elections was UTD leadership’s refusal to release school site votes as mandated by law. Way too much transparency in that process for current UTD leadership.  It’s much easier to take the ballots behind closed doors and suddenly emerge triumphant with a two-thirds victory every single time. Well, this time it was only 51% percent of the vote (the minimum required). Two-thirds would have been totally unbelievable considering there were 5 other candidates running. Might I say 5 other candidates that all would have been much better options. Somehow magically, the one candidate endorsed by the current much- maligned UTD President, is declared the winner.  Not only has he served as part of the corrupt and inept current UTD administration and received what should have been a kiss of death endorsement by the current UTD President, but his platform made zero sense. Of all the issues facing TEACHERS in Dade County, our newly selected UTD President, ran on a platform which headlined the plight of the teen mom as its first priority. He wants to “restructure the class day to accommodate students who have infants or must work to provide income for their families” http://miamitimesonline.com/blacks-vie-for-utd-presidency.

As much as I believe that for the most part, the interests of teachers and students are intertwined, this is taking it a bit far. You are running for President of the United TEACHERS of Dade. You are collecting your six figure salary from the United TEACHERS of Dade. Nowhere in your platform did you even mention the word TEACHER. First of all, there are already plenty of opportunities for teen moms to continue their education in Dade County. We have special schools for pregnant teen moms and this is one incident where Florida Virtual School would be an excellent option for a teenage mother that needs to work but would also like to continue her education. Second of all, this is relatively minor issue facing students in Dade County. I maybe see two pregnant students in a school of 3,000 every year. Lastly, you could have addressed the issue of teen moms as well as addressing the issue of working TEACHER moms. What about the many working mothers in Dade County schools who can barely afford childcare and cannot even find childcare centers that open early enough to accommodate the ridiculous 7:20 start time of high schools (this is something kafkateach personally struggles with)? Some schools and some districts have provided onsite childcare for both students and staff. Now that would be a proposal I could stand behind. But to focus only on the plight of the teen mom and ignore the plight of the TEACHER mom as President for the United TEACHERS of Dade County is a glaring omission.

I guess the one upside of these depressing but not at all surprising election results, is that kafkateach will continue to save $800 in union dues. Had a different candidate won, especially the one I endorsed, I would have felt obligated to join UTD. Now that it has become apparent that there will be a continuation of past UTD leadership ineptitude, there is no reason to join. Why any teacher pays $800 to support a corrupt association meant to represent TEACHERS, which does nothing to support TEACHERS, and often fails to provide the basic function of mediation in teacher/administrator disputes, is beyond me. Is the UTD desk calendar really that great? I think Office Depot sells them for $19.99.

Out of the two union members I talked with at my school, neither one voted in this past election. One of the teachers was a veteran teacher set to retire in two years. He said he didn’t vote because he didn’t care and knew it was rigged anyway. He doesn’t even know why he  continues to pay his dues. I guess some teachers continue to pay to be part of a union they don’t believe in because it feels like the right thing to do. Maybe like an atheist going to church and throwing a couple of bucks in the hat at the end of the service just for societal pressures?  The other union member at my school that did not vote in this election was the teacher who will be replacing me when I go on maternity leave. He’s a new teacher. I asked if he was a member of the union. He said “Yes.” I asked if he voted in the election. He said “What election?” When union members don’t even have a clue that an election is being held for UTD President, there is a problem. Which leads me to my last point, exactly who did vote in this election? Out of the 22,000 teachers in Dade County only 12,000 belong to the union and were eligible to vote. Out of those 12,000 apparently only 7,000 bothered to vote. Out of those 7,000 who did vote, 15 school sites had their votes invalidated. So in the end, maybe 51% of the 5,000 votes counted (2,500) determined the fate of 22,000 teachers in Dade County. So much for the UNITED Teachers of Dade County.

In other “same old, same old” news, the union and the district failed to come to an agreement over cut scores for our evaluations when they met on February 14th. They are set to resume negotiations next month where they are sure to fail to come to an agreement once again. Looks like Dade County teachers will not see evaluations for 2011-12 school year in the foreseeable future and Race to the Top merit pay funds seem to be equally caught up in the purgatory of Dade County union/district negotiations. So much for winning the race, we’ve come to a grinding halt. 

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