February 8, 2015
Where Are the Most Fee-Payers? The Answer Might Surprise You. There are 10 plaintiffs in Friedrichs v. California Teachers Association, the U.S. Supreme Court case that may put an end to public sector unions’ practice of charging agency fees to non-members. All of them – as far as I can determine – are K-12 teachers. Unrepresented in the case is a group of employees who constitute a far larger percentage of fee-payers in their job classification: higher education faculty.
This fact is virtually unknown outside of union headquarters buildings because the specific location of fee-payers is held very close to the vest. The reason is simple. As I’ve mentioned before, unions like agency fees, but they love exclusive representation. A high fee-payer population means fertile ground for a rival union to challenge the incumbent in a representation election. And from a public relations standpoint, it is injurious to the union’s image to have a large percentage of non-members.
Last August I was able to obtain for the first time a breakdown of NEA’s fee-payers by state. It wasn’t a surprise to find that California and New York had the largest number of fee-payers, since they also had the largest number of members. The margin was huge, however. Those states had four times more fee-payers than the next closest state, Minnesota. Size alone could not explain the difference.
But now I have an internal CTA document that breaks down its agency fee-payer population by region. The fee-payer population across the state occupied a narrow band between 2% and 6%, except for those school employees represented by the San Diego Education Association and United Teachers Los Angeles, where fee-payers were 10.8% and 10.2% of their bargaining units, respectively.
The eye-openers were the percentages for CTA’s higher education members. CTA has two higher ed affiliates: the Community College Association, which represents community college faculty throughout the state, and the California Faculty Association, which represents faculty in the California State University system. CFA is also affiliated with SEIU and the American Association of University Professors (AAUP).
Fee-payers make up 36.2% of CCA bargaining units and 35.3% of CFA units.
I could not obtain a similar accounting for the California Federation of Teachers, but higher ed faculty are a large proportion of CFT’s 56,000 members. Disclosure reports reveal 18% of those in CFT bargaining units are fee-payers.
Further research showed that 18.6% of the bargaining unit members covered by the Professional Staff Congress, the union for faculty in the City University of New York system, are agency fee-payers.
Moving to national figures, units represented by the AAUP consist of almost 23% fee-payers.
My research of relevant state laws was thorough (though not exhaustive), but I cannot find any distinction between the agency fee statutes for K-12 employees and public university higher education employees. So the law does not appear to be the reason for the difference in the number of fee-payers.
Delving so far down into the rabbit hole of K-12 education labor issues for all these year has always made me squeamish about taking up the even more arcane task of doing the same for higher ed. But I would be interested to know why the fee-payer percentages are so much larger and what, if any, implications can be drawn for a post-Friedrichs future.
If anyone has reasonable answers, I’ll make room for them in Intercepts.
Recent Intercepts. EIA’s daily blog, Intercepts, covered these topics February 2-February 8:
* Chicago Teachers Union’s Bold Stance for Choice. Opting out.
* Congratulations, Sticker Boy, You’re the Poster Child for NEA. “And then I told my friend Tim to come up, and he said they let him in because he’s Asian, they needed more minorities up there.”
* NEA, AFT Spin in Opposite Directions. Was Iowa a great victory or nothing much? Both!
* Job Opening: Captain of a Sinking Ship. The compensation package can act as your lifeboat.
* Florida Education Association’s Finances. Not so sunny.
* Delaware State Education Association’s Finances. Mostly uninterrupted growth.
Quote of the Week. “We don’t expect that 3 million people are just going to do whatever we put in a memo.” – Lily Eskelsen-Garcia, president of the National Education Association, commenting on rank-and-file resistance to the union’s support of Hillary Clinton. (February 2 Education Week)
They will, however, have to pay for whatever you put in a memo.
February 1, 2015
Teacher Unionists Will Be Victorious Tonight, But Which Ones? Guess what? The Iowa caucuses are tonight! Who knew?
I don’t know, or much care, who will win, but I am hoping for Hillary to mimic Howard Dean’s “I Have a Scream” speech from 2004.
I do know that tonight’s results will resonate throughout the National Education Association and American Federation of Teachers, because they will reveal the current correlation of political forces within those unions. The winners, and their margins of victory, will tell us which way the wind blows when it comes to the Democratic mainstream, services-oriented unionists vs. the socialist, movement-oriented unionists.
NEA and AFT endorsed Clinton early, even though there was substantial opposition within both unions. NEA polled a random sampling of members, who preferred Clinton by a wide margin over Sanders. But Clinton couldn’t crack 50 percent. Even worse, Sanders supporters were much more vocal and enthusiastic than Clinton supporters.
The unions pressed ahead with Hillary, and they have unleashed the full power of their dues money, campaign expertise and professional advocates. Both NEA president Lily Eskelsen Garcia and AFT president Randi Weingarten are in Iowa, personally directing the effort.
These things are never decided on education or labor issues, but a vote is a vote regardless of why. If Hillary wins by more than a whisker, it will validate NEA/AFT’s traditional approach in a notably non-traditional election cycle. The inevitability factor will re-emerge, both for Clinton and for the status quo in union leadership.
If Sanders wins, the whole conversation changes, especially since he’s a virtual lock in New Hampshire next week. Sanders’ threat to Clinton’s national campaign is probably overstated, but it will require her to rely on the Southern primaries and her advantages with African-Americans to carry the day.
That’s good news for Clinton, but not necessarily for the teachers’ unions. They are weakest in the very states Clinton would need to carry, diminishing their value to her. NEA and AFT officers will be subjected to at least a month of internal second-guessing and criticism, even more pointed than what we saw last week in The Intercept (no relation) and Mother Jones.
A subsequent Clinton victory in the November election, achieved without a special and strategically significant contribution of the teachers’ unions, leaves them with a friend in the White House, for sure, but a friend almost exactly like the one they had in Barack Obama in 2008. I’m certain that isn’t the scenario NEA and AFT had in mind when they endorsed Clinton.
I don’t put much stock in the importance of reported union member support for Donald Trump. Oh, it’s real enough at this stage, as evidenced by this bizarre press release from Working America, “the community affiliate of the AFL-CIO.” Most of this will return to the Democratic nominee, within historical bounds, but it does emphasize the disaffection within the unions that liberal media outlets have noticed.
There have always been grumblings in the rank-and-file about union policies, and political campaigns tend to bring them out into the open. But the grumblings have never been this loud before. If NEA and AFT want to quiet them and proceed with business as usual, they better hope for a big Clinton win tonight.
Recent Intercepts. EIA’s daily blog, Intercepts, covered these topics January 26-February 1:
* Unionization Rate Down Slightly Again. Will 2016 have a dead cat bounce before Friedrichs kicks in?
* Connecticut Education Association’s Finances. Rolling along.
* Colorado Education Association’s Finances. Spinning in place.
* Arkansas Education Association’s Finances. Sinking in the mud.
Disillusionment Quote of the Week. “As she always has been, Diane [Ravitch] is serving someone other than the children, teachers, and parents that she officially loves and regularly turns her back on when the ‘policymakers’ call. As such, Diane is the mistress of manipulation and disingenuity and a barrier to effective corporate education resistance.” – Jim Horn, blogger and professor of educational leadership at Cambridge College in Massachusetts. (February 1 Schools Matter)
January 25, 2015
Loss of Agency Fees Could Ruin NEA Affiliates in Right-to-Work States. Media coverage of the Friedrichs case has mostly focused on how it will adversely affect public sector unions overall. Reduced revenues and reduced membership will lead to a loss of political influence across the board, we are told.
But the way this will develop in the short term is interesting and counter-intuitive. It is likely that NEA affiliates in states without agency fees will feel more immediate and drastic effects.
To understand why, we need a short primer in how NEA finances itself. State affiliates collect dues for their own operations, but a portion of national dues (around 39 percent) is returned to the states in the form of UniServ grants and other aid. UniServ grants help pay the salaries and benefits of the professional labor negotiators and organizers each state affiliate employs.
We can learn a lot about the relative fiscal health of each affiliate by determining how much of its budget consists of NEA subsidies, as opposed to its own sources of revenue. The average NEA state affiliate receives 16.4 percent of its income from NEA.
These affiliates are least dependent on NEA: California, Delaware, Illinois, Massachusetts, Minnesota, New Jersey, New York, Ohio, Oregon, Pennsylvania and Washington. They are all agency fee states.
These affiliates are most dependent on NEA: Alabama, Indiana, Louisiana, Mississippi, New Mexico, Oklahoma, South Carolina, South Dakota, Tennessee, Texas, Utah School Employees Association, West Virginia and Wyoming. All but one of these (New Mexico) is a non-agency fee state.
It is sensible to think that the loss of agency fees will only affect the states that have them. They will eventually feel the pain, but they are financially healthy, for the most part, and the revenues they have collected for years will delay the onset. We even have two states to prove it. Michigan and Wisconsin both lost agency fee revenues in recent years, yet Michigan still only gets 9 percent of its income from NEA, and Wisconsin only 16.6 percent.
Agency fee states have been so healthy for so long their members have been propping up weak affiliates in non-agency fee states. When those revenues begin to dissipate, the struggling state affiliates have no reserves on which to draw. They will either begin to fail financially, or NEA will have to devote an increasing share of a decreasing pot of revenues to keep them viable.
The latter choice is the obvious one, but over time it will become more difficult to maintain, as formerly strong affiliates gradually become weak ones – as we will see first with Michigan and Wisconsin.
In short, people who expect some immediate devastation of the California Teachers Association, New Jersey Education Association and New York State United Teachers should the Friedrichs plaintiffs prevail are in for major disappointment. Instead, in places where they have never even heard of agency fees teachers’ unions will go from not being strong to not being able to do much of anything at all.
Rebel Challenge. For those of you who asked, my combined time of 3:00:38 placed me 355th of the 4,542 people who finished both races, and 7th of the 66 Rebel Challengers in my age group.
Recent Intercepts. EIA’s daily blog, Intercepts, covered these topics January 12-25:
* Justice Sotomayor’s Ingenious Solution to the Agency Fee Problem. Let’s make NEA and AFT company unions!
* One Voice? The union speaks for the majority of teachers, except when it doesn’t.
* Who Represents Detroit Teachers? Exclusive representation is playing the field.
* Former Teacher Union Chief Convicted on Fraud Charges. Federal trial still to come.
* South Dakota Unions Try to Swim Upstream. I have an idea: agency fees!
* Arizona Education Association’s Finances. Melting.
Close Enough for Government Work Quote of the Week. “In an interview with former Obama staffer David Axelrod, [SEIU President Mary Kay] Henry said about 64 percent of the union’s public-sector members identify themselves as conservative. (SEIU later told Morning Shift that its most recent data show that the actual number is around 36 percent).” – from the January 8 Politico.
January 11, 2015
Financial Status of All NEA State Affiliates. Here are the total membership figures, total revenues, surplus or deficit status and net assets for all National Education Association state affiliates for 2013-14. If the image is difficult to view, click here for the Adobe Acrobat version.
A few highlights:
* Even without accounting for the income of some 14,000 local affiliates, NEA and its state affiliates took in almost $1.6 billion in dues and other income, an increase of more than $1 million over the previous year.
* For the first time in decades – perhaps in its history – NEA national headquarters collected less total revenue than the previous year. Twenty state affiliates also had a decrease in revenue.
* Seventeen affiliates operated in the red during the 2013-14 school year.
* Ten affiliates have negative net worth.
Scheduling Note. There will be no communiqué next week. I’ll be at Disneyland running the Star Wars Rebel Challenge. The communiqué will return Monday, January 25.
Recent Intercepts. EIA’s daily blog, Intercepts, covered these topics January 5-11:
* NEA Budgets for No Agency Fee Revenue. Likely membership losses another issue entirely.
* Devastating. If $2 billion in cuts followed by $22 billion in increases is devastation, we’d all like a piece of it.
* Alabama Education Association’s Finances. What’s $16 million minus $24.5 million? A national trusteeship waiting to happen.
* NEA Alaska’s Finances. Staying frosty.
Quote of the Week. “Santeramo’s attorney Larry Davis maintains that his client did not commit any crime, and that Santeramo is looking forward to his day in court. Davis said at all times the books were open for the school board to see where the money was going, the unions auditors examined the paperwork and the program did so well, it served as a model for the entire state.” – from an NBC-TV Miami story about the trial of former Broward Teachers Union president Pat Santeramo, facing charges of stealing $35,000 in teacher training money from the school district. (January 5 NBC 6 News)
January 4, 2016
The 2015 EIA Public Education Quotes of the Year
EIA is proud to present the 2015 Public Education Quotes of the Year, in countdown order. Enjoy!
10) “No one ever entered the profession so they could join a teachers’ union.” – Kim Schroeder, president of the Milwaukee Teachers Education Association. (August 14 Deseret News)
9) “Rank-and-file dissidents have long had doubts about most forms of automatic dues collection, worrying that such a set-up helps create an ossified system in which a complacent top never comes face-to-face with a demobilized bottom.” – Ari Paul, writing about the possible loss of agency fees. (September 21 In These Times)
8) “There are people who have the libertarian view that we need to end public education. They want to destroy public education. They want to destroy every public service. I think they are not only foolish, but they are dangerous. Then there’s a group of reformers who may mean well, but they are totally disconnected from knowing teachers who know the names of the students in your class. And then there are the for-profit people who don’t care whether it’s public or private as long as they can make money on it.” – Hillary Clinton, speaking to the NEA Board of Directors on October 4.
7) “Lily Garcia should be replaced as president. This is the worst kind of union leadership, to go out there and make an endorsement – to even threaten an endorsement – without checking out what your members are saying.” – Liberal commentator Ed Schultz, reacting to NEA’s endorsement of Hillary Clinton (September 30 YouTube)
6) “Who cares what the data says because when you have administrators who don’t have applicants before the first day of school, there’s a shortage, end of story.” – Teresa Meredith, president of the Indiana State Teachers Association, in an August 28 Chalkbeat Indiana story headlined, “Why people think there’s a teacher shortage in Indiana and why they’re probably wrong.”
5) “There is a culture, and if it is not intentional it feels intentional, but there is a culture that actively discomforts and devalues members who disagree with any part of the established union narrative.” – Tom Rademacher, 2014 Minnesota Teacher of the Year. (February 17 Education Post)
4) “It’s kind of like an infestation of rodents or termites in your house. It’s amazing to me. Like a cult. I would say it’s like a cult.” – Rick Smith, radio talk show host, speaking about Teach for America. (October 12 The Rick Smith Show)
3) “Now, I wouldn’t keep any school open that wasn’t doing a better than average job.” – Hillary Clinton, speaking at an event in Keota, Iowa. (December 22 Des Moines Register)
2) “That’s like saying Chicago is the most murder-friendly city in the nation.” – Verdaillia Turner, president of the Georgia Federation of Teachers, reacting to the news that Atlanta was chosen as one of the most school choice-friendly cities in the nation. (December 9 Atlanta Journal-Constitution)
1) “We diversify our curriculum and instruction to meet the personal and individual needs of all of our students – the blind, the hearing-impaired, the physically challenged, the gifted and talented, the chronically ‘tarded and the medically annoying.” – Lily Eskelsen Garcia, president of the National Education Association, accepting a Progressive Champion award in an October 27 speech at the Campaign for America’s Future Awards Gala.
December 21, 2015
NEA Concedes Memphis Secession, Immediately Affiliates Competing Local. The 4,500-member Memphis-Shelby County Education Association (MSCEA) recently departed the loving embrace of the Tennessee Education Association and NEA and went its own way. The size of the local and margin of victory for disaffiliation kept it safe from a national or state takeover. If Tennessee were an agency fee state, that would be the end of the story. Memphis teachers would be able to remain in or join NEA, but they would still be obligated to financially support MSCEA, the exclusive representative. A separate organization would be out of the question, which is why you never see NEA and AFT locals in the same school district in agency fee states.
Fortunately for NEA and TEA, that isn’t the case. It was a relatively simple matter to set up a rival local, elect (?) officers for it, rent office space, put up a web site, and begin raiding the incumbent local for members.
NEA lent organizing support and had its general counsel send a cease-and-desist letter to MSCEA, claiming only NEA affiliates may use the designation “education association.” This will be news to groups like the Akron Education Association or the National Indian Education Association.
Only one member of the United Education Association of Shelby County (UEA) is identified on its web site, president Tikeila Rucker. There is no list of officers, and no contact information other than an email address for TEA.
On paper, however, UEA is claiming the majority of Memphis teachers as its own. That’s because all dues – local, state and national – are automatically taken from the paychecks of teachers who chose that option. This means MSCEA automatically gets the local dues, but TEA and NEA still get their share. UEA’s officers then pulled some membership legerdemain.
“One of their first acts was to extend UEA membership to all current TEA members, and because most members are still paying dues through payroll deduction the UEA is now the largest local in Tennessee,” the web site states, adding “The provisional officers voted to assess no local dues this school year.”
They could hardly do otherwise, since MSCEA is already receiving the local portion of each teacher’s dues.
NEA and TEA are cynically battling MSCEA with the cry that “members have the right to choose professional representation,” even as they head to the U.S. Supreme Court next month to deny that right to teachers and school employees in 20 other states.
A free and open market for representation is the best option for teachers and school employees no matter where they work. It’s educational to see NEA endorse the idea when it is to the union’s advantage to do so.
Recent Intercepts. EIA’s daily blog, Intercepts, covered these topics December 15-21:
* Not With a Bang, Or Even a Whimper. Edwize – RIP.
* Room for Adequate Yearly Progress. Someone had to be 18th.
* Capt. Obvious’ Headline of the Week. Something we’ll all need in 2016.
Scheduling Note. The next communiqué will appear on January 4, 2016. Merry Christmas and Happy New Year, dear readers!
Quote of the Week. “NBI 1 would give such dual-national affiliate the option of paying full membership dues to NEA and thus be entitled to a larger share of representation at the national level. NBI 1 passed unanimously.” – from a report about the New Jersey Education Association delegate assembly regarding the question of national representation for merged NEA/AFT state affiliates. Merged affiliates are unlikely to support this idea.(December 2015 NJEA Review)
December 14, 2015
Helping Out the North Carolina State Auditor. North Carolina has a unique law that requires any teachers association to have 40,000 members statewide in order to qualify for payroll deduction of dues. What it lacks, apparently, is any enforcement mechanism, or even any way to determine if an organization meets the threshold.
NEA’s affiliate in the state, the North Carolina Association of Educators, is the only association that has ever had more than 40,000 members, but efforts to determine NCAE’s current numbers have consisted entirely of a) asking them; and b) checking their web site.
The union’s web site claims the total membership is “approximately 70,000.” This is about as accurate as saying Charlotte is approximately in the Atlantic Ocean.
NCAE’s reluctance is understandable, since the union almost certainly has fewer than 40,000 members. NCAE may not have to report accurate numbers to the state government, but it has a great incentive to do so to NEA. If NCAE inflates its membership numbers when reporting internally, NEA will expect to receive dues money corresponding to that number.
The numbers reported by each state affiliate are compiled and published in NEA’s financial reports, which are distributed exclusively to the delegates to the union’s representative assembly each year and are not available to the press or public. By that time, the numbers are a year old.
The back of the report contains membership numbers for each affiliate. Here are NCAE’s for 2013-14:
At the end of the 2014 school year, NCAE had 39,448 members, having lost 3,727 members from the previous year.
But there is good reason to believe the numbers are even lower than that. The New Jersey Education Association, in an effort to persuade delegates to oppose a constitutional amendment concerning representation in merged affiliates, requested current membership numbers from NEA in February 2015. Here are the numbers they distributed:
The handout shows NCAE at 37,770. These numbers, however, have to be considered unofficial because even though they came from NEA headquarters, when added up they show the national union with 110,000 more members than they actually had at the time. It’s impossible to say where the error lies, but it suggests that the numbers listed here for NCAE are either entirely accurate, or might even be too high.
It’s within the realm of possibility that NCAE had an unprecedented recruitment year and pushed its numbers back over 40,000, but the available evidence and trends suggest quite the opposite.
If all this is still unconvincing, well, we can always appeal to the IRS. NCAE’s dues income for 2012-13 was $6,853,344.
And its dues income for 2013-14 was $5,899,139.
That’s nearly a 14 percent loss of dues revenue in a single year, and equates to the full dues of 4,000 teachers.
If the Auditor’s report is accurate, about one-third of NCAE’s active members use payroll deduction. NCAE would have to persuade each of them to authorize individual electronic fund transfers or get them to write checks. It is obvious NCAE wants to avoid that task. The state is not obligated to assist.
Recent Intercepts. EIA’s daily blog, Intercepts, covered these topics December 8-14:
* Georgia AFT President Compares School Choice to Murder. There would be more outrage if anyone cared what she thought.
* And Now The Screaming Starts. Who is best situated to take advantage of ESSA?
* Teamsters Forced to Give Up Exclusivity in Rapid City School District. “Lack of supportive membership.”
* Future of Teacher Labor Force Not Unique. We’re all getting older, thank heaven.
Quote of the Week. “I was inclined to call on her to resign immediately until I realized that might put her back in a classroom, which would be worse. It’s better if she’s just allowed to rant and not teach children.” – Julio Fuentes, president and CEO of Hispanic CREO (Hispanic Council for Reform and Educational Options), speaking about Georgia Federation of Teachers president Verdaillia Turner and her comments comparing school choice to murder. (December 11 Hispanic CREO press release)
December 7, 2015
Unions Like Local Control Externally, Control Over Locals Internally. The National Education Association and American Federation of Teachers have been making victory laps to celebrate the U.S. House passage of the Every Student Succeeds Act which, according to the Washington Post, “would significantly shift authority over the nation’s 100,000 public schools from the federal government to states and local school districts.”
That’s a strange sentence to read for those of us who remember that the teachers’ unions are responsible for the major federal role in education policy in the first place, and that passage in the House was only possible because a large majority of Republicans want to limit the influence of NEA and AFT. The defanging of the Secretary of Education in a Democratic administration is also ironic, considering the unions have boasted of their role in creating the office for almost 40 years now.
Even stranger is that when it comes to internal matters, both national teachers’ unions are rejecting such policies, and taking increasingly greater control over troublesome affiliates. In recent years we’ve had:
* NEA trusteeships over Alabama, Indiana and South Carolina state affiliates.
* AFT trusteeships over single locals in Colorado, Oregon, Michigan (soon to be two), and four in Florida.
* Both unions taking extraordinary action in attempts to prevent secession by affiliates in California, Florida, Hawaii, Maryland, Michigan, Tennessee and Washington (not to mention resources committed to a hopeless position in Nevada).
And those are just the instances that escalated to crisis level. As RiShawn Biddle so ably demonstrated in a recent report for Dropout Nation, NEA routinely props up a number of its affiliates financially. That help, as you might expect, also comes with strings regarding day-to-day operations.
In some states the rebounding economy coupled with accommodating public sector managers will ease the pressure on teachers’ unions. In many others, particularly if agency fees are eliminated, the desire to keep all current affiliates under the national wing will run up against the strain of paying for it all. Additionally, the unions’ lip service to internal local control is sorely tried when the local takes positions contrary to the national parent.
The true test for NEA and AFT will be when neither the carrot nor the stick is able to keep dissident and/or weak affiliates in the fold. It might be “a new era in public education” after all.
Recent Intercepts. EIA’s daily blog, Intercepts, covered these topics December 1-7:
* I’m the Party Pooper. The Every Student Succeeds Act is “historic”… in the sense that it’s doomed to repeat the past.
* Memphis Disaffiliates, Alabama Amends Constitution, Nevada Teamsters on the Verge. Does NEA have a racial problem in the South?
* Teamsters Defeat NEA in Clark County, Nevada. Will the last person at the NEA affiliate please remember to turn off the lights?
* AFT Set to Assume Control of Detroit Local. Again restoring democracy by postponing elections.
* Michigan Education Association Membership Down More Than 12%. Decline accelerated by right-to-work law.
* Hmmm… Disability Groups Have Problems With NEA Policies, Too. More than annoying.
Quote of the Week #1. “I thought that was lunacy, too. We’ve abdicated control over when we come back to people who are not elected officials.” – Tim Cullen, former Wisconsin state senator and one of the 14 fugitive legislators who fled the state in an effort to keep Act 10 from passing in 2011. He said the decision on when to return “increasingly was turned over to labor leaders who wanted the Democrats to stay away because they believed it helped them build momentum to stop the legislation or eventually recall GOP officeholders.” (November 30 Milwaukee Journal-Sentinel)
Quote of the Week #2. “We teach them to say ‘I’m sorry’ and mean it.” – Lily Eskelsen Garcia, president of the National Education Association, reading from a list of things teachers do during an October 27 speech at a gala of the Campaign for America’s Future. She has spent much of the last two weeks saying “I’m sorry” to various disability rights groups and activists for referring to the “medically annoying” elsewhere in the list. Some of them have questioned whether she means it. (YouTube.com)
November 30, 2015
NEA President Under Fire From Disability Rights Advocates. Last month, National Education Association president Lily Eskelsen Garcia was given a “Progressive Champion” award by the Campaign for America’s Future. During the awards gala she gave a speech, a portion of which CAF posted on YouTube titled “NEA’s Lily Eskelsen García on What Teachers Do.”
The three-minute video begins with a tale of an encounter with a businessman on an airplane, and at about the 1:41 mark, Eskelsen Garcia begins a rapid-fire list of things teachers are expected to do, including diversifying the curriculum for a host of sub-groups.
Unfortunately for Eskelsen Garcia, one of the sub-groups she named was “the chronically ‘tarded and medically annoying.”
A few parents of children with disabilities were offended and a few blogs took Eskelsen Garcia to task. She made her way to the comments section of one blog to apologize:
Thank you for letting me know your concerns. To correct the major misunderstanding, in my remarks I mention “chronically tardy” not “chronically retarded”. Also, in an attempt at humor I mention students who are “medically annoying” referring to any typical student who is doing something really annoying in class – “medically” meaning “extremely”.
I understand completely that you do not see humor in my remarks. I also understand that the impact of my words on you hurt and angered you and that surely was not my intent. Good intentions, however, still have impact, and so I apologize for using a phrase that could be so easily misunderstood that it appeared I was referring to medically fragile students. I never have and never will disparage the children I have spent my life serving.
I hope you will accept my apology.
Unfortunately for Eskelsen Garcia, the venue was not prominent enough to head off the budding outrage.
It took time, but advocacy groups started issuing statements condemning the NEA president’s remarks. The first was the American Association of People with Disabilities, who not only stated “we must chastise the President of the NEA for her comments,” but urged its supporters to take to Twitter with this recommended tweet:
“Chronically ‘tarded & medically annoying” is neither progressive nor acceptable @NEAToday @Lily_NEA @OurFuture #UnacceptableExample
Many people took up the cry and the traffic was sufficient to prompt the National Down Syndrome Society to issue its own condemnation, saying Eskelsen Garcia’s remarks “demonstrate a lack of respect and understanding about individuals with Down syndrome and other disabilities, and imply that students with disabilities are a burden on educators and the education system.” The organization “will be inviting President Garcia and other NEA officials to a brainstorming session to discuss ways in which the NEA and the disability community can collaborate to enhance the educational experience for students with cognitive or medical challenges.”
The Council of Parent Attorneys and Advocates soon followed suit, describing “horror, angst and disgust” about Eskelsen Garcia’s remarks. The inevitable Change.org petition demanding her resignation appeared, and at last view had 422 signatures and growing. The Twitter barrage has been picking up steam all morning.
As someone who also tries to be clever, I recognize the danger of failing. I have a few observations about this entire fiasco.
1) The apology was sincere and the explanation was reasonable. If you watch the video, you can see she’s reading that section of the speech. There’s no way in the world she (or her writers) wrote “chronically ‘tarded” on a card and thought it would be a good idea to use in a speech. Using the word “medically” as a synonym for “extremely” is weak, but the larger the volume of words you speak or write, the greater the chance that somewhere along the way you will pick a wrong one. I’m inclined to give her the benefit of the doubt in both cases.
2) I’m actually a lot more skeptical of her account of the businessman on the plane, who conveniently acts as the perfect foil for her devastating comeback. As far as I know, no one has complained about Eskelsen Garcia mimicking his Southern accent. I wonder how the delivery might have changed had he been an Italian from Brooklyn.
3) How educational that you can receive an award for being a “progressive champion” and make one slip of the tongue and one poor choice of adverb and get raked over the coals by some of your closest allies.
4) How coincidental that you can receive an award for being a “progressive champion” from an organization to which your union consistently donates thousands of dollars of dues money.
5) I find that spouses are indispensable for keeping you out of this sort of trouble. They know when you’re not as half as clever as you think you are. Your employees are less willing to give you a stony stare when you tell your brilliant joke.
This will quickly blow over, but I expect Eskelsen Garcia’s speeches will get a little less colorful in the future.
Recent Intercepts. EIA’s daily blog, Intercepts, covered these topics November 24-30:
* The Vacancy of Shortage Claims. Getting the press to report the exact opposite of what is happening is a very marketable skill.
* Helping Out the AP. Why the North Carolina Association of Educators doesn’t release membership information (but I do).
* Friedrichs Oral Arguments Scheduled for January 11. Leave your luggage at home.
Quote of the Week. “These changes are also intended to assist the AEA in meeting one of the benchmarks established by the NEA for the AEA to work its way out of trusteeship.” – Sheila Hocutt Remington, president of the Alabama Education Association, defending the proposed constitutional amendments up for vote by the union’s delegate assembly this weekend. Some current and former AEA officers have denounced the amendments as “a demand from the NEA.” (November 16 Alabama School Journal)
November 23, 2015
Special Quote of the Week Issue. It’s a busy time at the EIA Command Center, so here are a few amusing or curious quotes from the always entertaining world of public education.
* “The Forsyth leaders said working for the teachers’ association results in a ‘direct benefit’ to students because the group’s work improves the ‘atmosphere of our teachers as a whole’.” – from a July 19 story in the Raleigh News & Observer about paid release time for Rodney Ellis, president of the North Carolina Association of Educators.
So if district administrators determine that Ellis is not providing a direct benefit to students, can they replace him as union president?
* “The [PTFT] believes this is not a prank; we believe this was an intimidation tactic. We’re glad it was children, because we didn’t know who would do such a thing.” – Paul Homer, staff representative for AFT Pennsylvania, after a group of four teenagers left animal carcasses along the Peters Township Federation of Teachers picket line. (November 20 Pittsburgh Post-Gazette)
The police said it was a prank, but I’m more interested to know why the union is “glad it was children.”
* “It is baffling to me why you would try to stop dedicated people from joining your union.” – Clint Vaupel, adjunct professor at Columbia College Chicago. Fifty-five full-time staffers want to join the school’s part-time faculty union because they, well, also teach part-time. The union won’t let them join because as full-time staffers they don’t have a “shared community of interest.” (November 23 Columbia Chronicle)
To make matters worse, because the union is the exclusive representative for part-time faculty, the staffers can’t negotiate their own terms with management either.
* “[Alabama Education Association staff consultant Amy] Marlowe said AEA’s enrollment is up 2,000 members since this time last year. She said she didn’t have a total membership number immediately available.” – from a November 23 Decatur Daily story about the proposed changes to the AEA Constitution.
AEA’s total membership in 2014 was 88,243. Unofficial numbers from February 2015 show 83,064. The reporter was right to ask for a number against such a claim. Whether the membership growth claim is accurate or not, the claim that a total membership number wasn’t “immediately available” is bogus. How can you know you’re up 2,000 if you don’t know how many you have?
Recent Intercepts. EIA’s daily blog, Intercepts, covered these topics November 17-23:
* Memphis Holding Disaffiliation Vote This Week. No word on results yet.
* The Company You Keep. Hedge fund managers are evil up until the point they write you a check.
* CTA Makes Initial $3 Million Pledge to 2016 Tax Initiative. Temporary tax to be extended until 2030.
* “A New Model For Cooperation.” Maybe for those who still have jobs.
November 16, 2015
Back to the Future With Members-Only Unions. With the possibility looming that unions soon will be unable to compel payment from non-members, there is much speculation about what system of labor relations will follow. Strangely enough, there is common ground between segments of the Left and Right about one such system: members-only unions.
It isn’t a new idea, and actually precedes the National Labor Relations Act. Two authors for The Century Foundation stated it very simply: “Workers who do not wish to be members do not have to join, and in turn, the union does not have to provide non-member employees with any services.”
That does not seem like such a radical concept, being the basis for virtually every other membership organization or commercial relationship, but quite a few thinkers on the Left are embracing it as a radical concept.
The first discussion of the issue this year appeared in an article by Catherine Fisk in The American Prospect. Then came the widely-cited piece from Moshe Marvit and Leigh Anne Schriever for The Century Foundation, followed shortly by a Michelle Chen story in The Nation.
All of them appear to be sanguine about the potential of members-only unions, seeing it as a way out of the agency fee fiasco. They are persuaded that a members-only union “would have to have an engaged, educated, and committed membership in order to gain concessions through collective bargaining.”
The most interesting analysis came from Shaun Richman in the pages of In These Times. A former AFT organizer, Richman is more radical than the previous authors, but he also has a better grasp of the internal consequences for unions than the rest do.
For example, he reminds us that the combination of exclusive representation and agency fees “is a uniquely American collective bargaining framework – and a relatively new one, at that.”
Competition among unions for members was the norm in the early days of American organized labor, and is still the case among unions in Europe. Richman suggests that those days will return if agency fees go away. “If a union, for whatever reason, only seeks to represent a portion of a bargaining unit, another organization will come along to recruit the workers who are left out by promising better benefits or an alternative approach to seeking improvements on the job. This may not be a bad thing,” he writes.
He also looks ahead to possibilities like proportional representation at the bargaining table, and the empowerment of internal union opposition caucuses. Union dissidents currently have to do battle with the union majority, and then stand silent in solidarity during bargaining. As Richman sees it, “If pluralism was tolerated at the workplace; however, dissidents would be freed up to seek out a militant minority of co-workers and focus their fire on the boss instead of union leadership.”
This sounds scary to many unionists, but Richman says, “If this sounds like chaos, good! The current legal assault on unions deserves nothing less as a response.”
It doesn’t sound like chaos to me. It sounds like individuals making their own choices about their economic relationships and how best to interact with other involved parties. Who’s up for a free market in labor representation?
Recent Intercepts. EIA’s daily blog, Intercepts, covered these topics November 10-16:
* CTA: Friedrichs Could Kill You. Wherein I also play the Correlation Game.
* Florida, Unions and Friedrichs. When it comes to teacher bargaining, Florida is California without agency fees.
* Chicago Teachers Union Poll Shows 97% of Members Support Something They Weren’t Asked About. The questions were surprising, but not striking.
* Veterans Day: How to Throw People and Things Out of Airplanes. I threw a trooper from in the air; he fell to earth, I know not where.
* What, Again? Number 1,453 in a series.
Quote of the Week #1. “Everybody wants to know whether I’m going to be in tights. And the answer is no.” – Fedrick Ingram, vice president-elect of the Florida Education Association, who agreed to participate in a wrestling event for an anti-bullying non-profit. (November 11 Miami Herald)
Quote of the Week #2. “It’s a tough issue again if you’re trying to maintain your support among teachers unions and then you’re trying to deal with this issue here…I get the dance. I get how delicate the dance is but nevertheless, it’s a dance.” – Roland Martin, host of TV One’s News One Now, giving his impression of Hillary Clinton’s response to his question about charter schools. (November 12 The Seventy Four)
November 9, 2015
Agency Fees Secure Federalism, Economic Stability & “Harmonious Relationships,” Unions Say. The affected unions filed their respondents’ brief in Friedrichs v. California Teachers Association, and their efforts to sway five U.S. Supreme Court justices to their side know no bounds.
The 76-page mash note to the precedent of Abood, the case that currently regulates public sector unions’ use of agency fees, is incongruous in many ways, since the 1977 ruling itself overturned previous precedent, and had the roots of the Friedrichs arguments embedded in its concurring opinions.
I’m not an attorney, so I can’t say if the unions’ legal arguments are sound, but I thought you would be interested to read their depiction of public sector collective bargaining and the world we live in. Their defense of federalism and warnings of disarray and turmoil seem designed to appeal directly to Justice Antonin Scalia, whom they believe is a swing vote based on his opinion in the 1991 Lehnert case.
Here are a few excerpts from the respondents’ brief. I’ve excised legal citations for easier reading.
Agency fees are supported by federalist principles. “Overruling Abood would remove from ongoing political debate a policy matter that citizens of different States have chosen to address differently based on local circumstances. Such a radical break from First Amendment and federalism principles is especially unwarranted here, given that petitioners aggressively resisted the creation of any factual record that would justify altering Abood‘s careful constitutional balance.”
With agency fees there is harmony. Without agency fees there is chaos. “Agency-shop statutes reflect States’ sovereign judgment that exclusive representation and fair share fees are vital ‘to avoid labor strife, to secure economic stability, to insure the efficiency and continuity of state and local governments, and to develop harmonious relationships between the public employer and its employees.'”
* “A single representative is critical to avoid the confusion and burden of negotiating with multiple groups of workers with conflicting demands.”
* “Moreover, the overbreadth of petitioners’ rule would impose intolerable societal costs. Under petitioners’ view, for example, public schools would have to require affirmative opt-in by all students to avoid risking the infringement of religious objectors’ free-exercise rights. Similarly, schools could not lead the Pledge of Allegiance, without obtaining every child’s affirmative consent, because of the ‘risk’ (however slight) that some children would feel pressured to participate. The government’s operations would grind to a halt if affirmative consent had to be obtained each time government programs created the possibility of First Amendment objection.”
Without agency fees unions would suffer financial hardship. “Empirical research demonstrates that unions forced to carry large numbers of free riders are ‘less financially stable,’ with ‘lower liquidity, lower reserves, and heavy borrowing,’ which ‘suggest[s] that staying afloat is a continuing challenge.'”
Issues addressed in collective bargaining are “uncontroversial workplace matters.” “Petitioners’ argument focuses on issues – such as teacher tenure, budget layoff standards, and the standards for teacher termination – that may divide public-school teachers. But those are red herrings. As an initial matter, California does not generally permit collective bargaining over those issues, which are governed by state statute… Putting that aside, petitioners exaggerate the divisions created by these issues. Even ‘teachers who believe they are above-average’ routinely benefit from seniority protections and due-process protections – for example, where more experienced teachers are targeted for termination in a budget layoff because of their higher salaries. More fundamentally, the vast majority of issues on which the unions bargain are of common interest to all union and non-union employees alike… These are uncontroversial workplace matters and simply require little more than coordination between the public employer and its employees.”
* “Petitioners claim that grievances are merely designed to enforce the CBA, with which objecting non-members disagree. But it is implausible that non-members object to the entire CBA. The union represents non-members on many uncontroversial issues that indisputably benefit them, such as the enforcement of sick-leave policies.”
Other sections declare that unions themselves “provide vital services to the State” and that agency fees result in “a more productive workforce.”
Some of this might hold water if every state allowed agency fees and we had no means of comparison. But 25 states have right-to-work laws. Is California really more economically stable than Texas? Is there more labor strife in Indiana than in Illinois? Does New York have a more productive workforce than Florida?
The unions are free to use whatever argument they think will win, which makes its Friedrichs defense a political calculation, as is virtually every activity they undertake, whether at the bargaining table or away from it.
Recent Intercepts. EIA’s daily blog, Intercepts, covered these topics November 3-9:
* “The NEA Is Deceiving Us.” Says the union guy with 42 years of experience.
* Declassified: Hillary’s NEA Town Hall Answers. In case you thought I made them up.
* Imponderable Question of the Day. Save your pennies, but keep paying dues.
* Balloting Underway to Choose NEA or Teamsters in Vegas. Will majority rule this time?
* We’re Talking About Practice, Man. A practice vote?
Quote of the Week. “When you’re not in a room with people, you assign an intent, and often it’s a negative intent. I hope what I learned in this setting is transferrable. I hope I will give others the benefit of the doubt, and that when I go into my world I will talk differently about people with differing opinions.” – Becky Pringle, vice president of the National Education Association, describing her work with Convergence, a group that endeavors to “create unlikely alliances to solve our nation’s most challenging issues.” (November 3 New York Times)
November 2, 2015
NAEP Scores: They’re Digging in the Wrong Place. When the scores from the 2015 National Assessment of Educational Progress (NAEP) were released, the news headlines followed the lead of the government’s framing:
Washington Post – “U.S. student performance slips on national test”
U.S. News & World Report – “Student Scores in Reading and Math Drop”
The dominant perspective was 2015 scores vs. 2013 scores. Those who delved into state and district scores got more detail, but mostly about racial/ethnic gaps and proficiency levels.
The value of NAEP goes far beyond those major categories. The online NAEP Data Explorer allows anyone to examine scores filtered by one or any combination of 1,477 variables.
Everyone knows that having a large number of students in the school lunch program will adversely affect scores, but which states do the best and worst with those students? Using 8th grade readings scores to illustrate: Vermont is best; worst are DC, Alaska and Mississippi.
Who does the best and worst with students whose parents didn’t finish high school? Best: Montana and Nebraska. Worst: DC, Minnesota and New Mexico.
Everyone analyzes the test score gap between whites and Asians on one hand, and African-Americans and Hispanics on the other. But which states have the highest scoring black students? Department of Defense schools for military dependents. The worst? Arkansas and Mississippi.
Best Hispanic scores? Department of Defense again. Worst? Mississippi.
In nine states, students with teachers who had taken no graduate coursework scored higher than those with teachers who had.
I could also run those tables with 4th grade reading scores, or 4th and 8th grade math scores.
I could go on for ages, but the point is that possibly the least informative numbers we get from NAEP are raw score comparisons between 2013 students and entirely different students in 2015. If we believe NAEP gives us crucial information about the quality of our education system, controlling the results for race, income, parental education levels, teacher experience and a host of other variables can provide a road map to improvement for all sub-groups.
Recent Intercepts. EIA’s daily blog, Intercepts, covered these topics October 27-November 2:
* Testing Doesn’t Work, Testing Shows. Internal logic.
* Hobgoblins. Consistently inconsistent or inconsistently consistent?
* Resigner Suppression. NLRB rules unions can force you to show photo ID in order to resign.
* Traffic Spike. History is not just for the old.
Quote of the Week. “Does anyone seriously believe that America’s union members will vote the way their parent union tells them to vote? Indeed, if that degree of loyalty and solidarity were possible, America’s unions (with 14.6 million members nationwide) wouldn’t be where they are today, flat on their backs and relegated to sucking hind teat. If organized labor could be relied upon to deliver the coveted ‘union vote,’ our political landscape would be dramatically different.” – David Macaray. (October 27 CounterPunch)
October 26, 2015
NEA Members Down, Fee-Payers Up. Back in July, Politico’s Morning Education gave us this item:
NEA’S MEMBERSHIP UPTICK: The National Education Association recently reported a slight increase in membership, from 2,956,532 members in 2013-14 to 2,970,886 in 2014-15 as of mid-June. The numbers come after years of decline — the teachers union had 3,234,639 members in 2008-09. So what’s behind the bump? NEA President Lily Eskelsen García boiled it down to three words: “Organize, organize, organize,” she told Morning Education. “It doesn’t just happen.” Jim Testerman, NEA’s senior director for organizing, said it comes after listening to members and organizing on issues that concern them, like testing and reducing class sizes. States have been hiring more people and reinvesting in public education while recovering from the devastating recession, he said. The majority of new members aren’t new to the profession, he said. They’re “active certified” educators like teachers, librarians and counselors. New members also include retired educators and higher education staff. It’s been difficult to attract young people to the profession because money isn’t exactly a draw and teaching isn’t seen as a respected profession, Testerman said. But NEA is working hard to engage young people.
— One caveat: The membership numbers aren’t final, Testerman said. NEA affiliates have a few months to clean up their lists while some members retire or resign. More concrete numbers will be available in the fall, he said.
I thought this was bogus because I had the numbers from the previous July and comparing them showed a membership loss, not an uptick. Plus there was Testerman’s disclaimer.
Now I’m looking at a bar graph showing NEA’s membership numbers as of September 15 and they show a decrease from the same date in 2014. It’s impossible to determine the exact number from the information I have, but a little photo interpretation leads me to believe the union is down about 15,000 members. Teacher and support employee membership is down, while retirees and agency fee-payers are up.
Up or down by that amount isn’t highly significant, but I wait patiently for a “what’s behind the dip” explanation. Did NEA disorganize, disorganize, disorganize this time? Did it stop listening to members?
There’s a human tendency to ascribe good outcomes to one’s hard work and innate skills, and bad outcomes to misfortune, the environment, or the failings of others. That’s why we like to have measurements that don’t rely entirely on the reporting of the people involved, don’t we?
Recent Intercepts. EIA’s daily blog, Intercepts, covered these topics October 20-26:
* Poll Confirms: Majority of NEA Members Don’t Support Hillary. Early August phone poll of 2,000 NEA members.
* Hillary’s NEA Support Weakest in Midwest. Where Iowa is located, if I’m not mistaken.
* The Graying of the NEA. NEA delegates are part of a very specific demographic.
* Tennessee Education Association Raiding Its Own Local. Champions of choice.
* Memphis Local to Hold Disaffiliation Vote. Legal teams on standby.
* The Spigot Opens. T-shirt makers and Clear Channel Outdoor rejoice.
Quote of the Week. “It’s not a sweetener, it’s part of the negotiating process.” – Paul Elliott, president of the Ontario Secondary School Teachers’ Federation, commenting on the news that his union and several others received millions from the Ontario government in “negotiation fees” during collective bargaining. (October 26 Toronto Sun)
October 19, 2015
The Unions’ Newfound Love for Abood. With Friedrichs v. California Teachers Association on the U.S. Supreme Court docket, unions across the country are worried that the 1977 Abood v. Detroit Board of Education decision will be overturned. They believe an activist conservative Court will jettison agency fee laws in the states that have them, and strip public sector unions of their political power. They emphasize that Abood was a unanimous decision by the Burger court, and that the Roberts court should not lightly overturn an almost 40-year-old precedent.
That unions should become such staunch defenders of Abood is ironic, since the decision was a defeat for unions. Abood and his fellow plaintiffs were public school teachers who objected not only to their dues being used for political activities, but to the requirement that they contribute to collective bargaining costs and join the union against their will or lose their jobs.
Once upon a time it wasn’t unusual for unions to require employees become members, to use dues money in support of political candidates, and to charge agency fees that were equal to full dues. Abood set the foundation for the current agency fee system by overturning what had been accepted practice.
Justice Potter Stewart, an Eisenhower appointee, wrote the Court’s opinion. He concluded that the Abood case as it related to collective bargaining was no different from previous precedent regarding private-sector collective bargaining. “The differences between public- and private-sector collective bargaining simply do not translate into differences in First Amendment rights,” he wrote.
He further stated that it was up to Congress, not the Court, to balance the “impact” on the First Amendment rights of collective bargaining objectors with the “important contribution of the union shop to the system of labor relations established by Congress.”
While Justice Stewart was sympathetic to the unions’ position, he punted on exactly how agency fees would be determined. “There will, of course, be difficult problems in drawing lines between collective-bargaining activities, for which contributions may be compelled, and ideological activities unrelated to collective bargaining, for which such compulsion is prohibited,” he wrote, adding, “We have no occasion in this case, however, to try to define such a dividing line.”
Justice Stewart was also concerned about placing upon employees “the considerable burden of monitoring all of the numerous and shifting expenditures made by the Union that are unrelated to its duties as exclusive bargaining representative.”
In defending Abood, the unions face another irony. The basis for many of the arguments of the Friedrichs plaintiffs is found in the concurring opinions of the Abood case itself.
“I agree with the Court, and with the views expressed in Mr. Justice Powell’s opinion concurring in the judgment,” wrote Justice Rehnquist, “that the positions taken by public employees’ unions in connection with their collective-bargaining activities inevitably touch upon political concern if the word ‘political’ be taken in its normal meaning. Success in pursuit of a particular collective-bargaining goal will cause a public program or a public agency to be administered in one way; failure will result in its being administered in another way.”
The opinion of Justice Lewis Powell, with which Chief Justice Burger and Justice Blackmun concurred, was even more forceful about collective bargaining being a political activity. “Working from the novel premise that public employers are under no greater constitutional constraints than their counterparts in the private sector, the Court apparently rules that public employees can be compelled by the State to pay full union dues to a union with which they disagree, subject only to a possible rebate or deduction if they are willing to step forward, declare their opposition to the union, and initiate a proceeding to establish that some portion of their dues has been spent on ‘ideological activities unrelated to collective bargaining’,” Powell wrote. “Such a sweeping limitation of First Amendment rights by the Court is not only unnecessary on this record; it is in my view unsupported by either precedent or reason.”
Justice Powell’s opinion should be read in its entirety, but here are some salient quotes:
* “Where a teachers’ union for example, acting pursuant to a state statute authorizing collective bargaining in the public sector, obtains the agreement of the school board that teachers residing outside the school district will not be hired, the provision in the bargaining agreement to that effect has the same force as if the school board had adopted it by promulgating a regulation.”
* “I agree with the Court as far as it goes, but I would make it more explicit that compelling a government employee to give financial support to a union in the public sector regardless of the uses to which the union puts the contribution impinges seriously upon interests in free speech and association protected by the First Amendment.” (emphasis added)
* “The ultimate objective of a union in the public sector, like that of a political party, is to influence public decisionmaking in accordance with the views and perceived interests of its membership. Whether a teachers’ union is concerned with salaries and fringe benefits, teacher qualifications and in-service training, pupil-teacher ratios, length of the school day, student discipline, or the content of the high school curriculum, its objective is to bring school board policy and decisions into harmony with its own views. Similarly, to the extent that school board expenditures and policy are guided by decisions made by the municipal, State, and Federal Governments the union’s objective is to obtain favorable decisions and to place persons in positions of power who will be receptive to the union’s viewpoint. In these respects, the public-sector union is indistinguishable from the traditional political party in this country.”
* “Collective bargaining in the public sector is ‘political’ in any meaningful sense of the word. This is most obvious when public-sector bargaining extends as it may in Michigan to such matters of public policy as the educational philosophy that will inform the high school curriculum. But it is also true when public-sector bargaining focuses on such “bread and butter” issues as wages, hours, vacations, and pensions. Decisions on such issues will have a direct impact on the level of public services, priorities within state and municipal budgets, creation of bonded indebtedness, and tax rates. The cost of public education is normally the largest element of a county or municipal budget. Decisions reached through collective bargaining in the schools will affect not only the teachers and the quality of education, but also the taxpayers and the beneficiaries of other important public services.”
Justice Powell even raised questions about exclusive representation, noting that in previous precedent, “we expressly reserved judgment on the constitutional validity of the exclusivity principle in the public sector.”
“I would adhere to established First Amendment principles and require the State to come forward and demonstrate, as to each union expenditure for which it would exact support from minority employees, that the compelled contribution is necessary to serve overriding governmental objectives,” he wrote.
So despite the unanimous finding that fee-payers deserved at least the portion devoted to political activities reimbursed to them, four Justices thought it essential to emphasize that public sector collective bargaining was one of those political activities. And that was in 1978, when the political power and influence of public sector unions was mostly conjecture, and not established by decades of experience.
Fretful of their chances of winning the Friedrichs case inside the Court, the unions are planning massive political rallies against it in an attempt to curry public favor and save Abood. Had Berger, Rehnquist, Powell and Blackmun found a fifth vote in 1978, the Abood case might have gone much further towards the place where Friedrichs is now likely to take us.
Recent Intercepts. EIA’s daily blog, Intercepts, covered these topics October 14-19:
* EIA Exclusive: Hillary’s NEA “Town Hall” Answers. “I really do want Lily and the leadership to recommend people for important positions…”
* More Than Half of NEA Members Don’t Support Hillary, Says Board Member. Let us see this poll.
* NEA: Hillary’s Another “Goalie”. Control the rebound.
Quote of the Week. “Clinton has raised an enormous sum of money so far this year, but is also spending at a fast clip. She has so far laid out tens of millions more than the next closest presidential contender, and in the third quarter burned through her money at a quicker rate than any top-tier candidate, Democratic or Republican.” – October 17 The Hill.
October 13, 2015
First-Hand Account of NEA’s Hillary Endorsement. Tripp Jeffers is one of two National Education Association directors from North Carolina. He appeared on The Rick Smith Show to discuss the union’s endorsement of Hillary Clinton. He could not have picked a friendlier venue. Smith is a former Teamster, and while his mastery of education issues may not be comprehensive – he seemed to think NEA opposed Common Core along with Race to the Top – he asked relevant questions of Jeffers about NEA’s endorsement process.
Jeffers’ views can be considered typical of those union activists who rise to the top levels of NEA’s hierarchy. He believes profiteers have targeted public education’s annual hundreds of billions as “the last frontier of American capitalism.”
“It sounds like a conspiracy theory, but I don’t think it is,” he told Smith.
He was one of those who wanted NEA to delay its endorsement until the December virtual meeting of the board of directors. Ultimately he voted in favor of the endorsement, but said, “There may need to be some revisions in the process to require more member engagement than we had. That was one of my biggest frustrations going into it.”
Jeffers also got to ask Clinton a question during her pre-vote visit with the board. Jeffers asked her to “distance herself from or condemn the ideas of the neoliberal education reformers.”
“She hedged it a little bit,” Jeffers recounted, “but I felt like she at least stated that the NEA was going to be the education voice in her ear during the rest of her campaign and during her administration if she were to win.”
He said he got the impression that NEA and AFT “would be involved in advising who the next Secretary of Education should be.”
Jeffers said Clinton asked who in the board’s estimation was the best U.S. Secretary of Education and that NEA president Lily Eskelsen Garcia replied with Richard Riley, who held the post during both of President Clinton’s terms.
This might seem to be a convenient answer, but NEA never had any major issues with him and besides, other than Riley there have been only two Secretaries of Education under Democratic Presidents. One was the very first Secretary, Shirley M. Hufstedler, who served for only a year under President Carter and spent almost all of her tenure simply organizing the new Cabinet department. The other was Arne Duncan. The acting Secretary is John King.
I’m not sure Hillary learned much from NEA’s response. Perhaps she thinks NEA wants a Southern governor who believes of public education, “We have an old agrarian schedule, an outdated factory model and an antiquated wage system.”
Recent Intercepts. EIA’s daily blog, Intercepts, covered these topics October 6-13:
* EIA Exclusive: NEA Board Roll Call Vote on Hillary Endorsement. How did your state vote?
* The Continuing Saga of edTPA. Pearson? Just some guys we hired.
* That Didn’t Take Long. NEA’s political director quickly becomes a Hillary superdelegate.
* Fill in the Blank. The principal reason.
* Glitch. The principal reason that maybe you didn’t see the previous blog post.
* Happy Columbo’s Day! Just one more thing…
Quote of the Week #1. “The Obama administration pushed hard for education reforms bitterly opposed by the unions. Obama supported education reform even before his presidential campaign, even sponsoring a 2006 bill that presaged the reforms he would go on to implement as president. But unions have always found it inconvenient to identify Obama as their opponent. Many teachers trust and even adore Obama, and forcing them to choose between Obama and the union ran the risk of driving many of them away from the union.” – Jonathan Chait. (October 9 New York Magazine)
Quote of the Week #2. “It’s kind of like an infestation of rodents or termites in your house. It’s amazing to me. Like a cult. I would say it’s like a cult.” – Rick Smith, radio talk show host, speaking about Teach for America. (October 12 The Rick Smith Show)
October 5, 2015
Lily’s Mea Culpa? The National Education Association’s board of directors endorsed Hillary Clinton for the Democratic presidential nomination on Saturday. A 58% majority was needed, and NEA reported the margin at about 75%, though we don’t yet have a breakdown of who voted how.*
The vote was taken after Clinton was invited to address the board behind closed doors. I will do my best to gather the impressions of the participants over the next few weeks, but in the meantime we have the eyewitness account of NEA president Lily Eskelsen Garcia, reported by various media outlets.
* “Everyone was just blown away by the fact that she said, ‘I have an open door. When somebody wants to talk to me, they can come in and talk to me.'”
* “There were a lot of undecideds when (Clinton) started that conversation.”
* “I think what happened is that after she left the room today, they were sure. They said, ‘She’s the candidate who has made our cause the cause of her career.'”
* “Secretary Clinton told your leaders today that she won’t make a single decision about developing education policy without educators being in the room.”
* “She knew what she was talking about. You could see people sit up straighter and think, ‘Oh my gosh, she understands our world.’ I think they were simply blown away.”
This might be accurate reporting of the board meeting, though I suspect there was some projection on the part of the NEA president. I am also reminded that Lily Eskelsen Garcia has some unusual history with the Clintons that may help explain her attitude and actions today.
Back in 1998, Lily Eskelsen was a member of the NEA Executive Committee and running for a U.S. House seat in Utah’s 2nd District. Although Utah is and was a very Republican state, the 2nd District was competitive for Democrats. In 2000, Democrat Jim Matheson won the seat and held it for 14 years.
Eskelsen was running against a weak incumbent, Merrill Cook. Among the variety of campaign issues was the Monica Lewinsky scandal, and Eskelsen separated herself from virtually all other Democratic candidates that year by calling on President Clinton to resign.
A few days ago, Eskelsen responded to a question about Clinton from a Salt Lake Tribune reporter by saying that “the president should resign. How can this man ever be believed again? This goes beyond party politics.”
Eskelsen is challenging first-term incumbent Merrill Cook, who is believed to be one of the GOP’s most vulnerable House members. Eskelsen’s press secretary, Megan Sather, said this week that Eskelsen felt strongly that as a mother and a teacher who believes part of her job is to teach “respect, responsibility and reason,” she had to call on the president to resign.
On October 25, the Deseret News asked her if the President should resign, and she replied: “If the president truly wants to put this situation behind the country and move on, he should resign.”
Three days later, a reporter from Brigham Young University described the opening of the final debate between Eskelsen and Cook:
Cook began the debate reaffirming his position on the possibility of an impeachment hearing against President Clinton.
“What our president has done is indefensible,” he said. “His actions have been against the constitution and he should be punished accordingly.”
Eskelsen agreed, reminding voters that she was the first Democrat to ask President Clinton to resign.
“I won’t pre-judge President Clinton without seeing the evidence, but I think it would be honorable for him to step down,” Eskelsen said.
Eskelsen lost by 10 points, despite her supporters outspending Cook’s supporters.
I don’t want to get into alternative history scenarios here, but if Clinton had resigned and Al Gore had become President in 1998, it likely would have affected the political trajectory of both parties, and of Hillary Clinton herself.
Whatever her motivations, Eskelsen Garcia will now be forever known as a doting Clinton supporter, much more so than many of her colleagues.
* I do know the director from Utah and the three directors from Virginia voted for the endorsement, while the director from Vermont voted against.
Recent Intercepts. EIA’s daily blog, Intercepts, covered these topics September 29-October 5:
* “It was truly what democracy looks like.” If an NEA board vote were always reflective of the members’ wishes, the board itself would have gone out of existence in 1998.
* NEA PAC Council Vote by State – Abstentions Critical. Why did the two states with the most PAC Council votes abstain?
* Why the Long Facebook? Don’t be misled, NEA/AFT members. If you pay dues, you are trying to help Hillary Clinton win the Democratic nomination.
* Two State Union Directors Sue to End NEA’s Alabama Trusteeship. Trusteeship? What trusteeship?
* Locksmith Alert! Florida Local Votes to Leave NEA/AFT. State union is “considering legal action.”
* It’s EIA Saturation Day! Education Next and The Seventy Four publish my analysis of the probable fallout from the Friedrichs case.
* Ed Schultz Calls for NEA President to Be Replaced. “This is outrageous.”
* Surprise! NEA Endorses Hillary. Wasted stamps.
* NEA PAC Endorses Hillary – Margin Call? Question…
* No Money to Bern. …and answer.
* Full Court Press. Spontaneous?
Quote of the Week. “When our union supports a candidate, we gain three things: 1) we increase that candidate’s chance of winning; 2) we get the opportunity to influence that candidate throughout the campaign; 3) we also increase our influence with the candidate after she or he is elected. If we wait until our members have made up their minds, we greatly diminish all three of those outcomes.” – George Sheridan, member of the NEA Executive Committee, from his Facebook page, explaining his support for a Hillary Clinton endorsement. (emphasis added)
September 28, 2015
Handwringing Over NEA Hillary Endorsement. Apparently the rumors were true and the stage is set for the National Education Association to attempt to endorse Hillary Clinton for the Democratic Presidential nomination next weekend.
The procedure requires that NEA president Lily Eskelsen Garcia present a possible candidate recommendation to the union’s PAC Council, made up of all the state affiliate presidents, plus representatives of NEA’s various internal caucuses. A majority vote in favor would then move the endorsement to the union’s board of directors, which must concur by a 58 percent majority.
Eskelsen Garcia has been conducting conference calls “with a large number of state affiliate boards or other leadership groups to engage members in this discussion.” Some of the participants have taken to the Internet to report the content of those calls. I’ve culled the details from several of these sources and here’s a summary of the arguments she used to urge an early endorsement of Clinton:
* It’s not really early.
* NEA’s failure to endorse in a timely manner in 2008 made it irrelevant.
* Clinton and NEA are close.
* Sanders is weak with minorities.
* Sanders can’t raise the money necessary to counter GOP SuperPACs.
* A September poll of NEA’s membership showed Clinton at 41%, Sanders at 24% and Biden at 14%. Without Biden, it was 47% for Clinton and 33% for Sanders.
There was skepticism about this poll, just as there was when AFT announced its endorsement of Clinton and cited a similar poll of its members.
For the next week we will hear a lot about whether these arguments hold water, and whether the movement unionists can organize to stall a Clinton endorsement. I’d like to focus on the relationship of NEA’s decision-makers with the rank-and-file during this process.
One conference call participant asked Eskelsen Garcia about the internal consequences should NEA endorse Clinton early. Her response was reported this way: “Lily said that we just have to allow the people who might leave the organization due to an endorsement, to leave. That it’s always been part of the process that people have been offended at actions of this magnitude and refuse to participate because of it. According to her, our numbers have always fluctuated with elections.”
I was also struck by this comment from Peter Greene on his blog: “I’ve been a local president during a strike. I know how seductive the old belief about ends justifying means can be. I know how easily and often union leaders end up in a meeting about how we need the members to make a particular decision, so here’s how we’ll stage manage the meeting so that they decide what we want them to decide.”
See the link to the Arne Duncan story below.
This face-off isn’t really about an endorsement. NEA won’t endorse Sanders unless he clinches the nomination and it won’t endorse Biden if Clinton is still in the race. Hillary might also privately question the actual value of an NEA endorsement.
It’s about whether a troubled union will continue to act as it has always acted, manipulating the process to achieve a desired aim, or if it will be swayed to change by ideological purists. By this time next week we will know the answer to that question, and the fallout will commence immediately.
Recent Intercepts. EIA’s daily blog, Intercepts, covered these topics September 22-28:
* Politico: Arne Duncan Helped Write NEA’s “13 Things We Hate About Arne Duncan.” Making your own delegates look like saps.
* The Day NEA Went to the Dogs. NEA, Ted Kennedy and NCLB.
* NEA Resolutions 2015-16. Everything NEA thinks about everything.
* Crossing the Delaware. Teacher advancement.
Quote of the Week. “Rank-and-file dissidents have long had doubts about most forms of automatic dues collection, worrying that such a set-up helps create an ossified system in which a complacent top never comes face-to-face with a demobilized bottom.” – Ari Paul, writing about the possible loss of agency fees in the pages of the September 21 In These Times.
September 21, 2015
The Coming Teacher Union Crack-Up. Believe it or not, this was a monumental week in the world of teachers’ unions. There was no single monumental event, but it’s rare to see such a collection of incidents in a seven-day span that serve to indicate a clear future direction. Let’s itemize them, then I will try to explain how I think they all tie together.
* The end of the Seattle teacher strike.
* The rumor that NEA might kickstart the process of endorsing Hillary Clinton.
* The rank-and-file vote by the Detroit Federation of Teachers and Steve Conn’s response.
* The decision of the Caucus of Working Educators to challenge the leaders of the Philadelphia Federation of Teachers in the next election.
* The move by opposition factions within New York City’s United Federation of Teachers to join forces against the incumbent UFT officers in the next election.
In Seattle, a reported 83 percent of voting union members ratified a tentative agreement after a week-long strike. The Seattle Education Association touted the removal of student test scores from teacher evaluations, 30 minutes of recess, and equity committees in 30 schools to deal with “disproportionate discipline.” The district received a longer instructional day and agreement to its pay offer.
This was curious, since SEA was demanding much higher pay than it got, and the amount it accepted was barely higher than the district’s offer before the strike.
“The district was not going to move on any more money,” said the head of SEA’s bargaining team. “I think if we held out any longer, they would’ve started taking stuff off the table.”
Also lost in the uproar over the strike was the fact that the SEA officers had bargained the evaluation system into the last contract, even to the point where the Seattle Times reported that it was SEA president Jonathan Knapp’s idea. So what changed?
Last year SEA held an election and Knapp barely edged out challenger Jesse Hagopian and his caucus of Social Equality Educators. Hagopian is a leftist (to say the minimum) but in a liberal city he is sufficiently within the mainstream to become a force within his union. By emphasizing the social justice aspects of the agreement, Knapp and his supporters undercut Hagopian’s criticisms, and the lack of a huge pay increase actually helps the message – “See, it wasn’t just about money.” For his part, Hagopian doesn’t seem all that thrilled with the result.
There is a real schism in philosophy within the teachers’ unions these days. I have previously described it as militants vs. establishmentarians, but I think I have a better description now. It is a battle between movement unionists and services unionists.
The former believe people join unions to be part of the organized labor movement, to lobby, rally, agitate, protest and strike for a working class agenda. That is why most movement unionists tend to be heavily involved in many leftist causes. The latter believe people join unions to improve their pay, benefits and working conditions. Though heavily involved in advocacy, much of it political in nature, the relationship of services unionists to their members is in many ways a commercial one. Fees are paid in exchange for services – contract negotiation, grievance processing, protection against arbitrary employment actions, liability insurance, and so forth.
So when it comes to endorsing a candidate for President of the United States, the movement unionists want, to the greatest extent possible, ideological purity while the services unionists want the best bet to win. This is exemplified in the backing of Bernie Sanders, a self-described socialist, by the movement, and their horror to think that NEA might summarily endorse the mainstream candidate.
As things stand now, movement unionists within NEA might have sufficient strength to force a postponement of a Hillary endorsement, but they are completely incapable of bringing NEA anywhere near the point of endorsing Sanders. This a recipe for simmering resentment on both sides, but it is the movement unionists who are on the rise internally in both national teachers’ unions.
Steve Conn ran for the presidency of the Detroit Federation of Teachers about a dozen times before he finally won… narrowly. Last week he took a clear majority in a referendum on his removal from office. Conn is no one’s idea of a leader of a movement, which is what makes the vote all the more remarkable. If he can actually form his own union, the Detroit Federation of Teachers will begin to disintegrate – not because Conn is so appealing, but because he will take the movement unionists with him, and the services union isn’t delivering the services.
The Caucus of Working Educators will challenge the long-time incumbents of the Philadelphia Federation of Teachers with a platform focused on “racial inequality in schools, increased transparency and democracy within the union, professional development and the fight against standardized testing.” You don’t have to read far on their web site to see the distinctions they draw between themselves and the incumbents.
In New York City the United Federation of Teachers has had opposition caucuses for years, but there is finally a concerted effort to unite all opposing factions against the Unity Caucus, which has dominated the union’s governance since the days of Al Shanker. Philadelphia and New York will require multiple elections to crack, but if they do, you may soon find movement unionists in charge of most of the largest teacher union locals in the country.
Strangely enough, the Friedrichs case, which could put an end to agency fees across the United States, might actually accelerate this trend within the unions. Since teachers and other education employees in the collective bargaining states will no longer be obliged to financially support the union-in-charge, so to speak, they can join the union of their choice, be it movement- or services-oriented.
Activists could get the union they have always wanted, with a muscular social justice agenda and without the baggage of non-believers, apathetics, and the immovable within the ranks. Workaday teachers could get the union they have always wanted, with a single-minded commitment to the daily lives of its members, and agnostic when it comes to DC statehood, abortion, gun control and immigration.
The only thing that could keep the two philosophies in one organization is a defeat for the Friedrichs plaintiffs and a massive education hiring boom that would provide new membership revenues to heal all wounds. People don’t make drastic moves when things are going well.
That type of rescue isn’t on the horizon, however. The end is near for the status quo in the teachers’ unions. What follows will be both better and worse for the rest of us.
Conn-plication. Steve Conn, the former president of the Detroit Federation of Teachers, appealed his removal by the union’s executive board and won a majority of the votes cast by the rank-and-file. Unfortunately for all sides, he needed a two-thirds majority to overturn the board’s decision. This leaves DFT with officers unsupported by the majority and an opposition without a path to power.
Conn reportedly will cut this Gordian knot by forming a new union. “We’ll be circulating cards for people to sign to opt out of DFT and join our union because teachers don’t have a union,” Conn said. “We need a union. Teachers will have to opt out of DFT, which is their right.”
The presiding DFT leaders rightly note that it was the union’s opponents who fought long and hard for that right, which in their estimation makes Conn a “union buster.”
Recent Intercepts. EIA’s daily blog, Intercepts, covered these topics September 15-21:
* Rumors Fly! NEA Board to Vote on Endorsing Hillary? Jumping aboard a sinking ship?
* What the Hell Just Happened in Seattle? Street theater.
* Conn-undrum. The Detroit Federation of Teachers dug a hole digging itself out of a hole.
* New Mexico’s $2 Million “Insult.” If the union didn’t get it for you, it’s not real money.
* And Just Like That… Seattle slew.
Quote of the Week #1. “They all know me. Everyone knows me.” – Mark McDade, UniServ director for the Pennsylvania State Education Association, after being removed from a Shamokin Area school board meeting because he stormed in and shouted, “Where’s the democracy?” Shamokin board member (and former police chief) Ed Griffiths escorted McDade outside, claiming he didn’t know who he was. (September 17 The Daily Item)
Quote of the Week #2. “He is so crooked that he has to screw his shoes on in the morning.” – Rich Kashnoski, school board member of the Shamokin Area School District, speaking of McDade and suggesting that he, at least, knows him. (September 16 NewsItem.com)
September 14, 2015
A Lesson in Teacher Strike Math. Members of the Seattle Education Association are on strike for the fourth day today. Teacher strikes are not strictly legal in Washington State, though it requires a court order and several other legal hurdles to put an end to them. No-strike laws are pointless, and particularly pointless in this case, because there is another state law that makes a strike an appealing proposition for the union.
The no-strike law does have some teeth. As demonstrated in Pasco, where the union went on strike on September 1 and was subsequently fined $2,000 for each day it failed to abide by the court’s back-to-work order. The judge warned that individual union officers could also be fined, but the district and union reached a tentative agreement over the weekend. A fine of that size on a union of 1,160 teachers would at first glance seem to be just the thing to spur a settlement. But the Washington Education Association makes $35 million a year, plus there is the NEA, and no doubt there were donations from other union locals and state affiliates across the country. It is extraordinarily difficult to make a union feel financial pain.
Everyone thinks it is the economics of the competing contract proposals that determines the outcome of a strike. In fact, it is the economics of the strike itself.
A beginning teacher in the Seattle Public Schools makes $44,372. The district has a 180-day school year, so that comes to roughly $246.51 each work day. The last reported district contract offer would bring that amount to $259.49 in two years. The union’s last reported offer would bring it to about $270.48 in the same amount of time. That’s almost $2,000 difference by 2017, so the two parties are very far apart.
But teachers don’t get paid during a strike. The four days on strike have already cost our beginning teacher $986. If the strike were to continue for another four days, it would almost completely wipe out the difference between the two offers, meaning the strike would have been for nothing. This would put enormous pressure on the union to settle, since any strike lasting longer than 8 days would result in a net loss for the members.
This doesn’t happen, however, because Washington state law requires 180 days of classroom instruction. The four strike days – plus any additional strike days – will have to be made up by adding instructional days at the end of the school year. The strike can go on for weeks because even though union members may experience short-term discomfort, they know they will ultimately work – and be paid for – those lost days.
Seattle teachers are paid once a month, on the last day of the month, so although they are currently experiencing a paper loss in income, they have not missed a paycheck, and will not unless the strike extends past September 30.
When it comes to strikes, teachers’ unions have an enormous advantage – the school year. Not only does the law mandate that kids have to be in school for a certain amount of time each year, but virtually no other workers are able to make up days lost to strike. If you work 235 days a year and go on strike, you don’t start working on Saturdays and Sundays when the strike is over in order to make up that pay. You just lose it. So the benefit of striking has to greatly exceed the cost to make it worthwhile.
Seattle is labor-friendly, and the Associated Press reports that the cost-of-living in the city is driving the teachers’ demands. But a good chunk of the cost of living in any city is the amount you pay for municipal services, and the additional costs businesses pass on to consumers because of taxes and regulations that come with such forward-thinking policies. The Seattle Education Association may be justified in striking, but the costs will be borne by those who are still hard at work.
Recent Intercepts. EIA’s daily blog, Intercepts, covered these topics September 9-14:
* The Atlantic Asks: Can Millennials Save Unions? The Magic 8-Ball says, “Don’t count on it.”
* NEA New Hampshire Endorses Clinton. Get ready for the Vermont NEA New Hampshire border wars.
* CTA’s Mandatory Sales Pitch Bill Looks Dead. Does it come with a free breakfast?
* What Is the Law? Letting your conscience be your guide.
Quote of the Week #1. “While the country’s teaching force is certainly dealing with a staffing problem, a closer look at the numbers shows that shortages are centered in particular subject areas and geographic areas. In fact, there may be too many certified teachers in some fields, such as early-childhood education.” – Laura McKenna, contributing writer for The Atlantic. (September 10 The Atlantic)
Quote of the Week #2. “For the first time in the long history of both organizations, the Louisiana Association of Educators and the Louisiana Federation of Teachers are pooling their resources and funding for a single election cycle. The immediate goal is to communicate to its shared 40,000 or so members, with a universe of influence of three to five (meaning 120,000 to 200,000 potential votes), that nothing matters more than the race for governor—and by extension the Board of Elementary and Secondary Education seats.” – Jeremy Alford, publisher-editor of LaPolitics Weekly. (September 11 Greater Baton Rouge Business Report)
LAE has no more than 10,800 members. LFT has no more than 12,000 members, for a combined maximum of 22,800.
September 8, 2015
NEA’s Memphis Blues. I thought I was long past the time when I would be writing about issues related to Tennessee and secession, but recent events in the Memphis-Shelby County Education Association (MSCEA) forced my hand.
Chalkbeat Tennessee broke the story of an attempted disaffiliation by MSCEA and its reported 4,500 members from its parent unions, the Tennessee Education Association (TEA) and the National Education Association. TEA has responded by refusing to recognize the move, and creating a new region, TEA West, promising it will continue to provide services to MSCEA members. Chalkbeat helpfully provides the correspondence between the unions, but some background is missing, so let me fill in the gaps.
In 2013, the Memphis city school district merged with the surrounding Shelby County district. This was a controversial measure, and the following year six towns split from the merged district and formed their own school systems. The merger required a corresponding merger between the TEA-affiliated local unions, so that they would not be in competition with each other.
The MSCEA president, Keith Williams, has been described by Chalkbeat as someone who “laces his speech with quips, conspiracy theories and personal attacks.” He stepped down as president in July, and quickly reappeared last month as the MSCEA executive director, replacing Ken Foster, who had held the position for 15 years.
MSCEA hired attorney Michael Floyd, who informed TEA on September 2, “Effective immediately my client has elected not to be affiliated with either the NEA or the TEA.” Floyd also claims the merger of the two locals is not binding because it was “arbitrary, capricious, unconscionable and contrary to the will of the Association members.”
TEA set the stage for a possible takeover by accusing the MSCEA officers of failing to submit to an NEA audit, breaking the merger agreement and forcing Foster from his job. The state union declared “there are serious questions that need to be addressed,” which is about as much of a warning as you will get before they send in the staffers and the locksmiths.
It may not come to that, because it is clear that MSCEA’s declaration of independence is premature. Williams says the board of directors approved the disaffiliation. That’s possible, but the MSCEA constitution states that the local “shall be affiliated with the Tennessee Education Association (TEA) and the National Education Association (NEA)…” Amending the constitution requires a two-thirds vote of the MSCEA representative assembly and lots of notice beforehand. The agenda of the August 11 meeting makes no mention of it.
On the other hand, the last thing TEA and NEA want is a vote on disaffiliation. Recent history shows the measures they will take even if they feel confident of victory.
Instead of actively disaffiliating, perhaps MSCEA should merely fail to fulfill the requirements of affiliation, according to TEA Bylaw Article IV, Section 1. These include annual filing of a list of officers, keeping a current constitution on file with TEA, attendance requirements at annual meetings, and having goals and objectives that “complement those of the Tennessee Education Association.”
The key issue is, of course, money. The one stick of leverage any local has on its state and national parents is that it collects dues money on their behalf. Stop collecting their portion of dues and eventually they have to boot you out. Unfortunately, that will also bring the state and national hammer down faster than anything else.
At this point, how much support disaffiliation has in Memphis and Shelby County is immaterial. My advice would be the same regardless: Start digging trenches.
Recent Intercepts. EIA’s daily blog, Intercepts, covered these topics September 1-8:
* NEA’s SuperPAC Exposed to Kryptonite. We are the 11-percenters!
* #IAmMySchoolBoard. This solidarity thing works both ways.
* Whodunit? Has a blogger solved the mystery of PO Box 1292?
* Movies For Your Labor Day Weekend. “I’m not gonna force my men to do something they don’t wanna do.”
* You Know What Labor Day Really Means. Time to stock up.
Quote of the Week #1. “The Supreme Court has affirmed what we’ve said all along – charter schools steal money from our existing classrooms, and voters have no say in how these charter schools spend taxpayer funding.” – Kim Mead, president of the Washington Education Association, after the state supreme court ruled charter schools were unconstitutional. (September 4 Courthouse News Service)
Quote of the Week #2. “The KIPP charter network, which runs Spark, gets $16,400 per Spark pupil, of which $12,664 is devoted to the school. The district schools get $19,650 per pupil, but only $9,604 trickles down to the schools. Money that the charter school is spending on extra support is being soaked up by the bloated bureaucracy in the public school system. It is a devastating fact.” – Joe Nocera, columnist for the New York Times, reviewing Dale Russakoff’s new book, The Prize: Who’s in Charge of America’s Schools? (September 8 New York Times)
August 31, 2015
Labor Day Sale. Many unions like to badmouth the free market, but due to changing conditions it looks as though some are beginning to develop a strong belief in price elasticity.
Now the Michigan Education Association, facing a similar future, is promoting a special deal for its members: pay your full dues at the start of the school year and get $30 cash back!
There is some fine print, however. MEA charges most teachers $645, and it is unclear whether rebate-seekers will also have to pony up NEA’s $185 and whatever their local dues might be. And the timeline isn’t exactly expeditious. Members have to pay by October 30, fill out and return a rebate form by December 31, and then receive their $30 check within 90 days after that.
Pay more than $830 in October, get $30 back next March! You can tell these guys are new at the whole marketing thing.
Perhaps because most of their members are in the private sector, the Teamsters have a better handle on this. In concert with the run-up to a representation election for education support employees in Clark County, Nevada, Teamsters Local 14 reduced new member initiation fees from $150 to $35.
Even these modest efforts are rare. Instances of dues being cut to retain members are almost unheard of. The standard response to falling membership is to raise dues, in an attempt to compensate for lost revenues. But we may not be far away from a day when unions start running TV ads and infomercials to pick up business, just like personal injury lawyers and realtors.
Recent Intercepts. EIA’s daily blog, Intercepts, covered these topics August 25-31:
* Union President on “Teacher Shortage”: “Who Cares What the Data Says?” Who are you going to believe, me or your own eyes?
* NLRB Ruling Might Cut Both Ways. Unions might be “joint employers” for all sorts of workers.
* Vegas Election Set: Teamsters vs. NEA. Lopsided.
* Remembering the Obama Years. Back when things were swell.
Quote of the Week. “During this time, there will be hardship. It’s unfortunate. We don’t want to see it. But the alternative was to have a greater hardship, and that is to turn over our health insurance to a for-profit entity.” – John Vellardita, executive director of the Clark County Education Association, explaining why the union’s Teachers Health Trust raised members’ rates in order to pay claims. (August 27 Las Vegas Review-Journal)
August 24, 2015
EIA Exclusive: NEA Agency Fee-Payers By State & Financial Consequences of Friedrichs Case. In its next session the U.S. Supreme Court will hear Friedrichs v. California Teachers Association, which challenges a 40-year-old system of compelling non-members to pay an agency fee to public sector unions with exclusive representation rights where they work. Information about agency fee-payers has always been difficult to obtain, but we do know that in the 2014-2015 school year, the National Education Association had more than 100,000 fee-payers.
EIA has obtained an internal NEA document that breaks down that number by state. It is being made public here for the first time. There are currently 20 states that allow agency fees in the public sector. These figures also include the remaining fee-payers in Michigan and Wisconsin, where changes in state law banned such payments, but did not overturn collective bargaining agreements previously made. Eventually there will be no fee-payers in either state.
Alaska – 539
California – 28,323
Connecticut – 542
Delaware – 906
Hawaii – 784
Illinois – 5,939
Maine – 133
Maryland – 3,174
Massachusetts – 4,511
*Michigan – 675
Minnesota – 6,760
Montana – 1,241
New Hampshire – 380
New Jersey – 3,516
New York – 27,117
Ohio – 1,400
Oregon – 3,996
Pennsylvania – 5,491
Rhode Island – 146
Vermont – 763
Washington – 4,099
*Wisconsin – 345
The Oregon Education Association has the largest percentage of agency fee-payers when compared with active members, followed by the California Teachers Association and Education Minnesota. Both in raw numbers and as a percentage, the Maine Education Association has the fewest fee-payers.
NEA also tried to predict the revenue implications of an adverse U.S. Supreme Court decision. The union concluded that for every 5 percent membership loss caused by Friedrichs, NEA would lose approximately $11.5 million annually in dues.
That is a substantial, but hardly devastating amount of money. It does, however, understate the effect. It does not include, for example, the loss of approximately $10 million per year in agency fees themselves. Additionally, a five percent loss of membership in the agency fee states is a very optimistic scenario. The Michigan Education Association has lost more than 16 percent of its active membership in the last five years, and the Wisconsin Education Association Council has lost more than 53 percent.
But NEA’s analysis was only concerned with the effect on the national organization and not on the state affiliates themselves. A five percent loss of revenue in each of the 20 agency fee state affiliates totals almost $42.3 million annually.
There is no way to predict how many current NEA members will opt out of membership if agency fees are abolished, but an average loss of 15 percent in agency fee states would mean a total decrease in revenue to the organization of more than $171 million annually – and that’s without accounting for the finances of local affiliates.
Another unknown is the multiplier effect. Dues money from agency fee states goes to NEA and is redistributed to support organizing, advocacy and union staff compensation in affiliates all across the nation. How will they manage without those funds?
NEA has already begun efforts to mitigate the problems a loss of agency fees will bring, but everyone is working with the unknown. The union will be operating in a competitive market where the individual decisions of hundreds of thousands of teachers and support employees will determine its fiscal health, rather than the provisions of collective bargaining laws and school contracts. How well NEA can pivot will determine whether it will remain a major force in education policy.
Recent Intercepts. EIA’s daily blog, Intercepts, covered these topics August 18-24:
* Manic Depression. “Testing mania” is more of a low-grade chronic condition.
* Bubble Wrap. Don’t want to spend so much time and money on testing? Better keep those multiple-choice tests then.
* You Can’t Wipe My Server. Hillary’s 1999 prediction about charter schools.
* Tough Bargaining in Pacific Northwest. Teachers’ unions have their own unions to worry about.
Quote of the Week. “We don’t leave our dogs or kids in the car, but it’s okay to leave a bus driver [in a hot school bus] for 20 minutes while they’re waiting?” – Mitzi Hurt, member of the Oregon School Employees Association doing volunteer work for AFT Alabama, commenting on the lack of school bus air conditioning. (August 19 nwLaborPress.org)
August 17, 2015
Following the Alabama Education Association Money Trail. The Alabama Education Association has had what can charitably be called a rough few years. As its almost uncontested hold on the state legislature began to slip, the union began to engage in various risky political activities like:
+ Sending PAC money to five other PACs, which then donated it to the “True Republican PAC,” which then used it to make media buys using the same Denver-based firm that NEA uses. The ruse was discovered and rendered ineffective.
+ Committing millions of dollars to the GOP primaries, including hundreds of thousands of dollars to National Research Services, a previously unknown firm with a Tennessee post office box that incorporated in Delaware on a Friday and received hundreds of thousands of dollars of AEA PAC money the next Monday. This didn’t pay off either.
+ Using dues money to invest in “high risk stock market ventures,” ultimately resulting in the forced resignation of executive secretary Henry Mabry and an establishment of a trusteeship by the National Education Association. Former AEA officers and staff claim NEA tricked the AEA board into approving the takeover.
Now, with the help of AEA’s IRS filings and other documents, we can put numbers to the amount of financial damage that was done.
In the 2013-14 school year, AEA saw a $450,000 decrease in dues revenue thanks to falling membership. But this didn’t cause money problems because the shortfall was more than matched by the $550,000 increase in contributions and grants from NEA.
Nevertheless, AEA ran an $8.6 million budget deficit, which was 65% more than it collected in dues. Most of this was due to two factors. First was a $2.4 million loss from investments. It is unclear from the available documentation whether the securities lost all value or were liquidated at a substantial loss. In any event, AEA held $6.5 million worth of securities in 2013 and only $914,000 worth in 2014. The union also reported $1.2 million in unrealized losses.
The second budget-buster was the $3.3 million AEA sent to the Gilbraltar Foundation, identified only by a Washington DC PO box. If you never heard of the Gibraltar Foundation, don’t feel bad. No one has. The foundation immediately started spending the money, sending it to organizations like the Alabama Foundation for Limited Government, which was heavily involved in the aforementioned GOP primaries on behalf of AEA’s chosen candidates.
The Gibraltar Foundation later incorporated in DC, and shares the same office space with The Organizing Group, a campaign consulting firm headed by Steve Rosenthal, founder of America Coming Together and former AFL-CIO political director.
“We run full scale campaigns, including campaign planning and budgeting, mail, phones, and door-to-door voter contact; and also can offer individual campaign elements,” reads the firm’s list of services.
The $3.3 million AEA sent to the Gibraltar Foundation was dues money. The union had an additional $2.2 million available in its PAC account.
You will search in vain for any mention of any of this, or the NEA trusteeship, in AEA’s member publication, the Alabama School Journal. The only clue that anything out of the ordinary has been going on is a notice soliciting applications for chief financial officer, a position AEA never had before, and the applications need to be sent to Steven Martinez, who worked as NEA’s associate director of finance and audit for 21 years before becoming CFO of a media and marketing firm.
The audits that led to Mabry’s ouster and the NEA trusteeship have never seen the light of day, and now probably won’t. Union trusteeships are notorious for cutting off the flow of information, so much so that few NEA members know that the union created a still-existing Indiana real estate firm in 2009.
Recent Intercepts. EIA’s daily blog, Intercepts, covered these topics August 11-17:
* How to Keep the Union Away? It’s No Secret. Teacher voice.
* Conn-victed. Detroit sends its union president packing.
* Put Those Back On. Held accountable for stealing from the accountability fund.
* What Happens in Vegas Could Happen Elsewhere. Reversing the trend.
Quote of the Week. “No one ever entered the profession so they could join a teachers’ union.” – Kim Schroeder, president of the Milwaukee Teachers Education Association. (August 14 Deseret News)
August 10, 2015
Declassified: Indiana and Kentucky Internal Documents. Here are a couple of documents that are of local and regional interest. Earlier this year I posted the membership numbers for every local affiliate of the Oregon Education Association. Now I can post similar numbers for each local of the Indiana State Teachers Association.
The union’s three largest locals last year were Evansville (1,192), Fort Wayne (1,184) and Indianapolis (1,052).
The other document is a brief report from the Kentucky Education Association Program and Budget Committee. The union’s 2015 – 2016 budget is based on an expected membership level of 25,500 active certified and 3,800 education support members.
These and many other internal union documents are available on EIA’s Declassified page.
Recent Intercepts. EIA’s daily blog, Intercepts, covered these topics August 4-10:
* Shortage-Term Memory. Fool me twice, shame on me.
* Shadow Boxing. Threatening to punch teachers in the face is either despicable or praiseworthy, depending on who’s making the threats.
* All the World’s a Stage. How to get someone to join the union, spelled out.
* UTLA Plans 33% Dues Increase. The revolution must be financed.
Quote of the Week. “I really felt in my heart and my gut that we were going to take Scott Walker down.” – Michael Brown, founder of United Wisconsin, the political action committee that launched the 2012 recall of Gov. Walker. Brown now hunts ghosts in Wisconsin. (August 8 Milwaukee Journal-Sentinel).
August 3, 2015
22 NEA State Affiliates Have Fewer Members Than in 1994. Last April I did a little historical research and discovered that 20 NEA state affiliates actually lost members from 1994 to 2013. Now that I have the union’s 2013-14 membership numbers available, I am updating that figure to 22.
Recent membership losses in the Georgia Association of Educators and the Tennessee Education Association bring them to levels below where they stood in 1994. Here is the complete list:
Arizona Education Association
Arkansas Education Association
Georgia Association of Educators
Idaho Education Association
Indiana State Teachers Association
Iowa State Education Association
Louisiana Association of Educators
Maine Education Association
Mississippi Association of Educators
North Carolina Association of Educators
Oklahoma Education Association
South Carolina Education Association
South Dakota Education Association
Tennessee Education Association
Texas State Teachers Association
Utah Education Association
Virginia Education Association
West Virginia Education Association
Wisconsin Education Association Council
Wyoming Education Association
Federal Education Association
As this list grows, the list of historically healthy state affiliates will shrink by one. The Alabama Education Association was NEA’s sole success story in the South over the last 20 years, but recent events will soon have the organization joining its brethren on life support.
Merger double-counting aside, the number of reliably strong NEA affiliates is whittled down to seven – California, New Jersey, Illinois, Pennsylvania, Massachusetts, Maryland and Washington. Absent a remarkable change in fortunes, NEA will start to resemble AFT in that it will have well-defined strongholds (as AFT has in major city school systems) and be virtually invisible elsewhere.
Recent Intercepts. EIA’s daily blog, Intercepts, covered these topics July 28-August 3:
* Former Union Officers Revolt Against NEA Trusteeship in Alabama. State media notice uprising against something they didn’t know existed.
* AFT Deposes Florida Local President & Board. Regime change.
* AFT’s Florida Follies. Sun-baked.
* Conn-dign. Comedy’s final act?
Quote of the Week. “Comparing strength to ‘right to work’ status shows that union strength is clearly correlated with whether unions can collect agency fees. (All data are as of 2012.) Eighteen of the twenty strongest-union states allow the collection of agency fees; most of the twenty states where unions are weakest prohibit the practice, though there are a handful of exceptions (Washington, D.C., New Mexico, and Missouri, for example).” – Michael J. Petrilli and Dara Zeehandelaar. (August 3 Education Next)
July 27, 2015
Y2K: NEA Membership Numbers Essentially the Same – 15 Years Later. The National Education Association has unwittingly demonstrated the limitations of standardized tests. Let’s use a word problem such as we have seen a million times before: If NEA had 2,524,532 members in 1999-2000, and 2,956,532 members in 2013-14, how many more members does NEA have today?
If you said 432,000, you are good at arithmetic but lacking in knowledge about teachers’ unions. The correct answer is: maybe about 5,000 – give or take a few hundred.
How can this be? As I hinted this morning on Intercepts, the national union’s membership growth is almost entirely due to counting American Federation of Teachers members in merged state affiliates, a process NEA began in 1999. This might be acceptable if AFT weren’t also counting the same members in their totals. Even that might be acceptable if those states were paying double dues. But, as was amply demonstrated at this year’s NEA Representative Assembly, their dues and representation on NEA’s elected bodies are proportional to their pre-merger numbers.
At the time of their respective mergers, AFT members in Minnesota (~22,500), Florida (~51,000), Montana (~2,100), New York (~350,000) and North Dakota (~1,400) instantly became NEA members, though they counted toward membership totals and little else. They constitute a fixed number of 427,000 paper members, resulting in an NEA that is virtually the same size as it was in 1999-2000.
We even have mathematical corroboration. In 1999-2000, according to NEA’s financial disclosure reports, the union took in $221,985,292 in dues revenue. In 2013-14, it took in $362,987,725 – an increase in income of 63.5 percent.
But when we take a weighted average of the increase in the NEA dues rate on teachers and education support employees, we find it went up a cumulative 63.0 percent – almost entirely accounting for the extra revenue. In other words, essentially all of NEA’s additional money came from charging existing members more – not by recruiting new education employees.
And there have been a lot of them. In the last 15 years, America’s public education system hired an additional 276,000 teachers and almost as many education support employees. From a pool of perhaps a half-million possible members, NEA added no more than 5,000. I guess you could call them the one-percenters.
Recent Intercepts. EIA’s daily blog, Intercepts, covered these topics July 21-27:
* How to Grow NEA Membership. Double count.
* You Get What You Pay For. Quid pro quo.
* Alameda School Board Cuts Out the Middle Man. A year in the making.
* Rhetorical Question. No, no, we can’t have that.
* Defenestration. Should I throw Windows out of a window?
Quote of the Week. “So what’s behind the bump? NEA President Lily Eskelsen García boiled it down to three words: “Organize, organize, organize,” she told Morning Education. “It doesn’t just happen.” Jim Testerman, NEA’s senior director for organizing, said it comes after listening to members and organizing on issues that concern them, like testing and reducing class sizes…. One caveat: The membership numbers aren’t final, Testerman said. NEA affiliates have a few months to clean up their lists while some members retire or resign. More concrete numbers will be available in the fall, he said.” – from a July 8 Politico item headlined “NEA’s Membership Uptick.”
July 20, 2015
Official NEA State Affiliate Membership Numbers for 2014. The National Education Association lost an additional 42,000 active members last year, bringing the union’s total losses among working public school employees to more than 310,000 (10.7%) over the past five years.
I have compiled the numbers in a handy table, which provides both the total and active membership for each state affiliate. Active members are employed teachers, professionals and education support workers. Total membership includes retirees, students, substitutes and all others. Along with the numbers are the one-year and five-year changes in those figures.
For quick reference you can refer to this chart as I detail the exact numbers. (Click on chart for better viewing.)
The biggest losers over the five-year period were Arizona and Wisconsin (each with 53.1% active member loss), North Carolina (45.9% loss) and Louisiana (31.5% loss).
Other affiliates with losses of greater than 20% include Arkansas, Georgia, Idaho, Indiana, Oklahoma, South Carolina, Tennessee, Virginia, West Virginia, the District of Columbia and the Utah School Employees Association.
NEA lost 3,000 members from the University of Hawaii Professional Assembly when UHPA disaffiliated. The membership increase in North Dakota is almost entirely due to the merging of the NEA and AFT affiliates in the state. Both national unions count the same members from merged states in their totals.
I have unofficial numbers for 2015 as well. They show additional losses among the weakest affiliates, with the Alabama Education Association added to the list. AEA lost more than 19 percent of its active membership between 2009 and 2014, and appears to have lost another 5,000 members in 2015, bringing its active membership total to about 56,000. NEA established a trusteeship over AEA last May.
These figures also suggest what a post-Friedrichs world will look like. In 2014, NEA affiliates in agency fee states gained about 5,300 active members. In states without agency fees, NEA affiliates lost more than 47,000 active members.
With the exceptions of Illinois and Minnesota, it is difficult to find a healthy NEA state affiliate between New England and the Pacific coast.
In the coming weeks I will have additional figures and analysis on NEA’s membership situation, including a longer-term historical perspective.
Recent Intercepts. EIA’s daily blog, Intercepts, covered these topics July 9-20:
* Add Boston to the Union Militancy Movement. Will UCORE mean something?
* Endorsement Unites AFT Behind Hillary… If You Believe AFT. The natives are restless.
* Well, That Could Have Gone Better. How the rank-and-file reacted to the Hillary endorsement.
* 35-3. Representative?
* Esquith Tipster Mortified by Events. They can’t run a district, but they can run amok.
* WEAC Falls Below 40,000 Active Members. Act 10 was the final act.
Quote of the Week. “Clearly, NEA President Lily Eskelsen Garcia wants to claim the mantle of civil rights and social justice — words that are sprinkled throughout her speeches — while simultaneously freeing her members of the responsibilities of improving outcomes for the most vulnerable children.” – Kati Haycock, president of the Education Trust. (July 14)
July 13, 2015
Direct Links to All NEA Representative Assembly Blog Posts. In case you didn’t follow along all last week with EIA’s gavel-to-gavel coverage of the 2015 National Education Association Representative Assembly from Orlando, here are the direct links to each post, in chronological order. Enjoy!
Compared to What, When? – How to manufacture a membership increase.
“You Are the Future of Everything” – The mote and the beam.
Membership Math, One More Time – Can’t let it slide.
There’s No Business Like New Business – Pizza and Coke.
What Happened to Playing the Long Game? – In the ashes John Stocks sees pixie dust.
Rebel Yell – A day after unanimously vowing to fight institutional racism, the delegates spent two hours debating whether to support the removal of Confederate flags from public spaces.
I Am Not a Number, I Am a Free Man – It takes The Village.
The Final Few – Eliminating voter ID requirement for NEA elections is referred to committee.
Merged Affiliates Stuck With Status Quo – The delegates really don’t want merged affiliates to get their maximum allotment of representation.
Federalist Sighting! – An unlikely source notices that the powers of the federal government are limited.
A Lesson in Time Management – Good news! NEA can still take Gates money.
It’s a Marathon, Not a Sprint – Hitting the wall.
This Morning’s Little Ironies – Labor rules save the day and delegates agree to continue to “control the flow of information.”
NEA Opts In to Opt Out – As written, NEA now supports opting out of any test, standardized or not.
June 22, 2015
Coverage of the NEA Representative Assembly Begins July 3. For the 18th consecutive year (yikes) EIA will provide daily gavel-to-gavel coverage from the floor of the National Education Association Representative Assembly (RA). This year the convention takes place in Orlando, Florida. For those of you who are new to the communiqué, you should know that distribution works a little differently that week.
I will blog each day’s events on Intercepts, which you can check at your convenience, or you can subscribe to the blog’s RSS feed. If you prefer, go to the Intercepts page, where you can sign up for blog updates via automatic e-mail. You need provide only your e-mail address. Feedburner will send you a verification e-mail and then confirm your subscription. From that point on you’ll get one, and only one, e-mail per day with the full text of the content I have added to the blog that day.
The first convention report will be posted July 3 and each evening thereafter until the convention closes on July 6.
You will not receive a communiqué for the next two weeks. On July 13 I will send a communiqué with direct links to all the items I posted on the blog during the week of the convention. That way, no one misses anything.
I will be monitoring e-mail for your questions and comments, but please make allowances for delays in my response. Happy Independence Day!
Recent Intercepts. EIA’s daily blog, Intercepts, covered these topics June 16-22:
* When Charters Go Union, Reporters Love Writing About It. Never have so many written so much about so few.
* Who Ratted on Rafe and Why? Famous teacher experiences collegiality.
* NEA’s Presidential Endorsement Dilemma. Timing is everything.
* Call and Response. NEA practices ventriloquism.
Quote of the Week. “The highest priority of civil rights community for improving this law is also the National Education Association’s highest priority to defeat.” – Kati Haycock, president of the Education Trust, speaking about the reauthorization of the Elementary and Secondary Education Act. (June 19 Wall Street Journal)
June 15, 2015
California Teacher Retirements Down 8%. It’s hopeless, I’m sure, but let’s see if we can head off the next stampede of California teacher shortage hysteria at the pass.
Thanks to the National Center for Education Statistics, we now know that teacher turnover rates shouldn’t be giving us the vapors anymore. With the people currently working in K-12 mostly staying put, we only have to worry about the two ends of the pipeline: new recruits and retirees.
A study by the National Council on Teacher Quality definitively showed an oversupply of new elementary teacher candidates for the available openings. However, California was one of the few states producing fewer new teachers than demand dictated.
Good news, though. NCTQ’s numbers were for 2012-13, and new data from the California State Teachers Retirement System (CalSTRS) show teacher retirements fell from a high of 11,645 in 2013 to 10,736 last year – a drop of nearly 8 percent.
The California Commission on Teacher Credentialing issued 11,500 new teaching licenses last year. All other factors being equal, supply and demand should be pretty close, especially considering there is a cohort of teachers laid off during the recession years available to return to work.
The CalSTRS report also provided some mild good news for the state’s teacher pension system. Legislation to increase funding was enacted last year, though its effect paled in comparison to the record high market valuation of the system’s investment portfolio. CalSTRS’ net assets grew to $190.5 billion, even though contributions from all sources were down from 2013. The contribution rate for most teachers was increased from 8.15% to 9.2%.
Even with a rosier economic picture, the state’s teacher pension system is only 68.5% funded. It was 85% funded a mere 10 years ago.
The average retiree in 2014 was 62.3 years old with 24.7 years of service credit, for an average pension of $47,268. It’s important to know that the average hides a wide range. In California, teachers are vested after five years. A full 36 percent of the 2014 retirees had fewer than 20 years in the system.
Recent Intercepts. EIA’s daily blog, Intercepts, covered these topics June 9-15:
* Drive-By Reporting in Alabama. Move along. Nothing to see here.
* AFT Set to Take Over Florida Local. Local president will contest proposed action.
* Conniptions. At the Detroit Federation of Teachers, it’s either Dred Scott or 13 Vendémiaire.
* Challengers Sweep in Hawaii Union Revote. All pau now.
Quote of the Week. “The position of our union is we support mayoral control but not in its current version…. we do not want to go back to the school boards and the Board of Education.” – Michael Mulgrew, president of the United Federation of Teachers. Mayoral control of the schools in New York City is up for reauthorization. (June 11 Capital New York)
June 8, 2015
Which States Took the Worst School Spending Beating During the Recession? The U.S. Census Bureau released its annual Public Education Finances report last week, bringing us per-pupil spending figures for the school year 2012-13. The recession created a bleak picture for a number of states, but others came through it rather well.
Nationally, per-pupil spending grew 4.3 percent between 2008 and 2013, but that average disguises substantial highs and lows among individual states.
Per-pupil spending in 11 states was below what it was in 2007-08. Those states were Alabama, Arizona, California, Colorado, Florida, Georgia, Idaho, New Mexico, Oklahoma, Oregon and Texas. Seven states saw per-pupil spending increase by more than 15 percent over the same period. Those states were Alaska, Connecticut, Nebraska, New Hampshire, New York, North Dakota and Pennsylvania.
Student enrollment fell 0.2 percent during those five years, with the drops of more than five percent in Connecticut, Maine, Michigan, Ohio, Pennsylvania and Rhode Island.
Colorado, North Dakota, South Dakota, Texas and Wyoming all experienced enrollment increases of more than five percent.
I have posted a table with the figures for all 50 states here on the EIA web site, and have added the number of full-time equivalent K-12 teachers for each state to the Census Bureau numbers. One caution: Those numbers, from the National Center for Education Statistics’ Common Core of Data, contain unreliable teacher stats for Illinois for 2012-13, and unreliable teacher stats for Virginia for 2007-08. It is safe to say, however, that the national teacher workforce decreased by about 1 percent in those five years.
The K-12 teacher force shrank considerably in California, Michigan, Nevada, Oregon, Rhode Island and South Dakota, while hiring was up significantly in Connecticut, Delaware, New Jersey and Utah.
One state is worth noting because of events that took place in the middle of this period. Wisconsin’s per-pupil spending and spending on employee compensation decreased by about 6 percent during the two years after Act 10 became law. It had been increasing by about 3.5 percent annually during the preceding five years. The state still musters about the same number of teachers, however, with only 74 fewer teachers statewide in 2013 than in 2011. Enrollment fell by about 500 students.
Recent Intercepts. EIA’s daily blog, Intercepts, covered these topics June 2-8:
* Good News: Teachers’ Union Won’t Test Members for STDs. An itch too far.
* AFT Interns Form Union. Exploitation.
* Former North Dakota Executive Director Named Alabama Education Association Trustee. Some media attention in Alabama, but still dead silence from AEA and NEA.
* Electionpalooza. Who’s in. Who’s out.
* Political Contributions By Occupation. What’s your guess for the profession with the highest percentage of Democratic Party contributors?
Quote of the Week. “While Vellardita claimed he wasn’t privy to financial details of the trust, he explained that the general rise in the cost of health care and new taxes from the Affordable Care Act have increased its expenses while revenue remains flat. He also pointed to the trust’s predominantly female participant pool. ‘The majority of the participants are not a younger pool of participants, so you have claims related to say maternity and other women health issues,’ Vellardita said.” – from a June 7 Las Vegas Review-Journal story, quoting Clark County Education Association executive director John Vellarddita on why the union’s Teachers Health Trust is in financial trouble.
June 1, 2015
The Growing Teacher Union Militancy Movement. Experience and skepticism are useful tools because there are a lot of people out there trying to sell us something. But occasionally these attributes can become a crutch, and I fear I have reached that point when it comes to trends in elections for union officers.
I have routinely maintained that militant rhetoric is required for challengers for union office. It is almost impossible to oust incumbents by promising more collaboration with management. Come election time, union voters want candidates who fight. That’s why I chose the term “militants” to describe them, though it is not as exact a description as I wish.
I define union “militancy” as primarily opposing existing trends, regaining lost ground, and organizing public demonstrations of discontent. While all sorts of unions use rallies and pickets to make a point, militant demonstrations tend to be less scripted and more visceral.
Where I have let experience guide me is in analysis of what happens after a militant is elected. Once in office, the fire-breather is doused with paperwork, competing interests and inevitable compromises, leaving him vulnerable to the next fire-breather. I once called this “the elusive militant incumbent.”
But I have held on to that notion for too long. Something different is happening within the teachers’ unions these days. There are the beginnings of a national militant movement.
It began with the election of Karen Lewis in Chicago, but that did not make the rest inevitable. The Chicago Teachers Union was rare in that it had a long history of leadership changing hands among competing caucuses. Lewis was elected because she united all challengers to win a runoff against the incumbent.
What was unique this time was the perception elsewhere in the country that Lewis’s victory could be replicated by adopting her fighting stance. This still led to defeat in most places but over time the victories started to mount up, and now they can no longer be viewed in isolation.
United Teachers Los Angeles, Detroit Federation of Teachers, United Educators of San Francisco, Newark Teachers Union, Massachusetts Teachers Association, and perhaps soon the Hawaii State Teachers Association have all chosen militancy over incumbency in recent elections. While these wins were not coordinated by a single coalition, they enforced the belief that the traditional line of union succession could be broken.
Now that they have had some success, these same victors will find themselves thwarted by more establishment unionists further advanced in the hierarchy. Their challenge will be to mimic not only Karen Lewis’s rhetoric, but her ability to unite dissident factions against that establishment.
That’s the tricky part, however. There are substantial differences among the militants, not the least of which is that some are AFT and others are NEA. They also have to resist the pull of the establishment. The perks of union leadership can quickly turn bomb-throwers into pencil-pushers.
Internally it can go one of two ways for NEA and AFT. Either a militant slate arises and supports viable challengers for the national executive offices – who then win – or the militants continue to add sporadic electoral victories, existing as a thorn in the side of the union establishment, but never holding more than regional power.
For the rest of us, more militant teacher union leaders will mean significant changes in approach on the largest education policy issues – ESEA, Common Core, teacher evaluations, charter schools, et al. Lip service will end. There will be no joint accountability task forces. Monthly chats with the Secretary of Education will be replaced by sit-ins at his office.
Whether this will rally politicians and the public to the cause or alienate them into open hostility is the great unknown.
The days when NEA and AFT headquarters can declare a single position on an education issue are over. The orthodoxy is being questioned. It could lead to reformation or inquisition, but the faith will never be the same.
Recent Intercepts. EIA’s daily blog, Intercepts, covered these topics May 27-June 1:
* EIA Exclusive: Alabama Education Association Placed Under NEA Trusteeship. Strange silence from AEA and state media.
* Inside a Union Organizing Drive. Gawking.
* Hawaii Challengers File Suit Against New Election. To no avail.
* The More You Know. Graphic.
Quote of the Week. “With a collective bargaining agreement, a business owner and the employees negotiate an agreement that works for them both. The agreement allows each party to prioritize what is important to them. This provision gives the parties the option, the freedom, to negotiate that agreement. And that is a good thing.” – Rusty Hicks, executive secretary-treasurer of the Los Angeles County Federation of Labor, which is lobbying for a unionized workplace exception to the county’s new $15 minimum wage law. (May 27 Los Angeles Times)
May 26, 2015
The Stand, The Banned, Supply and Demand. Three stories to look at this week:
* You may recall that earlier this year the National Education Association’s board of directors was unable to agree on a position regarding the proposed constitutional amendment to do away with reduced representation for merged state affiliates.
The amendment would not be a big deal except for the effect on the New York delegation. Should the measure pass, New York State United Teachers could hypothetically send an additional 2,600 voting delegates to the NEA Representative Assembly. No one cares to predict what effect that would have on NEA policy, but the effect would not be zero.
At its May meeting, the NEA board finally took a position and managed a majority vote to oppose the amendment. The convention delegates will still get to vote via secret ballot this July. Absent a compelling reason to enact it, I feel confident predicting the sponsors will not muster the required two-thirds majority. I do, however, expect a heated and lengthy debate over the issue.
* The apparent winners of the disputed Hawaii State Teachers Association election have threatened to file for an injunction if the plans for a new election go forward. Although the first election was by mail and e-mail, the new one will be in person on June 2. It is set for a three-hour window during rush hour at multiple sites, but only two in the city of Honolulu.
The union’s board of directors had the authority to set aside the election, but many of those who voted to do so were on the ballot, and knew the results of their own race before making that decision. For that reason alone I think a judge would put a stop to a revote until further investigation could be done.
This also has some minor repercussions for NEA national, since Hawaii’s delegates to the NEA Representative Assembly were part of the disputed election. If no election results are ratified, no Hawaii delegates can be seated.
* The good folks at the National Council on Teacher Quality showed us why it is a mistake to assume a teacher shortage based on the number of candidates in teacher prep programs. As it turns out, we are producing waaaaay more elementary teachers than the system can reasonably absorb. Here’s the handy dandy NCTQ table.
Couple this with the debunked teacher retention crisis and the drop in teacher conscripts suddenly looks like a rational reaction to an oversupply of elementary school teachers. Labor market magic.
Recent Intercepts. EIA’s daily blog, Intercepts, covered these topics May 19-26:
* Beating Kids With a Breakfast Club. Good intentions go awry.
* HSTA Letter to Members Re: Disputed Election. Irregularities.
* A Pu Pu Platter of Hawaii Union Election Stories. Hana hou.
* Decisions, Decisions. The Happiest Place on Earth.
Quote of the Week. “Straws in the wind suggest a building backlash…. Organized labor, in retreat for decades, has been reasserting itself within the Democratic Party…. impressions of labor have improved.” – Dana Milbank, columnist for the Washington Post. (May 21 Washington Post)
Steven Greenhouse of the New York Times isn’t around anymore, so congratulations to Milbank for picking up the “union resurgence” mantle.
May 18, 2015
Teachers’ Unions: Masters of the Compartmentalized Argument. No one expects teachers’ unions to approach issues in an objective way. They are advocacy organizations and their role is to present their agenda in the best possible light. Still, unions like to proceed on the assumption that whatever facts they marshal are to be used only in a very restrictive setting.
One example I have used before is the opt-out movement. Even though the same principles of freedom of choice apply, opting out of standardized testing is good, while opting out of sex education (or the union) is bad.
The other day I came across this slide from a California Teachers Association presentation.
Rather than argue that Californians are not stingy – which is what the normal reaction would be – suppose we simply agree that funding has been on a precipitous decline since 1972. The union wants to illustrate a lack of commitment to school funding. But what does the same assertion tell us about the California Teachers Association?
Prominent parts of the union’s mission statement tell us that CTA “exists to protect and promote the well-being of its members; to improve the conditions of teaching and learning.” The union calls itself the “preeminent voice for public education in California.”
Yet in the salad days of 1972, there was no collective bargaining law for teachers in California. Evidently 40 years of CTA efforts have done nothing to forestall the reduction of the state’s school spending ranking from 19th to 42nd.
CTA is not the only union inadvertently undermining its own performance. The American Federation of Teachers recently released the results of an unscientific survey showing an overwhelming majority of teachers to be highly stressed. As the Yahoo! News story said, “It sounds like the worst job ever.”
Again, if we accept this complaint in this context, what does it say about the job AFT has been doing? If by its own admission it can’t protect the interests of its members, then who needs it?
Hyping a teacher shortage in order to boost salaries may have worked, but it also had the unintended effect of driving aspirants into the profession, where they either found trouble getting hired, or were quickly laid off when the recession hit. New candidates will now be gun shy, which could conceivably cause an actual teacher shortage.
The unions often depict principals and school administrators as petty and arbitrary, yet almost all of them were once teachers. Were they that way as teachers? If so, why weren’t they weeded out? Maybe they had union protections to prevent such actions.
Either the unions are powerful and influential, which means they also bear some responsibility for the present state of affairs, or school employees are downtrodden and working under dire conditions, which means their unions are powerless and have not improved those conditions. The unions’ role in the public school system is a package, not a menu.
Recent Intercepts. EIA’s daily blog, Intercepts, covered these topics May 12-18:
* Where Did You Get That Idea? NEA reports on teacher retention without revisiting its old claims.
* No Aloha After Union Election. Secret results thrown out.
* Vegas Support Workers Union Starting to Implode. Circular firing squad.
* Call the Secret Service. Some students may be poverty-stricken, but the education system isn’t.
Quote of the Week #1. “We have a long way to go before we restore the programs in education and social services we lost to a decade of budget cuts.” – Joshua Pechthalt, president of the California Federation of Teachers, commenting on Gov. Brown’s May budget revision. (May 14 EdSource)
Quote of the Week #2. “The Legislative Analyst’s Office estimates that extra revenue in the May budget revision will raise K-12 Proposition 98 funding to $9,978 per student – $656 per student higher than the inflation-adjusted, pre-recession spending level in 2007-08.” – a caption from a chart in the same story.
May 11, 2015
“Taxes Unfair!” Shout Tax-Exempt Groups. A “wide coalition of organizations, community leaders and individuals” wants to split California’s property tax rolls to swell the state’s coffers.
The group, called Make It Fair, seeks to “make California’s tax code fair to all by phasing out loopholes in Prop. 13 that have allowed a handful of giant corporations and America’s wealthiest commercial property owners to dramatically lower their obligations to California families.”
According to a study by researchers at the University of Southern California, the change would raise an additional $8.2 billion to $10.2 billion annually.
That’s their story. You might want to be aware of a few more details.
The “wide coalition” is a handful of public employees’ unions and other tax-exempt organizations, including the California Teachers Association, California Federation of Teachers and United Teachers Los Angeles.
It commissioned the USC study it cites and although the unions want you to think their measure only targets the super-rich, the revenue estimate was based on increasing the taxes of all commercial property, which would include the bodega down the street or your dentist’s office.
What isn’t clear from any communication or posting by Make It Fair is whether the unions or advocacy groups involved would be exempt from any property reassessment.
The California Teachers Association, for example, benefits as much as anyone from low property taxes in California. Last year the union paid just over $265,000 in property tax on its headquarters building in Burlingame, the assessed value of which is almost $22.4 million. CTA’s property taxes have increased a total of only $40,000 over the last 11 years.
Unlike California’s giant corporations and wealthy property owners, CTA is able to collect approximately $185 million in annual income without paying a dime of corporate franchise or income tax. It then uses the bulk of that tax-exempt income to leverage more income for itself by taxing others at increased rates.
By all means, let’s make it fair.
Recent Intercepts. EIA’s daily blog, Intercepts, covered these topics May 5-11:
* Well, Not EVERYONE…. Stakeholders vs. bag holders.
* A First in the History of Collective Bargaining. Unnecessary.
* Newsworthy in Michigan. Stationed only at the entrance.
* Slow News Day – Education Edition. Filling space.
Quote of the Week #1. “Mostly, teacher unions do what is required of them under the law. They negotiate contracts, fulfill their statutory responsibility to represent teachers whether they are members or not, grieve when the contract is violated, and raise a little hell.” – Charles Taylor Kerchner. (May 6 Education Week)
Quote of the Week #2. “We have 12 million members [in the AFL-CIO]. People will talk about the negativity: from 10 years ago, we were at 16 million, now we’re down to 12 million. But then the positive thing is, we’re at 12 million. How many other organizations have 12 million? How many other organizations have a $4 billion cash flow? How many organizations have a $150 million budget?” – Randy Parraz, governance, organizational and leadership development coordinator for the western region of the AFL-CIO. (May 10 Buffalo News)
May 4, 2015
Teacher Turnover Turned Over. If you have followed education reporting at all for the past 20 years, you have seen the headlines:
Then last week, out of nowhere, we get this Washington Post headline: “Study: Far fewer new teachers are leaving the profession than previously thought.”
The National Center for Education Statistics found that only 17 percent of new teachers had left the profession over a four-year period. Of the ones who did leave, between one-quarter and one-third were dismissed or non-renewed. Seventy percent of new teachers were still in the same school four years later.
This does not end the debate, of course. The NCES data covers a period during a deep recession, when everyone is less likely to leave a profession. It does, however, suddenly add all sorts of previously missing context and exposes those who were happy to spread alarmist rhetoric because it suited their purposes.
The mantra of “half of all new teachers leave within five years” has been repeated so often it has lost any meaning. Now we are hearing clarifications we never heard before.
Richard M. Ingersoll, the nation’s leading authority on teacher retention and turnover, called it “a crude approximation” last week. Perhaps he has always said so, but I cannot find a headline that reads “Half of Teachers Quit in 5 Years, According to Professor’s Crude Approximation.” Ingersoll added that his estimate included private school teachers. Funny, that didn’t seem to make the cut in all those stories either.
Observers are now trying to determine if this is a hiccup, a product of our economic times, or the effect of recent education policies. I suggest it is none of these things, and that teacher turnover is, and has been, relatively steady at a relatively low rate.
Back in March 2001, NCES researchers completed a similar exercise. They identified full-time employees who held bachelor’s degrees in April 1994 and tracked them until April 1997 to see who were working in the same profession three years later.
Eighty-two percent of K-12 teachers were still teaching K-12 three years later, the second highest retention rate of all professions. Only those in health occupations, at 83 percent, stayed in the same profession at a higher rate. Here’s the relevant chart.
None of this even touches the question of why teachers leave the profession. All of the usual offerings – poor pay, lack of respect, standardized testing – rank a lot lower than the personal reasons we all have for changing jobs – spouse relocating, having children, poor health.
The important thing to remember in this and other data-related cases is that inaccurate, incomplete or misunderstood statistics hurt no one. They are purely academic. It is only when those numbers are used to support and justify public policy that ends up costing us in resources and missed opportunities.
Recent Intercepts. EIA’s daily blog, Intercepts, covered these topics April 28-May 4:
* WEAC Tries to Revive Merger. Slow going.
* McCarthyism. Union believes zombie is hampering its organizing drive.
* The Law of Averages. Comparing Apple to oranges.
* Merry-Go-Round. New set of teachers recruited to be laid off in two years.
Quote of the Week. “”Obviously, it was orchestrated by the teachers union to not let the bill out. It was purely political.” – California State Rep. Shirley Weber (D-Los Angeles), commenting on the killing of her bill in the Assembly Education Committee. Weber’s bill allowed, but did not mandate, use of student test scores in teacher evaluations. (May 1 LA Weekly)
April 27, 2015
Agency Fee: You Are What You Eat. AFSCME wants us to know that “sometimes complex court rulings can best be understood with the simplest of explanations.” So the union created a 90-second cartoon “that uses the analogy of friends going to dinner to puncture the logic of a new court challenge to ‘fair share’ fees.”
Oh, that’s simple all right.
I love it when unions go into the animation business, and I do like the restaurant analogy, but I’m afraid AFSCME didn’t get the fable exactly right. Let’s send it to rewrite, and add in the actual aspects of agency fee that give some people agita.
Before you were born, a group of people voted about where you would eat. You don’t get to pick between Sizzler and Applebee’s. You either go to the Union Restaurant that has been chosen for you or you don’t eat at all.
When you explain that you don’t want to go the Union Restaurant, you are told how great the Union Restaurant is, about the wonderful food it has, and how important it is to support the Union Restaurant because the Evil Corporate Restaurant Chain is trying to undermine it by offering good food at prices people can afford.
At the Union Restaurant, you don’t get to order from the menu. The approved meal is placed in front of you. It’s liver. You don’t like liver. When you mention this, you receive a lecture on how great liver is. Everyone loves liver. You should eat your liver.
Besides, you are told, we all voted and democratically chose liver for you. “I didn’t get a vote,” you say. Well, that’s simple. It’s because you didn’t leave the customary donation for the butcher or the chef. Only then do you get to vote on the entrée, which will end up being liver, regardless.
If you refuse to eat the liver, and refuse to pay for something you don’t like and didn’t order, you will be called names like “freeloader.” Then they will forcibly take your wallet from you and remove the cash.
Not only do you pay for the meal you don’t want, but you have to chip in to pay for the meals of the people who chose the Union Restaurant and ordered the liver for you. But they’re not eating liver. They’re not at Sizzler or Applebee’s. They’re eating quail at Marché.
This might just explain why 89 percent of American workers don’t eat at the Union Restaurant, and prefer to make their own choices about where to eat, what to eat, and how much to pay for it.
Recent Intercepts. EIA’s daily blog, Intercepts, covered these topics April 21-27:
* Common Core vs. Common Knowledge. Vox populi says, “Dunno.”
* Listen to Yourself. Reverse field.
* WEAC: Our Prices Are Insane!!! How to run a small business in a free market.
* Fight the Power. Unfair.
* Membership Numbers for Every Oregon Education Association Local. Just nice to know.
Quote of the Week. “Every group has its ideologues, you know, the folks who are very positional and passionate about specific issues. Teachers are no different from any other group in that regard. And I believe that many of the BATs fit into that category concerning the Common Core…. I’m a member and I’m on the national Badass Teacher site and I’m on the California site. And one of the things that I’ve noticed is that it is often the same people who are posting. And I used to engage them, but it just got too vitriolic. They don’t like differences of opinion, so I stopped doing that.” – Dean Vogel, outgoing president of the California Teachers Association, speaking about the Badass Teachers Association. (April 22 Education Week)
April 20, 2015
20 NEA State Affiliates Have Fewer Members Than in 1994. In 1994 the National Education Association had 2.2 million members. In the years since, the union has increased its numbers by 800,000. During a period of time when the number of full-time equivalent classroom teachers grew by 553,000 it appears to be quite an achievement.
But a closer look at the state numbers show that NEA’s strength for the last 20 years has been concentrated in a handful of affiliates, and that mergers with American Federation of Teachers affiliates account for more than half of the union’s growth.
NEA affiliates in California, New Jersey, Pennsylvania, Illinois and Massachusetts accounted for 271,000 additional members since 1994. Mergers in Florida, Minnesota, Montana and New York added 460,000 more to the national member total on paper but little to the NEA coffers since the dues are split with AFT according to pre-merger membership numbers.
While those affiliates prospered, 20 others actually have fewer members today than they did in 1994. They are:
Arizona Education Association
Arkansas Education Association
Idaho Education Association
Indiana State Teachers Association
Iowa State Education Association
Louisiana Association of Educators
Maine Education Association
Mississippi Association of Educators
North Carolina Association of Educators
Oklahoma Education Association
South Carolina Education Association
South Dakota Education Association
Texas State Teachers Association
Utah Education Association
Virginia Education Association
West Virginia Education Association
Wisconsin Education Association Council
Wyoming Education Association
Federal Education Association
There are others that made the cut for 1994 but whose best years are behind them. The membership numbers for Tennessee are below 1996 level, Georgia and Michigan are below 1998 levels, Ohio and Oregon below 2000 levels, and if Nevada loses its education support members to the Teamsters, as is likely, it will fall below 1997 level.
NEA may rebound from recent membership losses, but it will be even more dependent than it already is on recruitment, hiring and legislation in those few states that account for its growth. Trends in the weak affiliates have gone on for so long there appears to be no prospect of reversal.
Is there a tipping point, after which the strong can no longer support the weak? It isn’t here yet, but this is not a problem that will solve itself.
Recent Intercepts. EIA’s daily blog, Intercepts, covered these topics April 14-20:
* Finnished. Questions the education tourists fail to ask.
* The Opt-Out Movement Marches On. Unintended consequences.
* Throwback Thursday: The Tornillo Memo. A reminder from the archives about the ability to deny reality.
* The Coming Student Shortage. Smaller classes or smaller staffs?
* Union Getting Involved in Your, Uh, Unions. Mission creep.
Quote of the Week. “We believe that when people have a chance to hear these issues presented more fully they are far more likely to see the value in current due process protections and layoff procedures.” – Frank Wells, a spokesman for the California Teachers Association, reacting to a survey showing only 8 percent of respondents thought seniority was the best factor to use when considering layoffs. (April 13 Los Angeles Times)
April 13, 2015
Are Union Elections Getting More Competitive? Union officer elections traditionally have about as much drama and suspense as succession to the British throne. There have been exceptions, of course. Karen Lewis is only the latest in a series of power shifts in the Chicago Teachers Union, the last election of the New York State United Teachers was filled with intrigue, and a few more radical unionists have defeated collaborative incumbents.
Still, in most places the only real contests are to enter the funnel of leadership – usually the position of secretary-treasurer. You then work your way in turn to vice president and president. What’s missing is any policy distinction between candidates. They could easily exchange platforms and speeches and no one would be the wiser.
It’s with that in mind that I find the results of last weekend’s election for executive officers of the California Teachers Association interesting. The outcomes gave us a little bit of everything, which is highly unusual and may signal a small move toward (gasp) actual democracy within the union, with differing viewpoints and everything!
Incumbent CTA president Dean Vogel was term-limited out, leaving incumbent vice president Eric C. Heins to step in. The union’s State Council complied, giving Heins 76.5 percent of the vote. Perennial candidate Mark Airgood, running to the left of Heins, garnered only 6 percent. But a third candidate, Michelle Raley, picked up 17.3 percent of the vote.
Raley, a State Council member from Eureka, is upset about the way CTA does business, telling the assembly that “CTA politics has destroyed our credibility as a group.” She questioned the union’s embrace of “appreciative inquiry,” saying many activists thought it was “crap.” She noted that members pay a lot of money to CTA but that the state union “has no legal responsibility to ever represent any individual member.” (That’s the responsibility of the local affiliate.)
Moreover, she claimed she has been routinely denied access to CTA documents, in particular the professional staff contract.
I hate to see union activists without such critical documents. Although I do not have a copy of the full contract, I have posted the details of the tentative agreement the two sides reached last year on the current contract. The two Adobe Acrobat files are available on EIA’s Declassified page.
Although Raley’s candidacy and results are noteworthy, I would not want you to think CTA is now battling a groundswell of dissension, at least not from an transparency and accountability faction. The results of the vice presidential election were quite different.
Incumbent secretary-treasurer Mikki Cichocki tried to move up one rung but was narrowly outvoted by CTA director Theresa Montaño. Montaño is a professor of Chicana/o Studies at California State University, Northridge, and her politics are typical of California higher education faculty.
For example, she wrote a blurb for “Undoing Whiteness in the Classroom” by Virginia Lea and Erma Jean Sims, which, despite the title, is not a coloring book. Montaño praised the authors for providing teachers with “realistic and meaningful classroom activities aimed at disrupting white privilege in a classroom setting. Lea and Sims acknowledge that challenging whiteness is a difficult process, but one in which white students are more likely to participate ‘if they do not feel blamed for embodying it’ (Lea and Sims, introduction). By reading this book, those who are committed to educational justice will add to their repertoire of educational theories and pedagogy and engage in the process of undoing whiteness, creatively, artistically, and critically.”
But it also would be wrong to suggest this indicates a wholesale movement to the left. The election for secretary-treasurer featured six hopefuls, ending in a run-off between establishment candidates Dana Dillon (on the board of the state teacher pension system) and David B. Goldberg (former UTLA treasurer). Goldberg won the run-off.
So while viewpoints within the leadership and representative bodies of the California Teachers Association have always run the gamut from A to B, here’s hoping this election indicates a marginal expansion of the alphabet.
Recent Intercepts. EIA’s daily blog, Intercepts, covered these topics April 7-13:
* Pearson & edTPA: Evil or Not? Get your stories straight.
* Who Should Be Humbled? Losing is not victory.
* Another Victory for the Opt-Out Movement. Apparently there’s a long list of things you can opt out of.
* AFT Adds 1,300 Alaska Nurses. Teachers’ union?
Quote of the Week. “All this rallying gets us nowhere.” – Ivy Bailey, executive vice president of the Detroit Federation of Teachers, expressing displeasure with the agenda of DFT president Steve Conn. (April 12 Detroit News)
April 6, 2015
Turning the Tables. The National Education Association wants you to know what a horrible job we are doing matching education employee hiring with student enrollment. The union illustrates with this:
I could spend a lot of time with these numbers, but I was interested to know why NEA used Projections of Education Statistics to 2022 from the National Center for Education Statistics for its student enrollment numbers. That publication was released in February 2014 and contains actual numbers only through 2011. I still don’t know why, but I found a couple of tables of my own from that study.
The first one depicts public school enrollment, only it is scaled in millions and its base value is zero, rather than the 48 million depicted on the NEA table. The text tells us that public school K-12 enrollment “increased 7 percent between 1997 and 2011; and is projected to increase 7 percent between 2011 and 2022.”
The second one depicts K-12 teacher staffing levels – again scaled in millions with zero at its base, instead of the 7.6 million on the NEA table. The text reads, “The number of teachers in public elementary and secondary schools increased 13 percent between 1997 and 2011; and is projected to increase 13 percent between 2011 and 2022.”
It has often been said that everyone is a teacher. Someday that may be literally true.
Recent Intercepts. EIA’s daily blog, Intercepts, covered these topics March 31-April 6:
* I Support the Opt-Out Movement. But why stop at tests?
* Drill and Kill. Standardized press releases.
* So Easy to Predict. Omerta.
* Help Revitalize Latham. Space available.
Quote of the Week. “Most of the turnover is driven by school conditions. Salary is not the main thing. It’s important, but not the main thing. And that’s an important finding because the teaching force is so large – it’s now America’s largest occupation – that raising everyone’s salaries is a very expensive proposition.” – Richard Ingersoll, professor of education and sociology, University of Pennsylvania. (March 30 National Public Radio)
March 30, 2015
“We know we could experience an immediate, short-term loss of membership.” Last year I posted a PowerPoint presentation from the California Teachers Association titled “Not if, but when: Living in a world without Fair Share.” It illustrated CTA’s own belief that the U.S. Supreme Court is likely to overturn agency fee laws across the nation.
But CTA is not alone in its belief. NEA itself is trying to prepare all of its state affiliates for the inevitable day when they have to recruit all their members, and not rely on the threat of loss of their jobs to persuade reluctant teachers to join or pay agency fees.
The union created “Engaging Members and Leaders in a Non-Agency Fee World: A Toolkit” to assist those affiliates in recruiting and retaining members in a free and competitive market. NEA warns them, “we know we could experience an immediate, short-term loss of membership.”
I have posted the full 28-page document online and it is accessible through EIA’s Declassified page. Read through it all, but here are a few highlights:
* “Recognize that this kind of campaign is now the new way you do business – it is not a short-term strategy.”
* “Consider a ‘recommitment campaign’ in which every member is visited and asked to do something public to demonstrate his/her support for the union.”
* “Create a video with our president and a member who will do a ‘what do I get for my dues’ message.” (No mention of whether “You’ll get a video telling you what you get for your dues” will be part of the message.)
* “Develop an ‘app’.”
NEA emphasizes that many teachers don’t join simply because they aren’t asked, but then there are the rest of you deadbeats, who “are always looking for an excuse not to pay their fair share.”
When agency fee is lifted, the effect on the membership of the incumbent union is clear. But I have not seen anyone address the possible effect on rival or new unions, once teachers are relieved of the requirement of joining or paying the dominant union exclusively. Might not districts everywhere have both NEA and AFT members? Could existing unions enter the teacher market? Could teacher unions with different goals or strategies emerge? Who knows? It could herald a new age of teacher representation.
Recent Intercepts. EIA’s daily blog, Intercepts, covered these topics March 24-30:
* NEA Shows It’s Serious About 2016 By Sending Letter to John Bolton. Standardized test for gullibility.
* Transparent. Even glass houses are transparent.
* Craps. NEA’s Nevada affiliates are cleaning house.
* Hot Tips from the Hoosegow. Still teaching.
Quote of the Week. “Oklahoma is in the midst of a historic teacher shortage that has reached crisis proportions.” – Joy Hofmeister, Oklahoma State Superintendent of Public Instruction. (March 29 NewsOK.com)
Number of K-12 public school classroom teachers in Oklahoma, 2010-11 – 41,326
Number of K-12 public school classroom teachers in Oklahoma, 2013-14 – 41,949
Number of K-12 public school classroom teachers in Oklahoma, 2014-15 – 42,027 (est.)
March 23, 2015
Rock the Union. Younger teachers are less connected to their unions than their older colleagues are. The unions are very aware of this, and the National Education Association in particular is making outreach to its newest members a high priority. Whether this can be done without sacrificing the support of veteran members remains to be seen. Still, the ability of NEA headquarters to craft a campaign has never been in dispute.
In 2013, the union partnered with Teach Plus to develop a program and last year they produced “Rock the Union: An Action Plan to Engage Early Career Teachers & Elevate the Profession.” NEA called the report “groundbreaking” and included a workshop on its findings in a recent leadership summit. Oh, and they created a PowToon to introduce it.
I have posted the report on the EIA web site. You can access it and other union documents on the Declassified page. It is short and I want to encourage you to read it all, so here I will just cite a few lines.
* “We want our union to be led by effective teachers who welcome divergent perspectives and critical thinking in their classrooms and in their union meetings.”
* “In fact, when many of us attend union meetings, we will not hear the word ‘student’ uttered at all.
* “We want our union leaders, first and foremost, to be great teachers so that they enable a culture of professionalism and student-centered decision making to flourish….One constant for all building rep positions is that there is no way to ensure that they are effective teachers.”
* “Teachers can disengage from the union when meetings turn into yelling matches where site reps speak disparagingly about administration in a way that contributes to an adversarial ‘us vs. them’ culture. It is frustrating when union leaders appear to blanket all external support partners with suspicion and ill intent.”
* “Most importantly, it is unclear how to advocate for change within the union or to use the union as an avenue to advocate for improved change at any level, be it school site, district, state, or national. It seems that most of this knowledge lies within the realm of those serving in positions of leadership and is selectively disseminated to those chosen to receive it.”
* “There is a ‘wait your turn’ mentality that early career teachers often come up against so that we are made to feel that our voice does not matter. Most of us have experienced our divergent opinions dismissed as wrong and/or naive because we have fewer years in the classroom.”
In keeping with the report’s findings, it seems this information is being shared only among union activists, officers and staff. As far as I can discern, it has not been widely disseminated, which I hope to rectify here. Check it out.
Story Update. After our story “California Teachers Association Fired Staff Union President” we received the following communication: “Thank you for your article regarding CTA’s firing of California Associate Staff President, Katie Mullins. CAS’ position is not one that implies Katie was due any discipline, progressive or otherwise. Our position is that CTA has wrongfully terminated our President and is behaving badly and unlike a union.”
Recent Intercepts. EIA’s daily blog, Intercepts, covered these topics March 17-23:
* There Are Three Sides to Any NEA Story. Your angle is less than right.
* Fear Is the Path to the Dark Side. An invitation.
* If At First You Don’t Secede…. Just when I thought I was out, they pull me back in.
* Shot Across the Bow. Teachsters in Las Vegas?
* NEA Leadership Summit Sessions. “Fighting Predatory Municipal Finance Deals” and other crucial education issues.
Quote of the Week. “I wouldn’t be able to do a very good job as president of an organization as big as JCTA, but neither is our current president.” – Kris Tatro, candidate for president of the Jefferson County Teachers Association in Kentucky. Tatro and two others teachers are running against the 14-year incumbent, Brent McKim, as a protest against the way the union is handling pension issues. Tatro said she doesn’t actually want to be president. (March 18 Louisville Courier-Journal)
March 16, 2015
“Our membership numbers are for internal use only.” The South Bend Tribune published a piece yesterday with the headline “Teacher unions in decline.” It aimed to show, through national membership numbers and those of local affiliates of the Indiana State Teachers Association (ISTA), that teachers were less likely to join the union since a 2011 law went into effect limiting the scope of collective bargaining.
The article was not unsympathetic, allowing the unions plenty of space to promote their mission and blame their losses on deteriorating working conditions. Still, only a few local officers were willing to share membership numbers with Tribune reporter Kim Kilbride, and others were, well, abrupt.
South Bend schools’ teachers union president declined to release membership numbers for this story, as did John Pavy, the Indiana State Teachers Union UniServ director for this area, who came to the job about five weeks ago. Membership data is not readily available. And, Pavy said Tuesday, he didn’t have time to gather it.
…Terry Grembowicz, South Bend schools’ teachers union president, wouldn’t say whether membership has declined since 2011.
“Our membership numbers are for internal use only,” she wrote in an email.
Teachers’ unions are a lot more forthcoming with membership figures when they are rising, so this reluctance signals bad news.
It has long been my mission to tell you what the teachers’ unions don’t want to tell you. I’m limited by the fact that I don’t have the membership numbers for every ISTA local for 2011. Fortunately, I do have the membership numbers for every ISTA local for 2009 and 2014, so we can at least draw reasonable assumptions about the union’s health.
First, here are the 2009 figures for the locals in the South Bend area:
Mishawaka – 338
Penn-Harris-Madison – 455
Plymouth – 138
NEA South Bend – 1,234
Here are the figures for the same locals as of September 2014:
Mishawaka – 254 (down 24.9%)
Penn-Harris-Madison – 379 (down 16.7%)
Plymouth – 107 (down 22.5%)
NEA South Bend – 888 (down 28%)
Statewide, ISTA went from 51,139 members in 2009 to 39,247 in 2014, a decrease of 23.3 percent. As bad as that looks, the reality is even worse. ISTA actually had almost 800 more retired members in 2014 than it did in 2009. When an active member becomes a retired member, it’s a wash in terms of membership numbers, but it’s a loss of hundreds of dollars of dues revenue for the local, state and national unions.
Actually, 2009 is a much better year for comparison of ISTA’s numbers. Though the Tribune story fails to mention it, the union’s troubles were only exacerbated by the 2011 collective bargaining law. ISTA hit the iceberg in 2009, when the collapse of its insurance trust threatened to send the entire organization beneath the waves. Without an NEA bailout and ongoing subsidies, Indiana’s teachers’ unions wouldn’t be “in decline.” They would be a labor history footnote.
Recent Intercepts. EIA’s daily blog, Intercepts, covered these topics March 10-16:
* Flash! Ohio Education Association May Have Increased Membership By 0.0076%. Imagine if they had received 6 votes.
* It Was Only a Matter of Time…. NPR brings back the teacher shortage.
* Not Enough? Too Many? It’s a Crisis, Either Way. Contradicted by its California affiliate.
* NEA Names PBS Chief 2015 Friend of Education. From Downton Abbey to downtown Orlando.
Quote of the Week. “The new system they are creating is very different from the system implemented under NCLB. In fact, in their aspirational vision, the word ‘accountability’ doesn’t even exist.” – from an insider’s description of the ongoing work of NEA’s Accountability Task Force, formed at the union’s Representative Assembly last July.
March 9, 2015
NEA’s Great Public Schools Fund Could Become Another Political War Chest. In 2013, delegates to the National Education Association Representative Assembly (RA) approved a $3 dues increase to subsidize the national union’s Great Public Schools Fund. The idea was to create and encourage union-led education reform initiatives that would “support and ensure quality professional practice at every level.”
Most of the first grants went to promote the union’s stance on the Common Core State Standards. Now the fund’s oversight committee, made up entirely of high-ranking NEA officers, wants to revise the fund guidelines in an as yet undisclosed way.
Whatever they have in mind may be overrun by the delegates to this year’s RA. A proposed amendment to the union’s bylaws would change the scope of the Great Public Schools Fund to include “defending public education against privatization” and requiring that 50 percent of the funds go toward organizing charter schools.
It is not at all clear that the proposed amendment has widespread support, since the GPS Fund was specifically designed not to be used for activities covered by other NEA programs or funds.
It does demonstrate yet again that union efforts to present the public with a positive agenda and image – sincere and otherwise – keep running up against the wishes of its own activists. NEA cannot simultaneously be the champion and opponent of education reform. Nor can it credibly organize charter school teachers while simultaneously trying to shut down, cap and hamstring their schools.
Whatever changes are made, one thing is certain: members won’t be getting their $3 back.
Recent Intercepts. EIA’s daily blog, Intercepts, covered these topics March 3-9:
* Test vs. Trust. The United Federation of Teachers and its charter school demonstrate why we have those standardized tests.
* NEA Names New Political Director. Promotion from within, but with an SEIU background.
* “Fair Share” vs. Free Association. Representing only those who want to be represented.
* NEA Sends Another $250K to Washington State. Buying new members.
* Massachusetts Teachers Association Moves to the ‘Burbs. Bye-bye Boston.
Quote of the Week. “I am a sixth-grade teacher from a ‘right-to-work-for-less’ state. I will tell you they passed that specifically to cut my pay.” – Lily Eskelsen Garcia, president of the National Education Association. (March 7 West Virginia Gazette)
The Utah right-to-work law was enacted in 1955, the year Eskelsen Garcia was born. The average instructional staff salary in 1949-50 in Utah was $3,103. The average in 1959-60 was $5,096, an increase of 32.4% in inflation-adjusted dollars over those 10 years.
March 2, 2015
One Member-One Vote or Creeping Merger? Each year at the National Education Association Representative Assembly (RA), delegates have the opportunity to submit constitutional amendments for the following year’s delegates to debate and vote upon. This year two amendments have the potential of altering the operations of the union and awakening the dormant question of merger with the American Federation of Teachers. They are already causing a lot of friction within NEA.
Constitutional Amendment 1, requiring a two-thirds majority by secret ballot at this year’s convention in Orlando in July, would repeal NEA’s current practice of reducing the representation of its five merged state affiliates according to what proportion of that state’s teacher union members belonged to NEA before the merger. It also divides national dues with AFT according to these proportions.
To use the most recent example, North Dakota United can seat about 81 percent of the delegates their membership numbers would normally allow, since 19 percent of the total were originally members of North Dakota’s AFT affiliate. Montana seats almost 71% and Education Minnesota about 69%.
If it were just those states, the amendment would probably pass, as it would make little difference in a sea of about 7,000 delegates. The problem is Florida and New York.
Almost 47 percent of the membership of the Florida Education Association originally belonged to the AFT, and in New York it is almost 92 percent. If the amendment passes, Florida could double the size of its delegation and New York’s delegation could increase almost twelvefold.
On most issues before the Representative Assembly, the addition of delegates from the five merged affiliates would have little effect. The views of the merged affiliates are almost indistinguishable from those of the NEA-only affiliates… except on one issue: merger.
Almost by definition, the merged affiliates are pro-merger. Those additional votes, paired with less animosity towards the AFL-CIO than existed in 1998 during the last national merger attempt, stagnant membership, diminished political power, and a concerted internal campaign could be enough to make a future national merger vote very interesting indeed.
Merger raises passions within NEA unlike any other issue. The union’s board of directors votes on each constitutional amendment to be presented to the RA delegates. As a group, the board could not settle on a position for or against the proposal, even after a long debate. It will have another opportunity to do so in May, but the board will not be able to present a united front on the issue, leaving the amendment open to what promises to be a lively floor debate and a secret ballot vote at the convention.
The second constitutional amendment might not seem to be related, but it is. It would reduce the frequency of the NEA RA from annually to once every two years starting in 2020. The AFT Convention is held only biannually and that difference was instrumental in the failed merger attempt in 1998.
From what I can tell, there remains no burgeoning support for anything with the word “merger” in it, but changes like these lay the groundwork for future measures. Brick by brick, the obstacles are removed or diminished until it only makes sense to try another vote. When it does, there will be hundreds more pro-merger votes that did not exist before.
Recent Intercepts. EIA’s daily blog, Intercepts, covered these topics February 18-March 2:
* Other Shoe Drops in Alabama, Boot to Follow. Executive director canned, cover-up begins.
* Minnesota Teacher of the Year Talks About Unions. “Unwelcome in union spaces.”
* Bad Day for Local Officers. Money and sex.
Quote of the Week. “We haven’t been given a raise in eight years, yet my apartment has gone from $750 to $1,800 a month and I’m expected to pay that on the same salary.” – High school algebra teacher Luis Blazer, demanding higher pay from the Los Angeles Unified School District during a protest. (February 26 Los Angeles Times)
Blazer’s rent is a separate issue, but if he is making the same salary as he was eight years ago, he needs to contact his union rep. In 2006-07, the minimum LAUSD teacher’s salary was $43,054. This year, that same teacher will be making no less than $49,260. A teacher at the top of the scale in 2006-07 made $75,541. A top wage today is $80,074.
February 17, 2015
Will Teachers’ Unions Exit Stage Left? We established last week that cognitive linguistic analysis would not be the salvation of teachers’ unions. Recent events dictate we revisit the possibility that teachers’ unions will revitalize themselves by moving to the left.
Yes, yes, I know many of you think there cannot possibly be any room remaining to them on that side, but it isn’t true. The officers and executive staff of NEA and AFT are committed liberals, but they are also very wealthy individuals overseeing a billion-dollar private enterprise. No matter what you hear coming out of their mouths, they won’t be leading the revolution, believe me.
But times are bad, and that is leading to upheaval in the ranks. Union activists further to the left than their superiors have been elected to lead large locals and one state affiliate. They believe they are approaching a critical mass to push the teacher union movement as a whole to the left.
Bob Peterson, president of the Milwaukee Teachers Education Association, is a long-time class warrior and recently had a manifesto reprinted in the pages of In These Times. It contains all the rhetoric you would expect, and a few targets you would not. Peterson decries teachers’ unions utilizing “a business model that is so dependent on staff providing services that it disempowers members and concentrates power in the hands of a small group of elected leaders and/or paid staff.”
Over at Counterpunch, union activists Ann Robertson and Bill Leumer also feel their unions are too enamored of the corporate model. They believe the only avenue open to them “will require breaking with the Democrats and acting independently by creating a huge mass movement that would demand our education operate above all in the interests of the people, not the corporations. Parents, teachers and students have already taken the first step in this direction. But their strength would be multiplied many times over if the teacher unions would join them, throw their vast resources into the struggle, and encourage all the other unions to do the same.”
This is the kind of stuff that can propel leftists into a union’s power positions, but also sows the seeds of their demise. I don’t see any reason to alter my previous analysis that organizing around social issues may be a winning strategy “as long as those issues are general and amorphous.” Everyone wants education to operate “in the interests of the people.” But how do the people express those interests? The people of Wisconsin keep reelecting Scott Walker as governor, which Peterson explains as Walker convincing “vast swaths of the white working class to vote their prejudice, not their class interests.”
It’s hell when the interests of the people don’t coincide with what you think they ought to be.
Peterson isn’t content with remaking his union. He wants to remake the classroom as well. “A key, but less talked about, aspect of social justice unionism is promoting social justice content in our curriculum,” he writes. “We need to fight for curriculum that is anti-racist, pro-justice and that prepares our students for the civic and ecological challenges ahead.”
The reason it is “less talked about” is because there is no widespread support for the kind of curriculum Peterson wants. It was only 10 years ago that Peterson’s approach to mathematics was blasted by none other than Diane Ravitch.
This more militant strain of unionism is a nostalgic shadow of the Sixties, with its reliance on rallies, street protests and industrial action. Perhaps that was inevitable given that the so-called business model of unionism depends on campaigns, media buys and lobbying. There will be more Petersons, and Madelonis, and Conns, and Lewises in the coming years. But they will run up against the same nagging problem: What do you do about the people who disagree with you?
You can accommodate or you can purge. One compromises your ideological principles and the other shrinks your movement. Most choose the former, which means the firebrand of today eventually becomes the target of the firebrands of tomorrow.
Recent Intercepts. EIA’s daily blog, Intercepts, covered these topics February 10-17:
* Union Protesters Demand Action From House… An Actual House. Milwaukee teacher union activists take parental involvement to a new level.
* New Simple Majority Election Ordered in Las Vegas. What the union denounces in Wisconsin it defends in Nevada.
Scheduling Note. There will be no communiqué next week. We’ll return on Monday, March 2.
Quote of the Week. “The EMRB has clearly overstepped its authority and we are confident the courts will overturn its order.” – Brian Christensen, executive director of the Education Support Employees Association, after the Nevada Employee-Management Relations Board called for a new representation election that would require a simple majority of votes to win. (February 12 Las Vegas Review-Journal)
February 9, 2015
NEA’s Troubles Won’t Be Reversed by Cognitive Linguistic Analysis. Over at The Daily Beast, Conor P. Williams declassified an internal document that NEA commissioned from pollster Celinda Lake detailing which words to avoid and which to embrace when talking about education reform. And the most important recommendation was to avoid talking about “education reform.”
“Using cognitive linguistic analysis, we deconstructed current language to determine what to test,” the document states. “Much existing language uses abstractions and ineffective jargon, like education reform that imply public schools are problematic and fail to spell out tangible gains for students from our policy preferences.”
The report recommends “education improvement” or “education excellence” instead of “education reform.” And it appears NEA has already put these recommendations into practice. During her “cloven-hoofed minions” speech in Ohio last December, NEA president Lily Eskelsen said, “How are we going to talk about our side? We are not going to use the word ‘reform.’ I used to try. Let’s capture that good word back. I’d say we want whole child reform. What we found out from focus groups and polls, whenever anyone uses the word ‘reform,’ they think something is corrupt and needs to be blown up and start all over again. We know that some of the best schools in the world are our public schools that have sufficient resources to do an amazing job. There is no need to blow up a public school system. So we are going to talk about getting serious about real education improvements for the whole child.”
This is not the first time NEA has sought solutions in public relations, nor will it be the last. The one thing the union never considers is that its stated communications strategy might be working perfectly. Perhaps the public understands exactly what NEA does, what it wants, and what it stands for. Maybe that’s the problem.
No-Votes and “No” Votes. Teamsters Local 14 in Las Vegas has long desired to unseat the NEA-affiliated Education Support Employees Association (ESEA) as the exclusive bargaining representative of the 11,258 support workers for the Clark County School District. Back in 2006, the Teamsters even won a representation election over ESEA by the lopsided margin of 2,711 to 1,932.
The problem for the Teamsters was, and remains to this day, that state law requires a majority vote of the entire bargaining unit. In essence, no vote at all is a vote for the incumbent ESEA.
Now, nine years later, the Teamsters were able to force another vote. And the margin was even greater. There were 3,692 votes (71.1%) for the Teamsters and only 1,498 votes for ESEA. But if every single vote cast had been for the Teamsters, it still would not have been enough to oust ESEA.
The Teamsters are pinning their hopes on two things: 1) that on Wednesday the state labor relations board awards the election to the Teamsters (unlikely); and 2) that they can prove ESEA doesn’t have a majority of the bargaining unit as dues-paying members (possible).
Even with the extraordinary advantages of incumbency, ESEA is hanging on by a thread. NEA might have to chalk up another few thousand member loss very soon.
“I’d Like to Thank the (Teaching) Academy.” The Education Teacher Performance Assessment (edTPA) is an odd bone of contention within the teachers’ unions. On the one hand, it has union fingerprints all over it. On the other, it is administered and scored by Pearson, which union activists believe is headquartered in the seventh circle of hell.
Part of the assessment is for the teacher candidates to submit an unedited 20-minute video of their classroom instruction. edTPA provides guidelines on how to produce a video, but they have not been kept up-to-date, and not everyone can manage the available software anyway.
American capitalism being what it is, an entrepreneur is filling this market niche. The Teachers Performance Network will, for the low, low price of $199, produce your teaching video, including wireless sound, an HD camera and a professional operator to shoot you.
The company has been producing video résumés for teachers, so the classroom environment is familiar territory.
I look forward to the addition of special effects, stunts and makeup to future teacher performance evaluations.
Recent Intercepts. EIA’s daily blog, Intercepts, covered these topics February 3-9:
Quote of the Week. “I have endured horrific constraints and undemocratic principles for over a month, not to mention an attempt to defame and degrade my accomplishments as a Howard County teacher and the achievements of my students.” – Jody Zepp, Maryland State Teacher of the Year and candidate for president of the Howard County Education Association. Zepp claims her union is attempting to thwart her campaign in an effort to protect incumbent Paul Lemle. (February 3 Baltimore Sun)