1) Oregon Staff Strike Over,
Wisconsin Staff Thinking It Over. Employees of the
Oregon Education Association
went back to work after a 4-week strike. The only details released were
that the contract contains a 4 percent pay raise this year and 5 percent
next year, and that some accommodation was reached on the question of
"We feel good that we were able to hold
our ground on most of the things that would have been rollbacks," said a
Meanwhile, the professional staffers of
the Wisconsin Education Association Council have been working without a
contract for six weeks. The two sides are far apart, but there seems to be
little enthusiasm for a showdown just before a national election in a
battleground state. EIA expects this one will either be resolved quickly, or
postponed until after Election Day.
2) Good News in California
Enrollment/Retirement Report. The Regional
Educational Laboratory at WestEd just released "Trends
in California Teacher Demand: A County and Regional Perspective." It's
an important study because it's one of the few to recognize that teacher
supply and demand is largely a local issue. Indeed, the authors acknowledge
that "turning out more teachers in one part of the state would not
necessarily help meet demand in another part."
The study examines trends in student
enrollment and teacher retirements for all 58 California counties in order
to determine the demand for teachers over the next 10 years. Most of the
assumptions are solid, but there is one that may prove fatal to this
report's accuracy. The authors
"assumed counties will maintain their current pupil-teacher
Since there is no way to predict how
pupil-teacher ratios will change over the next 10 years, the authors make
this assumption in order to avoid giving up all together. However, you need
only look at
EIA's enrollment and hiring statistics for California to see that the
relationship between the two isn't readily apparent.
Because agencies and organizations in
California have predicted 10 of the last 3 teacher shortages, it is
heartening to see that while there will be challenges in some regions of the
state, the overall problem is manageable.
According to the WestEd study,
K-12 enrollment in California in
2013-14 will be lower than it is now. The authors expect a spike in
enrollment growth, but not until 2014.
The retirement rate over the past 12
years for all 58 counties averages 2.2 percent. The authors expect the
annual rate to rise to roughly 2.7 percent over the next 10 years.
Having to replace an additional 1,500
teachers per year is something for districts to consider, but hardly the
catastrophe we have been led to expect.
Certainly the enrollment and retirement
projections are the best our state agencies can manage with the data at
hand, but the WestEd report could have performed a great service had it
compared previous projections to the numbers California actually
experienced. It would help us evaluate the current projections.
The key issue in the teacher labor
market in California for the next decade appears to be how to entice
prospective teachers in oversupplied areas (Los Angeles, San Diego) to
relocate and teach in undersupplied areas (Sacramento, Riverside).
3) Buttoned Up.
The United Federation of Teachers
filed a federal lawsuit after the New York City Department of Education
directed principals to enforce a ban on political buttons or signs in the
It might surprise some
of you to know that I support the union's position. Free speech should never
be limited without evidence of direct, serious and negative consequences
arising from its exercise. Knowing that a teacher supports Obama might make
a student annoyed or uncomfortable, but I think that's a small price to pay.
I wonder, though, how quickly UFT would
have defended free speech if the buttons in question read, "Abortion Is
Murder," or "Decertify the UFT." Is all speech free or only speech with
which the union agrees?
4) Milwaukee Public Schools Saved by
The Milwaukee school district is having financial problems. That's hardly
unique among urban school systems. Alan J. Borsuk of the
Milwaukee Journal-Sentinel does his usual stellar job by examining
the role that generous employee benefits play.
The real jaw-dropper in Borsuk's tale
comes at the end:
"School Board member Terry Falk,
chairman of the budget committee, said despite the fringe benefit
provisions, the actual amount MPS pays teachers, including fringe benefits,
is 'dead last' among more than four dozen school districts in the
metropolitan area. The reason: Turnover among teachers is so high that
relatively few stay around long enough to collect higher salaries and earn
early retirement benefits.
"He said MPS 'is dependent on the
turnover of teachers' to keep actual payment to teachers for salary and
benefits down and keep the system financially solvent."
In other words, if it weren't for high
teacher turnover, the pensions and retiree health benefits would bankrupt
5) Head Start.
Before you become too impressed with the
4.2 million pieces of mail, 2.1 million phone calls, and 1.3 million emails
NEA has delivered to members as part of the presidential campaign you might
consider that 19 of these communications were to
sent to a six-year-old boy.
6) Stop the Presses!
This week's patently obvious or
Choice Advocates See Teachers' Unions As Main Roadblock" – October 8
differ on education issues" – October 11 San Diego Union-Tribune,
candidates' views differ" – October 4 Rocky Mountain News (a two-fer!)
pay raises based on years, not performance" – October 12
debate to feature hot topics" – October 12
Jews to observe Yom Kippur" – October 8
7) Last Week's Intercepts.
Intercepts, covered these topics from October 6-14:
Why Should Education Be a Top Presidential Issue? Let the feds
concentrate on screwing up the economy and foreign policy.
AFL-CIO Lectures on Race. White men can't preach.
Contract Ratified, Oregon EA Staff Returns to Work. All that nasty
rhetoric about management? Never mind.
Christopher Columbus – Member of Byzantine Dynasty? Weaver's son or
8) Quote of
"If Mr. Obama is serious about public investment for innovation - focusing
on inventive teachers and schools that truly boost student performance - he
must cut ineffective, yet politically entrenched programs. Take, for
example, Washington's Title I compensatory education program, which channels
$14 billion each year to schools that serve students from poor families.
President Bush tied big infusions of fresh Title I dollars to implementation
of his No Child Left Behind Law. Yet several evaluations of Title I, which
tries to improve poor children's reading skills,
have shown limited benefits, largely because mainstream classroom
practices have remained the same. This huge program fails to lift children's
learning curves, and yet teachers unions and civil rights groups fight tooth
and nail to protect it, a sentimental symbol of equity since the Great
Society." – Bruce Fuller, professor of
education and public policy at the University of California at Berkeley.
New York Times)