1) California's Shadow Legislature:
21 Years Later. Los Angeles Times reporter
Michael J. Mishak has written an
excellent and detailed description of the power and influence the
California Teachers Association holds in state government. He begins with
Last year, as Gov.
hammered out final details of the state budget, he huddled around a
conference table with three of the most powerful people in state government:
the Assembly speaker, the Senate leader - and Joe Nuņez, chief lobbyist for
the California Teachers Assn.
California was on the edge of fiscal crisis. Negotiations had
come down to one sticking point: Brown and the legislators would balance the
books by assuming that billions of dollars in extra revenue would
materialize, then cut deeply from schools if it didn't.
Nuņez said no.
Opposition from the powerful union, which had just staged a
week of public protests against budget cuts, could mean a costly legal
challenge. So the group took a break, and the officials retired to another
room to hash out something acceptable to
Nuņez awaited their return.
who read the article will receive an illuminating lesson on how the state
political apparatus really operates. Mishak's story is particularly
depressing for me, as the state of affairs he describes is what prompted me
to start writing about teachers' unions in the first place.
I dug through
an old file box and found a lengthy report I wrote for the
Claremont Institute back in October 1994 - long before I created the
Education Intelligence Agency. It was part of a series the organization had
commissioned called "The California Teachers Association: Power Politics vs.
Education Reform." My contribution was a 25-page briefing titled "The Shadow
described in gory detail the unique role CTA played in running the state
government, but I won't rehash all that. It will be sufficient to cite this
paragraph, from a Los Angeles Times story of June 24, 1991:
As the Legislature wrestled with the state's $14.3 billion
budget deficit through a sweltering weekend earlier this month, some of the
key moves were not made by legislators but by officials of the 200,000
member California Teachers Association. CTA lobbyists, carrying proposals
and counter-proposals, scurried between the Assembly and Senate chambers and
union headquarters, in a former Mexican restaurant two blocks away. They met
with individual legislators, groups of lawmakers and representatives of
other education groups to discuss nuances of the complex budget
negotiations. In the end they won at least a partial victory when Gov. Pete
Wilson dropped his high-profile campaign to suspend Proposition 98, the 1988
voter-approved initiative that guarantees funding for public schools and
community colleges. Instead of cutting schools by $2.1 billion as he
proposed in his budget, Wilson ended up increasing school spending by $822
A lot of
things have changed in California in the 21 years since that paragraph was
written. As Mishak describes, a lot of the pushback against CTA now comes
from Democrats. The state now has more than
1,000 charter schools with more than 410,000 students. Back then, it had
none. Former CTA President Del Weber said of charters in March 1993: "About
the only thing we're sure of is that charter schools can employ
non-certificated teachers, ignore state mandates for health and safety
education, abrogate academic freedom, hire or fire teachers for ideological
reasons, and escape all accountability to the taxpayers at large while
operating on the taxpayers' money." These days, CTA claims it is "not
opposed to charter schools."
things never change. The state has run budget deficits under Republicans and
Democrats, under large one-party majorities and divided government, under
professional politicians and Hollywood actors. The one common factor is the
presence in the room of CTA's top lobbyist. Capitol Weekly named Joe
Nuņez the second most powerful political player in the state -
behind only someone who sleeps with the governor. Time for CTA to stand
outside the locked door with the rest of us.
2) More School District Enrollment
and Spending Tables Posted. Getting to the home
stretch of completing
EIA's school district enrollment and spending tables.
Alabama through South Carolina are done.
Other projects keep intervening, but there are only 10 states left!
3) Last Week's Intercepts.
Intercepts, covered these topics from August 14-20:
Strategizing Against Parent Trigger Movie. "Power achieved is power
Tweeting, Parroting and Doubling Down. Vox populi in [Nearby City].
List of Staff Union Sanctions Grows. NEA affiliates don't model the
collaboration model with their own employees.
Is It Really Time to Merge? Whether an NEA/AFT merger would benefit
teachers or their unions is arguable. Whether it would benefit education
labor reporters is not.
Mystic Seaport Workers Reject AFT Representation. This is what democracy
looks like when you lose.
Quote of the Week.
"We bear a lot of responsibility for this. We were focused - as unions are -
on fairness and not as much on quality." -
Randi the Anguished, commenting on the union's traditional defense of
seniority over performance. (August 18
New York Times)