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June 1, 2004

1)  More for Fewer: Fun Facts from NEA’s Rankings and Estimates. NEA released its latest edition of Rankings and Estimates (available in Acrobat format at http://www.nea.org/edstats/images/04rankings.pdf). Different readers will have different areas to examine in the 129-page report, but here are two noteworthy statistics and estimates EIA has computed from NEA’s numbers:

* School enrollment rose again this year, but only by an estimated 0.8 percent, beginning the predicted flattening-out of student population growth (elementary school enrollment growth was only 0.6 percent). Nevertheless, current expenditures for K-12 public education rose by an estimated 4.4 percent. America’s K-12 public schools taught an additional 393,511 students this year, but K-12 current spending grew an additional $16,675,175,000 – or $42,375.37 for each new student.

* In 2003-04, American public elementary schools taught 1,649,027 more pupils than they did in 1993-94. But there were 247,620 more elementary school classroom teachers in 2003-04 than there were in 1993-94. Simply put, for every 20 additional students enrolled in America’s K-8 schools in the last 10 years, we hired three additional elementary school classroom teachers.

2)  AFT’s Feldman Will Not Seek Reelection; McElroy Heir-Apparent. American Federation of Teachers President Sandra Feldman, undergoing treatment for breast cancer, announced last week she will not seek reelection at the union’s convention in July. Feldman, the former president of the United Federation of Teachers in New York City, took AFT’s reins in 1997 after the death of union icon Al Shanker.

Although it is still early, it appears the lone candidate to replace her will be AFT Secretary-Treasurer Edward J. McElroy. The long-time president of the Rhode Island Federation of Teachers, McElroy was elected to his current post in 1992. McElroy was mentioned as a possible successor to Shanker in 1997 but, as Education Week reported at the time, McElroy’s reputation was as “a nuts-and-bolts manager, rather than an education thinker.”

The accession of McElroy, coupled with the tenure of Reg Weaver at NEA, suggests an extended period of internal focus for America’s two national teachers’ unions. Both organizations can be expected to concentrate almost exclusively on organizing and politics in the near term.

Feldman’s last order of business -- and McElroy’s first – will be to pass two dues increases for the union’s two-year budget. The proposal calls for a $4.80 hike for 2004-05, and another $5.40 hike for 2005-06, which would bring AFT’s national dues to $158.40, an amount significantly higher than NEA’s dues. The increase includes a 48 cent per member contribution to the AFL-CIO’s political war chest.

3)  Relationship Between Wisconsin Union and Madison Local Running on Inertia. The relationship between the Wisconsin Education Association Council (WEAC) and its local affiliate, Madison Teachers Inc. (MTI), is beginning to resemble a bad marriage that continues for the sake of the kids. Neither side wants to separate, but their marriage has all of the form and none of the substance.

As reported here exclusively on June 9, 2003, MTI filed a lawsuit against WEAC for violation of the terms of its affiliation agreement the two organizations negotiated in 1978. Although there are a number of points of dispute, two key issues dominate: 1) the agreement’s provision that WEAC (subsidized by NEA) would regularly pay MTI’s legal expenses; and 2) that any dispute between the parties would be refereed by arbitrator Ronald W. Haughton.

In 2000, a jurisdictional dispute between the unions prompted WEAC to unilaterally terminate the agreement, citing an escape clause. MTI, however, contested the WEAC action, claiming the dispute had to be arbitrated first. The two sides continued as before, but in 2002 MTI filed a complaint against WEAC for not paying its share of legal expenses. Professor Haughton, as one might expect, is now at too advanced an age to conduct an arbitration, but the affiliation agreement has no provision for a different arbitrator. The quarrel dragged on until April 2003, when MTI filed suit to compel WEAC into arbitration with a court-appointed referee.

On March 11, Dane County Circuit Court Judge Moria Krueger dismissed the suit, deeming Professor Haughton to be “central to the arbitration agreement.” Therefore, she decided, the court could not compel arbitration. Judge Krueger did not rule on the agreement itself, leaving it in a legal limbo. WEAC’s claim that it had terminated the agreement, Krueger wrote, is a question that “has been reserved for arbitration.” In essence, she ruled that the agreement could not be terminated unilaterally without arbitration, but that no arbitrator other than Professor Haughton could decide.

WEAC, naturally, notified its officials that Judge Krueger’s decision meant the MTI agreement “is no longer enforceable as a legal matter.” MTI responded, not only by appealing the decision, but by stating that Judge Krueger’s ruling only means the two sides must negotiate an alternative means of dispute resolution.

In the meantime, MTI is reducing its state dues payments to WEAC by the amount it believes it is owed in legal expense reimbursements. For this action, WEAC won’t allow MTI’s representatives on the state board of directors to vote. MTI doesn’t care because the board’s weighted voting system doesn’t give the local much of a voice in state affairs anyway.

What happens next? One way or another, the unions will have to thrash out a successor agreement. Otherwise, they may go their separate ways.

4)  Miami Union Proposes Changes to Bylaws. More than a year after an FBI raid that led to the arrest and imprisonment of former president Pat Tornillo, the administrators of the United Teachers of Dade (UTD) are proposing a series of amendments to the union’s constitution and bylaws designed to increase oversight of finances and operations.

The proposals reduce the power of the president and the executive board and give the organization’s council of building stewards new rights to repeal executive actions and review expenditures.

A recent story in the Miami Herald reported that UTD membership is almost back to where it was just after the raid, and the reductions in dues (10 percent) and staff (almost 50 percent) have held. That’s the good news. The bad news is that UTD membership numbers were low before the raid, and the union still owes millions to AFT and various banks, while still paying the mortgage on its $22 million headquarters building.

If the members approve the changes, elections will probably be scheduled for October, and the AFT administratorship ended. The national union will retain financial oversight rights until all back dues are paid. Another complication is the presence of one likely presidential candidate: Shirley Johnson, UTD vice president and the person handpicked by Tornillo to succeed him.

5)  NEA? Never Heard of It. Communities for Quality Education (CQE), the new advocacy organization created, run and funded by the National Education Association and its affiliates, now has new digs on DC’s trendy Dupont Circle and its own web site (http://www.qualityednow.org). But you’ll search in vain for any mention of the union or the union officers and employees who comprise CQE’s board (see the March 29 EIA Communiqué for those details).

The “About Us” section identifies no one. The “frequently asked questions” are not, except for the one about how CQE will be funded. The answer, however, is “with the help of individuals and organizations that share our goals and our priorities.” The “Contact Us” page contains no names, and the words “union” or “NEA” do not appear on any page.

CQE staffers made the rounds in Florida last week, citing contradictions between the school ratings systems of Florida and the federal No Child Left Behind Act.

6)  Memorial Day: You Can’t Remember What You Never Knew. If Jay Mathews of the Washington Post had deliberately set out to make me angry and sad last Friday, he could not have done a better job than by leading his column with these two paragraphs:

“Tiffany Charles got a B in history last year at her Montgomery County high school, but she is not sure what year World War II ended. She cannot name a single general or battle, or the man who was president during the most dramatic hours of the 20th century.

“Yet the 16-year-old does remember in some detail that many Japanese American families on the West Coast were sent to internment camps. ‘We talked a lot about those concentration camps,’ she said.”

Yes, the internment camps are an important part of our history and should be taught and studied in high school. Yes, dates and details can be overemphasized in history. But without Midway, Anzio, Normandy and Iwo Jima, and the men who fought there, a lot more people all over the world would have ended up in internment camps, or worse.

7)  Another Big Dues Hike in Ohio. Delegates to the Ohio Education Association representative assembly approved a budget that increases dues by $31 over two years. State and UniServ dues will be raised to $433 in September, followed by an increase to $441 for the 2005-06 school year. The union has raised dues $85 over the last five budget years.

8)  Local Control? Both the Los Angeles Times and Los Angeles Daily News ran stories over the weekend detailing the influence of the United Teachers Los Angeles (UTLA) over the school board members the union supported in the last election. The articles suggest that these board members meet with UTLA President John Perez up to twice a week, and are receiving notes and hand signals from union activists during board meetings.

“It’s so blatant,” board member Mike Lansing, who is opposed by UTLA, told the Daily News. “It’s like a baseball game – people giving signals out there. It’s ridiculous. These guys are puppeteers, and we’ve got board members who can’t think for themselves.”

9)  Pennsylvania Charter School Employees Reject Union. Teachers and support staff at the Northside Urban Pathways Charter School in Pittsburgh voted against representation by the Pennsylvania Federation of Teachers by a vote of 18-3. There are about 100 charter schools in the state, only three of which are unionized.

10)  Quote of the Week #1. “You can’t just sit over there and say, ‘I’ve asked Richard for his wallet and he hasn’t responded. I’ll just go over and get it.” – Washington Supreme Court Justice Richard Sanders, explaining to attorneys for the Washington Education Association (WEA) why failure to receive objections from fee-payers for the union’s political expenditures does not imply their approval. The court is hearing a class action suit against WEA that could affect refunds to an estimated 8,000 present and past fee-payers. (May 28 Olympian)

Quote of the Week #2. “Bagwell said the IEA is much different than the National Educational Association (sic), which might espouse the kinds of policies that would offend the Idaho electorate.” – from the Times-News of Twin Falls, Idaho, reporting on the Republican primary in Idaho’s state house District 27. Incumbent Rep. Scott Bedke defeated school principal Wayne Bagwell, who was supported by the Idaho Education Association (IEA). (May 27 Times-News)

   

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