Education Intelligence Agency

Public education research, analysis and investigations


Written By: Mike Antonucci

NEA Membership Grew, Or Did It?

June 22, 2017

NEA Membership Grew, Or Did It? The National Education Association had 2,963,540 members in 2016, of whom 87.5 percent were working in the public school system. This was an increase of 0.5 percent from 2015 and the first increase in total membership since 2009.

This is good news for the union after such a long drought and will be celebrated at the annual NEA Representative Assembly in Boston early next month. A closer look at the state-by-state figures reveals NEA isn’t out of the woods, however, and may soon find itself divided between the haves and have-nots.

I have compiled the numbers in a handy table, which provides both the total and active membership for each state affiliate. Active members are employed teachers, professionals, and education support workers. Total membership includes retirees, students, substitutes, and all others. Along with the numbers are the one-year and five-year changes in those figures.

Click here for a Adobe Acrobat (PDF) version.

The raw numbers show that NEA had an increase of almost 16,000 members, but more than 4,000 of those were retirees, who pay the national union $30 a year. Certainly they are welcome additions, loyal to the organization after their working days have ended, but they are still folks who were formerly paying $187 a year as active members.

And there’s a small problem about the 11,862 new active members. A look at the state figures shows that by itself New York State United Teachers accounted for 15,584 new active members. That means all the NEA’s other affiliates produced a net loss of more than 3,700 members.

This is significant because NYSUT is by no means a normal NEA state affiliate. The 400,000-member New York state teachers group is primarily affiliated with the American Federation of Teachers. In 2006, NYSUT merged with — absorbed might be a better word — a struggling NEA New York, which had fewer than 41,000 members at the time. NYSUT members have reduced voting and representation rights at NEA, and do not pay a full complement of NEA national dues.

NEA does have a powerhouse affiliate of its own — the California Teachers Association. CTA boosted its active member numbers by almost 9,000. NEA’s other affiliates on the Pacific Coast also had good years. The Washington Education Association and the Oregon Education Association increased their active member numbers by almost 3,000 each.

It’s difficult to find happy news for NEA elsewhere in the nation. State affiliates in Arkansas, Georgia, Michigan, North Carolina, Oklahoma, Tennessee, Texas, and Wisconsin all lost more than 5 percent of their active members in a single year. Affiliates in Kansas, Nevada, South Carolina, and the Utah School Employees Association also had a miserable year.

All told, 27 NEA state affiliates lost active members.

I reported last month that NEA is budgeting for a loss of 20,000 members in 2017-18. If the case of Janus v. AFSCME challenging agency fees goes to the U.S. Supreme Court and is decided against the unions, 2016 might end up being NEA’s last high-water mark.

Recent Intercepts. EIA’s daily blog, Intercepts, covered these topics June 16-21:

*  Union Shuts Down the Type of Charter It Claims to Support. The fault line beneath common ground.

*  It Was 20 Years Ago Today. The birth of EIA.

*  NEA’s PR Machine. If you don’t like your press coverage, try to buy some.

*  Better Late Than Never. The tardy appearance of the South Carolina Education Association’s financial data.

Quote of the Week. “We want a better-trained and well-informed workforce. It really wasn’t about the unions so much as it was just an orientation.” – California Assemblyman Jim Cooper, commenting on a new state law that grants unions mandatory access to new employee orientation sessions in schools, cities and in state government. (June 14 Sacramento Bee)

Janus Ruling Could Force Unions To Compete for Members

June 15, 2017

Janus Ruling Could Force Unions To Compete for Members. Last week, attorneys for the plaintiff in Janus v. AFSCMEfiled for review in the U.S. Supreme Court. If the court accepts the case and rules in favor of Janus, it would end the practice of public-sector unions charging agency fees to non-members for costs associated with collective bargaining and other operations.

The media and analysts have focused on the potential effect of an adverse ruling on union membership and finances. Given the choice, as has happened in some states, a significant number of public employees opt out of membership. But there is also the possibility that once freed from financially supporting their old union, public employees will join – and financially support – a different union or professional organization.

Because unions are exempt from antitrust laws, they can make agreements about who will organize which employees. Jurisdictional arrangements constrain unions from recruiting new members by “raiding” the ranks of other unions.

Following their failed national merger attempt in 1998, the National Education Association and the American Federation of Teachers made a series of deals to discourage raiding by their state affiliates, and pledged to withhold monetary and staff support to affiliates engaged in the practice. In some states, NEA and AFT affiliates reached similar individual agreements.

The upshot is that competition between NEA and AFT for members, once prevalent, is now very rare and, in agency fee states, almost nonexistent. The reason is clear: If a teacher is required to pay agency fees to the incumbent union in her state or district, it gets awfully expensive to also pay dues to a second union — one that has no authority to act on that teacher’s behalf.

In states without agency fees, teachers can join the incumbent union, a different union, a non-union professional organization, or nothing at all. This flexibility has created competition for members: In some states, NEA and AFT have pivoted effectively and maintain the largest membership base. In other states, they haven’t.

In the mid-1970s, NEA decided that contrary to previous practice, members could not pick and choose which levels of the organization they would join. If you joined the NEA local in Amarillo, in other words, you also had to join and pay dues to the Texas State Teachers Association and NEA national.

Members in some states revolted, seceding en masse from NEA or splintering off and forming new associations. Today, 40 years laters, independent teachers associations in at least four states — Georgia, Missouri, South Carolina, and Texas — have more members than the respective NEA and AFT state affiliates.

It’s possible that with the end of agency fees, new teachers associations will spring up where they weren’t feasible before — states like Maine, Oregon, or Pennsylvania. Some teachers who are unhappy with NEA may join AFT, and vice versa.

This new mobility might not always be detrimental to the unions. NEA has already leveraged right-to-work laws to retain members, for example.

When the 4,500-member Memphis-Shelby County Education Association disaffiliated from NEA and went independent in 2015, NEA immediately chartered a competing local, the United Education Association of Shelby County. When the Santa Rosa Professional Educators left the Florida Education Association, NEA and AFT, the three unions chartered a competing local, the Santa Rosa Education Association, which successfully filed for a new exclusive representation election. Neither of these actions would have been practical if Tennessee and Florida were agency fee states.

So while public-sector unions must prepare for the consequences of members leaving unions entirely, they must also prepare to operate in a world where members easily move from one union to another, or to a non-union association. How ready are they for an actual marketplace in labor representation?

Recent Intercepts. EIA’s daily blog, Intercepts, covered these topics June 9-14:

*  NEA Sitting on $49 Million in Ballot Initiative Funds. They have to spend it on something…

*  PAC Panic? …on the other hand, voluntary contributions are down.

*  CTA Prepping Charter School Moratorium Resolutions for Local School Boards. Grassroots and local control?

Quote of the Week. “We have charters like Animo in LA or Helix High School in San Diego that are union organized and who are great members of CTA. They’re using the charter law the way it was intended.” – Eric Heins, president of the California Teachers Association. (June 3 speech to the CTA State Council)

Yep, these two schools have everything CTA celebrates in charters: a teacher firing that involved the ACLU amid claims of intimidation, teachers correcting wrong answers on standardized tests, separating from local district oversight in order to negotiate a collective bargaining agreement with lower raises, and four different teachers convicted of sex crimes involving students, after which the district threatened to revoke its charter. CTA lambastes other charters for similar problems, and rightfully so, but it seems simply paying union dues protects you from all sorts of things.

Boycotts? Endorsements? Not So Fast – NEA Top Brass Reins in Activist Members

June 8, 2017

Boycotts? Endorsements? Not So Fast – NEA Top Brass Reins in Activist Members. Political opponents of the 3 million-member National Education Association probably feel the union couldn’t be more partisan, difficult or dismissive of education reforms it opposes. But in some cases, the union’s leadership structure acts as a moderating influence on the more radical proposals presented by its activist members.

Each year at NEA’s Representative Assembly, some 7,000 delegates introduce approximately 125 new business items (NBIs) for debate and vote. Many of these come from California, and a disproportionate number from union affiliates in the Bay Area. These agenda items tend to call on NEA to take more extreme measures against charter schools, corporations and opposing advocacy organizations.

Many of them are defeated by a majority floor vote of the delegates, but others pass or are referred to the union’s executive committee. When these items are placed in the hands of the union’s officers for implementation or final disposal, the extent of the actions taken sometimes doesn’t match up with the item’s intent.

Some NBIs are straightforward and are dealt with in the same way. One approved NBI from the 2016 Representative Assembly directed NEA to donate $10,000 to the Save Our Schools March. NEA did just that.

Other implementations aren’t so clear. One 2015 item directed NEA to “actively engage in conversation and outreach on the NEA endorsement process with all 2016 Presidential campaigns prior to the consideration of a primary recommendation.” While NEA did perform outreach to all candidates, we know from the hacked e-mails published by Wikileaks that the NEA leadership was already committed to endorsing Hillary Clinton soon after she announced her candidacy.

Referrals by the delegates give the union’s highest-ranking elected officers free rein to deal with agenda items. Items calling for boycotts are automatically referred, and delegates in 2016 introduced one.

“The NEA will call for a national boycott of all Walton-owned businesses, including Wal-Mart, Sam’s Club and Arvest Bank, until they cease to seek profit by investing in the creation of competitive charter schools and the takeover of traditional public schools through the Walton Family Foundation.”

As it has done in the past, the NEA Executive Committee shot down the idea, with the rationale, “Given the scale and scope of the Walton family enterprises, we do not believe that a boycott organized by NEA of those enterprises would serve to counter effectively or stem the activities of the Walton Foundation around charter school promotion and education privatization.”

It actually would be a lot easier to boycott Wal-Mart than it would some other NEA opponents. To protest the activities of the Gates Foundation, could you organize an effective boycott of Microsoft? How many members could you get to stop using Windows?

In the name of local control, NEA also decided to reject an NBI that called on the union to “encourage its affiliates’ political action committees not to endorse any candidate for local or state office who accepts charter school PAC money.” NEA determined that local endorsements might be made “because the candidate’s position on issues unrelated to charters align with those of the Association.”

Another NBI directed the union to seek out “pro-public education Republican candidates” and encourage them to participate in the union’s endorsement process. NEA stated that this was already being done through a “strategic relationship” with the Republican Main Street Partnership and the Tuesday Group, both of which are caucuses of moderate Congressional Republicans.

I don’t know of any instance in which NEA interpreted an NBI in such a way that the union ended up taking more extreme action than was called for. This suggests that contrary to popular belief, the union hierarchy acts more reasonably in some cases than its most committed activists.

Recent Intercepts. EIA’s daily blog, Intercepts, covered these topics June 2-7:

*  California Teachers Association Employees Say CTA “Buries Union Values.”. Rest in labor peace.

*  Is Janus the End of the Battle or the Start of a Guerrilla War? Asymmetrical tactics ahead.

*  Congratulation Complications. Massachusetts Teachers Association further isolated by its National Teacher of the Year snub.

The Countdown Begins: Janus Files For Supreme Court Cert. About a year to go.

Quote of the Week. “It’s not about destroying charter schools. Charter schools are here; they’re not going anywhere. So the key is, how do you make them a bitter pill to their management companies? It’s the management companies we have the issues with, not the charter teachers, not the students, not the parents.” – Karen Lewis, president of the Chicago Teachers Union. (May 26 Chicago Tribune)

Word Substitution Quote of the Week. “It’s not about destroying charter schools teacher unions. Charter schools Teacher unions are here; they’re not going anywhere. So the key is, how do you make them a bitter pill to their management companies members? It’s the management companies teacher union we have the issues with, not the charter teachers, not the students, not the parents.”

Teacher Unions Prepare for Thousands of Lost Members As New Case Moves Toward the Supreme Court

June 1, 2017

Teacher Unions Prepare for Thousands of Lost Members As New Case Moves Toward the Supreme Court. In 2016, public sector unions were granted a reprieve when U.S. Supreme Court Justice Antonin Scalia died unexpectedly. The court had already heard oral arguments in Friedrichs v. California Teachers Association, which challenged the 40-year-old Abood decision compelling workers who choose not to join a unionized workforce to pay an “agency fee” to cover the costs of collective bargaining.

The court deadlocked 4-4 — an impasse court-watchers believed Scalia would have broken with a vote to end mandated fees, forcing public-sector unions to subsist only on dues voluntarily obtained from members.

The split decision put an end to Friedrichs but gave rise to several similar complaints. With Neil Gorsuch now occupying Scalia’s seat, the court likely has the appetite for another agency fee case. That case may be Janus v. AFSCME: the U.S. 7th Circuit Court of Appeals, in dismissing the case earlier this year, said, “Of course, only the Supreme Court has the power, if it so chooses, to overrule Abood…Neither the district court nor this court can overrule Abood, and it is Abood that stands in the way of (the plaintiff’s) claim.”

Last year, unions hoped public pressure would force the Republican-led Senate under President Obama to take up his nomination of Merrick Garland for the ninth seat. They also devoted their energy and resources to electing Hillary Clinton, whose court choice could have stalled any further agency fee cases for years.

Now the unions, particularly teachers unions, must face the probability of operating and financing in an entirely new way. Their first order of business is to prepare not only for lost fees, but the loss of members.

The law currently allows a teacher to choose between paying 100 percent of union dues or about 70 percent — the difference between what the union determines it spends on activities not related to collective bargaining (for example, political campaigns). The less-expensive, fee-payer option means a loss of membership privileges like liability insurance coverage and the ability to vote on contract ratification. Rather than forego these privileges, some teachers pay the extra 30 percent to remain members.

Where mandatory fees don’t exist — in right-to-work states — teachers choose between paying 100 percent of union dues or paying nothing. Teachers who might be reluctant union members in states with mandatory fees may leave the union entirely because the financial incentive is much higher.

Though a Janus ruling — assuming the high court hears it — will probably not come down until June of next year, teacher unions have begun feeling out the first tentative steps toward life after agency fees.

National Education Association: The national union has modified its proposed budget for 2017-18 to include an estimated loss of 20,000 full-time equivalent members. This seems accurate because even larger losses won’t be felt until the 2018-19 school year.

California Teachers Association: The union’s executive director recently warned activists to be prepared for membership losses as high as 30 to 40 percent. Despite his alert, CTA does not seem to have made any adjustments to its own 2017-18 budget.

United Federation of Teachers: AFT’s New York City local estimates a 20 percent reduction in membership and feels it can safely cut $16 million, which is about 10 percent of the annual dues it collects.

Massachusetts Teachers Association: The union hired an accounting firm to determine a prudent level of reserves should agency fees disappear. But because of increases in staff pension and post-retirement health care liabilities MTA had net assets of negative $3.5 million at the end of 2016.

Washington Education Association: WEA is currently in contract negotiations with its employees, and proposed that their pensions be based on their career average earnings, rather than their three highest-earning years. The union has $55.5 million in pension and post-retirement health care liabilities. In fact, many NEA state affiliates are finding that pension cost control is as sticky an issue for them as it is for state and local governments across the country.

Hawaii State Teachers Association: The union’s board of directors began reducing expenditures by proposing the annual state convention become biennial. HSTA will also fund fewer delegates to attend the annual NEA Representative Assembly.

Other affiliates in agency fee states will doubtless make similar adjustments in advance of any Supreme Court ruling. It isn’t clear if any affiliates in right-to-work states have realized their own vulnerability. Membership losses in agency fee states mean less money overall reaching national headquarters. That means less money is available for the subsidies on which current right-to-work affiliates heavily rely.

In short, teacher unions are doing something, but there is little evidence that they are prepared for the revolutionary change in their usual operations that an adverse Janus decision will bring. And time is running out.

Recent Intercepts. EIA’s daily blog, Intercepts, covered these topics May 26-31:

*  Large Indiana Local Leaves NEA. How much charter organizing will it take to replace a 955-employee bargaining unit?

*  Credit Where It’s Due. Unlike its Massachusetts affiliate, NEA will honor the National Teacher of the Year.

You Had One Job. Utah Education Association delegates admit to not knowing how the union spends its money.

Quote of the Week #1. “They don’t fight for charter schools, so why would I want them to represent me?” – Craig Winchell, a charter school teacher in Los Angeles, speaking about the teachers’ union. (May 24 The 74)

Quote of the Week #2. “This is what New York union bosses do – parachute into states they know nothing about in an effort to score cheap political points. For all of the union lip service about local decision making, they never miss an opportunity to fly in from the East Coast and create a spectacle in front of the TV cameras.” – Lida Alikhani, spokesperson for the New Mexico Education Department, on a recent visit to New Mexico by American Federation of Teachers president Randi Weingarten. (May 25 Albuquerque Journal)

State Union Rankings Shows Strength of Labor Depends on Size of Government

May 25, 2017

State Union Rankings Shows Strength of Labor Depends on Size of Government. That union membership numbers are declining — both in raw numbers and as a percentage of the American workforce — is no longer news. What should be getting more attention is that unionism is now mostly a movement by and for government employees.

The public sector workforce is only about one-sixth the size of its private sector counterpart, but public sector workers are much more likely to be unionized: public and private unions have about the same number of members. With private sector unions only about half the size they were in 1979, the strength of labor has become dependent on the size of governments.

All unions profess to stand in solidarity with each other, but public and private sector unions have some signal differences. Private sector unions have to consider the financial health of the companies their members work for in a way that public sector unions do not. Governments don’t go out of business, or move to another state, or move overseas. And private sector unions don’t select their members’ employers. Through political support and campaign contributions, public sector unions can choose the people who decide how many government employees will be hired.

The composition of the workforce, and of unions that make up part of the workforce, help make sense of a state’s labor policies. With that in mind, I constructed a simple table that provides three figures for each state: 1) public sector workers expressed as a percentage of the total workforce; 2) public sector union members expressed as a percentage of total union membership; and 3) a “strength score” assigned by combining the two figures, giving them equal weight, and referencing them to a national average score of 100. (Click here for Adobe Acrobat PDF version.)

The first column tell us how much of the available workforce in a state is devoted to government operations. A high number (as in Alaska, Wyoming, Washington, D.C., and Maryland) indicates that relatively more resources are devoted to public sector staffing. This could be due to policies that have led to expanded government services, or a relatively weak market for private sector employment. A low number (as in Pennsylvania, Illinois, and Michigan) suggests the opposite — less of a priority placed on government services, greater employment needs in the private sector, or a combination of the two.

The second number defines the relative strength of public sector unions compared with private sector unions. While this is close to 50-50 nationwide, the percentages differ widely from state to state.

A low number here (Kentucky, Nevada, Missouri, Indiana) suggests a state where either recruiting for public sector unions is difficult, or where private sector unions thrive. A high number (New Hampshire, Maine, New Mexico) suggests states where the opposite is true.

Combining these two figures together gives us a sense of the strength of public sector unions in each state. To give them equal weight, I multiplied the national averages so they’d each equal fifty, then multiplied each number in the columns by the same amount. Adding those together made the national benchmark 100 and all the other figures increased proportionally. The highest numbers went to states where government employees comprise the largest percentage of the workforce and the largest percentage of union members.

By this measure, public sector unions in five very dissimilar locations — Alaska, New Mexico, Maryland, Washington, D.C., and Wyoming — have very similar characteristics when it comes to the strength they have relative to the rest of the workforce and private sector unions.

Conversely, public sector unions in Nevada, Indiana, Missouri, and Michigan have less relative strength when compared with other labor interests in their respective states.

Nationally, teacher unions make up about half the membership of all public sector unions. Once I have the 2016 numbers in hand, I may amend this table to indicate the relative strength of each NEA affiliate within a state.

I should emphasize that the scores are not meant to compare states to each other. Nevada is still a strong union state, but these numbers show it is mostly due to its private sector unions. New Mexico is still a weak union state, but its public sector unions are the lone voice for labor.

These numbers give us a sense of which states have unions that are more dependent on the private economy for their strength, and which are more dependent on government policies. The effects of one can improve or hinder the fortunes of the other, making the interplay of labor relations a delicate task for legislators, public administrators and private employers.

Recent Intercepts. EIA’s daily blog, Intercepts, covered these topics May 19-23:

*  NEA Board Unanimously Adopts New Charter School Policy. “We don’t want to completely say that there are no good charter schools.” Buuuuuut…

*  Massachusetts Teachers Association Snubs Teacher of the Year. Being a social justice warrior isn’t enough.

*  You Guys Are So Easy. Doubling down.

*  NEA Plans No Major Changes to Resolutions. Enough on their plate.

Quote of the Week. “Unlike corporations, which must compete in the marketplace to retain their investors, Taft-Hartley unions enjoy government-conferred monopolies over their workers. The fact that union busters repeat this point ad nauseum does not make it any less true. Once a union establishes itself as the exclusive representative in a bargaining unit, it extinguishes the freedom of workers in that unit to shift their allegiance to another union except through an arduous process of ‘decertification’ that presents the employer with a golden opportunity to dispense with unions altogether. Union democracy can provide workers with considerable control in some settings (especially single-facility local unions, sites of some of the most vigorous popular democracy anywhere in the United States), but the law gives national union leaders enormous latitude to suppress or avoid democracy.” – James Gray Pope, Ed Bruno and Peter Kellman in the May 22 Boston Review.

From ‘Incarceration Pay’ to ‘Rule of 75,’ Surprising Contract Benefits For Teachers Union Staffers

May 18, 2017

From ‘Incarceration Pay’ to ‘Rule of 75,’ Surprising Contract Benefits For Teachers Union Staffers. Collective bargaining agreements between school districts and teacher unions tell us a lot about the daily operations of the public school system. (Last week, I recapped some of the bizarre things to be found in teachers contracts.) In the same way, collective bargaining agreements between teachers unions and their own employees tell us a lot about the unions’ priorities and the compromises they make when acting as management.

Copies of staff contracts are notoriously difficult to find, for union members as well as outsiders. Over the years, I have posted some of those I have obtained on the Declassified page of my web site. Their details provide the answer to the eternal union member lament: Why are my dues so high?

Benefits. Teachers unions pay generous salaries, but it is the benefit package that incites envy. All union affiliates have a defined benefit pension plan, under which a retiree receives a guaranteed amount for life. Until recently, most union staffers contributed nothing toward their own pension, but that is beginning to change as more unions face financial pressures from unfunded liabilities.

Retirement eligibility differs from state to state, but many unions utilize the Rule of 75. That is, an employee can retire at age 55 with 20 years of service. As age increases, the required experience decreases, so one can retire at age 60 with 15 years’ experience, and so on. Pension payments are usually based on the employee’s highest earning year.

A 55-year-old can retire with a pension but is still 10 years away from Medicare eligibility, so the National Education Association pays for postretirement health insurance for headquarters employees at at a rate of 5 percent for every year of employment, up to a full 100 percent for 20 years or more. When they hit 65, generally speaking, they go on Medicare and the union provides a stipend for supplementary coverage.

Teachers union employees also traditionally have their full premiums paid for disability insurance, group term life, dental, vision, occupational liability, malpractice, accidental death and dismemberment, and salary protection. I also found one affiliate that pays for its employees’ automobile insurance, although it is counted as taxable income.

Paid days off. Unlike teachers, teachers union employees don’t get a traditional summer vacation. But they do get quite a few days off.

Depending upon the affiliate, new hires get two to three weeks of vacation, increasing to five to six weeks after about six years of employment. There are between 13 and 16 paid holidays — one affiliate offers a “floating holiday.”

Some affiliates, including NEA headquarters, go to a four-day work week following the union’s national representative assembly over the July 4 weekend, and continuing until Labor Day.

Union employees get between 12 and 18 days of sick leave per year and three or four personal days. If necessary, they can also use three additional days of childbirth leave, three days of adoption leave, and five days of bereavement leave. One affiliate also offers two additional days for religious observance.

At NEA headquarters in Washington, D.C., employees may also be granted time off if federal offices are closed for national days of mourning or Inauguration Day.

Seniority and layoffs. It cannot be overstated how important seniority rules are to unions. Most contracts spell out transfer, assignment, and layoff procedures in exquisite detail to ensure they are not detrimental to the most experienced employees.

However, you can find seniority provisions in teachers union employee contracts that you would never find in a school district contract.

One contract states, “In the event a reduction in force becomes necessary, the Association will assist laid-off employees in securing employment of a similar nature.”

When it comes to layoffs, seniority sometimes gives way to other considerations. One contract does not allow the union to lay off women or minority group members if it would reduce their percentage of the total bargaining unit below a certain point.

The NEA headquarters contract bans NEA management from laying off the staff union president, vice president, secretary, treasurer, grievance committee chairperson, and chief shop steward regardless of their relative seniority.

Very particular provisions. As with teacher contracts, union employee contracts sometimes contain unique provisions.

  • Some union staffers can receive incarceration pay “for reasons stemming from actions taken by him/her in the scope of his/her Association employment.” The NEA contract specifies that this will be at the regular hourly rate for all time spent in jail.
  • All contracts have nondiscrimination clauses with the usual categories of race, ethnicity, religion, sexual orientation, etc., but one staff contract included nondiscrimination on the basis of weight.
  • “There shall be no clandestine monitoring of any incoming or outgoing telephone calls, e-mail, computer use, faxes, voicemail or mail of members of this unit.”
  • “The Employer will not pay for alcohol consumed by an employee on a work day from 8 a.m.-4:30 p.m.”
  • An employee at NEA headquarters must take direction from his or her immediate supervisor but “is not obligated to take supervisorial direction from any other person.”
  • NEA is contractually obligated to provide “an appropriately equipped and staffed health services unit” with “a registered or licensed practical nurse.” Also a bicycle rack and an ice machine.
  • “Employees shall not download excessive amounts of music and videos to the network or computer system that are for personal use.”
  • “Employees shall not be required as a normal practice to work on a computer monitor continuously for more than two hours without a break.”

As you can see, just because a union sits on both sides of the negotiating table doesn’t mean the contract is any less exacting. For the people who bargain, the more specificity, the better. It comes at a price of flexibility, for both school districts and unions.

Recent Intercepts. EIA’s daily blog, Intercepts, covered these topics May 12-17:

*  New AP Poll Shows Why Education Policy Is Confused. Schools are run for “stakeholders,” but the vast majority of voters aren’t “stakeholders.”

*  LA School Board Race Is Just the First Step. Much, much more in store.

*  Do Election Results Make Statewide Union Action Less Likely, or More? Eternal conflict keeps the members from evaluating union strategy.

*  Bits & Pieces. Updates on stories from across the nation.

Quote of the Week. “(Saul Alinsky’s) legacy has encouraged the union movement to embrace the bureaucratic pressures all unions face rather than resist them. Those pressures have helped lead to the legalistic grievance procedures, closed-door bargaining, and staff-led ‘corporate campaigns’ that characterize the labor movement today, severely depressing rank-and-file engagement, enthusiasm, and mobilization.” – Aaron Petcoff in the May 10 Jacobin.

The Things You Didn’t Know Were in Teacher Contracts

May 11, 2017

The Things You Didn’t Know Were in Teacher Contracts. Teacher contracts are best known for defining salary, benefits, and working conditions in public schools.

But that’s only a small part of what they do. They also spell out — sometimes in excruciating detail — the way day-to-day operations of a school district will be conducted, particularly in large cities.

The collective bargaining agreements for classroom teachers in New York City, Los Angeles, and Chicago add up to 825 pages. This substantial compendium of do’s and don’ts constrains school and classroom flexibility. It’s also ironic: the preamble to the United Federation of Teachers contract in New York states, “Layers of bureaucratic impediments must be peeled away so that flexibility, creativity, entrepreneurship, trust and risk-taking become the new reality of our schools.”

Other than those tasked with its interpretation, the only people digging through a several-hundred-page collective bargaining agreement are those desperate for guidance in solving a personal workplace problem. Still, there are provisions in these three large contracts that provide some insight — and even amusement.

* Committees and meetings. It’s typical for joint district-union committees to have equal numbers of members appointed by each side. This holds true for all types of committees. The New York City contract requires equal union representation on the Science Experiment Review Panel, for instance, which considers “disputes raised by staff members concerning the safety and efficacy of scientific experiments and procedures in schools.” The Chicago contract designates equal union representation on the Air Conditioning and Temperature Control Committee, established to “investigate, study, and determine a timetable for air conditioning or other temperature controls for classrooms in use during July or August.”

Teachers serving faithfully on committees like these on top of the usual staff meetings could plausibly have time for little else. The Los Angeles contract addresses this potential problem with a provision that limits the total number of meetings to 30 per school year and not more than four in any month. Nor are they to exceed one hour in length.

* Union security. Collective bargaining agreements deal with the relationship between employer and employee, but the union itself is a third party. Many provisions have little or nothing to do with teachers or the district.

Each contract defines how many union representatives will be released from normal duties to perform union work. Union officers are routinely granted leaves of absence. Typically the union picks up their salaries, but they continue to advance on the salary schedule for the years they work for the union. In New York City, up to 50 UFT members can be released to work full-time for the union. In Chicago it’s 45, and in Los Angeles it’s seven. But the Los Angeles contract also allows the union to designate an unlimited number of members to do union work for up to 25 days per year each. United Teachers Los Angeles pays for a substitute.

UTLA also requires the district to provide space for a “recruiting table adjacent to the central Personnel Office at a location which is readily accessible to employment applicants and new hires.”

Most contracts have a provision giving teachers the right to have a union rep present during any disciplinary hearing or conference with a superior. The UTLA contract adds a unique proviso: the employee can be accompanied by “any other person so long as that person is not a representative of another employee organization.” If your associate or sister is a Teamster, they wait outside.

To protect themselves, unions also have contract provisions regarding charter schools. The sequence in Chicago’s contract saying “there will be a net zero increase in the number of Board authorized charter schools” has received a lot of attention, but the New York and Los Angeles contracts also specify the union’s role in charter conversions.

The New York contract notes that while the state’s charter school conversion law places that decision in the hands of parents, the board and the union “shall undertake a joint review of the impact of conferring charter status on the school” if a majority of the staff opposes conversion.

The Los Angeles contract is more onerous. First, it calls upon the district to urge charter petitioners to present the charter to school employees even before signatures are solicited, and to identify the individuals involved in “developing and initiating the plan.”

Another paragraph directs the districts to urge charter applicants to discuss the matter with the union, “so that they can become fully aware of their options for seeking exemptions or waivers, or obtaining dependent charter status, without undertaking the burdens and responsibilities of Conversion Charter School status.” The contract also requires the district to give UTLA at least 30 days after a conversion petition has been received “to submit comments and/or recommendations.”

* Layoff tie-breakers. The word “seniority” appears 113 times in the New York City contract, but at no point does the contract describe a procedure if two or more teachers share the same amount of seniority. Such a case is not unusual in larger districts, where hundreds of new teachers might all begin their employment on the same day.

Typically this is dealt with by lot, or some other random procedure. The Chicago contract is rare in that it allows for teachers rated unsatisfactory on performance evaluations to be laid off first, regardless of seniority. Substitutes or temporary teachers go next, then probationary teachers, then low-scoring tenured teachers — each before all other tenured teachers. Ties are less likely under such a system but the Chicago contract offers no tie-breaking system.

The Los Angeles contract has a unique seniority tie-breaker that sounds like it came from a craps manual:

The seniority number for each employee includes a six digit number representing the year, month and day (660912 = September 12, 1966) on which the employee began probationary employment… Each number is followed by a five digit random number. Such random number consists of the last four digits of the employee’s Social Security number reversed followed by the sum of the two preceding numbers. When such sum is two digits, the second digit is used. The combination of the date number and random number provides the seniority number. When comparing two employees with the same employment date, the employee with the smaller employment number is deemed to be the senior.

For some reason the district and union find this to be preferable to laying off the less capable teacher.

* Work-to-rule in reverse. Work-to-rule is a tactic employed almost exclusively by unions during labor disputes. The union instructs its members to perform only the work required by the contract and nothing more. The idea is to illustrate how much members do beyond what’s contracted for and to pressure the district to relent.

However, an examination of these three contracts indicate the method could be a double-edged sword. The New York City contract specifically states that “No teacher shall engage in Union activities during the time he/she is assigned to teaching or other duties” unless he or she is actually involved in contract negotiations. A labor dispute is the time this provision is most likely to be violated.

A provision in the Los Angeles contract would also make work-to-rule there difficult to do. It states employees are responsible not only for classroom duties, but also “all related professional duties,” and goes on to list 16 examples.

* Very particular provisions. Contracts don’t grow to hundreds of pages by accident. Incidents occur over the years that one side or the other decides needs addressing in print. So we get provisions like these:

  • Teachers in New York don’t lose sick bank days for absence due to measles, mumps or chicken pox, but might for German measles.
  • Teachers in New York can’t be disciplined for the format of their bulletin boards or the arrangement of classroom furniture.
  • If notified of an impending arrest of a school employee, administrators in Los Angeles must ask the police to do it “at a time and place least visible to the students and staff.”
  • Teachers in Los Angeles are allowed to suspend students for possession of snuff or betel.
  • Teachers in Chicago cannot be required to empty trash or return furniture to its proper place.

In most districts, details of collective bargaining are kept secret from ordinary citizens. Once a tentative agreement is reached and made public, it is usually too late to affect its contents. All the more reason to be familiar with your local contract: there’s almost always a reason for why things are done a certain way. If you can find it.

Recent Intercepts. EIA’s daily blog, Intercepts, covered these topics April 29-May 10:

*  Exclusive Advance Look at NEA’s 2017 Rankings and Estimates. Important teacher shortage data in the numbers.

*  The Tenth Man. Shutting ourselves off from contrarians is bad for everyone.

*  We Already Have Border Walls. And they’re nowhere near Mexico.

*  Secede or Fail? School district secessions have become a hot topic, but consolidations are much more prevalent.

*  Florida Education Association Reaches Tentative Agreement With Staff. Goosed a little?

*  Resignation. Michigan Education Association’s interesting take on government regulation.

*  Nevada Union Mess Not Limited to Schools. SEIU Nevada placed in trusteeship.

*  Union Election Dispute in Palm Beach County; What Else Is New? Recount ballots already in executive director’s hands?

Quote of the Week. “When I talk to people, they want this to happen. Everyone wants this to happen except for the NEA.” – Geo Honigford, president of the Vermont School Boards Association, speaking of a bill that would have created a single statewide contract for public school teachers’ health insurance. The measure was defeated when the speaker of the house cast a vote to create a 74-74 tie. (May 5 Valley News)

In Anonymous Poll, Employees of Florida’s Teachers Union Decry Working Conditions

April 28, 2017

In Anonymous Poll, Employees of Florida’s Teachers Union Decry Working Conditions. If you are employed at a union — an organization whose purpose is to improve working conditions for its members — you would expect your own working conditions to be beyond reproach. Any problems that exist should be quickly and efficiently handled by your staff union through collective bargaining with the union work for.

But that’s not always the case. When labor is management, it assumes the role of the boss, warts and all. This means taking responsibility for the financial health of the union as well as for the employees’ well-being in the workplace. Some union officers are up to the task. Others are not.

The Florida Education Association employs about 100 professionals who work both at union headquarters in Tallahassee and in the field with local affiliates across the state. They are represented by a staff union that recently entered into negotiations with FEA for a new collective bargaining agreement. In preparation for the talks, the staff union surveyed its members to determine what issues were most important to address. About 83 percent of the staff responded.

The results, anonymized to protect the identities of the respondents, indicate significant problems not only with working conditions, but with the direction of the organization.

Here are just some of the complaints leveled at FEA managers:

1) Lack of vision and focus. Staffers felt there was “confusion in direction of our mission” and little sense that FEA officers had a plan.

“Dealing with HQ BS – egos, departmental silos, lack of leadership and communications, management chaos and lack of direction, vision – no clear strategy for path ahead, etc. Going downhill fast!” wrote one employee about the current environment.

2) Worthless meetings and poor training. Staffers felt there were many “unnecessary or directionless meetings and trainings” — too often lectures or PowerPoint presentations.

3) Poor communication and coordination. “Management needs to practice what they preach and give staff a real voice in how to carry out the work, strategizing on approach, allowing inter-departmental teams to collaborate,” wrote one staffer.

4) No respect. Many staffers complained their hard work was taken for granted. Some worried about retaliation if they raised questions. “None of what we do is appreciated,” wrote one. “The climate in HQ is abysmal and morale seems to be at a low.”

5) Heavy workload. There was consensus that FEA was understaffed and employees were expected to be on call 24/7. One employee was especially vivid about the situation.

“We’re constantly on call, on the road, sleeping in hotels 100+ nights a year, and being told that’s just how it is,” he or she wrote. “These expectations are incompatible with having a family (or a life), and I feel like FEA either doesn’t get that, or does get that and is just fine with it. Burnout is not an acceptable lifestyle.”

An official said the union had not seen the results.

“We have never seen the survey,” said FEA Chief of Staff Marty Schaap. “It was referred to in bargaining sessions. As we are in negotiations we will have no further comment. FEA has always valued our employees.”

Complaints by workers are part of every workplace, but that’s the point. They are not supposed to be so pervasive in a workplace run by a union, and certainly not over what appears to be a long period.

We can draw different lessons from this. The one I choose is that labor peace is achieved through the efforts of sincere, well-meaning people. There are bad managers and disgruntled employees regardless of whether one side or the other, or both, hold union cards.

Recent Intercepts. EIA’s daily blog, Intercepts, covered these topics April 21-27:

*  NEA Memo on May 1 Day of Action. “The NEA Communications team is working with AROS to finalize their messaging.”

*  Michigan Education Association Getting Serious About Finances? New officers want those overdue payments from locals.

*  New Hawaii Teachers Contract: 4 Years, 13.6% Pay Hike. Time for some liquid aloha.

*  Everyone Climbs One Rung at the New Jersey Education Association. Line of succession.

Quote of the Week. “It is not surprising in a place with a strong teachers union that you have relatively little differentiation. It undermines the purpose of the union, which is to bargain on behalf of all members.” – Dan Goldhaber, director of the Center for Education Data and Research at the University of Washington, explaining why school districts can’t offer more money to teacher candidates in shortage areas. (April 26 Seattle Times)

A May Day March to ‘Reclaim Schools’ — Previewing Teacher Unions’ Day of ‘Action’

April 20, 2017

A May Day March to ‘Reclaim Schools’ — Previewing Teacher Unions’ Day of ‘Action’. The National Education Association, its affiliates, and other allies are devoting many hours and resources this year to May Day, the traditional May 1 celebration of labor and working people.

NEA, the American Federation of Teachers, the Service Employees International Union and smaller groups are planning a “national day of action” through their coalition organization, the Alliance to Reclaim Our Schools. Their demands include “an end to mass deportation and threats to immigrant communities;” schools as “safe spaces free from the threat of ICE raids, racism, and bullying;” and that “billions not be spent on a wall, but on strengthening public schools to educate all our children regardless of immigration status.”

The focus on immigrants dovetails with rallies organized by immigration reform groups in cities throughout the country, with huge turnouts expected in Los Angeles, New York City, and Washington, D.C.

For state and local union shops, the focus varies depending on current grievances. There are also differences about how best to use the May Day stage.

Some unions are planning a general strike, but most are wary of the idea for legal reasons. The legal director of the California Teachers Association warned union leaders that participation in a strike for political purposes outside the employer’s control would not be protected under the state’s labor laws. School districts could ask for, and likely receive, a court injunction against the work stoppage.

“CTA would be faced with the unpalatable option of either backing down from what would at that point presumably be an already well-publicized position, or facing contempt of court penalties, including both monetary fines and possibly jail time,” he wrote.

CTA is planning its own May 1 activities focusing on immigrant rights but will add to the mix “billions of public dollars to private vouchers and corporate charter schools.” The state union is asking activists to hand out to parents and community members copies of CTA’s Advocacy Agenda, described as “a research‐based document by the California Teachers Association that outlines proven education strategies that improve and enhance student learning.” Interestingly, none of the ten items listed mentions unionized teachers or collective bargaining.

CTA also advised its local affiliates that “events can focus on whatever is important at your school site.”

Locals are emphasizing familiar themes. The United Teachers of Richmond plan to “support our students by talking to them about the importance of labor through history.”

In nearby states, such as Oregon, the teacher union’s day of action includes a demand for “fully funding public education” and to “protect our schools from privatization.”

Whether all this activity translates to accomplishment — beyond keeping the rank-and-file engaged, perhaps — is an open question. NEA in particular is very fond of days of action. A quick search returns such events from 2011, 2013, 2014, 2016 and earlier this year.

Perhaps days of action are subject to Newton’s Third Law of Motion in that each is subject to an equal and opposite day of reaction, establishing thereby a natural symmetry. It might explain why they don’t get us anywhere.

Recent Intercepts. EIA’s daily blog, Intercepts, covered these topics April 13-19:

*  Why Did UFT Borrow $62 Million From Citigroup? Big banks do have their uses.

*  NEA Expects Membership Growth This Year. Maybe even without adjusting last year’s numbers.

*  Sometimes I’m Wrong. New NYSUT president got exactly the margin of victory he wanted.

*  Michigan Education Association in Contract Dispute with Local Employees. Unfair labor practice.

*  Charter School War Extends All the Way to Guam. Union falsely claims charter can reject students who aren’t “smart enough.”

Quote of the Week. “I tried to change the funding system. I couldn’t get that done. I tried to change how teachers were paid. Couldn’t get that done. Tried to change how we dealt with the lowest-performing schools. Couldn’t get that done. Each time you try to turn around a school, or you open or close a charter school, or disagree with the union, you punch another hole in the bucket and you start to drain out. You lose some political capital. Eventually, you’re out of water.” – Mark Murphy, former secretary of education for the state of Delaware. (April 11 New York Magazine)

The California Teachers Association Has a Whole Lot of Money to Burn

April 12, 2017

The California Teachers Association Has a Whole Lot of Money to Burn. The California Teachers Association is not only on the opposite coast from the New York State United Teachers, it is on the opposite side of the financial ledger.

While NYSUT battles budget deficits and cumbersome staff pension debt, CTA has loads of cash, consistent budget surpluses, net assets of more than $300 million, and a pliant state legislature that helps it get most of what it wants.

The picture isn’t entirely rosy. Gov. Jerry Brown, while friendly to the union, is more of a maverick than CTA prefers, and the union’s staff pension fund needs additional money. But there are plenty of dollars to go around.

With still more on the way, according to CTA’s proposed budget for the 2017-18 fiscal year. The union’s dues level increases by “the statewide percentage change in average classroom teacher salary, exclusive of step and column increases, within California public schools totaled over a three (3) year period, divided by three (3).” So, for example, if the average teacher salary increased by a cumulative 9 percent over the previous three years, dues would increase 3 percent.

That means California teachers will pay CTA $677 for the next school year, a $21 increase. The union also expects to have an additional 2,300 members, bringing CTA to a total of $195.3 million in revenue.

What to do with all this money? A good chunk of it is disbursed into various political funds, including a new proposed assessment.

Each member contributes $36 to CTA’s Initiative Fund, which is used to support or oppose statewide ballot measures. That amounts to about $9.6 million, but unused dollars roll over, and the Initiative Fund currently has $13.8 million in it.

Another $20 of each member’s dues goes to the union’s Advocacy Fund, whose nebulous purpose is to “promote policies to improve and fight back attacks on public education.” Culling from dues raises $5.33 million, with $12 million currently in the fund.

An additional $19 goes to CTA’s Association for Better Citizenship political action committee. This is money donated directly to political candidates and parties, although a good portion also funds the PAC’s administration and day-to-day operations. Unlike federal law, California allows the union to deduct PAC money from a teacher’s paycheck along with dues. This deduction raises $3.1 million. CTA’s PAC currently has about $545,000 available.

Another $16 goes to the union’s Media Fund. While not strictly a political arm, the Media Fund pays for positive image ads that generally precede a political campaign. This ad ran just prior to CTA’s campaign to pass Proposition 55, which extended the highest income tax brackets to pay for additional public education funding.

Finally, CTA had added one more political fund. Each member will now contribute $5 to the union’s Independent Expenditures Committee, which funds indirect spending on political candidates that may not be coordinated with the candidate or a political party.

CTA created the new assessment because it did not have a separate revenue stream for independent expenditures and was funding them through the transfer of PAC money. Now it will have about $1.33 million a year for that purpose.

Of course, CTA makes many other political expenditures — lobbying, for example —that are paid for through its general fund.

The sheer size of its budget, along with the hospitable political environment, make it likely that even if existential disaster hits the rest of America’s teacher unions, the California Teachers Association will be the last domino to fall.

Recent Intercepts. EIA’s daily blog, Intercepts, covered these topics April 7-11:

*  Pallotta Elected NYSUT President; By How Much? Who Knows? NYSUT secretary-treasurer compares to keep agency fees to Battle of Britain.

*  Nevada State Education Association Has Bold New Proposal to Increase Membership. That’s a helluva deal.

*  NYSUT Convention Begins. Welcome to Altair IV, gentlemen.

Quote of the Week. “The most important factor in the success or failure of the American labor movement is something that the labor left hates to hear. It’s not about organizing. It’s not about militancy. It’s not about worker activism. It’s not about radical union leadership. Through the whole history of American labor, the key deciding factor has been the position government takes in a strike or to labor’s demands.” – Erik Loomis, assistant professor of history at the University of Rhode Island. (April 8 Lawyers, Guns & Money)

Financial Status of NEA and All State Affiliates

April 6, 2017

Financial Status of NEA and All State Affiliates. The National Education Association has an affiliate in every state, an extra one in Utah, and one for employees of Department of Defense Dependents Schools. As tax-exempt organizations, each is required to file a return with the Internal Revenue Service detailing its income and expenditures.

In order to better understand the fiscal health of the union, I collected those forms for 2015 for each affiliate (except the South Carolina Education Association), plus NEA national headquarters, and compiled key financial information in a table. I then coupled the figures with each affiliate’s 2015 membership rolls, obtained from an internal NEA report. You can click here for a high-resolution PDF file for easier viewing, or visit my NEA Affiliate Finances page.

Almost all the revenues of teachers unions come from member dues. Each state sets its own dues amount, but they also receive grant money derived from the national dues every must member pay. Each affiliate receives a set amount based on membership, called UniServ grants, and some receive supplemental or discretionary grants based on the priorities of the national union. I include the percentage of total income that each affiliate receives from NEA in order to ascertain how dependent it is on money from outside of its state.

A loss of members will naturally lead to a loss in revenue, but that can be mitigated or eliminated entirely if dues for remaining members are increased — which helps explain how, overall, NEA and its affiliates lost more than 8,900 members in 2015 but ended up with $16.7 million more in revenue than they collected the previous year.

The combined revenue of NEA and its affiliates fell just short of $1.6 billion in 2015. That does not include the revenues of some 13,000 local affiliates, ranging from a multi-million-dollar concern like United Teachers Los Angeles down to the tiniest affiliates that charge no local dues at all. Unions pay no federal or state taxes on this income, which increases their spending power considerably.

There is a lot to chew on for each affiliate, but here are some highlights:

  • Almost 39 percent of all affiliate revenue was received by three states: California, New Jersey and New York.
  • The states most dependent on NEA grant money were South Carolina (based on 2014 returns), Mississippi, South Dakota, and the Utah School Employees Association, all of whom received more than one-quarter of revenues from NEA.
  • Twenty-five of the 52 affiliates took in less revenue in 2015 than in 2014.
  • Eighteen affiliates spent more than they collected.
  • Eleven affiliates had net assets in negative numbers.

Teacher unions are big business, but not all locals are able to make ends meet. Increased teacher hiring amid a rebounding economy will mitigate problems for some of them. Other problems will linger. The fates of the smaller, dependent state affiliates will be the first indicator of the future health of the entire NEA structure.

Recent Intercepts. EIA’s daily blog, Intercepts, covered these topics March 30-April 5:

*  Paul Public Charter School Union Attempt Peters Out. A surprise only to reporters who didn’t seek out teachers who might be opposed.

*  What Unions Really Fear. It’s not the loss of agency fees. It’s what comes after.

*  Florida Education Association Seeks to Replace Seceded Local. Right-to-work laws aren’t so bad if you want to form a competing union.

*  Merged Montana Union May Merge Again. A majority of all union members in the state would belong to one union.

Quote of the Week. “The initial petition is not a measure of ‘yes’ votes—it’s a benchmark as to whether you should go forward to the next step… It’s about winning. And if they vote, they will lose—they will get slaughtered. It’s not democracy to let them vote. What would be democratic is to let them build their union.” – Kate Bronfenbrenner, the director of labor education research at Cornell University’s School of Industrial Labor Relations, commenting on the decision of the American Federation of Teachers to cancel a representation vote at Paul Public Charter School in Washington, DC. (April 3 The American Prospect)

Can Nevada’s Teachers Union Survive?

March 30, 2017

Can Nevada’s Teachers Union Survive? The National Education Association has an affiliate in each of the 50 states. One is in danger of falling apart.

With approximately 24,300 members, the Nevada State Education Association is in the middle of NEA’s pack in size but stands out because of its composition: about half of its members belong to a single local, the Clark County Education Association, which represents the city of Las Vegas and environs. Another 4,000 members belong to Education Support Employees Association, which represents Clark County support employees, such as bus drivers and custodians.

Both locals have been at odds with the union’s state leadership, and factionalism within the union and across other unions could lead to a break-up. The biggest and most inevitable of recent fractures is the longest in the making: an inter-union tug-of-war that will likely result in the loss of the support employees to Teamsters Local 14.

The Teamsters first won the right to represent the support employees in a 2006 election, but state law requires unions seeking representation status to win a majority of all members of that bargaining unit, not just of votes cast. In practice, this meant the Teamsters needed 5,259 workers; an inordinately high bar given that only 4,736 votes were cast.

After years of legal and regulatory battles, the state labor relations board finally ruled that only a simple majority of votes cast was necessary, and in a December 2015 election the Teamsters received 4,349 votes to ESEA’s 970.

Even with the loyalty of less than 10 percent of its unit, ESEA would not relinquish its exclusive bargaining privileges, and legally challenged the results in Nevada Supreme Court, where a decision is pending. For the moment, ESEA continues to represent the support workers.

ESEA has not solely relied on courts to maintain its position. Its leaders also sought to secede from NSEA and NEA in May 2013 in an effort to reduce dues but backed off after then-NEA president Dennis Van Roekel threatened legal action if disaffiliation were approved.

With ESEA’s fate uncertain, the state union is more dependent than ever on the teachers in Clark County. But that relationship has also soured.

The latest quarrel was occasioned by the fight to raise the state’s minimum wage. Clark County ran an ad suggesting that the issue was less urgent than increasing education funding. The state union labeled that position “crass political triangulation.”

John Vellardita, executive director of the Clark County local, wasn’t pleased by the criticism and said about his own state union: “They’ll be out of business in two years. You can quote me on that.”

This unprecedented shot at the union’s future by a member of its family is a warning worth noting. If it were so inclined, Clark County has the power to ruin the NSEA. If it were to disaffiliate, coupled with an ESEA loss to the Teamsters, it would actually have more members than the rest of the state.

Nevada’s teachers may have a hard time knowing whom to root for. Vellardita is not widely liked, although his controversial past didn’t dissuade then-Clark County union president Ruben Murillo from hiring him — in an added twist, Murillo is now the state president and at loggerheads with Vellardita. When Clark County’s health trust had to be bailed out, Vellardita was accused of questionable backroom dealings with a school board president.

State leaders have not done much better, spending almost $2 million to place a business tax initiative on the 2014 ballot that even the state AFL-CIO opposed and the national union ultimately abandoned. The measure ended up receiving only 21 percent of the vote. The Nevada legislature also passed a universal school voucher law over the union’s opposition in 2015.

Faced with a hostile climate, NSEA and its affiliates ought to be motivated to bury their differences and form a united front. But the fear of uniting behind a losing strategy may inspire them to seek their own paths.

Recent Intercepts. EIA’s daily blog, Intercepts, covered these topics March 24-29:

*  NYSUT Can’t Keep Its Stories Straight. In three months NYSUT went from “fiscally strong and getting stronger” to a situation that “could jeopardize the entire organization.”

*  Randi Weingarten’s Alma Mater Votes Against Joining Her Union (Probably). Personal touch falls short.

*  Syracuse Teachers Association President Impeached. Lesson learned: If you catch a fellow union officer surfing porn sites, keep it to yourself.

*  Union Pension Battle Looks a Little Different on the Other Coast. More money just leads to high-income problems.

Quote of the Week. “Teachers have voted to merge two unions to form a new super union for education workers.” – Not here! In the United Kingdom, the National Union of Teachers and the Association of Teachers and Lecturers have merged and will form the National Education Union, representing about 450,000 school workers. (March 22 Daily Mail)

Are NYSUT’s Finances a ‘Ponzi Scheme’?

March 23, 2017

Are NYSUT’s Finances a ‘Ponzi Scheme’? New York State United Teachers will hold its annual representative assembly in New York City on April 7-8. The main order of business will be the election of new officers. For the first time, it’s possible that election will hinge on the union’s apparently precarious finances.

Though union officials won’t say so publicly, it is getting increasingly difficult to deny that NYSUT is afloat on a sea of red ink with an iceberg ahead.

Its primary worry concerns liabilities for pensions and retiree health care for its employees (not for teachers, whose benefits are covered by the state). NYSUT needs a half-billion dollars to cover those costs and is currently short by more than $400 million.

The union has not commented recently on its debt, but in the past its spokesman brushed off the net assets calculation as the “most speculative, least instructive number” in its financial reporting — because of variations in interest rates and employee retirement patterns, among other factors that influence it.

Better investment returns and higher interest rates would boost NYSUT’s numbers, but another economic downturn and/or future inflation would presumably have the opposite effect. Downplaying net assets of negative $413 million may be necessary to keep up public confidence, but it is instructive to compare NYSUT’s characterization of its negative net assets with the way a union with favorable net assets characterizes them.

We need look no further than one of NYSUT’s parent unions. Last year, the National Education Association’s net assets were nearly $300 million. “One important indicator of an organization’s financial strength is its net assets,” NEA’s secretary-treasurer reported. “Net assets should be a positive balance, sufficient to support future growth, and stabilize an organization in troubled times.”

NYSUT fails on all three counts.

Its long-term debt might be manageable if it were handling current assets responsibly, but the union has been running deficits annually for nearly a decade, resulting in an accumulated debt of $144 million. To be clear, that’s not a projection — it’s what spending more than you bring in since 2007-2008 looks like.

Privately at least, NYSUT officers recognize the danger. Last year, Rick Karlin of the Albany Times Union reported on an internal NYSUT memo that warned the union’s pension reserves could be depleted in five years.

With elections approaching, activists are taking notice. NYSUT’s officers dismiss critics outside the union, but it’s difficult to marginalize Harris Lirtzman, whose credentials as both a labor advocate and in the financial world are unique and seemingly impeccable.

Lirtzman became a New York City teacher late in life, after a long career at Merrill Lynch and the New York City Comptroller’s Office, rising to the position of deputy comptroller for administration. As a teacher, Lirtzman was profiled in the New York Times for blowing the whistle on violations of the state’s special education regulations, charges for which he was ultimately vindicated.

Lirtzman has taken a special interest in NYSUT’s finances. In a letter to New York City education blogger Norm Scott, he described its situation bluntly, charging that it used member dues to pay overdue debts.

“NYSUT is a Ponzi scheme,” he said. “So long as the cash keeps moving from dues-paying members to NYSUT to the AFT to the UFT and back around it can keep its doors open.”

But he suggested that if the flow of dues slows for any reason, the structure collapses. “No one ever suspected that the cash could stop,” he said. “But it will stop and soon.”

Lirtzman explained in layman’s terms the two ways to fund a retirement system. “You can either make arrangements to pay for those commitments by funding them over time and investing those funds to earn more money,” he wrote. “Or you can take cash that comes in today from member dues and use it to pay the benefits you owe your current and retired employees. The first way is prudent but can be expensive. The second way can work but only if everything plays out the way you hope.”

In this scenario, a Friedrichs-type court action that resulted in an end to agency fees (paid by non-member teachers who are covered by collective bargaining) or economic downturn that forced downsizing of school staffs could create a crisis.

Lirtzman thinks drastic action is necessary. “We can keep the worst of this from happening if we take the time, now, to understand how badly NYSUT is managed, how terribly our money is being misused and how much we will lose if we don’t act,” he wrote. “I hope that the political strategy (voting out incumbent NYSUT leaders) works in the long run. I’m afraid that we don’t have the long run to find out.”

As the New York Times suggested in that profile, “Perhaps it pays to heed Harris Lirtzman.”

Recent Intercepts. EIA’s daily blog, Intercepts, covered these topics March 16-22:

*  Mulgrew Denies Everything. Union president tells reps the union is never late on dues. His disclosure report says something different.

*  NEA “Sequesters” $10 Million For Use in State Battles. Able to drop it on you on a moment’s notice.

*  Union’s Internal Cost-Cutting Is Thorny. Unions are tough. Unions of union employees are really tough.

*  Teacher Shortage Truthers? California has such a shortage of teachers it sent pink slips to 2,000 of them.

*  New Delaware State Education Association President Was Struggling Blogger. Went into teaching because there was no money in journalism.

Quote of the Week. “That ridiculous op-ed by the incredibly overpaid Wendell Steinhauer was really a delight to read. That’s why I’m glad there’s some snow and still some cold weather, because it will be great in my fireplace to help burn that. We’re going to continue to ignore them.” – New Jersey Gov. Chris Christie, responding to an editorial by New Jersey Education Association president Wendell Steinhauer that urged Christie to leave reforming the school funding formula to the next governor. (March 22

Few Union Members Volunteered for Massachusetts Anti-Charter Campaign

March 15, 2017

Few Union Members Volunteered for Massachusetts Anti-Charter Campaign. Question 2 on Massachusetts’s ballot last November would have allowed the state to approve up to 12 additional charter schools or expansions each year. The opposition, almost entirely funded and organized by teacher unions, handily defeated the referendum 62 percent to 38 percent despite being significantly outspent.

The Massachusetts Teachers Association still touts its victory, but an internal document indicates the “No On 2” campaign had its share of problems, not least of which was the small number of members who volunteered.

An internal overview of MTA’s effort sent to each union employee and manager who worked on defeating the referendum contains some self-congratulation but is also candid about complaints staffers had, primarily about their workload.

“Throughout the debriefs, MTA employees consistently expressed being both grateful for what the campaign accomplished and frustrated by it,” reported staffers Dan Callahan and Charmaine Champagne, who wrote the  report. “The magnitude of the campaign brought with it a level of excitement that was unmatched by previous campaigns, according to many of our experienced staff members. At the same time, many staffers felt highly stressed throughout the campaign as they attempted to fulfill their regular work duties along with campaign directives.”

Unions commonly give some staffers leaves of absence to work on political campaigns, but the majority advance the union’s political work while still on the payroll. This means they have to process grievances, help negotiate contracts, address members’ legal problems, and perform communications activities along with the additional workload of a campaign. The report recommended that MTA should henceforth define which traditional tasks are “mission-critical” during election season.

The debrief also revealed just how much of the load MTA employees were carrying. For one, they were assigned mandatory phone-banking.

“Experienced staffers knew to expect this and kept their schedules open for October, but newer staff members may have been surprised by a sudden expectation to give up parts of their workdays or evenings to do campaign work,” the authors explained.

Callahan and Champagne noted another problem with phone-banking. “There was an appreciation for the quality of the scripts provided, but not all staff members had sufficient background knowledge in charter schools to be able to answer questions from people they were calling, or to know when and how to shift to a different argument that might work better,” they reported.

Staffers were also encouraged to go out and canvass. The union provided undisclosed incentives for this activity, but the authors stated these were applied inconsistently and inequitably.

MTA saluted member engagement during the campaign, but the debrief suggests participation was limited. “On the face of it, only about 1 percent of our members engaged in MTA-run volunteer activities,” the authors stated. “While this percentage was higher than in previous campaigns, it felt low to many.”

Despite this, Callahan and Champagne concluded that members must have been highly active in informal ways, and that the No On 2 campaign “was clearly successful in ways that we were not equipped to measure, and missing out on this data is a lost opportunity.”

MTA is convinced its victory will lead to bigger and better things, although the authors acknowledged “it’s likely we will lose agency fee within the next two years and we want to be prepared for that future.”

Organizing is key, they wrote, but staffers said “everyone is operating under a different understanding of what organizing means.” They offered several suggestions to improve the union’s organizing structure, including one that responds to a schism among members between two different philosophies of the union’s mission.

I’ve described adherents of these ideas as movement unionists and services unionists.

The former believe people join unions to be part of the organized labor movement, to lobby, rally, agitate, protest and strike for a working class agenda. That is why most movement unionists tend to be heavily involved in many leftist causes. The latter believe people join unions to improve their pay, benefits and working conditions. Though heavily involved in advocacy, much of it political in nature, the relationship of services unionists to their members is in many ways a commercial one. Fees are paid in exchange for services – contract negotiation, grievance processing, protection against arbitrary employment actions, liability insurance, and so forth.

One recommendation for MTA was “splitting the field into separate organizing and contract service positions.”

It’s not clear whether this is realistic, but it would formalize the internal split by assigning staff to each function separately.

If MTA is representative of other teachers’ unions, they appear to be readier to learn the lessons of victory than those of defeat. A self-assessment might not be the most objective measure of their performance, but it’s better than no assessment at all.

Recent Intercepts. EIA’s daily blog, Intercepts, covered these topics March 9-14:

*  NEA’s 2016 Presidential Election Performance Was Even Worse Than We Thought. Imagine if they hadn’t targeted these states.

*  Union Board Sends Ultimatum to Suspended President. Due process?

*  School Leadership Showdown: Principal Flutie vs. Principal Snyder. Buffy the Vampire Slayer showed how two diametrically opposed school leadership styles can bring you to the same end.

*  Unconventional. The NEA Representative Assembly is being streamlined.

Quote of the Week. “I think it’s more of a general desire by insiders to eliminate any and all candidates they can, to clear the field for the insiders’ preferred candidate.” – Justin Katz, candidate for president of the Palm Beach County Classroom Teachers Association (Florida), commenting on the removal of himself and three others from the ballot by the union’s board of directors for technical violations. They were all later restored. (March 12 Palm Beach Post)

Have the Unions Benefited From the DeVos Confirmation Fight?

March 8, 2017

Have the Unions Benefited From the DeVos Confirmation Fight? It has been a month since the U.S. Senate narrowly confirmed Betsy DeVos as Secretary of Education, with Vice President Mike Pence casting the tiebreaking vote. Despite unprecedented resistance, the teacher unions were unable to prevent the confirmation.

But did they come out ahead anyway? “The public in public education has never been more visible or more vocal, and it is not going back in the shadows,” said American Federation of Teachers President Randi Weingarten after the vote.

“Today’s outcome marks only the beginning of the resistance,” added National Education Association President Lily Eskelsen García. She was specific about her reason for optimism.

“We have won hundreds and hundreds of thousands of new activists,” she told Vox, assembling a “contact list to die for” from the more than 1 million emails and 40,000 phone calls to the Senate during the confirmation process.

Those are impressive figures, and the opposition to DeVos was greater than we have seen in many years for a Cabinet nominee. But two questions about the union’s anti-DeVos campaign remain: 1) Was the strategy effective? and 2) Will it result in more effective future campaigns?

On the most basic level, the answer to the first question is no. The primary purpose of the campaign was to stop DeVos; that failed. Was the sheer volume of activism a victory? Well, yes and no.

The teacher unions often prompt their members to contact members of Congress, but never as successfully as during this recent effort. That’s a big deal for NEA, which informed a group of union activists in a private meeting last year that it had no e-mail addresses for 45 percent of its members. You can’t influence members you can’t reach, so to this extent NEA is better off than they were before the confirmation battle.

On the other hand, context is important. A 2014 CQ Roll Call survey found that senators received almost 143 million emails in a 10-month period, and almost 17 million phone calls. Being blasted with communications from angry constituents and lobbyists is very much a way of life for our elected representatives.

And we also don’t know how many individuals were responsible for the million NEA emails. Was each sent by a different person? How many union members sent one a day for three weeks? How many sent one a day for three weeks to each of the 50 Senators? Were some even more prolific?

Both teacher union presidents are convinced that its anti-DeVos coalition will be on-hand for future advocacy efforts.

“I think what you’re going to see is a lot of grassroots action, just like with the Tea Party, over and over and over again,” said Weingarten. “The level of energy is palpable,” said Eskelsen García.

The amount of “active” in activism is crucial. The app NEA used to generate all those e-mails advertises its ability to “customize engagements and messages so that advocates can take action with just a single click.” It’s unclear, in other words, how many in the unions’ camp are merely slacktivists.

Activists who are more engaged may attend rallies and marches, but there are serious questions about whether these activities are especially  effective.

Will they help to contribute more money to the teacher unions’ political action committees? Perhaps, but the unions’ use of that money does not inspire confidence. NEA and AFT spent a combined $82.5 million on federal races during the past two election cycles, with a net result of seven lost Senate seats, eight lost House seats, and a lost presidential race.

If the new supporters galvanized by opposition to DeVos’s campaign do become highly active for union causes, they may go further and inquire into the unions as well. They might ask important questions about how these powerful organizations make policy decisions, handle funds, and choose candidates to support or oppose.

Who knows? They might before long even run for the union’s top offices. We’d see then how NEA and AFT feel about committed activism.

Recent Intercepts. EIA’s daily blog, Intercepts, covered these topics March 3-7:

*  Sen. Collins Gets No Love For Her DeVos Vote. Some people noticed she voted “yes” in committee.

*  Here It Comes Again. Apparently it’s big news when 16% of charter school teachers in a Chicago network sign a petition.

*  Dogpile on LA School Board Races. UTLA outspent, but not every dollar is being counted.

Quote of the Week. “We will have to end support for some programs that don’t go to our core priorities. This is about reimagining and realigning our core priorities to best serve our affiliates.” – AFL-CIO spokesman Josh Goldstein, after the labor confederation laid off “several dozen” employees. (February 23 Bloomberg)

New York’s Teachers Unions Are Tens of Millions in the Red: A Look at the Numbers

March 2, 2017

New York’s Teachers Unions Are Tens of Millions in the Red: A Look at the Numbers. Public schools in New York are among the best-funded in the nation, with the average spending per pupil exceeding $20,000 annually both in New York City and statewide. Not coincidentally, New York is also home to the largest state teacher union, New York State United Teachers, and the largest teacher union local, the United Federation of Teachers, in New York City.

Besides advocating for their members, the unions are also commercial enterprises operating in a market economy. They have buildings, employees, bills to pay, budgets to construct, and in-house “staff unions” they have to bargain with. It is instructive to compare the teachers unions’ positions for financing public schools with the way they collect and disburse funds internally.

For instance, unions spend heavily on employee salaries and benefits — to the point of risking their future solvency. If a new court challenge similar to the Friedrichs case results in the end of agency fees — required union payments by non-members to compensate for collectively bargained benefits — the New York unions may find themselves unable to meet their obligations to members and employees alike.

The unions’ public policy agenda is designed to mitigate those risks, but would have the effect of placing the public treasury in similar straits.

That’s because most union revenue comes from member dues. These tend to increase along with increases in average teacher salary, either according to an established formula or by the vote of a body representing the entire membership. NYSUT collected almost $133 million in dues during the 2015-16 school year, an increase of 5 percent over the year before, according to its annual disclosure reports with the Department of Labor.

UFT received $151 million in dues in 2015-2016, a one-year increase of 5 percent.

Dues are a dependent source of revenue, however. As long as New York’s public schools hire additional teachers each year, and average teacher salaries increase, the unions’ income increases. No other legislative action or market condition have more than a marginal effect on union finances.

Having collected substantial sums, how do NYSUT and UFT spend them?

Most of it goes to their officers and staff. NYSUT employed around 550 people (according to its most recently available tax filing) with a payroll of $60 million. That sum is trivial, however, compared with the union’s liability for post-retirement benefits. NYSUT estimates that it is on the hook for $504 million in health care for retired members and pension costs, according to its 2016 labor department report, an increase of 31 percent from the year before and 135 percent from 2010.

Six years later, the union’s liability for retiree benefits and pensions had risen by 135 percent.

UFT had 690 employees and a payroll of $42 million in 2015-2016; it ran up large post-retirement liabilities of $77 million — a one-year increase of more than 25 percent and a 30 percent increase since 2010.

The unions boast of their success in stifling efforts to reduce public employee pension costs, but NYSUT would have to devote its entire income for more than three years just to cover the cost of its own employees’ pensions and retiree benefits.

How will the unions remain solvent given their precarious current state? So far they’ve relied on deficit spending. Annual deficits have reduced NYSUT’s net assets to –$413 million, according to its most recently available federal tax filings. UFT managed a surplus in 2014-15 after a deficit the previous year, but its net assets were –$19 million.

Here’s another possible indicator of the union’s financial insecurity: UFT owes NYSUT almost $11 million for back dues, and $4 million of that is 90-180 days past due. This suggests — we would only know for sure if the unions were more transparent about their financial activity — UFT has at least a temporary cash flow problem.

“The UFT is confident it will meet its future obligations,” UFT spokesman Dick Riley said in an email.

If the UFT is having financial troubles, NYSUT, which declined to comment, can’t afford to bail it out. And if NYSUT is having financial troubles, its parent organization, the American Federation of Teachers couldn’t afford to bail it out either because about 40 percent of AFT’s income is the dues paid by those same NYSUT members. In other words, AFT doesn’t have enough members in the rest of the country to cover NYSUT’s losses.

In the public sphere, the New York unions will consistently demand higher taxes but when it comes to their own affairs they recognize the risks of repeatedly going to the well, i.e., proposing additional dues increases to membership. They prefer to run up debt rather than reduce expenditures or raise dues to a level that would cover their spending.

We should approach the unions’ prescriptions for public finances with skepticism until they cure their own budgetary ills.

Recent Intercepts. EIA’s daily blog, Intercepts, covered these topics February 23-28:

*  Time to End Endorsements? Trial and error.

*  Very Different Union Elections in NY, LA. Old school and new school.

*  Baltimore Teachers Union Condemns Sickout. “These actions negatively impact the classroom and put teachers and our students at risk.”

*  NEA Getting Down to Business? Cutting the fluff.

Quote of the Week. “Is it really fair that the teachers of today are stuck with a bargaining unit that was agreed upon in the ’70s, before they were even born?” – Iowa Gov. Terry Branstad, who signed into law a bill that, among other things, would require government workers to vote regularly on whether they want to have a union in their workplace. (February 16 Radio Iowa)

The NEA’S 5 Financially Shakiest States

February 23, 2017

The NEA’S 5 Financially Shakiest States. The National Education Association and its state affiliates earn revenues of about $1.6 billion annually, almost all of which comes out of the paychecks of public school teachers and school support workers.

That’s a lot of money, but just four offices — NEA national headquarters and affiliates in California, New Jersey, and New York — account for 53 percent of the total. The financial health of other affiliates varies considerably depending on their state’s size, collective bargaining laws, the size of competing teacher organizations, and the affiliate’s competence in managing its finances.

Kentucky and Missouri passed right-to-work laws in January, while Iowa last week enacted severe restrictions on collective bargaining; these measures will diminish union membership in all three states. School reform advocates have also backed plaintiffs who hope to win a U.S. Supreme Court ruling that would invalidate agency fees, which non-members pay to unions for collective bargaining services. Such a judgment could shrink union affiliates in every state.

The California Teachers Association and New Jersey Education Association would likely weather such a storm, but affiliates that are already in right-to-work states would likely be devastated because they rely on subsidies from the national HQ that would dry up. Some affiliates are already in deep water.

Here are the five most financially troubled NEA state affiliates in alphabetical order. All of the monetary information comes from union tax filings for 2015; membership figures are from internal NEA documents.

Alabama Education Association. Once one of the most powerful interest groups in the state, the AEA has been greatly reduced through problems that are mostly of its own making.

AEA lost 16 percent of its membership in a single year, the worst of any NEA state affiliate. It ran a $1.1 million deficit and was placed under an NEA trusteeship in May 2015, shortly after it fired its executive director for failing “to meet his obligations toward the sound financial operation of AEA” (he reportedly invested union funds in high-risk stock market ventures).

Former AEA officers resisted the trusteeship (“there are no grounds for NEA to occupy AEA,” they argued), and by the time the dust settled, AEA was in a severe downward spiral. Its losses will gradually level off, but with a hostile legislature and governor, AEA will never return to its previous position of power and fiscal health.

Indiana State Teachers Association. Much like its counterpart in Alabama, the Indiana State Teachers Association’s former executive director made risky investments — in this case with funds from the union’s insurance trust, which ultimately collapsed in 2009. The national and state unions both took drastic measures that included another NEA trusteeship, a massive staff layoff, a $40 per member state dues increase, the sale of the ISTA headquarters building to NEA, and a promissory note from NEA to ISTA — $8.1 million of which the national union has already written off as bad debt.

All of this was supposed to make ISTA solvent — by 2027. However, the plan didn’t account for the recession or the passage of a right-to-work law in 2012. ISTA lost 4.1 percent of its active members in 2015 and its net assets are a negative $3.6 million. The union still owes $12.3 million to NEA.

Michigan Education Association. It isn’t surprising that Michigan Education Association membership was adversely affected when the state enacted a right-to-work law in 2013. But the union’s financial woes predate the law by many years.

MEA lost 6.7 percent of its active members in 2015, but the real problem is its failure to fund obligations to staff pensions and post-retirement health care. MEA’s net assets are an astonishing –$231.2 million. Mounting liabilities and decreasing membership are forcing the affiliate closer to disaster.

North Carolina Association of Educators. The North Carolina Association of Educators lost 9.6 percent of its active members in 2015 and is only about half the size it was in 2010. It is now below the threshold for payroll deduction of dues set by state law, although enforcement of that provision seems to be a problem for the state.

NCAE ran a $690,000 deficit in 2015 and its employees claim they have not received a raise in eight years.

Wisconsin Education Association Council. The Wisconsin Education Association Council was uniquely affected by hostile state law. Act 10 eliminated agency fees and restricted the scope of collective bargaining, which made the union even less appealing to those who might have been undecided about membership.

WEAC lost 12.5 percent of its active members in 2015, for a five-year loss of about 58 percent. Staff and budget were cut commensurately. The union collected $9.25 million in dues, down from $12.4 million in 2014.

These affiliates are far from the only ones with cloudy futures. The Georgia Association of Educators, Iowa State Education Association, and South Carolina Education Association also have troubles. The overall problem for NEA is how many “have nots” it can sustain without weakening the “haves.”

Recent Intercepts. EIA’s daily blog, Intercepts, covered these topics February 16-22:

*  Time For More Charter School Unionization Stories. Please, Lord, not again.

*  “There is a generational disconnect among union members.” So says a survey of active union members.

*  Burying the Lede, Then Knocking Down the Signpost to the Cemetery. How you can write about a split in union ranks without addressing public sector vs. private sector?

*  Is Your Classroom Overdecorated? There are plenty of controversies in public education, but nothing riles teachers more than classroom decor.

Quote of the Week. “As long as the teachers union hates him, I’ll support him for governor.” – Richard Riordan, former mayor of Los Angeles, speaking of another former mayor of Los Angeles, Antonio Villaraigosa, who once worked for the teachers union but has since gotten on its bad side. (February 17 Los Angeles Times)

Was Hillary’s Union Support Limited to the Public Sector?

February 15, 2017

Was Hillary’s Union Support Limited to the Public Sector? Exit polls from the 2016 presidential election indicate that Hillary Clinton won the union household vote by only nine points, a much smaller margin than is traditional for Democratic candidates and a contributing factor in Donald Trump’s win, particularly in the battleground states of Michigan, Wisconsin, and Pennsylvania.

Harold Meyerson of The American Prospect thinks Trump’s strength in union households may have been racial in nature. “Whites from union households preferred Trump over Clinton, 52 percent to 40 percent,” he wrote, citing an unidentified network exit poll. If accurate, race must have played a big part, but we lack enough information about those union households to make a reliable judgment.

Did union members vote one way and their families another? Did blue-collar union members vote one way and white-collar another? Or, as statistics derived from the annual report on union membership by the Bureau of Labor Statistics suggest, did public-sector union members vote one way and private-sector union members another?

Since 1983, when it began collecting such data, the BLS has documented a continuing decline in the percentage of private-sector workers who belong to unions, reaching a low of 6.4 percent in 2016. Public employee union membership, on the other hand, has remained relatively steady, only dropping from 36.8 percent in 1983 to 34.4 percent in 2016.

One obvious effect on the organized labor movement is greater reliance on public policy, which can sometimes lead to friction between the sectors. For example, increases in the size of government have tangible benefits for public-sector unions, but tax increases to pay for expansion may have a detrimental effect on the incomes and employment of private-sector workers.

Trump’s economic populism is targeted at the building and manufacturing trades, and offers little to like for government employees. Could this have been reflected in the voting booth?

The BLS gives us unionization rates by state, but only Barry Hirsch of Georgia State University and David Macpherson of Trinity University divide the data into public and private sectors. on their web site The map posted here is derived from their work.

Nationally, the difference in unionization rates between the public and private sectors is 28 points — 34.4 percent vs. 6.4 percent. But that average disguises tremendous variation at the state level. In Vermont, for example, only 5.5 percent of its private-sector workforce is unionized, far below the national average, but 45.7 percent of its public employees are union members, much higher than the national average. That’s a gap of more than 40 points.

When we look at the largest gaps in unionization rates and compare them with votes in the 2016 presidential race, we get some intriguing results.

1) Connecticut: gap 58.2 points, Clinton over Trump by 14

2) Rhode Island: gap 53, Clinton by 15

3) New York: gap 52.5, Clinton by 22

4) New Jersey: gap 48.5, Clinton by 14

5) California: gap 45.3, Clinton by 30

6) Massachusetts: gap 45.2, Clinton by 27

7) Washington: gap 44, Clinton by 16

8) Maine: gap 43.5, Clinton by 3

9) Oregon: gap 42.7, Clinton by 11

10) Pennsylvania: gap 42.4, Trump by 0.7

The trend gets less solid the closer to the average you get, but does not disappear.

11) New Hampshire: gap 41.3, Clinton by 0.4

12) Vermont: gap 40.2, Clinton by 26

13) Illinois: gap 40, Clinton by 15

14) Delaware: gap 39.2, Clinton by 11

15) Minnesota: gap 37.7, Clinton by 1.5

16) Michigan: gap 36.2, Trump by 0.23

With Ohio at 17 and a gap of 35.6, the tide begins to turn to Trump; he won the state by 8 points.

There are exceptions, of course. Clinton won Virginia by 5 points, though the state has a gap of only 7.5 points. However, the preponderance of evidence suggests that states with larger public-sector unions relative to their private-sector counterparts voted for Clinton by large margins, while Trump was generally victorious where differences in membership were smaller.

Along with their connections to voting patterns, participation in the different union sectors tells us something else important: the only strong union states are those with strong public employee unions. The union share of the private-sector workforce doesn’t reach 15 percent in any state, but 41 states have public-sector unions that exceed a 15 percent share of workers.

The question for the near future is whether Trump’s presidency will unite all unions against him, or whether he’ll be able to exploit their differences — as he appears to have done in the election. I am sure the unions have hopes, but I am not sure they have a strategy..

Recent Intercepts. EIA’s daily blog, Intercepts, covered these topics February 9-14:

*  NYC Teacher Union President Says Right-to-Work Is Inevitable. Whistling past the graveyard?

*  NEA Names LeVar Burton 2017 Friend of Education. “I was raised a Catholic because my mother was a teacher and knew that the best education available for her children was parochial school.”

*  The Case of the Missing Speech. If the text disappears, does that mean it was never said?

*  NEA Has “Grave Concerns” About Judge Gorsuch. Adjectives change according to audience.

Quote of the Week. “I was in Wisconsin. I participated in those large rallies. That didn’t work very well.” – Danny Homan, president of AFSCME Council 61 in Iowa, explaining union strategy to head off legislation that would restrict the scope of collective bargaining in the state. (February 10 Radio Iowa)

The One Senator Teacher Unions Might Have Swayed on DeVos Is the One Who Couldn’t Vote ‘No’

February 8, 2017

The One Senator Teachers Unions Might Have Swayed on DeVos Is the One Who Couldn’t Vote ‘No.’ The last few days leading up to Betsy DeVos’s confirmation as secretary of education, the outcome was entirely dependent on whether her opponents, led primarily by the two national teacher unions, were able to persuade one additional Republican senator to switch from aye to nay.

Education is one of the few issues in national politics that does not always fall along traditional party lines. The eventually derided No Child Left Behind Act, signed by President George W. Bush, was shepherded through Congress by Sen. Ted Kennedy and Rep. George Miller, both distinguished Democrats, and passed Congress with more Democratic than Republican votes.

But the nation’s two large teachers unions, the National Education Association and American Federation of Teachers, nearly always view education as a partisan cause. The unions routinely send upwards of 90 percent of their contributions to Democratic candidates. Many of their highest ranking officers are Democratic Party superdelegates, electors, and committee members.

When Republicans do receive union contributions, the circumstances tend to be unusual.

For instance, unions occasionally direct contributions to GOP candidates in order to prevent other, more conservative candidates from winning seats.

Additionally, contributions to Republicans go to incumbents and almost never to those vying for open seats or challenging a Democrat. If a Democratic challenger is highly unlikely to win, especially in a red state, the union may instead endorse the Republican incumbent. This is still rare, and more likely to happen in a House than a Senate race.

That’s because the final consideration for unions is how they may affect the composition of the House or Senate. A Democratic candidate will typically be helped if the party only needs 3 or 4 seats to capture a majority, but not necessarily if 50 seats are needed.

With these factors in mind, we can re-examine the gulf between the “no” votes on the DeVos nomination by Sen. Susan Collins of Maine and Sen. Lisa Murkowski of Alaska and the “aye” votes of all of the other 50 Republican senators.

Conservative media outlets have noted that both Collins and Murkowski received campaign contributions from the teacher unions, but failed to report on how and why those gifts were made. Collins was elected to the open Senate seat in Maine in 1996 against Democrat Joe Brennan. Collins was as moderate a Republican then as she is now, but the Maine Education Association endorsed Brennan.

She ran for re-election in 2002 and sought union support, but MEA endorsed her Democratic opponent, Chellie Pingree. Pingree was a strong candidate, made more appealing by the fact that the Senate was evenly split. Collins’ victory helped the GOP win a slim majority.

In 2008, Collins again asked for the union’s endorsement, but in a split vote, lost out to Democratic candidate Tom Allen. The union again cited the possibility of winning a Democratic majority in the Senate. Collins responded by forming her own group of teacher supporters, then went on to crush Allen in the election.

By 2014 MEA had gotten the message, sort of. Collins was up against Democrat Shenna Bellows, who despite her background as executive director of the state’s ACLU chapter was having trouble lining up support from the traditional liberal interest groups. MEA still didn’t endorse Collins, electing to endorse no one at all. Collins captured 68 percent of the vote.

So those who suggest Collins voted against DeVos to cozy up to the teacher unions are ignoring the fact that Collins never really had, nor does she really need, the teacher unions. In fact, her checkered history with the MEA might partly explain why she voted against DeVos, but would not be responsible for killing her nomination in committee, or delaying the committee or floor votes.

Sen. Murkowski’s relationship with the teacher unions is unique. She was appointed to her Senate seat in 2002 by her father, who vacated it in order to become governor of Alaska. In 2004, NEA Alaska endorsed her Democratic opponent, Tony Knowles. Murkowski won a three-point victory.

In 2010 Murkowski was challenged in a primary by Tea Party candidate Joe Miller. NEA Alaska endorsed Murkowski to keep Miller out, but he won.

Murkowski then launched a write-in campaign. The union made a calculation that in a red state she was a better bet to defeat Miller than was Democratic candidate Scott McAdams. NEA Alaska continued to support her in the general election, which she won with 39 percent of the vote.

In 2016 the Democrats again fielded a weak candidate and Miller ran as a Libertarian. This time it was an easy decision for the union to endorse the incumbent Murkowski. She captured 44 percent of the vote.

Unlike Collins, Murkowski needed union support to maintain her hold on her seat. But Murkowski is not up for re-election until 2022. By then we could already have a new president and secretary of education, and the DeVos vote would be merely a political footnote. Just like Collins, Murkowski’s vote cannot be explained away as a sop to the teacher unions.

So why couldn’t teacher unions and DeVos opponents flip one more GOP vote? It’s actually quite simple. Even though every single vote would be necessary, that third senator’s vote that would be perceived as defeating the nomination.

If there were any political price to be paid, it is likely the third senator would have to pay it. Collins is too secure in a blue state to be challenged, and Murkowski’s election is too far away. All the senators floated as possible swing votes gain little benefit for defying the GOP leadership.

For example, Sen. Heller of Nevada is up for re-election in 2018 in a blue state, but he needs the Republican Party more than he needs the relatively weak Nevada teacher union. Sen. Fischer of Nebraska is also up for re-election in 2018, but she’s in a solidly red state, and holds the seat that formerly belonged to Ben Nelson, who decided to retire in 2012 after being perceived as the deciding vote in the Senate for Obamacare.

The only viable target for a flipped vote would have been a Senator whose reelection is far off, is firmly seated in a red state so he’s not in danger of losing to a Democrat even with lukewarm GOP support, and who has the respect of the education community along with a cordial relationship with the teacher unions.

Amazingly enough, that person exists. It’s Senator Lamar Alexander of Tennessee, chairman of the Senate Health, Education, Labor & Pensions Committee and 2016 National Education Association Friend of Education — and DeVos’s chief supporter in the Senate.

Not surprisingly, no one suggested targeting Alexander as a potential flip, leaving the unions with no strategy other than “any Senator, for any reason.”

There wasn’t any reason to think this would work, and it didn’t.

Recent Intercepts. EIA’s daily blog, Intercepts, covered these topics February 2-7:

*  How Many Teacher Union Members Voted For Trump? Were union households divided by race?

*  DeVos Confirmed. But we’re galvanized!

*  Activists Everywhere Discover the Existence of Nebraska. You only come to me when you want something.

*  Union Election Follies. How many votes does it take to become president of the California Teachers Association?

Quote of the Week. “This is a country that survived a civil war followed by the assassination of our president followed by the impeachment of the next president. We got through that, so the Senate will get through this.” – Sen. Tom Carper (D-Delaware). (February 5 Politico)

Facing Threats, Can Public Sector Unions Learn from the Demise of Industrial Workers?

February 1, 2017

Facing Threats, Can Public Sector Unions Learn from the Demise of Industrial Workers? The Bureau of Labor Statistics released its annual report on union membership and once again the news was dismal for the labor movement.

The percentage of American workers who belonged to a union in 2016 dropped to 10.7 percent, down from 11.1 percent in 2015. And the gradual, almost entirely uninterrupted decline in the unionization rate actually understates how far unions have fallen.

Since 1979, the U.S. economy has added almost 49 million salaried workers, while the number of union members has fallen by 6.4 million. During that period of time the composition of the labor movement shifted; beginning in the 1970s, unions became less the voice of auto workers, miners, longshoremen, and construction workers, and more the voice of government employees.

In 1979 there were 15 million union members in the private sector and 7 million in the public sector. Thirty years later, the public sector had more union members. The average union member had become a teacher, not a Teamster.

We were fast approaching a society where the only appreciable number of union members will exist in the public sector. America has become an almost entirely non-union economy regulated by a highly unionized political bureaucracy — essentially the opposite of the situation in the 1950s, before government workers were able to unionize.

But that trend has been arrested and partially reversed — not because the private sector unions have rebounded, but because public sector unions are now also losing members.

After reaching a high of 7.9 million members in 2009, public union membership has fallen to 7.1 million.

Just as the growth of public sector unions kept the labor movement alive over the last three decades, the growth of membership in one subset — local government unions — was the fuel that kept the public sector unions going.

After 1983, the unionization rate of local government employees remained steady between 41 percent and 45 percent, by far the highest rate of any occupation in the U.S. economy. But the 2016 figures show the share has fallen to 40.3 percent. There are currently 4,050,000 local government union members, which means that almost 28 percent of all union members are police officers, firefighters, public school teachers, school support employees, or other municipal workers.

The changed composition of union membership has meant that labor’s mission has evolved from getting a bigger piece of industry’s pie to getting a bigger piece of government’s pie. Labor-friendly collective bargaining laws meant that growing government resulted in growing government unions.

But when states such as Wisconsin and Michigan instituted laws that restricted collective bargaining and eliminated agency fees (what workers in an industry must pay for union services like collective bargaining even if they choose not to be union members), it cut the cord between government hiring and virtually automatic union membership, the primary means by which labor unions grew.

Now as more states seek to follow the Wisconsin example, unions must either learn to operate in a world where they work to recruit and retain every member or instead continue to rely on political fixes and influence-shaping, but with a reduced capacity to do so.

I have seen little evidence that unions are capable of altering their traditional way of operating after so many years, but it is possible that a new generation could create labor organizations suited to the new environment and the preferences of today’s workers. If this happens it will appear in the private sector first. Governments were the last segment of American society to unionize, and they will be the last to discard a failing mode.

Recent Intercepts. EIA’s daily blog, Intercepts, covered these topics January 26-31:

*  Act One Complete, No Intermission. Not sure why people are holding out hope that the Senators who put DeVos over the top in committee will now cast the deciding votes against her on the floor.

*  Alexander the Not-So-Great. Friend of Education, indeed.

*  Unionization Rate Drops to 10.7%. It won’t get better.

*  Hawaii Teachers Union Targets Airbnb for Tax Revenue. Enjoy that mai tai.

Quote of the Week. “Be prepared to lose 30-40% of your membership base. I don’t believe it will go that high in CTA, but we need to be prepared.” – Joe Nuñez, executive director of the California Teachers Association, predicting the consequences if agency fees are eliminated, in a January 29 speech to the union’s State Council.

The Strange Disappearance of 69,000 AFT Members

January 25, 2017

The Strange Disappearance of 69,000 AFT Members. Teacher union membership numbers should not be a matter of interpretation. Employees or retirees sign a membership form and pay dues to the union or they do not. Adding them up and reporting the figures should be simple arithmetic. It is not.

Each year I post a table of membership numbers and trends for the National Education Association. These figures are always at least a year old, since it takes that long to obtain accurate totals for all of NEA’s state affiliates.

More recent numbers are publicly available, but only for unions and affiliates subject to the provisions of the federal Landrum-Griffin Act, which governs any labor organization with at least one member who works in the private sector. For example, some nurses who work at private hospitals belong to the Pennsylvania State Education Association and NEA. Both PSEA and NEA have to file an annual membership and financial disclosure report with the U.S. Department of Labor. Conversely, the California Teachers Association has only public-sector workers as members and does not file a report.

The situation is the same for the American Federation of Teachers. Though AFT has more private sector workers in more places than does NEA, piecing together an accurate membership picture is daunting.

To begin with, AFT routinely claims it has 1.6 million members. That number is not strictly accurate. AFT reached a record-high of 1,613,448 members in 2015 but last year the union reported 1,544,143 members, according to Department of Labor filings.

Even those numbers obscure the facts of AFT membership. More than 600,000 working AFT members belong to merged NEA/AFT local and state affiliates. Though their dues and representation rights are split between NEA and AFT, both national unions count them as full members.

Going a step further, almost 357,000 AFT members are retirees, who pay no dues. An additional 330,000 AFT members are part-time employees.

The bottom line: AFT’s 1.6 million members are the dues-paying equivalent of 854,000 full-time employed teachers. And we still have a mystery on our hands.

The loss of more than 69,000 members that AFT reported for 2016 is larger than its membership in California and Rhode Island combined. Where did these losses come from?

Almost 41 percent of AFT’s members live and work in New York, and so belong to New York State United Teachers. But NYSUT reported a 13,000-member increase in 2016.

AFT’s next largest state affiliate is the Florida Education Association, but it reported a 200-member increase. Next is the Illinois Federation of Teachers, which lost about 2,000 members. Next is Minnesota, which gained 370 members.

Going down the list of states the story is the same: up a few hundred here, down a few hundred there. The only major hit was in West Virginia, where the West Virginia Support Service Personnel Association left the union last year to become independent. AFT West Virginia once had more than 15,000 members. Now it has 931.

Two other AFT state federations filed odd reports. The Texas Federation of Teachers has reported exactly 40,000 members for the last four years. AFT New Mexico claims it has zero members, down from 6,885 in 2015, which is obviously not the case.

That still leaves us with tens of thousands of missing AFT members. It’s impossible to tell from where because not all affiliates are required to report their numbers, but it would require substantial losses in relatively small affiliates to account for the total.

Where did all those members go? If we can locate them, perhaps we can finally solve that nettlesome teacher shortage.

Recent Intercepts. EIA’s daily blog, Intercepts, covered these topics January 20-24:

*  Wayne Barrett, R.I.P. Best known for his book on Trump, he saved a few arrows for New York’s teacher unions.

*  What Conflict of Interest? How a union president got to vote on a right-to-work bill.

*  Good News, Bad News. The Clark County Education Association’s health trust is healthier. The wallets of teachers and taxpayers are not.

Quote of the Week. “We believe that every New Jersey resident should pay their fair share, and that the state should meet its obligations.” – Steve Baker, spokesman for the New Jersey Education Association, reacting to a proposal by possible gubernatorial candidate Joe Piscopo to eliminate state income taxes for public school teachers, state troopers, municipal cops and firefighters in exchange for their paying more for their health benefits. (January 22

NJEA is a tax-exempt organization.

How Representative Are NEA’s Representatives?

January 19, 2017

How Representative Are NEA’s Representatives? The National Education Association is highly committed to ensuring the presence of members of racial and ethnic minorities on all of its representative bodies. Guarantees at all levels — national, state, and local — are written into the union’s founding documents. These guarantees are so important to NEA that they helped derail a proposed merger with the American Federation of Teachers in 1998 because AFT lacked such guarantees.

The NEA Constitution (Article IV, Section 4) states: “If, after any period of eleven (11) consecutive membership years a member of an ethnic-minority group has not served as President, the Association shall take such steps as may be legally permissible to elect a member of an ethnic-minority group.”

This provision came into play in 2002 after the union had been run for 13 years by two white males — Keith Geiger and Bob Chase. The two candidates for the presidency that year were Reg Weaver and Denise Rockwell, both African Americans.

NEA’s bylaws get even more specific. Members from ethnic minorities have to comprise at least 20 percent of the budget committee. The staff members the union hires must mirror “at least the same ratio of any ethnic minority as is that ethnic minority to the total population of the United States.”

Finally, an NEA provision (Bylaw 3-1.g) governs the ethnic-minority composition of the NEA Representative Assembly, the 7,000-member body that meets once a year to elect officers, approve the budget, and establish the union’s priorities.

Each state affiliate sends an allotted share of delegates to the RA in accordance with the size of its membership. The bylaw calls for each state to send delegates “at least equal to the proportion of identified ethnic-minority populations within the state.” Failure to do so can result in censure, suspension, or expulsion for that affiliate.

In reality, though, each year many affiliates fail to achieve the proper ratios. NEA then provides advice and guidance on how to improve, but to my knowledge no affiliate has ever suffered appreciable consequences for violating the provision.

At the 2016 RA, about one-third of the 7,026 delegates identified themselves as a racial or ethnic minorities. But overall totals hide details that indicate NEA is not as diverse as it believes itself to be, despite its extraordinary efforts to reach percentage targets.

The union’s first problem is that it uses the composition of the U.S. population for its comparisons. According to the 2010 Census, which is what NEA used as its benchmark, the ratio of minorities in the U.S. population as a whole was 36 percent, but the ratio of minorities teaching K-12 public schools was 18.1 percent. In order to reach its goals, the union must recruit and elect representatives from a pool that is half the size.

That it manages to approach its goal is commendable, but it does so greatly skewing the ratios of some minority groups at the expense of others.

The 2010 U.S. population was 12.2 percent African-American and 0.7 percent Native American and Alaska Native. NEA’s RA delegates were 19.2 percent and 1.9 percent, respectively, in those categories. The difference was even greater when comparing RA delegates with the teaching population only. African-Americans made up only 6.8 percent of K-12 public school teachers, and Native American/Alaska Natives only 0.5 percent.

Hispanics and Asian-Americans are underrepresented among NEA’s national delegates. The U.S. population in 2010 was 16.3 percent Hispanic and 4.7 percent Asian-American, but RA delegates were 7.4 percent Hispanic and 2 percent Asian-American.

There is one more factor contorting the results: geography. The California delegation made up only 14.2 percent of the RA, but supplied 29.7 percent of the Asian-Americans and 45.6 percent of the Hispanics.

Remove California and the rest of the RA was only 4.7 percent Hispanic and 1.6 percent Asian-American. Omit Hawaii as well and the Asian-American share fell to 0.9 percent.

RA delegates are individuals, but it would be odd if the composition of the entire assembly did not affect the policies of the union and the perspective it has on the issues of the day. We already know that the RA is woefully short of delegates under the age of 35. Is it such a leap to assume pensions and seniority protections would occupy the delegates more so than new teacher training? And if that’s the case, why wouldn’t it also be true of racial and ethnic identity?

Republicans often complain that NEA overwhelmingly supports Democratic politicians and policies, even though as many as one-third of its rank-and-file members are Republicans. But if the union’s foremost decision-making body is composed of representatives whose racial and ethnic groups tend to lean even further towards the Democratic Party then NEA’s choices are not so mysterious anymore.

NEA must believe one’s racial and ethnic identity affect one’s outlook on education policy or it would not have instituted minority guarantees in the first place. But the union seems content with its record of minority representation writ large, instead of proportionally representing its entire population.

Recent Intercepts. EIA’s daily blog, Intercepts, covered these topics January 13-18:

*  Secretary of Education Plan B. What do the teachers’ unions really hope to accomplish?

*  Another Victory for Secret Ballots Over Card Check. Harvard teaching assistants say no to United Autoworkers.

*  Story Updates. The latest from Syracuse and Anne Arundel County.

Quote of the Week. “We know why parents sometimes embrace these voucher schemes. They move their kids to these programs because they want smaller class size, safer environments and less and more sensible testing. That’s exactly what we want for public schools.” – Joanne McCall, president of the Florida Education Association, after the state Supreme Court rejected the union’s appeal against Florida’s tuition tax credit program. (January 18 Miami Herald)

The U.S. Department of Education — Born in the NEA

January 12, 2017

The U.S. Department of Education — Born in the NEA. “Betsy DeVos is not qualified, and even more than unqualified, Betsy DeVos is an actual danger to students — especially our most vulnerable students,” said National Education Association president Lily Eskelsen García of President-elect Donald Trump’s nominee to be U.S. secretary of education.

This warning might have greater weight if we did not already know that NEA rarely approves of education secretaries — a noteworthy fact given that the union was instrumental in creating the department of education and the Cabinet post that goes with it.

During his 1976 campaign, then-presidential candidate Jimmy Carter promised the NEA he would establish the department; in return, the union bestowed its first presidential campaign endorsement on the Georgia peanut farmer.

“There’d be no department without the NEA,” said NEA executive director Terry Herndon in 1980.

Support by the nation’s largest teacher union for a branch of the federal government dedicated to education actually went back many years before Carter. Union leaders believed a dedicated agency would give the NEA greater relative power over federal policy — power that was diffused by the many interest groups lobbying the Department of Health, Education and Welfare.

But NEA hoped for more than just a better seat at the table; it wanted the federal government to assume one-third of the operating costs of public schools. At the time, the federal share was only about 7.5 percent and is not much higher now.

After the Carter victory in the 1976 election, NEA expected a swift reward for its efforts on his behalf. For the first time (but not the last), however, NEA was disappointed by a candidate it helped succeed.

Education had not been high on Carter’s priority list, but he announced a formal legislative effort to create the department in April 1978. The proposal moved easily through the Senate, but there was substantial opposition in the House even though the Democrats had a large majority.

While GOP lawmakers resisted expanding the federal government, Democratic opposition had a more surprising source, at least in retrospect: President Al Shanker of the American Federation of Teachers.

Shanker deduced, not incorrectly, that the effort to create a department of education would serve as a power grab by the NEA. At the time, the two teachers’ unions were active rivals and competitors, not the frequent allies they are now.

Shanker established the Committee Against a Separate Department of Education and signed up more than 60 education, union, and civil rights leaders, including AFL-CIO president George Meany, Senator Daniel Patrick Moynihan of New York, and an academic whose name you might recognize, Diane Ravitch.

Shanker also worked the media effectively, and it was not long before the New York Times and other papers began editorializing against the proposed department.

Not to be outdone, NEA put together its own coalition that included the National School Boards Association, the National Parent Teacher Association, the American Association of School Administrators, the Council of Chief State School Officers, the National Association of State Boards of Education, and the Education Commission of the States.

The two coalitions battled by proxy in the House of Representatives. On May 2, 1979, the measure barely squeezed through the House Government Operations Committee by a vote of 20-19.

When it arrived on the House floor, both sides had bipartisan support. Among the opponents were liberal Democratic Reps. Richard Gephardt of Missouri, John Conyers of Michigan, Henry Waxman of California, and Patricia Schroeder of Colorado.

“No matter what anyone says, the Department of Education will not just write checks to local school boards. They will meddle in everything. I do not want that,” said Schroeder.

Ultimately the House bill passed 210-206 with this party breakdown:

For: 175 Democrats, 35 Republicans
Against: 89 Democrats, 117 Republicans

The GOP votes in favor made the difference (including Newt Gingrich’s). However, the fight continued over poison pills the House added, including amendments authorizing voluntary prayer in public schools and a ban on busing for desegregation purposes.

With election season fast approaching, party leaders were able to remove the controversial items in conference. The final bill passed the Senate easily and by 215 to 201 in the House. President Carter signed it into law on October 17, 1979 — almost three years after his election.

The NEA was ecstatic but soon forced once more to defer to the politics of the moment. Worried that the new agency would be framed as a payoff to the union during his reelection campaign, Carter decided to nominate an outsider as the first Secretary of Education: Shirley Hufstedler, a federal appeals court judge with no prior education experience, chosen specifically because she had no ties to the unions or other education groups.

There have been nine secretaries since Judge Hufstedler; only one, Richard Riley, who served under President Bill Clinton, was a clear favorite of NEA. The rest have been seen by the union as disappointments or inimical to their interests.

A recent report suggests the pattern may have continued had Hillary Clinton been elected.

NEA long desired an experienced educator as secretary, preferably one who had been a union member. But Mike Allen of Axios reported that, according to his interviews with Clinton insiders, there were only two names on Hillary’s short list: former Michigan Governor Jennifer Granholm and past New York University President John Sexton.

Granholm is an attorney by trade. Sexton was the chairman of the board of the Federal Reserve Bank of New York. NEA’s leaders might not hate either candidate, but they certainly were not what the union had in mind when they endorsed Hillary well before the Iowa caucuses.

If NEA is able to help derail the DeVos nomination, it might get someone it likes better, but it will not get someone it likes. Instead we may see more editorials like the one written by Bruce Meredith and Mark Paige in the Los Angeles Times calling for the abolition of the Department of Education.

Which closes the circle: Meredith used to be the general counsel for NEA’s affiliate in Wisconsin.

Recent Intercepts. EIA’s daily blog, Intercepts, covered these topics January 4-11:

*  Ah, The Good Old Days. Why couldn’t Trump nominate someone the unions could work with, like Arne Duncan?

*  Declassified: NEA’s Case for Hillary. The PowerPoint presentation that persuaded NEA’s directors to endorse Hillary in the primaries.

*  The SEIU Budget Cut Mystery. Is it Trump or is it AFSCME?

*  Building for Retirement. The California Teachers Retirement System is towering again after a taxpayer bailout.

*  Syracuse Union Suspends President. AFT to intervene?

*  This Week Inside Baseball. Prison sentences and cult practices.

Quote of the Week. “It would also behoove unions to raise dues rather than cut back. Call it a crisis levy or a solidarity assessment. We need everything we can raise and spend to take maximum advantage of the window before us. Raising dues would also send a powerful message to both friends and enemies of the labor movement that we aren’t backing down or knuckling under — we’re gearing up for the struggle, and we intend to win.” – Dave Kamper, a labor organizer in Minnesota. (January 10 Jacobin)

The 10 Most Memorable Teachers Union Quotes of 2016

January 3, 2017

Teachers union officers and activists had a lot to say in 2016, and others had a lot to say about them. Here are the top 10 teacher union quotes of 2016, in countdown order:

10) “I am aware that Shelly Silver has been convicted of corruption-related offenses. However, the programs described above are just a few of the many educational programs he successfully initiated, supported and negotiated. I ask that, when sentencing him, Your Honor take into account his good works in fighting for and promoting education throughout the state.” — Randi Weingarten, president of the American Federation of Teachers, in a March 14 letter to U.S. District Court Judge Valerie Caproni on behalf of former New York State Assembly Speaker Sheldon Silver (April 21, The Journal News). Judge Caproni ultimately sentenced Silver to 12 years in prison, a $1.75 million fine and $5 million in restitution.

9) “Our staff is under constant pressure to do more with less since we have not received a salary increase in eight (8) years.” — From a petition written by employees of the North Carolina Association of Educators addressed to the union’s executive director.

8) “I think we actually kind of did.” — Lily Eskelsen García, president of the National Education Association, after commenting that her union could have written the Democratic Party platform language on education. (July 28, EdWeek)

7) “We feel it’s a parent’s right to choose.” — Becky Pringle, vice president of the National Education Association, explaining the union’s position on opting out of standardized testing. (May 9, Frederick News-Post)

6) “ESSA is 1,000 pages of ambiguity.” — Shelly Moore Krajacic, member of the National Education Association executive committee and head of the union’s Every Student Succeeds Act implementation task force, speaking to the NEA board of directors in April.

5) “The next year and a half must be founded upon building our capacity to strike, and our capacity to create a state crisis, in early 2018.” — Alex Caputo-Pearl, president of United Teachers Los Angeles, in a July 29 speech at the UTLA Leadership Conference.

4) “The gravy train was running, and they didn’t see the curve.” — Dave Weiland, an Oconomowoc, Wis., school district teacher and local union leader, on the failure of the teachers union to prepare for the 2011 passage of Act 10, the state law that severely limited public-sector collective bargaining and ended agency fees. (November 27, Milwaukee Journal-Sentinel)

3) “His life has been in service, and he is continuing to be a teacher, a leader, a peacemaker, helping his community — even though it’s now the jail community.” — Benedict Kuehne, attorney for former Broward Teachers Union president Pat Santeramo. Santeramo was seeking to have his sentence reduced after he pleaded guilty to a federal fraud charge for misappropriating money the school district gave the union for an accountability program. The judge instead increased his sentence from five years to 6½ years. (June 9, South Florida Sun-Sentinel)

2) “We’ve permitted assessments on a lot of different levels, so why can’t the government, as employer, create a State entity? Because this union under California law is a State entity…. So it seems to me that — and California tells the union what topics it can negotiate on, it requires them to do training, and in the end it accepts their recommendations with respect to the issues of employment at its own will, meaning the State is creating the union as part of the employment training and other responsibilities.” — U.S. Supreme Court Justice Sonia Sotomayor, during oral arguments for Friedrichs v. California Teachers Association on January 11. Her suggestion that the State of California had created CTA seemed to baffle attorneys for both sides.

And the number one teachers union quote of 2016 is…

1) “[Illinois Gov.] Bruce Rauner is a liar. You know, I’ve been reading in the news lately about all of these ISIS recruits popping up all over the place — has Homeland Security checked this man out yet? Because the things he’s doing look like acts of terror on poor and working-class people.” — Chicago Teachers Union president Karen Lewis, in remarks to the City Club of Chicago on April 20.

The Hundred-Year Teacher Shortage

December 21, 2016

The Hundred-Year Teacher Shortage. I came across an editorial from the National Education Association that I want to share. Here are a few excerpts:

Is there a teacher shortage today? There is only one answer to this question. There is still an appalling lack of trained teachers throughout the country. There is grave danger to the teaching profession and to the cause of education in the statements loosely made in some quarters that there is a surplus of teachers and that salaries should be lowered.

…there are tens of thousands of applicants seeking positions in the schools who have neither the personal nor professional qualifications to train children. To admit such teachers is a crime against the childhood of the nation. It must not be tolerated. The false cry that there is no teacher shortage must not go unchallenged.

…The public will gladly pay the bills when it appreciates the gain from reasonable investment in good schools.

That’s from The Journal of the National Education Association, published in October 1921.

At the time there were about 657,000 teachers in the U.S., according to the National Center for Education Statistics, and more than 21.5 million K-12 students, for a student-teacher ratio of almost 33 to 1.

Here are a few more excerpts, this time from an NEA Today article that appeared in September 2016:

The United States is facing a major teacher shortage, as schools are scrambling to fill positions in math, science, special education, bilingual education, and other fields. The most severe deficit can be found in nearly all – 90 percent – of our highest-need schools.

…Some districts are responding with stop-gap measures, like allowing more unprepared educators to enter the classroom by lowering the standards required to become a teacher. This is a short-term fix with long-term problems: if teachers are hired without having been fully prepared, the much higher turnover rates that result are costly in terms of both dollars spent on the replacement process and decreases in student achievement in high-turnover schools.

Instead, long-term solutions are needed to keep educators in the profession by improving working conditions, increasing preparation and mentoring, and providing adequate resources that will enable them to do their jobs.

“We have to stop acting like we can solve this problem without resources,” [NEA vice president Becky] Pringle said.

NCES estimates there are 3,135,000 public school teachers and a student-teacher ratio of 16 to 1. Since 1921 we have almost quintupled the number of teachers, more than quintupled the average teacher salary in inflation-adjusted dollars, and also cut the student-teacher ratio in half.

If resources are still inadequate, maybe after 95 years it’s time to try a different approach.

Recent Intercepts. EIA’s daily blog, Intercepts, covered these topics December 15-20:

*  The Dastardly Villains Looking to Cut Employee Pensions. It’s not who you think.

*  Boston Teachers Union Officers Retire En Masse; New Slate Calls Dibs. The fix is in.

*  Where “No” Means “Yes, But Just a Little Less.” When Oregon voters defeated a $3 billion tax hike, did that mean they really wanted a $2.5 billion tax hike?

*  Things Are Getting Sticky in Carmel. “No longer in good standing” is putting it mildly.

Quote of the Week. “Many students like us, who have expressed concern over the potential disadvantages of a union, have observed and/or experienced harassment, bullying, and vandalism by students who support unionization.” – from a December 15 letter by the Students Against Duke Unionization to the National Labor Relations Board. They are a group of graduate students opposed to the attempt of SEIU to unionize teaching assistants and research assistants at Duke University.

With Question 2 Defeated, MA Teachers Turn To Ambitious Legislative Agenda

December 14, 2016

With Question 2 Defeated, MA Teachers Turn To Ambitious Legislative Agenda. Having successfully maintained the cap on the number of charter schools in the state, the Massachusetts Teachers Association is hoping to use that momentum to push a package of bills through the state legislature.

The agenda was approved this month by the union’s board of directors but has not been made public until now.

The nine-page document describes a membership that is “tremendously energized as never before” and ready to create schools that are “fully funded, safe, accessible places of joy.”

To achieve its goals, MTA plans to craft three omnibus bills that address K-12 education, higher education, and retired public employees. A fourth package of bills would help institute a constitutional amendment creating a tax on incomes over $1 million, a $15 minimum wage, and paid family medical leave. The constitutional amendment was approved by the Legislature last May, but must receive legislative approval again next year before being placed before voters.

Among other things, the K-12 bill would eliminate “incursions on collective bargaining,” place a moratorium on high-stakes testing, limit class size in special education inclusion settings, and mandate recess.

The higher education bill would require the state’s community colleges to hire 250 tenure-track faculty each year for four years, and 250 full-time support and professional staff.

The retiree bill would increase the cost-of-living allowance base from $13,000 to $16,000 and freeze retiree premium contribution rates permanently.

Despite these ambitious plans, MTA also expects to have to play defense. “Even with an overwhelmingly Democratic majority in the Legislature, proposals to undermine the rights and working conditions of our members present a constant threat, particularly in the more conservative House,” the document states. “We need to demand that legislators stand with us in support of public education and hold them accountable for their actions or inactions.”

Recent Intercepts. EIA’s daily blog, Intercepts, covered these topics December 1-13:

* NEA 2017 Leadership Summit Sessions. “Using ESSA to Recruit, Empower, Engage, and Influence Members to be Actively Involved.

* Plan Your Next Edu-Getaway! No more trips to Finland.

* Today I Received an E-Mail from the Past. NEA’s predictions for the future didn’t quite come true.

* Finnish Off. In a twist, the Finns learn something from us.

* Fight to the Finnish. Diane Ravitch did not read her morning newspaper.

* Nebraska State Education Association Names a Free Thinker as Executive Director. “It is time for our union to evolve.”

* Pro-Labor Voices Call For a Revolution in Union Thinking. It has to happen eventually, doesn’t it?

* NEA Promotes Chief Lobbyist. One step up.

* A New Mobile-Friendly Look For Intercepts. Your phone, tablet and eyeballs now feel better.

Quote of the Week. “School choice is a joke … if you’re competing for crumbs, what are you getting? Or if you’re competing to take the best kids out, then what are you leaving behind? School choice is a misnomer. There is no such thing.” – Karen Lewis, president of the Chicago Teachers Union. (November 30 WTTW’s Chicago Tonight)

California Is Still The Golden State For Teacher Unions

November 30, 2016

California Is Still The Golden State For Teacher Unions. While teacher union affiliates across the country ponder what went wrong on Election Day, the California Teachers Association and California Federation of Teachers are celebrating another successful year at the polls.

The unions helped deliver Hillary Clinton’s 29-point margin of victory in California and backed Kamala Harris in her successful bid to replace U.S. Senator Barbara Boxer, who is stepping down. They could also take credit for helping Democrats maintain a 39-13 margin in California’s delegation to the U.S. House of Representatives.

The two state ballot initiatives they supported with millions in contributions and thousands of volunteers were both passed — one extended a measure raising taxes on top earners in order to direct more funds to schools and the other re-instituted bilingual education.

They worked for Democrats across the state, helping the Party maintain a 26-14 margin in the state senate and pick up three seats in the state assembly, which now has a 55-25 Democratic majority. Of the 112 candidates CTA endorsed, 91 were elected.

That union’s reach extended into local races as well, backing successful measures in 34 of 36 local and municipal races; 142 of the 218 school board candidates it supported were victorious — an impressive record given the tangles of municipal politics.

The unions didn’t have it entirely their way. Some California Democrats support education reform and are backed by a formidable group of charter school advocates. And while Governor Jerry Brown is very much a traditional Democrat, he has been known to stand in the way of the union agenda.

Still, the political successes of California union affiliates — along with those in New York and Massachusetts — increased their status relative to those in the Midwest and Pennsylvania, a traditional labor stronghold. As the presidential election vividly demonstrated, support for the Democratic Party is consolidating in fewer, more urban areas. One wonders if that phenomenon will be mirrored in the teacher unions and, if so, how that will inform political and labor strategists in future elections.

At their highest levels of decision-making, both teacher unions have geographic diversity challenges of their own. A plurality of the membership of the American Federation of Teachers works in a single state — New York. The AFT does not impose term limits on its leadership and has no viable organized opposition caucus, so the presidency belongs to Randi Weingarten for as long as she wants it.

On the other hand, the National Education Association’s larger and stronger affiliates are actually underrepresented among the union’s leadership. The three executive officers of the NEA are from Utah, Pennsylvania and Virginia. The six other members of the Executive Committee are from Illinois, Mississippi, Michigan, Wisconsin, Tennessee, and only one from California.

Ideological and strategic divisions about how best to regain advantage — embodied in the Clinton-Sanders split in 2016 — will overlay with these geographical divisions as the unions deal with a hostile federal government and new legal challenges to agency fee laws.

Recent Intercepts. EIA’s daily blog, Intercepts, covered these topics November 24-29:

* Greenhouse Shouldn’t Throw Stones. Just admit you don’t know, Steven.

* Act 10 at Five. Wisconsin unions figure out what they should have been doing all along.

Quote of the Week. “Unfair labor practice strikes have been legal for decades under state and federal law despite the existence of a no-strike clause. San Ramon Valley Unified School District (1984) PERB Order No. IR-46 at p. 10. The fact that the Union engaged in the strike in good faith can serve as a defense to any charges of illegality. Clement v. City of Glendale 518 F.3d 1090, 1097 (9th Cir. 2008).” – from SEIU Local 1000, explaining its rationale for planning a one-day strike on December 5, even though its contract with the state of California contains a no-strike clause.

Did Teachers Unions Learn Anything From Hillary’s Loss?

November 23, 2016

Did Teachers Unions Learn Anything From Hillary’s Loss? As November neared, the two national teachers unions viewed the impending, near-certain election of Hillary Clinton as the first step to regaining the power and influence they had not enjoyed since her husband’s presidency. They also hoped that an anti-Trump wave would result in a Democratic majority in the Senate and a large pickup of seats in the House.

If the Trump victory shocked most of us, it was worse for the National Education Association and the American Federation of Teachers, who sat and watched until their “seat at the table” was pulled out from under them.

The outcome has prompted continuous soul-searching and blame-casting from pollsters, the press, the Democratic Party establishment and organized labor. But messages from the top ranks of the NEA and AFT provide no evidence that lessons have been learned.

“Don’t mourn, organize!” advised NEA president Lily Eskelsen García, telling her members it was time to “double our resolve to bring people together.” AFT president Randi Weingarten said, “We will pick ourselves up, extend a hand to our neighbors and our colleagues and recommit ourselves to the task of fighting for an America where everyone has a fair chance.”

These calls to pull together and recommit will have limited appeal among the rank-and-file, some of whom voted for Trump and others who supported Bernie Sanders in the Democratic primaries. The latter are indignant not just about a Trump presidency, but about the way their own union leaders manipulated the endorsement process to benefit Clinton.

Pro-labor columnists let the unions have it with both barrels.

“Most union presidents are far removed from the sentiments of rank-and-file members,” wrote Micah Uetricht of In These Times. “Labor leaders like Weingarten hang out in elite circles, seeing themselves less as leaders of social movements whose everyday actions are guided by their members and more as peers of the kind of centrist Washington insiders that made up the top brass of Clinton’s campaign.”

“Radicals have long argued that American labor leaders are not only isolated from their rank and file, but actually have a set of interests that are distinct from their members,” he continued.

Mark Brenner of Labor Notes was even blunter: “For too long unions have treated members as an ATM for predetermined priorities or an unruly nuisance that needs to get ‘on program.’ This democracy deficit explains why so many members feel disconnected — and why so many are likely to vote with their feet under right-to-work.”

Sanders himself distilled the issue for Democrats, though he could as easily have been talking just about the unions. “When you lose the White House to the least popular candidate in the history of America, when you lose the Senate, when you lose the House, and when two-thirds of governors in this country are Republicans, it is time for a new direction for the Democratic Party,” he said.

Despite the criticisms, the teachers unions show every indication of carrying their standard operating procedures into future elections. They wasted no time in going right back to Establishment figures in the Democratic Party to determine next steps.

Five days after the election, the Democracy Alliance — a coalition of Democratic donors, party insiders and interest groups chaired by NEA executive director John Stocks — met to strategize about the years ahead. Nothing in the conference agenda signaled a new direction.

And earlier this week, the AFT’s Weingarten and other union officers met with New York Gov. Andrew Cuomo to champion “sticking together,” even though she often portrays Cuomo as a mortal enemy.

An unidentified labor source told the New York Daily News: “In a moment of crisis, [Cuomo] pulled these people together and gave them some mooring, which they need at this moment, and a sense of a way forward. With Trump heading to the White House, he stressed there’s a partner in government [Cuomo] that cares about them and their values.”

The next major election will be the New Jersey gubernatorial contest in 2017. Incumbent Gov. Chris Christie is term-limited, and the New Jersey Education Association has already endorsed Phil Murphy, who spent 23 years at Goldman Sachs and retired as the firm’s senior director.

None of these actions signifies a move to a more progressive, Sanders-flavored approach.

With the NEA and the AFT apparently wedded to the status quo in the Democratic Party, it is unlikely there will be a change in their external policies without a change in internal decision-making.

Over the past two election cycles, the NEA spent $52.2 million on federal races and the AFT spent $30.3 million, according to the Center for Responsive Politics. The net result of that investment: seven lost Senate seats, eight lost House seats and a lost presidential race. And the unions lost the campaigns where they spent the most — except for Sen. Kelly Ayotte’s narrow defeat in New Hampshire this year.

The failure goes further. The NEA, the AFT, the American Federation of State, County and Municipal Employees, and the AFL-CIO joined forces with hedge fund billionaire Tom Steyer to form the For Our Future SuperPAC, which spent $32.1 million on federal campaigns; it, too, lost the races on which it spent most.

Clinton was criticized for not carrying Wisconsin, where Democratic presidential candidates had won the past seven elections, but her campaign decided not to hire additional get-out-the-vote volunteers because For Our Future “already had a decent-sized footprint” in the state, according to the Huffington Post.

While the Democratic Party argues about personnel changes at the top, no similar debate has yet emerged within the teachers unions. Stocks has overseen two election debacles at the NEA but appears to be Teflon. There has been no job shuffling or demotions in the political or campaign departments in either union. No one has stepped forward to offer a future challenge to the elected officers, or even to the members of the representative bodies who agreed to an early endorsement of Clinton.

With the same people making the decisions, and the ability to amass vast war chests of political cash without organized opposition, there is no reason to expect the teachers unions to change course. Once the pain of this election subsides and they run up against the imperative of preparing for the next cycle, union officers will ultimately determine that they need to do the same thing as before, just on a larger scale.

The good news for the unions is that there is already formidable opposition to Trump. The bad news is that his opponents may seek means other than unions to express it.

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

* NEA In Panic Even Where It Won. California and Massachusetts affiliate presidents are all worked up.

* How to Improve Graduation Rates. This is one the academics haven’t thought of.

* Bits & Pieces. Junior Hoffa survives scare in Teamster vote.

Quote of the Week. “The same effort we have taken to advance the call for greater democracy in an elected school board, a more equitable and progressive tax structure, and greater investments in schools/transportation/jobs and housing for the most beleaguered neighborhoods, is what is needed, not more Trump/Rauner/Emanuel austerity. The Chicago Teachers Union’s role in advancing a holistic agenda that can fortify and nurture our city is the best antidote to the harmful rhetoric from our adversaries.” – from a November 22 statement from the Chicago Teachers Union.

6 Upsides Of A Tough Election For Teachers’ Unions

November 16, 2016

6 Upsides Of A Tough Election For Teachers’ Unions. Leaders of the two national teachers’ unions were among those most surprised by the election of Donald Trump last week.

The Twitter timelines of Lily Eskelsen-García, president of the National Education Association, and American Federation of Teachers President Randi Weingarten were filled on Election Day with encouraging messages to get out the vote and early cheers for victories in ballot initiative and Congressional campaigns.

Then they went silent.

It’s understandable. They had large hopes for a Clinton administration, having endured criticism from some of their members for early endorsements of Clinton when there was still a viable alternative. Now what do they have?

Actually, quite a bit, if they read the results correctly. Consider the following issues:

U.S. Senate. The GOP will likely hold 52 Senate seats in the next Congress. That’s bad news for the unions, but filibuster rules still require 60 votes for cloture. There is a possibility that the Republican majority might want to change those rules, but they won’t necessarily win the support of their entire caucus. If Senate Democrats unite, there are enough Trump opponents in the GOP to deflect his more radical ideas.

Education as an issue. While outspent in Massachusetts, the unions made a major financial commitment to keep the state’s charter school cap in place and won easily.

One takeaway is that on issues directly concerning education, the teachers’ unions have a tremendous advantage over any other lobby. Particularly if the unions are on the “no” side: “no” votes usually affirm the union’s status quo; “yes” votes require a higher level of dissatisfaction.

The flip side is that unions spent an awful lot of money and gained nothing more than they already had. That may be the cost of doing business in a de-unionizing country, however.

The fact that education is rarely a prominent issue in national elections works to the disadvantage of teachers’ unions, however. Their influence on policy issues apart from education doesn’t radiate far beyond their members. Members who vote the union line on education ballot items go their own way on immigration, national security, and other flashpoint issues.

Tax hikes for education. The unions were victorious in initiative campaigns to raise taxes in support of education, winning by a substantial margin in California and in a squeaker in Maine. Those are traditionally friendly states; they lost a similar tax campaign in Oregon, probably because the proposal was to tax business gross revenue rather than profits, putting businesses in the position of paying taxes on money they didn’t have. This indicates that if teachers’ unions don’t overreach when working on tax measures, they can be successful — absent an unusually hostile local mood.

Exit polls. Much has been made of exit polls showing that Clinton won union households by only 8 points, well short of traditional Democratic margins. Even worse, Trump actually won the union household vote in Ohio by an astonishing 12 points.

That’s not good, but it might not be as bad as it looks; the unions may not have delivered a Clinton win, especially in battleground states, but they may have delivered their share.

First, exit polls reflecting the Republican-leaning votes of union households may be as unreliable as the pre-election polls that predicted a Clinton victory. They may be accurate, but polling seems less pinpoint than ever and future results will probably be handled with more caution by interest groups, at least for a while.

Second, past experience suggests that polls of union households don’t yield the same results as polls of union members — the target audience for much of union campaigning. Households may not be homogenous in their political beliefs; some union households include family members who hold anti-union views. In short, these polls don’t tell us if the unions successfully connected with members.

Third, I’m guessing, but Trump’s union support was probably much higher among private-sector unions. Public employee unions surely went for Clinton in a big way. She promised teachers’ unions “a seat at the table” while Trump directed his labor pitch to those in manufacturing and industrial jobs. It would behoove unions to learn if this split existed, and work to heal any divides between public and private sectors.

Finally, the key number isn’t the percentage of the union vote; it’s the union turnout. Did Bernie Sanders supporters stay home? And what was the effect of right-to-work laws in Wisconsin and Michigan?

The laws may have motivated union voters to turn out, but it’s also possible they artificially affected polling of union households: Republican members who would have been counted in that category in previous years may have left the union since the laws were passed. Those who remained are probably more Democratic and more likely to vote for Clinton. The exit polls say Clinton won union households by 10 points in Wisconsin and 13 points in Michigan.

Federalism. The conventional wisdom says the Every Student Succeeds Act returns power over public education to the states and local school districts. Who is better situated to build a broad agenda in that environment, and dominate local decision-making, than the teachers’ unions?

New blood. With Hillary Clinton defeated it may be time for the Democrats to commit to a generational change in leadership. Obama was a young President. The party and, by extension, the teachers’ unions, could appeal to the young by being young. Fresh faces might create a contrast with the GOP, whose younger candidates had trouble gaining traction against Trump in the Republican presidential primaries.

So the 2016 elections were on balance a defeat for the teachers’ unions but far from crippling. With some changes in methods and focus, they can still accomplish many of their broadest goals even with Trump in the White House.

Next week: Why the teachers’ unions won’t change their methods and focus.

Recent Intercepts. EIA’s daily blog, Intercepts, covered these topics November 10-15:

* Still Not Waterloo For Teachers’ Unions. This was arguably the best election for NEA and AFT in the last two cycles.

* Veterans Day: The World’s Weirdest Standardized Test. Or how I can thisclose to becoming a codebreaker for the National Security Agency.

* Sick Burn of the Week. After an election disaster, the best strategy is to throw a cocktail party.

* Oracles Do Not Exist. How is it that the same folks who failed to predict a Trump victory are telling us how it happened?

Quote of the Week. “Last night our candidate did not prevail. We wake up this morning stunned…. No one held back. You gave all that was in your power to give.” – Lily Eskelsen García, president of the National Education Association, in a November 9 e-mail blast to state affiliate officers and activists.

The Story of Teacher Attrition Takes Some JOLTS

November 2, 2016

The Story of Teacher Attrition Takes Some JOLTS. Alarms about a potential national teacher shortage rang out in September after the Learning Policy Institute issued a cautionary report that warned of a “coming crisis in teaching.”

National Public Radio chimed in dramatically: the first words of its headline were “Frustration. Burnout. Attrition.”

In October, NPR delved into the teacher supply issue again, this time through the lens of teacher retention.

“Welcome to the U.S. teaching force, where the ‘I’m outta here’ rate is an estimated 8 percent a year — twice that of high-performing countries like Finland or Singapore. And that 8 percent is a lot higher than other professions,” NPR explained.

Itcited a graphic from a 2004 report issued by the National Commission on Teaching and America’s Future titled “No Dream Denied.” The authors of that report based their findings on data for the 2000-01 school year adapted by Richard Ingersoll from his study “Teacher Turnover and Teacher Shortages: An Organizational Analysis,” which, in turn, used figures from the National Center for Education Statistics Schools & Staffing Survey from 1993-94.

Wherever you stop on the way down that rabbit hole, it is pretty far removed from the situation in 2016. But let’s assume for the sake of argument that public school teachers quit at a rate of eight percent each year. Is that really “a lot higher than other professions?”

The 2004 NCTAF report doesn’t make that comparison, and the NPR story fails to give examples of attrition rates in other professions. Fortunately we do have comprehensive data detailing the percentage of people who quit their jobs each year, categorized by industry.

The Bureau of Labor Statistics produces the monthlyJob Openings and Labor Turnover Survey, which compiles the percentage of employees who leave their jobs voluntarily — known as “quits rates.” Here is a table showing the quits rates for the last five years (click to enlarge):


The facts are that 23.6 percent of all American workers quit their jobs in 2015, up from 17.9 percent in 2011. The percentages in the private sector range from 12.1 percent in durable goods to 50.3 percent in accommodation and food services.

There is only one place where quits rates are in single digits: government employment. The table helpfully breaks this down further by providing the quits rate for “state and local education,” a category that would include almost all public school teachers and education support employees.

The rate is 8.6 percent for 2015.

In other words, people who work in public education are among the least likely to quit their jobs in the entire United States.

So if Americans aren’t sufficiently alarmed about the crisis in teacher retention, perhaps it’s because they are very busy looking for their next job.

Recent Intercepts. EIA’s daily blog, Intercepts, covered these topics October 27-November 1:

* Massachusetts Union Complaint Against Gov. Baker Could Backfire. Do you really want to make the case that ballot initiative contributions are tantamount to candidate contributions?

* Trump Apparently Matching Previous GOP Candidate Support Among NEA Members. Who knew there was a Republican floor?

* $528K to Defeat Montana Mental Health Initiative? NEA Says No Brainer. This is what happens when you have more dues money than you know what to do with.

* I Am Outta Here. No communiqué next week. Archive stuff on the blog. Return November 10.

Quote of the Week. “Depends what was said! Was it all wine and roses?” – Robby Mook, Hillary Clinton’s campaign manager, responding to a request by NEA to publish video footage of Clinton’s October 2015 meeting with the union’s board of directors on its internal web site. He was assured it was “all wine and roses.” (Wikileaks)

What Hillary Told the NEA

October 26, 2016

What Hillary Told the NEA. When Hillary Clinton addressed the National Education Association board of directors in October 2015, it was to ensure that the union would endorse her candidacy for the Democratic presidential nomination before the start of the primaries. This she accomplished.

The summaries and quotes I published at the time were based on excerpts that NEA chose to share with its leaders and activists. Wikileaks is publishing e-mails to and from Clinton campaign chairman John Podesta, one of which includes the full transcript of the town hall-style meeting.

Officially the campaign neither confirms nor denies the authenticity of the e-mails.

NEA’s excerpts contained several noteworthy remarks from Clinton, including:

  • “There are people who have the libertarian view that we need to end public education. They want to destroy public education. They want to destroy every public service. I think they are not only foolish, but they are dangerous. Then there’s a group of reformers who may mean well, but they are totally disconnected from knowing teachers who know the names of the students in your class. And then there are the for-profit people who don’t care whether it’s public or private as long as they can make money on it.”
  • “I really do want Lily [Eskelsen Garcia, NEA president] and the leadership to recommend people for important positions who will carry out the philosophy that I’m expressing, so that NEA is at the table, literally and figuratively.”
  • “There was an argument for Teach for America, but I think we’ve learned a lot about how difficult it is for people with 6 to 8 weeks’ training to manage a classroom, to be able to really teach in a way that inspires and produces results.”

But the full transcript contains additional comments and expanded answers from Clinton. In a campaign where education issues have been placed on the back burner, these private remarks help provide a clearer picture of what we can expect from a Clinton presidency, particularly in its early days. As Clinton told NEA, “The honeymoon does not last that long.”

  • On privatization. “I think we have got to go after private contractors, and I have said in my talking about these issues that I will have the Labor Department continue the good work that Secretary (inaudible) has started to go after misclassification of employees, contractors who are unscrupulous and are not adding to the quality of whether it’s education or any other service. And I will do everything I can to try to use the law and regulation to end what is a race to the bottom.

“…So I’m going to do everything I can to try to prevent this (move toward?) dislocating people from the jobs they are doing in a direct line, being hired, being supervised, providing accountability and the services you provide, and the contractors who come in just to make money. I don’t think it’s a good deal for school districts, I don’t think it’s a good deal for colleges and universities, but I’m going to try to figure out how I can tighten it so that we can begin to phase it out, if possible. I feel the same way about for-profit prisons, I feel the same way about a lot of things that have really gotten out of control, and I don’t think they’re justified economically, and we’re going to try to figure out ways to put the screws to it. (Laughter, applause.)”

  • On early childhood education. “It won’t surprise you to hear that I think for all kids, but especially special ed kids, you’ve got to start zero to five. There are things you can do to help a child in those first five years that are much harder (inaudible/applause.)”
  • On the NEA’s role. “And I literally I want to be ready by election day, not three to six months into my first term. I want to be ready to know what legislation I want to introduce. I want you and your collective wisdom to help me on what do we need to do immediately on education.”
  • On campaign finance. “You know, a third of the money spent to influence the election in 2014, which in my view (inaudible) (off mike), a third of that money came from undisclosed sources. We have no idea who’s pushing candidates (inaudible), no idea whatsoever. That’s scary.

“But we know like (inaudible) literally these could be foreigners, these could be anybody. Nobody will tell you who it is.”

  • On consensus. “I don’t want you to think I’m going to agree with you on 100 percent. I don’t agree with anybody on 100 percent. I don’t think you do either. But I agree with you about the big issues, right, and all we need to do together.”

Even with e-mails and private conversations we can’t predict the future. I interpret this new information to mean that Clinton has her own priorities, but is likely to give the teachers’ unions the Education Secretary they want, preferably one with some sort of K-12 teaching background (and a union member). This would placate labor as well as make it easier to fulfill her promise, made during the meeting, to “not make any policies or important decisions about education without literally having teachers in the room.”

Recent Intercepts. EIA’s daily blog, Intercepts, covered these topics October 20-25:

* Unions Account for 99.4% of Contributions to Keep Massachusetts Charter Cap. “A grassroots organization of families, parents, educators and students.”

* Florida Education Association Delegates Shoot Down Automatic Dues Increase. We prefer to vote, thank you.

* Money to Burn. No opposition.

Quote of the Week. “I actually couldn’t even get interviews.” – Julia Moroney, who spent four years trying to get a teaching job in central New Jersey after receiving her Master’s degree. She was the only teacher candidate interviewed for a story about the possibility of a teacher shortage in the state. (October 25 Asbury Park Press)

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

October 19, 2016

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Carrie Pugh is NEA’s political director.

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

File those two states away for a minute.

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

October 13, 2016

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

There Still Isn’t A Teacher Shortage Again

October 5, 2016

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

That didn’t happen.

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

September 28, 2016

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

September 21, 2016

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

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

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

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

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

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

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


Then the 2016 chart:


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

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

What actually happened?

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

September 14, 2016

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

How NEA Came to Love Citizens United

September 8, 2016

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

When NEA Fights With Its Own Breakaway Locals

August 31, 2016

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

August 24, 2016

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

August 17, 2016

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

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

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

The broad goals are made clear in the introduction:

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

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

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

But how to do this?

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

August 10, 2016

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

August 3, 2016

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

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

What then?

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Attention Communiqué Readers!

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

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

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

July 25, 2016

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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


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

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


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

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

Which Side Are You On?

July 18, 2016

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Direct Links to All NEA Representative Assembly 2016 Blog Posts

July 11, 2016

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

Imaginary Numbers – A glorious victory on the Malabar front!

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

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

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

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

Hold My Wallet – A revolutionary idea quietly fades away.

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

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

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

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

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

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

News Flash – Miracle.

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

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

Coverage of the NEA Representative Assembly Begins July 4

June 27, 2016

Coverage of the NEA Representative Assembly Begins July 4. For the 19th consecutive year (egad) EIA will provide daily gavel-to-gavel coverage from the floor of the National Education Association Representative Assembly (RA). This year the convention takes place in Washington DC. For those of you who are new to the communiqué, you should know that distribution works a little differently that week.

I will blog each day’s events on Intercepts, which you can check at your convenience, or you can subscribe to the blog’s RSS feed. If you prefer, go to the Intercepts page, where you can sign up for blog updates via automatic e-mail. You need provide only your e-mail address. Feedburner will send a verification e-mail for you to acknowledge and then will confirm your subscription. From that point on you’ll get one, and only one, e-mail per day with the full text of the content I have added to the blog that day.

The first convention report will be posted July 4 and each evening thereafter until the convention closes on July 7.

There will not be a weekly communiqué next week. On July 11 I will send a communiqué with direct links to all the items I posted on the blog during the week of the convention. That way, no one misses anything.

I will be monitoring e-mail for your questions and comments, but please make allowances for delays in my response. Happy Independence Day!

Recent Intercepts. EIA’s daily blog, Intercepts, covered these topics June 21-27:

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

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

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

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

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

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