1) Will Denver Teachers Vote with
Their Feet on Performance Pay? Members of the
Denver Classroom Teachers Association (DCTA) approved a plan to eventually
replace the traditional salary schedule with one that pays teachers for
performance, including the scores of their students on standardized tests.
The affirmative vote came after a
four-year pilot project, and will not go into effect unless Denver voters
approve a $25 million property tax hike to pay for it in November 2005. The
DCTA leadership supported the plan, despite the fact that NEA’s national
policy, adopted in 2000, declares performance pay systems to be
NEA’s stance didn’t deter DCTA. “I don’t
open my NEA book every morning to see what I can and cannot do,” said DCTA
President Becky Wissink.
Whether the plan succeeds or fails may
depend less on the plan itself and more on its method of adoption. There are
approximately 4,500 teachers in Denver, but only 3,200 who belong to the
union. Only union members were allowed to vote. Of those 3,200, only 2,718
cast a ballot. Of those votes, only 59 percent endorsed the plan. So, about
1,600 teachers thought well enough of the idea to vote for it. The rest
didn’t, or didn’t get the chance to say.
In addition, current teachers will have
until the 2012-13 school year to switch from the current system to the new
one. New hires will be automatically placed on the performance pay schedule.
So, some of those “yes” votes were made by teachers who will retire (or
move, or switch careers) without having to work under the new schedule.
This changes the whole dynamic. By
having teachers in 2004 vote on a plan that will not apply to everyone until
2012, the Denver performance pay plan is now an experiment in recruitment
and retention. What kinds of teachers will now apply for jobs in Denver?
Which teachers will remain in the district and which will transfer to a
district with a traditional salary schedule? Which teachers in other
districts will want to transfer in?
Should the voters approve the funding
for the plan, many will be watching and analyzing student achievement in
Denver for years to come. But equally interesting will be the effect of an
available performance pay school district on the teacher labor market and,
by extension, the effect on DCTA membership. Since Denver teachers are not
compelled to join the union, will teachers drawn to performance pay be more
union-friendly, or less? The ripple effects will be worth watching.
2) Illinois Education Association
Approves Budget Cuts, $39 Dues Hike. Delegates to
the Illinois Education Association (IEA) representative assembly approved a
budget for 2004-05 that includes a $39 dues hike, hiring cuts, freezes and
delays, the cancellation of the union’s Summer Leadership Academy, a
reduction in the number of meetings of the board of directors, and the
elimination of three issues of the union newsletter.
The above measures were taken in
response to continued concerns about IEA’s expenditures on staff retirement
3) Comeback for New Unionism?
The Learning Cooperative is a group created by past and present officials of
the Pinellas Classroom Teachers Association (PCTA) in Florida. PCTA has long
been involved in the teacher union reform movement and was one of the early
supporters of “new unionism,” the principles associated with former NEA
President Bob Chase and his National Press Club speech in February 1997. In
their most recent newsletter, Learning Cooperative editors Rob McMahon and
Doug Tuthill suggest that new unionism may be making a comeback.
“While Bob’s speech excited NEA members
around the country and generated lots of buzz in the national media,” wrote
McMahon and Tuthill, “New Unionism bogged down in the execution stage.
Public education is a massive enterprise, and making even small improvements
is daunting. After a few years of speeches, discussions, articles,
workshops, and initiatives, New Unionism faded from the limelight, but the
Phoenix may be rising from the ashes.”
McMahon and Tuthill draw their
conclusion from a February 5 memo from NEA President Reg Weaver and
Executive Director John Wilson describing the union’s recent systems
planning retreat (mentioned in the March 1 EIA Communiqué). Among
other things, Weaver and Wilson wrote that NEA “must find the right
organizational and strategic approach to meet the challenges before us.”
McMahon and Tuthill suggest if NEA were bold, it could involve itself in
hiring, placement, charter school management, support to home school
instructors, and membership services for private school teachers.
If history is any guide, EIA’s union
subscribers will have sharply different opinions on this subject. I would
like to hear them. If you reply, I would like you to specifically address
your perception of NEA’s current direction: Is it toward new unionism or
away from it? If I get enough responses, I will publish some of them in a
4) Michigan Education Association
Lawsuit Dismissed. The Michigan Court of Appeals
dismissed a Michigan Education Association (MEA) lawsuit against the
Mackinac Center for Public Policy. The MEA complaint arose from a Mackinac
fundraising letter that quoted MEA President Lu Battaglieri as saying in
2001, referring to Mackinac, “… quite frankly, I admire what they’ve done
over the last couple of years...”
Battaglieri did not dispute the accuracy
of the quote, but claimed Mackinac had “misappropriated” his name for
commercial purposes. The court concluded that Mackinac’s letter “falls
squarely within the protection of the First Amendment for discourse on
matters of public interest.”
In light of this decision, EIA feels
free to finally publish another Battaglieri quote, also made in 2001:
“You’re nobody in NEA until you’re mentioned in the EIA Communiqué.”
5) Maryland Union Pays for
Contracting Out. Edward Fortney filed a complaint
with the National Labor Relations Board, claiming his employer classified
him as an independent contractor in order to avoid paying him benefits
afforded to employees. He also claims his employer resisted his efforts to
join the union, and actually fired him last month when the IRS ruled another
independent contractor in similar circumstances should be classified as an
A minor brouhaha, except Fortney’s
employer was the Maryland State Teachers Association (MSTA), who had hired
him as a labor organizer. “What I want is accountability,” Fortney told
The Daily Times. “MSTA management is not held accountable for anything.
They need to start practicing what they preach.”
MSTA officials denied Fortney’s charges,
saying they have no control over who is eligible for staff union membership.
Citing personnel policies, MSTA would not comment on why Fortney was fired.
6) Story Updates.
Here are the latest developments in three stories recently
covered by EIA:
* Boston settlement. Controversy
over a proposed illegal strike by the Boston Teachers Union was rendered
moot when the union and the district agreed on a three-year contract that
provides about a 10 percent pay raise over three years. The average Boston
teacher currently makes about $62,000 annually.
* Cleveland election. Members of
the Cleveland Teachers Union (CTU) chose Joanne Demarco as their next
president by more than a 2-to-1 margin over Jan Brundage, who had been
endorsed by Richard DeColibus, the current CTU president.
* Pennsylvania staff agreement.
The Pennsylvania State Education Association reached a tentative agreement
with its staff union after long and bitter negotiations. Details are as yet
7) Interesting Union Rule.
The Western branch of the Writers Guild of America is in
the news because it had its second presidential resignation in two months.
Charles D. Holland resigned last week over allegations of résumé padding.
Holland assumed the presidency in January after Victoria Riskin resigned.
Riskin stepped down after an investigation determined she had been
ineligible to run for the office when elected in September 2003.
Her ineligibility was caused by her
failure to write enough to keep her membership current. Imagine that. A
union president was bounced for failing to annually practice the profession
her union represents. A rule like this would wipe out most of the NEA and
AFT leadership overnight.
8) Worst Insinuation of the Week.
Secretary of Education Rod Paige is still taking a
beating over his comment, but we can only hope that the comments of Mary
Armstrong, general counsel for the California Commission on Teacher
Credentialing, were misreported or misconstrued.
The March 21 Los Angeles Times
contains a story by reporter Nancy Wride headlined “Warning Signs Didn’t
Save Teen,” about a high school student who was murdered by Pedro Tepoz-Leon,
one of her teachers, sometime after they became romantically involved. It’s
a sordid tale, but a key component is that the Tepoz-Leon (who committed
suicide after being convicted of first-degree murder) had pleaded guilty to
misdemeanor battery and corporal infliction of injury on a domestic partner
prior to being hired as a teacher’s aide in 1992. He dutifully disclosed the
incident on his application form, and again on his 1996 application to
become a teacher. Now the murder victim’s family is suing the Long Beach
Unified School District for hiring Tepoz-Leon in the first place.
In California, a felony conviction
prevents applicants from receiving a teaching credential, but those with
misdemeanors can still become teachers. The first scary proposition Wride
reported was that class size reduction was a factor in Tepoz-Leon’s hiring.
“Some involved in the case note he was hired when districts all over
California, trying to comply with a new state law, were scrambling to staff
classrooms with one teacher for every 20 students,” Wride wrote.
Wride next went to Armstrong for her
opinion. “I’ve been asked about this case many times,” Armstrong said, “and
I don’t know that you can fashion a law that would have prevented this,
unless you are going to outlaw anyone with a domestic violence conviction of
any type from becoming a teacher. There are hundreds of thousands of people
in this state with those convictions, and anytime you try zero tolerance,
you immediately have people wanting exceptions.”
Wride, referring to Armstrong, then
wrote: “And, she added, there might not be enough people to teach children
if the state adopted a zero-tolerance approach.”
Since Wride did not quote Armstrong
directly, it’s impossible to know what she actually said. But the
implication is that the commission cannot find enough applicants with clean
records and is somehow forced to issue credentials to wife-beaters and other
convicted criminals in order to fill the state’s classrooms. Outrageous.
9) Quote of the Week.
“Broad gave money to certain school board candidates whom we opposed. He
butted into our school board race.” – San Diego Education Association
President Terry Pesta, speaking about Eli Broad, the chairman of SunAmerica
Inc., whose foundation has funded charter schools and provided awards for
high student achievement in urban schools. Broad has also contributed to the
campaigns of school board candidates in southern California. Broad’s
motives, and those of others, are called into question in a lengthy article
titled “Is it philanthropy? Or corporate meddling?” in the March 2004 issue
of California Educator, the organ of the California Teachers
article, nor Mr. Pesta, mentioned that the Broad Foundation also funds the
Teacher Union Reform Network (TURN), a coalition of NEA and AFT locals
dedicated to creating new models of labor-management relations in public
education. TURN’s membership includes five CTA locals, including the San
Diego Education Association.