1) Reading the Post-Election Tea
Leaves in California. There were a lot of obvious
lessons, busted myths and conventional wisdom that came out of last
Tuesday's special election in California. But here are a few incidentals,
inspired by various newspaper stories:
* Defense vs. Offense – The
San Francisco Chronicle's post-election editorial sang of "the
power of labor united." Well, yes, but the circumstances favored the
unions. They had the "no" side – always an easier sell with initiatives.
They were operating in the bluest of blue states. Their voting strength was
in the largest and bluest population centers of that state. And they had a
bottomless well of money from which to draw.
That's not an indictment of the unions.
It's a simple fact of life for anyone who thinks the righteousness of his
arguments will be enough to carry the day in California. It took the state's
public employee unions decades to fashion this amount of political clout. It
won't be undone with a magic wand. Sorry to say: The union fortress in
California is unassailable.
But when the unions venture outside the
fortress they run into trouble. The California Teachers Association
twice aborted a property tax initiative after spending millions of
dollars. CTA was
humiliated by its own legislative allies after pushing a bill to expand
the scope of collective bargaining. CTA
disparaged Gov. Gray Davis and was rewarded with Gov. Arnold
To use a football metaphor: CTA has an
impregnable defense but a weak offense. Which leads us to…
* Arnold and the California GOP –
An Associated Press headline screams, "Republicans
Blame Schwarzenegger." That's chutzpah for you. This is a party that
can't get anyone elected to statewide office and is heading for Hawaii
levels in number of Republicans in the legislature -- despite
gerrymandering. The only reason Arnold called a special election is because
his party is too weak to do anything in the state, and the other party
wouldn't cut a deal. He had one arrow in his quiver – his undeniable
charisma – and he shot it. It got him nothing but a 30-point drop in
Without him, the California GOP has
nothing. Fortunately, the governor still wields the veto pen, which should
be enough to prevent any further raid on the state treasury.
* Democrats (State and National)
– California Democrats merely waited on the sidelines while the unions did
what they do best: drop the big hammer. They come out of the election as the
ostensible winners, but they are more beholden to the public employee unions
than ever. Those who decried that influence will shut up. And it seems to
have had a national effect as well.
The Hill reports that the
centrist Democratic Leadership Council, intermittently critical of organized
labor, is starting to make nice.
* Incorrect Inference -- Today's
Sacramento Bee notes the stream of
politicians visiting CTA's Sacramento office and comes to
this conclusion: "The group raised dues and spent more than $50 million
attacking Gov. Arnold Schwarzenegger during the special election campaign.
Two days after the election, it appeared that the union wasn't begging for
cash but rather looking for people to spend it on next year."
The two actions are not connected. CTA
has two PACs. The Issues PAC is the one that spent $50 million and was
supported by the special dues increase. The Candidate PAC is supported by
$15.91 from every member's paycheck each year and that money is contributed
to candidates for legislative and state offices. The two accounts are
segregated and the status of one does not affect the other.
* Interesting Irony – The
November 10 Los Angeles Times devoted 2,400 words of a Column One
story to a profile of 2004 Contra Costa County Teacher of the Year, and CTA
campaign commercial star, Liane Cismowski ("Reluctant
Warrior Bests Gov."), without finding the room to mention that she is a
member of the executive board of the Mt. Diablo Education Association. Might
have made her seem a little less reluctant, I guess.
But the story did provide an
interesting, if unintentionally ironic, anecdote. It seems Ms. Cismowski was
so compelling on television that she received a letter from the Screen
Actors Guild, inviting her to join. She turned it down, in part, she said,
because of the $100 fee.
Yes, it's great to live in a state where
you can work without having to pay coercive union fees when you don't want
2) It Went the Other Way in Ohio.
Lost amidst the union victories in California was the defeat of the four
Reform Ohio Now initiatives. The Ohio Education Association contributed at
least $200,000 and a lot of manpower in support of the measures regarding
elections, redistricting and political action committees. It isn't clear
whether that spending was in addition to, or part of, a $450,000 grant the
union received from NEA for the purpose.
tried to put a happy face on the defeat, but the Ohio election did
illustrate how different the outcomes can be – even on the same day – if the
state itself is politically competitive.
3) Miami-Dade Union Drops Suit
Against Whistleblower. When the United Teachers of
Dade (UTD) reached a settlement with former president Pat Tornillo over the
repayment of some of the dues he appropriated for his personal use, it
received coverage in the
Miami Herald. But there hasn't been a peep about UTD and the
American Federation of Teachers dropping their lawsuit against former UTD
Chief Financial Officer James Angleton Jr., the man who
called in the FBI when he discovered Tornillo's crimes.
After the FBI raid and the establishment
of an AFT administratorship, Angleton was suspended without pay – even
though at the time Tornillo was still collecting a paycheck. The union
subsequently filed suit against Angleton, claiming it was the victim of
Angleton's "professional negligence" for not ferreting out Tornillo's
That charge was an obvious frivolity,
since Tornillo's escapades were the subject of
numerous reports on local television, and UTD was many months delinquent
in paying its state and national dues because of its financial troubles.
Angleton has moved on, and is currently the senior vice president of
Hemisphere National Bank in Miami.
4) Now Illinois Membership Numbers
Add Up. Two weeks ago, EIA noted a disparity in
the Illinois Education Association's membership numbers reported in the
union's U.S. Department of Labor LM-2 reports over the past two years. The
reason for the difference still isn't clear, but at least we can now examine
some very recent and absolutely reliable numbers.
As of October 17, 2005, the Illinois
Education Association had 82,939 full-time active professionals, 3,564
part-time active professionals, 20,003 full-time education support employees
and 3,257 part-time education support employees, for a grand total of
109,763 working members. The union has an additional 10,000 retirees,
students and fee-payers.
Fifty-three of the union's 66 regional
districts lost members during the seven-week period of August 31-October 17.
5) Which Is It?
Headline in November 13 San Jose Mercury News: "Schools
look abroad to find needed teachers." Key quote: "If we need to recruit
teachers from overseas, that says something about the state of the
profession here in the United States," said Donald Washington, a program
analyst in NEA's teacher quality department. "We need to raise salaries,
improve working conditions and do more to retain teachers."
Headline in November 12 Los Angeles
Daily News: "Struggling
to land teaching jobs." Key quote: "I'd heard so many things that
California needs teachers so badly and I thought it would be pretty easy to
find a job if I did well in my studies," said Janae Simmons, who applied to
two dozen school districts before getting a job in Burbank after a
five-month job search.
6) NEA VP Says "A Lot" of
Conservatives Support NEA. National Education
Association Vice President Dennis Van Roekel told Radio Iowa that "a lot" of
conservatives support NEA.
"I think they see within the National Education Association that we do
advocate for children," Van Roekel said. "(Conservatives) don't always agree
with each and every position we take or tactic but I think they recognize
that the people who are our members and what they do each and every day is
work with children each and every day, and that's important."
50 percent of NEA members describe themselves as conservative, Van
Roekel probably feels he's on solid ground here.
But they would have to be the most masochistic conservatives
on the planet. Take a peek at
this Google search of "conservatives" on NEA.org and enjoy all the
respectful and open-minded references therein.
7) Thanks for Your Responses.
Thanks to all of you who accepted my invitation to comment on EIA, either
via e-mail or on
Intercepts. Your thoughts are most welcome and I appreciate each and
8) Quote of the Week.
"My whole experience in math the last few years has been a
struggle against the program. Whatever I've achieved, I've achieved in spite
of it. Kids do not do better learning math themselves. There's a reason we
go to school, which is that there's someone smarter than us with something
to teach us." – high school student Jim Munch, relating his battle against
his school's constructivist math program. (November
9 New York Times)