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September 14, 2009

1)  Be Careful What You Wish For. Each election cycle the unions of the AFL-CIO, Change to Win and the National Education Association devoted tens of millions of dollars and countless man-hours to achieve the very result that occurred in November 2008 - a Democratic President, a wide majority in the House of Representatives, and a filibuster-proof majority in the Senate. So happy days are here again, right?

I guess not.

You don't need me to interpret these introspections and in-fighting. They were written in the shadow of Labor Day 2009 and the annual Gallup poll about the public perception of unions. Check them all out, especially the lefty ones:

* "Another Hail Mary Pass from Labor's Latest Quarterback" - September 11 In These Times

* "Labor in a Time of Diminished Expectations: Trumka Takes Over AFL-CIO" - September 11-13 Counterpunch

* "NEA and The Party: The NCLB Saga" - September 9 Hans Moleman

* "Union Health Care Wars Prompt Oregon AFT Trusteeship" - September Labor Notes

* "Lynwood Teachers At Odds with Union Over New Pact" - September 10 Los Angeles Wave

Bogeymen are an essential element of union organizing. Without them, the firing squad aims inward.

2)  Make Disappearing Ink Visible. I occasionally complain about the media's education coverage, but I've applauded what I consider to be good work, too. Mainstream reporters have to be generalists, so it's unfair to blame them for lack of depth into the many and varied arcane topics some of us deal with - including, of course, labor.

I think the overall quality of education reporting has greatly improved in the last 10 years. Turnover on the beat, however, is a big problem. It leads to a lot of conventional stories with the same old misconceptions, and not many investigative pieces - even though these often turn out to be blockbusters.

In a dwindling newspaper industry, there is a lot of soul-searching going on, but it's nice to see someone take on the status of education reporting specifically. Michael Petrilli wrote a story headlined "Disappearing Ink" for Education Next that is really worth your time. He talked to people directly involved, and extracts some excellent money quotes from his subjects:

* "The people who will be excluded from the conversation will be people without kids in the schools."

* "An ill-informed public will benefit people who can push an agenda without accountability and public scrutiny."

* "Journalists never get out front of reform. They are always the trailing entity. Anyone whose ox is gored by reform is going to be outspoken and resist it. Journalists must understand that there's always pain and disruption in great change. But they rarely frame it that way."

So while we're all fixated on things like NCLB and Race to the Top, who will be left to tell us how their provisions are being handled locally?

3)  Vacation at Last. I haven't taken a break yet in 2009, so it's about time to skip town while the rates are low. I'll return to daily blogging late next week, but there won't be another e-mail communiqué until Monday, October 5. Try to keep the barbarians from the gates until I get back.

4)  Contract Hits. Wherein we highlight a contract provision from the current agreement between the National Education Association and its largest staff union. This is Article 26, Section 11, subsection (a):

"A career development assignment, overseen and closely guided by an appropriate mentor, involves tasks and/or responsibilities that may exceed the present job classification and/or responsibilities of the employee for the purpose of skill development, demonstration and professional growth. Career development assignments may be made only for an employee whose last performance appraisal was 'Satisfactory.'"

5)  Last Week's Intercepts. EIA's blog, Intercepts, covered these topics from September 8-14:

* Harsh Reality. If teachers wanted performance pay, we would have it already.

* Judgment Day. Rule of law.

* NYSUT Beats 403(b) Rap. Teachers' Union - 1, Trial Lawyers - 0.

* Border Patrol. Keeping students and teachers on the right side of the line.

6)  Quote of the Week. "O'Reilly said her position actually saves the district money because she can work to avert lawsuits and grievances. She said she also spends much of her time working to improve relationships between teachers and administrators, which helps the district to function more efficiently." – Vista Teachers Association President Jan O'Reilly, explaining why it's worth it for the district to have paid her $413,202 over the last six years, even though she works for the union full-time, while the union has reimbursed the district only $266,923. (September 9 North County Times)


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