+ Another NEA State Executive Director
Delivers Body Blow. It has been more than four years since The Kamber
Group issued its report on NEAís external communications entitled "An
Institution At Risk." The study concluded that NEA did not have a credible
voice in the education reform debate, and that if the union were to survive
it would have revamp its image.
In November 1998, the Kentucky Education
Association approved a reorganization of the union based on the findings of
an internal report written by 18 KEA officers that concluded: "The
handwriting is on the wall, and we cannot ignore the overwhelming evidence
that KEA is at risk as an organization." The committee reported few members
had contact with the union. "The current perception of KEA is that we are an
organization far removed from the rank-and-file membership," the committee
found. "Some perceive that a few elite, power-hungry leaders and management
personnel sit in Frankfort in ivory towers making all the decisions. We are
seen as uncaring toward the real problems of real teachers in real
classrooms. Leaders and staff alike are seen as self-serving, disrespectful
to one another, jealous, and sometimes resentful of one another."
As reported by EIA last month, retiring Ohio Education Association
Executive Director Robert Barkley issued his personal warning in December
while delivering his farewell speech. "However, one thing I am sure of is
that we are not truly listening to all of our members," Barkley said. "All
the Association feedback we have to review - both nationally and in Ohio,
supports this conclusion. In particular, we are not listening to our newer
and younger members. Itís time for me to be more specific. I know that all
my suggestions are not perfect. They are my best thinking today. What would
we really do differently if we really did listen to our members? First, we
would very rarely, if ever again, give a cent to a politician or a political
The newest passenger on the Straight Talk Express is new Wyoming
Education Association Executive Director Jean Hayek. Hayek was hired after
completing her term as WEA president. She addressed the WEA Delegate
Assembly in Casper on April 7 and told the delegates of the need for the
union to change its culture to fit the needs of the new members. "If thereís
to be an NEA in the future, fundamental changes have to take place,"
Hayek then described common characteristics of Generation X and teachers
new to the profession, including, "They have faith in American institutions
-- except for government and unions." When describing their views on
education issues, Hayek, Wyoming-style, warned the delegates to "take a deep
seat and a short rein, `cause this oneís gonna buck!" She then went on to
tell them that new members "approve of innovative compensation systems that
encourage and reinforce their strengths and skills; merit pay is not
anathema to them;" believe that "testing teachers is okay;" and believe that
"qualifications and ability are more important than seniority."
But Hayek didnít stop there. "As to their view of unions, itís not very
flattering," she said, listing their beliefs:
"* They donít see them as relevant to their daily work life.
* They see them as divisive and only concerned with insignificant issues;
they canít tell their union is working for them.
* They view unions as being about protecting teachers, but not in the
best interest of children.
* They see unions as beneficial only when you are in trouble.
* And they see them as being about collective negative action."
Hayek explained to the delegates that if the union did not account for
the different perceptions of the new generation of teachers, member
recruitment would suffer and the NEA would be irreparably harmed. "If we
donít harken to this clarion call and dramatically change our culture, we
will indeed slowly starve to death while looking in the same old places for
our cheese," she said.
+ Exodus of New York City Teachers to Suburbs? The New York Times
reported the results of a New York City Board of Education study that
revealed 1,679 New York City teachers left their jobs to take teaching
positions in other districts, a fourfold increase from four years ago. The
findings bolstered the teachersí unionís arguments that higher salaries are
needed in the city. Before the panic sets in, the study fails to place that
number in context: 1) New York City employs about 80,000 teachers, meaning
the "exodus" for higher-paying jobs elsewhere is about 2 percent of the
total; 2) the study fails to provide any number for teachers the city has
hired from other districts -- that is, there is no figure for the net
loss, if any, of teachers to other districts; and 3) most of the total of
6,700 teachers lost to the district last year was due to retirement,
suggesting, contrary to the conventional wisdom, that the overwhelming
majority of New York City teachers are pretty happy where they are.
+ Performance Pay Showdown Looming in Wisconsin... We all know what
happened when supporters and opponents of performance pay met at the NEA
convention last year. That conflagration will easily be matched by the
flames ignited at the open hearing of the Wisconsin Education Association
Council Resolutions Committee on April 27 in Green Bay. Traditional
unionists will attend to express their opinions on a proposed amendment to
resolution C-36, which eliminates WEACís straightforward opposition to
performance pay and substitutes the following language: "The Council
believes that merit pay schedules and those that rely on student testing
and/or other assessment mechanisms, foster or encourage competition for
resources or standing among colleagues, or negatively impact the expected
growth of current compensation structures are unacceptable. The council
supports and endorses performance-based compensation systems based on
education employeesí acquisition of skills and knowledge."
Those of us who donít belong to teachersí unions can be forgiven for
thinking this language fails to move toward performance pay, but many WEAC
members and officials will think differently. Delegates from Madison, Racine
and Green Bay are expected to fight this one tooth-and-nail.
+ ...While St. Paul Wonders What Went Wrong. The St. Paul Pioneer
Press reported the results of the first two years of the districtís
performance pay schedule. Teachers who fail to complete "improvement plans"
after being notified of deficiencies do not receive their expected step
increase for seniority. Last year, 10 of about 3,700 teachers were given
improvement plans. Four chose to quit and the other six successfully
completed the program and received their raise. This year, eight teachers
are on improvement plans. "This is not where I would expect it to be," said
school board vice chairman Al Oertwig.
+ Waxing Philosophical in Hawaii. NEA President Bob Chase is in
Hawaii today to address business leaders and picketing teachers. Perhaps he
will single out for praise the courageous souls who filled all the keyholes
at Maili Elementary School with wax.
+ Forced Busing. The three executive officers of the California
Teachers Association will spend a large portion of this week on a bus,
riding from San Diego to Sacramento, making stops at "Californiaís schools
of greatest need," along with whatever reporters can be roped in. "New
research commissioned by CTA clearly shows that the lowest-scoring schools
face obstacles that higher-scoring schools do not," said CTA President Wayne
Johnson. EIA expects CTAís bus will bypass the union-run Kwachiiyoa Charter
School, which has some of the lowest scores in the state.
+ Military Conspiracy? Elements within NEA and AFT believe their
ideological opponents are part of a vast conspiracy engineered primarily by
corporate bigwigs through conservative foundations. But anecdotal evidence
suggests the source of union trouble may lie within a shadowy cadre of the
military officer corps, in place since the early 1980s, especially among Air
Force navigators. Last week, U.S. Rep. Van Hilleary of Tennessee, expected
to run for governor next year, laid out his education program. Among other
things, Hilleary revealed his plans for the Tennessee Education Association
(TEA). "The TEA at its essence is a labor union that doesnít want its
members accountable. We may have to go out and beat some legislators because
they are in the TEAís pocket," he said. Not well known is the subtle clue
that Hilleary was a member of U.S. Air Force Undergraduate Navigator
Training Class 83-14, a class that also produced the evil mastermind of the
anti-NEA conspiracy: Education Intelligence Agency Director Mike Antonucci.
+ Patiently Awaiting the Next Earthquake. While the San Francisco
school board devotes itself exclusively to the revocation of the charter of
Edison Schools, Inc., auditors from the Arthur Anderson accounting firm
found the district had used $30 million in school construction bond money to
pay for salaries and overhead, could account of only half of $30 million in
bond money received since 1996, purchased three properties without being
able to demonstrate a need for them, awarded contracts through verbal
agreements, failed to install windows at Hillcrest Elementary School, and
spent $250,000 to bulldoze a vacant lot it did not own.
The Anderson report attributed most of the districtís problems to "lack
of leadership, of skilled employees, of planning, of experience, of
communication and of oversight." The districtís response? Well, it gave 87
district administrators a retroactive 8 percent salary increase, bringing
about one-third of them over the $100,000 a year mark. Raises were dished
out to administrators who had previously been reassigned for mismanagement
of public funds. "[Superintendent Arlene Ackerman] says raises are needed to
attract quality people. So why give raises to those already running a lousy
system?" asked San Francisco Chronicle columnist Rob Morse.
+ Quote of the Week. "[In San Francisco] you can lie and cheat and
steal... and we donít ask you about those things. We accept you as you are."
-- San Francisco Mayor Willie Brown, addressing a group of convention
planners in Washington DC. (San Francisco Chronicle, April 13)