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November 30, 2009

1)  Now We Have Proof: NEA Is the Largest Political Spender in America. And it's not even close.

Since the rise of the Internet, we have been able to more easily track political spending. The Center for Responsive Politics has led the way in documenting and accounting for all the different ways money is spent on federal campaigns. Alas, tracking similar spending at the state level has been more of a hit-or-miss proposition. Disclosure laws vary from state to state, and electronic reporting of results has been sporadic.

Until now. CRP joined forces with the National Institute on Money in State Politics to produce the first comprehensive report of political spending at both the state and national levels. The organizations combined spending on candidates, parties and ballot initiatives to come up with a total for each of the nation's special interest groups. The results should give pause to those who think the biggest political spenders must be Big Oil, Wal-Mart and the pharmaceutical, banking and tobacco industries.

By far the largest political spender for the 2007-08 election cycle was the National Education Association, with more than $56.3 million in contributions. The teachers' union outdistanced the second-place group by more than $12 million.

Believe it or not, the report understates NEA's spending, since it places political expenditures made in concert with the American Federation of Teachers in a separate category. "NEA AFT' ranked 123rd in the nation, contributing more than $3.3 million to campaigns in Colorado, Florida and Oregon. (AFT ranked 25th with almost $13.8 million in contributions.)

Just to put this in perspective, America's two teachers' unions outspent AT&T, Goldman Sachs, Wal-Mart, Microsoft, General Electric, Chevron, Pfizer, Morgan Stanley, Lockheed Martin, FedEx, Boeing, Merrill Lynch, Exxon Mobil, Lehman Brothers, and the Walt Disney Corporation, combined.

The report is groundbreaking. The media coverage was less so. It's well past time for coverage of the teachers' unions to be freed from its current position as an afterthought in the education beat ghetto, and assume its place alongside national economic and political reporting. It's mind-blowing that one organization can spend more than $56.3 million in an election cycle and still fly under the radar.

2) More from New Jersey Education Association 2009 Campaign Strategy Presentation. Last week, EIA reported on the New Jersey Education Association's campaign strategy for the re-election of Gov. Jon Corzine and posted PowerPoint slides from a presentation by NJEA's government relations director, Ginger Gold Schnitzer. This week, EIA has Schnitzer's elaborations of the details on many of the slides, which you can read alone, or in accompaniment with the visuals on the slides:

I want to talk with you about a serious condition. An epidemic affecting the general public - and which ran rampant among NJEA members last summer. I would not be surprised if it has already plagued your membership. Perhaps even a few of you in this room are silently suffering from it.

It is called… Electile Dysfunction.

Electile Dysfunction is the inability to become aroused over any of the choices for Governor in your state this year. If you are feeling this way… or have "a friend" who does… Allow me to offer my support by sharing the details about NJEA's fight against E.D. Please know….there is hope.

At the onset of the disease you may notice that your members show a disinterest in politics…

Or in more severe cases even an unhealthy disdain for your endorsed candidate… in other words…. Your members will show "No Love for the Gov." And this will be true… No matter how much or little he may have done for them.

In New Jersey… 69% (more than 2/3) of our members had not yet committed to Corzine when we polled them last April. In that April Poll Governor Corzine led Chris Christie by 9% points.

We took another poll in August (after Christie won the R nomination and after our endorsement).

Governor Corzine's lead among our members shrunk to only 5 points. 40-35 with 25 undecided.

This is in spite of the fact that… (ed. note: slides of Corzine's accomplishments)

ALL THIS AND OUR POLL SHOWED CORZINE ONLY LED BY 5 POINTS (VINCE STORY) (ed. note: assume this refers to NJEA Executive Director Vince Giordano)

So there you have it. Full blown Electile Dysfunction. Now let's talk about the cure. Well VIVA VIAGRA… We engaged in a two part strategy:

* A member to member campaign far different than any other we had done before… AND

* An independent communications strategy aimed at moving a targeted segment of the general public. The independent communications campaign had both issue advocacy and express advocacy components

There were so many new things we did in this campaign but if I have to pick the three most important…

Organizational imperative

Endorsement July 13 - all staff meeting on July 14

Gov was lunch speaker

Exec said - this is all hands on deck.

Break out groups by division - listened.

Similar conversations with leaders.

Built a campaign around their ideas.

Data Driven - tried to ID every member's voting preference, kept a better volunteer data base. Reported progress on IDs and Vol recruitment to everyone (staff, leaders, key members) every week. Used polling to shape messages, use modeling to focus our message like a laser on those who were most persuadable.

Created staff, governance, member groups in every county and gave them the tools to create face to face contact with every member.

The purpose of our April Poll was to evaluate baseline support for Corzine. We conducted a second poll in August to find the messages that would work best with our members. It revealed that our primary messaging should revolve around six key issues:


Health benefits

Collective bargaining


School funding


And when I saw the results one word came to my mind … DUH…. We just paid $41,000 for that???  I could have had a V-8.

But glad we did - kept us focused (not distracted by economy, corruption, the issue de jour) - able to hold it up to members, staff, leaders all with own ideas about what we should be saying. Base line to track these issues in future. So we had a message but now we needed to think to whom and how we were going to deliver it. We needed to jump start the campaign.

We hired a vendor to make live ID calls to our members the week of August 22-30. Purpose was to find supporters to base a campaign around and mine for volunteers. They reached 104,619 members which is 57.8% of contactable membership. Asked who they were going to support in the Governor's race. If they said Corzine they were asked if they would like to volunteer to help NJEA - we found 2,791 potential volunteers.

We started the campaign with 24,175 Corzine supporters and 16,739 Christie supporters. With this info we could begin communicating with members according to their voting preference -

We used these IDs as the backbone of the member to member campaign being carried out in every school building of every local. We also used this info to get started on our direct mail program.

Comprised of staff and governance from each county - GR staff, U/S staff, Cnty Pres, Exec, GR, CCC, NJREA, others. Allows each county, within set parameters, to develop an action plan suitable for their region - given a budget. Plan own calendar of events. Creates buy-in. Plan activities like phone banks, voter registration, ID of voter preferences, promotion of endorsed candidates, volunteer recruitment and assignment, VBM etc.

Main fx was phone banks - during persuasion period list cut for them was paid ID calls - members reached but self ID'd as undecided.

Opened a full time campaign office in a conference room. Members attending committee meetings pop in for info.

Grub for the Gov Fridays and other events keep the fun factor high

Open from 8 am – 8 pm for staff to phone bank, enter data, get training, and learn of other volunteer opportunities.

Staff assisted field operations around the state by doing VBM chase calls, voter ID calls, scheduling of volunteers, and data entry.  (if we looked at numbers and activity slow in a county we could bring the work in house and get it done).

ALL OF THIS PLANNED BY STAFF - GR represented but not in charge of staff involvement committee - associate staff ran it.

This created competition and enthusiasm. Another way we maintained enthusiasm was by creating buzz….

Vote Notes 09 - weekly news letter to staff, Exec Comm, and County Presidents. Additionally, staff sent several emails daily with latest polls, articles about candidates, links to videos, copies of NJEA's mailers, articles mentioning NJEA, etc. Staff involvement committee created own logo and put out their own e-newsletter touting their accomplishments.

SO that covers field operations. Now let's talk about the other ways we communicated with members….

NJEA asked its pollster to compute a modeling score on the membership file twice during the campaign. Using our paid ID call data, polling data, field program data, and demographic information, the pollster was able to provide us with a statistical scoring model to help us target our members more efficiently. And it did not cost a lot - about $5,800  for both models. Benefit of layering - could do it b/c of three polls, live IDs, building and phone bank data.

(Ed. note: The remainder involves reading the results of the campaign, covered in last week's bulletin.)

Many of these techniques will be familiar to those of you who have been involved in political campaigns, but the NJEA presentation offers to the public (and, dare I say, most union members) an unprecedented and detailed look at its political operations - and why teachers' unions are worth covering and analyzing.

3)  Upcoming: Brookings Webcast on Education Coverage. On Wednesday afternoon, the Brookings Institution will webcast its panel, titled: "No Reader Left Behind: Improving Media Coverage of Education." I don't know if it will settle anything, but it features Richard Colvin of the Hechinger Institute, Dale Mezzacappa of the Education Writers Association, and Andrew Rotherham of Eduwonk fame - none of whom are working for newspapers right now, which should give you some sense of why there is concern. They're all good people and I'll be watching, if I'm not too busy covering education.

4)  Irony Alert: Union Accused Rhee of Hiring Too Many Teachers. A DC Superior Court judge dismissed a lawsuit by the Washington Teachers Union that sought to reverse teacher layoffs. It's not surprising that WTU filed suit, but one of its arguments raised my eyebrows. The Washington Post reported:

"Union attorney Lee Jackson argued that Rhee, in essence, went on an illegal hiring spree over the spring and summer, bringing more than 900 new teachers on board knowing that she would need to make cuts later. The union claimed that Rhee sought to move out older teachers in favor of younger ones that she wanted to hire."

Wow, that's nervy. If hiring too many teachers is illegal, we're going to have to lock up several thousand superintendents, and several thousand more union officers who encouraged them to do it.

5)  Janesville Education Association Joins AFL-CIO. The Janesville Education Association became the fourth NEA local affiliate in Wisconsin to hook up with the AFL-CIO through the Labor Solidarity Partnership. However, this is the first time (that I know of) the local increased dues specifically to pay the AFL-CIO affiliation fees, eventually to reach $19 per member per year.

6)  Nightmare Headline of the Week. From the November 29 Tallmadge Express (Ohio):

"Antonucci Named 'Teacher of Year'"

7)  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 38, Part A, Section 7:

"The Retirement Plan shall allow active employees in the bargaining unit the opportunity to purchase up to three years of previous experience with an employer not participating in the Plan."

8)  Last Week's Intercepts. EIA's blog, Intercepts, covered these topics from November 23-30:

* AFT Local President Applies for Concealed Weapon Permit, Compares Himself to Gandhi, Martin Luther King. "No more Mr. Passive Resistance!"

* America's Most Effective Education Program. Illustrating the role of government.

* NEA's Dead Sea Scrolls. Or are they the Pentagon Papers?

9)  Quote of the Week. "Teachers need an opportunity to have a dialogue with each other. Some schools are in corrective action. They have alternative providers who come into the school to provide teaching strategies. When are they going to have the opportunity to have that training? Clearly, by giving them up, it would be a disservice to the students. This is about the quality of education. It's not about money." - Wil Okabe, president of the Hawaii State Teachers Association, explaining why he opposes giving up 15 teacher planning days. Okabe didn't explain why giving up 17 instructional days is less of a disservice to the students. (November 26 Honolulu Advertiser)


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