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November 15, 1999
+ The NEA-AFT merger may not have worked out, but in Puerto Rico the AFT merged unions the old-fashioned way -- by winning an election to become the exclusive bargaining representative for the island’s 37,000 teachers. The victory makes the Federación de Maestros de Puerto Rico (FMPR) the second-largest AFT affiliate in the nation, behind only the United Federation of Teachers in New York City. While NEA sank at least $350,000 into its campaign, the union couldn’t match the on-the-ground organizing of AFT, which brought in allies from AFL-CIO member unions to help in the effort. NEA will lose the dues income (an estimated $2 million annually) generated by its affiliate, the Asociación de Maestros de Puerto Rico (AMPR). But a bigger blow was the final tally -- 22,156 votes for AFT and 8,024 for NEA -- indicating that a large number of the 22,000 full-time and part-time NEA members voted for their AFT rivals.

+ For the last three months, the United Teachers of Flint (Michigan) posted a poll for visitors to its web page. The question was: "Should vouchers be available for students to use in parochial schools?" The odds of this poll resulting in anything other than a huge defeat for vouchers were pretty slim but, as EIA reported on November 1, over a period of 11 weeks 357 votes were cast: 166 yes, 170 no, and 21 undecided. A highly unusual result, but not very meaningful in the overall scheme of things.

Evidently UTF couldn’t live with such a result. By an amazing coincidence, 327 votes were cast in the final week of the poll -- nearly matching the total of the previous 11 weeks. Of those 327 last-minute votes, a suspiciously high 313 were "no" votes (96%). UTF then touted the final tally in its UTF Hotline publication. Certainly UTF will claim that the vote was all on the up-and-up, but EIA remembers Ferdinand Marcos making similar claims right before he was forced to flee the Philippines.

+ How do teachers’ unions bewilder me? Let me count the ways:

1) The St. Charles Education Association (Missouri) held a work-to-rule job action and sent a couple of hundred members to pack a school board meeting and loudly express their opinions. Why? Because current board policy allows the NEA-affiliated union to exclusively represent the district’s teachers in contract negotiations (Missouri does not have a state collective bargaining law) even though SCEA represents only about 77 percent of the teachers. The independent Missouri State Teachers Association is asking for one seat on the eight-member committee. When the board seemed inclined to include an MSTA member, SCEA went ballistic. "I keep asking myself, ‘What is the problem?’ " said board member Wayne Oetting. "This is one issue that seems so minor and so insignificant that I really don’t understand what the problem seems to be."

2) Ever committed to multiculturalism, NEA began printing a diversity calendar in each issue of NEA Today. The October calendar, however, lacked any mention of Lesbian and Gay History Month, the commemoration that led to controversy within NEA and some membership losses in southern states.

3) The Utah Education Association held a march and a rally to protest low education spending in the state. One of the signs highlighted by UEA’s communications department read "Bus Our Children to Mississippi for Equal Education," noting that Utah ranks last, just behind Mississippi, in per-pupil spending. Somehow Utah students manage to rank very high in educational outcomes, despite not having the funding advantages of Mississippi.

4) The Massachusetts Teachers Association is pushing a bill to increase retirement benefits for teachers. The bill is meeting resistance, particularly from Gov. Paul Cellucci, because of its cost and because of its impact on teacher shortages in the state. MTA President Stephen E. Gorrie weighed in."The retirement bill is sound educational policy that will provide a long-term investment for our schools," he said. "For every two veteran teachers who retire at the top of the salary scale, three new teachers can be hired at no additional cost to the district. As a result, this bill will enable districts to hire more -- not fewer -- teachers, which can reduce class size and improve achievement." So, school board members and district negotiators, try this argument out at your next bargaining session: "If we get rid of the older teachers we can use the money to reduce class size and improve achievement." Let EIA know what the UniServ director tells you.

5) A Georgia middle school teacher was placed on paid leave after it was revealed that he had plead guilty to voluntary manslaughter for shooting a man in the back in 1968 (plead down from murder) and had served three years in prison. On at least two occasions, Bobby Hughey failed to disclose his felony conviction and prison time. The story of the incident in the Atlanta Journal-Constitution ends with this paragraph:

"Drew Allbritten, executive director of the Georgia Association of Educators, said that dredging up the pasts of those who have paid their debt to society sends the wrong message. Allbritten said Hughey should be the subject of a success story. ‘He was given a second chance and it worked out,’ Allbritten said."

6) "Although many newspaper editorial writers think teachers’ salaries should be based on student performance, I haven’t seen a single editorial promoting merit pay for pizza delivery people, legislators or soldiers," writes Rich Wood of the Washington Education Association’s media relations department. Well, Rich, there is a very good reason for that -- these people already get "merit pay."

a) Pizza delivery -- When your pizza arrives two hours late, do you ask the delivery person about conditions in the store, the age of the oven, or how many years the pizza maker has been on the job? Or do you simply withhold the tip?

b) Legislators -- When legislators "merit" WEA endorsement by voting the way WEA would like them to vote, isn’t it normal procedure to reward them with contributions to their campaigns, without which they could not retain their jobs?

c) Soldiers -- Soldiers have an even more effective method of merit pay: if they do their jobs well, they survive to collect their pay. Military instructors, by the way, are not only judged by the performance of their students, they are held responsible for the performance of their students.

+ The Education Intelligence Extra Income Organization (EIEIO) held elections for union office today. The unanimous choice for president was Mike Antonucci. "I hesitated about voting for myself," said Antonucci, "but after the smack across my knees with the shovel I knew it was the right thing to do."

+ Quote of the Week #1: "We can’t allow our nation’s schools to be divided once again by skin color, economic class, disability or the need for remedial work." -- NAACP President and CEO Kweisi Mfume, speaking at an anti-voucher rally in Detroit. The Detroit Public Schools have a minority student enrollment of 95 percent.

+ Quote of the Week #2: "We don’t want their children hurt. We don’t want their children going to school and not being taught." -- Alabama Education Association Executive Director Paul Hubbert, explaining why parents should not send their children to school today in Birmingham, where teachers have gone out on strike.


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