1) California Teachers Association's
(Almost) Million Dollar Race to the Stop. In an
attempt to qualify for some $700 million in federal Race to the Top funds,
California Gov. Arnold Schwarzenegger called a special session of the
legislature to remove some impediments and increase the state's chances. The
result was a bill sponsored by Sen. Gloria Romero (D-Los Angeles) that would
lift the state's charter school cap, allow children in the lowest-performing
schools to transfer to any school in the state or let their parents "force
overhauls that could include firing teachers or changing the school into a
The bill narrowly passed the Senate, but died in the Assembly Education
Committee - replaced by a bill sponsored by the committee's chairwoman,
Julia Brownley (D-Santa Monica). Brownley's bill eliminates the school
choice and parental empowerment provisions, and adds new regulations of
charter schools, though it does lift the cap. Unsurprisingly, the Romero
bill was met with fierce opposition from the California Teachers Association
(CTA), while the Brownley bill received union support.
crafted by the education establishment, and they are anti-charter school
because, simply put, it threatens their enterprise," said
Margaret Fortune, a charter school founder and California State
University trustee. Gov. Schwarzenegger says he will veto the Brownley bill
if it reaches his desk.
If you think this all occurred in the normal
rough-and-tumble of California politics, think again. CTA developed an
activist plan for dealing with Race to the Top legislation during the summer
and allocated up to $950,000 to implement it. The union's first order of
business was to stall the Romero bill.
"Education reform shouldn't be a race;
it deserves serious attention that will actually help kids and improve
student achievement," said CTA President David Sanchez. "Proposed reforms
need thoughtful discussion with all stakeholders, including parents,
teachers and community members. They should not be sprung on the public just
hours before last-minute hearings if any meaningful input is really going to
take place." It won't surprise you to know that CTA has used similar tactics
in the past to pass legislation it liked.
CTA's power to stonewall education bills
is legendary. The primary reason California was able to create charter
schools in the first place is because
CTA feared something worse - vouchers. What is less examined is the lack
of intestinal fortitude shown by administrators and school boards.
In a recent blog post for the American Enterprise Institute,
Andrew Smarick wrote of his recent visit to California to speak to school
board members about Race to the Top:
"...I got question after question about
the state's teachers union. The board members didn't know how it was
possible to advance legislation related to charter schooling, merit pay, and
other reforms when the union and the legislators who listen to them are
adamantly opposed. I, unfortunately, had little by way of advice."
If Smarick had known, he might have
suggested they tell the California School Boards Association to
stop carrying CTA's water.
"By rushing to enact legislation before
the release of final federal regulations," said CSBA President Paula S.
Campbell about the Romero bill, "the California State Senate is jumping to
conclusions about what is required by the federal government as well as what
makes good sense. For example, while districts should have a wide range of
options to improve low performing schools, SB1 5X instead limits reform
options by forcing districts to choose from options that research has
consistently shown to have a limited chance of success. It makes no sense to
act quickly if the result is a step backward for school reform."
The school administrators association
was no better. "At this time we should be focusing on working together to
develop a thoughtful Race to the Top plan, rather than adding new laws that
may be unnecessary or that may conflict with the final guidelines," said
Association of California School Administrators president Charles Weis. "Our
analysis shows there is no need for changes to state law to apply for Race
to the Top, and premature reforms may have long term and potentially
unnecessary consequences for students and schools."
The non-union public education
establishment in California loves to whine about CTA, but they would rather
stand with the union than with the Democrats and civil rights groups who are
2) 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 39, Section 1:
"The following benefits shall be
provided for employees:
"(a) medical and hospitalization
benefits equivalent to those provided by NEA's present medical plan, without
cost to employees, provided, however, that in the event an employee elects
to participate in an HMO, NEA shall not be required to contribute to such
HMO at a cost greater than it would have incurred on behalf of said employee
under the aforementioned plan.
"(b) dental and orthodontic benefits
equivalent to those presently provided, without cost to employees with an
annual dental maximum of $3,000 and a lifetime orthodontic maximum of
"(c) the cost of ophthalmologic
examinations for employees and their families once every two years.
Additionally, NEA shall reimburse employees up to $600 during the term of
this Agreement for the cost of prescription eyeglasses/contact lenses, or
Lasik surgery for the employee and each eligible dependent.
"(d) life insurance benefits equivalent
to those provided by NEA's present life insurance plan up to $50,000 of
coverage, including payment by NEA of the premium cost. The employee may
elect to pay for additional available coverage between $50,000 and $300,000.
The cost of elective life insurance is contained in the table at Attachment
"(e) a short-term disability program
(STD), available to an employee who is unable to perform the type of work
he/she normally performs at NEA because of continuing illness or disability,
upon exhausting the employee’s medical leave, after a ten (10)-day waiting
period, assuring the employee an income equal to one hundred percent (100%)
of the employee’s current income for up to one hundred twenty (120) days
until the employee is eligible for long-term disability.
"(f) In the event that an employee
remains unable to perform the type of work he/she performed at NEA prior to
being placed in the short-term disability program because of continuing
illness or disability, NEA will, through a long-term disability program
coordinated with all other benefits provided to the employee, assure the
employee an income equal to two-thirds his/her then current income until the
employee is 65 years of age. The guaranteed assured income level will be
annually adjusted to reflect adjustment in the wages of NEA employees.
"(g) Medical and dental coverage shall
be available to an employee's domestic partner in accordance with applicable
"(h) Employees shall be eligible to
participate in the existing NEA Flexible Spending Account programs, in
accordance with Section 125 of the Internal Revenue Code, for medical and/or
dependent care expenses."
3) Last Week's Intercepts.
Intercepts, covered these topics from December 7-14:
Teacher Cuts Off First-Grader's Braid; Union Blames It on "Budget
Constraints." It's enough to make you pull out your hair.
History Belabored. Books that won't make it into Wisconsin's labor
Jokeland. Gertrude Stein, affirmed.
Indiana State Teachers Association Finds Fraud Charges "Perplexing." You
mean, all isn't forgiven?
Good Luck With That! No refunds.
What Would YOU Say to the NEA? Opportunity missed.
4) Quote of the Week.
"When your boss gives you a check and says you either have to give up part
of it or lose your job, that's extortion." - Stephen Conn, former (and
future?) candidate for president of the Detroit Federation of Teachers,
discussing the district's proposal in which teachers would agree to a $250
deduction from their bi-weekly paychecks to close a $219 million budget
deficit. (December 12
right, Stephen. If it's extortion when your boss does it,
what is it when your union does it?