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May 16, 2011

1) NEA Gives Friend of Education Award to 14 Fugitive Wisconsin Democrats. Each year the National Education Association issues a "Friend of Education" award to some liberal worthy known for toeing the union line. Last year's award went to Diane Ravitch, and previous winners are Bill Clinton, Nancy Pelosi, Jimmy Carter and Ted Kennedy.

This year the union decided to honor the 14 Wisconsin Senate Democrats who fled the state rather than debate and vote on the governor's collective bargaining bill.

It is believed to be the first multi-week sojourn to the Tilted Kilt ever to result in an award from a major national organization.

2) CTA's State of Emergency: The Lamest Show on Earth. The California Teachers Association's State of Emergency rallies ended last Friday, not with a bang but with a whimper. "Mellow" is not a word you want associated with the culmination of your angry protests.

Many of the union's nuttier ideas were discarded under public scrutiny, but one that survived intact was the "300 volunteers needed for a sit-in in the State Capitol (beginning Monday, May 9)." We've since learned that the sit-in and arrests on Monday occurred over CTA objections, and the "occupation" of the Capitol involved searching in vain for GOP legislators to bother (it helps if you know what they look like).

Two news cycles were devoted to CTA president David Sanchez's overnight jail stay (plus video) and the - I kid you not - vigil that was held until his release.

It's somehow appropriate to the situation in California that the State of Emergency protests cost millions of dollars and thousand of man-hours while accomplishing nothing concrete.

The reason there are education layoffs in California isn't a mystery. Allysia Finley summed it up very nicely in the Wall Street Journal:

The stock market run-up stuffed state and local coffers - but lawmakers decided not to save any of the surplus cash for a rainy day. Between 2004 and 2007, the state increased K-12 and community college funding to $56 billion from $47 billion. Even as student enrollment declined, schools added 4,000 teaching, 2,100 administrative and 5,200 student-support jobs. Meanwhile, school districts that experienced a boom in property-tax revenue increased teacher benefits and salaries.

3) The History of Public Education Hiring: Ancient and Recent. The U.S. Department of Education's National Center for Education Statistics just released a "First Look" report on enrollment and staffing levels in America's public schools for 2009-10. It might surprise you to know that the size of the public education workforce grew 0.4 percent that school year, despite an enrollment increase of only 0.2 percent.

Of course, things are different in the current school year, 2010-11. According to the Bureau of Labor Statistics, the number of people employed in "local government education" - the category that includes most K-12 teachers and support workers - declined 1.66 percent since April 2010. But even this number is somewhat mitigated by the number of people employed in "state government education," which increased 1.51 percent.

Still, it's understandable that education employees should be upset about widespread layoffs. It's an experience very few of them can even remember happening. The economic research division of the Federal Reserve Bank of St. Louis helpfully posts this graph of "local government education" staffing levels since 1955, accompanied by shaded areas denoting recessions.


Numbers covering nearly 60 years of American history suggest a major recession is the only thing that has ever even stalled steady increases in education employee hiring, and then only momentarily. It seems to me the wrong side is being gloomy.

4) Illinois: National Model? It seems like only weeks ago that the crafting of an education and labor reform bill in Illinois with union backing was being hailed as a national model - bypassing those nasty battles seen in Wisconsin and Ohio.

That's because it was only weeks ago.

But the bill that now sits on the governor's desk lost the support of the Chicago Teachers Union and the Illinois Federation of Teachers, while the Illinois Education Association ultimately took a neutral stance.

I sympathize with the teachers on this one. They were blindsided by a hinky deal negotiated behind closed doors by people who didn't necessarily have their interests in mind. Kind of like what happens to the public during teacher collective bargaining.

5) Washington Education Association Approves "Day of Action." It's all the rage with the cool kids. I'm guessing it will include, oh, I don't know, a protest rally at the Capitol?

6) NEA Archives Open to Public - Don't Get Trampled. The $2.5 million archives of NEA documents and records are now "open for researchers" at George Washington University. This is great news for the International Brotherhood of NEA Researchers, of which I am a charter member. We would meet annually in a phone booth, if there were any anymore.

Don't bother meandering over there for a look. You need to contact the archivist at least a week in advance. Or you can just go here or here.

7) Upon Deeper Reflection, Go Pound Sand. Last month Christine Burke, director of the Maine Education Association Benefits Trust, agreed to provide documentary support for the 75 percent increase in payments to the union for "administrative services."

When the Fenceviewer asked about it, Burke decided, under advice of counsel, that "we are under no obligation to share our contract with you or your newspaper. The contract is between two private entities."

The newspaper has been investigating the trust.

8) Last Week's Intercepts. EIA's blog, Intercepts, covered these topics from May 10-16:

Inside CTA's State of Emergency Protests. Evidently even CTA thinks those Oakland teachers are out of control.

*  Filling the Empty Chairs. The world will end if we lay off the extra people we hired two years ago.

News From the Big Top. The Sixties are over.

NEA and AFT Affiliates in North Dakota Plan to Merge. More double-counting!

Kings Crush CTA in Battle of the Rallies. Blowout.

9) Scheduling Note. There will be no e-mail communiqué next week. It will return Tuesday, May 31.

10) Quote of the Week #1. "If we don't get the [tax] extension, then public education in California will die." - A.J. Duffy, outgoing president of United Teachers Los Angeles. (May 14 Los Angeles Times)

Quote of the Week #2. "It should remain confidential. It's a contract between the employees and the employer." - Meladie Munch, president of the Jefferson Federation of Teachers, objecting to a bill that would make public sector collective bargaining sessions subject to Louisiana's open meetings law. (May 14 New Orleans Times-Picayune)


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