Apr 16, 2011

WTU Protests the Washington Post

Written By Candi Peterson

Approximately 300 teachers, school personnel, city workers, union and community members protested outside The Washington Post building on Friday, April 15. This day was selected because it coincided with a day-off furlough for DCPS employees and DC government workers. The protest was organized by the Washington Teachers' Union (WTU) against the Post due to their biased reporting that consistently vilifies teachers and fails to include more balanced reporting of the obstacles teachers face in a mostly urban school district. According to WTU President, Nathan Saunders, "You've got to understand that the Washington Post has been vicious against, not just teachers unions, but the Washington Teachers' Union in particular, for the last three or four years. And everything that the former chancellor, Michelle Rhee, has done in the District, they have embraced wholeheartedly at the expense of working teachers."

Urban Teacher blogger and a former DC teacher questioned, "Why is the Post such an awful place for citizens to get information about what's really going on with education in the District?" We also have to wonder, why did it take USA Today newspaper's investigative journalists, Jack Gillum and Marisol Bello to cover the story: "When Standardized Test Scores Soared in DC Were the Gains Real?" This story appeared in USA Today's newspaper on March 11, 2011 and found that cheating likely occurred during the Rhee/Henderson administration during 2008-2010. It begs the question where was the Washington Post?
Another reason for Friday's protest was to call attention to the Washington Post's relationship with Kaplan Higher Education which accounts for the majority of the Post's revenues which comes from standardized testing. It is the position of the WTU, that the Post fails to adequately cover education reform from all vantage points, fails to print letters to the editor from education stakeholders, colors their editorial viewpoint and heaped undeserving praise on former Chancellor Michelle Rhee during her term as Chancellor, despite her many transgressions.

Teachers and protesters carried signs that read: "Cancel your Washington Post subscription today" and "We'll stop buying until you stop lying," while singing chants as a big inflatable union rat loomed large at the footsteps of the Post. Speakers from other unions included Josh Williams, President of the Washington Metro Labor Council, Bill Simon, Former WTU President, Caneisha Mills, American Federation of State, County and Municipal Employees (AFSCME) representative, Johnny Walker, American Federation of Government Employees (AFGE) representative. In addition, there were speeches made by Vincent Orange, At Large City Council candidate, Robert Brannum President of DC Federation of Civic Associations, Jerome Brocks, activist teacher and now retired, Sheila Gill, wrongfully terminated school counselor and a host of others with closing remarks given by Reverend Grayland Hagler who encouraged protesters to march in solidarity around the K street corridor.

All in all, it was a beautiful day and just the start of actions planned by the Washington Teachers' Union which will build momentum and seek to convince our government and Mayor of the need to provide adequate funding for public education in the District.

© Candi Peterson 2013


james boutin said...

Wow - great job by the WTU. You've got teachers in NYC talking about boycotting the NY Post!

I pulled together some interesting problems with the WaPo about a little less than a year ago. It's worth checking out:


Classic said...

It was a great protest on a beautiful day. I hope that teachers understand that it was for us and that we needed to be out there to stand behind our president. Nathan and Candi can't do it alone. I look forward to participating in future actions!

chemtchr said...

Please, stop calling it "Kaplan's test-prep business" and talk about what their Kaplan K12 Learning subsidiary is actually doing in public schools! Here is the "link" you are looking for:


This actual Kaplan website shows the Washington Post has agressively expanded its for-profit college business model to the K12 public education market, and is operating it inside public school districts, without public disclosure. It supports destructive education policies because they actively and directly feed its profits.

The corporate webpage contains troubling references to practices similar to the ones that Kaplan Higher Education has been accused of using, to bilk taxpayers of billions.

chemtchr said...

Blog moderator, please open the link and forward it by email to Candi.


Norm Scott (at Education Notes Online) says he sent it to Candi, but nobody in DC seems to have oopened it. Saunders is quoted on Politico as saying there is no "direct link", so the protest is dismissed. Yes, there is a direct link to public education, which WaPo has not disclosed, and it is a smoking gun.

Here are quotes, from Kaplan itself:

"Districts can also open an intact virtual school that has the look and feel of the district and not that of Kaplan."

"Previously withdrawn students coming back to the district... Homeschooled students coming back to the district"

"...thus keeping them in-district and capturing per-pupil funding. Plus, a dedicated Account Manager will work as a district partner to deliver results."

In light of the success of for-profit virtual college industry in sucking billions out of the Pell Grant, Student Loan, and GI Bill programs, this question demands attention.

Linda/RetiredTeacher said...

Just last night my friend and I were discussing the Great Recession and its effects on so many of our institutions. One of these is the press. Strapped for cash, they have been forced to bow to corporate interests in order to survive. I told my friend how I contacted the Washington Post a year or so ago telling them there was a "story" waiting to be told about possible testing fraud in DC. I asked them, "Where are Woodward and Bernstein?" Of course I received no answer. We are very, very fortunate that USAToday was able to investigate and report the story, which has huge implications for educational "reform."

There is one "good" aspect to all that teachers (and other workers) are going through at the present time. We're all getting a good lesson on how easily civil rights can be lost when there is a some kind of economic or political crisis. This is not new: The recently released film The Conspirator (about the injustices that occurred in the heat of the Lincoln assassination) makes the same point.

Another point made in the film is the power of one person to make a huge difference: for good or for ill. And that means you, Candi. Keep up the good work. God bless you for what you are doing. You have demonstrated outstanding leadership abilities.

Anonymous said...

I am not sure bystanders and passersby were grabbed by the speeches or as sympathetic as some might wish them to be.

The big inflatable rat -- borrowed from the janitors' union-- is always a big hit, however.

L Stamper said...

What was the rat for?

AVParodi said...

The Washington Post now calls itself an education and media company, not media and education (which they used to do). Here is the Post's own article, truncated to be sure, which demonstrates how complicate they are in education reform. http://www.washingtonpost.com/business/the-trials-of-kaplan-higher-ed-and-the-education-of-the-washington-post-co/2011/03/20/AFsGuUAD_story.html

Anonymous said...

anon at 3:48pm

I was there and witnessed teacher rallyers passing out media statements and talking points to "passerbys" on the street.

Also,a group of members actually marched from the WTU office to the rally with their signs and were stopped by a number of people to ask why we were rallying. They were given the flyers as well.

Kudos to us, because we are the WTU! Job Well Done!

Five To Go said...

The Washington Post, in my opinion has been the machine behind Rhee/Henderson's unfair, hostile work environment, and outright career busters attacks . This newspaper started out printing false salaries of many teachers. They attacked teachers in low performing schools and then started attacking the students and their parents. This newpaper is under Federal investigation, therefore, no one should believe anything that they print. I stopped purchasing the WaPo 5 years ago, when then mayor, Adrian Fenty, and his hired terrorist/chancellor Rhee .

Five To Go said...


Anonymous said...

anon at 837pm on April 18--

Sure, flyers were handed out. the unknown though is will they persuade the general public to back the teachers against the newspaper?? The paper has so few fans to begin with. like the teachers union, as opposed to many individual teachers, the wpost has an image problem

Anonymous said...

I visited the WTU website and noticed upcoming elections. isn't the term for the slate three years. I'm confused?

Sheila H. Gill said...

The WTU Rally was a "HUGE SUCCESS!" Educators, parents, students, WTU members, labor and community supporters united together in solidarity. The "HUGE RAT" made a statement, too. The action plan must be implemented "NOW." Readers stop subscribing to the Washington Post. Contact the Mayor and DC City Council members to demand a Superintendent for our DCPS students instead of a Chancellor. The Rhee Henderson agenda must cease. Mary Levy testified that the DCPS Central Administration staff have increased with over 100 new staff members with salaries over $100,000.00 annually. Also, the DCPS budget doesn't exist. Adults are cheating on standardized tests and "NO Curriculum" for our DCPS students under the Rhee Henderson Administraiton. Frankly, the Rhee Henderson reform is dysfunctional. The Rheeform agenda continues to exist in DCPS of cheating, firing, over hiring, lying, covering up, corruption and mistrust. Enough is Enough!! Rhee clearly stated that DCPS students are receiving a "CRAPPY EDUCATION!" This is a reflection of her Rheeform team. Wake up everybody, no more sleeping in bed. We need to protest every month and hold the Mayor as well as the DC City Council accountable. Demand a federal investigation of the Rhee Henderson Administration. Fight for our DCPS students to have a certified educator with credentials in every classroom and especially in DCPS Central Administration.

Candi Peterson said...

Reply to question re the union rat:

Inflatable rats, or union rats, are commonly used in the US by protesting or striking trade unions against their employers or against nonunion contractors, serving as a sign of opposition and to call public attention to companies employing nonunion labor.

In our case we used the inflatable rat to signal our dissatisfaction with the Posts coverage of education in the District.

Candi Peterson said...

Reply to Anonymous @ 3:26 on April 21

I believe you are talking about local school elections are soon due to be held for WTU Building Representatives, School Chapter Advisory Comm. members and Personnel Committee members.

Elections of officers is every 3 years.

Anonymous said...

Thought you'd be interestd in this on the Huffington Website about Rhee and George hooking up together...
"The job of a teachers union is to protect the pay and privileges of its members. They are doing exactly what's expected of them. The problem, though, is that the unions have such an excessive influence over our schools. In contrast, the voices of kids and families are sometimes barely audible. Think about it -- a lot of the policies and practices that govern our educational system are there because teachers unions secured them to benefit the adults in our school system, not the kids. I believe there has to be another voice advocating just as hard for the rights and needs of children.

I recently shared my views on this topic with the former head of the Washington Teachers Union, George Parker, and the conversation that followed was interesting. George said he thought the unions had to become more reform-minded. He said it was in their interest to embrace changes that would lead to better student outcomes, not just those that shore up teacher rights. He even said teachers and their unions have to do much more to weed out those among them who aren't doing their jobs well. "Huh," I thought. "That doesn't sound like the standard union line."

As I thought about what George said, I still wasn't convinced union leaders would shift their views, but I was intrigued. I wanted to hear more, and I thought the topic merited a dialogue. So, I asked George if he'd consider becoming a senior fellow at StudentsFirst for a year. I was very glad when he said yes. I hope our fellows will provide us with different viewpoints and challenge our thinking on issues related to education. I know George will do that." (http://www.huffingtonpost.com)

Dean said...

<a jref="http://www.washingtonpost.com/politics/frustrated-with-democrats-some-large-unions-cut-back-on-donations/2011/05/16/AF0Hmh8G_story.html>Frustrated with Democrats, some large unions cut back on donations</a>

Here's hoping WTU follows suit, if they haven't already... the writing is on the wall, and the sides are being chosen. To working class organizations I say, <b>no handouts to the rich who don't represent us!</b>

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