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October 7, 2002
1) How Republicans Get Teacher Union Endorsements. EIA has been fielding a lot of inquiries about teacher union endorsements, mostly concerning the question of how bipartisan they really are. At the national level, the record speaks for itself: endorsements and PAC spending overwhelmingly favor Democrats. At the state level, more Republicans are endorsed, but Democrats are still disproportionately favored when the make-up of the electorate is considered (ref. Wyoming, Idaho, Utah).

So when a teachers’ union endorses a Republican in a major race, or at least fails to endorse a Democrat, it is newsworthy. The unions themselves claim otherwise, cleaving adamantly to the focus-group-tested, talking-point-sanctioned line that they choose candidates not according to party, but according to their pro-public education track records. Since this topic arises so often, I thought it prudent to simply list the four circumstances under which a teachers’ union will endorse and/or financially support a Republican running for major office. To begin with, it will much more often do the former than the latter. Most Republican candidates don’t expect (or, in some cases, want) active union campaign support. Just keeping them out of the other camp, with the ability to claim "endorsed by teachers" in campaign ads, is good enough.

* Safe Incumbent. A seated Republican without a viable Democratic opponent or in a safe GOP district will merit an endorsement consideration. But safety isn’t sufficient. The Republican would also have to be ideologically acceptable. Examples here would be U.S. Rep. Constance Morella of Maryland or Sen. Arlen Specter of Pennsylvania.

* Prohibitive Favorite. Sometimes the union would like to endorse the Democrat, but just doesn’t want to go down with the ship. The Nevada State Education Association endorsed Republican Gov. Kenny Guinn for re-election, even though his Democratic opponent, state Sen. Joe Neal, has received NSEA endorsements and campaign money in the past.

* GOP Primary. Most union endorsements and funding to the GOP come during the primaries, when Republicans are running against other Republicans. In virtually every case, the union is seeking to stop a more conservative candidate from winning his or her party’s nomination. In New Jersey, union officials went so far as to suggest members register Republican for the primary in order to vote against voucher proponent Bret Schundler, then re-register Democrat for the general election.

* Nefarious Plot? The New York newspapers are full of the news that the United Federation of Teachers, the union representing New York City educators, endorsed Republican Gov. George Pataki for re-election. In fact, the formal vote won’t be taken until Wednesday night, but outraged New York Democrats are already in motion. One ad hoc group will be holding a vigil outside the UFT meeting on Wednesday, hoping to pressure delegates into a vote to remain neutral. "It could only happen because some deal was made," said Carl McCall, the Democratic gubernatorial nominee. So many people are using the phrase "quid pro quo" you would think Cicero and Suetonius were in town. The problem with nefarious plots is that first you have to separate the real plots from the sour grapes. Then you need to find a smoking gun in a smoke-filled back room. That’s a lot of smoke.

The final way a Republican can benefit is simply for the union to sit on its hands. The Hawaii State Teachers Association (HSTA) endorsed Democrat Ben Cayetano for governor in 1994. He won easily, but teacher contract negotiations went badly and the state went to the brink of a strike in February 1997. When Cayetano ran for re-election in 1998, the union endorsed him again amid substantial controversy. A sizable portion (some claim a majority) of the membership favored GOP challenger Linda Lingle in that election. Cayetano squeaked out a victory, but another round of bad contract negotiations led to a three-week strike last year.

Cayetano is term-limited out, so this year Lingle faces Lt. Gov. Mazie Hirono. HSTA had a pair of problems. First, the pro-Lingle crowd among the membership is probably even stronger this election. Second, Hirono didn’t announce for governor until May, missing the deadline for the union’s endorsement process. Bending the rules to ram though a Hirono endorsement might have sparked a mutiny, so the union will endorse no one.

I know of only one exception to these rules. In 1998, the Illinois Education Association endorsed Republican candidate George Ryan against Democrat Glenn Poshard. It was a close race, which Ryan won. Ryan labored under an ethical cloud for most of his term and decided not to run for reelection. This year, IEA reverted to form and endorsed Democrat Rod Blagojevich.

2) Defense Department Schools Study Wastes Money to Save Money. EIA is devoted to the principle of limited government, especially the federal government. EIA rarely finds itself in agreement with NEA affiliates, especially when the issue concerns reducing the role of the federal government. Nevertheless, EIA finds itself aligned on just such an issue with the Federal Education Association, the NEA affiliate that represents education employees of the Department of Defense (DoD) schools.

For those unfamiliar with the system, the Department of Defense runs schools overseas for the dependents of U.S. military personnel and civilian DoD employees. The department also runs some 58 schools for 32,000 students of military parents in the United States. Congress has mandated a DoD study to determine the fiscal benefits of closing the stateside schools and sending the students to local public schools.

The $1.15 million research contract was awarded to the Donahue Institute, associated with the University of Massachusetts. A second study, at a cost of $450,000, will determine how much it will cost to bring the DoD school facilities into compliance with federal, state and local building regulations for use as public schools by the local district.

As a general rule, the feds should not perform a task better suited to state and local governments. In some Southern states, there might even be a cost benefit to letting local school districts handle the job. What’s missing from a such an analysis, however, is the fact that students in DoD schools, especially poor and minority students, significantly outperform their peers. Shouldn’t results count for something?

The Federal Education Association and the National Military Family Association are already asking researchers to include measures of quality in their analysis. EIA believes the $1.6 million would be better spent replicating the DoD school environment in the local public schools, instead of the other way around.

3) Las Vegas Union Wins Election Delay. The NEA-affiliated Education Support Employees Association (ESEA), whose members are school support workers in Clark County, Nevada, won a delay in a representation election against the Teamsters by filing a challenge in a Carson City district court. The judge ordered an emergency stay of the election until the case could be heard in Clark County itself. Although ESEA claimed the labor commission exceeded its authority, the challenge was widely seen as a delaying tactic to allow ESEA time to organize its efforts for an election that even some ESEA officials are calling inevitable. Expect ESEA to stall for a vote to take place only after Election Day, when a larger number of NEA’s UniServ directors will be available for redeployment to Clark County.

4) Maple Heights "Scab List" Dangerous to Both Sides. The more than 250 members of the Maple Heights Teachers Association (MHTA) in Ohio have been on strike for three weeks. The major issues are pay and seniority. There is a lot of bad blood between the union and the district, and the strike has brought many old simmering resentments boiling to the surface. In such a climate, one is tempted to do things one might regret later, and MHTA is engaged in an activity that promises nothing but nasty results for everyone involved.

MHTA has posted a "scab list" on its web site, disclosing the names of some 70 teachers who have crossed the MHTA picket line and reported for work. Some of these may be dissenting MHTA members while most are substitutes hired by the district for the duration of the strike. While the union has the right to utilize all lawful means to seek redress of its grievances, posting the names of these teachers on the Internet can only serve as a threat or intimidation.

The danger to these individuals is real and obvious. But the liability dangers to the union are equally real and obvious. As police officers, investigators, journalists and campaign consultants have learned time and time again, if you are going to publicly accuse someone of something, you better make damn sure you have the right person, the right name, and enough detail to ensure no chance of mistaken identity. At best, MHTA’s scab list is a lawsuit waiting to happen.

5) New EIA Report Provides Links to State Campaign Finance Documents. The Education Intelligence Agency’s latest report, Thy Voice In My Behalf: Teacher Union Political Spending, provides a benefit that goes far beyond its examination of union PAC direct contributions and soft money spending. For each state that has one, the report provides a web address for its Internet database of campaign finance documents. If your interests extend to governor’s races and state legislative contests, EIA’s report enables you to learn who’s spending how much on whom.

The study is available as an Adobe Acrobat file (*.pdf) on the EIA web site. Go to the Reports page at http://www.eiaonline.com to view or download for printing. I will also e-mail the report as an Acrobat attachment upon request.

6) Publication Note. The next EIA Communiqué will appear Tuesday, October 15. Happy Columbus Day.

7) Quote of the Week. "They keep trying to make us look like Jimmy Hoffa and company. We are just a bunch of middle-aged women." -- Florida Education Association President Maureen Dinnen in the October 4 Orlando Sentinel. For a more accurate assessment of the union’s activities in Florida, read this profile of the United Teachers of Dade President Pat Tornillo by reporter Charles Savage in the October 6 Miami Herald. (http://www.miami.com/mld/miami/4214582.htm)

 

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