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July 28, 2008

1)  NEA Media and Ballot Initiative Allocations. Each year, NEA receives a special dues assessment from each member to provide cash for its Media Campaign Fund and Ballot Measure/Legislative Crisis Fund. It is important to note that this money is entirely separate from the union's PAC fund, which is governed under federal campaign finance rules and is used exclusively for contributions to candidates for federal office. The special funds enable NEA to involve itself in both national and state political issues as they arise.

EIA informed you of the funds' major disbursements as they occurred (here, and item #2 here, for example), but delegates to the Representative Assembly are given a comprehensive list of allocations, which I excerpt here.

NEA budgeted $5 million for its Media Campaign Fund for 2007-08, and allocated the lion's share of it - $3.5 million "to support the Association's campaign for the reauthorization of the Elementary and Secondary Education Act." The rest of the money was distributed to the following state affiliates in the following amounts:

Florida Education Association - $150,000

Iowa State Education Association - $90,000

Kentucky Education Association - $60,000

Mississippi Association of Educators - $100,000

Missouri NEA - $85,000

New Jersey Education Association - $150,000

North Carolina Association of Educators - $40,000

North Dakota Education Association - $84,000

Oregon Education Association - $150,000

Tennessee Education Association - $150,000

Texas State Teachers Association - $192,000

The issues differed from state to state, but most state affiliate advertising campaigns print, radio and television had some NEA money behind them, particularly if the state affiliate is small.

The recipients of the 2008-09 state grants have already been named, though they will not have access to the funds until after September 1:

NEA Alaska - $125,000

Arizona Education Association - $60,000

Colorado Education Association - $89,500

Maine Education Association - $100,000

Maryland State Teachers Association - $138,000

Mississippi Association of Educators - $125,000

Missouri NEA - $100,000

New Jersey Education Association - $150,000

NEA New Mexico - $75,000

North Dakota Education Association - $125,000

Pennsylvania State Education Association - $70,000

South Carolina Education Association - $125,000

Texas State Teachers Association - $225,000

Utah Education Association - $150,000

Vermont NEA - $50,000

Wisconsin Education Association Council - $85,000

The 2007-08 fiscal year was a relatively slow one for the Ballot Measure/Legislative Crisis Fund. Installments totaling $2,338,353 went toward the Utah voucher referendum battle ($1 million was sent in the previous fiscal year). The rest went as follows:

Florida Education Association - $200,000 to oppose property tax cuts

Massachusetts Teachers Association - $60,000 to oppose state income tax repeal

Hawaii State Teachers Association - $20,000 for polling about constitutional convention

Oklahoma Education Association - $40,500 for public opinion research about funding initiative

Nebraska State Education Association - $40,000 to support an Education Trust Fund

Missouri NEA - $195,000 for collective bargaining legislation

Delaware State Education Association - $10,000 for polling about charter schools

Idaho Education Association - $100,000 to oppose tenure and performance pay legislation

Unlike most previous years, NEA finished 2007-08 with a surplus of nearly $5.9 million, which means the union will enter the 2008-09 school year with almost $20 million available to spend.

2)  To Bio or Not to Bio. New Jersey Education Association President Joyce Powell had a rough weekend. And it probably won't be much comfort to her that I am about to come to her defense.

The Bergen Record published a story last Friday revealing that Powell's bio, posted on the New Jersey Education Association web site and subsequently re-used elsewhere, contained two inaccuracies. First, it said Powell became an Eagleton Fellow at Rutgers University. She was, in fact, a teaching associate, not a fellow. Second, it claimed Powell was a Phi Beta Kappa graduate of Glassboro State College. Phi Beta Kappa had no chapter at Glassboro.

NJEA removed the references and posted an updated bio on its site (the current one is here; the Google cache of the controversial one is here). "I'll admit I never read it, and the wrong thing was put down," Powell told reporters. "It was a mistake, absolutely a mistake." NJEA's practice is for communications staffers to write the bios.

Some commenters have found Powell's statement incredible, but if you take a look at the bio, I think it's entirely believable, and helps explain the entire screw-up.

Powell's bio contains such a long list of positions and honors that it would make little sense to intentionally falsify those particular two. And since the bio was not used to obtain other positions and honors, there appears to be no intent to deceive.

The bio is so long and detailed neither Powell nor anyone else would be likely to read all the way through it. The length itself is status, rather than the contents. This method is far from unique to teachers' unions, but NEA is especially susceptible to it. For example, new NEA Vice President Lily Eskelsen published 70 positions and honors she held and received on one page of campaign material for that office. And she was running unopposed.

So while it was external fact-checkers who caught these errors, maybe internal editing for length would have prevented them in the first place. And made for a more readable bio.

Powell has been taking a PR beating, but better now than later. At last month's Representative Assembly, she announced her candidacy for the National Education Association Executive Committee.

3)  Invisible Ink in Collective Bargaining. Emily Cohen, Kate Walsh and RiShawn Biddle over at the National Council on Teacher Quality have done us all a service by metaphorically drawing our attention to "the curious incident of the dog in the night-time" that is, what isn't contained in most collective bargaining agreements.

In their report, Invisible Ink in Collective Bargaining, the authors explain that many of the provisions we ascribe to the collective bargaining process actually exist in state law. Current policies on teacher tenure, evaluations and dismissals owe more to lobbyists and legislators than to school boards and UniServ directors.

The current state of affairs explains why seniority provisions are virtually identical in Houston (no teacher contract) and Philadelphia (strict teacher contract), or why "bumping" rules exist in Mobile, Alabama. It also explains why non-bargaining states generally are not models of public education flexibility and innovation.

Being single-issue organizations, teachers' unions have an obvious advantage in this atmosphere. "As unions have matured, their leaders have realized that it is more efficient to lobby state legislatures on particular provisions than to negotiate district by district every few years as contracts expire," the authors write.

4)  Last Week's Intercepts. EIA's blog, Intercepts, covered these topics from July 21-28:

* Welcome to the New Intercepts. Redesigned, cleaned up, and hopefully a lot more readable, but with the same content you've come to love/hate.

* Van Roekel Is President of What? Avoiding the "u" word.

* Incentive Pay. Come up with the PAC money or it'll cost ya.

5)  Quote of the Week #1. "In public employment, they have the right not to belong, but I still must represent them. If under the law we're obligated to represent every employee, then it's only fair that every employee pays something toward the cost of being represented." New York State United Teachers President Richard C. Iannuzzi, after the legislature made the state's agency fee law permanent. (July 24 New York Times)

Quote of the Week #2. "Iannuzzi's language is fairly typical among union officials (they frequently use the term 'fair share' to describe the dues they seize from nonmembers to pay for unwanted 'representation'). But painting union bosses as hapless victims of the very special privileges they got enacted is absolutely absurd. Exclusive representation -- monopoly bargaining -- is a statutory power given to unions precisely because union bosses lobbied for it. I'd love to call Iannuzzi's bluff -- will he and other union bosses actually consent to lifting federal and state laws which give unions the special privilege of monopoly bargaining?" Nick Cote, commenting on the Freedom@Work blog.


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