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March 5, 2001
+ Mutiny in Madison... Conservative critics of teachersí unions often err by believing that NEA, AFT, their affiliates and staffs all march in lockstep and have few differences among them. The unions themselves perpetuate this myth by going to herculean lengths to cover up and paper over significant divisions in the ranks. For example, the ever-simmering feud between the Wisconsin Education Association Council (WEAC) and its affiliate, Madison Teachers, Inc. (MTI) is beginning to percolate once again and may boil over at WEACís convention in late April.

Itís fair to say that MTI is dedicated to traditional unionism -- collective bargaining for the benefit of the members -- and objects to what it sees as "selling out" by WEAC and NEA. MTI has butted heads with its parent unions over new unionism, peer review and performance pay. In a recent issue paper on merit pay, MTI said that "WEAC leadership is falling more and more into line with the mild-mannered, do nothing NEA and its appeasement of the business establishment."

The latest controversy may seem arcane to outside observers, but it threatens to split MTI and a number of other locals from WEAC. In most NEA affiliates, small locals are joined together into UniServ councils, so that union services and staff can be centralized and not diffused over a wide geographic area. WEAC recently dissolved one of its UniServ councils, selling off its assets, and offered the member locals the option of joining with another existing council. Instead, the locals, under the name South Central Education Association (SCEA), voted by a margin of 1,112 to 25 to affiliate with MTI. WEAC told MTI it had overstepped its authority. According to MTI sources, WEAC threatened MTI with probation if it did not release SCEA from its affiliation agreement. In addition, MTI claims WEAC has threatened to pull the health insurance coverage of SCEA members if they do not leave MTI. MTI claims its affiliation agreement with WEAC requires the dispute to go to arbitration, but WEAC claims unilateral authority over its affiliates.

MTI and other locals (Racine, Green Bay, et al.) have threatened to disaffiliate from WEAC before, most recently in 1998. But the rhetoric this time is much more heated than in recent memory. EIA will keep an eye on this one.

+ ...And in Anchorage, too. Pleading poverty, NEA-Alaska allowed its staff to go on a three-week strike, then settled for a five-percent raise over four years. Having saved so much money, the union proceeded to hire a California consulting firm known for conflict resolution expertise to "rebuild relationships among the various parties." While executives and staff sing "kumbaya" around the campfire, members of the Anchorage Education Association, the unionís largest local, are circulating petitions to call for more local control of union activity. "The real issue is should we control our destiny," petition drive leader Darrell Peterson told the Anchorage Daily News. "Our paid professionals who advise us are really not responsible to us. Theyíre not responsible to the (local) president."

Sources tell EIA that the petition drive began soon after Anchorage members learned the salary range for professional staff ($58,000 to $100,767). Evidently teachers believe they can lower dues by hiring staff directly. Unfortunately for them, staff compensation is subsidized by a portion of each memberís NEA dues, which cannot be affected by local action. In exchange for this subsidy, NEA requires that "The local association shall actively support state and national program priorities in political action, legislative support, professional development, and affirmative action." Good luck with that petition.

+ Staff Salaries vs. Teacher Salaries: The Facts. Last week, Pennsylvaniaís Commonwealth Foundation asked the same question as the members of the Anchorage Education Association. Are union staffers overcompensated relative to the teachers they represent? The question is further complicated by the secrecy surrounding staff salaries. EIA offers here a list of NEA state affiliates, ranked by the percentage by which the salary of the average professional staffer (UniServ rep, labor consultant, etc.) exceeds the salary of the average teacher in that state. There are two caveats: 1) The statistics used to create the list are almost six years old, making comparisons to today extremely problematic; and 2) The figures do not include salaries for executives or support staffers. This is merely a comparison of teacher salaries to those who negotiate those salaries for them.

The largest differences are in: Iowa (124.8); Montana (116.7); Colorado (101.5); Ohio (101.3); Oregon (101.2); Indiana (95.9); Washington (94.4); Nebraska (93.5); Wisconsin (92.4); and California (90.5).

The smallest differences are in: South Carolina (35.3); West Virginia (35.4); Hawaii (37.8); Alabama (38.1); Mississippi (40.5); North Carolina (40.5); New York (41.7); Nevada (42.1); Texas (44.1); and Wyoming (51.2).

The full ranking of all 50 states is available via e-mail upon your request to EducIntel@aol.com.

+ Nevada Union Tax Initiative Declared Unconstitutional. A two-year effort by the Nevada State Education Association to institute a business profits tax came to an abrupt end last week when the Nevada Supreme Court, on a 4-1 vote, declared the union-sponsored ballot initiative unconstitutional. NSEA still hopes to get the state legislature to take action on the proposal, but without the specter of a ballot initiative hanging over them, lawmakers are unlikely to meet the unionís demands.

The initiativeís failure was not only a blow to NSEA, but to NEA as well. NSEA instituted a special dues assessment of its 23,000 members to draft the petition, gather signatures, and lobby for its passage. As of last September, NSEA had spent about $500,000 of that assessment. In addition, NEA sent $250,000 to Nevada for the effort. That money came from the national $5 per member special assessment the NEA Representative Assembly passed last July. EIA expects the Nevada union to radicalize the issue, as it faces the desperate possibility of having spent over three-quarters of a million dollars in dues to achieve nothing for its members.

+ Peer Review Record Already Needs Review. Mere months after taking office, California Gov. Gray Davis signed into law a statewide Peer Assistance and Review (PAR) program, an NEA-backed concept designed to mentor new teachers and rehabilitate struggling veterans who have received unsatisfactory evaluations. Today, one year after its implementation, reporter Sarah Tully Tapia of the Orange County Register examined the programís record in her local area. She found only nine of more than 8,000 Orange County teachers received unsatisfactory evaluations last year... and that was on the high end. Saddleback Valley had three. Placentia-Yorba Linda and Anaheim Union had two each. The cities of Orange and Irvine had one each. Of the 2,000 teachers in the Capistrano Unified School District, not a single one was unsatisfactory. At least these districts reported their numbers. The Fullerton Joint Union High School District, which received over $252,000 in state funds for the PAR program, refuses to disclose how many teachers are in its program, claiming the statistic is "a personnel matter."

+ Rally Updates. A light snow reduced the turnout at the long-planned statehouse rally by the Pennsylvania State Education Association yesterday. PSEA had predicted a crowd of over 20,000, but Capitol police estimated the actual turnout at 5,000. But donít fret. The rally cycle continued today as members of Education Minnesota gathered in front of the state Capitol to protest the inadequacy of Gov. Jesse Venturaís education budget.

+ California Staff Union Wonít Take No for an Answer. Last December, EIA reported that the California Staff Organization, the staff union for professional employees of the California Teachers Association, asked its members to approve a dues increase from 1.4 percent of salary to 1.6 percent. The membership rejected the increase by a margin of 78 to 67. To place the increase in context, the average CTA professional employee makes about $90,000 annually, so the proposed increase would mean a dues hike from about $1,260 a year to about $1,440. Undeterred by the vote, CSO will again place the increase before its members, citing financial difficulties. The staff union claims to be spending $31,000 per month, while taking in about $26,000 per month in dues. CSO will enter contract negotiations with CTA beginning next month.

+ Trademark Battle Could Have EIEIO All Shook Up. The Education Intelligence Extra Income Organization (EIEIO), EIAís staff union, is readying itself for a battle with another group of workers for the rights to the EIEIO trademark. A report out of Livonia, Michigan, last week confirmed that Elvis impersonators were seriously discussing forming a union. EIEIO sources in attendance claim their top choice for a name was the Elvis Impersonators and Entertainers International Organization. A letter was sent to the Elvi, warning them of possible copyright infringement, but EIEIO President Mike Antonucci claims it was ignored. "I put in the mailbox. I sent it Special D," he said. "Bright and early next morning, it came right back to me." Asked if EIEIO was overeacting, Antonucci admitted, "My friends say Iím acting wild as a bug," but he warned the Elvi, "Itís now or never."

+ Quote of the Week #1. "One of my main concerns is that teachers are told what to teach, when to teach and how to teach. They are treated almost like assembly-line workers." -- California Teachers Association President Wayne Johnson. (Education Beat, February 23)

+ Quote of the Week #2. "I have 18 children in my class, but next year Iím going to have 24 or 25. When we went to school, having 25 children in a class might have been OK. But times have changed." -- Pennsylvania third-grade teacher Andrea Lorio, arguing for class size reduction. (Philadelphia Inquirer, March 5)

 

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