Thursday, September 01, 2005

TALKING TRASH TALK TO TEACHER TALK WON'T WALK

Last year, in an attempt to share with the community the good works that teachers in District 64 do for students, the PREA Public Relations Committee published Teacher Talk.

Teacher Talk was a big hit. It was well written. It was professional in the way it was designed. It was printed using a four color printing process on high quality glazed paper. And it went a long way towards building bridges between the entire District 64 community and the entire Park Ridge Community.

Since Teacher Talk was in no way a pro-union leaflet, and since it did not address any labor-management issues, the PREA leadership thought that the appropriate way to distribute the newsletter was via the Thursday Take-homes. We thought that the central office administration and the Board of Education would be thrilled to include material that presented such a positive image of our schools and our staff.

But, no. Dr. Pryor said, “absolutely not.” The Board of Education unanimously supported her. It didn’t matter that we received supportive comments from parents and non-parent community members from all over Park Ridge. It didn’t matter that the Thursday Take-homes are filled with other “third party” flyers and publicity.

It wasn’t the content they objected to. They objected to the fact that the union published it.

They didn’t object to what we said.

They objected to who we are.

We wouldn’t let them get away with that. First, we went and got a bulk mail permit. Then we mailed Teacher Talk to every house in Park Ridge!

We simultaneously contacted the IEA. We filed an Unfair Labor Practice suit against District 64. Mike Lamb, IEA attorney, is representing us.

They went to their attorneys, the high-priced downtown law firm of Seyfarth Shaw.

On the one hand, it is a shame that the Board wants to spend District money pursuing this legal matter when the District is facing financial pressures requiring the issuing of tax bonds.

On the other hand, we believe that this has meaning beyond just our own district. It is important for teachers throughout the state to have the right to speak to their communities in their own words.

Seyfarth Shaw has responded to our position. IEA attorneys have responded to their response and they responded to that response. Now it goes to the Labor Board’s Executive Director. He may take up to 6 months to a year to decide if we have raised questions of fact or law sufficient to warrant issuance of a complaint.

Our attorney, Mike Lamb, has told me he will continue to research whether the facts here would support a constitutional claim under the Equal Protection Clause or the First Amendment.

He asked if we wanted to pursue the Constitutional issue.

“If we win in the courts, will this have an impact on teachers besides those of us in District 64,” I asked?

“Yes,” Mike replied.

“Then, of course, we should pursue it.”

"Then that is what we'll do," said Mike.