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December 10, 2007

1)  52,000 New K-8 Students, 42,500 New K-8 Teachers. The National Education Association today released its annual report, Rankings and Estimates: Rankings of the States 2006 and Estimates of School Statistics 2007. You can read the union spin here, but you already know what it is.

The report will revive the usual back-and-forth about average teacher salaries, after which no one's mind will be changed. And no one will note the one astonishing statistic that greatly explains why all the revenue and expenditure numbers are where they are.

Teacher hiring is completely out of control.

Yes, believers in the eternal teacher shortage, you read that correctly. A trend that was obvious after last year's edition of Rankings and Estimates is now glaring. The last of the Baby Boomers' kids are working their way through high school and they are not being replaced. NEA estimates that K-12 enrollment grew by only 0.3 percent in 2006-07, but the demographic implications are only clear when you separate elementary enrollment from secondary.

Grades K-8 Enrollment 2006-07= 29,758,808 (+51,958; +0.2%)

Grades 9-12 Enrollment 2006-07= 19,133,765 (+113,079; +0.6%)

Looks like we should be hiring a greater percentage of high school teachers, right? But we're not, not even close.

Grades K-8 Classroom Teachers 2006-07= 1,856,567 (+42,541; +2.3%)

Grades 9-12 Classroom Teachers 2006-07= 1,317,787 (+10,175; +0.8%)

That's right. America hired 42,541 extra elementary school teachers for 51,958 extra elementary school students. That's one extra teacher for every 1.2 extra students. This is not a new trend, only an accelerated one. In the last 10 years, K-8 enrollment has risen by a cumulative 4.1 percent. But the K-8 teaching forced has risen by a cumulative 17.1 percent.

If the national picture seems insane, consider California. NEA estimates a 48,031 student decrease in K-8 enrollment for 2006-07, but an increase of 9,284 K-8 teachers.

NEA estimates K-8 average salaries increased 4.2 percent in 2006-07, which means we are paying a premium for all those extra teachers. So while NEA decries the failure of average salaries to match inflation, the fact that public school districts can so massively increase the number of teachers at the bottom end of the scale, while still increasing the average salary by a substantial amount, is a testament to the ability of government to appropriate money for education.

2)  Colorado Public Employees Union Hooks Up with CWA. Organized labor in Colorado is about to become very volatile.

The dust has yet to settle from Gov. Bill Ritter's executive order establishing "partnerships" between state agencies and labor unions, which is clearly the prelude to public sector collective bargaining. The plans of Colorado WINS, a coalition of SEIU, AFSCME and AFT, are in evidence in the new organization's founding documents, first released exclusively by EIA on November 19.

But Colorado WINS will have some competition. The formerly AFT-affiliated Colorado Federation of Public Employees has dissolved and reformed itself as the Colorado Public Employee Alliance, affiliated with the Communication Workers of America (CWA).

The national affiliation will prevent Colorado WINS from squashing its rivals like a bug, and has the potential to cause even more problems. The establishment of Colorado WINS is a national agreement between two AFL-CIO unions and one Change to Win union. CWA is also an AFL-CIO union, and a juridictional dispute such as this one is bound to get bounced upstairs to national AFL-CIO. It could get ugly.

And while the Colorado media has generally been pretty good on the political ramifications of the new union role, I don't think there is a labor reporter left in the state, so the internal union drama is largely going unnoticed.

3)  Minnesota Discovers Federalism. Some politicians in Minnesota realized that the ghastly, horrible, soul-deadening No Child Left Behind Act is voluntary. They plan to introduce legislation to opt out. Apparently all you have to do is give up the woefully inadequate federal cash. Amazing. Why didn't I think of that?

4)  Now Utah Education Association Brags About NEA Voucher Campaign Involvement. Now that the voucher referendum has been safely buried, the Utah Education Association is confident enough to reveal the extent of NEA's overwhelming involvement in the financial, strategic and operational direction of the campaign.

During the campaign UEA greatly understated NEA's role, and NEA President Reg Weaver refused to even discuss the national union's financial contribution to the effort. But the December 2007 issue of UEA Action has all the details, with dollar signs and names attached, including an appearance by NEA front group Communities for Quality Education.

So you can read this kind of stuff here in August, or there in December. It's your choice.

5)  Shape of Things to Come. "Elk Grove growing fast, just like state: Fastest-growing school district runs out of classrooms…. Elk Grove district officials predict they may need to build 26 more schools by 2010 to serve an anticipated 80,000 pupils, more than three times as many students as in 1989." – headline and clip from June 3, 2005 San Francisco Chronicle story.

"Enrollment drop for Elk Grove? Housing slump could result in district's first decline ever…. Elk Grove Unified also is struggling to fill the new Elizabeth Pinkerton Middle School and Cosumnes Oaks High School campus. The combined campus, which can house 3,600 students, will open next fall with only 475 students, given current boundaries." – headline from December 6, 2007 Sacramento Bee story.

6)  Last Week's Intercepts. EIA's blog, Intercepts, covered these topics from December 3-10:

* Sarcasm: Don't Try It at Home. A gun-toting former union president beats the rap with the "facetious" defense.

* Slowly Running Out of Affiliates. Is there a Democratic candidate left who hasn't been endorsed by an NEA affiliate?

* Sounds from NEA Headquarters. I don't know what's going on, but I'll find out eventually.

7)  Quote of the Week. "Let's hear it for facility preparedness and adequacy! Put your hands together for kinesthetic learning and the de-homogenization of the classroom! Save the in-age cohort!" – Washington Post columnist Dana Milbank, mocking Hillary Clinton's speech accepting the endorsement of NEA New Hampshire. (December 9 Washington Post)


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