Education Intelligence Agency

Public education research, analysis and investigations


Written By: Mike Antonucci

How NEA Brass Made Sure the Union Endorsed Clinton — Even If It Didn’t Want To

October 19, 2016

How NEA Brass Made Sure the Union Endorsed Clinton — Even If It Didn’t Want To. The Wikileaks release of hacked e-mails to and from John Podesta, chairman of Hillary Clinton’s presidential campaign, provides a unique view into the inner workings of modern electoral politics.

As the nation’s largest labor union and an unrivaled force in shaping public education policy, the National Education Association might be expected to influence any Democratic candidate’s course in a presidential race.

Instead, the e-mails reveal how willingly the NEA contorted itself to help Clinton. Top executives and staff appear to have gamed the union’s procedure for endorsing candidates, manipulating their local representatives and activists to secure a Clinton endorsement.

The Clinton campaign has refused to authenticate the hacked e-mails.

Clinton formally announced her candidacy on June 13, 2015. Four days later, Nikki Budzinski, her director of labor outreach, sent a memo to other campaign officials discussing possible strategies for the upcoming NEA Representative Assembly, set for the first week of July in Orlando. (The RA, as it’s called, is the union’s largest decision-making body, with 7,000 members who gather for an annual meeting.)

They are sincerely doing their best to manage the activists at the RA. It only takes 50 signatures to raise a resolution on the floor and I have been warned about a Northeastern Sanders contingent. I think it would be good to be organized on our own behalf with a few key folks in the room (NH and IA leaders) in case anything comes up. I am a little nervous about this event. That said, their steps are moving toward a October 2nd/3rd endorsement all going to plan.

At this point NEA had yet to take any formal steps to determine who its rank-and-file membership, or even the heads of its affiliates, preferred for the Democratic nomination.

On June 19, Budzinski warned colleagues of an impending endorsement of Bernie Sanders by NEA’s Vermont affiliate.

NEA is concerned their VT affiliate could do a Tuesday (next week) recommendation of endorsement (with potential press release). This is not confirmed. The bigger concern is that RI and MA might go with VT as well… This doesn’t pose serious concern for the NEA overall endorsement, its a (sic) optics problem headed into the RA. NH NEA is poised to endorse HRC, but so far that affiliate is the only one we know ready to go. Iowa is not there yet. I am working with Carrie Pugh on options to head this off.

Carrie Pugh is NEA’s political director.

On June 22, Budzinski noted that Vermont NEA would announce its endorsement of Sanders. She wrote that NEA New Hampshire couldn’t endorse Clinton until a board meeting in August, but she would work on “options to move up the process.” (The New Hampshire affiliate ultimately stuck by its schedule, endorsing Clinton on September 14.)

The behind-the-scenes maneuvering contrasted with what NEA was officially telling its members about the endorsement process. According to a July 2016 report to RA delegates, “At the end of June 2015, NEA delivered 25 candidate questionnaires via registered mail to all announced and potential candidates from both major parties, and one third party candidate.”

Publicly, the union was still undecided — it hadn’t even ascertained the candidates’ stands on education, collective bargaining, and other subjects of interest to members.

On July 5, 2015, the RA delegates in Orlando approved New Business Item 79, which read:

NEA, as an organization, will actively engage in conversation and outreach on the NEA endorsement process with all 2016 Presidential campaigns prior to the consideration of a primary recommendation.

The next day, Nikki Budzinski said in an e-mail that “NEA delegates defeated a resolution the would prevent a (sic) early endorsement in 2016, paving the way for us to make movement toward a early October endorsement at their PAC board/Executive Board meeting.”

That wasn’t exactly accurate, since there was no agenda item that banned early endorsements, but the intent of NBI 79 was explicit: the union would talk to all candidates prior to considering an endorsement.

In other words, NEA was violating the NBI even as it was being passed.

Between August 6-12 the union conducted a telephone survey of 2,000 members to determine who they supported for the nomination. Clinton was supported by 46 percent of respondents. Bernie Sanders received 22 percent support and Joe Biden 10 percent. The remainder chose others or expressed no preference.

While the survey was still underway, Budzinski said in an e-mail, “Anxious to lock in the teletown hall date and a Back to School event in September. After private conversations with NEA, completing these two events will allow them to recommend endorsement on October 1st.”

NEA proceeded to demonstrate that it could lobby its own people just as aggressively as it does Congress and the Department of Education. On September 10, 2015, NEA Executive Director John Stocks wrote directly to Podesta.

“We are in a full court press with our affiliates regarding the Hillary recommendation,” he wrote.

I have spent the last two afternoons and evenings on one-on-one calls with our 52 state executive directors and Lily has called all state presidents and is skyping into state affiliate leadership meetings. We are getting hard counts of the NEA PAC (state presidents) and the 6 members of our Executive Committee are calling our 180+ NEA Board members. I am traveling to Wisconsin board meeting this weekend, then New Jersey and Pennsylvania boards next weekend. Our VP is headed to Maryland board. We have solid support in many of our states but we have some big ones outstanding. California, our largest affiliate, is still a wild card. Lily is barnstorming the south on a back to school tour, talking with state presidents and other leaders and skyping into other states while on the road. Truth be told we are encountering timidity around going ‘early’ which we are confronting head on.

Two days later, Budzinski wrote, “The top two NEA State Presidents for high level outreach would be CA and NJ. I’d like to get these calls done next week.”

File those two states away for a minute.

On September 16, Clinton held an hour-long conference call with NEA directors and affiliate officers. A participant described it this way:

Few directors were allowed to ask questions and only if those questions had been submitted in advance.

After Clinton left the call, only three state presidents had a moment to speak; all gave positive reflections on Clinton and how she supports teachers and public education.

Despite the fact that several Democrats have been courting the NEA’s endorsement, only Clinton was invited to this call.

Rumors began to spread that NEA would vote on endorsing Clinton the first weekend of October. The first hurdle was the PAC Council, consisting primarily of state affiliate presidents, whose votes are weighted by how much their state contributes to NEA’s political action committee. A simple majority of these votes is enough to recommend endorsement.

The vote was taken, and 82 percent were reported as in favor.

But remember California and New Jersey, NEA’s two largest state affiliates, both targeted for “high level outreach?” They abstained. This had the dual effect of inflating Clinton’s margin and avoiding internal conflict over the endorsement vote within those affiliates.

The NEA board of directors’ vote was next; for the endorsement to pass, 58 percent of the 180-member body had to approve. Taking no chances, NEA leaders arranged a last-minute “town hall” visit from Clinton on the day of the vote.

Wikileaks now has a full transcript of her appearance, but you can read the exclusive highlights I published two weeks later.

Having observed all the formalities, the board voted 118-39 in favor of the endorsement with 8 abstentions, easily clearing the 58 percent hurdle.

It had all gone according to plan, though NEA had a contingency prepared if the board vote looked chancy. Podesta described the possibility in a September 29 e-mail to Clinton:

There is some risk though that you show up and they remain uncertain of a successful vote so that they put it off for further work by the leadership.

They will not call the vote unless they are certain that they will hit the threshold. Downside is that the Sanders people will spin that notwithstanding the PAC Committee recommendation, the Board delayed action. All here assess that it’s worth the risk and that you should show up and try to get the endorsement now. If the vote is delayed, Lily and John will say this is a multi-layered process and good progress was made by securing the PAC Committee recommendation.

The endorsement battle was over, but the union knew it still faced difficulties with its members on the ground, most of whom knew nothing about the vote until after it was over. It issued talking points for leaders to use when confronted about the issue.

In an e-mail to members announcing the endorsement, NEA president Lily Eskelsen-Garcia wrote of the process, “It was truly what democracy looks like.”

Recent Intercepts. EIA’s daily blog, Intercepts, covered these topics October 14-18:

* Massachusetts Teachers Association Hires Temps to Do Union Work During Campaign. Priorities.

* Some of My Best Friends Are Billionaires. We can’t have rich white men buying our democracy, unless they’re on our side.

Quote of the Week #1. “Mainstream pundits have been writing labor’s obituary for years. But as long as people want good wages and benefits, safe working conditions and a voice on the job, there will be a place for unions in America. They will look and act differently than the labor unions many of us grew up with. They will encourage fresh thinking and innovation. They will meet Americans where they live. They will be prepared for and undaunted by change. They will be flexible rather than rigid, dynamic and not static. They will be responsive to and a reflection of social progress. And this modernized labor movement will be a more muscular labor movement, with energy and activism unleashed from the bottom up, acting as a more powerful force on behalf of its members and all working people.” – Lee Saunders, president of AFSCME, the American Federation of State, County and Municipal Employees. (October 11 The American Prospect)

Quote of the Week #2. “We’re on the road again to a resurgent labor movement.” – Lane Kirkland, president of the AFL-CIO, in an Associated Press story dated October 27, 1987.

Teachers’ Unions Decry “Outside Money” in Politics, But They’re the Source of a Lot of It

October 13, 2016

Teachers’ Unions Decry “Outside Money” in Politics, But They’re the Source of a Lot of It. Union advocates often decry the influence of “out-of-state” or “outside” money on state politics, but in most cases state unions could not function politically without it. National Education Association affiliates in Georgia and Maine both operate on an annual dues income of about $8 million. They each use about $5.5 million of that to pay the salaries and benefits of their own employees. That doesn’t leave much discretionary income for a full-blown messaging campaign. Enter NEA’s Ballot Measure/Legislative Crises Fund.

The union places a portion of each member’s dues into the fund. The unused amount rolls over each year. At the beginning of the 2016–17 school year, NEA had $82.1 million available. After committing $2.1 million to 21 state affiliates for various small-scale campaigns and $23 million to its national election efforts, NEA still had $57 million to use for upcoming votes on state ballot initiatives.

The national union just made additional pledges to these campaigns, several of which enjoy support from education reformers, so the totals here include both formally reported and as-yet-undisclosed amounts:

  • $3.9 million to Georgia to oppose Amendment 1, which would establish an “Opportunity School District” comprising K-12 public schools deemed “chronically failing.”
  • $1.05 million to Maine to support Question 2, which would institute a 3 percent surcharge on household incomes that exceed $200,000 per year and spend those funds on public education.
  • $4.9 million to Massachusetts to oppose Question 2, which would authorize up to 12 new charter schools per year or enrollment expansions in existing charter schools.
  • $2.85 million to Oregon to support Measure 97, which would create a 2.5 percent tax on corporate gross sales that exceed $25 million. (The Oregon Education Association has added $1.75 million of its own dues income to the Measure 97 campaign.)

The exception to this trend is the California Teachers Association. CTA has received millions from NEA in past years, but its support of Proposition 55, which keeps in place the state’s highest income tax brackets, is supplemented by other California unions and organizations.

CTA has committed $16.5 million to the campaign, which has no organized opposition, so CTA doesn’t need contributions from NEA.

Like anyone, national teachers unions have the right to fund local initiatives and campaigns. But it doesn’t become “outside” money only when other people do it.

Recent Intercepts. EIA’s daily blog, Intercepts, covered these topics October 6-12:

* Wikileaks Reveals NEA’s Efforts to “Manage the Activists at the RA” Re: Hillary Endorsement. Democracy in reverse.

* Wikileaks: NEA Was Ready to Call Off Hillary Endorsement Vote. Even had a cover story ready.

* Same Old Folks at the NEA Convention. Millennials stay home when Mom runs the show.

* Can You Ever Beat the House in Vegas? Majority still doesn’t rule.

* Teachers’ Unions Spending Big in Oregon, Too. Gross sales.

* Happy Columbo’s Day! A holiday we can all agree upon.

Quote of the Week. “Keep the pressure on them. We need to keep the pressure on I think. I talk to Carrie now 4-5 times a day!” – Nikki Budzinski, labor outreach coordinator for the Hillary Clinton campaign, in a September 24, 2015 e-mail. Budzinski is referencing NEA and its political director, Carrie Pugh. At the time the campaign was pushing hard for NEA to endorse Clinton. NEA’s leaders, in turn, were pushing the union’s board of directors. (October 12 Wikileaks)

There Still Isn’t A Teacher Shortage Again

October 5, 2016

There Still Isn’t A Teacher Shortage Again. The Learning Policy Institute released a report on teacher shortages last month, co-authored by Linda Darling-Hammond, that warned of a serious shortfall if current trends continued. At a forum accompanying the release, many heavy hitters in education policy agreed that something must be done.

Critics of the report — myself included — found fault with the report’s methodology and alarmist tone. LPI responded to these criticisms in a September 29 blog post.

Before I address LPI’s elaborations, I want to highlight where I agree with LPI regarding the current labor market for teachers:

  • many districts have chronic shortages in math, science, and special education teachers;
  • elementary education and social studies “often have surpluses when others have shortages”;
  • the unintended consequence of lowering standards for entry must be considered when addressing shortages;
  • the problem is fluid. Predictions are subject to labor market adaptation and changes in public policy;
  • “incentives should be applied strategically to recruit teachers to the fields and locations where they are needed.”

In other words, there’s plenty of agreement, although alarmist warnings and the hiring policies they activate tend to overshadow the field.

These areas of agreement share one characteristic: they speak to the need to differentiate among different types of teachers.

A teacher surplus in elementary education is not a small issue when you consider that somewhere between one-third and one-half of all public school teachers work in those grades. If you aren’t specific in identifying shortage areas and providing incentives to fill those areas, the result may be an unneeded increase in elementary school teacher candidates who cannot find jobs.

There continues to be other important differences between my reading of the teacher labor market and that of the authors of the LPI report.

  • What is a shortage? The authors say they define shortages as “an inadequate number of qualified individuals willing to offer their services for available jobs under prevailing wages and conditions.” They also distinguish between “filling vacancies” and solving shortages.

There is a word missing that appears in every dictionary definition of shortage I could find: need.

As I noted previously, the authors mention “demand” and “ideal demand” as if they were the same thing. Demand refers to hiring enough teachers to replace those who were lost, adjusted for changes in enrollment and composition of the student body. Ideal demand refers to hiring enough teachers to meet an arbitrary pupil-teacher ratio, or to use available funds to hire as many as teachers as possible, irrespective of sustainability.

An illustration may help explain, especially since it reflects what has been happening for decades.

If a district needs 100 teachers and only 80 qualified candidates apply, it has a shortage. The response might be to hire all 80 and an additional 20 unqualified candidates because the vacancies need to be filled somehow.

But what if a district needs 100 teachers, has only 80 qualified candidates, and hires 40 additional unqualified candidates? The Los Angeles Unified School District could hire the city’s entire adult population as teachers and still have a teacher shortage given ideal demand.

  • “Warm bodies” The authors say it is one thing to find a qualified candidate to hire and quite another to fill classrooms with “warm bodies” — a description LPI uses twice in reference to teacher shortages in the 1980s and in California in the mid-1990s. They say shortages were met by “lowering the quality bar for teaching to one of the lowest levels it has ever reached.”

Yet these warm bodies of the 1980s and 1990s are today’s most veteran teachers and recent retirees.

If we grant that the authors are correct in describing the 1980s as a time of dangerously lowered standards to fill slots, surely Californians would have been warned of a possible recurrence by Darling-Hammond and others when the state undertook its class size reduction program in 1996.

That didn’t happen.

To the contrary, Darling-Hammond advocated for class size reduction, telling the New York Times,”decreases in class size to about 22 and below do consistently result in gains in achievement.” California’s class size reduction bill passed both houses of the legislature unanimously. The California Teachers Association called it one of their signature achievements, enacted after a “massive media and lobby campaign.”

The union did not appear to be concerned about a teacher shortage or lower-quality candidates at that time. In fact, CTA wanted the 20-student maximum extended to all grades K-12.

If there is evidence anyone involved in public education thought this was a bad idea before it passed, I don’t remember it and haven’t been able to find it.

  • The current “shortage” in California. Returning to the present, the authors insist the teacher shortage is “clearly real” and not a “mirage,” which is how they characterize my view of it. They say, “California alone issued nearly 8,000 permits to teachers who were not certified for their jobs and hired large numbers of substitutes in still other classrooms.”

Nearly 8,000 permits is a lot as a raw number, but not a lot in context. California has more than 1,000 school districts and more than 10,000 public schools. A report on the 2014-15 teacher supply by the California Commission on Teacher Credentialing states that 97.6 percent of the state’s teachers are fully credentialed, with most of the rest on temporary certification while they work toward a full credential.

Just this week, an EdSource survey reported that “most of California’s 25 largest school districts were able to fill nearly all their job openings for fully credentialed teachers by the time school started this year.”

  • Uncertainty. The CCTC report notes that “currently there is no statewide method of collecting data that quantifies teacher demand.”

That alone should counsel caution not only about the current status of the teacher labor market, but certainly about predicting the future. The LPI authors admit as much:

We also noted that we expect the labor market to respond to these current indicators of shortages, with more new people entering in response to reports of available jobs. Thus, projections only reflect what might happen if conditions do not change, even as we know they will.

To me, this sounds suspiciously like, “We will have teacher shortages, unless we don’t.”

This would all be an academic exercise if we didn’t know that legislators and school boards will make far-reaching decisions based on this uncertainty, and that there is no shortage of interest groups who will materially benefit from those decisions.

Recent Intercepts. EIA’s daily blog, Intercepts, covered these topics September 29-October 4:

* NEA to Send $3 Million More to Massachusetts Charter Cap Campaign. Well, they did have about $58 million just lying around.

* Miami Union Backs Republican Incumbent, State Affiliate Backs Democratic Opponent. Win-win?

* NEA PAC Spends $500K on Missouri Governor’s Race. Meanwhile, down ticket…

* A Swing and a Myth. Teacher shortage proponents take their turn at bat.

Quote of the Week. “It’s been interesting to see who cheers for what. The teachers’ unions applaud the privatization piece, but are silent on our call to get police out of schools.” – Jonathan Stith, co-author of the Movement for Black Lives platform and national coordinator of the Alliance for Educational Justice. (September 30 National Public Radio) Hat tip: Alexander Russo.

Now Critics, Unions Supported Build-Up of Police in Schools for Years

September 28, 2016

Now Critics, Unions Supported Build-Up of Police in Schools for Years. The Dignity in Schools Campaign, a coalition of more than 100 civil rights groups, called for the removal of all law enforcement officers from the nation’s public schools last week.

“The presence of police in schools has escalated dramatically in the last several decades, and the figures on arrests and referrals to law enforcement show disproportionate targeting of Black and Latino students and students with disabilities,” reads the organization’s press release. “This is just one aspect of the school-to-prison pipeline, where some students are denied an opportunity to succeed, and instead are pushed out of school and into the juvenile or criminal justice system.”

The campaign follows controversial uses of force by school resource officers (SROs), who are usually sworn police officers assigned to public schools. Their duties and responsibilities, however, vary from state to state.

The use of SROs expanded greatly after numerous school shootings in the 1990s and 2000s. There are now an estimated 10,000 SROs in U.S. public schools. “Let’s give school resource officers to every school that wants one,” said then-Senator Joseph Biden as he introduced an amendment to provide a multi-year appropriation for the Cops in Schools program in 2001. “Let’s give parents a little peace of mind that their kids are safe when they get on that school bus and head off to learn. Let’s give teachers a hand in maintaining order in their classrooms.”

That last sentence calls out where most school security problems have their source. Law enforcement officers are trained to protect people from dangerous criminals but they may not be trained to handle a disruptive sixth-grader. Even if physical encounters are rare, parents and students have a genuine fear that classroom misbehavior could end in a visit to the criminal justice system, which makes school a place to avoid.

Concerns about the “school-to-prison pipeline” prompted the National Education Association to create new rules for school discipline.

“Zero-tolerance discipline policies, increased police presence in classrooms and hallways, insufficient services and support, and rising class sizes are pushing more and more students out of the public schools and into the juvenile and criminal justice systems,” the NEA said.

The union cited a “law and order mentality” for the increase of SROs and security guards in public schools, particularly in schools that serve predominantly students of color.

“The use of law enforcement in our schools puts both students and staff into the mindset that schools are prisons and that student misbehavior is appropriately dealt with through the juvenile justice and criminal system, rather than by the school community,” said the union.

The NEA’s efforts should be applauded — but it appears to have whitewashed its own long-running role in the placement, funding, and advocacy of SROs.

The union’s support goes back as far as Biden’s 2001 amendment and continued well past 2013. In March 2008, NEA Today published a laudatory story about SROs, calling them “role models for students and staff.” In an August 2011 story about school safety, the publication noted that “so-called ‘hard’ responses are sometimes necessary. These include metal detectors, surveillance cameras, evacuation drills, and allowing police officers to work on campus.”

In January 2013, after the Sandy Hook massacre, President Obama proposed legislation which, among other things, appropriated $150 million to hire SROs. Both NEA and the American Federation of Teachers supported the bill.

Their support was echoed by the National School Boards Association and a solid majority of the American public. Indeed, Barbara Boxer, one of the Senate’s most liberal members, introduced legislation that would have supplied federal funding to deploy National Guard troops at schools and pay for metal detectors and surveillance cameras.

But even then the Dignity in Schools Campaign foresaw problems with this approach. “Based on a significant body of research and decades of lived experience, we know that these strategies will fail,” it said in a January 2013 report titled, “Police in Schools are Not the Answer to the Newtown Shooting.”

“They will do nothing to create school environments that reduce violence in our communities, catch early indicators of mental health needs, identify root causes underlying violence, or utilize the skills and resources of law enforcement in an effective way,” the report said. “They also fail to consider the host of unintended consequences — measured in educational, emotional, and economic costs – of placing more police in schools.”

Understanding that student safety and student discipline require separate tactics is a step forward. But we should be skeptical about solutions from classroom experts who conflated the two in the first place.

Recent Intercepts. EIA’s daily blog, Intercepts, covered these topics September 22-27:

* CTA Employees Picket Union Conference. The only time union officers will admit employee pensions are expensive.

* Dan Goldhaber for Secretary of Education… AND Labor. That’s how you solve a teacher shortage.

* Is WEAC Really Trying to Sell Its Headquarters? Real estate bubble.

* Massachusetts Question 2: Down By 7 Or Up By 11? Take your pick.

Quote of the Week. “Yesterday, the Philadelphia Federation of Teachers Local 4 (PFT), which represents more than 11,000 teachers across Philadelphia, held its Executive Board Meeting where they voted ‘unanimously’ to support Congressman Chaka Fattah for re-election to Congress.” – from the April 11, 2016 Politics PA. Fattah was indicted by a federal grand jury in July 2015 on 29 counts of racketeering, bribery, money laundering, bank fraud, mail and wire fraud. Roll Call recently reported that AFT gave $5,000 to Fattah after the indictments. Fattah lost his primary in April and was convicted on 22 counts in June.

New Warnings of Teacher Shortage Sound Like Déjà Vu All Over Again

September 21, 2016

New Warnings of Teacher Shortage Sound Like Déjà Vu All Over Again. The Learning Policy Institute released a report last week warning of an impending teacher shortage. It was coupled with a day-long forum in Washington DC, and generated positive press coverage in U.S. News & World Report, National Public Radio and elsewhere.

One co-author of the report, A Coming Crisis in Teaching? Teacher Supply, Demand, and Shortages in the U.S. is Linda Darling-Hammond, the founder of LPI and one of the nation’s leading experts on education policy. She was said to be on the shortlist for education secretary under President Obama, and may well be again if Hillary Clinton is elected President in November.

Darling-Hammond has had a long and distinguished career in the education policy sector — dating back at least to her stint as a researcher for the Rand Corporation in the 1980s.

In 1984 she wrote a report for Rand titled, coincidentally enough, The Coming Crisis in Teaching, which also sought to warn of an impending teacher shortage. Let’s compare that warning with the new one:

1984 – “Unless major changes are made in the structure of the teaching profession, so that teaching becomes an attractive career alternative for talented individuals, we will in a very few years face widespread shortages of qualified teachers.”

2016 – “Unless major changes in teacher supply or a reduction in demand for additional teachers occur over the coming years, annual teacher shortages could increase to as much as 112,000 teachers by 2018, and remain close to that level thereafter.”

Similar charts depicted when the crossing of the teacher supply and demand lines would occur. First, the 1984 chart:


Then the 2016 chart:


The 1984 report explained that high teacher attrition due to poor working conditions was a main cause of the shortage. Teachers were leaving the profession due to low pay, dissatisfaction with working conditions, lack of input, and the prevalence of standardized testing.

The teacher shortage would grow, the report said, until “we will be forced to hire the least academically able students to fill these vacancies, and they will become the tenured teaching force for the next two generations of American school children.”

What actually happened?

A review of the archives of the National Center for Education Statistics shows that the K-12 public school teacher force grew from 2,168,000 in 1984 to 2,401,000 in 1990. That means that all the outgoing teachers were replaced, and an additional 233,000 were hired. Were these new hires necessary because of increased enrollment? No, the pupil-teacher ratio declined over the same period from 18.1 to 17.0.

The teacher population continued to grow; today, even after a severe recession, U.S. public schools employ almost 3.2 million K-12 classroom teachers, according to National Education Association estimates.

How did we sidestep the first “coming crisis in teaching?” If we believe Darling-Hammond’s 1984 prescriptions, we must have done away with low teacher pay, dissatisfaction with working conditions, lack of input, and/or standardized testing. Or, we have hired the “least academically able” for the past 32 years.

Since there is plenty of evidence to show that neither of these is true, it must have been something else. Darling-Hammond may have inadvertently provided the answer in her 2016 report:

For example, in the Great Recession, actual demand for teachers dropped as budgets were cut, and schools could not afford to hire new teachers or even keep the teachers they already had. In this case, actual demand dropped, but ideal demand did not. In an ideal sense, schools would like, at a minimum, to be able to maintain the number of teachers and return to the class sizes and course offerings they had in place before the recession.

In other words, the shortage is not due to a gap between supply and demand, but between supply and “ideal demand,” which she defines as at least a return to pre-recession conditions.

The problem, of course, is that we don’t live in an ideal world. Ideal demand for teachers could be one teacher – or more – for each student. Under normal conditions in a democratic society that ideal demand can never be met. Would that constitute a teacher shortage of 50 million?

The size of the teacher labor force is not just an economic or an educational issue. It is a political issue, as opposing forces line up to determine where limited tax dollars will be spent. History suggests teacher hiring usually comes out on top in that calculus, and we should expect it will do so in the future. We should also expect warnings of imminent teacher shortages somewhere around the year 2048.

Recent Intercepts. EIA’s daily blog, Intercepts, covered these topics September 14-20:

* Bay Area School Choice Program Is Mostly For District Employees. Plus cherry-picking!

* The Teacher Shortage Crisis Is Always “Coming.” Somehow these shortages never result in hiring fewer teachers.

* Invoke the Slaughter Rule. California unions outspend billionaires $46.1 million to zero.

* Newark Teachers Union Goes Begging. New Jersey union needs $100,000. Maybe they should call their friends in California.

Quote of the Week. “Heber.).” – Sco. (Kiion, n.

Unions Have Cash But Not Partners In Fight Against MA Charter Proposal

September 14, 2016

Unions Have Cash But Not Partners In Fight Against MA Charter Proposal. Save Our Public Schools, the Massachusetts campaign fighting to retain the state’s cap on charter schools, describes itself as “a grassroots organization of families, parents, educators and students.”

But a glance at its campaign finance disclosure shows it to be almost devoid of families, parents, and students, and includes educators only to the extent that their dues money is being spent by the teachers union they belong to.

Of the more than $7.2 million in cash and in-kind contributions received by Save Our Public Schools so far, 99.86 percent came from the National Education Association, the American Federation of Teachers, and their affiliates. But even that percentage is slightly misleading.

The largest donor to the campaign outside of the teachers’ unions is Jobs With Justice, an organization that advocates for workers’ rights. It made $8,000 in in-kind contributions of staff and facilities. But Jobs With Justice is on the campaign payroll, having received $90,000 for staff salaries.

The Massachusetts Teachers Association is the largest single contributor, with almost $4.6 million in contributions so far. That is only half of what MTA has allocated for the campaign and it is possible that the union’s representative bodies could authorize an even larger dip into MTA reserves. The state union’s net assets total about $8.4 million.

NEA chipped in $1.9 million. It is highly likely that MTA will solicit additional funds from NEA, but unclear whether the national union will pledge the additional millions desired.

AFT national, based in Washington, D.C., gave $450,000; its Massachusetts affiliate gave $275,000 and its Boston local affiliate another $41,000.

A separate affiliate, the Massachusetts Library Staff Association, added $1,000.

Other unions seem reluctant to step to the plate, however. Only a United Food and Commercial Workers local ($500) and the Boston Carmen’s Union ($300) have contributed.

The various committees supporting the removal of the charter cap have raised twice as much — hardly surprising given the very few contributions on the “No” side from anyone other than teachers’ unions.

The NEA and AFT and their affiliates may decry the amount of cash available to supporters of charter expansion, but the question remains: Why are their deep-pocketed allies in labor and the business world choosing not to sign big checks for this fight? Perhaps the teachers’ unions picked the wrong spot to draw a line in the sand.

Recent Intercepts. EIA’s daily blog, Intercepts, covered these topics September 9-13:

* We’re Gonna Need a Bigger Table. Who’s the educator in Hillary’s K-12 policy working group?

* NEA’s Ballot Fund Being Brought to Bear in States. With more to come.

* Madeloni’s Non-Job Could Soon Be at Non-Workplace. Prestigious labor center can’t draw students or make money.

Quote of the Week. “I had left teaching after a 37-year career as both a librarian and teacher and then President of the Virginia Education Association. In the spring of 2012, I realized that I was too exhausted to want to go back to the classroom. I was on schedule to return to a middle school English teaching position. Every time I thought about it, I just wanted to cry. I knew that I no longer had the physical stamina to teach a full day every day. I was pretty sure I wasn’t prepared to deal with hormonal middle-schoolers again. I had tried that when I was young, and it was hard then. I hadn’t taught English since 1980…long before standards and testing and accountability measures ever took over teachers’ lives. And I was sure that the middle-schoolers of today are different from the 6th graders I taught from 1977-1980…so I was in trouble.” – Kitty Boitnott, former president of the Virginia Education Association, now a career transition coach.

How NEA Came to Love Citizens United

September 8, 2016

How NEA Came to Love Citizens United. The outsized influence of the rich on American elections and politics dates to the early days of the republic. More recently, the U.S. Supreme Court’s Citizens United decision in 2010 sharply elevated these fears by lifting many restrictions on political spending by corporations and nonprofit organizations.

Much of this new spending is now filtered through Super PACs — coalitions that can raise unlimited amounts to campaign for or against candidates but can’t directly contribute to, or coordinate with, the candidates or political parties.

Almost $1 billion has been donated to Super PACs so far in the 2016 election cycle. USA Today recently identified the 156 individuals and organizations who have given $1 million or more. The list is populated by those you would expect to see: hedge fund managers, financiers, and CEOs — donors who were just as likely to support Democrats as Republicans, according to the report.

The top five are all hedge-fund billionaires, but the number six “mega-donor” might come as a surprise: it’s the National Education Association — the largest teachers’ union — with $14.2 million in contributions to Super PACs, primarily its own, the NEA Advocacy Fund.

The union has denounced the influence of big money for years without mentioning that it is one of the nation’s largest political spenders. It stands alongside Wall Street profiteers in propping up the post-Citizens United funding system.

When asked, the union points to the difference between a single individual donating $14 million and a democratic organization of three million teachers donating $14 million.

There is a difference, but not as much as you might think.

Direct contributions to candidates from unions must be voluntarily contributed by willing members, but independent political expenditures — the $14 million-plus to Super PACs — come out of NEA’s general fund, a stockpile of members’ dues that the union can spend without consulting the members.

The fund is an unclearly-arrived-at sum inside the union’s budget, approved on a voice vote by however many of the NEA’s 6,800 Representative Assembly delegates who are still around late on the last night of a four-day convention that meets once a year.

Ultimately, nine members of the union’s executive committee — elected by delegates to handle day-to-day affairs — decide how much of the fund goes to the Super PAC and how it is spent.

That’s the formal decision-making process: nine people allocating dues collected from three million.

It stands to reason that junior members of the executive committee have less influence over these large contributions than does the NEA president, who sits on the committee, or even the NEA executive director, who does not.

Typically, other spenders at the NEA’s level seek to influence several public policy sectors, most of which are contested by opposing special interest groups. The power of the teachers’ union is concentrated in a single field and isn’t countered by any comparable opposing interests, let alone one with the ability to influence virtually every area of the country.

If you follow the rules, of course, it’s perfectly legal to try to influence elections and laws using money.

It’s also perfectly defensible to worry that a handful of wealthy individuals exercise too much influence over American campaign politics through massive spending.

High-ranking teacher union officers are part of that group.

Recent Intercepts. EIA’s daily blog, Intercepts, covered these topics September 1-7:

* Something for Teachers’ Unions to Ponder Over Labor Day Weekend. If charters are subject to the National Labor Relations Act, then all union affiliates with charter school members must be subject to the Labor Management Reporting and Disclosure Act.

* Record Holders. The California Teachers Association is worried about big-spending special interests influencing education policy. Really.

* The Limits of Poll Questions About Unions. Public attitudes about unions might be influenced by what kind of union we ask about.

* NYSUT Heads Off Threatened Staff Strike. Can’t have picket lines in front of union headquarters in an election year.

* Labor Resurgence Just a Little Overdue. Hope springs eternal… literally.

Quote of the Week. “In the 2012 election alone, hundreds of millions of dollars were spent to influence our elections by ‘Super PACs’ and 501(c)4 entities who, after Citizens United, can take corporate money in unlimited amounts. Moreover, this decision left Congress and the states helpless to prevent this distortion of our democracy.” – Mary Kusler, the National Education Association’s director of government relations, in an April 11, 2013 letter to the U.S. House of Representatives.

When NEA Fights With Its Own Breakaway Locals

August 31, 2016

When NEA Fights With Its Own Breakaway Locals. A group of Indiana teachers filed a petition to replace the Carmel Clay Education Association (CCEA) with an independent union. The petitioners claim this will save teachers the $675 they now send to the Indiana State Teachers Association and the National Education Association.

The CCEA immediately fired back, claiming this would leave teachers without a contract or representation rights. The petition will now go before the Indiana Education Employment Relations Board.

This fracas in the Hoosier State is merely the latest in a series of defections from the NEA and its affiliates:

+ The 3,000-member Memphis-Shelby County Education Association severed its ties with the Tennessee Education Association and NEA last year. The state union quickly created a competing local to vie for members in Memphis.

+ The Santa Rosa Professional Educators left both the NEA and the American Federation of Teachers to establish an independent union in Florida. Once again, NEA and AFT created a competing local in the district.

+ In Las Vegas, Nevada, Teamsters Local 14 has fought for years to represent 11,000 school support employees currently served by the NEA-affiliated Education Support Employees Association. Despite several election victories – the most recent with 82 percent of the vote – the Teamsters are still on the outside looking in as NEA’s union has fought the results all the way to the Nevada Supreme Court.

+ In 2013, the 3,000 members of the University of Hawaii Professional Assembly dropped out of the NEA to become independent, then took the unprecedented step of publishing an open letter to NEA in the Honolulu Star-Advertiser that began with the sarcastic headline, “We’d like to thank you for trying to destroy our union.”

Recent Intercepts. EIA’s daily blog, Intercepts, covered these topics August 25-August 30:

* Video of Union Employees Protesting Their Union Bosses. Union officers get pretty corporate when it comes to their own workers.

* “How Disturbing!” Diane Ravitch reacts to inconvenient information.

* California Test Scores: English Improvement, Math Not So Much. Mixed bag.

* Five Offbeat Back-to-School Stories. Riding the Twinkie bus is not a euphemism.

Quote of the Week. “I’ve never heard of this happening before . . . a judge substituting his/her judgment of financial needs of the district in place of locally elected school board members.” – Jim Buckheit, executive director of the Pennsylvania Association of School Administrators, after a judge rescinded a tax hike instituted by the Lower Merion School District. The judge ruled the district repeatedly projected large budget deficits to justify tax hikes, when it was actually accumulating huge surpluses. (August 31 Philadelphia Inquirer)

Do you think we’ll see this on Last Week Tonight with John Oliver?

Teachers Unions Are The Man — Union Employees and the Fight for Better Contracts

August 24, 2016

Teachers Unions Are The Man — Union Employees and the Fight for Better Contracts. America’s teacher unions are typically seen as actors shaping public policy — negotiating collective bargaining agreements with local school districts, lobbying state legislatures, and helping to elect candidates at every level, from school board to president.

But unions are also private businesses with employees, payrolls, buildings, and investments. Members in charge of the organization assume many of the same responsibilities and address the same problems as managers in companies or at public agencies — including issues involving their employees.

Most of those who work for teachers unions also belong to a union, but not the one they work for. Labor law experts, communications professionals, clericals, and others have created “staff unions,” and employees they elect from their ranks represent them in contract negotiations with the teachers union. As you might imagine, the staff union — often including people who negotiate the contracts for teachers as a profession — is a formidable adversary at the bargaining table.

Staff unions have won generous salaries and benefits for members; the National Education Association, for example, pays its 600 employees in Washington, D.C. — along with benefits for about 400 retirees — almost $116 million annually in compensation.

But teachers union management doesn’t always aim for solidarity when contract time swings around. In collective bargaining with their employees, teachers unions have formally proposed merit pay, reductions to due process protections, health-care and other benefit rollbacks, and threats to use replacement workers. Hardline management positions have led to pickets and strikes; the union has responded with lockouts and deployment of Pinkerton guards to remove employees from union property. (Ill-advised “pranks” by staff, like covering the driveways at union headquarters with tacks, fail to reduce tension.)

Many staff contracts expire in the late summer because teacher unions tend to use the school year as a fiscal year. Strikes don’t seem imminent in 2016, but several unions have serious labor problems. Just as states across the country struggle to manage teachers’ pension costs, the pension liabilities of funds for staff are a major challenge for union management.

The National Education Association has a relatively healthy employee pension fund compared, for instance, to many public-employee funds around the country. However, NEA staff and retirees negotiated an agreement requiring the union to have on hand 100 percent of its retirement liabilities by the year 2021. According to the staff union, that deadline is in jeopardy because of “lower than projected return on investments; longer life spans of Plan participants; a reduction in the ratio of active to retired participants; and lower than anticipated salary increases.”

In other words, pretty much all the predictions NEA made about the future were wrong.

Next week, NEA management and staff will resume negotiating a mutually acceptable solution. That’s a positive sign, but far from a guarantee of a positive outcome. Meanwhile, some NEA state affiliates that manage their own pension plans are struggling.

In California, staffers have a worse pension problem, and no offer to negotiate against. The plan run for them by the California Teachers Association is less than 80% funded, which means the union will either have to reduce future benefits or increase contributions. But CTA doesn’t intend to bargain until after the November elections, leading frustrated staff leaders to contemplate a labor action this week in spark talks.

On the other side of the country, union leaders at New York State United Teachers are also grappling with employee pension costs, prompting the president of the staff union to warn NYSUT management, “We are not going to be bullied into pension changes.”

That declaration sounds a lot like what city and school leaders are hearing from the head of the teachers union in Chicago’s difficult negotiations — and a lot like the conversation in many other districts across the country. Employee pensions are underfunded and the battle is to determine who will make up the difference. Will union managers come up with a solution consistent with what they advocate as labor representatives?.

Recent Intercepts. EIA’s daily blog, Intercepts, covered these topics August 18-August 23:

* Vergara, Oliver & the Appeal to Authority. If your opinions are friendly, you don’t need expertise.

* The Political Theater of Chicago Teacher Layoffs. Amazing how quickly those Draconian layoffs went away.

* Test Your Union Advocacy Quotient! Replace “teacher union headquarters” with “local Wal-Mart” and see if your answer changes.

* How I Became an Internet Hero to Fans of a Defunct Disney Channel Cartoon. Now I will forever be known as Grunkle Mike.

Quote of the Week. “These scare tactics are shameful.” – Randi Weingarten, president of the American Federation of Teachers, reacting to this Wall Street Journal story about activists going door-to-door to tell home care workers how to resign from SEIU. (August 20 Twitter)

Other Examples of Door-to-Door Scare Tactics. “I have so many new ideas now, and I can’t wait to go back to my school and encourage my colleagues to share their ideas, too. I’m going to go door-to-door.” – Avi Spiller, a math teacher from Pembroke Pines Charter High School in Florida, after attending an AFT charter school conference in 2008.

“If you see us at your door this summer, we’re there to hear from you how we can work together to improve our schools and our profession. Staff and member volunteers will be going door to door in many areas of the state, so give them a welcome!” – Texas AFT, June 11, 2016.

“Now through the end of the school year, join us for door-to-door conversations with neighbors about how we can save public education in Detroit.” – Detroit Federation of Teachers, June 2016.

“With a new sense of urgency, 30 representatives of AFT-Kansas locals jumped into two days of practice as experienced AFT organizers shared years of one-on-one listening and door-to-door campaigning.” – AFT Kansas, May 2009.

“On Nov. 1 in Pittsburgh, Weingarten and others will go door to door, speaking with union members.” – AFT press release, October 29, 2008.

Act Locally, Think Nationally — NEA’s Plan to Capture America’s Hearts & Minds

August 17, 2016

Act Locally, Think Nationally — NEA’s Plan to Capture America’s Hearts & Minds. The National Education Association is not only the nation’s largest union, it is also a major commercial enterprise. Its national headquarters controls an annual budget of more than $365 million. Its state affiliates take in an additional $1.2 billion, and the sum total collected by its 13,000 local affiliates can only be guessed at.

How this money is spent is not just a concern of NEA members. The union influences policies, debates, and attitudes about public education and labor in every state and school district. It affects state and municipal budgets and therefore the wallets of almost every American.

NEA’s Strategic Plan and Budget, adopted by union delegates during a Washington, D.C., meeting last month, provides some insight into what that will mean in the coming years.

The broad goals are made clear in the introduction:

As we evaluated our internal capabilities as well as the external opportunities and threats, two main issues emerged. One, the need to win the race to capture the hearts and minds of parents, communities, and educators; the other was the importance of re-building the Association’s strength— our vast network of members at all levels of the public education system.

The use of “hearts and minds” is suggestive. Though most closely associated with the Vietnam War, it was popularized during the 1950s by British forces who hoped to maintain support in Malaya (later Malaysia), long under their control, as they fought a guerilla army trying to establish a Communist regime there.

In this context, the expression suggests the NEA’s vital mission is to grow membership and win the public perception debate against a group of insurgents — education reformers.

But how to do this?

Because NEA is a national organization based in Washington, D.C., most reporting of its activities covers federal legislation; national elections; and overarching issues like teacher quality, charter schools, or the Common Core standards. Although NEA is known for both its direct and independent expenditures on federal campaigns, ranking among the top contributors to Democrats, that’s not where most of its money goes. The states are where NEA dollars are truly formidable.

NEA plans to spend $36 million this year to “seek political and legislative outcomes that support great public schools and sustainable organizational power,” to “target legislative crisis and ballot measure assistance to defend and bolster traditional union values (e.g., collective bargaining rights),” and for opposition research for “NEA and affiliates to utilize in offensive and defensive campaigns.”

We already know of NEA’s $1.4 million contribution to oppose the lifting of Massachusetts’ cap on charter schools, and there are affiliate-supported ballot measures in California and Oregon. Those expenditures don’t convey the full scope of NEA’s strength in states and school districts., however.

Each year the national union returns $102 million to state and local affiliates in the form of what are called UniServ grants. These funds are used exclusively to employ professional organizers, contract negotiators, grievance processors, and political advocates. This ensures that even the tiniest local in the remotest area of the country has access to a labor expert — a valuable subsidy for affiliates who could not otherwise pay for the salaries and benefits these experts demand.

There is a cost, however. In exchange for the grant, affiliates must support NEA’s priorities and actions. Sometimes this requires lending these experts to NEA for temporary redeployment to other states if the national union determines there is a pressing need. The UniServ system not only enables NEA to bring exert significant influence even in unfriendly states, but it also helps ensure that affiliate leaders don’t flirt with unorthodox notions concerning charters, teacher evaluations, or the traditional salary schedule.

The NEA uses third-party validators extensively to spread its message. But some of these validators aren’t third parties at all. For the 2004 Presidential election, NEA created and funded Communities for Quality Education, a purportedly independent group that ran ads and organized publicity stunts against the No Child Left Behind Act. CQE never revealed its NEA pedigree.

This kind of manipulation backfires for advocates when it creates doubts about the integrity of the advocate’s relationships with other surrogates, which seems to happening with the NAACP’s recent call for a moratorium on charter schools.

The starch in NEA’s approach comes from its ability to ally with non-union or even anti-union constituencies in demanding local local control of public education — while building out a structure and allocating funds to control local school systems as directed by its national office.

It’s a lot easier to “win the race to capture the hearts and minds” if you have a head start.

Recent Intercepts. EIA’s daily blog, Intercepts, covered these topics August 11-August 16:

* Teacher Shortage Data Shortage. Is anyone actually monitoring the national teacher labor market?

* Caputo-Pearl’s Spending Stats “Hover Around” Accuracy. Close enough for government work.

* In Chicago There’s a Border Patrol for Teachers, Too. “Years of lax enforcement.”

How Racist & Discriminatory Layoffs Are Made. Know what you’re protesting.

Quote of the Week #1. “We need a president who is a moral compass, not a bully like Donald Trump.” – Randi Weingarten, president of the American Federation of Teachers. (August 13 Twitter)

Quote of the Week #2. “If this helps repair his reputation, that would be terrific.” – Randi Weingarten, then-president of the United Federation of Teachers, defending her choice of Bill Clinton to receive the UFT’s John Dewey Award, though she acknowledged “some teachers are upset with his sex-and-lies scandal.” (March 27, 2001 New York Post)

Los Angeles Teachers Head Is Ready to Incite A ‘State Crisis’ If Union Demands Are Not Met

August 10, 2016

Los Angeles Teachers Head Is Ready to Incite A ‘State Crisis’ If Union Demands Are Not Met. Alex Caputo-Pearl is the president of United Teachers Los Angeles, a union that has a long and storied history of discarding presidents elected as firebrands but who reign as defenders of the status quo. Caputo-Pearl seems determined to end that cycle and bring teacher union militancy to the entire state of California.

In a July 29 speech to at the UTLA Leadership Conference, Caputo-Pearl outlined the union’s plans as it readies for the expiration of its contract next year and a gubernatorial election in 2018.

“The next year-and-a-half must be founded upon building our capacity to strike, and our capacity to create a state crisis, in early 2018,” Caputo-Pearl told an audience of 800 activists. “There simply may be no other way to protect our health benefits and to shock the system into investing in the civic institution of public education.”

While it’s not clear what form a “state crisis” would take, Caputo-Pearl described a series of actions the union will undertake in coming months, beginning with a paid media campaign in September denouncing “billionaires… driving the public school agenda” and a “massive” political mobilization to ensure the November passage of Proposition 55, which would extend a 2012 measure that raised taxes on high-earning residents to fund schools.

UTLA will then set its sights on the next Los Angeles Unified School District board elections.

“We must face off against the billionaires again in the School Board elections of 2017, and WE MUST WIN,” Caputo-Pearl said, explaining that the next board would vote on a new contract. The union needed to help elect a board that would resist a “vigorous campaign to cut our benefits” by district leaders, he suggested.

But Caputo-Pearl isn’t content to shape LAUSD’s agenda. He hopes to organize the entire state.

“All of the unions representing LAUSD workers and the teachers unions in San Diego, San Bernardino, Oakland, and San Francisco share our June 2017 contract expiration date,” he said. “We have an historic opportunity to lead a coordinated bargaining effort across the state.

“Coordinated action could dramatically increase pressure on the legislature and fundamentally shape the debate in the 2018 Governor’s race.”

Caputo-Pearl stopped short of calling for a multi-city teacher strike, but pointing to a common contract expiration date that enabled “coordinated action” put it on the table.

The UTLA president had another white whale to harpoon: Proposition 13, the state’s iconic 1978 initiative that capped property tax rates. Caputo-Pearl said he wanted to revive the union-backed “Make It Fair” campaign that sought to hike taxes on commercial property.

UTLA is in position to pursue an aggressive agenda because of its successful internal campaign to raise dues by 33 percent earlier this year and new joint affiliation with the National Education Association and the American Federation of Teachers. Now the union will launch an internal campaign to solicit more money from members in the form of PAC contributions, Caputo-Pearl said. Currently only about 20 percent of UTLA members donate to its PAC.

There will of course be organized opposition to Caputo-Pearl’s vision for the future, and some of it may come from his own parent unions. While UTLA is by far the largest local of both the state NEA and AFT branches — the California Teachers Association and the California Federation of Teachers, respectively — these unions have their own officers and elected bodies that represent members throughout the state. Even if they agree with most of Caputo-Pearl’s agenda, they may be wary of his ambition. Their leaders might remember that former UTLA president Wayne Johnson rode a 1989 teacher strike all the way to the presidency of CTA.

Caputo’s broad themes were underscored by a guest speaker: Karen Lewis, president of the Chicago Teachers Union and idol of advocates for more muscular union activism. She argued that teachers need to organize across district, state, and even union boundaries, telling conference attendees, “we cannot do this work alone, and we cannot do this work in isolation from one another.”

If UTLA’s agenda becomes the agenda of all California teacher unions and is ultimately successful, the union militancy train will leave the West Coast and travel through many other states. Union leaders comfortably situated in the status quo will have to jump aboard or get run over.

Recent Intercepts. EIA’s daily blog, Intercepts, covered these topics August 3-August 10:

TL;DR. Apparently ESSA needs a whole lot of fixin’.

* Missed Approach. Is this any way to run an airline?

* Only Thugs Are Thugs. Sticks and stones may break my bones. Now THAT’S a thug.

Is it Bribery to Withhold Cash? Teachers’ union gets ironworker up on his hind legs.

Quote of the Week. “She needs to pick somebody who is very much embedded in the ideas that she brings forward. Someone who is her pick, who she trusts, who she has a direct relationship with.” – Randi Weingarten, president of the American Federation of Teachers, discussing whom she thinks Hillary Clinton should choose as U.S. Secretary of Education. (August 2 Hechinger Report)

3 Things America’s Biggest Teachers Union Will Expect From a Clinton White House

August 3, 2016

3 Things America’s Biggest Teachers Union Will Expect From a Clinton White House. As Hillary Clinton officially accepted the Democratic Party’s nomination last week in Philadelphia, the teachers’ unions moved one step closer to getting what they have desired for many years. The American Federation of Teachers endorsed Clinton in 2008, and only the efforts of then-president Reg Weaver — an Obama supporter — prevented the National Education Association from following suit.

But now the day has come. With the GOP nominating a very unconventional candidate, to say the least, the unions now have reason to believe that their preferred candidate will be the next President of the United States.

What then?

President Obama signed the Every Student Succeeds Act (ESSA) into law last December, ridding unions of the hated No Child Left Behind Act, but also taking off the table the most urgent federal K-12 education issue. As a result, schools have taken even more of a backseat in the 2016 campaign than in previous cycles, leaving most of us in the dark about what to expect on education from a 2017 Clinton administration.

Of course, the NEA has its hopes and dreams, many of which may indeed come to fruition if Clinton wins. From the top down, here is what NEA expects:

+ A “goalie.” Even in the rosiest scenario, the next president will still face a Republican-controlled House of Representatives, so the NEA will first want President Clinton to wield her veto pen and stop legislation detrimental to the union’s interests. NEA president Lily Eskelsen García used the goalie analogy in issuing talking points to explain the union’s primary endorsement of Clinton, but had also used it to describe President Obama’s role.

+ A pliable Secretary of Education. NEA activists hated Arne Duncan, famously demanding his resignation, but he served a purpose as their high-profile whipping boy. His presence allowed the union to denounce President Obama’s education policies without denouncing Obama himself. Both NEA and AFT see the symbolic value in having an “experienced educator” hold the position, but they will be realistic and pragmatic about it. For one thing, teaching fifth grade and running a federal bureaucracy are (I hope) two different skill sets. Second, an experienced educator with his or her own creative ideas about running the Department of Education could be a loose cannon. Naturally, nominating anyone with even the flimsiest of connections to the education reform movement would not earn the NEA’s support.

A model for the type of relationship that the NEA favors exists in California. State Superintendent of Public Instruction Tom Torlakson owes his position almost entirely to the California Teachers Association, who backed him in his election and put him over the top in a tough reelection campaign in 2014. He has never taken an action that has drawn criticism from the state’s teachers’ unions, and has been actively helpful to them on more than one occasion. A U.S. Secretary of Education who simply stays out of the union’s way, and lends a helping hand when needed, would be much more useful than a firebrand or a crusader. A below-the-radar-type nominee would also face less vigorous GOP opposition, should Republicans retain control of the Senate.

+ A friendly ESSA interpretation. Current Secretary of Education John King Jr. was never a favorite of the unions, but his recent efforts have only increased their animus. Simply put, King wants stronger federal regulation of ESSA’s provisions than the unions are willing to tolerate. Having cut the No Child Left Behind strings, the unions want ESSA to be molded by local and state decision-making committees, in which they will participate and hope to dominate. Soon after ESSA was signed into law, NEA allocated $5 million to train its activists on both the law and the union’s priorities in implementing the law. A U.S. Department of Education with its own ideas and priorities would undermine that effort and introduce a level of uncertainty into the NEA’s strategy.

Of course Republican state legislators and some reform-minded Democrats also wanted the federal strings cut, and they have their own ideas about the best way to operate in the post-NCLB world. But they are unlikely to share the unified vision, or the centralized allocation of resources, that a vast organization like the NEA can bring to bear.

The ultimate goal is to shift the federal government’s emphasis away from standards-based reforms and assessments towards the union’s opportunity dashboard of inputs. The NEA is keenly aware that the federal law which helped launch the standards movement and institute support for public charter schools was the Improving America’s Schools Act of 1994, signed into law by President Bill Clinton. The union wants to be sure that a second President Clinton, in a fit of energy, doesn’t give its activists another cause for regret.

Recent Intercepts. EIA’s daily blog, Intercepts, covered these topics July 26-August 2:

Hillary’s Ingenious Plan to Bankrupt Hedge Fund Managers. Rob from the rich to give to the poor their fair share of campaign media buys and opposition research.

* A Border Wall Hillary & Teachers’ Unions Defend. Cops’ kids are illegal immigrants into DC Public Schools.

* From Compromise to Retreat to Surrender to Massacre. What happens to an education reform bill in the California legislature.

NEA President Thinks Charter School Teachers Are On An “Adventure.” Who’s infantilizing teachers now?

Police Blotter. Who went to jail and who didn’t this week.

Quote of the Week. “I think we actually kind of did.” – Lily Eskelsen García, president of the National Education Association, after commenting that her union could have written the Democratic Party platform language on education. (July 28 Politics K-12)

Attention Communiqué Readers!

Hopefully this isn’t too big of an adjustment for you, but from now on the weekly EIA Communiqué will appear on Wednesday mornings, and with good fortune at about the same clock time every week. The daily blog, Intercepts, will still go on as usual.

There’s a good reason for this change after so many years, which I hope to share with you on Wednesday, so stay tuned!

Kaine’s “A” Rating From NEA Doesn’t Mean Much

July 25, 2016

Kaine’s “A” Rating From NEA Doesn’t Mean Much. When Hillary Clinton named Tim Kaine as her running mate, the National Education Association was quick to applaud the choice. “A respected mayor, popular governor, and a current U.S. Senator, Kaine has been a tireless supporter of public education and students his entire public life,” read the union’s press release, which finished up by noting that since Kaine was elected to the U.S. Senate, “he’s earned an A on the National Education Association legislative report card.”

That’s certainly true, but just how does a Senator merit an “A” on NEA’s report card?

The union tells us that “Letter grades are based on their voting records on selected votes.” In the first session of the current Congress, 19 Senate votes were selected by NEA for inclusion in scoring “based on their relevance to advancing NEA’s identified legislative priorities.” The union notifies Members of Congress in advance that a particular vote will count toward their rating.

Back in 2005, NEA decided that scoring on votes alone did not allow the union sufficient flexibility to differentiate friendly Republicans from hostile ones. So it added additional criteria for scoring: co-sponsorship of important bills; “behind- the-scenes work”; committee votes; and accessibility.

Based on these measures, 50 U.S. Senators received an “A” rating from NEA in the most recent Congress: Four Republicans, two independents, and 44 Democrats.

Kaine received an “A.” So did every other Democrat in the Senate.

NEA’s rank-and-file membership may reflect all of the American political spectrum, but the people who hold union office – particularly high union office – are overwhelmingly Democrats. So it would stand to reason that their positions and those of Senate Democrats would coincide. Except that they don’t, especially in the latest Congressional session.

The most NEA-friendly U.S. Senator was Brian Schatz of Hawaii. He voted NEA’s way 43 percent of the time. Kirsten Gillibrand of New York was the only other Senator to break 40%.

Kaine agreed with NEA on 25% of its important votes. Only 9 Senate Democrats voted with NEA less often than Kaine: Reid, Carper, Nelson, Donnelly, Heitkemp, Peters, Warner, Manchin and McCaskill. Kaine’s 25% was matched by Cory Booker. (Senate Republican Lamar Alexander, NEA’s 2016 Friend of Education co-winner, voted with the union 12% of the time. He received an “A.”)

Progressive elements within the Democratic Party, particularly some in the labor movement, are upset by the choice of Kaine. They should be more troubled that you can vote against NEA’s position three of every four times and still receive its full backing.

Recent Intercepts. EIA’s daily blog, Intercepts, covered these topics July 19-25:

Trump Jr. Passes Up Chance to Plagiarize Al Shanker. “The notion of using incentives to drive schools to change may strike some people as too radical – even though that’s the way we do it in every other sector of society.”

* Who Would Be NEA’s Choice for Hillary’s VP? First hint: Not Tim Kaine.

* I Guess We Ran Out of Great Education Governors. An NEA award disappears so quietly it took a year to notice.

Taking Release Time From the AFT Convention. That’s all I can stands, I can’t stands no more.

And Now, A Word About Union Unity. Kumbayas are one thing, business another.

Quote of the Week. “We took on the largest education corporation in the world, Pearson. And today, here’s part of their reality.


 – Randi Weingarten, president of the American Federation of Teachers, during her address to the delegates at the 2016 AFT Convention in Minneapolis. (July 18 AFT release)

Well, Pearson has its problems, no doubt, but why in a speech delivered in July 2016, did Weingarten use stock prices from January 2015 to December 2015? Perhaps because of what happened to Pearson stock since then.


The blue line is Pearson stock, and the red line is the Dow Jones. Since the beginning of the year, Pearson outperformed the S&P 500 by more than 8 percent. In fact, a mere three weeks after the end of AFT’s graph, Pearson stock surged, primarily because it laid off staff. The latest analysis had 8 of 9 experts rating it either “buy” or “hold.”

Weingarten and her speechwriters must have known all this, but it didn’t fit the narrative and so was omitted.

Which Side Are You On?

July 18, 2016

Which Side Are You On? I don’t pretend to be an expert on the Every Student Succeeds Act (ESSA), but I can recognize when the seams start to split on the law President Obama proclaimed a bipartisan “Christmas miracle.” The divide isn’t exactly along party lines, but two distinct groups have emerged and it shouldn’t surprise anyone to learn where the teachers’ unions have landed.

After their experience with the No Child Left Behind Act, it was always the intention of NEA and AFT to help craft a federal education law with few mandates, even fewer sanctions, and as much funding as possible. Their intentions fell in line with Congressional Republicans and state governments, who also wanted less federal interference with public education systems.

That’s all well and good, but there are other groups who know only too well what happens when their interests are left to the discretion of state and local governments – neglect. So they have organized to apply political pressure and get federal regulations that protect the underserved.

Helpfully, the two groups signed competing letters to U.S. Secretary of Education John King. The teacher union side asked King “to refrain from defining terms and aspects of the new law that Congress gave communities the flexibility to determine.” The other group asked King “to issue strong regulations clarifying the means by which school districts must demonstrate their compliance with the ‘supplement, not supplant’ requirement in Title I of the Every Student Succeeds Act (ESSA).”

Much more interesting than the arguments each offered were the lists of the undersigned to each letter. The “flexibility” team included NEA and AFT, as well as the National Governors Association, National Conference of State Legislatures, National Association of State Boards of Education, Council of Chief State School Officers, National School Boards Association, School Superintendents Association and National Association of Elementary School Principals. Or, categorized in a different way, public school labor and management.

The “strong regulations” side includes The Leadership Conference on Civil and Human Rights, NAACP Legal Defense and Educational Fund, American Civil Liberties Union, American-Arab Anti-Discrimination Committee, American Association of University Women, Association of University Centers on Disabilities, Judge David L. Bazelon Center for Mental Health Law, Children’s Defense Fund, Council of Parent Attorneys and Advocates, Disability Rights Education & Defense Fund, Easter Seals, Lawyers’ Committee for Civil Rights Under Law, League of United Latin American Citizens, NAACP, National Association of Councils on Developmental Disabilities, National Council of La Raza, National Disability Rights Network, National Down Syndrome Congress, National Indian Education Association, National Urban League, National Women’s Law Center, PolicyLink, Southeast Asia Resource Action Center, and the United Negro College Fund.

And which education groups signed that letter? Alliance for Excellent Education, Democrats for Education Reform, The Education Trust, New Leaders, Teach Plus, and The New Teacher Project – all of whom coexist uneasily with teacher unions.

NEA has been congratulating itself on all it has done in the past year to combat institutional racism, but when it comes to the union’s self-interest it will stand opposite all these heavy hitters of the civil and disability rights movement and identify entirely with the institution.

Recent Intercepts. EIA’s daily blog, Intercepts, covered this topic today:

NEA Adds $1.4 Million to Massachusetts Anti-Charter Campaign. Because 12 more charters each year in a state with more than 1,800 public schools would be too many.

Quote of the Week. “Clinton got what she wanted from the NEA: money and good news coverage about being booed by a special interest group that she does not want to appear close to. The question remains, will the NEA get what it wants from Clinton?” – DeeAnn Grove, education consultant. (July 10 Des Moines Register)

Direct Links to All NEA Representative Assembly 2016 Blog Posts

July 11, 2016

Direct Links to All NEA Representative Assembly 2016 Blog Posts. In case you didn’t follow along all last week with EIA’s gavel-to-gavel coverage of the 2016 National Education Association Representative Assembly from Washington DC, here are the direct links to each post, in chronological order. Enjoy!

Imaginary Numbers – A glorious victory on the Malabar front!

Donald Trump and the Return of the Ethiopian Cabbie – Reruns.

California Dreamin’ – Don’t open charter schools. Don’t close them, either.

Extremely Careless or Politically Shrewd? – Presidential candidates always include one line that inspires booing.

The Value of Experience – It pays to know when to take a break.

Hold My Wallet – A revolutionary idea quietly fades away.

NEA Endorses Hillary (84.1%) – Margin beats Obama’s, trails previous candidates. This was the first time the potential endorsee addressed the delegates right before the vote.

Delegates Plan to Live on Deserted Island – Let’s only talk to people who agree with us.

New Recruits – NEA will do anything to appeal to young members… as long as it doesn’t involve letting them make their own decisions.

NEA Remains With #TeachStrong – Who’s using whom?

Delegates Solve Problem of Failing Schools – How about double-plus needs improvement?

Charter War Escalation Delayed – Not quite yet “an existential threat to public schools,” but maybe next year.

News Flash – Miracle.

Refer Madness – Or how to fit 10 pounds of crap into a 5 pound bag.

Not a Bundle of Laughs – NEA committees are going to be pretty busy next school year.

Coverage of the NEA Representative Assembly Begins July 4

June 27, 2016

Coverage of the NEA Representative Assembly Begins July 4. For the 19th consecutive year (egad) 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 Washington DC. 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 a verification e-mail for you to acknowledge and then will 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 4 and each evening thereafter until the convention closes on July 7.

There will not be a weekly communiqué next week. On July 11 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 21-27:

Michigan NEA & AFT Talk Merger. Still a long, looooooong way off.

* Getting Grisly in Memphis. Why this marriage could not be saved.

Hillary Scheduled to Address NEA Delegates on July 4. Sanders supporters surrender?

Federal Education Association’s Finances. Wrapping up the annual finances review.

Quote of the Week. “One side, the CTA, refuses to consider any change, anything reasonable. The other side says, ‘If we’re not going to get exactly what we want, we’re going to attack.’ I’m trying to find a middle way. I’m disappointed the bill isn’t as sweeping as I had hoped, but it’s still a direct challenge to the status quo and the teachers union in Sacramento. And when a bill dies in committee, it does zero.” – Susan Bonilla, a California Assembly Democrat, whose bill would extend the probationary period for teachers from two years to three. The California Teachers Association says the bill is “wrongheaded in the current climate of teacher shortage.” (June 27 Los Angeles Times)

Official NEA State Affiliate Membership Numbers for 2015

June 20, 2016

Official NEA State Affiliate Membership Numbers for 2015. The National Education Association lost an additional 12,000 active members last year, bringing the union’s total losses among working public school employees to more than 322,000 (11.1%) since membership peaked in the 2008-09 school year. That’s the equivalent of losing the entire California Teachers Association.

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.)


It was a good year in terms of raw numbers for California, Florida, New York and Washington, who combined to add almost 16,000 members to NEA’s rolls – although half the dues from those new Florida and New York members goes to AFT. But no affiliate matched the percentage increase of Vermont NEA, whose active membership jumped more than 10 percent. The spike in teacher hiring last year might help explain why school district consolidation is such a big issue in the state this year.

Much of that gain was offset by losses in just one state – Alabama. Placed under NEA trusteeship last year, the Alabama Education Association lost almost 10,000 teachers and support employees – about 16 percent of its active membership. Michigan and Wisconsin were the next biggest losers in raw numbers. The Michigan Education Association’s membership fell by more than 7,200, and the Wisconsin Education Association Council lost almost 5,100 more members, bringing its losses since 2010 to more than 58 percent. Pennsylvania was a surprise addition to the loser list, declining by more than 1,800 members.

Among NEA’s weak affiliates Arizona, Mississippi and South Carolina managed to stop the bleeding, but the numbers in Arkansas, Georgia, Indiana, Louisiana, North Carolina, Tennessee and Virginia continued to head south – so to speak – at an alarming rate. All told, 28 state affiliates lost active members in 2015.

And because I love to say I told you so, you might remember that I made a bit of a kerfuffle last year about an item in Politico headlined “NEA’s Membership Uptick” when the union claimed to have added more than 14,000 new members in 2015, crediting the hike to its strong recruitment efforts. “It doesn’t just happen,” said NEA’s senior director for organizing, Jim Testerman.

Well, for once I have to agree. It didn’t just happen. It didn’t happen.

Recent Intercepts. EIA’s daily blog, Intercepts, covered these topics June 14-20:

NEA PAC Hopes to Raise $185 Per Delegate. It’s not the amount; it’s the attendance.

School Support Workers Bounce SEIU, Join Independent Local. High dues a factor.

Wisconsin Education Association Council’s Finances. Wad shot.

Wyoming Education Association’s Finances. Stable.

Quote of the Week. “Education reform in the United States has already involved billions of dollars, countless education conferences, an unprecedented amount of literature, and legislative action in each of the 50 states. Yet it is just getting started. Reform efforts so far vary widely from state to state and range from teacher competency tests, to curriculum tightening, to merit pay and career ladders for teachers — naming a few. Many teachers say the proposed reforms to raise salaries and improve working conditions are too little, too late. Yet there are some new signs that the recent surge of attention paid to schooling in America has slowly created a climate in which teaching is being viewed as a more respected, desirable profession — both for current and prospective teachers. If sustained, this shift would reverse an embittering trend that has persisted for 15 to 20 years.” – from the Christian Science Monitor of September 3, 1985.

NEA 360 Is Spinning in a Circle

June 13, 2016

NEA 360 Is Spinning in a Circle. The National Education Association has long worried about its need to attract and engage younger members. The teacher workforce has aged, but teacher union membership has aged even faster, as this graph created by NEA indicates.


The union has repeatedly sought its salvation on the Internet. Considering its hidebound reputation in education policy, it is surprising to find NEA as an early adopter of Internet technology throughout its history, beginning with a bulletin board service in the late 1980s, through its partnership with AOL in the early 1990s, and the creation of its web site in late 1995.

Despite its repeated investment of time and money, NEA never managed to achieve its goals in cyberspace. Members who were active in the union used the new tools, but new members found NEA’s Internet presence to be designed for NEA’s needs, rather than theirs.

Lack of success didn’t stop NEA’s leaders from devoting more resources to Internet technology in the new century. It created the NEA Portal Company with a flagship web site of, designed to be a home page for union members and recruits, with news, classroom tips, professional development resources and links to member benefits. It was unveiled to the delegates at the 2001 Representative Assembly amid much fanfare, but was soon beset with delays and tech problems, leading NEA to the conclusion that “’s initial technical systems would not meet its needs.”

NEA continued to try to salvage well into 2003, but finally let it fade away. In the years since, NEA has greatly improved its delivery of Internet product and information. It maintains multiple web sites and blogs, and has a presence on every major social media platform. Still, it doesn’t seem to be any closer to its cyberspace recruitment and organizing goals than it was in 1988.

Which brings us to 2014, and NEA’s decision to create NEA 360, an all-encompassing technological platform that, in the union’s description, “will enhance our ability to engage members where they are and in what they are interested – professional practice, social justice, ballot initiatives, economics, unionism or leadership development.” But NEA 360 isn’t just a revamped The union will use it for member data and management (replacing its current system of tracking), while users will be able to interact with each other and NEA, as well as access information from the cloud. One source described it to me as “NEA’s Facebook.”

That sounds ambitious, but NEA 360 has not lacked for resources or infrastructure. The union set up a limited liability corporation in March 2015 strictly to handle the project. Its original budget estimate to get it to launch was $24 million, but this does not include the costs affiliates will face to make their systems compatible with NEA 360 or training on the new platform. The union’s Member Benefits Corporation contributed $5 million to the effort last August. NEA contracted with and Abila to put NEA 360 together.

Having approved a $1 million expenditure from the contingency fund in May 2015, members of NEA’s board of directors were treated to a sneak preview of NEA 360 last September, as this article describes:


The clip may be hard to read, but it quotes NEA vice president Becky Pringle as saying, “This will allow us to understand who our members are, what drives them, what they are passionate about. More importantly, it will allow them to connect to each other. We will finally be able to leverage the true power of our three million members.”

The first phase of the launch was scheduled for Spring 2016 and was to be piloted by NEA state affiliates in Colorado, Delaware, Illinois, Indiana and Tennessee, with 12 more to be added during the 2016-17 school year.

Now comes word that although the first five affiliates have been working on implementation, the first phase will be delayed until Spring 2017, amid dissatisfaction with the technology and its capabilities. Some are complaining about the contractors, while others feel the timeline was just too optimistic.

It is impossible to ascertain from the available information exactly what has gone wrong. Introducing new technology is filled with pitfalls for anybody, but NEA is so committed to the hard sell it would be difficult to admit to major setbacks. For the time being, however, NEA’s Facebook won’t be showing its face anytime soon.

Recent Intercepts. EIA’s daily blog, Intercepts, covered these topics June 7-13:

How to Solve the Teacher Turnover Problem. Write an article about teacher pensions and watch how fast the problem goes away.

* An EIA for SEIU. Another reporter perfect for the Independent News Service.

* Police Blotter. Unique brand of union/hedge fund cooperation.

Washington Education Association’s Finances. Can’t escape those pension liabilities.

West Virginia Education Association’s Finances. Eighteen-year losing streak.

Short-Lived Victory of the Week. “The union representing the editorial staff at Gawker Media has announced that it has successfully bargained the first union contract at a digital media company – an innovative three-year deal that sets minimum pay levels and gives Gawker’s 99 union members a 3% across-the-board raise each year.” – Steven Greenhouse in the February 29 edition of The Guardian.

“In the wake of its recent legal defeat at the hands of a billionaire-backed former pro wrestler, beleaguered news company Gawker Media on Friday filed for bankruptcy protection in New York, listing the recent $130-million judgment against it as by far its biggest liability.” – from the June 10 Los Angeles Times.

NEA Expects 1% Boost in Membership, Will Spend 2% More

June 6, 2016

NEA Expects 1% Boost in Membership, Will Spend 2% More. The National Education Association drafted a $365 million budget for the 2016-17 school year, representing an increase of $7.6 million. The union expects an increase of 24,000 full-time teacher members and 4,000 education support employee members.

I do expect overall NEA membership will increase, though its reporting of numbers in the past has been – shall we say – inflationary. Still, there is reason to believe teachers’ unions and school districts both yearn for a return to the years of freehanded hiring – despite the lessons of Vermont, which is going through a divisive district consolidation plan because “We have too many adults for the number of kids we have.”

Until we can cobble together the state-by-state numbers, it remains to be seen whether increases will be limited to the large, collective bargaining states.

NEA has also made an overt commitment to something we have always believed to be true. Every union program and project, including its efforts to influence the implementation of the Every Student Succeeds Act, will be tied to its priority of recruiting new members and “engaging” the ones who already belong. That’s its prerogative, but other stakeholders involved in the discussion who don’t take this into account will find themselves continually outmaneuvered by NEA.

Recent Intercepts. EIA’s daily blog, Intercepts, covered these topics June 1-6:

Exclusive: CTA Pledges $25 Million to Tax Initiative. You can’t collect $36 per year per member and not spend it on something.

* Is Your School Board Signing Contracts Without Reading Them? Commitment before analysis.

It Can Always Be Worse. Maintaining some perspective about America’s teachers’ unions.

Virginia Education Association’s Finances. Cutting labor costs paid off.

Quote of the Week. “ESSA is 1,000 pages of ambiguity.” – Shelly Moore Krajacic, member of the National Education Association Executive Committee and head of the union’s Every Student Succeeds Act implementation task force, speaking to the NEA board of directors in April, and perhaps explaining why the union is so supportive of the new law.

What Has NEA Done Since Last Year? It Got Engaged!

May 31, 2016

What Has NEA Done Since Last Year? It Got Engaged! The lion’s share of time at the National Education Association’s four-day Representative Assembly (RA) each year is spent debating and voting on new business items (NBIs). These are proposals brought to the floor by groups of delegates and constitute action items which, ostensibly, can be completed by the time of the next RA.

However, much more attention is paid to passing NBIs than to discovering what action was taken. NEA issues to delegates a report on NBI implementation, and the 2016 version reveals not only what the union was up to, but the existence of its new favorite communications word: engagement. The 36-page document contains 57 instances of “engagement” – with members, staffers, community partners, students, school districts and Congress. There was digital engagement and engagement in conjunction with “quality listening.”

Much of this engagement was related to last year’s NBI to address institutional racism. The union will launch a web site – – designed for activists to support social and racial justice causes, and will beef up its advocacy for community schools – that is, schools that also act as social services centers – beginning with projects in Colorado, Ohio, California, New Mexico, Florida, Maryland and New Jersey.

NEA also developed a proposed policy statement on the “school-to-prison pipeline” that it hopes will address the issue of channeling students to the criminal justice system for disciplinary infractions that take place on school grounds. The statement will be debated and voted upon by the delegates at the 2016 RA in Washington, DC.

Another NBI called on NEA to support efforts to remove the Confederate battle flag from public schools and public spaces. In response, NEA drafted model legislation and a model school board resolution, but admitted that “very few states or local school boards had introduced bills or resolutions calling for the removal of the Confederate battle flag from public spaces and/or public schools.”

Many other NBIs were completed with the publication of articles on various NEA media outlets, the providing of guidance to state affiliates, or other similar actions taken in the normal course of business.

The endorsement of Hillary Clinton for the Democratic presidential nomination last October caused some internal turmoil for NEA, particularly since delegates had approved NBI 79, which called on the union to “actively engage in conversation and outreach on the NEA endorsement process with all 2016 Presidential campaigns prior to the consideration of a primary recommendation.” NEA concluded that it met the requirements of the NBI before endorsing Clinton, by engaging all candidates through “social media, patch-through phone calls and town halls.” The union also sent questionnaires to 25 candidates, ultimately choosing Clinton, Sanders and O’Malley for interviews. NEA also hired a Republican consultant to advise GOP candidates on the process, but they ultimately remained previously engaged.

A few other items of note:

* NEA will eliminate the requirement for delegates to present a photo ID before voting secret ballots at the RA. The determination was made that this internal practice was inconsistent with the union’s external opposition to voter ID laws. However, delegates will still have to present their credentials to receive a ballot.

* NEA has 45,000 members who hold office in the union, from president down to school site representatives and shop stewards. This is a substantial number of people, but they constitute only 1.5 percent of the total membership. It’s important to remember that these are the people who formulate union policies, make decisions on political expenditures and endorsements, and determine who is labeled friend, enemy or neutral. Of all union activities, only those involved with approving a collective bargaining agreement or a decision to strike involve the entire rank-and-file.

* NEA reports that “hundreds of new members have joined the NEA from charter school organizing” since last year, though it fails to provide a precise number, or how much it spent to produce that result.

* NEA states its organizing programs now focus on education and social issues, and “have pivoted away from selling insurance and a heavy focus on benefits.”

Recent Intercepts. EIA’s daily blog, Intercepts, covered these topics May 24-31:

* Union’s “Fight For $15” Organizers Are, Of Course, Non-Union. How to scab yourself.

* NYC Union Election Provides Something New and More of the Same. Landslide victory for the Don’t Give a Crap Caucus.

Time for Another Episode of “What the Hell Just Happened in Seattle?” Too much decaf?

* Utah Education Association’s Finances. Plus, the Utah School Employees Association learns the benefits (?) of NEA affiliation.

Vermont NEA’s Finances. Life is good in Bernieland.

Unsurprising Headline of the Week. “ESSA honeymoon over?” – May 27 Politico.

Quote of the Week. “Since 2010, [Diane] Ravitch has built a network of autograph seekers and blogmates who are sated by her compliments and water-logged rhetoric of wishful thinking, and she has consolidated her position as the voice for the anti-reformy movement. Most importantly, however, she has earned a position as chief propagandist for corporate unionism, while working both sides of the aisle of the big business political jet.” – Jim Horn, on his blog Schools Matter.

Put a Stake in Stakeholders

May 23, 2016

Put a Stake in Stakeholders. And so it begins.

I know I do too much self-referencing, but indulge me this time by going back to last December and a post headlined “I’m the Party Pooper” about the Every Student Succeeds Act (ESSA):

It will likely pass the Senate by a wide bipartisan margin (as did NCLB) and be signed into law with the President and leaders of both parties congratulating each other on a job well done.

The honeymoon period will last for a time, and then we’ll hear the first murmurings when the regulations are written. Then will come the sporadic anecdotes of unintended consequences. Supporters of the law will lay the blame for these problems on faulty implementation.

Last Wednesday, the U.S. Senate Health, Education, Labor and Pensions (HELP) Committee held a hearing titled “ESSA Implementation: Perspectives from Education Stakeholders.” Seven people testified: one state schools superintendent, one district superintendent, two national union presidents, one academic, one advocate for students with disabilities, and one advocate for Latino rights.

Some of these stakeholders, particularly the two union presidents, are highly uncomfortable with U.S. Department of Education regulations regarding school funding equity within districts. Thus we are treated to AFT president Randi Weingarten telling the committee things like “We don’t want a teacher’s salary and benefits to keep him or her from getting hired, just like we don’t want a teacher’s salary and benefits to force him or her to be transferred,” and “We cannot equalize spending without creating winners and losers; it will result in some schools having to give up resources, services or staff in order for others to gain.” She even used the magic term “unintended consequences.”

Chad Aldeman and Erika Sanzi each called out the union presidents for being completely committed to funding equity, as long as it does not impact collective bargaining provisions. They were correct to do so, but I prefer to focus on this whole question of “stakeholders.”

We are supposed to believe that the word is a generic term for all those affected by education policy, but the lineup before the HELP Committee reveals their true identity: people who earn their livings from the public school system and, to a lesser extent, parents – provided they are organized into large groups.

NEA president Lily Eskelsen Garcia took the title of the hearing to heart, referring to stakeholders nine times in her short testimony. She wants them to “participate meaningfully” in state and district-level decisions, to “advocate for change,” to provide input into accountability systems, to “have a seat at the table” and to “stand up, speak out, and advocate for their students.” She often names teachers and educators as stakeholders, and sometimes parents, but never identifies who these other stakeholders might be.

When pressed, the real education stakeholders would also name civil rights groups as part of their fraternity, but never homeowners, retirees, the childless, small business owners, entrepreneurs, or chambers of commerce. Corporations and the wealthy, of course, are never considered stakeholders, though they are most often expected to act as the source of funding for stakeholders.

Corporations and the wealthy, however, have armies of attorneys, accountants and lobbyists to protect their interests. The rest of the community does not. When the music stops, who is left without a chair at the table?

Recent Intercepts. EIA’s daily blog, Intercepts, covered these topics May 17-23:

* Union Exposes Vast Right-Wing, Moderate & Center-Left Conspiracy. Even if you’re with us, you’re against us.

* How Green Is My SuperPAC? Some of our best friends are hedge fund managers.

AFT Gets Charter Union in Cleveland, Loses One in New Orleans. Guess which one got national media coverage.

* Hillary to Attend NEA Convention; How Will That Go? Friendly confines?

Texas State Teachers Association’s Finances. Texas-sized debt.

Scheduling Note. Next week’s bulletin will appear on Tuesday, May 31.

Quote of the Week. “As we continue to make cuts in vital services, corporations in Oregon continue to pay the lowest corporate tax rate in the nation. It’s not fair and that’s why we’re doing it today.” – Hanna Vaandering, president of the Oregon Education Association, announcing that a coalition of public employee unions has submitted signatures to place the largest corporate tax hike in state history on the ballot. (May 22 Associated Press)

OEA and the other members of the coalition are tax-exempt organizations.

Madeloni Wins, Gets $9.2 Million to Fight Charters

May 16, 2016

Madeloni Wins, Gets $9.2 Million to Fight Charters. Barbara Madeloni was reelected president of the Massachusetts Teachers Association on Saturday. In keeping with her nebulous employment status, her margin of victory was either great or small, depending on your perspective.

Madeloni received 805 votes, widely outdistancing Janet Anderson’s 479 and Tim Sullivan’s 291. However, both Anderson and Sullivan were anti-Madeloni candidates, so she cleared the majority threshold and avoided a runoff by only 35 votes.

That was crucial, and the vice presidential results show why. On the first ballot, Madeloni’s running mate, Merrie Najimy, received 703 votes, while opponents Eric Champy and Michael Shannon received 613 and 249 votes, respectively. This forced a runoff, with Shannon throwing his support behind Champy.

Inexplicably, 354 delegates failed to cast ballots in the runoff, which Champy won, 629 to 595.

The upshot is that Madeloni remains president, with an opponent as vice president, and without majority support on the union’s executive committee and board of directors. This will make for some interesting dynamics going forward, because the MTA delegates also approved a $9.2 million expenditure of dues to oppose a proposed ballot initiative to lift the cap on the number of charter schools in the state.

“This is going to be the definition of a grass-roots movement,” Madeloni told the Boston Globe.

Recent Intercepts. EIA’s daily blog, Intercepts, covered these topics May 10-16:

* How Hedge Fund Billionaires Profit. Identifying the greedy.

* Bounced by Both NEAs! Michael Butera reemerges, only to disappear again.

CTA Takes Over Lynwood Teachers Association. “Democratic procedures” not being followed?

* Written in Stone. Writing about teachers’ unions while on pain meds is the only way to do it.

Tennessee Education Association’s Finances. Heading to new (old) digs.

Quote of the Week. “We feel it’s a parent’s right to choose.” – Becky Pringle, vice president of the National Education Association, explaining the union’s position on opting-out of standardized testing. What else did you think she was talking about? (May 9 Frederick News-Post)

NEA Sends $1.5 Million to Fight Opportunity District Initiative in Georgia

May 9, 2016

NEA Sends $1.5 Million to Fight Opportunity District Initiative in Georgia. The National Education Association pledged up to $1.5 million to the Georgia Association of Educators (GAE) to fight Gov. Nathan Deal’s proposal to establish an “Opportunity School District” for “chronically failing public schools.” The measure passed the Georgia legislature and must now go before the voters for approval in November.

GAE is bitterly opposed to the idea and is devoting its own resources to the battle. However, the state affiliate is extremely weak both in membership and money. It was inevitable that NEA would ride to the rescue. Nor is Georgia its only destination.

NEA will also send $2 million to the Oregon Education Association to combat two proposed initiatives regarding public sector collective bargaining in the state. Initiative Petition 62 would essentially do away with the state’s agency fee laws, while Initiative Petition 69 would eliminate exclusive representation for those who don’t want to represented by the incumbent union. Both measures are still in the midst of the certification process.

While those two efforts are to defeat others’ proposals, NEA will support a tax increase measure sponsored by the Maine Education Association. The national union will send $500,000 to MEA to assist in passing a ballot initiative that would impose a 3% surcharge on households with income greater than $200,000.

These grants might seem like a large layout of cash from NEA at one time, but the national union’s Ballot Measure/Legislative Crises Fund remains flush with $58 million even after these contributions are completed.

Recent Intercepts. EIA’s daily blog, Intercepts, covered these topics May 3-9:

* Anatomy of an NEA Factoid. NEA’s attempts to manipulate press coverage of charters don’t stand up to scrutiny.

* Union Members: Pivotal or Pivoting? Unions can only lure back Sanders supporters by talking about Trump.

UTLA Aims to Become Dual NEA/AFT Affiliate. No 50-50 split.

* South Carolina Education Association’s Finances. NEA’s weakest state affiliate.

NEA Rhode Island’s Finances. No discernible problems.

Quote of the Week #1. “I am aware that Shelly Silver has been convicted of corruption-related offenses. However, the programs described above are just a few of the many educational programs he successfully initiated, supported and negotiated. I ask that, when sentencing him, Your Honor take into account his good works in fighting for and promoting education throughout the state.” – Randi Weingarten, president of the American Federation of Teachers, in a March 14 letter to U.S. district court Judge Valerie Caproni on behalf of former New York State Assembly Speaker Sheldon Silver. (April 21 The Journal News)

Quote of the Week #2. “I hope the sentence I impose on you will make other politicians think twice, until their better angels take over. Or, if there are no better angels, perhaps the fear of living out one’s golden years in an orange jumpsuit will keep them on the straight and narrow.” – Judge Caproni, while sentencing Silver to 12 years in prison, a $1.75 million fine, and $5 million in restitution. (May 3 The Daily Beast)

Declassified Document Drop Day

May 2, 2016

Declassified Document Drop Day. Over time I accumulate teacher union documents, but without a story to hang them on they start to pile up. So I thought I would post some of the more interesting ones on EIA’s Declassified page.

* NEA’s “Beat Privatization” toolkit. This “step-by-step crisis action plan” is designed to help local union activists defeat efforts by school districts to privatize support services. They are advised not to argue about cost savings and insist “You can’t get the same service for less!”

There are other interesting economic arguments like the “threat of competition ends when the contract is signed” and “private-sector employers have a long history of bribery, kickbacks, and payoffs.”

* California Teachers Association’s talking points for ballot initiative to extend Proposition 30. The union seeks to extend the temporary income tax hike created by Proposition 30. The arguments are familiar, except for the inclusion of the expiration date, which is 2030. It is a curious strategy to tout the temporary nature of a tax at the same time you are urging it be extended.

* Jefferson County Education Association (CO) presentation of its 2015 school board recall strategy. I previously posted a story about this JCEA workshop at the NEA leadership summit in Dallas. Read that for the background and then peruse this PowerPoint slideshow, in which the union admits “our goal was to ‘awaken’ and move the community to take this action.”

* NEA’s “member assessment scale” (slide #1 and slide #2). Who said teachers’ unions don’t like assessments of their members? Here local union representatives are trained to evaluate their interactions with individual members by how they “engage constructively on value of the union” and are “willing to receive and consider in good faith information provided about the union.”

Recent Intercepts. EIA’s daily blog, Intercepts, covered these topics April 26-May 2:

* Pearson Pops AFT’s Bubble. Someday AFT members will be able to vote with their money and their feet, too.

* No Raise in 8 Years, North Carolina Union Staff Claims. NCAE employees say they have done all they can to “stop/slow the bleeding of the association.”

Pennsylvania State Education Association’s Finances. Cutting costs.

* Oregon Education Association’s Finances. New staff contract should settle things down.

Oklahoma Education Association’s Finances. Dwindling.

Quote of the Week #1. “We have no interest in hurting the company. We’re not anti-Pearson and we understand that Pearson is a for-profit company.” – Randi Weingarten, president of the American Federation of Teachers, after introducing a resolution calling on Pearson to review its policies on testing and private schools. (April 29 Politico)

Quote of the Week #2. “When you raise questions that go right to the heart of a company’s business model, as we did with our shareholder resolution today, you expect to lose the first time.” – Randi Weingarten, president of the American Federation of Teachers, after the resolution received less than 2.5% shareholder support. (April 29 AFT press release)

The Grassroots Grow From The Top Down

April 25, 2016

The Grassroots Grow From The Top Down. If ever a term has been abused in modern America, it is “grassroots.” In the political context, it is supposed to mean a movement or advocacy that originates at the local level. The Wikipedia entry states, “Grassroots movements are associated with bottom-up, rather than top-down decision making, and are sometimes considered more natural or spontaneous than more traditional power structures.”

It was with this in mind that I read the California Teachers Association’s remarkable description of its “Grassroots Lobbying Program.” Who knew that being a grassroots activist required filling out an application form, then getting direction from a state organization as to whom you would lobby, what you would lobby about, and when, where and how you would do it?

Evidently this is practiced in other NEA state affiliates, but the breakdown in California is the first I’ve seen. CTA’s board approves the statewide lobbying plan, and regional divisions of the union create regional plans based on it. Then the state Governmental Relations team identifies legislators, manages the required information, trains the lobbyists and coordinates lobbying days.

The plans the regional committees create must be “in accordance with the Grassroots Lobbying Program and CTA and NEA policy positions.” Grassroots lobbyist teams are assigned to specific legislators and are designated individually as either “activists,” “advocates” or “organizers.” They have to “know the political landscape” and practice “message discipline.” They also have to agree to a two-year commitment.

These committees have to develop a selection and removal process for grassroots lobbyists. (This makes me wonder if a dismissed lobbyist has due process protections, a right to appeal and access to an attorney.) Committee members are advised to “consider selecting grassroots lobbyists who are constituents and/or have a professional/personal relationship with the legislator.”

CTA provides a handy flow chart so you can see how it all works.


For a grassroots operation, the arrows point in a mostly southerly direction.

All advocacy groups want substantial grassroots activism, but what if those activists aren’t content to be pawns, and instead want to be kings and queens? A program designed to influence public policy decision-making doesn’t seem to want to surrender control over internal union decision-making.

Recent Intercepts. EIA’s daily blog, Intercepts, covered these topics April 19-25:

* Only Terrorists Are Terrorists. Sorry, cutting budgets is not the same as cutting off heads.

* The Comedy of Terrors. “This is the kind of politics that we should all reject.” Unless people I agree with do it. Then it’s OK.

Story Most Likely To Be Ignored. Shortage.

* Teachers Unions Still Underperform in Clinton’s Biggest Victory. Others will have a seat at that proverbial table.

Ohio Education Association’s Finances. Former employees cost a lot.

Quote of the Week. “CTA coordinated charter school teacher blitzes in Oakland, San Diego and Sacramento where educators visited the homes of charter members and talked to them about the importance of belonging to a union. All total they knocked on about 400 doors and completed 60 visits.” – Joe Nunez, executive director of the California Teachers Association, addressing members of the union’s State Council on April 10.

Teachers’ Unions Should Mind Their Business

April 18, 2016

Teachers’ Unions Should Mind Their Business. The two national teachers’ unions, their state affiliates and their local units are well-known for their activities regarding public policy, tax revenues and collective bargaining. They are tax-exempt organizations, similar to charities, think tanks and non-profit groups, but they are also very big businesses. While it is impossible to generate comprehensive data, the combined annual revenues of teachers’ unions at all levels easily exceed $2 billion.

The business side of teacher unions is largely unexamined. Information for outsiders is limited to public disclosures required of all tax-exempt organizations, and additional details for those unions that are subject to the federal Landrum-Griffin Act. Even for insiders, information is difficult to come by due to restricted distribution. Secrecy is enhanced by the lack of competition between teachers’ unions. Except in rare instances, unions aren’t checking out each other’s dirty laundry.

Though unique in many ways, teachers’ unions are still financial entities, with income and expenditures, employees, buildings and liabilities to manage. So it shouldn’t be surprising to discover they run into situations familiar to big businesses in the private sector – not to mention their opposite number in the public sector, school districts.

Here are a few examples of recent events within both teachers’ unions. While they might overlap with the unions’ policy agenda, they are primarily business problems that NEA and AFT are no more adept at handling than the corporations they routinely criticize.

* Current and former employees of the California Teachers Association have their defined benefit pension plan managed by a union trust. The trust’s financial health is overseen by the federal Pension Benefit Guaranty Corporation. The PBGC rates each pension plan green, yellow or red. Green means the plan has on hand at least 80% of the funds necessary to cover its liabilities. Yellow means the plan requires monitoring, and red means the plan is less than 80% funded and requires corrective action. CTA retired staff have been warned that the plan will likely enter the red zone this year.

Without getting lost in pension limbo, let’s just say that CTA will either have to increase revenues to its pension fund, or reduce benefits for future recipients. If this sounds familiar, it’s because it is the same situation faced by municipal and state governments across the country.

* Current and former employees of NEA’s national headquarters, along with about 25 state affiliates, have their pension managed by a different union trust. It doesn’t have a red zone problem, but it does have a contractual one. Back in 2007, NEA signed a memorandum of understanding with the staff to bring its funding of retirement liabilities up to 100% by 2021. According to the staff union, that deadline is in jeopardy because of “lower than projected return on investments; longer life spans of Plan participants; a reduction in the ratio of active to retired participants; and lower than anticipated salary increases.” In other words, all of the predictions NEA made about the future were wrong.

Now NEA wants to renegotiate that MOU – exactly the sort of thing one would expect a corporation with a burdensome deal to do. And because NEA employees and retirees are union through-and-through, they are having none of it.

* Everyone knows the troubles the Wisconsin Education Association Council has had the past five years. Now the WEA Trust, the union-affiliated health coverage provider, reached a settlement of a lawsuit brought by 141 school districts. The trust will pay $7.5 million of federal reimbursement money the districts claimed the trust had improperly kept for itself. Other districts were originally involved in the suit, but apparently reached separate, undisclosed agreements with the trust.

The trust was founded to be a not-for-profit alternative to corporate insurance companies, which might do things like, I don’t know, retain federal reimbursement money instead of returning it to school districts.

* The American Federation of Teachers has received a lot of press play for using “its clout as a shareholder” to alter the direction of Pearson, Inc. and end its “support of high-stakes testing.” A lot of people were surprised to learn that teachers’ unions were making money from Pearson stock, but there is more irony present than just that.

AFT believes that the simple holding of Pearson shares entitles it to participate in corporate decision-making, even to the point of swaying the opinion of the company’s officers. Yet the union denies the same right to its agency fee-payers, who cannot vote for union officers or even whether to ratify or reject the collective bargaining agreements their fees are supposedly paying for.

AFT and its alliance of U.S. and British unions hold 193,000 voting shares of Pearson stock. Politico helpfully provides the context: That’s out of “roughly 821 million total.” So the unions hold 0.02% of the voting shares.

How does AFT routinely react to something that 0.02% of its members want? Almost 5,700 members – or 0.38% – want AFT to withdraw its endorsement of Hillary Clinton. AFT ignored them, and Pearson will ignore AFT.

Which brings us to: Who are those union people who decided to invest in Pearson, and why? At what meetings were the decisions authorized and how much member input was solicited? What price was paid for the shares, and were they bought at a time when the unions were badmouthing the company in public and in the press? Maybe someday AFT’s corporate practices will be as transparent as Pearson’s.

“Corporation” may have a specific definition in law, but whether one sells gasoline, soft drinks, insurance or teacher representation, we should be equally skeptical of their motives and practices.

Recent Intercepts. EIA’s daily blog, Intercepts, covered these topics April 12-18:

* Teachers: This Is Why You Don’t Get More Media Love. Everything is relative.

NEA Affiliate Executive Directors Under Pressure. The storm clouds dissipate, but there’s a flood in the basement.

* Signature-Gathering Blitz Needed to Qualify Tax Hike Extension for CA Ballot. Get right on it, Ben Dover and Seymour Butz.

North Dakota United’s Finances. Subsidized by two parent affiliates.

Quote of the Week. “There are issues of nepotism and teachers are maxed out and stressed and feel that the union doesn’t always have their back. We’re told that we should fear retaliation, but that’s not why we pay dues. We pay dues to not fear retaliation.” – Melissa Cimini, candidate for the presidency of the Providence Teachers Union. (April 13 GoLocalProv News)

Schrödinger’s Union President

April 11, 2016

Schrödinger’s Union President. Covering teachers’ unions isn’t rocket science, but if the controversy surrounding Massachusetts Teachers Association president Barbara Madeloni is any indication, it might resemble quantum theory. Today’s thought experiment is whether Madeloni, in the manner of Schrödinger’s cat, can simultaneously be employed, and not employed, by the University of Massachusetts at Amherst.

Two weeks ago, EIA reported on Madeloni’s unusual agreement with the university, which allowed her not only to remain a member of MTA, but run for – and be elected to – the presidency of the union. Now we have copies of both the original settlement, dated January 3, 2013, and the amended settlement, dated May 21, 2014, two weeks after Madeloni’s election. You can read both complete documents through links on EIA’s Declassified page.

For those new to the drama, Madeloni made her reputation leading resistance to edTPA, a teacher candidate assessment with all the proper education establishment and teacher union pedigree one might want. Alas, they farmed out the scoring to Pearson, Inc., which was a bridge too far for Madeloni and others who share her views.

Her May 2012 protest caught the eye of Michael Winerip at the New York Times, who wrote about it. Three weeks later, UMass Amherst notified Madeloni her contract would not be renewed when it expired on August 31, 2013. At the very least, the timing of this move was suspect, and Madeloni’s union local filed a grievance on her behalf.

Madeloni characterized the university’s arguments at her grievance hearing as “lies and distortions,” but soon after UMass Amherst offered her a settlement. In a January 21, 2013 Facebook post to her supporters, Madeloni announced that she had signed the settlement, which she saw “as a way for the University to fund my activism while I look for other work.” She wrote that she took the deal because “a fight to the finish through the union would leave me with a remedy of returning to a job, if it existed, that, because of a toxic and bullying workplace, I would not want.”

The original settlement placed Madeloni on a paid leave of absence between May 31 and August 31, 2013, after which she would receive a $74,623.90 payment and a year’s unpaid leave of absence.

Madeloni ran for the presidency of the Massachusetts Teachers Association and was elected on May 10, 2014. Eleven days later she entered into an amended agreement with UMass Amherst extending her unpaid leave until August 31, 2016.

NEA state affiliate presidents routinely take long leaves of absence from their teaching jobs, but the agreements between Madeloni and UMass Amherst are unique in my experience. The documents simultaneously set the terms of their relationship and end it. On the one hand, the amended settlement clearly states that her employment shall terminate August 31, 2016 and that Madeloni is to characterize herself as “a faculty member on leave from the University without pay.”

On the other hand, Madeloni’s employment is unlike any other employment you have ever heard of – particularly unionized employment. Here are some relevant provisions:

* Madeloni agreed to vacate her office on May 31, 2013, and “no office space shall be provided to her beyond that date.”

* The original agreement immediately terminates Madeloni’s university employment as soon as she notifies UMass Amherst that she accepted “paid employment elsewhere.” Only the amended agreement made an exception for her employment as MTA president.

* The university agreed not to contest any claim Madeloni might make for state unemployment benefits and pledged to report her status as “laid off or hours reduced by employer.”

* Should Madeloni leave the MTA presidency, her employment with UMass Amherst would end on the same date.

* Madeloni was transferred from the School of Education to the Labor Studies Program, a place she has never worked and, because of the previous provision, she never will.

* If the Massachusetts Group Insurance Commission discontinues state support for Madeloni’s insurance coverage, she – not the university – is responsible for funding the full cost of her coverage.

* Madeloni has no faculty duties, no office and cannot receive administrative support. She is also banned from participating in faculty service or governance.

* Madeloni and her heirs unconditionally release the university from suits or claims under a host of state and federal laws such as the Age Discrimination in Employment Act, the Americans with Disabilities Act, the Massachusetts Civil Rights Act, and other claims “of any nature whatsoever.”

* Madeloni and the union agree not to undertake any further grievances against the university, even on matters arising after the date of the agreement.

* Finally, one provision states, “Madeloni acknowledges that she has received consideration under this Agreement to which she would not otherwise be entitled.”

In essence, Madeloni surrendered all the rights of a UMass employee – salary, partially subsidized benefits, staff support, collaboration with colleagues, collectively bargained transfer and grievance procedures, and claims under civil rights law against future events – in order to maintain her job status in a “toxic and bullying workplace.” I thought unions were created to prevent all that.

Madeloni’s existence in two mutually exclusive states was possible only because – like Schrödinger’s cat – it was not observed. Now that the box is open, only one can be true. The minutiae of contract law may greatly affect education policy in Massachusetts one way or the other.

Recent Intercepts. EIA’s daily blog, Intercepts, covered these topics April 5-11:

* Sanders Win in Wisconsin: Sign of Union Strength or Union Weakness? Galvanized, again.

“Hey! We Are Nominee.” The lorem ipsum candidate.

* I Have An Alibi. Second-story job.

New York State United Teachers’ Finances. Too big to fail.

North Carolina Association of Educators’ Finances. Deducted.

Quote of the Week. “As a coalition, we need to gather 900,000 signatures to get our measure on the ballot. We are about 60 percent there, and we only have about three more weeks.” – Eric Heins, president of the California Teachers Association, updating union activists on the status of a ballot initiative to extend the state’s temporary income tax hikes until 2030. (April 9 speech to CTA State Council)

One NEA Message, Wrapped in Many Disguises

April 4, 2016

One NEA Message, Wrapped in Many Disguises. You would think by now the National Education Association would know that putting something like this at the start of a PowerPoint presentation…


…is just catnip to someone like me. But there’s no need for anyone to be alarmed because there isn’t much in this Top Secret training you haven’t seen in the EIA Communiqué before.

It is part of a workshop presented at NEA’s National Leadership Summit in Dallas at the end of February by senior communications specialist René Carter, designed to “help us to reach, teach and inspire the public and parents to support public education and our association.” It is titled, “Many Voices, One NEA Message.” I posted the entire PowerPoint presentation on the EIA web site and you can access it as well through the EIA Declassified page.

Here are a few of NEA’s tactics and not-so-secret secrets:

* “The question isn’t so much about what you want to say to them… rather, ask what do you want them to do? What do you want them to believe?”

* An acknowledgment that it has messages for internal audiences and external audiences, something I explored in an Education Next article in Winter 2015.

* The NEA “message triangle,” which made its appearance in a March 17, 2015 Intercepts post.

* The words “zip code” appear 8 times in a mere 21 PowerPoint slides, the use of which we discussed in a March 2, 2016 Intercepts post. It is strange that a workshop on communications strategy for the union should include a message frame with which the staunchest school choice supporter could agree: “The chances your child has for success should not depend on winning a charter lottery, affording private school, or living in the right zip code.”

* The “How to frame the conversation” slide defines “the problem” as too much testing, large class sizes and lack of funding. The next few slides show there isn’t much doubt about where the emphasis lies. Activists should introduce themselves to “pursuable allies to support more school funding.” Then the union’s issues are categorized within the three sides of the message triangle. The first side includes “resources,” the second side includes “salary and benefits” and the third side includes “salary.” The next slide explains how to talk about school funding.

* There is something new here: “Let’s exorcise NEA of ineffective language!” One example given of ineffective language is the term “toxic testing,” which was being used non-stop by NEA’s officers since its introduction at the 2014 convention. The new preferred formulation is “Testing takes students’ valuable time for learning.” Maybe NEA shouldn’t be keeping its communication strategy so secret. The Connecticut Education Association and the Pennsylvania State Education Association still feature “toxic testing” prominently on their home pages.

* Finally, the presentation reiterates the findings of Celinda Lake’s “cognitive linguistic analysis” of NEA’s messaging, first uncovered by The Daily Beastin which phrases like “providing basic skills” are to be replaced with “inspiring natural curiosity.”

I don’t know how valuable this is to NEA’s opponents, but NEA thinks it is important. That means one of two things: 1) I’m missing its significance; or 2) there are people at NEA headquarters who ought to think a little more about how to listen to messages, rather than how to deliver them.

Recent Intercepts. EIA’s daily blog, Intercepts, covered these topics March 29-April 4:

* West Virginia Support Employees Leave AFT. And then the raids came.

Meeting on Madeloni’s Job Status Called Off. I’ll have more on this soon.

* Nine Words. But only eight Justices.

New Jersey Education Association’s Finances. Staff post-retirement liabilities a constant worry.

NEA New Mexico’s Finances. Flush, as long as those national NEA checks keep coming.

Corporate Profit Margin Quote of the Week. “A good rule of thumb for evaluating whether an investment is a bad one is whether the person selling it will receive credit for the transaction in a sales contest. For example, consider the compensation section of the prospectus for the National Education Association Valuebuilder, a 403(b) structured as a variable annuity. In addition to ordinary commissions and noncash compensation, broker-dealers selling this product can be compensated with trail commissions or persistency payments, preferred status fees that pay ‘to obtain preferred treatment’ in the broker-dealers’ marketing programs, one-time bonus payments for participation in sales promotions, periodic bonus payments based on average 403(b) contract value for the year, reimbursement for attending sale conferences and for offering sales seminars or ‘similar prospecting activities.’ Nowhere in that agreement is there compensation for providing service or advice, getting to know a client’s goals or risk tolerance.” – Gary Brooks, registered investment adviser. (April 3 Tacoma News Tribune)

Unemployed Person Runs the Massachusetts Teachers Association

March 28, 2016

Unemployed Person Runs the Massachusetts Teachers Association. Barbara Madeloni, the president of the Massachusetts Teachers Association, largely made her reputation on her fight against her former employer, the University of Massachusetts at Amherst, for its use of edTPA, the teacher performance assessment with a high level of union buy-in.

UMass Amherst administrators did not renew Madeloni’s contract after August 2013, which she claimed was retaliation for her stance. Now, thanks to the Boston Globe, we learn that a private deal with those administrators kept her on the employee roster long after she stopped doing any work for them.

Before Madeloni’s contract expired, she and the university reached a settlement of their dispute. Madeloni received a one-time payment of nearly $75,000 and one year of unpaid leave. This enabled her to retain her status as an active member while she ran for the presidency of MTA. After her election, she asked administrators at UMass Amherst to extend her unpaid leave status for two more years, and they complied, as a “courtesy” to MTA.

Madeloni is currently running for reelection, but UMass Amherst notified her they will not again renew her unpaid leave of absence. She has not performed any work for the university in 2 1/2 years, but the end of the agreement would also make her unemployed in the field of public education – both de facto and de jure – a requirement to hold the office of president of MTA.

Madeloni says “there is zero doubt – zero – about my eligibility to run and serve” because she technically will still be employed at the time of the election in May. If she loses her active status after being returned to office, she can serve out the rest of her term. She could also retire or find a new job in education and still be eligible.

If it were that easy, though, why didn’t Madeloni do it in August 2014, when her settlement with UMass Amherst expired? Why did UMass Amherst officials feel obligated to help her out, after she spent years excoriating them in public? There is also a question about how much – if anything – MTA’s other officers and representatives knew about the arrangement. After the Globe article appeared, a majority of the 12-member MTA Executive Committee voted to hold a special meeting on Wednesday to discuss the issue.

The reaction of Madeloni and her supporting caucus was swift and agitated. She claimed the story was leaked to the Globe by an opposition research firm hired to look into her past by some unnamed opponents. She called it an “underhanded attempt to influence the election” and a “dangerous distraction.”

Madeloni’s caucus sent an e-mail blast to its members with the subject heading “Are they trying to STEAL THE ELECTION?” suggesting the Executive Committee meeting “might be an attempt to be sure that the election is not left up to the members, but is instead settled by the inner circle of the inner circle, acting in secrecy.” A call was made to pack the meeting with Madeloni supporters.

To those of us outside the union, this might seem to be just your run-of-the-mill shenanigans, but there are serious public policy implications here for the state of Massachusetts. Earlier this year, Madeloni had pledged to spend $9.6 million to defeat any attempt to lift the cap on the number of charter schools in the state. But the union’s board of directors took some of the wind out of her sails, postponing the final decision until it could be authorized or not by the MTA delegate assembly on May 13-14. This is the same delegate assembly that will vote on the reelection of Madeloni.

The timing is also important. The delegates will apparently debate the charter school campaign on the afternoon of the 13th, but it isn’t clear if that will be followed by an immediate vote. The presidential election polls open on the morning of the 14th, with the results announced late in the day.

Oh, did I forget to mention that Madeloni’s opponent is her sitting vice president, Janet Anderson?

This is another front in the internal wars over the future philosophical direction of teachers’ unions. Which way will the lines on the map move in Massachusetts?

Recent Intercepts. EIA’s daily blog, Intercepts, covered these topics March 22-28:

* #DoYourJob. An impeccable source says it’s OK to reject a nomination to the U.S. Supreme Court based solely on ideology.

Teach For America Lays Off Staff, Usual Suspects Rejoice. The urge to resist is irresistible.

* Nebraska State Education Association’s Finances. Quietly stable.

Nevada State Education Association’s Finances. Who’s engaging in anti-union activity now?

NEA New Hampshire’s Finances. Clash between recession and payroll.

Quote of the Week. “We are following the constitution. If you cross the picket line you are considered a strikebreaker.” – Kristine Mayle, financial secretary of the Chicago Teachers Union, on how the rank-and-file should comply with the April 1 CTU walkout. (March 28 DNAinfo)

Can you be a strikebreaker if there is no strike? The CTU constitution gives strike authority to “a final, direct vote of the regular members,” which was not conducted for the April 1 action.

A member can be kicked out of the union (after a trial) for acts to “bring the Union into disrepute, or allegedly do the Union and the cause of union labor definite harm,” the penalty for which is to no longer have to pay CTU for activities unrelated to collective bargaining.

After Friedrichs, Will Unions Hit the Snooze Button?

March 21, 2016

After Friedrichs, Will Unions Hit the Snooze Button? On the pages of the Murphy Institute blog Allison Porter delivers the latest in a long history of wake-up calls that pro-labor professionals have issued on the state of unions. The spur this time is the likely reprieve from an adverse decision in the Friedrichs agency fee case. Ms. Porter is worried that unions will return to status quo operations and thinking. Since many of her observations seem like they could have appeared in the EIA Communiqué, I decided to put them in the EIA Communiqué.

What the fair share burning platform laid bare was an ugly truth: unions are out of touch with the overwhelming majority of their members. Union membership is seen as an obligation, a term of employment, and not a conscious act of joining and belonging to an organization. In spite of years of effort to shift the operating model, most unions still spend the majority of their time talking to 5% of their members who get in trouble or serve as shop stewards. Union staff see their role as doing things “for” members, and members are passive in the process.

…As preferable as they are, mandatory union fees are an anesthetic that dulls the demand for change. Without the economic incentive, there is less of an incentive to listen to what members who are disaffected think or feel. Union members elect their leaders and even the most visionary leader needs to hold the loyalty of his or her followers. So they tend to listen most to the complainers and the supporters, and let the other 90% alone. When there is no immediate negative consequence to being out of touch, the pressure to change feels theoretical and therefore moves slowly.

Welcome to the Dark Side, Ms. Porter. We have cookies.

Provider of services for fees or organizer of mass movements? Unions want the benefits of both roles but not the consequences. As Porter indicates, one problem common to both roles is how to deal with dissent. What if I don’t want your services? What if I don’t want to join your crusade? Telling me to make the best of it, as if I were a shanghaied sailor, may lead to acquiescence, but not to solidarity.

This goes beyond ideology. Sure, many conservatives are alienated from their unions, but you could add to their ranks with Sanders supporters, BAMN people, opt-out advocates, Common Core opponents, African-American members in Alabama and Memphis, charter school teachers, millennials… the list goes on and on.

You can’t accommodate everyone. But if you don’t allow the “unaccommodated” to go elsewhere, you get what the unions currently have: a lot of discontented members and a lot more apathetic ones.

For union officers to admit to these kinds of problems is tantamount to heresy. Porter noted that “Holding information tightly has been a cultural norm for most unions.” Don’t I know it.

Recent Intercepts. EIA’s daily blog, Intercepts, covered these topics March 15-21:

* For NEA/AFT, All’s Well If It Ends Well. As long as your team wins, does your individual performance matter?

Education Minnesota’s Finances. Doing well, but not so great with discretionary investments.

* Mississippi Association of Educators’ Finances. Total dependency.

Missouri NEA’s Finances. Middle of the country, middle of the pack.

(Montana) MEA-MFT’s Finances. Merger benefits.

Quote of the Week. “My fear is that ‘educated’ people from our own community are not using their positions to advance learning and liberation as much as they’re acting as agents of the state, attempting to keep us on an academic plantation that pays them, profits from us, and keeps us roughly in the same vulnerable state of exploitation that we have been in for years.” – Chris Stewart, director of outreach and external affairs for Education Post. (March 16 Citizen Ed)

Who Really Runs NEA? We May Find Out This Summer

March 14, 2016

Who Really Runs NEA? We May Find Out This Summer. The National Education Association is proud to tell us that its Representative Assembly (RA) “is the highest decision-making body within the over 3 million-member NEA. With over 8,000 delegates, the RA is also the world’s largest democratic deliberative body.”

But since there are already two inaccuracies in that statement – NEA doesn’t have over 3 million members anymore, and the last convention produced only 6,700 delegates – it is also possible that calling the RA “the highest decision-making body” might not be entirely correct. We will know for certain this July in Washington DC when the delegates meet and vote via secret ballot on Bylaw Amendment 1.

The measure would give the RA voting power over the national union’s dues level. It is currently set by a formula largely based on the national average annual salary of classroom teachers. The delegates vote on the NEA budget each year, but have no means to alter the amount of money NEA collects.

If the amendment is approved, NEA headquarters would set the dues level as it currently does, but a majority of the RA would have to concur. If it does not, “the assembly shall debate and determine the amount or percentage of dues increase, if any, for the following year.”

It is unclear whether the purpose of the proposed amendment is to control the automatic increases in national dues, or create a mechanism by which dues could be further increased beyond the prescribed levels. Regardless, the NEA board of directors voted to oppose the amendment.

This should surprise no one, since currently it is the board that approves the dues level each February, after which the NEA budget for the next school year is built and presented to the RA for a vote. If the amendment were to pass, NEA would have to build a provisional budget instead, then adjust afterward for whatever dues level the RA approved.

NEA doesn’t want to have to make financial decisions with unknown revenues, which is pretty funny because a large number of states and school systems do it all the time, entering into collective bargaining agreements with teachers’ unions without knowing exactly how they will pay for them.

But it isn’t the amount of money involved that makes this a potential watershed moment for NEA. It’s the possibility that the RA might actually become the highest decision-making body in NEA by holding the union’s wallet.

It has long been the union’s tradition to palliate the more controversial notions that come from the RA during their implementation. Calls to action turn into conference training sessions, or articles in NEA Today, or protest letters from the NEA president to the aggravating party. If that sounds unduly cynical, remember that last year the RA passed a measure to support efforts to remove the Confederate battle flag from public schools and spaces “in ways it finds appropriate and effective.” Yesterday’s New York Times gave us a sense of how that’s going.

Give the RA control over revenues and that would change fast. It would be an unprecedented power shift within the national union. It would create factions within the RA for more spending, for less spending, and for funds dedicated to specific projects. That’s why I think the delegates will chicken out.

The interest of the rank-and-file NEA member in the actions of the RA is extremely low. Most couldn’t name their RA representative or pick him/her out of a lineup. But when those actions include a vote on how high the dues will be, all of sudden those members might take an interest, and soon they might take much more of an interest in who goes to the RA to make that vote, and hold him/her accountable for it.

Who needs that drama when you can stick to debating Papa John’s, Coca Cola or Zagat? So we are probably going to be treated to the sight of the world’s largest democratic deliberative body deliberating and voting democratically not to assume responsibility for its own revenues. Home of the brave.

Recent Intercepts. EIA’s daily blog, Intercepts, covered these topics March 8-14:

* African-American Voters Doing For Hillary What Unions Cannot. What good did that early endorsement do?

Maine Education Association’s Finances. Slowly shrinking.

Maryland State Education Association’s Finances. The benefits of the Brezhnev Doctrine.

Massachusetts Teachers Association’s Finances. Loaded.

Michigan Education Association’s Finances. Wheels coming off.

Quote of the Week. “For the past few years, PSEA has made choices with respect to its political endorsements which are suspect. They are based on personal friendships between board members and certain political candidates that have not advanced the real interests of our state’s teachers or other members of PSEA.” – John Morganelli, Democratic candidate for Pennsylvania attorney general, after the Pennsylvania State Education Association endorsed his opponent. (March 8 Allentown Morning Call)

Feds Shutter NEA Employees Credit Union

March 7, 2016

Feds Shutter NEA Employees Credit Union. The National Credit Union Administration closed down the Education Associations Federal Credit Union (EAFCU), a credit union serving employees of NEA and its affiliates, after determining it was “insolvent and had no prospect for restoring viable operations.”

Established in 1954, the credit union was not owned or operated by NEA, but it was headquartered in the NEA building in Washington DC, was run by former NEA employees, had an NEA e-mail address, and served 665 NEA and affiliate employees, retirees and their families. Financial disclosure reports indicate NEA performed some business services for EAFCU, routinely receiving a total of $50,000 to $70,000 in cost recoveries from affiliates after disbursing similar amounts to EAFCU under the category “general overhead.” On average, NEA received $3,000 to $7,000 more than it paid out each year.

EAFCU has struggled for a number of years, first falling into the red in 2013. Nevertheless, EAFCU treasurer and former NEA employee Tomas Saucedo still tried to encourage NEA retirees to utilize the credit union. “EAFCU works for you – in a personal way that has your interest at heart – unlike other well known financial institutions of recent infamy. Stay with EAFCU. It’s a good thing.”

EAFCU’s financial situation deteriorated further, forcing it to seek a merger with larger credit unions. Unfortunately, preliminary talks with Educational Systems Federal Credit Union and the National Geographic Society’s credit union did not bear fruit.

It could not provide the basic services consumers expect these days, and the NCUA decided things were not going to get better. Just like banks, deposits in credit unions are insured by the federal government up to $250,000. Each EAFCU depositor will be made whole. EAFCU received a first-hand education about the failure of financial institutions, and taxpayers will help fund the lesson.

Recent Intercepts. EIA’s daily blog, Intercepts, covered these topics March 1-7:

* “The worst abuse of dues dollars imaginable.” Is the California Teachers Association really using private eyes to investigate its own employees?

Cracking the Zip Code. Cognitive linguistic analysis unleashed!

Kansas NEA’s Finances. Low membership, but low expenses.

Kentucky Education Association’s Finances. Well ahead of its peers.

Louisiana Association of Educators’ Finances. Boiled shrimp.

Quote of the Week #1. “I’ve had a very good relationship with both unions, with their leadership, and we’ve had really candid conversations, because we are going to have to take a look… You know what, I have told my friends at the top of both unions we’ve got to take a look at this, because it is one of the most common criticisms. We need to eliminate that criticism.” – Hillary Clinton, responding to the question “Do you think unions protect bad teachers?” (March 7 U.S. News & World Report)

Quote of the Week #2. “(Facebook), meet Theodore Olson, the epitome of a bad teacher. An example of a white supremacist teacher. Another indication that we need more teachers of color and more teachers who care about and will teach all kids. Its (sic) teachers like Theodore Olson who bring the reputation of the great teachers in our district down. If the (St. Paul Federation of Teachers) is protecting bad teachers like this one, who the is (sic) protecting our children???? We have to be the ones to protect our children, they are under attack from the SPFT.” – Rashad Turner of Black Lives Matter – St. Paul, claiming Facebook posts by teacher Theodore Olson about discipline problems in his classroom were racist. (March 7 Minnesota Public Radio)

Who Is the Institution?

February 29, 2016

Who Is the Institution? At the 2015 National Education Association Representative Assembly in Orlando, Florida, delegates unanimously approved New Business Item B, which committed the union to address and take action against institutional racism. NEA defined this as “the societal patterns and practices that have the net effect of imposing oppressive conditions and denying rights, opportunity, and equality based upon race.” That is, you don’t have to be a racist or have racist intentions to participate in actions that have disproportionately detrimental consequences for racial and ethnic minorities.

I didn’t write about it at the time because, well, what was there to say? NEA’s primary stated objective is to provide “great public schools for every student.” It has yet to achieve that noble but difficult goal, so taking on another seemed to be in the same vein.

Others weren’t silent. While supporting NBI B, they were flabbergasted that the very next day the delegates spent almost two hours in heated debate over NBI 11, which called on NEA to support efforts to remove the Confederate battle flag from public schools and public places.

Since then, NEA has incorporated institutional racism presentations and discussions at its conferences and board meetings. A large part of its Leadership Summit last weekend in Dallas was devoted to the topic. Hundreds of tweets were posted during those sessions, and they were virtually unanimous in their praise of the summit’s focus.

Part of NBI B calls on NEA to help “eradicate policies that perpetuate institutional racism in education.” Those policies are not defined, but one can wonder how NEA goes about determining what they are.

It is no secret that in recent years the racial composition of America’s public school student body has dramatically changed. In 1995, about 35 percent of public school students were racial/ethnic minorities. It has steadily increased, and the National Center for Education Statistics estimates by 2023 it will have grown to 55 percent.

The racial composition of America’s public school teachers has not kept pace, going from 13.5 percent minority in 1993-94 to 18.1 percent in 2011-12.

Not only are minorities underrepresented in teaching, but they are inequitably distributed. A 2006 Harvard study found that “white teachers teach in schools with fewer poor and English Language Learner students” and that the “typical black teacher teaches in a school where nearly three-fifths of students are from low-income families while the average white teacher has only 35% of low-income students.”

This is detrimental to both minority students and minority teachers. The study found that “schools with high concentrations of nonwhite and poor students tend to have less experienced and qualified teachers” while “nonwhite teachers are often teaching in schools that may be more difficult to teach in.”

This comes as no surprise to those who remember California’s statewide class size reduction of the mid-1990s. The consortium commissioned to evaluate the program found minority students were least likely to be in reduced-size classes, that many lower-qualified teachers had to be hired, and these teachers were mostly to be found with high proportions of minority students. What’s more, experienced teachers in those schools took advantage of the newly created openings in suburban (and whiter) schools and changed jobs, leaving the disadvantaged schools with even more openings to fill with less qualified teacher candidates.

Fast forward to today, where a new study reveals that “in almost all major American cities, most African American and Hispanic students attend public schools where a majority of their classmates qualify as poor or low-income.” Among other things, this means that those schools “have a harder time attracting the best teachers.”

Finally, let’s not forget that the basis of the Vergara v. California lawsuit is that the state’s tenure, seniority and dismissal laws disproportionately impact minority and low-income students. The California Teachers Association calls that “flawed,” “meritless,” “deceptive” and “faulty.” That might be true, but it is also exactly what you would expect the defenders of the institution to say.

Aye, there’s the rub. It’s easy to oppose institutional racism as long as it doesn’t require individual sacrifice. Hire more minority teachers? I’m in favor – until they get the job I applied for. Highly qualified and performing staff in low-income schools? Great – just as long as they aren’t placed higher on the district salary scale or interfere with my transfer or bumping rights. Better teachers in high-minority schools? Hear, hear! – but if they are lower on the seniority list than a so-so teacher, they have to be laid off first.

The unions’ difficulty when it comes to institutional racism isn’t the racism part. They usually march hand-in-hand with all the major civil rights groups. Their Achilles heel is the institutional part. It isn’t about white privilege, but insider privilege. Try to disrupt it, and see who stands in the schoolhouse door.

Recent Intercepts. EIA’s daily blog, Intercepts, covered these topics February 23-29:

National Labor Relations Board Found Guilty of Unfair Labor Practice. Major victory for coat hooks and toner storage.

Colorado Union Now Bragging About Two-Year Recall Plan It Denied Having. Digging up the grassroots.

NEA to Spend $5 Million on ESSA Implementation. Local control.

Indiana State Teachers Association’s Finances. An NEA dependency.

Iowa State Education Association’s Finances. Falling membership. Rising staff costs.

Quote of the Week. “Nobody wants a bad teacher in front of a student, least of all any other teacher, because we end up picking up the slack. This case is not about that.” – Eric Heins, president of the California Teachers Association, commenting on the Vergara case. (February 25 Los Angeles Times)

Hillary Winning Largest Bloc in Democratic Party: Non-Union Households

February 22, 2016

Hillary Winning Largest Bloc in Democratic Party: Non-Union Households. With Hillary Clinton’s solid victory in the Nevada caucuses, the teachers’ unions emerged from their New Hampshire burrows to pat themselves on the back.

American Federation of Teachers president Randi Weingarten called labor unions “a core part” of Clinton’s win. The National Education Association’s “robust, targeted, and well-organized communications and field programs” returned from their one-week vacation to play “a major role in the grassroots effort that has been key to Clinton’s victories.”

There’s no question that Clinton’s margin of victory so far among union households exceeds that of other constituencies. Since the full financial commitment of every NEA and AFT member is behind her, it would be foolish to expect any other outcome. Clinton won union households by nine points in Iowa and by 11 points in Nevada, according to entrance/exit polling.

But there are two problems with getting too excited about this. The first is the big difference in voting within union households. We rarely get data about this, but in the 2012 Wisconsin recall election of Gov. Scott Walker, the Washington Post found that 71 percent of union members voted for the challenger, Tom Barrett, but only 51 percent of their households did. A Harris poll in 2011 discovered a host of “anti-union” views within union households.

The other is that union households make up a relatively small sector of the electorate – even in the Democratic Party, even in caucus states, and even in highly unionized Nevada. Union households constituted 21 percent of the vote in Iowa and 28 percent in Nevada. Entrance/exit polling showed Clinton won non-union households 48%-47% in Iowa and 50%-47% in Nevada. Those union votes don’t mean much unless Clinton loses the non-union vote; then she would need a big margin among union voters to prevail.

The key indicator to union effectiveness in this election is not the union vote, but how many non-union, pro-Hillary voters they can turn out. This is especially true in the next set of primaries: South Carolina, Alabama, Arkansas, Colorado, Georgia, Massachusetts, Minnesota, Oklahoma, Tennessee, Texas, Vermont, Virginia, Kansas, Nebraska and Louisiana. Of these 15 states, only four might be called union strongholds, and one of those is Vermont, where Sanders is a prohibitive favorite.

NEA and AFT can continue to try to drive up Clinton’s support among their own rank-and-file, but they risk pushback and turmoil that might outlast the primaries and even the general election. And since they are dealing with such a small slice of the electorate, especially in the upcoming states, they would have to deliver huge margins to Clinton to make a difference in the outcome.

The alternative is to concede Sanders’ current level of support among the members and concentrate on identifying and organizing Clinton supporters regardless of their union status, which means choosing external messaging and issues over internal ones.

The interest groups that will receive the most rewards of a Clinton victory in November will be the ones most identified with putting her over the top. The unions will have to influence more people than just their own members to join that club.

Recent Intercepts. EIA’s daily blog, Intercepts, covered these topics February 17-22:

Member Lethargy a Boon to Union Coffers. Too much member involvement can cost the unions money.

NEA Names Sen. Alexander & Sen. Murray 2016 Friends of Education. First Republican recipient in 32 years.

Illinois Education Association’s Finances. Who knew that generous pensions could eat up one’s prosperity?

Idaho Education Association’s Finances. Mashed.

Quote of the Week. “Teachers can cancel their dues any time they want, and this legislation simply complicates the process, said Otto Fajen, legislative director of the Missouri National Education Association. And because the three teachers’ unions have to compete with each other, each group is attentive to members, he said.” (emphasis added) – from the February 19 Columbia Daily Tribune, regarding a bill that passed the Missouri House requiring public employees to give annual, written permission for union dues to be withheld from their paychecks.

Missouri has NEA and AFT affiliates, plus the independent Missouri State Teachers Association, which is larger than both.

Public Sector Union Density

February 16, 2016

Public Sector Union Density. Each year the Bureau of Labor Statistics provides the nation with overall union membership statistics and each year breaks down the figures as much as possible so we can examine the unionization rates in various sectors of the economy.

The picture for teachers’ unions was a little brighter in the 2015 sample. Of the 4,678,590 people employed as elementary, secondary and special education teachers in the United States (both public and private), 2,358,132 were union members (50.4%). The unionization rates for pre-k, kindergarten and higher education were much lower, but that has always been the case.

Unfortunately we can’t get these numbers further disaggregated by state, and the sample might not be reliable at that level anyway. However, we do have the union density rates – or market share – for the public sector in each state and the District of Columbia. Click the link below the table for an easier-to-see version.



A lot to chew on in there, but I’ll leave you with the comparison between agency fee states and non-fee states. The lesson, as always, is that the issue with agency fees is not the money they provide to unions, but their effect on driving up full membership rates. You will also notice that the absence of agency fees doesn’t come close to eliminating public sector unions, so let’s put that pipe-dream/hysteria aside for both sides of the argument.

Postscript: According to the samples collected for the Current Population Survey, 66,445 people worked for labor unions in 2015, of whom 40,677 were members of labor unions themselves, for a density percentage of 61.2.

Recent Intercepts. EIA’s daily blog, Intercepts, covered these topics February 9-16:

NEA Pulls a Cam Newton in New Hampshire. Let’s just pretend it didn’t happen.

Trends Will Continue Until They Don’t. You can’t account for everything, even now.

Hollywood Sequels. Another sellout?

Don’t Forget: The Empire Strikes Back. Jedi mind tricks.

Georgia Association of Educators’ Finances. Sinking fast.

Hawaii State Teachers Association’s Finances. Paradise.

Problem Solved Quote of the Week. “Union leaders – from the local level to the national – need to make the politically unpopular decision to tell the truth to their members: unions need more money. Yes, sometimes that money is allocated incompetently, but wanting a union to be more efficient is not the same thing as saying it should have fewer resources. We will never build the people power the labor movement needs if we don’t have the financial resources to help us.” – Dave Kamper, senior business agent for the Minnesota Association of Professional Employees. (February 14 Workday Minnesota)

Where Are the Most Fee-Payers? The Answer Might Surprise You

February 8, 2016

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.

Teacher Unionists Will Be Victorious Tonight, But Which Ones?

February 1, 2016

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?

California Teachers Association’s Finances. The Constantinople of teachers’ unions.

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)

Loss of Agency Fees Could Ruin NEA Affiliates in Right-to-Work States

January 25, 2016

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.

Financial Status of All NEA State Affiliates

January 11, 2016

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)

The 2015 EIA Public Education Quotes of the Year

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.

NEA Concedes Memphis Secession, Immediately Affiliates Competing Local

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)

Helping Out the North Carolina State Auditor

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 refuses to divulge its membership numbers – not to the Associated Press and not to the State Auditor, who ostensibly is charged with seeing that the law’s provisions are carried out.

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)

Unions Like Local Control Externally, Control Over Locals Internally

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. (

NEA President Under Fire From Disability Rights Advocates

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 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)

Special Quote of the Week Issue

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.

Back to the Future With Members-Only Unions

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)

Agency Fees Secure Federalism, Economic Stability & “Harmonious Relationships,” Unions Say

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)

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