1) NEA Portal Stalled Until Fall.
OWL.org, the NEA portal originally slated for a Fall 2001 launch, has been
delayed until Fall 2002. Even this unveiling is being described as
"limited," though the union continues to sign on content providers.
forays into cyberspace are described in great detail in the April 2002
Journal of Labor Research. In an article titled "The school of hard
cyber knocks: NEA’s experience," authors Sam Pizzigati, Barbara Yentzer and
Ronald D. Henderson, all NEA staffers, tell us that the "technology choices
the Association makes, many NEA leaders and staff have indeed come to
believe, will determine NEA’s future." They believe that cyberspace
interaction can "help a union deepen and broaden contact with members and
the public, increase the value members perceive in membership, and realize
important organization efficiencies."
Those are hardly controversial conclusions, but it’s clear that even now
NEA fails to grasp the power of the Internet and what it will mean to the
union’s future. Pizzigati, Yentzer and Henderson do seem to understand the
interactive nature of cyberspace, as they encourage unions to allow members
to create content and engage in lateral communication, as NEA does with its
successful Works4Me listserv. But unions that want to effectively utilize
the medium have an inherent dilemma -- one which the authors come so close
to articulating but just miss.
"To become indispensable to members’ daily lives, the Association had to
speak to members as individuals," they write. "Unions traditionally see
information as something that is generated by the union and then distributed
to members," they add. Even more to the point, Pizzigati, Yentzer and
Henderson conclude: "With modern cyber software, in short, content creation
can be decentralized and democratized. Members can be empowered. But first,
of course, members need to be trusted. A top-down union, comfortable with
command-and-control internal information-sharing processes, might be
unnerved by this prospect. A top-down union, uncomfortable with anything but
command-and-control, will likely never succeed in cyberspace." They even
credit cyberspace for energizing the anti-merger forces in 1998.
As they totter on the precipice of a real epiphany, the authors falter.
The obvious next step is to ask what will happen to the union when members
are treated like individuals, and when information is decentralized and
democratized. The authors, wildly optimistic about cyberspace, can come up
with no better application of the medium’s potential than to gather personal
information from members, mobilize them for political action, and
"potentially turbocharge the New Unionism."
Sigh. All NEA can think about is how cyberspace will help it get members
to do something. Completely unexamined (perhaps even unimagined) is what if
cyberspace helps members to get NEA to do something? What if members share
internal information not previously filtered through the communications
staff? What if they decide to support or reject legislation not included in
the union’s legislative program? What if they become unhappy meeting once a
year in a group of 9,000 and would prefer a different arrangement? A
membership truly engaged in NEA’s workings might make it a stronger union,
but it would be a fundamentally different union than the one that exists
now, and in ways utterly unpredictable to those who hope to harness that
Will the NEA portal revolutionize the union? Pizzigati, Yentzer and
Henderson recount the union’s cyberspace history and the signs are not
hopeful. The original NEA bulletin board service cost the union lots of
money for little organizational return. NEA then moved on to NEA Online, a
partnership with the then-fledgling America OnLine, which cost the union
lots of money with little organizational return. Next came the NEA web-site
which, according to a March 2000 survey, only 21 percent of members have
ever visited, usually just once or twice. State affiliates showed similar
results with their sites.
NEA has invested heavily in the portal, and is investing heavily in other
cyber-ventures, such as its new partnership with Teachscape. But its focus,
as EIA described in its July 1999 report Strange Places: Inside the 1999
National Education Association Representative Assembly, "will be to use
state-of-the-art technology in pursuit of old-fashioned objectives."
2) NEA Releases Annual Ranking and Estimates. Each year, NEA
publishes its rankings of the states in various statistical categories, most
prominently average teacher salaries. You will read a lot of conventional
analysis of these numbers and heaven knows EIA never wants to be
conventional. The NEA spin on its numbers is that teacher salaries are
"stagnant" and have been for 10 years, "barely keeping up with inflation."
Fine, they’re entitled to highlight whatever findings they have. What they
won’t tell you, however, is why the average teacher salary will remain
stagnant for a while yet -- and it isn’t due to taxpayer stinginess.
The first and most important factor that will depress the average teacher
salary is the average teacher. As a larger and larger percentage of current
teachers retire, they will be replaced by new, younger teachers. New
teachers make less than older teachers, a tradition cemented into place by
the traditional salary schedule, staunchly defended by the NEA. The average
teacher of this decade will have less experience than the average teacher of
the 1990s, and thus will have a lower average salary, all other factors
The second, more indirect factor is the trend in teacher hiring. Last
August, upon the release of the U.S. Department of Education’s
Projections of Education Statistics to 2011, EIA noted the rather
curious prediction that by 2011 we will have about 100,000 more students in
K-12 schools than we do now -- but we will have 350,000 more K-12 teachers.
Some of this is due to class-size reduction, another aspect of public
education staunchly defended by NEA, and some is due to districts trying to
get in front of a looming teacher shortage, yet another theme defended by
NEA’s own numbers show student enrollment growing at 0.7 percent for
2000, and an estimated 1.0 percent for 2001 (enrollment is down in 23 states
and DC). Indeed, student enrollment has grown by a total of 14 percent over
the last 10 years, yet the number of classroom teachers has grown by 22.8
percent over that same period. According to NEA, the number of classroom
teachers will grow by 2.1 percent in 2001. Hiring additional teachers at the
low end of the salary scale further depresses the average teacher salary.
Finally, states with lots of teachers tend to have higher salaries. Five
of the top 10 states in the number of teachers are also in the top 10 in
salaries. Two more are in the top 20. This explains why only 13 states have
teacher salaries above the national average.
3) Opposition to AB 2160 Gets Organized. The commentary in opposition
to AB 2160, the bill dreamed up by Wayne Johnson and the California Teachers
Association to expand the scope of collective bargaining, keeps coming in
waves. But now, for the first time, we are seeing the extent of the
Californians for Public School Accountability, a coalition of taxpayer,
business, school administration and school superintendent groups, has
established a web-site (http://www.AccountabilityNow.org) to battle the CTA
legislation. There have been ad hoc coalitions formed in the past to fight
legislation -- to unionize charter schools, for example -- but this is the
first time a formal organization has been built to defeat a single bill.
The Long Beach Press Telegram and the Stockton Record
joined the long parade of newspapers opposed to the bill. Such unanimity is
rare in California, but absolutely unique is the number of newspapers
running second and third editorials in opposition to the bill, which is
scheduled to be heard on Wednesday, April 17 in the Assembly Public
Employees, Retirement, and Social Security Committee.
Daniel Weintraub of the Sacramento Bee interviewed all five
Democrats on the seven-member committee. One, Virginia Strom-Martin, is the
bill’s co-author. The other four seemed jittery about it. Even the very
liberal Carole Migden of San Francisco called the bill an "aggressive act"
and "incendiary." But she might vote for it anyway.
Yesterday, the San Diego Union-Tribune called the bill "a
turbocharged monstrosity," "an attempted coup" and "one of the most
pernicious education proposals ever concocted by the California Teachers
Association." Such language is not limited to the California papers. The
bill is now starting to get national attention. Today’s Wall Street
Journal called it "a grubby union power play masquerading as concern for
academics." But the best line went to Michael Lynch of Reason
magazine, who wrote: "The proposal seems so over the top that it has the
whiff of a hoax." Sorry, Michael, in Wayne’s World all things are possible
4) Merger Lessons Failed to Cross Atlantic. The following is
excerpted from the April 4 issue of The Guardian of London:
"The second largest classroom teaching union was yesterday forced back to
the drawing board over its merger plans, after its new general secretary was
strongly criticised by members for failing to consult them properly over the
"In a humiliating rebuke to the leadership of the National Association of
Schoolmasters Union of Women Teachers, an emergency motion debated in
private session at its annual conference in Scarborough was overwhelmingly
passed, effectively putting the plans on hold.
"The motion deplored the way the union’s national executive appeared to
be rushing through the proposals without proper consultation with the wider
membership or debate at conference.... The motion was brought by teachers
David Jones of Walsall and Carole Dellaway of Thanet, who said they were not
opposed to the merger itself, but to the way the proposals were being
‘railroaded’ through without debate."
5) Other Officers Declare for NEA Secretary-Treasurer Race. Three
other candidates have joined NEA Executive Committee member Lily Eskelsen of
Utah in declaring for the soon-to-be-open office of NEA Secretary-Treasurer.
Current Secretary-Treasurer Dennis Van Roekel is running unopposed for NEA
vice president. Current NEA Executive Committee member Dan Sakota of Idaho,
former NEA Executive Committee member Roger Sharp of Indiana, and former
Washington Education Association President Lee Ann Prielipp will contend for
the seat, which will be worth just under $300,000 annually in salary,
allowances and benefits.
6) Quotes of the Week. "Ok as if right now i am a sophmore in high
school. I attened the high school that this book was written about and i
know alot of the people mentioned and others who graduated that year. I
think that alothough the book focused on the certain kids to much and some
of the teachers too much its basically a good true to life diary of what
went on. She was trust worthy so most students felt like they could talkto
her so she knew what was going on. Kids really do drugs, get pregent, get
aressted, fight with parents and each other and and talk about our teachers
and i don’t think that should shock any one. Though when it came out in my
town people freaked. So of course with all the adults mad about it every
teen went out to buy the book. What i read was noithing surpring or out
rageouse (and i was disspapointed with all the uproar about it i figured it
must be scandilouse.) in fact i though she went easy on letting a lot of the
stuff that goes on be left out of the book. All in all if your not toatlly
out of touch with teenagers today this book won’t be anything surpring about
teens. And if you live in our around pl is a funny read!"
"While this book talked about, and delt with reaserch regarding a very
serious topic, the reserch was done very atrociously. For some one that is a
so called jourelist, she did not only not dig deeper to find the facts, but
told bold face lies about individuals. If the book was to be a work of
fiction, and called as such, than it should not include real people with the
story. There are many people with in this book who could not only have there
lifes ruined by lies (or mis-interpritation, telling what Mrs. Burkett
wanted to tell, not what was the truth) but who could also sue the author
for libel, slander, and nemerous other ‘crimes.’ I would only hope that on
the aftermath none of the individuals written with in the book, nor the
writer, were to have to suffer any negative consiquenses as a result of
horrible journalism. It would be best if the rest of the world, including
those written in the book, would just ignore it and forget about it." -- two
of what I sincerely hope are hoax reviews by Prior Lake High School students
of Another Planet by Elinor Burkett, posted on the Amazon.com