March 10, 2014
Union Share of Teacher Workforce at Historic Low. Last week we examined how teacher unions stand in relation to the rest of the labor movement. As the number of union members overall continued its decades-long decline, teacher unions were able to add members for many years, and so became the predominant sector of organized labor.
But how have the National Education Association and American Federation of Teachers fared in relation to the teaching workforce? Was teacher union growth a function of organizational effort, or simply the expansion of the teaching population? Thanks to data provided by the Bureau of Labor Statistics and unionstats.com, we have an answer.
BLS began tracking union data in 1983. That year there were more than 2.6 million people employed as primary, secondary and special education teachers in both public and private schools. More than 1.5 million of them were union members, for a unionization rate of 57.5 percent.
By 1995 there were 600,000 more teachers, but the unionization rate was virtually identical. In the 18 years since, the rate has never approached that height again.
In fact, while America’s schools added almost a million and a quarter new teachers, teachers’ unions added fewer than 345,000 new members, for a rate of 27.8 percent.
Last year was the first time since BLS has been collecting such statistics that there were more non-union elementary, secondary and special education teachers than union teachers.
This is an extraordinary turn of events after an era in which NEA and AFT mostly had their way in education policy and totally dominated education labor policy. Industrial unions have been unable to reverse similar circumstances. Is there reason to believe teacher unions will be different?
Recent Intercepts. EIA’s daily blog, Intercepts, covered these topics March 4-10:
* Is Common Core Really Botched? “ObamaCore” mimics Obamacare.
* AFT Won’t Accept Gates Money, Except When It Does. Plus, guess who makes up the difference?
* Common Core: The Past 24 Hours. Not exactly settled.
* Put This One in the Circular File. Other than everything, the allegations were accurate.
* For One Dollar More. Bounty.
Quote of the Week. “There are school districts all over the country peopled with Luddites who are tremendously resistant to change.” – Nolan Bushnell, co-founder of Atari and education technology entrepreneur. (March 4 Politico)
March 3, 2014
Teachers, Not Teamsters, Are the Typical Union Members. We can watch the ebb and flow of union membership from year to year, thanks to the Bureau of Labor Statistics and unionstats.com. And we can watch the ebb and flow of teacher union membership from year-to-year if I can continue to pry it from a secretive National Education Association and American Federation of Teachers. But there has not been much tracking of how much of a share NEA and AFT have of union membership overall in the United States.
I have put together a table and posted it on the EIA web site that shows the combined active NEA and AFT membership for each state and DC in 2012 and the share it constitutes of active public employee union (PEU) membership and total (public sector + private sector) union membership. It illustrates that teachers’ unions make up the bulk of the public employee labor movement, and a growing percentage of organized labor overall.
* Nationwide, NEA and AFT members comprise 21.2 percent of all union members, and 41.5 percent of PEU members.
* The five states where teacher union members make up the largest share of the total union population are Nebraska, Alabama, North Dakota, Vermont and Idaho.
* The five states where teacher union members make up the smallest share of the total union population are Mississippi, Hawaii, South Carolina, Maine and Texas.
* The five states where teacher union members make up the largest share of the PEU population are Alabama, Nebraska, Idaho, Virginia and North Dakota.
* The five states where teacher union members make up the smallest share of the PEU population are South Carolina, Mississippi, Hawaii, Louisiana and California.
* Teacher union members are more than one-quarter of the total union population in 22 states.
* Teacher union members are more than half of the PEU population in 21 states.
(click for larger version or follow this link)
Recent Intercepts. EIA’s daily blog, Intercepts, covered these topics February 25-March 3:
* Breaking: Wisconsin Unions Postpone Merger Vote. WEAC cagey about why…
* Dues Issues Stall Wisconsin Union Merger For a Year. …but we find out anyway.
* Let the File Shredding Begin! New York’s largest locals declare for Revive NYSUT slate.
* Temperatures Rise in South Florida. Broward Teachers Union at it again.
* Whatever Happened to Ohio’s Charter Union Drive? Sound and fury, and dues money.
* “Final Clicking of the Tumblers.” Something’s definitely rattling.
Quote of the Week #1. “We can’t just assume that what we as leaders believe is exactly what our members believe.” – Dennis Van Roekel, president of the National Education Association. (February 24 Associations Now)
Quote of the Week #2. “Incented by federal grant programs, the influence of the 45 states that have now agreed to adopt the Common Core of content standards may have passed the ‘tipping point’ in forcing this issue on every state. Nebraska can be proud of its local and state autonomy in determining its own course. For as long as we are able, resisting the national folly of an immutable educational uniformity will be this state’s gift to its children.” – Craig R. Christiansen, executive director of the Nebraska State Education Association. Nebraska is one of the states that has not adopted the Common Core Standards. (March 2014 NSEA Voice)
February 24, 2014
Still One Growth Sector for Unions in South: Government. The world’s media outlets were virtually unanimous in their assessments of the failed attempt of the United Auto Workers to unionize employees at Volkswagen’s plant in Chattanooga, Tennessee. Reuters called it “a stinging defeat” for a years-long campaign “which had been seen as organized labor’s best chance to expand in the U.S. South.”
It was a stinging defeat all right, but organized labor’s best chance to expand in the U.S. South is actually the only place it has expanded anywhere for the past 50 years: government.
The Bureau of Labor Statistics produces a much-cited annual report on union membership based on the Current Population Survey, but it takes Barry Hirsch of Georgia State University and David Macpherson of Trinity University to present the disaggregated data on their web site unionstats.com. I am chagrined to admit I did not know the site existed until tipped by Stan Greer of the National Institute for Labor Relations Research. It is a treasure trove of information that I will be culling for weeks, but I will start with a comparison of the membership numbers for public employee unions (PEUs) in each of the 50 states and DC in 2013 and 2008.
I have posted a simple table on the EIA web site. Examining statistics for public employee unions alone yields interesting results. Cumulatively, PEUs lost 8 percent of their members in the last five years. Thirty-six states suffered losses.
PEUs in 14 states and DC experienced growth in the aftermath of the recession. Seven of them grew by 15 percent or more. Six of the seven growth areas are in Southern states.
The list is headed by Georgia, where government unions grew by more 36 percent between 2008 and 2013. Virginia followed with 31.9% PEU growth. And though Tennessee is now seen as an anti-union enclave because of the UAW vote, government unions grew 27.4% there in the past five years. Kentucky (22.1%), Oklahoma (19.8%) and Texas (15%) round out the list. In the North, only Vermont (16.7%) was able to crack this group.
To be sure, the South still is not uniformly friendly to public sector unions. The largest declines in government union membership occurred in Mississippi (-53%) and Arkansas (-42.5%).
But if unions want to stave off total disintegration, they would do well to concentrate their efforts on the one sector of the U.S. economy that operates without market competition or ordinary limits on workforce growth. That is as true in the South as it was in the Northeast and Midwest.
Recent Intercepts. EIA’s daily blog, Intercepts, covered these topics February 19-24:
* “It Is Up to Us to Ensure We Get It Right.” That “seat at the table” has a trapdoor.
* Largest NYSUT Locals Set to Fall in Line Behind UFT. Can’t fight city hall.
* Smack Talk. Just a little needling.
Quote of the Week. “Off script she’s a gaffe-prone name caller who deals the race and class cards off the bottom of the deck.” – Eric Zorn, columnist for the Chicago Tribune, in a mostly tongue-in-cheek op-ed urging Chicago Teachers Union president Karen Lewis to run for mayor. (February 21 Chicago Tribune)
February 18, 2014
NEA to Send $750,000 to NYSUT… for Common Core Implementation. Three weeks ago I thought NEA’s Common Core policy had reached the depths of incoherence when New York State United Teachers withdrew its support for the state’s Common Core standards until major corrections are made and a three-year moratorium enacted on any consequences from standardized testing.
“We’ll have to be the first to say it’s failed,” said NYSUT president Richard Iannuzzi.
But the unions have managed to go one step beyond. As befuddling as it may seem, NEA will award NYSUT a $750,000 grant over three years from its Great Public Schools Fund for the express purpose of implementing the Common Core Standards.
Sure, they can say that chunk of dues money is intended to implement the unions’ vision of what Common Core is supposed to be, as opposed to the way it is currently being implemented by the unholy coalition of corporations, reform groups and neoliberal politicians. That argument might even look good to some if they squint hard enough, but it entirely ignores the current situation at NYSUT.
Iannuzzi is struggling just to hold on to his job, and even his supporters acknowledge his recent actions constitute a change in direction for him. The three-year NEA grant is designed to fund a plan that may not last past the NYSUT elections in six weeks.
So what happens if Iannuzzi loses? The Revive NYSUT slate describes its Common Core platform this way:
We do not support the Common Core as it is. Unlike the current NYSUT leadership that supports it but declares it abstract and vague, “SED needs to get it right”, we will not support Common Core until it is “right” which includes the restoration of local control, a curriculum that is developmentally appropriate and an end to high stakes testing.
NEA’s officers have the option to pull the second and third year of the grant, but will they actually do that? I expect that next year NEA will be sending a Common Core implementation check to a group of union officers elected on a platform of opposition to Common Core.
Recent Intercepts. EIA’s daily blog, Intercepts, covered these topics February 11-18:
* Where NEA’s Common Core Policy Is Headed. They like big “buts” and they cannot lie.
* Pest Control, Dumpster Rentals and NEA Priority Schools. I guess the domain name wasn’t a priority.
* Mass Confusion in Kenosha. Brazen.
* The Island of Misfit Toys. I want to hear more about the “NYSUT saboteurs.”
* Ain’t It the Truth. Why we should never get too excited.
* Happy Presidents Day! You can learn from tests.
Quote of the Week. “We’ve become accustomed to having a peacetime chief, and that’s OK, I have nothing against anybody in particular. But what I’m trying to get people to understand now is that we are at war. And we need a wartime chief.” – Agustin Morales, a member of the Educators for a Democratic Union caucus, explaining why he supports a challenger to incumbent Massachusetts Teachers Association president Paul Toner. (February 12 In These Times)
February 10, 2014
New York Accounts for 90 Percent of Union Membership Growth. The Bureau of Labor Statistics released its annual survey of union membership last month, and the 2013 numbers were not as bad as many thought. The overall union membership rate remained at 11.3 percent (technically, it fell from 11.26% to 11.25%), and unions grew by 162,000 members to 14,528,000.
The Associated Press, Wall Street Journal and even the AFL-CIO focused on the gains in the private sector that were partially offset by losses in the public sector. Regional press reports highlighted state membership rates, but everyone failed to put the two together.
In 2013, almost 90 percent of union membership growth came from one state: New York.
According to BLS, New York added 213,000 jobs in 2013 and 145,000 union members – an astonishing marginal unionization rate of 68.1 percent. The entire rest of the nation added 1,320,000 jobs and 17,000 union members – a marginal unionization rate of 1.3 percent.
The BLS does not disaggregate its state data into public and private sectors, and I was unable to find it myself while digging through the Current Population Survey. However, last month the New York State Department of Labor released statistics that between December 2012 and December 2013 the state added only 110,000 private sector jobs and lost 13,000 public sector jobs.
Anomalies are normal when agencies compute statistics from different sources, but the New York numbers, coupled with the report of unexpected union membership gains in places like Michigan and Wisconsin, require at least a reexamination of this year’s BLS figures.
Recent Intercepts. EIA’s daily blog, Intercepts, covered these topics February 4-10:
* CTA Makes First Pledge of $3 Million for Ballot Initiatives. The floodgates start to open.
* Who Has the Deepest Pockets? Dominating the evil Super PACs.
* Texas Hold ’Em. Try it from our end.
* Randi Defends UFT. Plot? What plot?
* The Public Megaphone. If it’s free speech, why do we have to pay for it?
Scheduling Note. Next week’s communiqué will appear on Tuesday, February 18.
Quote of the Week #1. “Her claim was she gave the money to the homeless and students in need.” – Smithfield (Virginia) Police Lt. Patrick Valdez, referring to Stephanie Bailey, former president of the Isle of Wight Education Association, who was arrested for embezzling more than $43,000 in union dues. (February 7 Tidewater News)
Quote of the Week #2. “The summit began with a keynote speaker, Dan Thurmon, an energetic motivational speaker, performer, and author of ‘Off Balance on Purpose’. He used backflips, juggling, and unicycles to show that balance in your life is an illusion.” – Tim Brinker, retired member of the Illinois Education Association, describing the opening of the NEA National Leadership Summit at the Mirage in Las Vegas last month. (January 24 IEA Retired Informer)
Democracy in Action Quote of the Week. “There was a gentlemen’s agreement between Thomas Hobart and Al Shanker when they created NYSUT that the president would be chosen by the state and the (executive vice president) would be chosen by NYC.” – from a February 10 post on the Revive NYSUT Slate Lies Facebook page.
February 3, 2014
Special Quote of the Week Issue. With all the fun going on with the New York State United Teachers and elsewhere, I thought the time propitious to devote the lead article to quotes of the week.
* “Those FEA members who have been in Fairport for more than seven years know that I am very concerned that NYSUT is not transparent in its financial reporting to members or in its decision making process. Efforts to advocate for transparency have had little effect on the current leadership team. We know little of the way NYSUT pays its officers, sets them up with annuities for life, manages its debt, and no official minutes of its Board of Director meetings are provided to rank and file members or to local presidents/officers.” – John Baynes, president of the Fairport Education Association. (January 23 Revive NYSUT)
* “Given the opportunity to send a message of support and solidarity for the teachers of NY, NEA instead played Mad Libs with PR boilerplate and a list of stock phrases from every puff piece written about (Common Core). (Dennis Van Roekel) barely mentioned the substance or point of NYSUT’s resolution, but instead used it as an excuse to issue one more love song of support for CCSS. Lordy. How many months left till the summer?” – Peter A. Greene, NEA member. (January 27 Curmudgucation)
* “To be honest about it, the state is open for business – monkey business – and it is Mario Cuomo’s son Andrew who is the biggest monkey we got…. The people of this state are sick and tired of being had by this moron.” – Danny Donohue, president of the Civil Service Employees Association, an AFSCME local in New York. (January 29 CBS-TV 6 in Albany)
* “There is nothing ‘vibrant’ or ‘democratic’ about the way the AFT/NYSUT/UFT currently works. The bosses make the decisions, the party hacks vote the way the bosses want, the smaller unions join suit so as to be on the right side – and the patronage is handed out and punishment doled out for any who do not comply.” – New York blogger “Reality-Based Educator.” (January 31 Perdido Street School)
* “You can’t just order people to do stuff. If their health plan gets wrecked, why would they then go campaign for the folks responsible for wrecking their health care?” – Donald Taylor, president of UNITE-HERE. (January 31 Washington Post)
Recent Intercepts. EIA’s daily blog, Intercepts, covered these topics January 22-27:
* Iannuzzi Is Toast. It’s not about anything but vote counts.
* NEA May Change Rules After Wisconsin Merger. Like it or not, NEA has to revisit decisions it made in 1999.
* Get Out of Dodge? No one ever went broke telling people want they want to hear.
* UtahTube. Doing my part to help get out the vote.
* Punt. Performance pay?
January 27, 2014
NEA Can’t Deliver Common Message on Common Core. It is the established policy of the National Education Association that the Common Core State Standards are a good thing. There is a sizable faction within the union that disagrees. The problem is that there is an ebb and flow to the strength of these opposing positions that NEA seems entirely incapable of managing coherently.
Last July, delegates to the NEA Representative Assembly approved the creation of the Great Public Schools Fund, financed with a $3-per-member assessment. The roughly $6 million raised annually would go to union affiliates that “demonstrate leadership in enhancing the quality of public education and to assist in the development and implementation of a proactive agenda that engages members and leads to success for every student.” That is a fairly broad description, leading to expectations that a broad category of activities would be funded.
Nevertheless, the ultimate authority to release the funds rested in the hands of only two men, NEA president Dennis Van Roekel and executive director John Stocks. Last week the union announced 13 recipients of the grants. Nine of the grants are geared to ease the implementation of the Common Core standards.
The NEA delegates approved the fund by a relatively slim margin (55.6% to 44.4%). The margin might have been slimmer yet, or even entirely overturned, had Van Roekel hinted that most of the money would go to Common Core.
The NEA president is expending a lot of energy to diminish the concerns of the anti-Common Core members, writing in an editorial that “change is hard.” He also states, without a note of irony about the history of union communications, that “as a general rule, doomsday scenarios rarely materialize.”
As a practical matter, the BATs are a minor annoyance for NEA’s powers-that-be. Of more concern is the recent unanimous vote of the board of directors at the New York State United Teachers to withdraw its support for the state’s Common Core standards until major corrections are made and a three-year moratorium enacted on any consequences from standardized testing.
“We’ll have to be the first to say it’s failed,” said Richard Iannuzzi, president of New York State United Teachers.
So the national union is heavily promoting a program that its largest state affiliate is denouncing, while its members continue to pay to implement it.
If that’s not confusing enough, Iannuzzi might be out of office by April, and Van Roekel will be gone by September. Will this policy continue under their successors, or will there be a change in direction?
Recent Intercepts. EIA’s daily blog, Intercepts, covered these topics January 22-27:
* It’s Official: Civil War in NYSUT. Will it be New York City on one side and the rest of the state on the other? Inside the teachers’ union, that’s an even battle.
* Your Money, Your Voice, Your Choice. The forces of evil.
* Alabama Education Association Needs a Dentist. Bark but no bite.
* Let’s Do the Time Warp Again. The number one reason new teachers leave the profession is because we make them.
Quote of the Week. “Membership to the Unity Caucus in New York City is by invitation only. To be accepted into the caucus, one must sign a statement pledging to support the decisions of the caucus in union and public forums (the so called Unity loyalty oath). There is no public dissent allowed. In exchange for absolute loyalty, Unity members get all expense paid trips to the AFT Convention and the NYSUT Representative Assemblies where they vote as an enormous bloc. I very much doubt that the smaller locals in New York State have the funds to pay for their Delegates to travel to the RA and stay at the Hilton. The party discipline Unity has would make Mao envious.” – James Eterno, United Federation of Teachers chapter leader and member of the MORE caucus. (January 26 ICEUFT Blog)
January 21, 2014
NEA’s Own Elected Leaders Conclude They Are Disconnected From Members. In the wake of persistent membership losses, the National Education Association began a review of its organizational structure in an effort to improve efficiency and cut costs. Part of the project included a survey of NEA’s board of directors, state affiliate officers, Representative Assembly delegates and rank-and-file members.
The survey response rate itself suggested a problem. Thirty-eight percent of those holding an elected position responded, but only 10 percent of the rank-and-file did so. Since part of the survey sought to gauge member involvement, NEA was not off to a roaring start.
Each answer was analyzed in aggregate as well as within the governance level to which each respondent belonged. The first consensus was “NEA’s governance structure is too large and cumbersome to be effective.” A number of respondents referred to the union as “top-heavy” and disconnected from rank-and-file members. Even within the top levels of the organization, some leaders expressed a desire to remove levels of governance, or reduce the size of representative bodies.
Few members of each group said that the work of any level of the union’s governance structure was “relevant to their work as an educator.” Coupled with that was a desire for NEA to focus more on education issues and less on everything else. Even when education was the main topic, many at every level felt that the annual Representative Assembly (RA) and the board meetings did not spend enough time on business and spent too much time on ceremony.
The results of the governance review might result in less frequent RAs, or a smaller board of directors, or any number of other internal structural changes, but NEA’s greatest challenge is how (or whether) it deals with its relative irrelevance to the daily lives of its members.
To illustrate, the union asked the rank-and-file members whether they had contact with a union representative in the past year. Three-quarters had met at least once with a local building rep and 60 percent had contact with a local affiliate board member. But very few members had any contact whatsoever from a union rep above the local level.
More than 60 percent had zero contact with the state affiliate board, more than 70 percent had zero contact with an RA delegate, and more than 80 percent had zero contact with a member of the NEA board of directors.
The middle statistic is the most significant. There are anywhere from 7,000 to 9,000 delegates that attend the annual convention, and boast about being “the world’s largest democratic deliberative body.” In practical terms, the RA cannot be very democratic or deliberative if it never hears from three-quarters of its constituents.
But it is difficult to generate outrage on behalf of the rank-and-file, since they seem to be perfectly content – especially the younger members – with their lack of contact with NEA at any level. This is causing much consternation at NEA, but not much among young teachers.
The most involved NEA activists are much older than the rank-and-file members. When asked to explain why so few young members attend the RA, state affiliate leaders had remarkably similar answers:
Alaska: “Many younger members don’t know about RA, and don’t understand the association.”
Arizona: “They are often unaware of the RA or NEA as parent group, and they are not sought out to run/attend.”
California: “Some members do not know what NEA does and some don’t even know that they are NEA members!”
Colorado: “Most of our members including those under 35 do not have any idea that RA exists let alone how to be elected as a delegate.”
Montana: “Awareness about the NEA RA amongst younger members is low.”
New York: “[Little] knowledge of what the RA does/why it matters.”
In addition to these reasons, many affiliates noted that many older delegates go every year and don’t step aside for others to take their place – or, to be more accurate, to allow their funding to attend the RA to go to someone else. One state affiliate stated that the younger members “have little name recognition and are not likely to be elected if they run.”
Both supporters and opponents of the teachers’ unions should learn from this. Ordinary teachers and rank-and-file members should not be criticized for the actions of their union, nor should they be expected to defend those actions. Chances are they haven’t a clue what the union above the local level is up to. At the same time, the unions can’t use ordinary teachers and rank-and-file members as a shield against criticism of the union’s actions. Very little of NEA’s agenda was created by popular demand, or even created with popular knowledge.
What comes out of NEA headquarters is owned by the people inside that building. We should all keep that in mind when determining how to respond.
Recent Intercepts. EIA’s daily blog, Intercepts, covered these topics January 14-21:
* Is “Revive NYSUT” Viable? A proxy war for control of the largest state union affiliate in the nation.
* Revive NYSUT Plot Thickens. What’s really behind the effort to throw Iannuzzi under the bus?
* Call Screening? Call me maybe not.
* Living in a Gray Area. Where does your state rank in fiscal solvency?
* You Only Found the Bugs I Wanted You to Find. Union dues at work.
* Value-Added? Grade inflation.
Quote of the Week. “What do teachers receive for their dues? Why should we continue to support you? What rights and protection do current teachers really have? Why do new teachers have to pay the same dues with virtually no protection? Our groups plan to continue to spread the truth regarding the lack of IEA/REA support of its teachers.” – Jane Hayes of the pro-union Watchdogs for Ethics in Education and Rockford Educators Advocating Civil Treatment (WEE/REACT), in an open letter to Illinois Education Association president Cinda Klickna. (January 15 Rock River Times)
January 13, 2014
California Will Be Next Pension Battleground. Ignored for years, the unfunded liabilities of public employee pension plans have finally reached such proportions that even the most timid legislators are being forced into action. In Illinois it took ages to reach a deal, but a pension reform bill was passed and signed into law last month by Gov. Pat Quinn – and immediately challenged in court as unconstitutional by the Illinois Retired Teachers Association.
There is another large state with a mostly union-friendly but debt-frightened governor with a major pension problem: California. Gov. Jerry Brown released his budget proposal the other day. Boosted by higher taxes and increased capital gains from an improved stock market, the state expects a $3.2 billion surplus in a $108.7 billion budget. Well, it’s a surplus if you don’t apply any money to the state’s almost $218 billion in unfunded pension liabilities, the largest of which is the more than $80 billion the California State Teachers Retirement System (CalSTRS) is short.
Gov. Brown said he will “meet with the key players over the next year to create a plan for long-term solvency.” California has a Democratic super-majority in both houses of the legislature, yet the governor has no illusions about what’s ahead. “It’s going to be daunting,” he said. “It has to be done, and sometimes it’s hard to get things done until people really see disaster ahead.”
The flares have been going up for years, but it’s hard to imagine that even at this late date a solution can be found that will both reduce the liabilities and satisfy the public employees unions. The California Teachers Association made supportive noises, with a little reminder added:
We look forward to working with the governor and the Legislature on this state budget, as well as a plan to address the CalSTRS shortfall. Making sure educators have a secure retirement is critical to attracting and keeping quality educators in the profession. The state must ensure the retirement commitments made to our hard-working teachers.
That might even be achievable, at least until it bumps up against an even bigger CTA priority: increasing wages and hiring more teachers. The Los Angeles Times reports the union is already filing its wish list for the $10 billion in increased K-12 funding for 2014-15.
One-party rule and surplus cash can paper over a lot of disagreements. But if meaningful measures are taken to address California’s pension problems, the battle that will ensue will make Illinois look like a garden party.
Recent Intercepts. EIA’s daily blog, Intercepts, covered these topics January 7-13:
* This Can Never Occur Again. It has, and it will.
* The 21st Paragraph. Don’t let context spoil your sob story.
* How Investigative Journalism Really Works. Sausage-making.
* Grammar Pet Peeves. Supposably I seen alot of there errors. Irregardless, I could care less.
Scheduling Note. The next communiqué will appear Tuesday, January 21.
Quote of the Week. “The charter school movement was founded to deny teachers their labor rights.” – Brian Harris, president of the Chicago Alliance of Charter Teachers and Staff, an American Federation of Teachers affiliate created to organize charter school employees. (January 8 Progress Illinois)
January 6, 2014
The 2013 EIA Public Education Quotes of the Year
EIA is proud to present the 2013 Public Education Quotes of the Year, in countdown order. Enjoy!
10) “A lethargic membership is more cancerous than reforms, charter schools, and excessing. Members’ expectation of any president must be tempered with what they are willing to do for themselves.” – Nathan Saunders, outgoing president of the Washington Teachers Union. (July 31 letter to members)
9) “We’re not about picking a mayor. We’re about making a mayor, making the winner. And that’s what we’re gonna do…. I talk to them (the mayoral candidates) constantly. All of them. I know all about all of their families. I know about their dogs and this and that.” – Michael Mulgrew, president of the United Federation of Teachers, two weeks before the union endorsed Bill Thompson for mayor of New York City. (June 4 Politicker)
8) “Once at City Hall it became clear that the union — especially under its current leadership — was an enormous impediment to reform. Watching the parade of candidates genuflecting before the UFT and pledging fealty to its positions is an embarrassment. The prospect of the next mayor handing the keys of Tweed over to Michael Mulgrew makes me fear for the future of the city.” – Howard Wolfson, deputy mayor of New York City and former consultant to the United Federation of Teachers. (June 19 Capital New York)
7) “Where is the line in terms of how far the government gets involved in the operation of a private business, which is what MEA in its essence is.” – Doug Pratt, the Michigan Education Association’s temporary director of member benefits, testifying before a state senate committee about the union’s compliance with the right-to-work law. (December 5 MLive.com)
6) “As we celebrate the 150th Anniversary of CTA, we must remember that we were founded for one reason – and one reason only – and that was to engage in politics. We were founded to engage in the political process in order to create an organized system of public instruction and to elevate the profession of teaching in California.” – Carolyn Doggett, executive director of the California Teachers Association, in a January 27 speech to the union’s State Council.
5) “Anytime there’s an audit of Title I dollars, you’re going to see errors at the school level because schools spend money for what they need, and then sometimes they worry about if it fits the parameter of the grant later.” – Andres Alonso, CEO of the Baltimore City Schools, after a federal audit revealed that Title I and stimulus dollars were used for dinner cruises, meals, theater performances and a mother/daughter makeover. (May 23 CBS Baltimore)
4) “We don’t blame the firefighters when there’s a fire, and we don’t blame the police for crime! Why would we? Then why are educators being blamed for the struggles of our public schools? Let’s look at the policies and the policymakers instead of the people doing the work every day.” – Earl Wiman, current member of the National Education Association Executive Committee. (April 12 speech to the Virginia Education Association Delegate Assembly)
3) “It would be akin to making you and your wife redo your marriage license every year.” – John Havlicek, president of the La Crosse Education Association, describing Wisconsin’s annual recertification requirement for teachers’ unions. (November 27 La Crosse Tribune)
2) “Because maybe these teachers have an ungodly fear of interviews. Or maybe they’re on vacation in the Netherlands and don’t want to return for an interview. Or maybe they think interviews are a sham. It doesn’t matter.” – Lynn Nordgren, president of the Minneapolis Federation of Teachers, explaining to school district negotiators why unplaced tenured teachers who refuse to show up for job interviews should not be dismissed. (September 27 MinnPost)
1) “Since a teacher’s working conditions are a child’s learning conditions, attacking teachers is the same as attacking children.” – Randy Mousley, president of United Teachers of Wichita. (February 9 Wichita Eagle)
December 23, 2013
Pension Predicament: 14 NEA Affiliates Have Almost $700 Million in Unfunded Liabilities. The good folks at Bellwether Education Partners created a web site called TeacherPensions.org in order to focus some much-needed attention on the structure of the retirement system and its financial implications. The site features a range of opinions about teacher pensions, including that of National Education Association president Dennis Van Roekel, who says flatly: “There is no teacher pension crisis.”
Van Roekel defends the defined benefit system, and explains that a key principle of the system is “When actuarial liabilities exceed actuarial assets, the state and/or employer must make the necessary additional contributions to amortize the unfunded liability in no more than 30 years.”
That seems like a pretty simple solution, but if it were, perhaps Van Roekel’s own organization and its affiliates would not be experiencing their own mammoth shortfalls, due mostly to the pensions and retiree health care benefits they granted their own employees.
An Education Intelligence Agency analysis of 2011-12 Internal Revenue Service filings reveals 14 NEA state affiliates do not have the financial assets to match their liabilities and total almost $700 million in combined debt.
The ability of these affiliates to address their long-term debt by increasing pension contributions, as Van Roekel suggests, is compromised by their short-term debt. Nine of the 14 affiliates had deficits in 2011-12. In fact, the combined spending of all of NEA’s state affiliates exceeded their combined income by almost $24 million.
Even at the national level, NEA’s pension plan for its 2,600 employees and retirees was only 87.9 percent funded in 2012, down from 94.2 percent in 2010.
EIA has constructed a table that lists each of NEA’s state affiliates, its budget deficit or surplus for 2011-12 and its net assets, positive or negative, as of the end of the 2011-12 school year. For purposes of comparison, the table also lists the number of days each affiliate could operate solely on reserves based on its 2011-12 expenditures and net assets.
The 14 state affiliates with a negative net worth are:
* New York State United Teachers, with net assets of negative $302.8 million and a $24 million deficit in 2011-12. NYSUT contributed almost $30.8 million to its employee pension plan that year.
* Michigan Education Association, with net assets of negative $160.5 million, and a $4.8 million deficit in 2011-12. MEA contributed $14.1 million to its employee pension plan, and instituted a three-year, $50 annual assessment on its members for the express purpose of funding the staff pension.
* New Jersey Education Association, with net assets of negative $77.5 million. NJEA had a $13.2 million surplus in 2011-12, even after contributing $17.1 million to pension costs.
* Washington Education Association, with net assets of negative $35.1 million, and a $3.7 million deficit in 2011-12. WEA contributed $8.1 million to its employee pension plan.
* Massachusetts Teachers Association, with net assets of negative $26.7 million. MTA had a $7.8 million surplus in 2011-12 after contributing $4.1 million to its employee pension plan.
* Illinois Education Association, with net assets of negative $17.7 million, and a $17.9 million deficit in 2011-12. IEA paid $26.3 million to its employee pension plan. Despite its own mess, IEA is adamantly opposed to the Illinois state government’s efforts to address public employee pension debt.
* Indiana State Teachers Association, with net assets of negative $16.4 million, and a $4.5 million deficit in 2011-12. ISTA paid $4.1 million toward employee pensions.
* Iowa State Education Association, with net assets of negative $12.7 million, and a $4.3 million deficit in 2011-12. ISEA paid $2.2 million into its employee pension plan.
* Ohio Education Association, with net assets of negative $11.5 million, and a $1.2 million deficit in 2011-12. OEA paid $8.2 million in pension costs.
* Texas State Teachers Association, with net assets of negative $11.3 million, and a $243,000 deficit in 2011-12. TSTA contributed $1.4 million to its pension plan, and holds a $1.6 million quasi-endowment “to sustain the association for the long-term.”
* Pennsylvania State Education Association, with net assets of negative $8.3 million, though it did have a $9.2 million surplus in 2011-12, suggesting another similar year would put it in the black. It spent $7.3 million on pensions.
* Virginia Education Association, with net assets of negative $5.1 million, and a budget surplus of $1 million. VEA contributed almost $2.2 million to its employee pension plan.
* West Virginia Education Association, with net assets of negative $2.2 million, and a budget surplus of $132,000. It is unclear how much WVEA contributed to its employee pension plan in 2011-12, but its pension liabilities totaled $3.7 million.
* Georgia Association of Educators, with net assets of negative $1.8 million, and a $476,000 deficit in 2011-12. GAE paid $746,000 to its employee pension plan.
NEA’s largest affiliates are overrepresented on this list. This is problematic because the health of the large affiliates, particularly in collective bargaining states with agency fee provisions, enables NEA national to funnel crucial subsidies to its small affiliates. Many small affiliates could not sustain themselves at current levels without those funds.
As a union, NEA believes state governments should extract more revenues from taxpayers to sustain the defined benefit system of public employees. As an employer, NEA is aware of the pitfalls of extracting more dues money from members to sustain the much more generous defined benefit system of union employees.
It’s a race against time for NEA as it attempts to stave off public pension reform before it is swamped by its own private pension costs.
Recent Intercepts. EIA’s daily blog, Intercepts, covered these topics December 17-23:
* WEAC Asks NEA for Permission to Merge With AFT-Wisconsin. Delegate vote in spring, probably merged for 2014-15 school year.
* National Board to Cut Prices to Attract More Teachers. Pearson profit margins also cut?
* Wisconsin Recertification Votes Mean What You Want Them to Mean. Behold the power of apathy.
* Utah Education Association Fires Chief Lobbyist. If you see the governor, don’t smile.
* Pennsylvania Nurses Union Leaves AFT and NEA. “It just seemed like it would be a wise decision to move to a nursing union.”
Scheduling Note. There will be no communiqué next week. The next issue will appear Monday, January 6. Merry Christmas and Happy New Year, everyone!
Quote of the Week. “We still want open meetings. But we want them legally and contractually. We want them to have a discussion with us about it…. They open meetings unilaterally, and they closed meetings unilaterally.” – Paul Lemle, president of the Howard County Education Association, as his union and the district school board continue to bicker about opening collective bargaining sessions to the public, something both sides say they want. (December 23 Baltimore Sun)
For background on this story, follow this link.
December 16, 2013
Despite Staff Cuts, 25 NEA State Affiliates Ran Deficits. An Education Intelligence Agency analysis of Internal Revenue Service filings reveals 25 National Education Association state affiliates spent more than they earned in the 2011-12 school year, even though many of them instituted large-scale layoffs, staff cuts and early retirement incentives.
The union as a whole lost 3.6 percent of its active membership, but increases in rates were able to compensate so that total dues revenues increased 0.6 percent to $1.414 billion.
EIA created a table, now posted on its web site, listing the financial figures for NEA and each of its 53 “state” affiliates (50 states plus the directly affiliated Federal Education Association, which represents NEA teachers overseas and on military bases, the University of Hawaii Professional Assembly, and the Utah School Employees Association). The numbers include each union’s dues revenues, revenues from sources other than members’ dues, and the amount devoted to employee compensation. The statistics do not include the income of any of NEA’s 14,000 locals.
The dues-only revenue is the amount each state affiliate raises for itself, while the bulk of the “other revenue” is the amount it receives in UniServ and assistance grants from NEA national headquarters. A comparison of the two reveals which state affiliates are most heavily reliant on national subsidies to continue operating at current levels.
It is also instructive to note that while many affiliates and NEA national reduced staff size, the cost of employee compensation actually rose slightly. In most cases this was due to additional money that needed to be set aside to fund defined benefit pension plans and post-retirement health care for the union’s employees.
Thirty-two affiliates accumulated less in dues revenue in 2011-12 than in the previous year. The greatest declines occurred in Arizona, Idaho, North Carolina, Tennessee and Wisconsin.
The 25 affiliates that spent more than they took in from all sources (up from 15 in 2010-11) were Alabama, Arizona, Arkansas, Colorado, Connecticut, Georgia, Illinois, Indiana, Iowa, Kentucky, Louisiana, Michigan, Montana, New Mexico, New York, North Carolina, Ohio, Oregon, Rhode Island, South Carolina, Texas, Washington, Wisconsin, UHPA and USEA.
These figures provide a single-year snapshot of the union’s budgetary health. A turnaround in school hiring could provide more members and thus more revenue to mitigate these deficits. However, a significant number of NEA state affiliates are suffering long-term financial problems due to unfunded liabilities. Next week EIA will identify and analyze those state unions with red ink dilemmas that need structural solutions.
Recent Intercepts. EIA’s daily blog, Intercepts, covered these topics December 10-16:
* Literal NIMBYs. Oregon Education Association tells homeless to get off its lawn.
* Sub-Zero in Minneapolis. Another episode in the teachers’ unions inability to deal positively with charters.
* Music Has Charms to Soothe a Savage Breast, But It Won’t Raise Your Kid’s IQ. Music for music’s sake, not math’s.
* Happy National Day of Inaction! Lower price tag, same results.
* Teachers Union Skit. “Hail Satan!”
Quote of the Week. “Schools without standards, without accountability, are not worthy of a $4,200 check. The government-run voucher program described in this unconstitutional legislation will siphon public money from schools already struggling to make ends meet. As a father of children in the public schools, as a taxpayer, I find this offensive and wrong. I do not want my tax dollars paying for children to attend private schools.” – Rodney Ellis, president of the North Carolina Association of Educators, which filed suit against the state’s new school voucher law. (December 12 WRAL-TV Raleigh)
Quote of the Week #2. “Local educational agencies furnishing special education and related services to children with disabilities may contract with private special education facilities or service providers to furnish any of these services that the public providers are unable to furnish.” – North Carolina General Statutes, § 115C-111.2, first enacted in 1977.
December 9, 2013
The Indiana State Teachers Association Trust Collapse: Who Spent What Where. The state of Indiana finalized a settlement with the Indiana State Teachers Association (ISTA) in which the union will pay $14 million to 27 school districts. The settlement arose from an estimated $23 million the ISTA insurance trust owed those districts for misuse of their premiums.
ISTA issued a statement:
No members’ dues were used to fund this settlement. To protect the interest of school employees, ISTA and NEA funded litigation to sue those actually responsible for the collapse of the ISTA Trust. That litigation generated settlements in excess of $14 million, which are the sole source of the funds being used to resolve the state and school districts’ cases.
ISTA regrets that the Office of the Indiana Secretary of State has decided for political reasons to misrepresent the resolution of this case.
Even if the statement turns out to be true – and the available public documentation does not yet support it – it entirely ignores the costs of the trust’s collapse not just to ISTA members, but to NEA members across the country.
Let’s take a trip back in time to 2009, when NEA established an administratorship over ISTA and created NEA Properties, Inc. for the sole purpose of purchasing ISTA buildings and leasing them back. That resulted in a payment of more than $13.6 million from NEA to ISTA. All of that came from NEA dues money.
During the 2009-10 school year, ISTA had 140 full-time and part-time employees, with $21.3 million in dues income. Despite the building sale, the union was $9.9 million in the red, partially because it transferred more than $7.8 million to the insurance trust to fund “long-term disability claims, capital calls, legal fees, and operating expenses.” All of that came from ISTA dues money.
So the union was in the red, and driven further into the red not just to cover the trust’s liabilities, but because the trust was also operating in the red. Its expenses were $3.6 million more than its revenue in 2009-10. The trust’s legal expenses alone that year totaled $2.3 million.
Faced with monumental debt and future liabilities, ISTA raised dues by $40 per member and cut staff. During the 2010-11 school year, ISTA employed only 106 people. However, dues revenue fell to less than $20.7 million, the union ran a budget deficit and its total red ink increased to almost $12.6 million. To cover expenses and liabilities, ISTA transferred $11.9 million to the trust, which by now was taking in no revenue and had $6.5 million in expenses. All of that came from ISTA dues money. Legal expenses alone totaled $4.4 million. It did receive cash from its first legal settlement: $200,000.
The 2011-12 school year found ISTA with 88 employees, its dues revenue down to $19.7 million, another budget deficit, and its red ink up to almost $16.4 million. It transferred another $9.1 million to the trust, all of it from ISTA dues money. The trust actually ran a $1.1 million surplus that year, thanks to a $5.1 million settlement payment, presumably from UBS Financial Services. The trust’s legal expenses alone totaled $3.1 million.
If the ISTA trust accumulated a total of $14 million in settlement money which it then passed to the school districts, the final $9 million or so must have been received in the 2012-13 school year. We will find out eventually. It still does not erase the sum total of all these numbers.
Between 2009 and 2012, ISTA sent a grand total of $28.9 million in dues money to the trust, of which the trust spent $15 million, most of it in legal fees. At the end of that period, ISTA held a “note payable” to NEA of almost $16.6 million. NEA continues to use national member dues money to pay ISTA’s electricity bill, stock its restrooms with soap, and repair its sprinklers. The costs of the national administratorship have not been tabulated.
The ISTA transfers to the trust are fungible, so if it is accurate to say no members’ dues were used to pay the state settlement, it would be equally accurate to say it was entirely paid with members’ dues, and that the money the trust received from UBS and others instead paid for three years of legal fees and other operating expenses. Or to put it another way, NEA, ISTA and the trust received $14 million from the people they sued, but they had to spend $15 million to get it.
No matter what money you place in what box, ISTA and NEA members are still out tens of millions of dollars because of a scheme carried out by ISTA employees and advisors, and overseen by its elected officers.
Recent Intercepts. EIA’s daily blog, Intercepts, covered these topics December 3-9:
* My True Love Gave to Me a National Day of Action. I guess showing up somewhere is a sort of action.
* The Payments That Unite Us. Quite a few on the list of “National Day of Action” sponsors show up on another list.
* How NYSUT Can Reduce School Spending Inequality. What’s the number one expense in every school district?
* No Dues Used for ISTA Insurance Trust Settlement? Prompting this week’s feature article.
* So’s Your Old Man. How dare you notice my union ties?
Quote of the Week #1. “Where is the line in terms of how far the government gets involved in the operation of a private business, which is what MEA in its essence is.” – Doug Pratt, the Michigan Education Association’s temporary director of member benefits, testifying before a state senate committee about the union’s compliance with the right-to-work law. (December 5 MLive.com)
Quote of the Week #2. “Do I have a deal for you! For a small annual fee of $669, you can join a political organization I’m starting. It’s called the MEA—Matt’s Education Association. Don’t worry about writing a check; my friends in government will gladly withhold my fee from your paycheck, just like taxes, and send it to me free of charge…. You say you don’t want to join or pay anything at all? I understand, that’s your free choice—as long as you choose to find a job someplace else.” – Matthew J. Brouillette, president and CEO of the Commonwealth Foundation. (December 4 Pottstown Mercury)
December 2, 2013
Prison Pay, Valet Service and Ice Machines: NEA’s Contract with Its Own Employees. Though I have written about the fact often, it bears repeating that the National Education Association and its affiliates are employers. Between them they hire thousands of workers to perform a variety of tasks. Virtually all of these workers are covered by collective bargaining agreements in which the teachers’ union is management – bosses, to put it plainly. Union employees use the contract to set salaries, benefits, working conditions and protections against arbitrary actions by union executives.
About 500 people work at NEA national headquarters in Washington, DC. A handful of unions represent them, the largest being the National Education Association Staff Organization (NEASO). NEA and NEASO negotiated a 136-page collective bargaining agreement in June 2012, and it runs through the end of May 2015. I have posted the full document on EIA’s Declassified page, but to save you the energy of mining it yourself, here are a few provisions I thought were worthy of highlighting:
* It is explicitly noted that “An employee shall be permitted time off as necessary to use the restroom.”
* NEA must assume financial liability for an employee who is prosecuted or sued “because of any act taken by him/her in the course of his/her employment.” Under these circumstances, unless the employee is guilty of “gross negligence or gross irresponsibility,” he or she “shall be paid at his/her regular hourly rate for all time spent in jail.”
* NEA can fire or discipline an employee for just cause. Just cause for immediate termination includes “habitually being under the influence of alcoholic beverages or drugs during working hours to the extent that the employee is unable to perform adequately his/her assigned functions,” which implies that you can’t be immediately fired if you only do it once. Immediate termination can also occur for an “unprovoked assault on or threats to an NEA representative or another employee during working hours,” which implies assaulting or threatening someone during off-hours will not result in immediate termination.
* Outside of the usual crimes and misdemeanors, the only thing that will get you immediately fired is failure to pay NEASO dues.
* NEA reimburses employees for valet service if they travel for five consecutive days.
* NEA reimburses employees for loss or damage of personal items during travel if not covered by insurance.
* If NEA is forced to cancel an employee’s previously approved vacation time, it must “reimburse the employee for any deposits or other similar out-of-pocket losses necessarily sustained by him/her as a result thereof.”
* Employees can be reimbursed up to $700 for “technical equipment with a business purpose,” including broadband and Internet.
* NEA is required to provide “an appropriately furnished lounge” for employees at union headquarters. The contract specifically requires NEA to “make an ice machine available to employees in the building.”
* “An appropriately equipped and staffed health services unit shall be open during normal business hours at NEA Center. A registered or licensed practical nurse shall be on duty during those hours.”
* The contract dictates that computer monitors must be “equipped with a screen designed to reduce glare” and NEA must provide employees who work at computer monitors for an average of two hours or more per day a vision examination once every two years. NEA will reimburse employees for special lenses and frames for computer monitor use which are prescribed at that exam.
* Any “conceptual design decisions regarding the configuration of NEA office space” must be referred to joint labor-management council.
* NEA may be liable for job-related injuries or illnesses that occur while an employee is working at home.
* NEA grants administrative leave during national periods of mourning and on Inauguration Day.
* NEA provides no more than 214 parking permits for its headquarters building, and so must issue a $60 monthly commuting benefit for those who use the DC Metro, or $10 per month for those who bike to work. The contract requires NEA to maintain a bicycle rack. The issuance of parking permits is an important issue, as is evident by this paragraph:
If a non-bargaining-unit employee who holds a parking permit is moved to a bargaining-unit position, he/she shall be placed on the waiting list for a parking permit according to his/her most recent date of hire, unless his/her seniority would make him/her immediately eligible for a permit, in which case he/she shall retain his/her permit.
If a contract between union employees and union employers looks like this, it is only sensible to assume that unions believe such provisions are an essential part of the collective bargaining process. Do you?
Recent Intercepts. EIA’s daily blog, Intercepts, covered these topics November 26-December 2:
* “The union cares about all workers.” That’s why it won’t let them go.
* Another Kansas Teachers Local Decertifies NEA. Jayhawkers.
* Loving Gives No Loving to NEA-Loving. The price of a secret ballot.
* Happy Thanksgiving! Enjoy your ham.
* Black Friday Lesson in Fiscal Policy. Spending and saving.
Quote of the Week. “It would be akin to making you and your wife redo your marriage license every year.” – John Havlicek, president of the La Crosse Education Association, describing Wisconsin’s annual recertification requirement for teachers’ unions. (November 27 La Crosse Tribune)
November 25, 2013
Realty Reality: Massachusetts Teachers Association Puts Headquarters Up For Sale. It never occurred to me that covering teachers’ unions would require so much research into real estate, but land and buildings are valuable assets for most of the National Education Association’s state affiliates. The Boston Business Journal reported last Friday that one of these, the Massachusetts Teachers Association (MTA), is placing its headquarters building in the Beacon Hill area on the market.
The building, assessed at almost $5.2 million, has eight stories and 41,000 square feet of office space. MTA is reportedly seeking a short-term sale leaseback, which would allow the union to continue to occupy at least some of the space as a tenant.
One developer believes the building could fetch as much as $8 million if converted to apartments, but that would require the union to seek office space elsewhere. MTA would not comment on the story, but did post a release acknowledging the listing, admitting “Should a sale occur, the association may relocate some or all of the employees now in Boston.”
Executive director Ann Clarke said the possible sale was being explored “as the MTA looks at its options for meeting the future needs of the union’s members.”
That sounds like code for “we could use the cash.” I have reported previous instances of unions utilizing their real estate holdings to deal with debt, most notably the Indiana State Teachers Association and the United Teachers of Dade. MTA’s dues revenue continues to grow, but the union does have an expense that makes for an ugly balance sheet: staff pensions.
MTA’s most recent filings show accrued pension liabilities of almost $51 million, up from $23.9 million in 2011. Coupled with accrued vacation, post-retirement health benefits and other liabilities, MTA totals almost $70.2 million in liabilities against $43.5 million in assets.
Many of NEA’s largest state affiliates are in similar straits, and it remains to be seen whether they will liquidate property or employees or some combination of the two to address their shortfalls.
In the meantime, if you’re looking for an apartment right across from the statehouse, you might have some new options in the coming year.
Recent Intercepts. EIA’s daily blog, Intercepts, covered these topics November 19-25:
* Arne Duncan Still Safe. A web site to sign up for ObamaDon’tCare.
* Standardized Test Scores Don’t Mean Anything… Unless They Go Up. One-way accountability.
* Hope vs. Experience. California in the black…as long as pension debt is ignored.
* Crowder Named Tennessee Education Association Executive Director. Release time.
* Arizona Education Association Executive Director to Take Ohio Job. Out of the fire, into the frying pan.
Quote of the Week #1. “The school finance partnership was well-meaning and led to some great conversations among education leaders. However, its makeup was lopsided in favor of the status quo: leadership from school boards, administrators and teacher unions.” – Van Schoales, CEO of A+ Denver, reflecting on why the school tax initiative he supported failed at the polls. (November 19 EdNewsColorado)
Quote of the Week #2. “I think we ran as good of a campaign as we possibly can. Overall it was a fantastic campaign. People just didn’t want to raise taxes.” – Jim Strickland, member of the Memphis City Council, explaining why the city’s proposed sales tax hike for pre-kindergarten programs failed at the polls. (November 21 WREG-TV Memphis)
November 18, 2013
NEA Has 99 Problems, But a Pitch Ain’t One. In front of me is an internal National Education Association document detailing the compiled results of a brainstorming session of the union’s state affiliate leaders and representatives. These folks were split into groups and given a handful of tasks, the most interesting of which was to list those things preventing NEA from being more successful. They came up with 101, but we’ll subtract two in honor of Jay-Z.
Though they used different vocabulary, the participants repeated three broad themes they believed were the biggest problems with the organization: money, rigidity and communication.
* Money. In various forms, NEA activists worried that shrinking membership numbers and correspondingly shrinking budgets were affecting their ability to think long-term and strategically. Less money meant less time to spend on things other than putting out fires.
* Rigidity. Many activists complained that NEA was in a rut, doing things according to its traditions, enforcing top-down decisions and intimidating those who disagreed. They cited territorial battling, a lack of trust, and insecurity coupled with a fear of conflict.
* Communication. The activists addressed this both in the public relations sense (bad press, weak media coverage) and in the human relations sense (being in the dark, misunderstandings, slow response). Poor communication was the national union’s largest hurdle to overcome, according to the discussion participants.
There is nothing unique about these sorts of organizational difficulties. However, certain characteristics of teachers’ unions might tend to exacerbate them.
These problems didn’t spring into being along with the 2008 recession. They were there during the fat years, but as long as the organization was thriving financially they didn’t seem to hurt anything. What is now seen as rigidity and fear of conflict was celebrated as democratically derived consensus. Organizations devoted to solidarity prize internal support very highly. Internal dissension is acknowledged and tolerated only to the extent it doesn’t interfere with the union’s message. For NEA, there is world of difference between saying “this is what teachers want” and saying “this is what many teachers want.”
This brings us to communication. It is a failing of many advocacy groups to believe of their audience “If only they understood, they would support us.” Or, to put it more harshly, “If only those idiots would just listen!” A large number of NEA activists believe that the union is simply failing to gets its message across, and if it were more successful communicating NEA’s virtues to both the public and the membership, all else would be manageable.
The public doesn’t know what good we do. The younger members don’t know our history of accomplishments. The teachers don’t realize how hard we work for them every day. All of this might even be empirically based and entirely defensible, but it is also awfully convenient. It eliminates contemplating the possibility that your audience hears you fine, and is rejecting your message.
As I mentioned when reporting about the age gap between NEA activists and the rank-and-file, meaningful participation by a new group of members necessarily means relinquishing some power. Teachers most of all should know that communication is a two-way activity. Otherwise it’s a lecture.
Recent Intercepts. EIA’s daily blog, Intercepts, covered these topics November 13-18:
* Three Small Locals Oust California Teachers Association. “Regaining control of our association.”
* Michigan Education Association Demonstrates Why Teachers Need Representation. Contract players.
* NEA Sends $250K Common Core Grant to California. The new constructivism?
Quote of the Week. “Even during the Clinton years, teachers unions enjoyed the same political status as nurses, doctors, firefighters and veterans – a politically untouchable class of employee that engendered fuzzy feelings in the electorate and exultant, if robotic, praise from politicians in both parties. Those days are long gone. Since the recession, teachers’ unions across the country have weathered bitter, sometimes unfair, accusations that they defend their own ranks at the expense of students’ well-being – and, more to the point – their often generous pensions at the expense of taxpayers.” – Chase Olivarius-Mcallister, staff writer for the Durango Herald in Colorado. (November 12 Durango Herald)
November 12, 2013
School District Size and the Goldilocks Problem. Over the last century, the number of school districts in the United States has shrunk even as the population has ballooned. Today, the average American public school district enrolls about 3,600 students.
Even so, over the last decade more than a dozen states either instituted school district consolidations and mergers, or have attempted to do so. In each case, supporters have argued that larger districts lead to economies of scale and increased productivity.
The latest study to examine the issue appeared last August. Ulrich Boser of the Center for American Progress came to some measured conclusions about district size, the most prominent of which was that “many states have large percentages of small, nonremote districts that may represent hundreds of millions of dollars in lost potential capacity.” In particular he named New Jersey, New York, Illinois, Texas, California, Vermont, Oklahoma, Missouri, Montana and Wisconsin as states that could save money through targeted district mergers.
Boser did fine work, but seems overly concerned with the spending of these tiny districts while the flip side of the question goes unexamined. Having just compiled and analyzed per-pupil spending for all U.S. districts, and because I have frequently and forcefully expressed opinions on the issue, I decided to examine the differences in per-pupil spending between the largest districts in each state and the rest of the districts in each state.
I used the largest five percent in enrollment as the cutoff. That is, if a state had 100 school districts, I compared the five largest with the other 95. The results were educational. Of the 49 states (Hawaii has a single statewide district), 28 had large districts outspending smaller ones, including five of the 10 Boser listed as experiencing lost capacity.
(Click on table to enlarge)
These findings don’t disprove the claim of higher expenditures for very small districts. On the contrary, in places like Alaska, Montana and New Hampshire the results show some states are paying a premium price for smaller districts. But for some reason, no one wants to break up overly large districts to control costs.
One could just as easily make the argument that large districts in places like Massachusetts, Ohio, New York and Vermont are driving up the overall costs of education in those states.
Most states like to have school district boundaries coincide with city boundaries, but no one cares enough to examine why that it always necessary. Since very small and very large school districts both seem economically inefficient, perhaps states can find a sweet spot somewhere in the middle. That would be a policy discussion worth having.
Last Week’s Intercepts. EIA’s daily blog, Intercepts, covered these topics November 5-12:
* NEA Not Done Yet in Colorado. $1 million to challenge TABOR.
* Vallas Morghulis. The night is dark and full of terrors.
* Marginal. Has anyone at the Nevada State Education Association ever filled out a Schedule C?
* Work to Rule? That’s not in the contract.
* The History of Randi Weingarten. More than you wanted to know.
* How I Spend Veterans Day. Not with a bloomin’ onion.
Quote of the Week. “I felt a little guilty when I voted against it. It tugged at my heartstrings. I just don’t always believe that money solves problems. It’s difficult for me to write a blank check to the government.” – Erin DeMarco, a Colorado Democratic voter who pulled the lever against the Amendment 66 tax increase. (November 6 New York Times)
November 4, 2013
Who Will Get NEA’s Great Public Schools Grants? Last July, the National Education Association offered the delegates to its representative assembly a choice. They could either approve a budget with a dues level of $179, or a budget with a dues level of $182. The latter choice would set up a $6 million Great Public Schools fund, which would disburse grant money to state and local affiliates for projects “enhancing the quality of public education.”
NEA was deliberately vague about what kinds of projects these might be, but made clear that it was in response to “those with little or no practical classroom experience” who were “crafting policies and implementing practices that we know won’t work for our students.” The $6 million annually would allow the union to “fund our own ideas.”
The delegates approved the dues increase and the creation of the fund, although it was a close vote by the standards of NEA elections. It gave the union’s 12-member Executive Committee the power to write the grant guidelines, subject to the approval of the board of directors. I mentioned at the time that, as a practical matter, it gave the Executive Committee the power to dispense the money any way it wished.
Now that the board has (as it routinely does) overwhelmingly approved what came from the Executive Committee, it seems the disbursement of the funds is in the hands of even fewer union officers than I first suspected.
Single grants are limited to a maximum of $250,000 annually, unless waived by the Executive Committee. Applications are first reviewed by NEA staff to ensure that the request doesn’t conflict with the union’s other programs, and that the request does not ask for money for overhead, PR, lobbying or campaigning.
From there the application will be reviewed by a newly established Great Public Schools Oversight Committee, consisting of nine members, all of them at the highest levels of the national organization, such as the NEA vice president and secretary-treasurer, and the presidents of NEA internal groups representing the interests of large urban locals, state affiliates, education support employees, and higher education faculty. While all these folks have education experience, their presence on the committee is due to their place in the union hierarchy, not to their expertise.
If the Oversight Committee rejects the proposal, that’s the end of it. But if it approves, the application still can’t be funded until final approval is given by NEA president Dennis Van Roekel and executive director John Stocks. The two men can approve the grant, reduce it, or reject it. The only appeal applicants will have will be to the Executive Committee.
NEA has the right to set up any method it desires for the disbursement of funds, but I wonder if the delegate vote in July might have turned out differently if Van Roekel’s pitch during his keynote speech had been “You come up with a way to transform a school, then John Stocks and I will decide if it’s any good.”
The guidelines list seven criteria for evaluating grant applications, but I get the feeling that #6 and #7 will play an oversized part: the application’s “intentional alignment with key NEA initiatives,” and plans for the “engagement of members and/or non-member recruitment in proposed programs and activities.”
Of course there’s a big difference between Van Roekel and Stocks funding initiatives they approve, as opposed to Bill Gates doing it.
Gates uses his own money.
Last Week’s Intercepts. EIA’s daily blog, Intercepts, covered these topics October 29-November 4:
* Teacher Steals $10K from Union, District Doesn’t Care. A “faithful employee.”
* On the Wrong Side of the Final Frontier. “qaStaH nuq?” she asked.
* Bargaining and Selling. Public sector collective bargaining ignores most of the public.
* Vegas, Baby! NEA’s crap shoot.
* Wyoming Bucked the Trends. Boom times.
Quote of the Week. “When you look at all the uncertainty, you spend what you need to.” – Ginger Gold Schnitzer, director of government relations for the New Jersey Education Association, commenting on the union’s expenditures of almost $13.8 million on tomorrow’s elections. (November 1 NJ Spotlight)
October 28, 2013
NEA Activism: Not a Game for the Young. We are all getting older, individually and collectively. Some groups are aging relatively faster than others, and none more so than those who hold a position with the National Education Association.
As EIA reported last week, the short-term outlook for NEA is not bright, with membership losses continuing to plague the union. The long-term outlook may be even bleaker, because most of NEA’s activists – the people who hold union office, show up for rallies, and walk precincts during political campaigns – are nearing the end of their careers.
While they still can be a force in their retirement, the union will have to replace them, and the evidence suggests that NEA’s younger members just aren’t all that interested in teachers’ unions. It’s causing headaches at NEA headquarters, where the powers-that-be are brainstorming ideas to attract millennials to union activism.
To understand NEA’s consternation, we need to look at a series of demographic statistics. They are not all from the exact same year but they get us in the ballpark. The 2010 U.S. Census tells us that the median age of an American was 37.2 years. The National Center for Education Statistics states that the median age for a traditional public school teacher in 2011-12 was 41.2 years. The Center for Economic and Policy Research revealed that the typical union member (in 2008) was 45 years old.
NEA collected demographic data from the 7,000 delegates to its 2013 Representative Assembly (RA). The majority of these delegates already hold union office, whether as state and local presidents, members of state- and local-level union representative bodies, or as site representatives at their local schools. In short, RA delegates are NEA’s most active members. This year NEA learned their average age was 51.
This wouldn’t necessarily be troubling if it was just a vestige of retiring Baby Boomer teachers, but the same report also revealed that only 10 percent of RA delegates were under 35 years of age.
To put that in perspective, 24.3 percent of all union members are under 35, roughly 34.5 percent of public school teachers are under 35, and 47.2 percent of the U.S. population is under 35. Even worse for the union, the median age of charter school teachers is 34.2.
Discussion among NEA insiders centers on the communications aspects of the problem. If only the union could get its message through to these youngsters. Alas, social media and smart phones aren’t going to solve these connection difficulties. Think of it this way: Will a young teacher feel more comfortable and empowered in a group of people her own age, or in a group of people her mom’s age?
Opening up union leadership to younger activists will mean relinquishing some control over the direction of the organization. Suppose seniority and retirement isn’t as much of a priority with them as it is with the 50-somethings. Will the old guard stand for that kind of change?
All large organizations reach this stage. Do you want new people with new ideas or new people with your ideas? Unless the union is able to hash it out, the younger members will continue to display their indifference and seek professional and political accommodation elsewhere.
Last Week’s Intercepts. EIA’s daily blog, Intercepts, covered these topics October 22-28:
* “Let’s Get Rid of Step and Lane” Says NEA President. And then a little “revise and extend.”
* Public School Staffing at Highest Level in Two Years. Despite sequestration.
* NEA Rhode Island Officially Joins AFL-CIO. Slow disappearance of “professional association” arguments.
* West Virginia Thrived During Economic Downturn. Not usually mentioned among big-spending states.
* How Will Act 10 Affect Wisconsin School Spending? High-water mark in 2011.
Quote of the Week. “One privilege the insured and well-off have is to excuse the terrible quality of services the government routinely delivers to the poor. Too often, the press ignores — or simply never knows — the pain and trouble of interfacing with government bureaucracies that the poor struggle with daily. That can allow the problems in those bureaucracies to fester.” – Ezra Klein. (October 25 Washington Post)
October 21, 2013
NEA Membership Numbers Continue to Slide. The National Education Association lost an additional 61,000 active K-12 members during the 2012-13 school year, bringing the union’s cumulative losses to almost 300,000 working public education employees since 2008-09.
The NEA student program also took a beating, losing almost 11 percent of its members in a single year.
The loss of members will leave NEA with about $10.2 million less than it otherwise would have had, though it appears the union’s 2013-14 budget anticipated the shortfall.
I have no data on which states suffered what losses, but membership losses impact NEA state affiliate activities much more than those at the national level. State affiliates are likely to lean heavily on NEA funding for ballot initiative and legislative battles in the coming year. NEA national expects to have $38 million available to distribute for those purposes in 2014.
Last Week’s Intercepts. EIA’s daily blog, Intercepts, covered these topics October 15-21:
* Can’t Make This Stuff Up. Plan to show “how bargaining works for the benefit of public schools and the public school employees” leads to union grievance.
* Union Evaluates Teacher Knowledge… of Union. The standardized test of the year.
* NEA & AFT Affiliates in Michigan Form Partnership. Based on national model?
* Navel Gazing. Unions and the belly button tax.
* Washington State Districts Held Steady During Recession Years. Better off than many.
Quote of the Week #1. “Oliver Stone is the history teacher, and if you think of every approach you would not use for reaching your most disengaged students, you’ll get a sense of Stone’s instructional strategies. He drones on while the camera zooms in on the clock ticking and students falling asleep at their desks.” – Rachel Nobel of the United Federation of Teachers, commenting on the reality TV show Dream School, in which celebrities help teach dropouts. (October 16 Edwize)
Quote of the Week #2. “The kids were far better than this, and my experience was far more connective, an example of what this reality mentality does to all of us.” – Oliver Stone, illustrating that if he can’t teach, he’s at least learned the standard response to evaluation. (October 7 Starcasm.net)
October 14, 2013
Who’s in Charge at NEA? That’s more than a rhetorical question at the headquarters of the National Education Association these days as the union takes the first tentative steps toward reworking its governance structure. Preliminary reactions from high-level insiders suggest it will be a long and difficult process.
The current structure is similar to a multi-tiered representative democracy – similar, not identical, because the rank-and-file members get only one formal vote. They elect most of the delegates to the union’s annual Representative Assembly (RA), which meets for four days every July. The state affiliate representative bodies elect someone to fill each state’s seats on the NEA board of directors, which meets four times annually over a long weekend. The next highest tier is the 12-member Executive Committee, which includes the union president, vice president and secretary-treasurer. All the committee members are elected by a vote of the RA delegates. Additionally, NEA has a number of standing committees, such as the one on resolutions, whose members are also elected by RA delegates.
That’s the textbook version. Just like most other large bureaucracies, the real decision-making flow chart would look a little different. Declining membership and revenues has led NEA to re-examine a governance structure that was built on perpetual growth. The first move in this direction was requiring that one meeting each year of the board of directors and each standing committee be held electronically, instead of in person.
Now, ever so gently, the union is floating the idea of making the RA every other year, instead of annual. Coupled with it are a series of proposals to restructure the composition of the board of directors and reduce it in size from its current level of about 165 seats.
Most of these ideas are meeting with stiff resistance from the board itself. A large majority of directors are particularly opposed to having local and state affiliate officers serve on the board. Indeed, many are resentful that NEA’s officers seem to bypass the board and deal directly with state affiliate presidents and executive directors. Apparently NEA president Dennis Van Roekel habitually holds a meeting with state affiliate presidents just prior to board meetings. Some board members believe this undercuts their authority.
Somewhat predictably, board members are more open to changing the structure of other union bodies. They are willing to consider having regional seats on the Executive Committee, instead of the current at-large seats. There is also majority support for reducing the size of the Resolutions Committee, but the board is evenly split on whether to limit changes to the resolutions to every two years.
There is sentiment among board members that their meetings too often consist of lectures from the national officers and not enough decision-making participation from the board.
Whether or not the NEA board of directors is a rubber stamp for decisions already reached is open to debate. What is clear is that no matter what the true situation is, the board doesn’t want to be treated like a rubber stamp. The union’s dilemma is whether its current straits will lead to more democracy, or less.
Last Week’s Intercepts. EIA’s daily blog, Intercepts, covered these topics October 8-14:
* UFT’s Ghost Consultants Don’t Even Have a Logo. Laziest cover-up ever.
* The Scales of Justice. Weak bill vetoed, status quo unacceptable.
* More Students, Not Much Money in Utah. Stretching a dollar.
* Vermont’s Large Districts Not Matching Staff to Enrollment. Spending ballooned.
* School Spending Hikes Lagged in Virginia. Conflicting teacher numbers.
Quote of the Week. “A significant percentage of SEIU 1000 are Republican. Forty percent of the CTA members are Republicans. For years those Republicans have been trying to get their leadership – most of whom are activist Democrats – to give some of that money to Republicans. I’ve been working with the Republicans in these unions and they have been encouraging their leaders to take some of their dues money and give it to Republican causes.” – California Republican Party chairman Jim Brulte, explaining why the state party has been soliciting and receiving contributions from public employee unions. (October 9 Fox & Hounds)
October 7, 2013
Hawaii State Teachers Association Plans to Join AFL-CIO. The board of directors of the Hawaii State Teachers Association approved the submission of an application to join the AFL-CIO. If the process is successfully completed, HSTA would become the first National Education Association state affiliate to join the organized labor federation without a merger.*
NEA is not only the largest labor union in the U.S., it is by far the largest union with no formal affiliation with either the AFL-CIO or Change to Win. NEA has partnership agreements with both coalitions, and a structure in place that allows NEA state and local affiliates to join the AFL-CIO, if they so choose.
The five NEA state affiliates that have merged with American Federation of Teachers affiliates – Florida, Minnesota, Montana, New York and North Dakota – are all affiliated with the AFL-CIO to one degree or another, while a small number of local affiliates elsewhere have followed suit on their own. AFT and all of its affiliates belong to the AFL-CIO.
Under president Dennis Van Roekel, NEA has increased its ties to the rest of the labor movement, but there is no great sentiment for the national union to merge with AFT and join the AFL-CIO en masse. A modest attempt to restore merger negotiations was shot down by the delegates to NEA’s Representative Assembly last July.
There is no AFT presence in Hawaii, although the AFL-CIO is well-represented among the other public employee unions in the state, including the University of Hawaii Professional Assembly, which left NEA on September 1.
It’s difficult to see what immediate effect HSTA’s action will have, but with an increasing majority of public sector unions in the AFL-CIO, it is likely that the old barriers between it and NEA will continue to diminish.
*NEA Rhode Island has voted to affiliate all of its locals over a three-year period.
Last Week’s Intercepts. EIA’s daily blog, Intercepts, covered these topics October 1-7:
* Michigan and the 1%. Union president locks up fee-payers, then brags about high retention.
* UFT Paid $370,000 to Ghost Consultants. A lot of money to a group that doesn’t seem to exist.
* Patience, Patients. I lost my coverage because of Obamacare, and I’ve lost a lot of hours trying to get it back.
* What You’re Missing Today. Unaffected by government shutdown: hot air and helium.
* Tennessee Enrollment Grew Everywhere, Except Memphis. I’m noticing a trend.
* Enrollment & Hiring Gusher in Texas. Except for Houston and Dallas.
Quote of the Week. “It’s not a contest to see how many highly effective teachers are in a school. Publishing this data is unfair to all of the other teachers who may be doing a fantastic job in the classroom.” – Carnell Washington, president of the East Baton Rouge Federation of Teachers, after the school board recognized by name all the district teachers who were rated “highly effective” with a full-page ad in the local newspaper. (October 1 New Orleans Times-Picayune)
September 30, 2013
Education Reform: Before It Was Cool. Next week I’ll be heading to Washington, DC to participate in a panel for the Center for Education Reform’s 20th anniversary conference and gala. I’m proud and happy to do so. CER and outgoing president Jeanne Allen have been the driving force behind charter schools from their very inception, and charter schools are one of the very few transformative – and bipartisan – education reforms of the modern era. The conference has as its theme “Education Reform: Before It Was Cool.”
Well, I don’t know if education reform is cool even now, but CER is right to point out the contrast with the state of things 20 years ago:
Two decades ago, Education Reform was not cool. If you weren’t about reducing class size and advocating for more money, you were nobody.
The media was gaga over the education Blob. They had dozens of alliances and confabs that seemed to be always “happening”. People waited to get a glimpse of the Blob going in and out of the White House, the Departments of Education, the New York Times building! It was a big fat party, that education Blob, and some of us were fighting to get past the bouncers so we can shake up that party.
At the risk of sounding like a crotchety old man (Too late, you say!), it’s probably difficult for the younger set to imagine how out of the mainstream one used to be for suggesting that money wasn’t the answer to every ill, that schools might fare better if freed from mandates, that parents might prefer a wider choice of schools, or that teachers’ unions were a political special interest group. For my own part, I routinely dealt with reporters who weren’t even aware that their local union and the NEA were both part of the same organization. It was an uphill battle, to say the least.
The world hasn’t been turned upside down, but today those positions are at least accepted in polite society. The press especially caught on in the last 20 years that maybe what was coming out of NEA and AFT headquarters might be missing a few relevant facts and details, and that they should delve further.
So it’s a better world than it was, but there’s a little bit of rain on the parade. Twenty years might not seem too long when pushing against public education’s entrenched bureaucracy, but almost two full cohorts of children have passed through the K-12 system in that amount of time. Members of the first group now have children of their own entering or already in the system.
Will the next 20 years bring more incremental progress, a revolution, or a backlash? My Magic 8-Ball says “outlook good,” but I’ll be long-retired by then. If we’re very lucky, by 2033 we won’t need education reform, because all parents will have access to the type and quality of school they want and need. Here’s to you, CER, and to hoping.
Last Week’s Intercepts. EIA’s daily blog, Intercepts, covered these topics September 24-30:
* Union Files Grievance Over Volunteer Paint Job. America’s school employee unions – protecting your kids from trash disposal and lumber.
* Graph of the Day. A century of positive slope.
* Something Boston and New York Have in Common. Teacher union mayoral endorsements just aren’t what they’re cracked up to be.
* South Carolina Could Use More Teachers. One of few states to cut teachers while enrollment grew.
* Hiring Boom in South Dakota’s Largest Districts. Plenty of room, plenty of jobs.
Quote of the Week. “Because maybe these teachers have an ungodly fear of interviews. Or maybe they’re on vacation in the Netherlands and don’t want to return for an interview. Or maybe they think interviews are a sham. It doesn’t matter.” – Lynn Nordgren, president of the Minneapolis Federation of Teachers, explaining to school district negotiators why unplaced tenured teachers who refuse to show up for job interviews should not be dismissed. (September 27 MinnPost)
September 23, 2013
The Problem with Social Justice Unionism and Other Big Tent Strategies. It has always been a wonderful concept for political movements: We are not big enough to defeat our opponents on our own, but if we only unite with like-minded allies, we will prevail. And while expanding your base makes intuitive sense, it brings with it a host of complications, some of which are more trouble than they are worth.
Labor unions observe their power and influence shrinking, and naturally see the joining of forces with other progressives as a way to reverse the trend. Liberal groups join protests in Madison and Chicago, while unions support Occupy Wall Street and a host of other non-labor organizations. So, the theory goes, unified power leads to the ability of each individual constituency to get almost everything it wants.
But as countless coalitions of both conservatives and liberals have learned in the past, sometimes those constituent groups want mutually exclusive things. Additionally, no matter who’s in power, resources are finite while desires are infinite. Denied desires lead to frustration, and often the coalition splinters.
It is with all this in mind that we note a recent article by Kevin Bogardus of The Hill headlined “Unions push back against labor’s ties to progressive groups.” It seems some of the AFL-CIO’s member unions think the embracing of the environmental movement hurts labor’s agenda. “We are supposed to be representing workers and workers’ interests,” said Harold Schaitberger, president of the International Association of Fire Fighters. “We are not going to be the American Federation of Progressive and Liberal Organizations.”
The AFL-CIO also painted itself into a corner with its support of the Affordable Care Act. The unions committed themselves to its passage, even though its provisions threatened to dismantle some of the health insurance benefits union members currently enjoy. Now they find themselves in the uncomfortable position of demanding an exemption from the White House, which so far has been refused.
On the education front, the National Education Association has mirrored this balancing act. Always a financial supporter of progressive causes, NEA now considers itself to be a driving force for social justice, and demands joint action in exchange for its dollars.
But while the union strokes its left wing, it also tries to shore up its mainstream credentials, and its left wing is flapping about it.
NEA recently released the results of a member survey it commissioned, announcing that a “majority of educators support the Common Core State Standards.” Well, 26 percent support them wholeheartedly, while 50% support them with some reservations.
Strange then, that the comments beneath this announcement are uniformly negative, and Politico reports that when NEA president Dennis Van Roekel is “getting an earful” about Common Core when he visits with members.
This is the answer for those who ask why we can’t all just get along and do what’s best for the kids. We don’t all agree what’s best for the kids, and when we do, we don’t all agree how to go about it. That goes for allies as well as opponents.
Last Week’s Intercepts. EIA’s daily blog, Intercepts, covered these topics September 17-23:
* The Untold Story About Philadelphia Staffing Cuts. If you hired 100 teachers last year, and laid off 90 this year, is it still a cut?
* Ohioans Abandoned Large Urban Districts. Six largest districts all shrink.
* Enrollment Growth Strongest in Oklahoma’s Largest Districts. Oklahoma had the opposite experience.
* Feast or Famine in Oregon School Districts. Portland made out pretty well.
* All But One Rhode Island District Lost Students. Rapid decompression in the Northeast.
Quote of the Week. “Ravitch the historian undoubtedly would have asked such questions as: What led this current generation of education leaders — a generally left-leaning bunch — to challenge the teachers unions? What lessons did they take away from many decades of failed district reform efforts? When they tried to improve local teacher evaluation systems, what resistance (or worse) did they get from the teachers unions that led these leaders to opt for the admittedly imperfect federal Race to the Top law to break the stalemate? But Ravitch didn’t ask, appearing to have done only cursory research on this group. As such, Reign of Error signals the completion of Ravitch’s shift from historian to polemicist. A brief, distorted section on historical ‘context’ is included only to reassure her loyal audience that there is some basis for their strong feelings. Having long since made up their minds, they won’t care if her evidence is true, false, or cherry-picked. To them, she delivers.” – Jessica Levin. (September 19 Huffington Post)
September 16, 2013
Teacher Turnover Hyperbole Gets JOLTed. In order to support the narrative that public school teachers are under assault, we are periodically treated to claims that they are leaving or being driven out of the profession in swarms, mostly because of lousy pay, poor working conditions, standardized testing, and tyrannical principals and administrators.
It arose again recently when a well-known pundit wrote of teaching, “In no other profession do so many people exit so rapidly.” There’s no evidence to support this statement, and the statistics usually cited are based on an extrapolation computed from 11-year-old data.
No one compiles turnover rates by profession, or subdivides them by number of years of experience. But every month the Bureau of Labor Statistics releases its Job Openings and Labor Turnover Survey (JOLTS) that provides definitive information on hiring, firing and quitting by broad industry categories. Each January survey contains annualized statistics for the previous year, so we have comparable rates for 2008 to 2012.
The first table I reproduce here has the separation rates for each industry. “Separation” includes quits, layoffs, discharges and all other separations from employment, “also referred to as turnover,” the BLS explains. Public school teachers would fall under the category of “state and local government.”
As you can see, state and local government workers separated at a rate of 16.4 percent in 2012, up from 15.6 percent in 2008. However, the national average for all industries in 2012 was 37.1 percent. Turnover in state and local government was lower than all but one other segment of the U.S. economy – that of the federal government. The lowest private sector turnover in 2012 was 22.2 percent in durable goods manufacturing.
Of course, dismissals are much more common in the private sector than in the public sector, and especially in teaching. And since the story is supposed to illustrate how frequently teachers are voluntarily leaving their jobs, let’s take a look exclusively at the “quits” statistics.
In 2012, state and local government workers voluntarily left their jobs at a 7.4 percent rate, slightly lower than in 2008. Again, that is the lowest rate in the nation save for that of federal government workers. In the private sector, every segment except durable goods manufacturing (9.5%) had a double-digit quits rate. The national average was 18.8 percent.
Finally, if these claims of school employee churn were accurate, we would expect to see it reflected in the tenure statistics – not tenure in the school sense, but in the number of years an employee has worked for his or her current employer. Fortunately, the Bureau of Labor Statistics collects that data, too.
For 2012, the median number of years employees had worked for their current employer was 4.6. In local government, the category where most public school teachers fall, it was 8.1 years. That was more than every industry except the federal government, utilities, and paper and printing.
These figures can’t be conclusive on the issue because they don’t disaggregate education employees from other local government workers, but they are highly suggestive that compared with other professions, teachers are keeping their jobs and holding them for longer periods of time. Assuming teachers aren’t irrational, the jobs must be desirable.
Last Week’s Intercepts. EIA’s daily blog, Intercepts, covered these topics September 10-16:
* Key Detail of Kenosha Decertification Under Dispute. This is why I don’t single-source internal union news.
* Confirmed: No Election Held in Kenosha. Union still decertified, but it doesn’t tell us anything about level of member support.
* Will UFT Get “One for the Thumb?” Union picks mayors like the Jets pick quarterbacks.
* Wisconsin’s Act 10 Ruled Constitutional. Free speech does not guarantee an audience.
* The Good Times Rolled in North Dakota. Spending surge.
Quote of the Week. “We’re not about picking a mayor. We’re about making a mayor, making the winner. And that’s what we’re gonna do…. I talk to them (the mayoral candidates) constantly. All of them. I know all about all of their families. I know about their dogs and this and that.” – Michael Mulgrew, president of the United Federation of Teachers, two weeks before the union endorsed Bill Thompson for mayor of New York City. (June 4 Politicker)
Headline of the Week. “Bill Thompson concedes to Bill de Blasio in New York City Democratic mayoral primary.” – September 16 New York Daily News.
September 9, 2013
Philadelphia School Funding Crisis Was a Long Time in the Making. I have been closely following events in the Philadelphia school district because they feature many now-familiar angles – a follow-on to last year’s teacher strike in Chicago, another example of a machine Democrat at odds with the teachers’ union, et al. But I have taken a particular interest in the issue of massive education employee layoffs. The reason is that Philadelphia once exemplified the overexpansion of the education mission.
Way back in 1999 I wrote a report – no longer available online – called “Mission Creep: How Large School Districts Lose Sight of the Objective — Student Learning.” Its premise was that as school districts got larger, they expanded their mission. At the beginning these expansions are sensible – transportation, food services, after-school programs – but then each of these activities spawned their own support services, bureaucracy and constituencies. After a time, the district gets larger and larger and spends a correspondingly smaller and smaller percentage of time and resources on its reason for existence – educating children.
I featured Philadelphia in that report, and I’d like to reproduce that segment here:
There are school districts in America where the superintendent, assisted only by a secretary, is also the principal of the school and teaches fifth grade. In the Philadelphia School District, the superintendent supervises over 25,000 employees and 261 schools. He has a staff of 10. The school board has a support staff of six. The general counsel has a legal staff of 27. These staffers evidently can’t speak with the public or the legislature on their own, so there is a communications and government relations staff, which consists of 13 people. Then there is transportation, school safety, human resources, leadership and learning, purchasing and warehouse, print shop, etc. According to the district, the total administrative staff for 1997-98 was 1,474. But “administration” is a term open to interpretation, and we should make no rash assumptions.
The district defines the following personnel as “providing direct services to students.” They include 12,005 classroom teachers, 3,750 assistant teachers and classroom assistants, and 413 principals and assistant principals. After that, some job titles are self-explanatory and others, well, are not.
(All figures are for 1997-98. Source: School District of Philadelphia 1997-98 Amended Operating and Grants Fund Budgets)
Job Title Number of Employees
Department Heads and Coordinators 103
and Technical Staff 197
School Coordinators, Bilingual, Computer
and Science Lab Assistants 371
School Safety Officers 337
Non-teaching Assistants 630
Nurses/Health Providers 305
Guidance Counselors 403
Administrative Assistants and Facilitators 218
Librarians and Assistants 231
Food Service Workers 1,098
Noon-time Aides 1,045
Bus Drivers 677
Bus Attendants 569
School Aides 81
Custodians and Building Engineers 2,361
This list raises a lot of questions, but one stands out. The Philadelphia School District has 2,895 custodians, building engineers and maintenance people, plus 121 staffers to oversee them. That’s an average of 11.5 people per school site whose jobs are merely to service the buildings. Perhaps each and every one of them is vitally necessary. But it is obvious that so many custodians equals fewer teachers, or less pay for those you have.
Why is this important? For one reason, because we tend to think of bloat as something that happens to education only at the state or county level. For another, because these bloated districts are home to overwhelming percentages of the nation’s minority students. Philadelphia alone enrolls 47.6 percent of the minority students in the entire state of Pennsylvania.
…Minority students in large urban districts bear a double burden. They are stuck in school districts that do not have the tax base to compare to surrounding suburban districts, plus the available funding gets diverted to areas unrelated to the district’s primary mission: educating students. Suburban schools may spend more per-pupil, but how many, like Philadelphia, have two bus attendants, three non-teaching assistants, four noon-time aides, and nine custodians for every school? And there are labor implications. Which district is more likely to have difficult contract negotiations or work stoppages? The district with 15 bus drivers, or the one with 677 bus drivers?
All those numbers are from 15 years ago. An examination of today’s numbers shows deep reductions in staffing at all levels, although the deepest cuts only occurred after 2011. And it appears cuts were made virtually equally across the board. Job classifications from classroom teachers to administrators to classroom support services are all down 20-30 percent from 10 years ago (some of this due to enrollment), but the district still managed to increase the number of counselors, librarians, psychologists, therapists and paraprofessionals.
Staffing requirements change over the years, but it seems as though the Philadelphia authorities were more concerned with making the numbers work than with matching staffing to priorities.
It’s fashionable to blame the recent recession for every budgetary problem encountered by school districts these days. Certainly, traditional staffing practices are only one component of the crisis in Philadelphia. But stronger medicine in the late 1990s might have obviated the need for the current amputation.
Last (Two) Week’s Intercepts. EIA’s daily blog, Intercepts, covered these topics August 27-September 9:
* The Most Important Education Labor Issue No One Talks About. Even though it’s destiny.
* Bloggers Go Ballistic. School’s in!
* Lusty Lady Labor Lesson. Stripped bare.
* Labor Day Tribute. No press releases about these union stalwarts.
* Rest of Nevada Didn’t Share Vegas Growth. Clark County owns almost three-quarters of the state’s K-12 students. The other quarter is shrinking.
* Northeast Demographic Shift Plagues New Hampshire. Go west… and south.
* Spending Slowed in New Jersey. Unlike its counterparts across the Hudson.
* Mostly Status Quo in New Mexico. Neither here nor there.
* New York: Fewer Teachers, More Money. It’s a big education apple.
* Enrollment Growth Steady in North Carolina. Unlike most everywhere else.
Quote of the Week. ”The impact of these historically low interest rates on PSEA’s employee pension and post-retirement medical obligations has been dramatic. PSEA’s total unfunded long-term pension and post-retirement medical liability stands at $72 million. As a result, PSEA is in an overall negative asset position of $8.2 million, meaning we owe more than we own. However, PSEA is not in imminent financial danger.” – from the 2013 annual report of the Pennsylvania State Education Association.
August 26, 2013
I’m Struck Dumbo. It seems like a good time of year to take a short break, so there will be no communiqué next week. Intercepts will still be updated daily.
I’ll be at Disneyland for the Labor Day weekend, as I have accepted the Dumbo Double Dare. I also expect I’ll have a churro or two.
Enjoy the last week of August, and I’ll see you back here for the start of the 2013-14 school year.
Last Week’s Intercepts. EIA’s daily blog, Intercepts, covered these topics August 20-26:
* Weingarten Attacks ”Austerity-Mongers” in Speech at Jamaica Resort. “Escape to the all-inclusive splendor.”
* Currency Exchange. It’s still a lot of money, but it is Jamaican money.
* Maybe Adults Need a Common Core. ”Don’t know” cedes authority to “in the know.”
* Great School Board Election Resource. A cure for the eeny-meeny-minie-mo method of electing school board trustees.
* Spending Much Higher in Montana’s High School Districts. Disaggregation makes for a clearer picture.
* Nebraska’s Schools on the Upswing. No austerity here.
Strange Bedfellows of the Week. ”The BATs (Bad Ass Teachers) represent a new wave of liberal opposition to the Common Core standards, which includes some union leaders, progressive activists and Democratic lawmakers. They are joining forces with tea party groups and libertarians, who want states like Florida to slow down efforts to adopt the new benchmarks and corresponding tests.” – August 26 Bradenton Herald.
August 19, 2013
Randi Weingarten on Book Cooking. It’s not surprising that the Tony Bennett scandal would lead to calculated outrage from teacher union officers, but American Federation of Teachers president Randi Weingarten was being especially clever when addressing a group of teachers in South Florida.
“I love when somebody says, like Jeb Bush, ‘[Bennett] had to resign because of hits he was taking from the right and the left.’” Weingarten said. “No. He had to resign because he was cooking the books. Just like Tornillo had to leave.”
For the newbies out there, “Tornillo” was Pat Tornillo, the late former president of the United Teachers of Dade who pleaded guilty to spending union dues on, among other things, luxury vacations and python print pajamas. It’s a weak analogy, and not just because Tornillo was a convicted criminal.
For one thing, the AFT knew something was wrong with Tornillo’s handling of union dues long before the FBI raided UTD headquarters in April 2003. UTD and its parent affiliates routinely denounced and tried to spike broadcast reports that Tornillo was crooked. Indeed, there is some evidence that Tornillo’s schemes dated back to the mid-1980s. No union affiliate took action until after UTD’s chief financial officer took the books to the feds. Well, at least the union learned its lesson, recognizing Tornillo as the crook he was.
Not so fast.
Tornillo was a “strong lifetime proponent of civil and human rights,” and “an advocate of strong local education organizations,” leading Florida Education Association president Andy Ford to submit a resolution that – in 2008, mind you – “posthumously honors the long and dedicated service of Pat L. Tornillo, Jr. to public education in Florida and the United States; to the children of our state and nation; to the rights and cause of all teachers and education professionals, and by extension, all organized labor; and to his faithful efforts to promote justice for all regardless of their race, gender, creed, or sexual orientation.”
It seems now that Weingarten’s analogy is even more inappropriate. Tornillo was a hero of organized labor, civil rights and universal justice – even after he had to exchange his python print pajamas for an orange jumpsuit for stealing teachers’ money. Tornillo’s transgressions go unmentioned in the resolution.
Bennett should continue to take his lumps for what he did, but if union officers are so worried about nefarious deeds by Indiana superintendents of public instruction, they have a great opportunity to show their concern for the public’s welfare.
Last Week’s Intercepts. EIA’s daily blog, Intercepts, covered these topics August 13-19:
* Indiana “Ponzi-like Scheme” Will Cost NEA $14 Million. Getting off cheap.
* ISTA: By the Way, We Have a Secret Settlement Fund with $14 Million In It. I’m not omniscient, but this sounds like b.s. to me.
* Changing of the Guard in Missouri School Districts. Kansas City half the size it was, but spending per-pupil is up almost one-third.
* Big Districts Growing, Small Districts Shrinking in Mississippi. Hiring boom.
* Rejected. Most Valuable Player ill-fitted as union president.
Misinformed Headline and Subhead of the Week. ”National Education Association teacher union wisely engages dissenters – The National Education Association engages the critics in its ranks, a strategy based on inclusion and survival.” – August 15 Seattle Times.
August 12, 2013
The Elusive Militant Incumbent. I suspect the reason Chicago Teachers Union president Karen Lewis has such a large following among the union disaffected is because she alone among her peers is an incumbent rabble-rouser.
There’s no shortage of militants among those out of power, particularly in affiliates that don’t practice term limits. But it’s amazing how many of them suddenly are perceived as sell-outs once they take office.
I was reminded of this phenomenon last week when LA School Report disclosed that challengers are already lining up to unseat Warren Fletcher as president of United Teachers Los Angeles. “Warren Fletcher has led our union down the wrong direction,” said prospective candidate Jose Lara. “We have seen a series of constant losses. Any victories we get are despite Warren Fletcher, not because of him.”
What a difference two years make. Back in 2011, it was Fletcher who was the outsider haranguing the incumbent and his chosen successor. But UTLA has a long history of that kind of turnover. Here’s the relevant portion of the February 7, 2011 EIA Communiqué:
Current UTLA president A.J. Duffy is moving on to run for the vice presidency of the California Teachers Association. Mail-in balloting is taking place for his successor, and eight candidates are running.
The Los Angeles Times reports:
“Except for Washington, who is part of the union leadership, candidates insisted that UTLA has become too weak, too compliant, too ineffectual, too willing to compromise under president A.J. Duffy, who is finishing his second and final three-year term.”
Flashback six years to Duffy’s election, when the Times reported that Duffy’s slate pushed for “militant rank-and-file unionism.” Outgoing president John Perez admitted, “I think they want a more aggressive attitude toward LAUSD.”
When Perez was elected in 2002, he defeated Mike Cherry, who said, “We need to do something about salaries. If that means being more militant, that’s what I’ll do.” He also defeated Warren Fletcher, who said the union under Day Higuchi had become too bureaucratic and “too cozy” with the district.
“Every year we send them to market with the family cow and every year they come back with magic beans,” Fletcher said.
Now it seems as though there are quite a few candidates who want to grind Fletcher’s bones to make their bread. And to take their turn as a sell-out.
Last Week’s Intercepts. EIA’s daily blog, Intercepts, covered these topics August 6-12:
* Matt Damon Explains It All. Amid his private school choice, the actor also reveals a lot about his mom, President Obama, and deficit spending.
* While the Cat’s Away. The folks up north will see me no more.
* The Shrinking Massachusetts Teaching Corps. Twelve of the 13 largest districts lost teachers.
* Michigan Enrollment Tumbles As Spending Climbs. Detroit’s a mess, but you wouldn’t know it from per-pupil spending statistics.
* Minnesota Enrollment Down, Staffing Up. Minneapolis replaced students with teachers.
Quote of the Week. ”Certainly, ousting ineffective or conservative leaders is an important goal of militants among teachers, as it is for other union activists.” – Lee Sustar, columnist for SocialistWorker.org. (August 8 SocialistWorker.org)
August 5, 2013
NEA Settles Suit With State of Indiana. The Indianapolis Star reports that the Indiana Secretary of State, the Indiana State Teachers Association and the National Education Association have reached a settlement of the state’s $24 million lawsuit against the union stemming from the financial collapse of ISTA’s insurance trust in 2009.
The state accused ISTA of unlawful sale of securities and fraudulent misrepresentation, and named NEA as liable because of its oversight of the UniServ program.
Settlement negotiations began in earnest after NEA failed to have itself removed from the suit. The settlement was apparently filed last Friday, though the magistrate judge agreed to the parties’ wishes to keep the details under seal.
I expect these will eventually come to light (and will do my best to be the one to bring them to light), but a good guess would be a denial of wrongdoing in exchange for a multi-million dollar payout, though somewhat south of $24 million.
Since there’s no chance ISTA itself can cover any kind of financial settlement, it will be incumbent upon NEA national to generate the necessary funds. That means more dues money from across the country flowing into the Indiana affiliate.
NEA has done a fine job of hole-plugging to this point, but the supply of plugs isn’t inexhaustible. Healthy affiliates may start wondering why they are paying so much for life support for sick ones.
Last Week’s Intercepts. EIA’s daily blog, Intercepts, covered these topics July 30-August 5:
* AFT Troops Topple Another Local Affiliate. Coup, then sue.
* Mouth Off. Ignoring teacher voice isn’t limited to school districts.
* How to Close “Open” Bargaining Sessions. Gag order.
* You Will Be Assimilated. If money talks, it talks everywhere.
* Counting Pennies? School spending instead of district spending.
Quote of the Week. ”A lethargic membership is more cancerous than reforms, charter schools, and excessing. Members’ expectation of any president must be tempered with what they are willing to do for themselves.” – Nathan Saunders, outgoing president of the Washington Teachers Union. (July 31 letter to members)
July 29, 2013
Union Unions: A Look at NEA Affiliate Employees. It is easy for the layman to get confused when I start discussing the staff unions of the National Education Association and its affiliates. “Union management” is an oxymoron to most people, and “union employees” sounds redundant.
The terminology gets murky, but the situation isn’t complicated. Teachers work for a school district and are represented by a teachers’ union. People who work for the teachers’ union are represented by a separate and wholly independent staff union. In the case of NEA, most unionized employees are represented by an affiliate of the National Staff Organization (NSO), an umbrella group of state-based staff unions.
These employees operate under collective bargaining agreements that are negotiated with the staff union on one side of the table, and the elected teacher union officers and executives on the other side. This sometimes leads to irony, hilarity and all sorts of hijinks.
There are basically two kinds of NEA affiliate employees: professional and associate. The professionals include UniServ directors (who are primarily the labor negotiators and political operatives), communications officers, attorneys, et al. The associates are the clerical workers, assistants, and support staffers. Although ratios differ somewhat from state to state, in the aggregate there is about one associate for each professional.
Sometimes the associates and professionals have separate staff unions. Sometimes they join together in one. The Michigan Education Association has eight staff unions.
I have obtained a list of the number of NEA employees represented by an NSO staff union in each of 49 state affiliates. The 50th – New York – has three staff unions unaffiliated with NSO and their numbers are unavailable. The figures date from 2012.
The total, including most employees working for NEA national headquarters, numbers 4,320. Judging by Mississippi and South Carolina, it appears the lower limit for staffing an NEA state affiliate is eight employees – not counting management.
While these folks make a pretty good living, the worrisome cost for the teachers’ unions is what they are owed when they retire. Funding pension obligations is a serious problem for NEA and its state affiliates just as it is for state governments. Retiree health care costs are an additional financial burden.
There is roughly one union staffer for every 700 NEA members. Considering recent membership losses, and those to come, we can expect further union employee layoffs across the country.
Last Week’s Intercepts. EIA’s daily blog, Intercepts, covered these topics July 23-29:
* Looper. Bob Chase should demand royalties.
* Dream Job or Nightmare? The Ohio Education Association needs a new skipper, but there are icebergs ahead.
* Chicago “Works to Rule” on Union. More than you bargained for.
* New Season of DC Teachers Union Horror Show. Where a single election will never do.
* Maryland Schools Boomed During Recession. It was a very good year(s).
Quote of the Week. “But according to a person who has reviewed the group’s internal numbers, (the Wisconsin Education Association Council) has lost roughly 50% of its 98,000 dues-paying members since Walker signed Act 10. The financial pressure has caused the union to cut a large share of its staff. For a time last year, union executives considered selling WEAC’s prominent hilltop headquarters on the south side of Madison. The union’s board stepped in and put a halt to the idea, according to sources familiar with the matter.” – Daniel Bice, columnist for the Milwaukee Journal-Sentinel. (July 20 Milwaukee Journal-Sentinel)
July 22, 2013
Happy Holiday! These are the dead days of summer, with little of import to command attention in the education labor world, so I won’t tax you with lesser news. Instead, let’s simply enjoy the rest of Rat Catcher’s Day.
Last Week’s Intercepts. EIA’s daily blog, Intercepts, covered these topics July 16-22:
* Louisiana’s Strange Success Story. The state has everything: vouchers, charters and weak unions for conservatives, booming spending and hiring trends for liberals.
* It’s All For the Kids… Except For That Sandwich. There ain’t no such thing as a free lunch, unless you’re a New Jersey school board member or district employee.
* Kentucky Schools Weathered Recession Well. Spending growth continued apace.
* Hard Times in Maine. Everything shrinking.
* The Most Unlikely Inspiration For a Novel Ever. Must-read?
Quote of the Week. ”Asked whether the membership report is accurate, [Idaho Education Association president Penni] Cyr said the IEA’s membership is ‘very fluid’ and subject to a ‘constant ebb and flow’.” – July 16 Idaho Ed News.
Headline of the Week. ”Teachers’ union confirms membership drop, nationally and in Idaho.” – July 18 Idaho Statesman.
July 15, 2013
Official NEA State Affiliate Membership Numbers for 2012. Thanks to the unofficial efforts of a handful of folks at the National Education Association Representative Assembly, I’m able to bring you the official 2012 membership numbers for each NEA state affiliate.
It hasn’t been a problem accessing or computing the national numbers, but the state-by-state breakdown has been difficult to get hold of in recent years, which is especially troublesome because those are the numbers I’m asked about most.
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 changes in those figures since 2011 and 2009, when NEA reached its membership high-water mark. In the last three years, NEA lost almost 7 percent of its active members and only six affiliates had more active members in 2012 than in 2009.
The biggest losers over that period were Arizona, North Carolina and Wisconsin, all of whom lost more than a fifth of their active members. The Arizona Education Association is almost half the size it was in 2009.
Other affiliates that experienced double-digit percentage active membership loss over those three years were Arkansas, Georgia, Idaho, Indiana, Kansas, Louisiana, Michigan, Mississippi, Nevada, Oklahoma, South Carolina, South Dakota, Tennessee, Virginia, West Virginia, DC and the Utah School Employees Association.
The union’s largest affiliates managed to keep their losses in the 5-8% range, but the gap between the haves and have-nots among NEA state affiliates grew steadily. We also know that membership again fell nationally in 2013, albeit at a reduced rate, and the dark clouds remain for the coming school year. Michigan and Wisconsin numbers will continue to drop as collective bargaining agreements expire, and the 3,000 members of the University of Hawaii Professional Assembly will come off the books.
Some affiliates are no longer viable as independent entities, but much of NEA’s reputation hinges on its having an affiliate in each state. The chances of the national union allowing one to fold are nil. Since even in the fat years NEA wasn’t increasing its market share of the public education workforce, the only way the current situation will turn around is through massive hiring increases by school districts, particularly in the mandatory collective bargaining states. Whether that will happen is the shape of political battles to come.
Last Week’s Intercepts. EIA’s daily blog, Intercepts, covered these topics July 9-15:
* “We’d like to thank you for trying to destroy our union.” The “world’s largest democratic deliberative body” doesn’t deliberate – or notice – the accusations of its soon-to-be ex-affiliate.
* Incumbent Bounced, But Apathy Still Rules. It’s tough to make assumptions about union direction when so few vote.
* Shrinking Districts in Indiana Spend Most. Lagging cuts.
* Diseconomies of Scale in Iowa. Size matters.
* Small Districts in Kansas Spend Big. Some things can’t be reduced with enrollment.
Quote of the Week. “There’s no incentive for schools to get it right.” – Hawaii Board of Education Chairman Don Horner, commenting on the chronic problem of schools inflating their enrollment figures. (July 15 Honolulu Civil Beat)
July 8, 2013
Direct Links to All NEA Convention Blog Posts. In case you didn’t follow along all last week with EIA’s gavel-to-gavel coverage of the 2013 National Education Association Representative Assembly from Atlanta, here are the direct links to each post, in chronological order. Enjoy!
June 24, 2013
Coverage of the NEA Representative Assembly Begins July 2. For the 16th consecutive year, 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 Atlanta, Georgia. 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 only provide your e-mail address. Feedburner will send you a verification e-mail, then confirm your subscription. From then 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 2 and each evening thereafter until the convention closes on July 6.
You will not receive this communiqué next week. On July 8 I will send a communiqué with direct links to all the items I posted on the blog during the week of the convention.
I expect the proceedings will contain a lot of talk about “turning the corner” and “going on offense,” very similar to what we have heard from the AFL-CIO for the past, oh, 25 years. It’s an off-year, and as far as I know, NEA has nothing earthshaking planned.
I will be available via e-mail for your questions and comments during the convention, but please make allowances for delays in my response. Happy Independence Day!
Last Week’s Intercepts. EIA’s daily blog, Intercepts, covered these topics June 18-24:
* The Cabin in the Woods. “Enjoy your private compound.”
* Untaxed $1 Million to Support Nevada Tax Initiative. We exempt ourselves.
* Florida Class Size Reduction Saved Teacher Jobs. Class size limits for all grades.
* Georgia Matched Staffing to Enrollment. Any guesses how?
* Enrollment Down, Hiring Up in Hawaii. One statewide district not so different from many small ones.
Quote of the Week. “Once at City Hall it became clear that the union — especially under its current leadership — was an enormous impediment to reform. Watching the parade of candidates genuflecting before the UFT and pledging fealty to its positions is an embarrassment. The prospect of the next mayor handing the keys of Tweed over to Michael Mulgrew makes me fear for the future of the city.” – Howard Wolfson, deputy mayor of New York City and former consultant to the United Federation of Teachers. (June 19 Capital New York)
June 17, 2013
“Strategic Leverage” Underpins California Teachers Association Bargaining Goals. The State Council of the California Teachers Association recently adopted collective bargaining goals for the upcoming 2013-14 school year. The goals and their rationale make for interesting reading, particularly if you are an upper-level school district administrator and think you are negotiating a contract only with the people on the other side of the table.
To be sure, all local unions have some degree of independence and flexibility when it comes to collective bargaining, but the state union leaves little doubt about what it strongly urges its locals to do. The bargaining goals spell out these positions on the major education labor issues of the day.
With the passage last November of the statewide tax increase it supported, CTA believes its lean years are ending and that its affiliates should focus on restoring previous concessions. While noting that its members “suffered a loss of job security, wages, benefits and working conditions,” CTA seems even more concerned that the concessions “created a chasm between members and their leaders.”
The state union advises locals to meet their own situations and needs, “provided, however, that any such adaptation maintains consistency with the organization’s core values and the statewide bargaining goals.” CTA specifically addressed salaries, health care coverage, teacher evaluations and Common Core.
When it comes to a district’s financial picture, CTA recommends skepticism, telling locals to differentiate between the district’s wants and needs. In communications with members, the state union calls on locals “to reframe the issue and to counter the persistent `doomsday’ predictions that may be coming from the district and other external sources.”
“If salary comparability is low and the employer’s reserves are high and/or growing, then association leaders and bargaining teams should continue to organize for increased compensation regardless of the external economic factors,” the goals state. Whatever the local does, its approach to compensation “must always seek to build the union and its organizational capacity.”
CTA’s stance on charter schools is well-documented, but this context lends some additional perspective to the union’s motivations. CTA states, “Charter schools, if unorganized and/or paid at levels below comparable public schools’ salary levels, will erode salary standards and local associations’ bargaining power. It is important for locals to determine if they wish to represent the employees of charter schools within their district in order to maintain a high level of compensation and mitigate the erosion of working conditions.”
Differing health care coverage needs among members are also sacrificed on the altar of union solidarity. CTA warns that the “marketing of high deductible health plans along with Health Savings Accounts cause more divisions within the bargaining unit, as the higher paid or younger/healthier members consider such plans to save money for themselves while causing more adverse selection and higher premiums for those who remain in the regular health plans.”
Making some individuals pay more so that others can pay less may be a standard union procedure, but what about those who don’t want to go along? CTA advises, “Prohibiting opt-outs should be the first choice in bargaining to protect the integrity of the risk pool. If that is not achievable then local associations should bargain that districts shall be required to make health care premium contributions for all unit members even if they opt out of coverage so that there is no financial incentives for districts when members opt out.”
In CTA’s mind, local control is a wonderful thing, as long as all locals do the same thing. “Inconsistency of positions on health care among local associations continues to undermine our statewide strategic leverage.”
It would be wise of school district officials to determine if a local union’s demand at the bargaining table is designed to improve the teachers’ working environment or the union’s statewide strategic leverage. It might make a great deal of difference in how to proceed.
CTA recognizes that “the political pressure to change compensation and evaluation systems to take into account student test scores will continue to grow.” It suggests locals check with CTA before agreeing to any changes in the use of student growth for evaluations in the School Improvement Grant program.
Finally, you can bury yourself in analysis of Common Core these days, but you’ll find precious little about the collective bargaining aspects. CTA fills in that gap:
“Bargaining teams shall demand to bargain the funding and the impact of the Common Core on salaries and working conditions. Locals shall demand to bargain the pacing of program implementation, as well as purchasing books and materials. Districts shall utilize and compensate our members for doing work above what is normally required, such as developing assessments, curriculum and professional development.”
And you thought Common Core had something to do with English and math.
These goals reinforce the notion that collective bargaining is not simply a bilateral negotiation between management on one side and labor on the other. It is more correctly a trilateral negotiation to reconcile management’s demands, the employees’ demands, and the union’s demands. While the latter two may overlap, they are not the same. The more people realize that, the more honest public education collective bargaining can be.
Last Week’s Intercepts. EIA’s daily blog, Intercepts, covered these topics June 11-17:
* That’s the Union Spirit! As subtle as a punch in the face.
* Rainone Resigns After Bar Fight. Union meeting = cocktails at two.
* Friday Farrago. Differential pay, layoffs and other staffing stories.
* The Living Is Easy in Connecticut. You can be reasonable when the pay is good.
* Spending Growth Slowed in Delaware. But hiring was way up.
Quote of the Week. “If I did not work at NJEA, the only other position that would have been as rewarding would have been playing centerfield for the New York Yankees.” – Vincent Giordano, executive director of the New Jersey Education Association, announcing his pending retirement. Centerfielder for the Yankees is also one of the few jobs that pay more than NJEA executive director. (June 14 NJ Spotlight)
June 10, 2013
The Research I Paid For Supports My Views. A couple of weeks ago, Minnesota Gov. Mark Dayton vetoed a two-year, $1.5 million appropriation to recruit, train and hire 50 additional Teach for America teachers. The action prompted a disapproving editorial from the Minneapolis Star-Tribune, who saw it as a sop to Education Minnesota, the state teachers’ union.
Education Minnesota president Tom Dooher responded with an editorial of his own, deriding TFAers as “enthusiastic but barely trained rookies.” He’s entitled to his opinion, which he supported with this citation:
TFA teachers are paid the same as fully credentialed teachers, but they don’t produce the same results. According a review of the national research on TFA by the National Education Policy Center at the University of Colorado, “studies indicate that the students of novice TFA teachers perform significantly less well in reading and mathematics than those of credentialed beginning teachers.”
Dooher concluded, “Based on the independent research, on observing the program up close in our schools and on knowing the needs of the students we work with every day, we concluded that the earmark was inappropriate.” He allowed that TFA mitigates teacher shortages in some states. However, he wrote, “Minnesota doesn’t have a widespread teacher shortage.”
Well, maybe he’s right. Leaving aside for a moment the irony of a teachers’ union president judging the performance of a group of teachers entirely on their students’ scores on standardized math and reading tests, let’s take a look at that review of the national research. It is in fact posted on the web site of the National Education Policy Center. It was authored by Julian Vasquez Heilig and Su Jin Jez in June 2010. The report states it was “made possible in part by funding from the Great Lakes Center for Education Research and Practice.”
The same report appears on the Great Lakes Center web site, though that acknowledgement is slightly altered to read that the report was produced “with funding from the Great Lakes Center for Education Research and Practice.”
The Great Lakes Center, of course, is fully owned and operated by a coalition of six National Education Association state affiliates, including Education Minnesota. The decisions about what research gets funded are made by the Center’s officers and trustees, who are – every last one – officers or employees of one of those union affiliates.
That alone would make the research the opposite of “independent,” but it goes further than that. One of the Center’s trustees is Tom Dooher himself.
It’s regrettable that much education research is similarly compromised, so let’s look at some research that even Dooher might trust. Last year, the NEA staff concluded, “No evidence suggests that the TFA contracts are being used to reduce teacher costs, silence union voices, or as a vehicle to bust unions.” After checking with its 500 largest locals, the union found only a few who had a problem with TFA.
Dooher delivered good news by announcing that Minnesota doesn’t have a widespread teacher shortage, but he might want to notify NEA, which on the Minnesota page of its web site notes a “Teacher shortage in special education, world languages, math, physical sciences, art, and music.”
If only he had access to an organization that could research these things for him.
Last Week’s Intercepts. EIA’s daily blog, Intercepts, covered these topics June 4-10:
* Marginalized Students. A variation of Economics 101 in K-12.
* California Solves Teacher Shortage. The hard way.
* Performance Pay No Deterrent to Teacher Hiring in Denver. New employees adapt to incumbent systems.
* Arkansas Schools Defied the Recession. Success story, at least when it comes to funding.
* Arizona K-12 Enrollment Took a Nosedive. Staffing followed suit.
Quote of the Week. “A majority of the people I know in my middle-income bracket send their kids to private schools. Too many of these families have lost faith in the system.” – Segun Eubanks, new chairman of the school board in Prince George’s County, Maryland. Mr. Eubanks and his wife are both employed by the National Education Association. Their household income puts them in the “middle-income bracket” of the top 4 percent of households in the DC/Virginia/Maryland area and in the top 2 percent of the United States. (June 7 Teacher Beat)
June 3, 2013
California Teachers Association’s Two-Faced Approach to Charters. The board of directors and standing committees of the California Teachers Association will have their hands full with proposals concerning charter school teachers. The union will decide in the coming months whether to send its monthly organ, California Educator, to all active charter school teachers, to create promotional materials for distribution to charter school teachers about the joys of teachers’ unions, and to create workshops for union activists with the title “How to Unionize Charter School Teachers.”
At the very same time, these decision-makers will contemplate creating a standing committee on the problem of charter schools, reversing a recent state law that gives charters first crack at surplus school property, persuading the legislature to order performance audits of charter schools, and shutting out charters from basic school appropriations so that they would have to have their own separate source of funding.
The rationale for this latter proposal is that “The harmful impact of charter schools needs to be made transparent. Having our active members vote on this issue will both educate and make the harm done by charter schools evident.”
I’m pretty sure this stuff won’t appear in the promotional materials CTA distributes to charter school teachers, but I’m confident they’re informed enough to know that the union has been the most implacable foe of charter schools in California for more than 20 years.
Last Week’s Intercepts. EIA’s daily blog, Intercepts, covered these topics May 29-June 3:
* Nevada Disaffiliation Attempt Defeated. NEA hangs on to 11,000 members.
* Coming Up: State-by-State Breakdowns of Spending and Staffing. Stats for almost 13,500 school districts.
* Alabama Teaching Ranks Down Almost 15%. Large districts hardest hit.
* Teacher Job Market Held Steady in Alaska. Bucking the trends.
Quote of the Week. “My job is to recruit teachers to join the union, but you won’t allow me to join a union.” – Maria Elena Hermanson, former organizer for the Clark County Education Association. Hermanson filed a complaint against CCEA with the National Labor Relations Board, claiming she was fired for wanting to join the staff union. CCEA executive director John Vellardita claimed it was for poor performance, and emphasized that in Nevada employers can fire workers without cause. (June 2 Las Vegas Review-Journal)
May 28, 2013
Per-Pupil Spending Decreased in 2011. The effects of the recession hit K-12 public education a lot later than the rest of the economy, with the nation’s school systems recording their first decrease in per-pupil spending since the U.S. Census Bureau began tracking that data in 1977. The annual Census Bureau report on public school revenues and expenditures was released last week. It covered the 2010-11 school year. As is my practice, I’ve coupled the Census figures with staffing statistics from the U.S. Department of Education’s National Center for Education Statistics Common Core of Data and state departments of education for a full picture of the fiscal and labor scene.
Average current spending per-pupil in the 2010-11 school year fell to $10,560, with 21 states spending less than the previous year. The number of full-time equivalent K-12 teachers fell by about 82,000. Thirty-five states employed fewer teachers in 2011 than in 2010.
Annual figures can spike in either direction, so I have constructed a table of the 50 states that examines enrollment, hiring and labor costs over a five-year period (I will eventually update figures for each of America’s more than 13,000 school districts).
From 2006 to 2011, student enrollment decreased a cumulative 0.2 percent, while the K-12 teacher workforce decreased 0.3 percent. Per-pupil spending increased 15.6 percent (about 3.6% after correcting for inflation). Spending on education employee salaries and benefits increased 16 percent.
It’s likely that the 2012 numbers will reflect even sharper declines in spending, after which we can expect a plateau. What happens from here on out is the $600 billion question.
Last Week’s Intercepts. EIA’s daily blog, Intercepts, covered these topics May 21-28:
* A Stroll Through the Moratorium Mausoleum. Remember the full inclusion moratorium of 1994? Don’t worry. No one does.
* Pink Slips, Layoffs and RIFs Are Not the Same Thing. Reckless use of synonyms.
* NEA to Debate Firing Arne Duncan, Again. Sound and fury, signifying nothing.
* Union Trigger. Two stories about accountability and teacher voice.
* Census Bureau Releases 2011 Education Finance Report. The big picture.
* Memorial Day. The words to say.
Quote of the Week. “Anytime there’s an audit of Title I dollars, you’re going to see errors at the school level because schools spend money for what they need, and then sometimes they worry about if it fits the parameter of the grant later.” – Andres Alonso, CEO of the Baltimore City Schools, after a federal audit revealed that Title I and stimulus dollars were used for dinner cruises, meals, theater performances and a mother/daughter makeover. (May 23 CBS Baltimore)
May 20, 2013
Can Florida Real Estate Bail Out United Teachers of Dade? Ten years ago, the FBI raided the headquarters of the United Teachers of Dade, bringing to public view the theft of millions of dollars of dues money by UTD president Pat Tornillo. The embezzlement was disguised by a series of late dues payments, bank loans and the collateral of the union’s real estate holdings. When the truth came to light, UTD was placed in the unenviable position of making good on the debts Tornillo left behind.
Since 2003, UTD has been able to avoid the bald-faced larceny that marked the Tornillo years, but it hasn’t exactly been smooth sailing financially, either. It sold its headquarters building for $22 million and has leased space in it since then. Despite the election of reform-minded officers, the union has had more than its share of internal problems.
Today, with the election of a new president, who was the sitting secretary-treasurer, UTD would appear to be poised to finally escape its debt-ridden history and reestablish itself as a major teachers’ union local. But the numbers don’t lie, and UTD is still a ward of its parent affiliates ten years after Tornillo’s arrest.
UTD owes AFT more than $2.4 million of an operations loan, and another $2.1 million in back dues. It also owes the Florida Education Association almost $1.5 million in back dues.
Six million dollars of debt is substantial for a $10 million enterprise, but the picture is worse because UTD continues to budget based on unrealistic membership projections. The 2012-13 budget was crafted with the expectation of 12,000 full-time equivalent members. But the union only has 11,554 FTEs – a shortfall of $365,000 that has to be made up somehow.
Nevertheless, UTD drafted an optimistic 2013-14 budget based on 11,650 FTEs.
UTD can bumble along this way indefinitely, but it will never be able to pay off its debt. And so it once again has turned to dumping property.
The senior housing building the union’s non-profit subsidiary owns is apparently under contract to a seller for $14 million, though there is some controversy over why UTD turned down a more lucrative offer last year. The union still owes money on this building, but has promised to turn any profits from its sale over to its foundation for teaching excellence.
Additionally, though UTD sold its headquarters building on Biscayne Boulevard, it still owns the 71,000 square foot empty lot that sits behind it. UTD recently decided to put that lot up for sale. It has been assessed at more than $2.1 million.
A source tells EIA that AFT was directly involved in the decision to make the sale, suggesting the proceeds might be targeted to loan or dues repayment. Just as with NEA, the national union will naturally intervene to keep its state and local affiliates afloat. But it could become problematic if the number of fiscal basket cases continues to grow.
Last Week’s Intercepts. EIA’s daily blog, Intercepts, covered these topics May 14-20:
* NEA Offense Looks a Lot Like Defense. Pulling the goalie.
* Education Song Rejects. These didn’t make Andy Rotherham’s list.
* Staff Union Strife in Washington State. Maybe it’s the weather.
* Free Enterprise. Commercialization of schools!
Scheduling Note. The next communiqué will appear Tuesday, May 28.
Quote of the Week #1. “Everybody wants to see more spending. That’s what this place is, a big spending machine. You need something? Go over there and see if you can get it. Well, I am the backstop at the end, and I’m going to keep this budget balanced as long as I’m here.” – California Gov. Jerry Brown. (May 15 San Jose Mercury News)
Quote of the Week #2. “Even as Gov. Jerry Brown pledges to chip away at the state’s debt, his budget plan will leave California on the hook for billions more in school funding down the line.” – Los Angeles Times reporters Chris Megerian and Anthony York. (May 16 Los Angeles Times)
May 13, 2013
NEA Membership Numbers Haven’t Hit Bottom Yet. The National Education Association thinks it sees light at the end of its long tunnel, reporting losses of 38,000 members this year, which is a significant slowing from 2012. The economy has stabilized, if still weak, and it only makes sense that teacher layoffs would level off as well.
Before you get too excited, there are a number of problems unrelated to school district staffing that still exert a downward influence on teacher union membership. In fact, without a countervailing increase in the level of hiring, it is likely that NEA’s total membership will soon fall below 3 million – a level it hasn’t seen since the NYSUT merger in 2006.
The state unions acted quickly in Wisconsin and Michigan in the face of new collective bargaining laws. Many local affiliates were still under contract, or quickly finalized new contracts, which will allow them to hang on to their members for the time being. However, as time passes and those locals feel the effect of the new laws, their membership numbers will steadily continue to drop. As it is, the Wisconsin Education Association Council cut its dues by $27 in an effort to retain members.
Also, NEA’s current numbers do not yet account for the loss of its lone higher education state affiliate, the University of Hawaii Professional Assembly. The 3,000 UHPA members won’t come off NEA rolls until September.
In the meantime, NEA engineered a campaign to get the UHPA board of directors to reverse its disaffiliation vote. The national union organized phone banks and volunteers in an effort to drum up opposition, which has largely fallen on deaf ears. This isn’t necessarily because there was so much support for disaffiliation, but because the average member really doesn’t care one way or the other.
The UHPA leadership cares, though, and it sent an e-mail memo lambasting NEA for interfering in its internal affairs:
On March 18, UHPA President Adrienne Valdez issued a letter to NEA President Dennis Van Roekel requesting that NEA stop direct communications with UHPA members. This request has not been honored. Members continue to receive phone calls and other communications from the National Education Association.
…NEA’s communications are designed to undermine the UHPA elected leadership and the By-laws of our union. The NEA direct communication with members also challenges UHPA’s role as the exclusive collective bargaining representative for the UH faculty through attacks on leaders that do not agree with them. NEA has even begun to circulate a petition in an attempt to rescind the Board’s vote to disaffiliate with the NEA.
…Unfortunately, the NEA tactics make this a battle of winning at all costs. In part this relates to the significant membership and dues loss suffered by NEA since 2010. When NEA President Van Roekel spoke to the UHPA Board in July 2012, he noted that between September 1, 2010 and September 1, 2012, the NEA was projecting to lose 150,000 members. Projections from NEA in 2012 cite an anticipated total loss of 308,000 members by 2014.
UHPA’s membership represents 1/1000 of NEA’s total membership and collectively contributes more than $350,000 in net dues to NEA. With NEA’s declining membership, even UHPA’s decision is a threat to NEA and its bottom line. However, NEA’s foremost concern may be UHPA’s influence on other higher education affiliates to consider independence as an option.
At such a critical time when UH faculty members should be focused on priorities that include legislative issues affecting UH funding and preparing for our new contract negotiations, it is unfortunate the NEA is creating a distraction and seems more concerned with self-preservation than the welfare of its own members.
NEA could learn from AFT that this sort of tactic rarely works out.
With its internal situation in turmoil, the union will increasingly look to external means – increased hiring and funding from state agencies and school districts – to restore its former glory. Expect major initiatives, especially in union-friendly states, centering around class-size reduction and rescinding layoffs, in an effort to bolster membership numbers.
Last Week’s Intercepts. EIA’s daily blog, Intercepts, covered these topics May 7-13:
* Boo-Hooey. Duncan and the AERA deserve each other.
* What the AFL-CIO Can Do for Veterans. From underpaid to overpaid in one fell swoop.
* NEA Names Sen. Patty Murray 2013 “Friend of Education.” Someone has to win.
* Who’s to Blame for Widmer’s Theft? You can follow the money from either end.
* Feature or Bug? When did self-promotion become a liability for union presidents?
Quote of the Week. “Do you want to know what kind of person makes the best reporter? I’ll tell you. A borderline sociopath. Someone smart, inquisitive, stubborn, disorganized, chaotic, and in a perpetual state of simmering rage at the failings of the world. Once upon a time you saw people like this in every newsroom in the country. They often had chaotic personal lives and they died early of cirrhosis or a heart attack. But they were tough, angry SOBs and they produced great stories.” – columnist Brett Arends. (May 12 MarketWatch)
May 6, 2013
Devastating Budget Cuts Still Look Like Increases So Far. The National Center for Education Statistics issued its “First Look” at comprehensive school district revenues and expenditures for the 2009-10 school year. It’s a welcome report, though not exactly a “first look” since it uses U.S. Census Bureau figures available since last fall.
According to the authoritative National Bureau of Economic Research, America’s “Great Recession” began in December 2007 and ended in June 2009. Because of the vast number of agencies involved, it takes years to gather and report definitive public education revenue and spending data. So while we may eventually see figures that corroborate the tales of woe we hear from those quarters, that time has not yet arrived. Quite the contrary, in fact.
Here are a few of the center’s findings:
* School districts reported $599.9 billion in total revenues.
* That was an increase of 0.8 percent from the previous year, in inflation-adjusted dollars.
* Current expenditures per-pupil, however, rose 1.0 percent in inflation-adjusted dollars.
* Some states did experience significant spending cuts – Arizona, Hawaii, Nevada and Utah all had reductions of more than 5 percent. On the other hand, Illinois, Nebraska, North Dakota, Ohio, West Virginia and the District of Columbia all increased spending by more than 5 percent.
* About 61.2 percent of those expenditures went towards employee salaries, and another 21.3 percent to employee benefits. That left about 17.5 percent for just about everything else – student transportation, school books and materials, energy costs, external services, and supplies.
* Outside of current per-pupil spending, we spent $47.1 billion on school construction, $3.3 billion on land and existing structures, $9.4 billion on equipment, and $17.7 billion in interest on school debt.
These numbers are important not just because they highlight the truly awe-inspiring amount we spend on public education, even in terrible economic times, but what we spend it on as well. Whether you think it’s too much or too little, it’s mostly spent on labor, and so the economics and politics of labor have an influence far beyond any focus on curriculum, performance or evaluation. School is big business.
Last Week’s Intercepts. EIA’s daily blog, Intercepts, covered these topics April 30-May 6:
* Who Cares About Apathy? Lack of member involvement can work to your advantage.
* Nope, Still Not Worried About Charter School Unionization. Pushing against the tide.
* Sometimes the Union Is Not at Fault (It’s True!). A taste of IRS bureaucracy.
* Around the Horn. A farrago of factoids from across the country.
* Mobile Site No Longer Stationary. Tech problem fixed.
Quote of the Week. “Once they got somebody in there they thought was doing a good job, they let them stay forever. It was like pulling teeth to get people to do any of those (union) jobs.” – Philip Dello Stritto, former Auburn Teachers Association vice president under the late Sally Jo Widmer, who was alleged to have stolen $808,000 from the union. (May 5 Syracuse Post-Standard)
April 29, 2013
Stealing by Stalling: Dues Transmittal Delays Can Cover Up Theft. Over the past 10 years we have had a string of local teacher union officers committing major theft of dues money: Pat Tornillo in Miami, Barbara Bullock in Washington DC, Pat Santeramo in Broward County, and several others. But these were presidents of large locals, with many members and big budgets. More recent crimes involve officers of small locals.
In Maryland, Denise Inez Owens was the treasurer of the 600-member Worcester County Teachers Association, but she still managed to steal more than $433,000. Last week we learned that Sally Jo Widmer, president of the 400-member Auburn Teachers Association in New York, made off with at least $808,000. This is only possible because of a bug in the dues transmittal system, which is a reasonably efficient method of passing dues up the chain so that parent unions get their share.
In most cases, school districts extract the entire amount of each member’s dues and send it to the local union each pay period. But the local isn’t required to immediately forward the state and national unions’ share. The NEA by-laws spell out the normal procedure:
A local shall transmit to a state affiliate and a state affiliate shall transmit to the Association at least forty (40) percent of the Association dues receivable for the year by March 15 and at least seventy (70) percent of the Association dues receivable for the year by June 1; the percentage shall be based upon the last membership count prior to January 15…
In short, even small locals have large sums deposited for several months before they have to transmit the funds to their state affiliates. It might even be easier for officers of small locals to commit fraud under these circumstances because there are fewer people to enforce safeguards and/or become whistleblowers.
An examination of the 2012 financial disclosure report for the New York State United Teachers (NYSUT) reveals the Auburn Teachers Association under Widmer was behind on its dues transmittal by $36,816 – $18,339 of which was overdue by more than 90 days. That’s not much cash in the overall scheme of things, but in a local of 400 members, it is a significant amount.
There are dozens of legitimate reasons for a local to fall behind on its dues obligations to the state and national affiliates, but the major cases of fraud noted above were almost always accompanied by late dues transmittals (see item#4 here, just prior to the raid on Tornillo’s office).
The handful of teachers’ unions subject to the Landrum-Griffin Act are required to report the status of their accounts receivable, which includes overdue dues transmittals from locals, but they are not required to itemize every single one. NYSUT, for example, was owed money by at least 39 locals in 2012, including more than $19.7 million by the United Federation of Teachers, the largest local in the nation, of which almost $6.9 million was more than 180 days overdue. The local at New York University owed $627,297, all of it more than 180 days overdue.
Smaller locals also had late dues transmittals. The Goshen Teachers Association owed $39,580, much of it 90 days late. The same was true of the East Williston Teachers Association, the Clarence Teachers Association, the Uniondale Teachers Association, and the Rockland Community College Federation of Teachers.
In other areas of the country, the Chicago Teachers Union was almost $2.3 million behind, “various” Michigan locals were a total of $257,473 behind, the Jefferson Federation of Teachers in Louisiana was almost $419,000 behind, and the West Virginia School Service Personnel Association was $225,515 behind. And of course, the United Teachers of Dade (UTD) still owes AFT more than $2.5 million, stemming from the Tornillo scandal. UTD also owed almost $1.5 million to the Florida Education Association.
NEA and its affiliates have some laggards. NEA national was short almost $2.2 million from Florida, $590,000 from Georgia, $557,000 from Alabama, and $1.7 million from the Wisconsin Education Association Council, probably due to sudden membership losses in that state. NEA wrote off an additional $196,000 in fiscal year 2011 dues that it was never able to collect from various state affiliates.
Among those state affiliates, there were more late dues transmittals from locals. In Illinois, Local Education Association of District 300 ($100K), Downers Grove Elementary Education Association ($95K) and District 21 Education Association ($77K) owed money. In Florida, the Big Bend/Central Panhandle Service Unit and the local in Escambia owed a combined $166K and were more than 180 days late.
The list goes on: the Montrose Education Association in Pennsylvania, the Northwest Local Education Association in Ohio, Port Huron and Ionia City education associations in Michigan, and the Minneapolis Federation of Teachers in Minnesota all owed money to their parent affiliates.
There is no way for an outsider to tell – and few ways for insiders – how the national and state unions ensure that dues reach their prescribed destinations, and whether delays are because of legitimate shortfalls and unforeseen circumstances.
The financial structure of the teachers’ unions makes it possible for wealthy affiliates to organize and subsidize poorer affiliates. Consequently, fraud and misappropriations can affect the bottom lines of all associated unions. It’s a rare crook who would steal from a local but leave the state and national funds untouched.
Last Week’s Intercepts. EIA’s daily blog, Intercepts, covered these topics April 23-29:
* Late Union President’s Astonishing $800K Theft. More than $2,000 per member.
* Widmer Committed Suicide, Left $50K to Union in Will. Remorse or insult to injury?
* Big Fish in a Little Pond of Voters. Does this make UFT the ex-teachers’ union?
* Aberration or Trend? Unusual election outcomes in some NEA state affiliates.
* NEA Should Have Reconsidered Its Motion to Reconsider. Spanked again by Indiana judge.
Headline of the Week. “Maine lawmakers propose $30 million in additional education funding without revenue to pay for it.” – April 24 Bangor Daily News
April 22, 2013
Seven Not-So-Fun Facts About the Costs of Public Education. I was in the midst of writing this for posting on Income Tax Day when last Monday’s tragedy occurred.
For many years we have expressed education expenditures as “per-pupil spending.” This is a reasonably good way to frame the numbers, though controversy sometimes arises over what is included and what isn’t. The following is a list of different angles on the same spending. All the figures cited are for 2010, courtesy of the National Center of Education Statistics, the Bureau of Labor Statistics, and the U.S. Census Bureau.
1) Revenues collected by governments for public education in the United States totaled $593.7 billion. About $261.4 billion came from local sources, $258.2 billion from state sources, and $74 billion from federal sources.
2) That’s about $1,922 from each and every American.
3) Or $2,531 from each adult, 18 and older.
4) Or $4,567 from each non-farm American worker on a payroll.
5) That amounts to 11.4 percent of the average worker’s salary, or $2.20 per hour.
6) The average American employee thus works almost one hour every day to fund public schools.
7) It would take the entire salary of 14,842,500 employees to pay for U.S. public schools, equivalent to the entire retail trade workforce.
Public education advocates often speak of school spending as an investment. It’s clear that our portfolio is heavily weighted in the education sector. The shareholders are understandably upset by weak ROIs and incessant margin calls. No wonder they responded by downsizing.
Last Week’s Intercepts. EIA’s daily blog, Intercepts, covered these topics April 16-22:
* The Evergreen Charter School Unionization Story. There you go again.
* Hawaii Pays for Performance Pay. That’s a pretty big carrot.
* Exclusive Video of Chicago Teachers Union Candidate Training. Look, it’s the queen of diamonds!
* Hedge Fund Hilarity. Fair share.
* Math Skills Not Required. We’re gonna need a bigger calculator.
Quote of the Week. “We don’t blame the firefighters when there’s a fire, and we don’t blame the police for crime! Why would we? Then why are educators being blamed for the struggles of our public schools? Let’s look at the policies and the policymakers instead of the people doing the work every day.” – Earl Wiman, current member of the National Education Association Executive Committee. (April 12 speech to the Virginia Education Association Delegate Assembly)
We pay firefighters to put out fires. We pay police officers to catch criminals. We pay teachers to educate children. NEA pays Wiman to obscure the issue.
April 15, 2013
1) Say a Prayer for the Victims of the Boston Marathon Explosions. Horrible news today, but even worse for the group of Newtown, Connecticut parents who were running in the race in memory of the victims of the Sandy Hook massacre.
As I write this, the Boston Police Department is reporting 2 dead and 23 injured. Keep them all in your thoughts and prayers.
UPDATE: Newtown Patch reporting Sandy Hook parents who ran in race are safe.
2) Last Week’s Intercepts. EIA’s daily blog, Intercepts, covered these topics April 9-15:
* What Happens When You Assume. Rose-colored glasses improve the view, but not the smell.
* Union Uses PAC Money to Pay School Board President’s Campaign Fine. Is that what it’s for?
* New Jersey School Stats Stir the Pot. Current vs. total.
* WEAC Executive Director Stepping Down. New direction or slow descent?
* A Very Special Episode of “Glee.” No, not the school shooting stuff.
3) Quote of the Week. “We do think it’s paramount… that districts do get restored at least back to their ’07-’08 levels.” –Andrea Ball of the California School Boards Association, voicing some discontent with Gov. Jerry Brown’s school funding plan. (April 10 SI&A Cabinet Report)
April 8, 2013
1) Relativity and Its Effect on Education Staffing Levels. Don’t worry. This isn’t going to be a treatise of any sort. It’s just that the March 2013 Employment Situation report from the Bureau of Labor Statistics has bad news not just for the U.S. economy in general, but for education employees specifically. Most of these workers, including most K-12 public school teachers, fall under the BLS category of “Local government, education.” That sector lost 2,000 jobs in March, and 24,200 jobs since March 2012.
It continues an interrupted downward trend in the public education workforce since its peak of more than 8.1 million employees in July 2008, as depicted by this simple graph.
That’s a 4.4 percent drop in about five years. While that’s a hardship on everyone involved, it only took the four previous years – from June 2004 to July 2008 – to add those jobs to the public education workforce.
If we take the extreme long view, this decline is hard to notice. The BLS statistics go back to 1955, and this is what staffing looks like over the entire 58-year period.
The staffing numbers for 1955 would obviously be inadequate for the student population of 2013. The same for 1985. But since desires are infinite, and resources are finite, how are we so certain that the staffing levels of 2008 were an optimal use of funding?
The economy will eventually improve. Tax revenues will grow, and lawmakers will find ways to spend them. The pressure will be on to restore staffing to pre-recession levels. Before that becomes mired in the usual political wars, wouldn’t this be a good opportunity to ask why?
2) Last Week’s Intercepts. EIA’s daily blog, Intercepts, covered these topics April 2-8:
* The Less-Than-One-Percenters. How small does a rally have to get before it’s downgraded to “get-together.”
* Rhee-actionaries. How lefties deal with racism in the ranks.
* How Slow Can You Go? Cut to the Chase.
* New Argument Against Vouchers: Your Kid Might Have to Ride the Bus. Whatever works.
* There’s No App For That. Low data plan.
3) Quote of the Week. “Money for implementing the new Common Core State Standards and adult education would also be part of the new formula and decided at the local level. That, quite honestly is unacceptable. And CTA has had those conversations with the governor. There must also be accountability provisions in this funding proposal to ensure districts spend the money the way they are supposed to in order to meet student needs. It will be important for educators to get involved and have a say in these local issues, which is why we are recommending that local chapters not rush into settlements between now and when the revised state budget comes out in May.” – Dean Vogel, president of the California Teachers Association, in an April 6 speech to the union’s State Council.
April 1, 2013
1) Money and Membership Dominate NEA State Affiliate Concerns. Spring is when many National Education Associations state affiliates hold their conventions, and while I wish I had access to all their budgets contemporaneously, there is usually a delay of a year or more before comprehensive numbers are available.
In the meantime we have to make do with a hand-gathered sample of states and what they are facing for the 2013-14 school year.
* Connecticut Education Association – One of NEA’s healthier state affiliates in 2011 became significantly less healthy in 2012 despite a budget surplus of more than $1 million. That’s because revenue projections to fund post-retirement benefits for union staff had to be reduced because of continued low interest rates. CEA has about $12 million in staff pension liabilities and an additional $9 million in post-retirement medical benefit liabilities.
The union budgeted for a membership level of 36,260, which would be about 1,000 members below 2011’s level.
* Missouri NEA – Planning on a $10 dues increase after a loss of 1,000 members last year – to just under 27,000. The union is budgeting 65 percent of its income for personnel costs.
* Ohio Education Association – OEA closed two field offices, reduced 10 staff positions by attrition, and realigned service regions to allow fewer employees to cover more ground. The union lost 4,600 members last year and is expecting to lose 3,000 more by the end of this school year. If the trend is not reversed, OEA will soon fall below 100,000 full-time equivalent members.
OEA also suffered greatly from its post-retirement obligations. It currently has about $60 million in pension and retiree health care liabilities. Pension and health care contributions was by far the largest line-item in the union’s budget, exceeding even salaries plus payroll taxes.
* Vermont NEA – Planning on no change in active membership of 10,350, but calling for an $18 per member dues increase for a $4.65 million budget for 2013-14. All but $1 million of that will be spent on employee salaries and benefits.
* Virginia Education Association – I don’t have detailed budget information for VEA, but it is reducing the number of regional districts from 26 to 17, and reducing the minimum number of representatives on the board of directors from 33 to 15. Additionally, VEA will amend its by-laws to allow for electronic meetings and conferences.
* Other affiliates are planning for dues increases. The Nebraska State Education Association will ask for $380 (up $4), Kansas NEA $374 (up $5), Iowa State Education Association $489 (up $8), South Dakota Education Association $381 (up $11), and Wyoming Education Association $490 (up $15).
If you have similar information for other affiliates and it can be verified with documentation, send it along and I’ll update everyone.
2) Last Week’s Intercepts. EIA’s blog, Intercepts, covered these topics March 26-April 1:
* Bad, Bad Week in Indiana Courts for NEA, ISTA. The unions will face trial for securities fraud.
* Is James G. Blaine Finally Dead? Vouchers will continue to see legal challenges, but one argument might become moot.
* Decertification Oddities in Florida and Montana. Deadlines.
* “House of Cards” Causes Union Guy to Flush. Switch to decaf, dude.
* Campus Gun Ban Hit By Musket Volley. The shot heard ‘round the world.
* Labor-Saving Technology. No e-mails for three weeks, and then all in one day from Feedburner. I switched to MailChimp and let’s hope that mess is behind us. Thanks for your patience.
3) Quote of the Week. “We don’t condone cheating, but when you have high-stakes testing, which are one-shot deals that don’t tell you whether a child is going to fail or succeed, the whole setup in terms of No Child Left Behind was unfair to children, unfair to educators.” – Verdaillia Turner, president of the Georgia Federation of Teachers, remarking on the indictments in the Atlanta test cheating scandal. (April 1 MSNBC)
If you received this all right via e-mail, let me know. I switched to MailChimp and will be tweaking it in the coming weeks. Thanks for your patience.
I apologize for the failure of the system to get you last Monday’s communique’ – and maybe previous Mondays as well. I’m trying out a new service, so if you receive this via-email, respond and let me know.
If it works, there will probably be a few tweaks to the design, so if you have suggestions or desires, get them in now and I’ll try to incorporate them. Thanks for your patience. Automation is a lot of work.
I am having lots of problems with the Communique RSS feed, particularly the e-mail delivery, so bear with me while I try to work it out. Thanks.
March 25, 2013
1) NEA’s Legacy: $310 Million in Direct Campaign Spending Since 2000. I was recently provided with a partial summary of the ballot initiative spending of the National Education Association and its state affiliates over the last five years. The figures were substantial, to say the least. A few years ago, I attempted to create a comprehensive accounting of the unions’ political campaign spending, but concentrated on a single election cycle. Using the data compiled by the National Institute on Money in State Politics, I decided to check on NEA’s total direct campaign spending since 2000, the year NEA created its Ballot Measure/Legislative Crises Fund and assessed each member to fill its coffers.
NEA and its state affiliates spent more than $310 million in direct contributions on political campaigns for candidates and issues in that 12-year period. That figure does not include independent expenditures or issue advertising. Almost $53.4 million came from NEA national headquarters, while another $257.1 million was spent by affiliates.
More than 47.3 percent of that total – almost $147 million – was spent in California or on behalf of California ballot measures and candidates.
The union spent more than $92.3 million on candidates and party committees. About 86.3% of those were Democrat-affiliated, and 11.5% were Republican-affiliated. The rest were nonpartisan or third-party candidates. About $60.9 million went to candidates alone, 66.3% of whom were incumbents and 14.2% challengers. The rest were open seats. Candidates backed financially by NEA and its affiliates won 73.2% of the time.
NIMSP data on ballot initiative spending only goes back as far as 2004, and while I have NEA national expenditures for the previous four years, I don’t have figures for every state affiliate. Suffice to say additional millions were spent on ballot measures from 2000-04, but we can’t adequately account for it all.
NEA and its affiliates spent almost $218.1 million on ballot initiatives alone from 2004 to 2012. Of the ten measures that drew that most spending by the union, eight were in California. The other two were in Ohio in 2011 and Oregon in 2008.
The National Education Association and its state affiliates are a giant political machine in perpetual motion. That machine is fueled with the dues and PAC contributions of 3 million public school employees and retirees. We would do well to keep that in mind as we debate the relative merits of things like Common Core or teacher evaluation systems and their outlooks for success.
2) Last Week’s Intercepts. EIA’s blog, Intercepts, covered these topics March 19-25:
* NEA “Only” Down 70,000 More Members. Half the budgeted loss.
* I Still Don’t Understand the News Cycle. 70,000 in one year is news, but 150,000 in two years isn’t?
* Hawaii Teachers Now Contractually Obligated Not to Flee Scene of Emergency. Work-to-rule protection?
* Union Health Trust Begins Its “Journey of Change.” Which side wants to increase teachers’ premiums and which side says no.
* How “Informal Bargaining” Works in Wisconsin. Campaign of annoyance.
3) Quote of the Week. “I stand for direct election of any CTA board of directors member who represents a geographical district. Currently your CTA Board member is elected by CTA State Council. Direct election of Board candidates will put the electoral process in school site lunchrooms and local union offices and make our politics more accountable to membership. Your CTA dues are $647 per year; shouldn’t you be allowed to vote?” – Mark Kotch, candidate for vice president of the California Teachers Association. (March 2013 California Educator)
March 18, 2013
1) NEA to Unveil “Raise Your Hand” Campaign. The National Education Association often feels itself to be the target of education reform, so it routinely generates reform campaigns of its own. The latest in the series has its roots in December 2010, when the union formed the Commission on Effective Teachers and Teaching (CETT) to “craft a new teacher-centered vision of teaching and the teaching profession.”
The commission produced a report the following year, which was well-received in many circles – including here at EIA – and led NEA president Dennis Van Roekel to hold a press conference in December 2011 to announce a “new three-part action agenda to strengthen the teaching profession and improve student learning,” under the heading of “Leading the Profession.”
The three parts of the action agenda were “raising the bar for entry,” “teachers ensuring great teaching,” and “providing union leadership to transform our profession.” Each item had specific and measurable goals to be reached:
* “…the implementation of at least 50 high-quality residency programs over the next several years and teacher performance assessments in at least 10 state licensure systems.”
* “…establish at least 100 new Peer Assistance and Peer Assistance and Review programs over the next three years.”
* “…train 1,000 accomplished teachers to be voices for their profession, both as instructional leaders and at all levels of policymaking.”
While this had all the earmarks of being a major NEA campaign, it still hit a hurdle at the 2012 Representative Assembly when a group of influential delegates sought to “address internal barriers to organizational engagement about teaching quality and student learning” by involving UniServ directors in teacher quality issues. The idea was a CETT recommendation. UniServ staffers are state affiliate employees partially funded by NEA to deal with labor and political issues. The delegates voted down the proposal by a substantial margin.
Van Roekel is now introducing a new campaign, called “Raise Your Hand,” designed to follow on the progress of the “Leading the Profession” campaign. But Raise Your Hand has a few things Leading the Profession lacked. It has four components instead of three, it has a logo and, best of all, it has a $3 per member special assessment budgeted for it.
The four action items for this campaign are “successful students,” “accomplished professionals,” “dynamic collaboration,” and “empowered leaders.” And, like its predecessor, each item has goals – the training of 1,000 teacher leaders, the establishment of at least 50 peer review programs (down from 100, it appears), the creation of an online professional collaboration system involving 30 state affiliates, 250 locals and 30,000 members, and the development of a leadership training curriculum for 200 selected teachers.
Whether these goals will be reached or, having been reached, will actually result in better public schools, is open to debate. It is also unclear whether these kinds of initiatives will actually generate the laudatory press NEA seems to think they deserve.
The ultimate test of NEA’s reform program won’t be an acknowledgement by the public of the union’s role in improving education. It will be an endorsement by the rank-and-file members and staffers of an approach that places teacher quality issues on an equal footing – at least – with grievance, contract and compensation issues.
2) Last Week’s Intercepts. EIA’s blog, Intercepts, covered these topics March 12-18:
* Union Calls Off Representation Election at Chicago Charter School. A hasty retreat.
* Staff Union Sanctions Idaho Education Association. Hostile work environment.
* It’s Thursday, So It’s Time for Another Union Resurgence. So many union turnarounds leave us dizzy.
* Card Check No Panacea. No rush to unions in Oregon.
* Payback. Tax on them. Spend on me.
3) Quote of the Week. “When the powers that be ignore you and dismiss you, then you have no other choice than to resort to civil disobedience to confront an immoral act.” – Randi Weingarten, president of the American Federation of Teachers, explaining why she was arrested during a protest in Philadelphia. (March 12 Washington Post)
March 11, 2013
1) Text of the AFSCME-NEA-SEIU Statement of Solidarity. In an attempt to circle the wagons, the National Education Association sought a series of agreements with fellow public sector unions AFSCME and SEIU to increase cooperation and avoid inter-union squabbles. The three organizations ultimately drafted and adopted three documents: one for dispute resolution, one for representation boundaries, and one a statement of solidarity. Here is the full text of the statement of solidarity:
AFSCME-NEA-SEIU STATEMENT OF SOLIDARITY
We, the American Federation of State, County and Municipal Employees (AFSCME), the National Education Association (NEA), and the Service Employees International Union (SEIU), are committed to working in partnership with one another in a continuing, united effort to advance the rights and well-being of America’s workers; to revitalize and expand the American labor movement; and to establish a strong, unified and effective voice in support of social and economic justice. In furtherance of these goals, we pledge to:
• Mutually advocate and advance policies and positions designed to enhance the well-being of working Americans, their families and their communities; promote social and economic justice; and protect and extend labor union rights and protections;
• Engender respect, foster partnership and encourage collaboration between and among our affiliates and members;
• Strengthen the formal ties between our three unions, resolve expeditiously and amicably all actual and foreseeable disputes or disagreements between our unions and/or affiliates, honor the respective work jurisdictions and workplace actions of each of our three unions, and establish meaningful no-raid and jurisdictional agreements at the national and state levels;
• Assist each other in enhancing and expanding America’s middle class by countering the attacks and decline of private and public sector unions, increasing union membership and support, and initiating joint organizing projects and providing mutual assistance wherever possible;
• Stand together against our common adversaries and in joint condemnation of policies, programs, proposals, and/or actions that undermine the rights, interests, or welfare of our nation’s workers and their families.
While the documents establish a closer relationship among these unions than existed before, the lessons of the NEAFT Partnership and AFL-CIO/NEA Labor Solidarity Partnership suggest the organizations will work together when it’s easy to do so, and accomplish little when conflicts arise, particularly among their state and local affiliates. NEA has been inching closer to the rest of the organized labor movement for years, but it’s hard to argue that it has increased the teachers’ union’s power, influence or membership externally.
However, such new agreements are an acknowledgement that teachers’ unions are already the bulk of the labor movement and will own an increasing share of total union membership in the coming years. Eventually someone will ask the question: Why not have just one big union for everyone?
2) Last Week’s Intercepts. EIA’s blog, Intercepts, covered these topics March 5-11:
* NEA President on the State of the Union. A rare fly-on-the-wall discussion.
* $433K Union Theft Not Reported Because of “Potential Impact on Membership.” Evidently what happens to your dues after they’re extracted from your paycheck is none of your business.
* Randi Gets 5-O’d. Unionier than thou.
* The Man Behind the Curtain. Captive audience.
* Wi-Fi WTF? Low test scores? Maybe it’s your network.
3) Quote of the Week. “We struck, we fought, we gave Karen Lewis all the power she needed, but she didn’t deliver at the bargaining table.”– Tanya Saunders-Wolffe, who is running for the presidency of the Chicago Teachers Union. (February 20 Chicago Tribune)
March 4, 2013
1) 3,000 Hawaii Faculty Leave NEA. In a move not seen since the 1970s, a direct affiliate of the National Education Association left the organization and became independent.
The University of Hawaii Professional Assembly (UHPA), representing some 3,000 faculty members and other employees of the UH system, disaffiliated from NEA by a narrow 13-10 vote of its board of directors on February 23. UHPA is completely separate from the Hawaii State Teachers Association, NEA’s K-12 affiliate in the state. HSTA is unaffected by the vote.
The split is the result of chronic differences over money, support and communications, not only between UHPA and NEA, but between UHPA and HSTA, who often do not see eye-to-eye on union issues. In a February 2012 memo, UHPA executive director J.N. Musto laid out the arguments for disaffiliation that centered on value added for money spent.
“The NEA does not provide UHPA with any information, support, assistance, access to elected officials, benefits, or programs that the organization is not able to provide itself either at the same, or less, cost to UHPA,” wrote Musto, noting that over its history, UHPA had sent $2.9 million more to NEA than it had received in grants and services.
Support for disaffiliation grew to the point that NEA president Dennis Van Roekel visited UHPA in June 2012 to attempt to dissuade the board from pursuing it further. I’ll have more information on that meeting later this week. Following Van Roekel’s visit, UHPA convened a task force to make recommendations on disaffiliation. The committee did not reach a consensus, but did agree to poll the members.
Respondents favored a continuation of the NEA relationship, but at numbers just short of a majority. About 49% favored affiliation, 35% opposed, and 15% had no preference. The UHPA by-laws grant affiliation powers to the board of directors, so the disaffiliation vote is final, barring some extraordinary occurrence.
With sentiment so evenly split, NEA may still hold out hopes of reversing the decision, though it will definitely want to avoid additional internal strife over the issue. The disaffiliation does not go into effect until September 2013.
UHPA will net a quarter-million dollars annually by retaining the dues formerly sent to NEA, and NEA will see a corresponding loss of revenue, although the blow to the national union is more psychological than financial, amid the membership losses sustained over the past few years.
2) Intercepts. EIA’s blog, Intercepts, covered these topics since February 12:
* Even NEA Dues Cut Will Result in Dues Hike. The dodge of the “special assessment.”
* Union Treasurer Sentenced to Two Years for $433,784 Theft. Lots of questions go unanswered.
* Dissected Nurses’ Union Affiliates With AFT. Shifting alliances.
* Tower for Red Ink? Miami union’s way out of debt?
* What Do You Do With a Closed School? Buildings not really suited for anything else.
3) Quote of the Week. “When you say things like ‘we were railroaded, we were lied to’ by everybody from the governor to the janitor, those are statements of weakness, not strength. This was an awful loss for AEA in about every way it could be.” – Alabama Rep. John Rogers (D-Birmingham), describing the effect of the Alabama Accountability Act on the Alabama Education Association. (March 3 Birmingham News)
February 11, 2013
1) AFT Donated $6 Million to Advocacy Groups. An Education Intelligence Agency analysis of AFT’s financial disclosure report for the 2011-12 fiscal year reveals the national union contributed $6 million to advocacy groups and charities.
A $1.2 million donation to Californians Working Together, the group formed to support Prop 30, the tax increase ballot initiative, was the national union’s largest single contribution. A host of special interest groups, charities and religious organizations also received money from AFT, including the Center for Tax and Budget Accountability, the Economic Policy Institute, and the University of Colorado National Education Policy Center.
These figures do not include grants and contributions made to other unions (such as Colorado WINS) or union coalitions such as the AFL-CIO. For example, AFT contributed $1,150,000 to the AFL-CIO’s State Unity Fund.
Here is an alphabetic list of the recipients of AFT’s contributions, with relevant web links. All of these were paid for with members’ dues money (the union’s federal PAC is a separate entity funded through voluntary means):
Alliance for a Better California 2012 – $500,000
Alliance for Retired Americans – $6,000
America Votes – $5,000
America Works USA – $100,000
American Constitution Society – $5,000
American Labor Museum – $5,000
American Labor Studies Center – $5,000
The American Prospect – $200,000
American Rights at Work – $25,000
Annenberg Institute for School Reform – $41,333
A. Philip Randolph Institute – $5,000
Asian Pacific American Labor Alliance – $10,550
Blue Green Alliance Foundation – $160,000
Brave New Foundation – $125,000
California Community Foundation – $24,000
Campaign for America’s Future – $10,000
Center for Citizenship Education (Mongolia) – $9,155
Center for Tax and Budget Accountability – $100,000
Center for Teaching Quality – $10,000
Child Labor Coalition – $5,000
Citizens for Public Schools – $15,200
Citizens for Tax Justice – $15,000
Clergy Strategic Alliances – $96,000
Clinton Global Initiative – $250,000
Coalition of Black Trade Unionists – $5,000
Coalition of Labor Union Women – $6,000
Committee for Education Funding – $17,713
Congressional Hispanic Caucus Institute – $30,000
Council on Competitiveness – $10,000
CTSP Haiti – $17,000
Economic Policy Institute – $230,000
Economic Research Institute – $5,943
Educating Maryland Kids – $100,000
First Book – $15,178
Florida State Conference of the NAACP – $10,000
Freedom House – $10,000
Gamaliel Foundation – $60,000
Good Jobs First – $22,500
Healthy Schools Campaign – $12,000
Helmets to Hardhats – $7,000
In the Life Media – $5,000
Jewish Labor Committee – $10,300
Keystone Research Center – $15,000
The King Center – $5,000
Labor Project for Working Families – $50,000
La MaMa – $5,000
Leadership Conference on Civil Rights – $50,000
League of United Latin American Citizens – $17,500
Learning First Alliance – $53,964
Learning Forward – $30,000
Little Rock Nine Foundation – $5,000
Massachusetts Jobs with Justice – $28,450
The Nation Institute – $10,000
NAACP – $10,875
NAACP Legal Defense and Educational Fund – $20,000
National Consumers League – $15,000
National Council of La Raza – $12,500
National Council of Negro Women – $5,000
National Democratic Institute – $25,000
National Labor College – $299,749
National Public Pension Coalition – $135,000
National Urban League – $5,020
Netroots Nation – $30,000
Network Education Program – $5,000
New York City Parents Union – $5,000
Ohio Unity Coalition – $7,350
Organizers in the Land of Enchantment – $24,619
OpenPlans – $10,000
Parent Teacher Home Visit Project – $46,665
The Peggy Browning Fund – $5,000
Policy Matters Ohio – $25,000
Pride at Work – $5,000
Progressive National Baptist Convention – $10,000
Rainbow PUSH Coalition – $50,000
Rebuild America’s Schools – $30,000
Save the Children – $10,000
Schott Foundation for Public Education – $10,000
Thomas B. Fordham Institute – $10,000
TransAfrica – $10,000
United States Student Association – $22,501
United Students Against Sweatshops – $5,000
United Way of the National Capital Area – $15,000
Urban Farming Inc. – $5,000
U.S. Hispanic Leadership Institute – $10,000
Vermont Medical Response Team – $5,000
We Are Ohio – $209,230
WNET.org – $150,000
Working America – $505,000
2) Last Week’s Intercepts. EIA’s blog, Intercepts, covered these topics from February 5-11:
* Thunderclap Augurs New Deals Between NEA, AFT, SEIU & AFSCME. Closing ranks.
* Are You a Union Member or a Lease? A community of workers. The way East Berlin was.
* District Bullies Steal Kids’ Lunch Money. Those lawn sprinklers weren’t to help lunch vegetables grow.
* Vermont Teacher on Agency Fees. Fair share.
* Arne Duncan One-on-One with Usain Bolt? Out of their element.
3) Scheduling Note. The EIA Communiqué will be on a break until Monday, March 4. Daily updates will still appear on Intercepts.
4) Quote of the Week. “Since a teacher’s working conditions are a child’s learning conditions, attacking teachers is the same as attacking children.” – Randy Mousley, president of United Teachers of Wichita. (February 9Wichita Eagle)
February 4, 2013
1) North Dakota Becomes Fifth Merged NEA/AFT State Affiliate. The representative bodies of the North Dakota Education Association and the North Dakota Public Employees Association formally approved a merger of the two unions over the weekend. The new organization, named North Dakota United, will begin operations in September.
NDU will join teachers’ unions in Minnesota, Florida, Montana and New York as merged state affiliates of both the National Education Association and the American Federation of Teachers. About 650,000 members belong to both national unions. Wisconsin is also on the road to merger.
NDEA represents about 7,500 education employees and 1,500 retirees. NDPEA represents just about every other public sector employee, from custodians and higher education faculty to nurses and wildlife specialists. Their combined membership will be about 10,000. There are only 20,000 union members in all of North Dakota.
The decision will inevitably raise questions once again about the prospects of a national merger. Certainly having so many merged state affiliates might make the idea more appealing than it has been in the past. However, the five merged states, plus Wisconsin, were largely in favor of national merger when it came to a vote back in 1998. There probably won’t be any renewed momentum to take up that banner again until a previously anti-merger affiliate switches sides.
The only state where that scenario is plausible is Michigan – not because the Michigan Education Association and AFT Michigan have suddenly developed a deep affection for each other – but because the new right-to-work law might make the previously unthinkable seem thinkable. It happened on a smaller scale in New York when the anti-merger Buffalo Teachers Federation fell into line after threatening to go independent, and is now by all accounts content within New York State United Teachers.
It would take such a weakening of the anti-merger states, plus the diluted reasons for past opposition (such as AFL-CIO affiliation), plus renewed energy at the national level from the heir apparent to the NEA presidency, Lily Eskelsen, to gather the two-thirds secret ballot majority to make it happen. Those are still big hurdles to leap.
In the meantime, we will continue to watch for signs of external pressures pushing other NEA and AFT affiliates together, since internal momentum seems lacking.
2) Last Week’s Intercepts. EIA’s blog, Intercepts, covered these topics from January 29-February 4:
* Greenhouse Gas. I’m afraid the silver linings the New York Times sees in the union membership numbers are just tinsel.
* CTA Behind the Media Scenes. This newspaper story is union pre-approved.
* Another Union Health Trust About to Go “Belly Up.” It spends more money than it brings in. Who could predict something like that would be a problem?
* Union “Benefits Review” Requires Birth Certificates, Tax Returns. Sit through a sales pitch or lose your health insurance.
* Palm Reader. Listen to the hand.
3) Quote of the Week. “We’re trying to find out who’s in the buildings and how many people are in the buildings, for the point of organizing.” – Larry Carter, president of the United Teachers New Orleans, explaining why he requested the names and contact information of teachers in 35 New Orleans charter schools. (February 4 Baton Rouge Advocate)
January 28, 2013
1) Ten Things You Should Know About Union Membership Numbers. The Bureau of Labor Statistics released its annual report on union membership last week and the news was pretty grim. While the economy added almost 2.4 million jobs in 2012, union membership was down by almost 400,000.
Digging through the data led to several more interesting discoveries.
1) Since 2008, private sector unions have lost more than 1.2 million members – almost equivalent to losing the entire rank-and-file of the Teamsters.
2) All of the government jobs lost since 2008 were added in the three-year period 2005-2008.
3) Almost half of all union members work in just seven states – California, New York, Illinois, Pennsylvania, Michigan, New Jersey and Ohio – though these states employ only about one-third of the U.S. workforce.
4) Union membership increased in 14 states and the District of Columbia. Of these, only five added more than 10,000 members (California, Georgia, Kentucky, Oklahoma and Texas).
5) Local government (teachers, police officers, firefighters, et al.) is by far the most unionized sector of the American workforce.
6) Members of the two national teachers’ unions, the National Education Association and the American Federation of Teachers, comprise more than 25% of all union members in the United States, and just under half of all public sector union members.
7) About 42% of U.S. workers are 45 years of age or older. Almost 52% of union members are.
8) If unions were able to organize all the workers at Wal-Mart, by far America’s largest employer, it would only raise their share of the private sector workforce to 8.5% – less than the share they had in 2002.
9) If the trends recorded since 2000 continue, by 2051 there will be 8 million union members in the United States – 6.6% of the total workforce – and they will all work for the government.
10) Five million of them will be teachers.
2) Last Week’s Intercepts. EIA’s blog, Intercepts, covered these topics from January 23-28:
* Teacher Glut Is Elementary. Schools of education keep churning out candidates for jobs that don’t exist, while shortages in specialized areas persist.
* Indianapolis Star Gives Teacher Union Troubles Front-Page Treatment. Mainstream media corroboration.
* Union Membership at 62-Year Low. In actual number of warm bodies.
* Evidently Only Money Can Light a Fire. Just the beginning.
3) Quote of the Week. “As we celebrate the 150th Anniversary of CTA, we must remember that we were founded for one reason – and one reason only – and that was to engage in politics. We were founded to engage in the political process in order to create an organized system of public instruction and to elevate the profession of teaching in California.” – Carolyn Doggett, executive director of the California Teachers Association, in a January 27 speech to the union’s State Council.
January 22, 2013
1) NEA Dues Keeping the Lights On in Indiana. Teachers in Mississippi or New Mexico who are paying dues to the National Education Association should have a reasonable expectation that their money is paying for utilities and building maintenance at NEA headquarters in Washington, DC as well as the national union’s regional offices. But should they have an expectation that their dues money is doing the same for the Indiana State Teachers Association?
Back in 2009, the ISTA insurance trust collapsed under the weight of high-risk investments. Coupled with other financial difficulties, it drove the Indiana affiliate deep into the red, requiring the establishment of an NEA trusteeship. To bail out ISTA, NEA formed NEA Properties, Inc. (NEAPI) to purchase the real estate and buildings owned by ISTA. Since then, ISTA has been leasing space in its own buildings, paying NEA $1.5 million in rent in the 2010-11 fiscal year.
This seemed to be an adequate solution to ISTA’s problems, but it failed to account for the union’s continued budget shortfalls due to large losses in membership. ISTA ran a $4.2 million deficit in 2010-11 and was a cumulative $12.6 million in the red at the time. We can safely assume things haven’t improved.
Even more distressing for NEA is the news that NEAPI is losing money as well, reporting a $111,000 deficit in 2010-11. An examination of NEA’s financial disclosure report shows where some of the money has been going:
Electricity – $205,609
Property management – $198,752
Security – $96,316
Building repair and remodeling – $83,536
Custodial services – $74,008
Plumbing/HVAC repair – $47,671
Legal – $45,754
Monthly steam supply – $39,364
Maintenance – $36,100
Water – $30,814
Accounting – $27,908
Property taxes – $25,060
Concierge services – $22,961
Sprinkler repair – $17,655
Unspecified building supplies – $11,915
Pest control – $9,305
Door/glass repair – $8,437
Hygiene supplies – $7,892
Window cleaning – $6,975
Space planner – $6,458
These items alone total over $1 million, and when coupled with insurance costs and depreciation, leave NEAPI at a loss.
The Indiana problem would be relatively small potatoes if all was well elsewhere. But if ISTA is still wholly dependent on its NEA bailout after almost four years, what does that portend for staggering state affiliates in Wisconsin, South Carolina, Michigan and a lot of other places? Will NEA use national dues to pay for exterminators in Texas, janitors in New Jersey and handymen in Iowa? Can it even afford to?
2) Last Week’s Intercepts. EIA’s blog, Intercepts, covered these topics from January 15-22:
* RIP CQE. Communities for Quality Education goes unfunded.
* More Than You’ll Ever Need to Know About Lily Eskelsen. Accession announcement.
* Class Size Reduction the Natural Way. Demographics and destiny.
* Wisconsin Victory Only Leads to Next Battlefield. Keep your head.
* Silver Lining in NYC. No deal better than toothless deal.
* Union of 1% Same as Those of Other 99%. Congolese airlines and Chinese soul food.
3) Quote of the Week. “America’s educational system contains enough empty platitudes and kitten posters. It’s time to fill our students with some real content, create some connections, and see what sticks.” – Jessica Lahey, English and Latin teacher at the Crossroads Academy in New Hampshire. (January 16 Coming of Age in the Middle)
January 14, 2013
1) NEA Gave $15 Million to Advocacy Groups. An Education Intelligence Agency analysis of NEA’s financial disclosure report for the 2011-12 fiscal year reveals the national union contributed just under $15 million to a wide variety of advocacy groups and charities. The total was about $3.8 million lower than the previous year.
The expenditures fall into broad categories of community outreach grants, charitable contributions, and payments for services rendered. In this list, EIA has deliberately omitted spending such as media buys, or payments to pollsters or consultants that have no obvious ideological component. The grants range from $4,568,000 to We Are Ohio, down to smaller grants to organizations such as People for the American Way, Media Matters and Netroots Nation.
Here is an alphabetic list of the 94 recipients of NEA’s contributions, with relevant web links. All of these were paid for with members’ dues money (the union’s federal PAC is a separate entity funded through voluntary means):
AFL-CIO – $1.15 million
Alliance for Justice – $5,000
America Votes – $376,100
America Works – $250,000
American Bridge 21st Century – $200,000
American Constitution Society – $10,000
Asian American Justice Center – $10,000
Be the Change – $100,000
Board of Hispanic Caucus Chairs – $10,000
California Community Foundation – $6,000
Campaign for America’s Future – $20,000
Center for American Progress – $35,000
Center for Economic Organizing – $12,800
Center for Teacher Leadership – $63,178
Center for Teaching Quality – $120,767
Citizens Helping Heroes – $10,000
Citizens for Tax Justice – $15,000
Committee for Charlotte 2012 – $250,000
Committee for Education Funding – $17,713
Committee on States – $25,000
Congressional Hispanic Caucus Institute – $55,000
Council of State Governments – $6,000
Daily Kos – $30,000
Democracy Alliance – $235,000
Democratic GAIN – $10,000
Economic Policy Institute – $250,000
Educating Maryland Kids – $200,000
Education Writers Association – $10,500
Excelencia in Education – $10,000
Fair Districts Now – $478,000
Fair Elections Legal Network – $50,000
Good Jobs First – $15,000
Health Care for America Now! – $125,000
HEROS, Inc. – $100,000
Hip Hop Caucus Education Fund – $25,000
Idahoans for Responsible Education Reform – $1,042,000
Japanese American Citizens League – $5,000
Kansas Values Institute – $49,950
Keep It Local North Dakota – $135,000
Learning First Alliance – $91,200
Learning Forward – $25,000
Marylanders for Marriage Equality – $50,000
MediaMatters – $100,000
Montanans for Fiscal Accountability – $25,555
Moving South Dakota Forward – $225,000
NAACP – $11,000
National Action Network – $25,000
National Black Justice Coalition – $20,000
National Hispanic Leadership Institute – $25,000
National Public Pension Coalition – $135,000
National Women’s Law Center – $10,000
Netroots Nation – $15,000
New Hampshire Unity Table Fund – $50,000
Ohio Democratic Party – $150,000
Opportunity to Learn Action Fund – $300,000
Parent Teacher Home Visit Project – $58,353
Partnership for 21st Century Skills – $35,000
Patriot Majority PAC – $100,000
People for the American Way – $135,000
Progressive Majority – $50,284
Project New West – $140,000
Protect Maine Votes – $81,500
Public Education Defense Fund – $1 million
Quality Education and Jobs – $50,000
Republican Main Street Partnership – $25,000
Ripon Society – $10,000
Robert Russa Moton Museum – $50,000
SEIU – $15,333
Taxpayers in Support of Public Education – $30,000
TIDES Foundation – $100,000
U.S. Hispanic Leadership Institute – $100,000
Voces de la Frontera – $23,515
We Are Ohio – $4,568,000
Wellstone Action – $30,586
Many of the largest donations from NEA headquarters went to state ballot initiative groups, but these do not constitute the sum total of the national union’s spending on state political measures.
For example, the national union sent millions of dollars directly to state affiliates to fund various activities, including $5 million to the California Teachers Association. Much of this money was also then directed to initiative campaigns.
All of these figures were culled from NEA’s disclosure report for the U.S. Department of Labor. To see the full report for yourself, follow this link, then type “000-342” in the File Number box at the top of the page.
2) Last Week’s Intercepts. EIA’s blog, Intercepts, covered these topics from January 8-14:
* CLAS Back in Session? What can happen when you replace bubble tests.
* Maryland Bill Would Make Agency Fees Mandatory. Forget collective bargaining.
* Means, Motive and Opportunity. What it takes to get ahead.
* Guns, Laws and Education. Many districts already have the power to allow armed adults in schools, including Connecticut.
* Left Turn on Main Street. RINOs become R-not-even-INOs?
3) Scheduling Note. The next e-mail communiqué will appear on Tuesday, January 22.
4) Quote of the Week. “Throwing money at it doesn’t always solve the problems, but it does help a little bit.” – Wes Fifield, president of the Upland Unified school board in California. (January 3 Los Angeles Daily News)
January 7, 2013
The 2012 EIA Public Education Quotes of the Year
EIA is proud to present the 2012 Public Education Quotes of the Year, in countdown order. Enjoy!
10) “The numbers of teachers are going up faster than are the numbers of students. That is a ticking time bomb. … With an economic downturn, the troubles with our economy, it’s hard to picture how school districts can sustain that increase and pay for it. I don’t see it as sustainable.”- Richard Ingersoll, a professor in the Graduate School of Education and Sociology at the University of Pennsylvania. (July 26 Detroit News)
9) “We bear a lot of responsibility for this. We were focused – as unions are – on fairness and not as much on quality.” – Randi Weingarten, president of the American Federation of Teachers, commenting on the union’s traditional defense of seniority over performance. (August 18 New York Times)
8) “Trust me, if you can cut such deals with Randi Weingarten, who is president of the American Federation of Teachers, you can do them with Vladimir Putin and Bibi Netanyahu.” – Thomas L. Friedman, New York Times columnist, explaining why he supported U.S. Secretary of Education Arne Duncan for Secretary of State. (November 27 New York Times)
7) “The office had a longstanding common practice of using profanity long before he got there.” – Josh Gruenberg, attorney for former San Diego Education Association executive director Craig Leedham, who was dismissed in part because of his style of dealing with employees. (May 21 Voice of San Diego)
6) “I find you and your organization wholly ineffectual and ineffective. Teachers cannot sit idly by facing financial ruin while you enjoy your wine and chocolates.” – Eric D. Przykuta, president of the Lancaster Central Teachers Association, in a February 17 letter to New York State United Teachers president Richard Iannuzzi.
5) “We had a very aggressive savings plan.”- Lynne Webb, president of the United School Employees of Pasco, explaining to a judge how she and her husband, former Broward Teachers Union president Pat Santeramo, who was indicted for racketeering and money laundering, were able to put away more than half a million dollars in CDs while paying off a $574,000 vacation home in just three years. (July 13 Miami Herald)
4) “I think people need reassurance that their tax dollars aren’t getting wasted, that something good is happening [at school] that can be measured. I understand that ferocious need, coupled with falling test scores, with the difficulty in removing teachers who aren’t performing and the unions’ unwillingness for a long time to look at how to change things – all those things made us ripe for the picking. Or the kicking.” – Rebecca Mieliwocki, 2012 National Teacher of the Year. (May 16 Los Angeles Times)
3) ”If I’m a parent in poverty I have no clue because I’m trying to struggle and live day to day. The idea of parents making decisions simply based on choice is the abandonment of public schools.” – Michael Walker Jones, executive director of the Louisiana Association of Educators, commenting on Gov. Bobby Jindal’s plan to expand school vouchers in the state. (January 23 New Orleans Times-Picayune)
2) “We feel TFA is undermining our profession. We see TFA as a vehicle for union busting … the district is hiring uncertified teachers to reduce costs.” – Diane Brown, president of United Teachers of Richmond, speaking about Teach for America two weeks after her parent union, the National Education Association, provided her and other delegates with a report that concluded, “No evidence suggests that the TFA contracts are being used to reduce teacher costs, silence union voices, or as a vehicle to bust unions.” (July 18 San Jose Mercury News)
1) ”Things will never go back to the way they were.” – from the introduction to the 2012-2014 National Education Association Strategic Plan and Budget.
December 17, 2012
1) Nothing to Say. With one event overshadowing everything else, it feels impossible to blithely move on to other topics. Since this was to be the last communiqué of 2012 anyway, let’s just call it a year and take a deep breath. Intercepts will continue to be updated daily but the next weekly communiqué will not appear until Monday, January 7. Happy Holidays, everyone.
2) Last Week’s Intercepts. EIA’s blog, Intercepts, covered these topics from December 11-17:
* Who Are the Freeloaders? Why should unions have to represent non-paying non-members? Because they won’t allow competitors.
* Teachers’ Union Supports Full Employment… for Animators. Propaganda cartoons are all the rage. Here’s what’s next.
* Education Bar Graphs of the Year. Something very important to keep in mind when you read the results of an opinion poll.
* I Don’t Know. I suspect I’m not the only one.
* Ask and Ye Shall Receive. A neglected story gets un-neglected.
3) Quote of the Week. “As opposed to your criticism that it’s ‘crass,’ ‘sophomoric’ and ‘garbage,’ the cartoon conveys these political ideas through the tools of fairy tale and animation, which by nature are allegorical and use caricature and visual metaphor for satirical effect.” – Joshua Pechthalt, president of the California Federation of Teachers, defending the union’s recent cartoon in a letter to the editor of the San Francisco Chronicle. (December 10 San Francisco Chronicle)
December 10, 2012
1) Are NEA, SEIU and AFSCME Working on “No Raid” Agreement? It’s no secret that the National Education Association is working more closely than ever before with its counterparts in organized labor. NEA, SEIU and AFSCME teamed up to fund a series of ads targeting key lawmakers in the fiscal cliff negotiations and they are the driving force behind today’s “day of action” rallies in a number of cities.
While three of the largest public employee unions in the nation are cooperating on external communications and operations, they are also crafting an internal agreement that would establish a détente over competition for members. A group of high-level NEA officials met with teams from SEIU and AFSCME last week to put together a deal that would establish jurisdictions for the individual unions, similar to the arrangement NEA made with AFT after the failed attempt at national merger in 1998.
The two national teachers’ unions and many of their state affiliates made “no raid” agreements – pledges not to try to recruit the other organization’s members. There have been hiccups along the way and a number of affiliates that refused to go along, but for the most part the cutthroat competition for members is a thing of the past.
SEIU and AFSCME don’t represent teachers, but they sometimes compete with the teachers’ unions for education support employees. Nevertheless, it shouldn’t be too much of a hardship for each side to agree to stay away from the other’s members. Once that’s in place, it will pave the way for all the public sector unions to cooperate more frequently and efficiently.
The days when NEA stood far apart from the broader labor movement are gone. The AFL-CIO was once shunned by NEA delegates, but now more than one-quarter of NEA members are affiliated with the labor federation. This helps NEA in projecting political power, but could hurt its “professional association” image and embroil it in issues far removed from education.
Today’s union movement is almost entirely a public sector union movement. It only stands to reason that the largest public sector union would take a larger part.
2) Last Week’s Intercepts. EIA’s blog, Intercepts, covered these topics from December 4-10:
* And They Lived Happily Ever After. The moral of the story is: Don’t get mad. Get even.
* WEAC Approves Moving Forward With Merger. Suppose we get to 10 or 12 merged state affiliates. Then what?
* Teacher Misconduct Bill a Test Case for California Legislature. Moderation or tidal wave?
* Going Mobile. Reading Intercepts on your phone just got a little easier.
3) Quote of the Week. “A new, satirical video titled ‘Tax the rich: An animated fairy tale’ was created by the California Federation of Teachers, not by the California Teachers Association. Some media have confused the two organizations.” – from a December 6 California Teachers Association press release.
December 3, 2012
1) The Perks of Being a Union Executive. We tend to pay a lot of attention to what teachers’ unions spend on politics, but even that lofty amount pales in comparison to what they what they spend on themselves. Like teaching, union work is a labor-intensive enterprise. Unlike teaching, the structure of union benefits resembles an inverted pyramid, where a lot of people receive similar perks and only the lowest level employees receive standard workplace accommodations.
Wage amounts are usually public record, but are perilously difficult to pin down. What a union executive makes can be inflated in the record by sick leave accrual or severance payouts, or can be understated because of tax deferments or allowances in lieu of pay. Still, with that caveat in place, an examination of 2010-11 tax records reveals wages of the highest paid employees of the National Education Association and its state affiliates – defined here as the money reported in box 1 of a W-2 form – ranged from almost $540,000 down to less than $92,000.
Financial records also show that certain perks are common among NEA and state affiliate executives, while others are controversial even in the corporate world.
Housing allowances are prevalent. Union officers often will receive a cash payment to cover the costs of maintaining a home near union headquarters, usually located in the state capital. Some affiliates actually provide a home. Which officers receive a housing allowance and for how much varies from state to state, but it ranges from 20 percent of salary all the way down to $800 per month.
One would expect the union to cover the costs of executive travel, but some affiliates allow first-class travel and many also reimburse for the cost of companion travel – in one case up to $2,000 per year. Unions have been known to reimburse officers for home, pet and garden care while they are away on business, although it isn’t known whether these kinds of perks have survived recent budget shortfalls. Auto allowances and gas cards are also common.
A growing number of officers receive payment for annual health or social club dues and initiation fees, with one affiliate offering up to $1,000 a year in “wellness-related expenses.” A handful of affiliates also provide the president with a discretionary spending account or clothing allowances.
Accounting for these varied forms of compensation can get complicated, so some unions provide free tax preparation. At least one affiliate even offers relief if a union officer’s accumulation of previously deferred payments or leave buy-outs leads to higher tax obligations – in the form of the “gross-up” payment.
If you are unfamiliar with the term, that’s when the employer picks up the tab for the additional tax the employee will have to pay for a unusually large lump sum payment. Of course, the “gross-up” payment itself is taxable, so it is often made large enough to help cover that extra tax as well. The practice has come under fire in corporate America, so it’s ironic to see it turn up in a union.
Since much of this alternative compensation is hidden, it will be difficult to discern how much it will be affected by membership losses and budget cuts. When revenues can’t cover payroll, union staffers are laid off. But executive officers are elected. Some have accepted pay freezes, but I haven’t heard any talk of rolling back these kinds of benefits. If done, it will be done quietly, so as not to alert the rank-and-file to their existence in the first place.
2) Last Week’s Intercepts. EIA’s blog, Intercepts, covered these topics from November 27-December 3:
* Graduation Stats Show Equality and Inequality. Racial gaps persist, but some states have equally bad stats across all groups.
* School Districts Ride CABs to the Poorhouse. Next big idea: payday loans!
* Tryptophan Coma at the New York Times. Thomas Friedman wasn’t the only one with goofy Cabinet suggestions.
* NEA Affiliate Staff Updates. Contract settlements are not always good news.
* Detroit President Re-Elected; Miami President Won’t Run Again. Apathy still in front.
3) Quote of the Week. “There’s a lot of cynicism in labor about the capacity of ordinary, working-class people to run their unions. Leaders think those people should have good lives, but they don’t think they have the capacity to do big things. Even among ‘progressive’ unions, democracy is not high on the list of must-haves. That has really hurt our movement.” – Mark Brenner, director of the pro-union publication Labor Notes. (November 30 In These Times)
November 26, 2012
1) Important Message for E-Mail Subscribers. For more than 15 years I have been distributing the weekly EIA Communiqué using 1997 methods – bulk e-mail from a list maintained by hand. This required a lot of list maintenance on my part and sometimes difficult dealings with AOL and its spam restrictions. It got to the point where I stopped recruiting new e-mail subscribers in the hope new readers would instead migrate to the daily blog.
Happily I have managed to cut the Gordian knot. With EIA’s recently updated web site and some techno-maneuvering, it is now possible for me to disseminate the weekly communiqué via the automatic e-mail service provided by Feedburner. This will expand the content possibilities for the e-mail newsletter while greatly reducing the time I spend administering the list.
It will, however, require one bit of action on your part. Sometime before the next communiqué appears on Monday, December 3, each current e-mail subscriber will receive an e-mail from Feedburner with “Education Intelligence Agency” or “EIA Communiqué” in the subject line. In the body of the e-mail will be an embedded link for you to click, or cut and paste into your web browser’s URL address window.
Click the link and you will verify your subscription and continue to receive the newsletter via e-mail as usual – once a week, no more and no less.
Don’t click the link and you will be unsubscribed from future e-mail communiqués.
This verification measure is a bit of a pain, but necessary to ensure that each subscriber has asked to be placed on the list. Otherwise Feedburner and similar services would be overrun with spammers and useless for the rest of us.
If you don’t receive your Feedburner e-mail by next Monday, check your spam filter and/or contact me at firstname.lastname@example.org.
Thanks for helping out with this housekeeping. Next week we’ll return to news.
2) Last Week’s Intercepts. EIA’s blog, Intercepts, covered these topics from November 20-26:
* Crimson vs. Indigo. Multiple experiments in one-party rule.
* WEAC Looking for New Direction. The Peterson Plan.
* Hawaii Teachers “Work to Rule.” Next best thing to a strike.
* Black Friday 1940. The scariest day of the year.
* Happy Thanksgiving, Everyone! Bridging the gaps.
3) Quote of the Week. “I don’t think they should sit on the sidelines. I think they should do what they do when they give to the Lyric Opera. They don’t go to the Lyric Opera, give money and then tell the singers how to sing. Give your money and walk away, buddies.” – Karen Lewis, president of the Chicago Teachers Union, when asked what the backers of Mayor Emanuel’s school reform agenda should do. (November 20 Chicago Sun-Times)
Um, they may not tell the singers how to sing, but they have a big say in what they sing, don’t they?
November 19, 2012
1) Will Marching Against Poverty Restore NEA’s Bottom Line? The National Education Association is looking for a way out of a bind. As it proved once again this year, NEA’s main avenue of success is its ability to win elections through the massive application of committed activists and cold cash. Its problem is that political defeats are costly, but victories are often only temporarily beneficial. The 2008 elections did lead to stimulus packages and edujobs bills, but they also led to the worst four-year membership losses in NEA’s long existence. So while favorable results at the ballot box in 2012 are helpful, they don’t guarantee smooth sailing ahead for the union.
The Occupy movement, the Wisconsin protests, the Chicago teacher strike and the 2012 voter turnout, combined with the accession of John Stocks as NEA’s executive director, have led the union’s officers to adopt an approach they believe will establish NEA not only as a powerful labor union, but as a leader in the broader realm of social issues.
Stocks unveiled this move with his “social justice patriot” speech at the NEA representative assembly last July, but it didn’t start there:
Never in the history of our nation have public schools been under such relentless attack. Never in the history of teacher unionism has there been a greater urgency to rethink strategy.
To meet these challenges, our public schools and our teacher unions should set two key goals: survival and justice. Furthermore, these goals are inextricably linked. Our system of public education and our teacher unions will not survive unless they more forthrightly address issues of social justice.
Those words didn’t come from John Stocks in 2012; they came from Bob Peterson, now the president of the Milwaukee Teachers Education Association, in 1999. Peterson was, and is, a proponent of the concept of “social justice unionism,” which he described as “part of a broader movement for social progress rather than merely focused on narrow self-interest.” Stocks spent much of his career in Wisconsin and appears to want to apply these themes nationally.
The value of social justice unionism as a philosophy is a matter for academics. I am only interested in its practical application for a union that needs to increase membership and ameliorate budget deficits. We already have a few clues about how this will work.
For one thing, NEA is trying to get out of the business of simply providing cash grants to friendly organizations and will insist on joint efforts in exchange for financial support. Additionally the union will hold a “dialogue on social justice” next month. This is to have the dual goal of placing NEA firmly in the civil rights picture while activating minority members in the union ranks.
The long-term strategy is to recruit new members and increase the participation of existing members through social justice issues. In fact, NEA organizers have been told to stop emphasizing the union’s services, liability insurance and workplace protections and instead focus on “core values.”
A large number of NEA staffers have been reassigned to training state and local officers in organizing – a skill some have let atrophy during the decades of booming enrollment and teacher hiring. While overall staffing levels will require political work in state legislatures, NEA plans to seek out new markets in charter and online schools, early childhood education workers, and members of non-union teacher organizations.
It’s important to note that these are NEA’s plans. They face a number of obstacles internally, regardless of whether outsiders put up a fight. First, NEA’s devotion to social justice unionism does not necessarily mean it will be embraced wholeheartedly in all of its state affiliates. Changes of direction are relatively easy to map out in a DC conference room, but notoriously difficult to implement among state and local officers with agendas of their own. Ask Bob Chase.
Second, organizing a union of 3 million members around social issues may be a winning strategy as long as those issues are general and amorphous. Protecting the working class, equal rights for all, affordable health care and reducing poverty will generate widespread support. But if the specifics turn out to be in service of a narrow liberal political worldview, it will have no more success than NEA’s current strategy, and might in fact play into the hands of the union’s political opponents.
Third, positioning NEA as one of the leaders of a mass movement opens the door for other organizations to take up the “self-interest” mantle. Members might prefer a union that spends its time negotiating contracts instead of heightening climate change awareness.
NEA believes that stressing its broad social justice principles will improve its self-interests. It’s nice when those things coincide. We’ll see which one the union chooses if they don’t.
2) Last Week’s Intercepts. EIA’s blog, Intercepts, covered these topics from November 13-19:
* Election Win for Charters Is Only the First Hurdle. First the ballot box, then the courtroom.
* The Wrath of Conn. Will Detroit make Chicago look like Topeka?
* Back to Reality. Union organizing isn’t what it used to be.
* Technology Marches On. Changes to the EIA web site, and perhaps to this e-mail newsletter as well. Stand by for more.
* Summary of NYSUT’s Campaign Financing. How do I elect thee? Let me count the ways.
3) Quote of the Week. “President Obama not only won this election, but so did his ideas and his values. The American people want fairness. They want everyone to pay their fair share…. But what we also have to do is to make sure that the corporations who earn billions of dollars pay some tax, and now they’re paying none.” – Dennis Van Roekel, president of the National Education Association, a $1.6 billion tax-exempt organization. (November 13 PBS NewsHour)
November 12, 2012
1) Five of Eight Largest Teacher Union Locals Had Budget Deficits. An Education Intelligence Agency analysis of 2010-11 Internal Revenue Service filings reveals five of the eight largest teacher union local affiliates in the nation operated with budget deficits. Half of the 36 largest locals saw their dues revenue decrease from the previous year.
Most of these locals are either affiliates of the American Federation of Teachers, or jointly affiliated with AFT and the National Education Association. AFT’s governance structure is largely centered on its locals, just as NEA’s is centered on its state affiliates, which had their own financial troubles. The largest teachers’ union local in the U.S., the United Federation of Teachers in New York City, accumulated dues revenue of $125.5 million in 2010-11, but still ran an $11.8 million deficit due to a 12.1% increase in employee compensation costs.
The United Teachers Los Angeles, United Teachers of Dade, Broward Teachers Union, and United Educators of San Francisco were the other four top locals to experience deficits.
Other locals may have been in the black but are still on shaky ground. Figures for the Washington Teachers Union for 2010-11 were unavailable, while the Detroit Federation of Teachers’ small surplus did not cover the $1.4 million it still owed AFT.
Just like NEA’s state affiliates, a number of locals were able to achieve pension liability relief to improve their bottom lines. But high personnel costs continue to worry many locals.
EIA has posted a table on its web site listing the dues revenue of the 36 largest locals, along with their other revenues, number of employees, their total compensation, and their budget deficit status.
2) Last Week’s Intercepts. EIA’s blog, Intercepts, covered these topics from November 6-12:
* Teachers’ Unions Win a Defensive Victory. Four more years.
* Gravy Train Drying Up for NEA’s Favorite Advocacy Groups? Play for pay.
* Heading for the Hills in California. The two states of California, but one is a permanent minority.
* Call Me Maybe. Two-way spam?
* Eat Your Vegetables! Voting scolds.
3) Quote of the Week. “We have the capacity to rebuild this state.” – Dean Vogel, president of the California Teachers Association, commenting on the results of Tuesday’s election. (November 8 Reuters)