INDIANAPOLIS: ‘Steelworkers, start your engines’

When the official announced, “Ladies and gentlemen, start your engines,” to start the Indianapolis 500 here May 29, the United Steelworkers union (USW) was watching.

Since April 2003, the union has been trying to get a contract covering 6,000 Bridgestone/Firestone Tire Co. workers. The stumbling block is a provision that guarantees company investment in U.S. plants and halts shipping jobs overseas, in addition to wages and benefits comparable to Goodyear, where the union has a contract. Reaching out to the tens of thousands of Indy 500 fans, the USW set up a booth with a petition supporting tire workers and members distributed 100,000 sets of earplugs with a union message. Union members also provided black flags and Indy racing schedules carrying a solidarity message.

The union also ran hundreds of radio ads, sponsored a plane flyover and ran mobile billboards around the outside of the racetrack.

“Union workers would like to concentrate on making top quality tires but we’re not going to watch more and more of our jobs be exported overseas without a fight,” said veteran union tire maker Larry Odum of La Vergne, Tenn.

CHESTER, Pa.: School privatization out

In 2001, a state appointed board privatized six of the nine public schools in the Chester Upland School District. The board turned over the schools to Edison Schools, the country’s largest for-profit school corporation. On May 31, the privatization experiment came to an end, when the same board fired Edison.

This school year with Edison opened under a cloud. Textbook and teacher shortages, as well as a riot at the high school that resulted in 28 arrests, was a bad start. And things only got worse. In March, an elementary school closed because it was infested with rats and contaminated with asbestos. In May, the principal at one of the schools where students had improved their test scores was fired when it was proven that she helped students cheat on their exams. A full-scale investigation of all testing under Edison’s administration is under way.

CARSON CITY, Nev.: Legislature challenges Bush school reform

Nevada Assemblyman Richard Perkins (D-Henderson) introduced a bill May 26 that would allow schools to reject No Child Left Behind mandates not fully funded by the federal government or that contradict the state’s education priorities.

This is the “first shot over the bow to Washington,” said Perkins in an impassioned speech to the Assembly. NCLB “is clearly overreaching” on the part of the federal government, he said. “We had a great plan to accomplish the education goals of our state.”

Nevada Secretary of Education Keith Rheault said that NCLB mandates testing, teacher certification, tutoring and busing but allocates no additional funding to pay for the programs.

The Children’s Defense Fund, a child advocacy organization, said that the federal government did not appropriate the additional $38 million, which would have enabled Nevada to implement NCLB in 2005.

Neighboring Utah had earlier opted out of the Bush administration’s NCLB.

GRAND RAPIDS, Mich.: Christian college students protest Bush visit

Among Calvin College alumni are Betsy DeVos, former chairwoman of the Michigan Republican Party, and Amway co-founder, billionaire Jay Van Andel. In a 2004 pre-election poll of the student body, 80 percent said they were voting for Bush.

This campus should be Bush country but when the college announced that the president was the graduation keynote speaker, more than 800 students, faculty and alumni signed a letter protesting the appearance and raised $9,500 to publish it in the local newspaper.

“As Christians, we are called to be peacemakers and to initiate war only as a last resort,” the letter said. “We believe your administration has launched an unjust and unjustified war in Iraq. In our view, the policies and actions of your administration, both domestically and internationally over the past four years, violate many deeply held principles of Calvin College.”

David Crump, an untenured professor of religion at the school, said, “The largest part of our concern is the way in which our religious discourse in this country has largely been co-opted by the religious right and their wholesale endorsement of this administration.”

National Clips are compiled by Denise Winebrenner Edwards ( Terrie Albano contributed to this week’s notes.