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January 12, 2009

1)  NEA to Spend $250,000 on Inauguration. The National Education Association will spend up to $250,000 on activities related to the inauguration of President Barack Obama. Part of the money will be used to pay for "NEA presence at appropriate events."

With large Democratic majorities in both the House and the Senate, the union is also setting its priorities and is expected to concentrate on a handful of issues, including education funding, NCLB reauthorization, health care, GPO/WEP and "21st century skills" (which I would support if they were defined as the ability to detect, analyze and evaluate hogwash).

The only good news for education reformers is that NEA realizes it has to make some movement on the alternative compensation front (merit pay, performance pay and differential pay all being taboo terms), but hasn't figured out how to do it "without creating internal association strife."

NEA expects membership growth to flatten considerably in the next few years (not if the history of school hiring is any indication), but income is certainly not an issue. NEA's annual take is approaching the $400 million threshold. The union is so flush with cash that even in an election year it spent only $13 million out of an available $20.4 million from its Ballot Measure/Legislative Crises Fund, a national war chest funded by a $10 assessment from each member.

In addition to the inaugural expenditures, NEA will also send $250,000 to the National Coalition on Health Care, and $1 million to Communities for Quality Education, an NEA front group created as "America Learns" in 2004. No word on whether CQE will use some of the money to finally update its web site.

EIA will have much more on NEA spending next week.

2)  Farewell to OLMS. President Bush wants to see the No Child Left Behind Act continued, but his energy might have been better spent trying to salvage the work of the U.S. Department of Labor's Office of Labor-Management Standards (OLMS).

OLMS enforces the Labor-Management Reporting and Disclosure Act of 1959, including "embezzlement from labor organizations, extortionate picketing, deprivation of union members' rights by force or violence, and fraud in union officer elections." During the two terms of the Bush administration, OLMS brought 1,004 indictments, resulting in 929 convictions, and payments or orders of restitution totaling more than $93 million.

Even if he were so inclined, President Obama's priorities will not include union misdeeds, so we can expect OLMS and its mission to fall into neglect for the foreseeable future. So at the same time we're likely to see the end of the secret ballot for union representation elections, we'll also lose an official source of their possible consequences. It's too bad.

3)  Aren't They the Same Kids? The Associated Press seems baffled by a trend in Nevada. College enrollment in the state is up six percent, while K-12 enrollment is up only 0.8 percent after decades of steady and substantial growth.

The AP credits this to a surge of laid-off workers seeking new job skills, but doesn't the time difference between K-12 and college have an effect? The last of the Baby Boomers' kids, who fueled the K-12 enrollment increases, are now entering college, fueling the college enrollment increases. Since there aren't as many kids replacing them in K-12, elementary enrollment flattens. It's same wave of students rolling through their school years.

4)  Scheduling Note. The next communiqué will appear on Tuesday, January 20.

5)  Last Week's Intercepts. EIA's blog, Intercepts, covered these topics from January 7-12:

* What Does Van Roekel Have in Mind? Will NEA officially join Big Labor?

* The World Turned Upside Down. A union, state legislators, and campaign finance entanglements, but not what you think.

* "Tell Us Your Budget Crisis Stories." What do you mean "we," kemo sabe?

6)  Quote of the Week. "I don't see any conflict of interest in this because senators do not negotiate contracts, the Guam Federation of Teachers is not a government of Guam entity, and any gains made for the union I do not benefit from personally." – Guam Federation of Teachers President Matt Rector, who was elected to the Guam Senate. Rector will keep his union position, will use taxpayer funds to rent office space from the union, and will sit as chair of the senate committee that oversees labor issues. Rector says he will not recuse himself from hearings that deal with the teachers' union. (January 13 Pacific Daily News)

 

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