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April 5, 2010

1) EIA Exclusive: Indiana State Teachers Association Expects to Be Solvent... in 2027. The Indiana State Teachers Association is understandably worried that reductions in state aid will lead to teacher layoffs - up to 8 percent of the workforce, according to ISTA estimates. But the union's concerns go beyond the potential loss of members that many NEA affiliates face. Any significant reduction in ISTA's membership might derail the union's own budget plan which already ties up a significant amount of resources in an attempt to zero out ISTA's debt in 17 years.

The union has its own financial troubles, but is also on the hook for the catastrophic failure of its insurance trust. ISTA is currently under NEA administratorship, and is reliant on the national union for loans and the real estate of its own headquarters building. The union cut staff and increased annual dues by $40.

The NEA administrator and ISTA officers developed a long-term budget that will require the state organization to generate $4.7 million annually for the next 17 years exclusively dedicated to funding the obligations of the failed insurance trust. ISTA takes in less than $25 million annually in dues. Officers and staff were informed that the union "will be reporting a substantial negative net worth for the next 17 years."

The long-term plan is based on a number of assumptions, the shakiest of which is that school districts will fail to win their legal claims against the trust, which could add almost $1 million annually to the price tag.

Unknown at this point is the extent of NEA's financial commitment. Certainly the national union's loans and guarantees will be large, but in the wake of layoffs, cash grants may also be necessary. ISTA has already instituted additional staff cuts and reorganization in preparation for a budget vote by the union's representative assembly, scheduled for April 24 in Indianapolis.

2) More Students, More Teachers; Fewer Students, More Teachers. The Empire Center for New York State Policy drew some badly needed attention to the disconnect between education employee hiring and student enrollment levels.

Over the past 10 years, New York State public schools lost 121,000 students, but added 24,000 employees. The report's line and bar graph displays the problem clearly.

New York is hardly the only state with this phenomenon. In fact, it's one of 12 states that have responded to losses in students with gains in teachers. Our neighbors to the north are experiencing the same situation.

Even less examined than teacher hiring levels is their effect on teacher quality. If the goal is to retain everyone and recruit even more, isn't it inevitable that quality will suffer?

3) Last Week's Intercepts. EIA's blog, Intercepts, covered these topics from April 1-5:

*  I Have Returned. And just in time to see NEA New Hampshire's staff picket union headquarters.

NEA's Easter Basket. Why not one teacher for every kid in America?

Ed Sector's "Interactive Explainer" Omits Important Variable. The march of time.

4) Quote of the Week. "In fact, collective bargaining is too important and sensitive to discuss in private. It's an absolute outrage that one group of public employees (administrators) gets to meet in secret with another group of public employees (rank and file) to decide how to spend your money. Citizens should be able to witness the collective bargaining process in person and thereby hold elected officials directly accountable for the outcomes.." - the Las Vegas Review-Journal editorial board. (April 2 Las Vegas Review-Journal)


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