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October 6, 2008

1)  The Short List of NEA Republicans. Last week's blog item about NEA Republicans prompted some readers to inquire as to the identities of these chosen few. Here they are:

Michael Castle (Delaware, at-large, incumbent)

Gus Bilirakis (Florida, 9th District, incumbent)

Mike Simpson (Idaho, 2nd District, incumbent)

Mark Kirk (Illinois, 10th District, incumbent)

Judy Biggert (Illinois, 13th District, incumbent)

Tim Johnson (Illinois, 15th District, incumbent)

Aaron Schock (Illinois, 18th District, open Republican seat) The Illinois Federation of Teachers endorsed the Democratic challenger, Colleen Callahan.

John Shimkus (Illinois, 19th District, incumbent)

Jerry Moran (Kansas, 1st District, incumbent)

Fred Upton (Michigan, 6th District, incumbent)

Sam Graves (Missouri, 6th District, incumbent)

Frank LoBiondo (New Jersey, 2nd District, incumbent)

Christopher Smith (New Jersey, 4th District, incumbent)

Leonard Lance (New Jersey, 7th District, open Republican seat) But NEA also endorsed his opponent, Democrat Linda Stender.

John McHugh (New York, 23rd District, incumbent)

Phil English (Pennsylvania, 3rd District, incumbent)

Jim Gerlach (Pennsylvania, 6th District, incumbent)

Charles Dent (Pennsylvania, 15th District, incumbent)

Todd Platts (Pennsylvania, 19th District, incumbent)

David Reichert (Washington, 8th District, incumbent)

Jim Burkee (Wisconsin, 5th District, challenger) As I mentioned last week, Burkee challenged and lost to incumbent Republican Jim Sensenbrenner in a Sept. 9 primary. There is no Democrat running in the district.

Burt Saunders is a Republican state senator from Florida who received an NEA endorsement, but he is running as an independent against incumbent Republican Connie Mack in the 14th District.

2)  Oregon Education Association Management Strikes Back. The Oregon Education Association professional staff strike is now more than three weeks old. OEA management fell far behind in the public relations battle and finally decided to land a few blows of its own.

Last week, OEA headquarters began posting "bargaining updates" on the union web site, most of which detail the wages and benefits the staff receives, and would receive under management's last offer. Management claims staffers at the top of the scale (which includes two-thirds of them) would receive a 32 percent increase in salary over 38 months. The current top of the scale is $104,583.

The management proposal also includes an $8,400 per year automobile allowance with fully paid insurance, and full family medical, dental and vision that will amount to $2,277 per employee per month in the third year of the proposed contract.

Management also claims it needs a change in the contract language on employee adjustment time because the current contract allows staffers to "take off up to 50 consecutive work days each year (10 weeks!) without preapproval from management."

The staff union claims that last week's negotiations, with the help of big-wigs from NEA headquarters in DC, were moving the sides closer to an agreement, but OEA management negotiators decided it was time to go to binding arbitration. The staff union is fighting against the idea.

With the UniServ directors on strike, a couple of OEA local unions have been forced to delay their contract negotiations with their school districts, but it is otherwise difficult to find average Oregon teachers who either know or care that their union headquarters building is being picketed by their union's employees.

3)  The Only "Idiots" in Colorado Are the Useful Kind. The blogs in Colorado (and elsewhere) lit up last week with the release of a confidential memo, purportedly from the Colorado Democracy Alliance, in which the AFL-CIO is assigned a campaign task - "Educate the Idiots"- targeted to "minorities, GED's, drop-outs."

Those involved say the memo is a forgery, and I take them at their word, since people have periodically tried to peddle similar cloak-and-dagger documents about NEA to me over the years. To avoid embarrassment, litigation and loss of credibility, it's a simple matter of corroboration and/or provenance. People all along the political spectrum are liable to fall for the story that's "too good to check."

The memo detracted from the real shenanigans in Colorado, where major business groups joined with state and national unions to give cash and support to the union campaign against a ballot initiative to establish a right-to-work law in Colorado. In return, the unions agreed to drop four anti-business initiatives from the ballot. If these firms think paying protection money is the way to go, then they deserve whatever future beatings the unions lay on them.

NEA and its state and local affiliates are the largest contributor to the Colorado labor coalition, having dropped more than $1.3 million into the campaign. I reported in July that NEA would have "almost $20 million available to spend" from its ballot initiative fund. Without major education measures, much of that money is going toward its labor and social agenda.

4)  Stop the Presses! Sifting through as many education stories as I do has few rewards, but it's time to make lemonade from the lemons. In what I expect will become a semi-regular feature, here are some patently obvious or pointless headlines from various media outlets in the past week:

* "Incumbents face challengers in Central Unified" – October 6 Fresno Bee

* "Oakland unions oppose job cuts" – October 1 Associated Press

* "Education association supports programs" – October 2 Clay Today

* "Many worry about how to foot the bill for college" – October 4 Columbian

* "Candidates receive mix of funds" – October 5 The Journal

5)  Scheduling Note. The next communiqué will appear on Tuesday, October 14.

6)  Last Week's Intercepts. EIA's blog, Intercepts, covered these topics from September 29-October 6:

* Field of Dreams. Increased enrollment requires more schools. So, decreased enrollment must require… more schools?

* The Payoff for Being an NEA Republican. An "A" on the NEA Legislative Report Card isn't as important as a "D" next to your name.

* Much Ado About Nothing. "Obama Blue Day" lives up to public school standards.

7)  Quote of the Week. "Teachers' union says large classes lead to teen pregnancy." – headline from an October 5 Radio New Zealand story. I agree. Any class so big that students are having sex in the back of the room is too big.


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