I am more convinced than ever that there are people in Delaware who are hell-bent on demolishing the Delaware State Education Association. The resignation of Mike Matthews over old blog posts was just the opening salvo. This is an all-out war on the teachers union in Delaware.
Yesterday, I received a letter in the mail. The envelope was hand-written and the actual letter was typed. The bottom part of the page was cut off. There was no return address, just a Wilmington postmark. I do not know who sent it but it feels and smells like a campaign to go after DSEA. This is what the letter said:
DSEA’s REVISIONIST HISTORY
In response to the Mike Matthew’s resignation, DSEA released a statement boasting of its historic commitment to the cause of public education in Delaware. It proclaimed DSEA’s historic commitment to high moral standards over the past 100 years as follows: “Since 1919 the members of DSEA have dedicated their lives to supporting children and public education.”
Historic ignorance or historic revision? You see, for half of its 100 years DSEA was dedicated to supporting “white children” and “white public education” in segregated schools. For 30 of those years DSEA was an all-white organization and African-American teachers were prohibited from joining. It wasn’t until 1948 that those walls fell down. And for another 20 years DSEA did nothing to promote integration of the public school systems in our state… long after Plessy v Ferguson. In 1961 the Federal Court ordered the State Board of Education to integrate Delaware schools and it took another 5 to 6 years to bring it about, during which time DSEA was as quiet as a church mouse.
This meant that hundreds of African-American teachers were out of a job. Appeals to DSEA for help and a guarantee that every one of them would be placed in the newly integrated districts fell on deaf ears in Dover. Bowing to pressure from the superintendents, DSEA declined to provide any assistance and in fact replied that it was “up to the affected teachers to find a job on their own”. By the way everyone did land a job but certainly not all to his or her satisfaction, and certainly no thanks to DSEA.
No one can blame DSEA for trying to dig out of the mess it found itself in. And no one can doubt that its new president is committed to providing all kids with a quality education, but it is disingenuous at the very least, to try to apply today’s reach for the high moral ground to all of DSEA’s 100 year existence. After all, the entire controversy came about by holding Mike Matthews accountable for his past history. Surely, the teachers association should be held to the same standard.
I find it ironic that this letter, along with the crucifixion of Mike Matthews last week, will only attack based on things that happened a long time ago. Even more ironic is the fact that there are still certain charter schools and magnet schools in Delaware that continue to promote segregation based on current enrollment practices. This isn’t something you will hear from charter advocates but they will be the first person to do so when it comes to anyone who opposes them. Digging in the past is good but only if you are fair. To blame Peter for what Paul did years ago is a foolish endeavor.
What this writer failed to mention was the National Education Association, to which state organizations currently answer to, was also a segregated organization. Over 50 years ago, a merger happened and all the state organizations were integrated. Sadly, segregation did happen in many facets of American society. But we turned a corner. To place the blame for this solely on DSEA is, in itself, disingenuous. Anything involving segregation is extremely sad but it is a part of American history. In addition, most organizations were “white-only” in American history prior to the civil rights movement. It is indeed a sad chapter of these United States.
I can’t help but feel as though DSEA is under attack. DSEA will surely be affected at some point by the U.S. Supreme Court Janus decision. Right To Work is at constant threat for unions in Delaware. Mike Matthews was very outspoken about national matters and many on the Right were offended by it.
I have to wonder if this is merely revenge or something worse. My spider-sense is telling me something is coming. Most likely legislation of some type. Is the Delaware Department of Education contributing to these attacks? Some policy-maker leader? How involved is Rodel? What many may forget is how Atnre Alleyne wound up at the Delaware DOE in the first place. He was hired by them but he was paid through a grant from both the Rodel Foundation and the Longwood Foundation.
What has to be ticking off many of the reformer types in Delaware is the sudden unionization of two charter schools within a six-month timeframe. This is equivalent to a Dallas Cowboys fan organizing a Super Bowl parade in downtown Philly. It has to burn them to no end. They are probably wondering how DSEA got their hooks into these teachers but they forget about a need for charter school teachers to get better working conditions. If they thought neutering Mike Matthews would stop Odyssey from unionizing, they thought wrong. That was made abundantly clear!
4 thoughts on “The Plot To Destroy DSEA”
While this part of DSEA’s history is both shameful and regrettable, it isn’t much different than hundreds of other organizations across the nation. It is a blemish on our history as a people, but it is history.
The letter writer does not describe the organization I joined twenty years ago. I found DSEA to be the most inclusive, the most diverse group when participating in state level meetings and functions.
It is not DSEA that should concern this writer. It represents teachers who are committed to the success of all children. What this writer should be concerned about is the resegregation of our schools via charters and district academies. Why doesn’t this writer become an activist within the minority communities in Newark, for example, and help families with applications to a mostly white charter? Why doesn’t this writer fight for equitable ( even equal) educational services for city schools? Does this writer even know they exist? Why doesn’t this writer work within the community to encourage greater parent and family involvement in schools?
What a waste of the energy of anger to dwell on the past! It serves no one.
A very interesting post. I have long wondered why more effort wasn’t made to organize (unionize) charter schools. Am very happy to hear that two charter schools have been organized in Delaware. If this became widespread lots of things might change….
If DSEA really believes that it is a modern organization which is disassociated from its past, then why do they tout their “history since 1919”? That sounds too “OG” for this day and age.
“Since 1919, DSEA’s mission has been to make our public schools a safe and vibrant atmosphere for educating students. We remain as dedicated now as when we started in 1919.”
Does this mean that DSEA in 2018 is just as racist as it was in 1919? Why are they NOT disavowing their racist past? And especially why not, given their recent leadership’s outspokenness?
Sorry. DSEA can’t have it both ways. Disavow the past and they might have a chance in today’s world. But DSEA will not do that. They want the faux prestige of longevity without payng the price for the illegitimacy of that longevity. It does not wash. If DSEA wants the byline “since 1919” then they are racist. If they were to be wiling to expressly disavow that history and adopt a byline of legitimacy “since circa 1990” or whatever year they ACTUALLY stopped being racist then maybe — maybe — we could consider DSEA statements in good faith.
Look at the now-fired DSEA leader … he could not stand the “privilege” which he claimed was exuding from Kavanaugh’s excuses for his past, yet just one week later his supporters on Facebook extend a highly comparable “privilege” to him for his own past misogyny, racism and his plain written incivility. Total hypocrisy. It will take years, or even decades, for DSEA to erase this stain.
Teachers would be MUCH better served by completely detaching from DSEA and all of its last-century baggage and instead forming a wholly-new and true professional association which aims to raise professional performance rather than to merely protect provincial ranks from reasonable accountability for student-learning results.
No doubt there are still racist teachers out there. That does not mean that DSEA must grovel in shame for the mistakes of the past. I bet that if you visit the United States Supreme Court, they will take credit for being an important institution from the beginning, or, as we learned in high school history, since the Jefferson presidency. Does the state put an asterisk beside the name of Gov. Elbert Carvel because he believed that white people are superior?
When I was in high school, teachers were free to join NEA, DSEA, the American Federation of Teachers, or whatever, but my teachers, at least, did not have union representation in negotiating with the state. Employers, including the state, tend to screw their employees, which is why workers need unions. That does not mean workers should not stand up to their leadership, which is essentially what our teachers did when they elected Mike Matthews over the candidate supported by Ms. Jenner.
By the way, you need to get over your shock at Down With Absolutes. Much of it seems to have been in poor taste, but it was satirical, not racist or misogynist. Kavanaugh could be forgiven for what he did forty years ago and judged on the present. He cannot be excused for lying to the Congress in 2006 and 2018. His demeanor and belief in an imperial presidency also disqualify him, as well as his presumed role in justifying torture.