1) Enrollment Figures Spell Big
Trouble for Education Labor. “Demographics is
destiny” is a saying often repeated by population experts to explain why
certain societal events and pressures are inevitable. If that is true, then
destiny is not looking too promising for the school employee labor market
and the unions that depend on it.
The U.S. Department of Education’s
National Center for Education Statistics (NCES) regularly reviews enrollment
figures, comparing past years with expectations for the future. Its most
recent report shows clearly that the fat years of teacher employment are
over, and the lean years may last much longer than anyone has previously
NCES compared the period 1988-2001 with
its projections for 2001-2013. The differences are stark. While public
school enrollment increased 19 percent between 1988 and 2001, it is expected
to grow only 4 percent between 2001 and 2013. During the period 1988-2001,
the number of public school teachers grew by an astonishing 29 percent. The
forecast for 2001-2013 is growth of only 5 percent – or less than 0.4
Regional enrollment forecasts are even
more intriguing. All of the states that will have enrollment growth of 12
percent or more from 2001-2013 will be west of the Rockies. Among the 19
states that will experience a loss in enrollment during that same time are
West Virginia, Kentucky, New York, Vermont, Ohio, Connecticut, Massachusetts
The final bit of news is that private
school enrollment, which at 18 percent just about kept pace with public
school enrollment from 1998-2001, is expected to grow at a 7 percent rate
from 2001-2013, exceeding that of public school enrollment.
Projections of Education Statistics
to 2013 is available on the NCES web site at
2) Iowa NEA President Voted Out;
Budget Problems a Factor? In a surprising upset,
Iowa State Education Association (ISEA) President John Hieronymus was
defeated in his bid for reelection by Linda Nelson, a member of the ISEA
executive board and former state legislator.
Hieronymus served four years as vice
president before ascending to the presidency in 2002. But the union’s
failure to generate new funding from the legislature, coupled with its own
financial woes, prompted members of the ISEA delegate assembly to elect
Nelson by a 53%-47% margin last weekend.
In a message to members, Hieronymus
stated, “I think Linda won the opportunity to serve as president because the
majority of delegates believe she will be able to use her legislative
background to get much-needed results.” However, Nelson herself implied that
the union’s internal troubles motivated her. “I believe John will say that
things are going fine, and keep the ship going in that direction. But I say,
we are not in fine shape. As school districts have had some financial
troubles, we have also had to cut back our staff,” she told the Daily
Nonpareil in Council Bluffs last month.
Tight budgets in other states are
prompting affiliates to take a hard look at the cost of meetings,
conferences and conventions. The Georgia Association of Educators will vote
on a measure that would allow the union’s board of directors to cancel one
of two annual representative assemblies during “years of budgetary
constraints.” In New York, the AFT-affiliated New York State United Teachers
will also study whether its annual convention should be held less often. And
NEA national headquarters sent out a memo asking staff and officers to
“cancel all meetings” between now and November so that the union remains
“focused on accomplishing our goals of electing a new President and adding
100,000 additional members.” NEA is cutting back in a number of areas due to
membership growth failing to meet budgeted expectations this year.
3) Oregon NEA and AFT Affiliates to
Seek Merger. The Oregon Education Association (OEA)
and AFT-Oregon may become the first teacher union state affiliates to merge
since 2000, if a proposal to begin the process is approved by union
representatives at meetings later this month.
State affiliate merger talks have taken
place in Pennsylvania, Texas, New York and Missouri, but they have all
failed to generate an actual framework for putting NEA and AFT state unions
together. The Oregon proposal will be the most serious effort since the
mergers in Florida and Montana in 2000. Minnesota is also home to a merged
The proposal calls upon the unions’
governing bodies to “form a joint Unity Committee to develop a merger
framework proposal to be presented and considered for approval or rejection
by the delegates at the 2005 assemblies of each organization.”
OEA is about seven times larger than
AFT-Oregon, whose only sizable local of classroom teachers is in Portland.
The rest of AFT’s membership in the state consists of classified staff,
community college employees, and nurses. In recent years, OEA has experience
significant membership losses and budget problems.
4) Florida Union to Raise Dues.
The Florida Education Association will be proposing a $7.50 dues increase
for the 2004-05 school year. The increase will be presented for approval at
the union’s delegate assembly next month.
5) Hess’s Admirable, but Quixotic,
Stroll Through the Minefield. If there exists a
thankless job in the field of education policy, it belongs to the poor soul
who seeks to traverse the minefield known as teacher pay. I myself have trod
through it many times in the past seven years, only to learn time and again
that any new insight you may uncover is hardly worth the danger of having
your foot blown off.
The climate around the issue does not
allow for nuance. The conventional wisdom proclaims you either believe
teachers are underpaid, or you don’t. If you belong to the first group, no
further documentation is required, though the teachers’ unions will be happy
to supply you with whatever material you desire. If you belong to the latter
group, you will at the very least be subjected to questions about your
motives, intelligence and sanity.
Boldly across this ground walks
Frederick M. Hess, director of educational policy studies at the American
Enterprise Institute. Hess wrote “Teacher Quality, Teacher Pay” for the
April issue of Policy Review (http://www.policyreview.org/apr04/hess.html).
The essay is the best one-stop reference for the notion that teachers are
not underpaid, covering all the relevant questions of work year, benefits,
comparable professions, absenteeism, self-reporting of hours, substitutes,
prep time, and the single salary schedule. It is an outstanding piece of
work – that will change nothing.
Both sides of the public education
bargaining table prefer the current structure. Despite many brutal fights
over the level of pay, imagine how much more brutal the fights would be if
they were over “what, exactly, are we paying/being paid for?” In all of
life’s endeavors, you should pay what is necessary to get the job done. Our
problem is not what we’re paying, but our inability to decide what “the job”
Hess’s essay deserves to be read by
everyone involved in this issue. But I’m glad it will be his in-box filling
up with mail, and not mine.
6) A Place Where the Teachers’ Union
Is a Terrorist Organization. In an effort to offer
the last word in the Paige-NEA-terrorist organization contretemps, EIA
provides this tale of a teachers’ union that actually is controlled by a
In the Gaza Strip, teachers of
Palestinian Arab refugee students are employed by the United Nations Relief
and Works Agency (UNRWA). These teachers have their own union, and its
executive council is controlled by supporters of the Islamic Resistance
Movement, better known as Hamas. These officers have a hand in developing
curriculum taught in the Gaza Strip, some of which was flagged by the U.S.
State Department as having “anti-Semitic characterizations and content.”
America’s teachers’ unions are
scrupulously well-behaved when compared to those in some other countries.
Last week, a protest rally in Pietermaritzburg, South Africa, organized by
the South African Democratic Teachers’ Union turned into a drunken march as
hundreds of teachers stopped at liquor stores along the way to the
provincial legislature building. “I doubt if some them were able to complete
the march, given their drunken state,” one shop owner said.
According to one account, the march was
intended “to highlight the sorry state of thousands of teachers in the
province.” Sounds like it succeeded.
7) Union Claims Smoking at School is
Workers’ Right. Hawaii Schools Superintendent Pat
Hamamoto has banned smoking on public school campuses, despite a claim by
the support employees’ union that smoking is protected by its collective
A 1994 federal law bans smoking in all
schools that receive federal money. Efforts to enact a ban in Hawaii have
run afoul of a state law that says public employee union contracts take
precedence over state regulations. The United Public Workers union claims a
smoking ban constitutes an illegal alteration of working conditions. An
opinion by the state attorney general concluded that union consent was not
necessary to enact the federal ban.
8) Quote of
“If it were up to me, I wouldn’t teach long division until high school.” –
Robert Hetzel, eighth-grade math teacher at O’Keefe Middle School in
Madison, Wisconsin. Hetzel is a supporter of the Connected Math Project, a
controversial curriculum that claims it teaches “far more than proficiency
with computation and symbol manipulation. It encompasses the ability to use
mathematical tools, resources, procedures, knowledge, and ways of thinking
to make sense of new situations.” Critics say the program eschews
fundamental math skills in favor of essay writing. (April 3 The Capital