1) Teacher Union Election
Post-Mortems. The evidence is anecdotal, but there
seem to be far more contested elections for teacher union leadership
positions than in the recent past. Incumbents are seeing more challengers,
and the challengers are championing new directions for their respective
unions - with varying degrees of success among the rank-and-file.
The election for the presidency of the
Hawaii State Teachers Association featured incumbent Wil Okabe against
challenger Paul Daugherty. Okabe ascended to the position three years ago as
incumbent vice president. Daugherty is a member of the union's negotiations
committee who was unhappy with the lack of communication between the
leadership and the members.
"There's cultural secrecy, not the
transparency that I expect from a democratic organization," he said.
His message struck a chord, but not
enough of one to get him elected. Okabe prevailed with 52 percent of the
vote. Turnout was about 21 percent.
"I am disappointed in our teachers' lack of participation in selecting their
leadership," Daugherty told
Honolulu Civil Beat. "As role models of civic responsibility for our
students, I feel that we have a duty to vote. Didn't happen."
Lack of communication was also an issue
in Methuen, Massachusetts - but more because of what happened after the
election. Ann DiBenedetto defeated incumbent Methuen
Education Association president Donna Gogas, but the union's
decided in closed session to hold a re-vote. There were rumors of
irregularities and by-laws violations, but if there are people with
objective accounts of what happened, they are keeping the story to
Gogas took to the
union web site to defend the process and the integrity of the executive
board, stating, "Those who are critical of the process need to reserve
judgment until they hear the facts." She didn't, however, provide any facts,
perhaps operating under the notion that the union can control who hears
In Providence, Rhode Island, the beef
was that the incumbent union president, Steve Smith, was collaborating with
management on issues such as Race to the Top without majority support from
the rank-and-file. A group of teachers formed a slate of candidates called
"Teachers for a Democratic Union," but
they failed to oust Smith in another low-turnout election.
There isn't an institution within
driving distance that the Oakland Education Association hasn't tried to
overthrow, but internally the union is pretty counter-revolutionary.
Incumbent president Betty Olson-Jones was term-limited out, so she threw her
support to her vice-president, Trish Gorman. Gorman was opposed by perennial
candidate Mark Airgood, who picked up
8 percent of the vote running against Dennis Van Roekel for NEA
president last year.
There was a small slate of candidates
toning down the union's leftist rhetoric. They all lost. But the
far-lefty slate got trounced as well.
Gorman defeated Airgood by a 3-to-1 margin. "The low voter turnout among
Oakland teachers has everything to do with a union that seems hell bent on
advancing every radical agenda going," commented one Oakland teacher, who
added that the views of Airgood and his slate "are utterly unrepresentative
of the majority of Oakland teachers and the people of Oakland who do not
want a Trotskyist revolution. Oakland schools and teachers would get a lot
more support if it was made clear that our union was not being infiltrated
and/or run by a small clique of America-hating extremists who use threats
and intimidation to achieve their goals in the face of democratic decisions
and procedures. A new generation of teachers is coming up with no connection
to, nor desire to relive the glory days of the 1960s."
But while the union establishment kept
the more radical elements out of power in Oakland, in Jersey City we can see
why there are radical elements in the first place.
Tom Favia is finally retiring as the president of the Jersey City
Education Association. He is described as "beloved by teachers," and if you
think he sounds like an old-school union president, you would be right. In
2007 a Jersey Journal investigation discovered that Favia
owned and operated a private travel agency out of union headquarters,
and used union secretaries to field calls for his business.
It's impossible to tell if there is a
trend developing out of all of this, but certainly any contested elections,
no matter the views of the candidates, are preferable to the hereditary
system currently practiced by most teachers' unions.
2) Last Week's Intercepts.
Intercepts, covered these topics from May 8-14:
Krugman Named NEA Friend of Education. The other cast members of
Get Him to the Greek were unavailable.
In Wisconsin the Memory Hole Is Already Clogged. Forget Kathleen
Whatsername. Now we'll show you a real campaign!
Stop the Presses! NJ Taxpayers Discover They're Paying for Union Work.
Without release time, New Jersey wouldn't have all the "labor harmony" it
of Those "Weak Union" States. It's not always about collective
Governor Cuts a Deal. We'll see how it goes.
Correction. Just like the government, sometimes I type "million" when I
3) Quote of the Week #1.
"If someone were lying on the road dying would it matter to you who came to
save you? If it was a Democrat or a Republican, would it matter?" - Ohio
state Senator Nina Turner (D-Cleveland), after receiving angry e-mails from
Ohio Federation of Teachers members because of her support for a bill that
would allow charter schools in Cleveland to share funds raised by city
school levies. (May 10
Cleveland Plain Dealer)
Quote of the Week #2.
"There was a big song about fiber." - U.S. Secretary of Education Arne
Duncan, describing his daughter's elementary school play. (May 10