I’ve written about the Badass Teachers Association (BAT) before, this rebel outpost of the national teachers unions, specifically its challenges to the leadership of the AFT and NEA\to militarize their rhetoric and actions. BAT is frustrated with union leadership’s lackluster combat against charter school expansion and changes to teacher tenure laws. More recently BAT has come out strongly against the Common Core State Standards and the aligned assessments. Thus, it’s found common ground with an organization called United Opt-Out, which urges parents to keep their kids home on testing days, and a shrinking shared agenda with national union leaders and the Democratic Party.
Yesterday BAT issued a declaration of a new strategy based on its conclusion that “our supposed education leaders” have failed to take any “real action” to “continue to fight back and say no to corporate education reforms that seek to privatize public education.” The new strategy is to enlist teachers willing to risk their jobs and refuse to give standardized assessments.
And although the unions claim they will support teachers who refuse to administer tests we do not know what this support will look like and if it will keep teachers from losing their jobs or being disciplined. So we are looking for teachers who are preparing to retire or leave the profession and are willing to risk retaliation if they refuse to administer the test. If the teacher is disciplined or fired for their actions we will reach out to their union leaders to demand the support and advocacy they said would be there. Then we will know just how far the unions are willing to go to support teachers.
This sort of rhetoric moves BAT (and other similar organizations) one step further away from union leaders and the bulk of typical union members. The distrust of Lily Eskelson- Garcia (brand-new NEA president) and Randi Weingarten (AFT president) is palpable: “NEA and AFT said they would support teachers who did not administer the test but failed to elaborate on what kind of support they would issue.” BAT also continues on its quest to alienate itself from the Democratic Party, noting that “we should not be fooled into thinking that the Obama Administration is going to back down from the mantra of high stakes testing” and “President Obama continued to pay lip service to the concerns of parents, teachers, and students about the alarming increase of high stakes testing.”
It’s great that BAT has found a fellow traveler on its mission to quell reforms to American education. But where does this go exactly? However you feel about high-stakes testing, United Opt-Out’s strategy — boycott the tests — is an option available mostly to parents of means who can afford to either stay home from work or arrange childcare. BAT’s alliance with this mostly monied group conflicts with its Eugene Debs-ish veneer of the good ol’ laborer fighting the Man and His establishment. BAT thinks it goes here:
Together we can deny the corporate reformers the data they so desperately need and drive out the testing insanity that has dismantled our public education system.