May 18, 2015
Teachers’ Unions: Masters of the Compartmentalized Argument. No one expects teachers’ unions to approach issues in an objective way. They are advocacy organizations and their role is to present their agenda in the best possible light. Still, unions like to proceed on the assumption that whatever facts they marshal are to be used only in a very restrictive setting.
One example I have used before is the opt-out movement. Even though the same principles of freedom of choice apply, opting out of standardized testing is good, while opting out of sex education (or the union) is bad.
The other day I came across this slide from a California Teachers Association presentation.
Rather than argue that Californians are not stingy – which is what the normal reaction would be – suppose we simply agree that funding has been on a precipitous decline since 1972. The union wants to illustrate a lack of commitment to school funding. But what does the same assertion tell us about the California Teachers Association?
Prominent parts of the union’s mission statement tell us that CTA “exists to protect and promote the well-being of its members; to improve the conditions of teaching and learning.” The union calls itself the “preeminent voice for public education in California.”
Yet in the salad days of 1972, there was no collective bargaining law for teachers in California. Evidently 40 years of CTA efforts have done nothing to forestall the reduction of the state’s school spending ranking from 19th to 42nd.
CTA is not the only union inadvertently undermining its own performance. The American Federation of Teachers recently released the results of an unscientific survey showing an overwhelming majority of teachers to be highly stressed. As the Yahoo! News story said, “It sounds like the worst job ever.”
Again, if we accept this complaint in this context, what does it say about the job AFT has been doing? If by its own admission it can’t protect the interests of its members, then who needs it?
Hyping a teacher shortage in order to boost salaries may have worked, but it also had the unintended effect of driving aspirants into the profession, where they either found trouble getting hired, or were quickly laid off when the recession hit. New candidates will now be gun shy, which could conceivably cause an actual teacher shortage.
The unions often depict principals and school administrators as petty and arbitrary, yet almost all of them were once teachers. Were they that way as teachers? If so, why weren’t they weeded out? Maybe they had union protections to prevent such actions.
Either the unions are powerful and influential, which means they also bear some responsibility for the present state of affairs, or school employees are downtrodden and working under dire conditions, which means their unions are powerless and have not improved those conditions. The unions’ role in the public school system is a package, not a menu.
Recent Intercepts. EIA’s daily blog, Intercepts, covered these topics May 12-18:
* Where Did You Get That Idea? NEA reports on teacher retention without revisiting its old claims.
* No Aloha After Union Election. Secret results thrown out.
* Vegas Support Workers Union Starting to Implode. Circular firing squad.
* Call the Secret Service. Some students may be poverty-stricken, but the education system isn’t.
Quote of the Week #1. “We have a long way to go before we restore the programs in education and social services we lost to a decade of budget cuts.” – Joshua Pechthalt, president of the California Federation of Teachers, commenting on Gov. Brown’s May budget revision. (May 14 EdSource)
Quote of the Week #2. “The Legislative Analyst’s Office estimates that extra revenue in the May budget revision will raise K-12 Proposition 98 funding to $9,978 per student – $656 per student higher than the inflation-adjusted, pre-recession spending level in 2007-08.” – a caption from a chart in the same story.
May 11, 2015
“Taxes Unfair!” Shout Tax-Exempt Groups. A “wide coalition of organizations, community leaders and individuals” wants to split California’s property tax rolls to swell the state’s coffers.
The group, called Make It Fair, seeks to “make California’s tax code fair to all by phasing out loopholes in Prop. 13 that have allowed a handful of giant corporations and America’s wealthiest commercial property owners to dramatically lower their obligations to California families.”
According to a study by researchers at the University of Southern California, the change would raise an additional $8.2 billion to $10.2 billion annually.
That’s their story. You might want to be aware of a few more details.
The “wide coalition” is a handful of public employees’ unions and other tax-exempt organizations, including the California Teachers Association, California Federation of Teachers and United Teachers Los Angeles.
It commissioned the USC study it cites and although the unions want you to think their measure only targets the super-rich, the revenue estimate was based on increasing the taxes of all commercial property, which would include the bodega down the street or your dentist’s office.
What isn’t clear from any communication or posting by Make It Fair is whether the unions or advocacy groups involved would be exempt from any property reassessment.
The California Teachers Association, for example, benefits as much as anyone from low property taxes in California. Last year the union paid just over $265,000 in property tax on its headquarters building in Burlingame, the assessed value of which is almost $22.4 million. CTA’s property taxes have increased a total of only $40,000 over the last 11 years.
Unlike California’s giant corporations and wealthy property owners, CTA is able to collect approximately $185 million in annual income without paying a dime of corporate franchise or income tax. It then uses the bulk of that tax-exempt income to leverage more income for itself by taxing others at increased rates.
By all means, let’s make it fair.
Recent Intercepts. EIA’s daily blog, Intercepts, covered these topics May 5-11:
* Well, Not EVERYONE…. Stakeholders vs. bag holders.
* A First in the History of Collective Bargaining. Unnecessary.
* Newsworthy in Michigan. Stationed only at the entrance.
* Slow News Day – Education Edition. Filling space.
Quote of the Week #1. “Mostly, teacher unions do what is required of them under the law. They negotiate contracts, fulfill their statutory responsibility to represent teachers whether they are members or not, grieve when the contract is violated, and raise a little hell.” – Charles Taylor Kerchner. (May 6 Education Week)
Quote of the Week #2. “We have 12 million members [in the AFL-CIO]. People will talk about the negativity: from 10 years ago, we were at 16 million, now we’re down to 12 million. But then the positive thing is, we’re at 12 million. How many other organizations have 12 million? How many other organizations have a $4 billion cash flow? How many organizations have a $150 million budget?” – Randy Parraz, governance, organizational and leadership development coordinator for the western region of the AFL-CIO. (May 10 Buffalo News)
May 4, 2015
Teacher Turnover Turned Over. If you have followed education reporting at all for the past 20 years, you have seen the headlines:
Then last week, out of nowhere, we get this Washington Post headline: “Study: Far fewer new teachers are leaving the profession than previously thought.”
The National Center for Education Statistics found that only 17 percent of new teachers had left the profession over a four-year period. Of the ones who did leave, between one-quarter and one-third were dismissed or non-renewed. Seventy percent of new teachers were still in the same school four years later.
This does not end the debate, of course. The NCES data covers a period during a deep recession, when everyone is less likely to leave a profession. It does, however, suddenly add all sorts of previously missing context and exposes those who were happy to spread alarmist rhetoric because it suited their purposes.
The mantra of “half of all new teachers leave within five years” has been repeated so often it has lost any meaning. Now we are hearing clarifications we never heard before.
Richard M. Ingersoll, the nation’s leading authority on teacher retention and turnover, called it “a crude approximation” last week. Perhaps he has always said so, but I cannot find a headline that reads “Half of Teachers Quit in 5 Years, According to Professor’s Crude Approximation.” Ingersoll added that his estimate included private school teachers. Funny, that didn’t seem to make the cut in all those stories either.
Observers are now trying to determine if this is a hiccup, a product of our economic times, or the effect of recent education policies. I suggest it is none of these things, and that teacher turnover is, and has been, relatively steady at a relatively low rate.
Back in March 2001, NCES researchers completed a similar exercise. They identified full-time employees who held bachelor’s degrees in April 1994 and tracked them until April 1997 to see who were working in the same profession three years later.
Eighty-two percent of K-12 teachers were still teaching K-12 three years later, the second highest retention rate of all professions. Only those in health occupations, at 83 percent, stayed in the same profession at a higher rate. Here’s the relevant chart.
None of this even touches the question of why teachers leave the profession. All of the usual offerings – poor pay, lack of respect, standardized testing – rank a lot lower than the personal reasons we all have for changing jobs – spouse relocating, having children, poor health.
The important thing to remember in this and other data-related cases is that inaccurate, incomplete or misunderstood statistics hurt no one. They are purely academic. It is only when those numbers are used to support and justify public policy that ends up costing us in resources and missed opportunities.
Recent Intercepts. EIA’s daily blog, Intercepts, covered these topics April 28-May 4:
* WEAC Tries to Revive Merger. Slow going.
* McCarthyism. Union believes zombie is hampering its organizing drive.
* The Law of Averages. Comparing Apple to oranges.
* Merry-Go-Round. New set of teachers recruited to be laid off in two years.
Quote of the Week. “”Obviously, it was orchestrated by the teachers union to not let the bill out. It was purely political.” – California State Rep. Shirley Weber (D-Los Angeles), commenting on the killing of her bill in the Assembly Education Committee. Weber’s bill allowed, but did not mandate, use of student test scores in teacher evaluations. (May 1 LA Weekly)
April 27, 2015
Agency Fee: You Are What You Eat. AFSCME wants us to know that “sometimes complex court rulings can best be understood with the simplest of explanations.” So the union created a 90-second cartoon “that uses the analogy of friends going to dinner to puncture the logic of a new court challenge to ‘fair share’ fees.”
Oh, that’s simple all right.
I love it when unions go into the animation business, and I do like the restaurant analogy, but I’m afraid AFSCME didn’t get the fable exactly right. Let’s send it to rewrite, and add in the actual aspects of agency fee that give some people agita.
Before you were born, a group of people voted about where you would eat. You don’t get to pick between Sizzler and Applebee’s. You either go to the Union Restaurant that has been chosen for you or you don’t eat at all.
When you explain that you don’t want to go the Union Restaurant, you are told how great the Union Restaurant is, about the wonderful food it has, and how important it is to support the Union Restaurant because the Evil Corporate Restaurant Chain is trying to undermine it by offering good food at prices people can afford.
At the Union Restaurant, you don’t get to order from the menu. The approved meal is placed in front of you. It’s liver. You don’t like liver. When you mention this, you receive a lecture on how great liver is. Everyone loves liver. You should eat your liver.
Besides, you are told, we all voted and democratically chose liver for you. “I didn’t get a vote,” you say. Well, that’s simple. It’s because you didn’t leave the customary donation for the butcher or the chef. Only then do you get to vote on the entrée, which will end up being liver, regardless.
If you refuse to eat the liver, and refuse to pay for something you don’t like and didn’t order, you will be called names like “freeloader.” Then they will forcibly take your wallet from you and remove the cash.
Not only do you pay for the meal you don’t want, but you have to chip in to pay for the meals of the people who chose the Union Restaurant and ordered the liver for you. But they’re not eating liver. They’re not at Sizzler or Applebee’s. They’re eating quail at Marché.
This might just explain why 89 percent of American workers don’t eat at the Union Restaurant, and prefer to make their own choices about where to eat, what to eat, and how much to pay for it.
Recent Intercepts. EIA’s daily blog, Intercepts, covered these topics April 21-27:
* Common Core vs. Common Knowledge. Vox populi says, “Dunno.”
* Listen to Yourself. Reverse field.
* WEAC: Our Prices Are Insane!!! How to run a small business in a free market.
* Fight the Power. Unfair.
* Membership Numbers for Every Oregon Education Association Local. Just nice to know.
Quote of the Week. “Every group has its ideologues, you know, the folks who are very positional and passionate about specific issues. Teachers are no different from any other group in that regard. And I believe that many of the BATs fit into that category concerning the Common Core…. I’m a member and I’m on the national Badass Teacher site and I’m on the California site. And one of the things that I’ve noticed is that it is often the same people who are posting. And I used to engage them, but it just got too vitriolic. They don’t like differences of opinion, so I stopped doing that.” – Dean Vogel, outgoing president of the California Teachers Association, speaking about the Badass Teachers Association. (April 22 Education Week)
April 20, 2015
20 NEA State Affiliates Have Fewer Members Than in 1994. In 1994 the National Education Association had 2.2 million members. In the years since, the union has increased its numbers by 800,000. During a period of time when the number of full-time equivalent classroom teachers grew by 553,000 it appears to be quite an achievement.
But a closer look at the state numbers show that NEA’s strength for the last 20 years has been concentrated in a handful of affiliates, and that mergers with American Federation of Teachers affiliates account for more than half of the union’s growth.
NEA affiliates in California, New Jersey, Pennsylvania, Illinois and Massachusetts accounted for 271,000 additional members since 1994. Mergers in Florida, Minnesota, Montana and New York added 460,000 more to the national member total on paper but little to the NEA coffers since the dues are split with AFT according to pre-merger membership numbers.
While those affiliates prospered, 20 others actually have fewer members today than they did in 1994. They are:
Arizona Education Association
Arkansas Education Association
Idaho Education Association
Indiana State Teachers Association
Iowa State Education Association
Louisiana Association of Educators
Maine Education Association
Mississippi Association of Educators
North Carolina Association of Educators
Oklahoma Education Association
South Carolina Education Association
South Dakota Education Association
Texas State Teachers Association
Utah Education Association
Virginia Education Association
West Virginia Education Association
Wisconsin Education Association Council
Wyoming Education Association
Federal Education Association
There are others that made the cut for 1994 but whose best years are behind them. The membership numbers for Tennessee are below 1996 level, Georgia and Michigan are below 1998 levels, Ohio and Oregon below 2000 levels, and if Nevada loses its education support members to the Teamsters, as is likely, it will fall below 1997 level.
NEA may rebound from recent membership losses, but it will be even more dependent than it already is on recruitment, hiring and legislation in those few states that account for its growth. Trends in the weak affiliates have gone on for so long there appears to be no prospect of reversal.
Is there a tipping point, after which the strong can no longer support the weak? It isn’t here yet, but this is not a problem that will solve itself.
Recent Intercepts. EIA’s daily blog, Intercepts, covered these topics April 14-20:
* Finnished. Questions the education tourists fail to ask.
* The Opt-Out Movement Marches On. Unintended consequences.
* Throwback Thursday: The Tornillo Memo. A reminder from the archives about the ability to deny reality.
* The Coming Student Shortage. Smaller classes or smaller staffs?
* Union Getting Involved in Your, Uh, Unions. Mission creep.
Quote of the Week. “We believe that when people have a chance to hear these issues presented more fully they are far more likely to see the value in current due process protections and layoff procedures.” – Frank Wells, a spokesman for the California Teachers Association, reacting to a survey showing only 8 percent of respondents thought seniority was the best factor to use when considering layoffs. (April 13 Los Angeles Times)
April 13, 2015
Are Union Elections Getting More Competitive? Union officer elections traditionally have about as much drama and suspense as succession to the British throne. There have been exceptions, of course. Karen Lewis is only the latest in a series of power shifts in the Chicago Teachers Union, the last election of the New York State United Teachers was filled with intrigue, and a few more radical unionists have defeated collaborative incumbents.
Still, in most places the only real contests are to enter the funnel of leadership – usually the position of secretary-treasurer. You then work your way in turn to vice president and president. What’s missing is any policy distinction between candidates. They could easily exchange platforms and speeches and no one would be the wiser.
It’s with that in mind that I find the results of last weekend’s election for executive officers of the California Teachers Association interesting. The outcomes gave us a little bit of everything, which is highly unusual and may signal a small move toward (gasp) actual democracy within the union, with differing viewpoints and everything!
Incumbent CTA president Dean Vogel was term-limited out, leaving incumbent vice president Eric C. Heins to step in. The union’s State Council complied, giving Heins 76.5 percent of the vote. Perennial candidate Mark Airgood, running to the left of Heins, garnered only 6 percent. But a third candidate, Michelle Raley, picked up 17.3 percent of the vote.
Raley, a State Council member from Eureka, is upset about the way CTA does business, telling the assembly that “CTA politics has destroyed our credibility as a group.” She questioned the union’s embrace of “appreciative inquiry,” saying many activists thought it was “crap.” She noted that members pay a lot of money to CTA but that the state union “has no legal responsibility to ever represent any individual member.” (That’s the responsibility of the local affiliate.)
Moreover, she claimed she has been routinely denied access to CTA documents, in particular the professional staff contract.
I hate to see union activists without such critical documents. Although I do not have a copy of the full contract, I have posted the details of the tentative agreement the two sides reached last year on the current contract. The two Adobe Acrobat files are available on EIA’s Declassified page.
Although Raley’s candidacy and results are noteworthy, I would not want you to think CTA is now battling a groundswell of dissension, at least not from an transparency and accountability faction. The results of the vice presidential election were quite different.
Incumbent secretary-treasurer Mikki Cichocki tried to move up one rung but was narrowly outvoted by CTA director Theresa Montaño. Montaño is a professor of Chicana/o Studies at California State University, Northridge, and her politics are typical of California higher education faculty.
For example, she wrote a blurb for “Undoing Whiteness in the Classroom” by Virginia Lea and Erma Jean Sims, which, despite the title, is not a coloring book. Montaño praised the authors for providing teachers with “realistic and meaningful classroom activities aimed at disrupting white privilege in a classroom setting. Lea and Sims acknowledge that challenging whiteness is a difficult process, but one in which white students are more likely to participate ‘if they do not feel blamed for embodying it’ (Lea and Sims, introduction). By reading this book, those who are committed to educational justice will add to their repertoire of educational theories and pedagogy and engage in the process of undoing whiteness, creatively, artistically, and critically.”
But it also would be wrong to suggest this indicates a wholesale movement to the left. The election for secretary-treasurer featured six hopefuls, ending in a run-off between establishment candidates Dana Dillon (on the board of the state teacher pension system) and David B. Goldberg (former UTLA treasurer). Goldberg won the run-off.
So while viewpoints within the leadership and representative bodies of the California Teachers Association have always run the gamut from A to B, here’s hoping this election indicates a marginal expansion of the alphabet.
Recent Intercepts. EIA’s daily blog, Intercepts, covered these topics April 7-13:
* Pearson & edTPA: Evil or Not? Get your stories straight.
* Who Should Be Humbled? Losing is not victory.
* Another Victory for the Opt-Out Movement. Apparently there’s a long list of things you can opt out of.
* AFT Adds 1,300 Alaska Nurses. Teachers’ union?
Quote of the Week. “All this rallying gets us nowhere.” – Ivy Bailey, executive vice president of the Detroit Federation of Teachers, expressing displeasure with the agenda of DFT president Steve Conn. (April 12 Detroit News)
April 6, 2015
Turning the Tables. The National Education Association wants you to know what a horrible job we are doing matching education employee hiring with student enrollment. The union illustrates with this:
I could spend a lot of time with these numbers, but I was interested to know why NEA used Projections of Education Statistics to 2022 from the National Center for Education Statistics for its student enrollment numbers. That publication was released in February 2014 and contains actual numbers only through 2011. I still don’t know why, but I found a couple of tables of my own from that study.
The first one depicts public school enrollment, only it is scaled in millions and its base value is zero, rather than the 48 million depicted on the NEA table. The text tells us that public school K-12 enrollment “increased 7 percent between 1997 and 2011; and is projected to increase 7 percent between 2011 and 2022.”
The second one depicts K-12 teacher staffing levels – again scaled in millions with zero at its base, instead of the 7.6 million on the NEA table. The text reads, “The number of teachers in public elementary and secondary schools increased 13 percent between 1997 and 2011; and is projected to increase 13 percent between 2011 and 2022.”
It has often been said that everyone is a teacher. Someday that may be literally true.
Recent Intercepts. EIA’s daily blog, Intercepts, covered these topics March 31-April 6:
* I Support the Opt-Out Movement. But why stop at tests?
* Drill and Kill. Standardized press releases.
* So Easy to Predict. Omerta.
* Help Revitalize Latham. Space available.
Quote of the Week. “Most of the turnover is driven by school conditions. Salary is not the main thing. It’s important, but not the main thing. And that’s an important finding because the teaching force is so large – it’s now America’s largest occupation – that raising everyone’s salaries is a very expensive proposition.” – Richard Ingersoll, professor of education and sociology, University of Pennsylvania. (March 30 National Public Radio)
March 30, 2015
“We know we could experience an immediate, short-term loss of membership.” Last year I posted a PowerPoint presentation from the California Teachers Association titled “Not if, but when: Living in a world without Fair Share.” It illustrated CTA’s own belief that the U.S. Supreme Court is likely to overturn agency fee laws across the nation.
But CTA is not alone in its belief. NEA itself is trying to prepare all of its state affiliates for the inevitable day when they have to recruit all their members, and not rely on the threat of loss of their jobs to persuade reluctant teachers to join or pay agency fees.
The union created “Engaging Members and Leaders in a Non-Agency Fee World: A Toolkit” to assist those affiliates in recruiting and retaining members in a free and competitive market. NEA warns them, “we know we could experience an immediate, short-term loss of membership.”
I have posted the full 28-page document online and it is accessible through EIA’s Declassified page. Read through it all, but here are a few highlights:
* “Recognize that this kind of campaign is now the new way you do business – it is not a short-term strategy.”
* “Consider a ‘recommitment campaign’ in which every member is visited and asked to do something public to demonstrate his/her support for the union.”
* “Create a video with our president and a member who will do a ‘what do I get for my dues’ message.” (No mention of whether “You’ll get a video telling you what you get for your dues” will be part of the message.)
* “Develop an ‘app’.”
NEA emphasizes that many teachers don’t join simply because they aren’t asked, but then there are the rest of you deadbeats, who “are always looking for an excuse not to pay their fair share.”
When agency fee is lifted, the effect on the membership of the incumbent union is clear. But I have not seen anyone address the possible effect on rival or new unions, once teachers are relieved of the requirement of joining or paying the dominant union exclusively. Might not districts everywhere have both NEA and AFT members? Could existing unions enter the teacher market? Could teacher unions with different goals or strategies emerge? Who knows? It could herald a new age of teacher representation.
Recent Intercepts. EIA’s daily blog, Intercepts, covered these topics March 24-30:
* NEA Shows It’s Serious About 2016 By Sending Letter to John Bolton. Standardized test for gullibility.
* Transparent. Even glass houses are transparent.
* Craps. NEA’s Nevada affiliates are cleaning house.
* Hot Tips from the Hoosegow. Still teaching.
Quote of the Week. “Oklahoma is in the midst of a historic teacher shortage that has reached crisis proportions.” – Joy Hofmeister, Oklahoma State Superintendent of Public Instruction. (March 29 NewsOK.com)
Number of K-12 public school classroom teachers in Oklahoma, 2010-11 – 41,326
Number of K-12 public school classroom teachers in Oklahoma, 2013-14 – 41,949
Number of K-12 public school classroom teachers in Oklahoma, 2014-15 – 42,027 (est.)
March 23, 2015
Rock the Union. Younger teachers are less connected to their unions than their older colleagues are. The unions are very aware of this, and the National Education Association in particular is making outreach to its newest members a high priority. Whether this can be done without sacrificing the support of veteran members remains to be seen. Still, the ability of NEA headquarters to craft a campaign has never been in dispute.
In 2013, the union partnered with Teach Plus to develop a program and last year they produced “Rock the Union: An Action Plan to Engage Early Career Teachers & Elevate the Profession.” NEA called the report “groundbreaking” and included a workshop on its findings in a recent leadership summit. Oh, and they created a PowToon to introduce it.
I have posted the report on the EIA web site. You can access it and other union documents on the Declassified page. It is short and I want to encourage you to read it all, so here I will just cite a few lines.
* “We want our union to be led by effective teachers who welcome divergent perspectives and critical thinking in their classrooms and in their union meetings.”
* “In fact, when many of us attend union meetings, we will not hear the word ‘student’ uttered at all.
* “We want our union leaders, first and foremost, to be great teachers so that they enable a culture of professionalism and student-centered decision making to flourish….One constant for all building rep positions is that there is no way to ensure that they are effective teachers.”
* “Teachers can disengage from the union when meetings turn into yelling matches where site reps speak disparagingly about administration in a way that contributes to an adversarial ‘us vs. them’ culture. It is frustrating when union leaders appear to blanket all external support partners with suspicion and ill intent.”
* “Most importantly, it is unclear how to advocate for change within the union or to use the union as an avenue to advocate for improved change at any level, be it school site, district, state, or national. It seems that most of this knowledge lies within the realm of those serving in positions of leadership and is selectively disseminated to those chosen to receive it.”
* “There is a ‘wait your turn’ mentality that early career teachers often come up against so that we are made to feel that our voice does not matter. Most of us have experienced our divergent opinions dismissed as wrong and/or naive because we have fewer years in the classroom.”
In keeping with the report’s findings, it seems this information is being shared only among union activists, officers and staff. As far as I can discern, it has not been widely disseminated, which I hope to rectify here. Check it out.
Story Update. After our story “California Teachers Association Fired Staff Union President” we received the following communication: “Thank you for your article regarding CTA’s firing of California Associate Staff President, Katie Mullins. CAS’ position is not one that implies Katie was due any discipline, progressive or otherwise. Our position is that CTA has wrongfully terminated our President and is behaving badly and unlike a union.”
Recent Intercepts. EIA’s daily blog, Intercepts, covered these topics March 17-23:
* There Are Three Sides to Any NEA Story. Your angle is less than right.
* Fear Is the Path to the Dark Side. An invitation.
* If At First You Don’t Secede…. Just when I thought I was out, they pull me back in.
* Shot Across the Bow. Teachsters in Las Vegas?
* NEA Leadership Summit Sessions. “Fighting Predatory Municipal Finance Deals” and other crucial education issues.
Quote of the Week. “I wouldn’t be able to do a very good job as president of an organization as big as JCTA, but neither is our current president.” – Kris Tatro, candidate for president of the Jefferson County Teachers Association in Kentucky. Tatro and two others teachers are running against the 14-year incumbent, Brent McKim, as a protest against the way the union is handling pension issues. Tatro said she doesn’t actually want to be president. (March 18 Louisville Courier-Journal)
March 16, 2015
“Our membership numbers are for internal use only.” The South Bend Tribune published a piece yesterday with the headline “Teacher unions in decline.” It aimed to show, through national membership numbers and those of local affiliates of the Indiana State Teachers Association (ISTA), that teachers were less likely to join the union since a 2011 law went into effect limiting the scope of collective bargaining.
The article was not unsympathetic, allowing the unions plenty of space to promote their mission and blame their losses on deteriorating working conditions. Still, only a few local officers were willing to share membership numbers with Tribune reporter Kim Kilbride, and others were, well, abrupt.
South Bend schools’ teachers union president declined to release membership numbers for this story, as did John Pavy, the Indiana State Teachers Union UniServ director for this area, who came to the job about five weeks ago. Membership data is not readily available. And, Pavy said Tuesday, he didn’t have time to gather it.
…Terry Grembowicz, South Bend schools’ teachers union president, wouldn’t say whether membership has declined since 2011.
“Our membership numbers are for internal use only,” she wrote in an email.
Teachers’ unions are a lot more forthcoming with membership figures when they are rising, so this reluctance signals bad news.
It has long been my mission to tell you what the teachers’ unions don’t want to tell you. I’m limited by the fact that I don’t have the membership numbers for every ISTA local for 2011. Fortunately, I do have the membership numbers for every ISTA local for 2009 and 2014, so we can at least draw reasonable assumptions about the union’s health.
First, here are the 2009 figures for the locals in the South Bend area:
Mishawaka – 338
Penn-Harris-Madison – 455
Plymouth – 138
NEA South Bend – 1,234
Here are the figures for the same locals as of September 2014:
Mishawaka – 254 (down 24.9%)
Penn-Harris-Madison – 379 (down 16.7%)
Plymouth – 107 (down 22.5%)
NEA South Bend – 888 (down 28%)
Statewide, ISTA went from 51,139 members in 2009 to 39,247 in 2014, a decrease of 23.3 percent. As bad as that looks, the reality is even worse. ISTA actually had almost 800 more retired members in 2014 than it did in 2009. When an active member becomes a retired member, it’s a wash in terms of membership numbers, but it’s a loss of hundreds of dollars of dues revenue for the local, state and national unions.
Actually, 2009 is a much better year for comparison of ISTA’s numbers. Though the Tribune story fails to mention it, the union’s troubles were only exacerbated by the 2011 collective bargaining law. ISTA hit the iceberg in 2009, when the collapse of its insurance trust threatened to send the entire organization beneath the waves. Without an NEA bailout and ongoing subsidies, Indiana’s teachers’ unions wouldn’t be “in decline.” They would be a labor history footnote.
Recent Intercepts. EIA’s daily blog, Intercepts, covered these topics March 10-16:
* Flash! Ohio Education Association May Have Increased Membership By 0.0076%. Imagine if they had received 6 votes.
* It Was Only a Matter of Time…. NPR brings back the teacher shortage.
* Not Enough? Too Many? It’s a Crisis, Either Way. Contradicted by its California affiliate.
* NEA Names PBS Chief 2015 Friend of Education. From Downton Abbey to downtown Orlando.
Quote of the Week. “The new system they are creating is very different from the system implemented under NCLB. In fact, in their aspirational vision, the word ‘accountability’ doesn’t even exist.” – from an insider’s description of the ongoing work of NEA’s Accountability Task Force, formed at the union’s Representative Assembly last July.
March 9, 2015
NEA’s Great Public Schools Fund Could Become Another Political War Chest. In 2013, delegates to the National Education Association Representative Assembly (RA) approved a $3 dues increase to subsidize the national union’s Great Public Schools Fund. The idea was to create and encourage union-led education reform initiatives that would “support and ensure quality professional practice at every level.”
Most of the first grants went to promote the union’s stance on the Common Core State Standards. Now the fund’s oversight committee, made up entirely of high-ranking NEA officers, wants to revise the fund guidelines in an as yet undisclosed way.
Whatever they have in mind may be overrun by the delegates to this year’s RA. A proposed amendment to the union’s bylaws would change the scope of the Great Public Schools Fund to include “defending public education against privatization” and requiring that 50 percent of the funds go toward organizing charter schools.
It is not at all clear that the proposed amendment has widespread support, since the GPS Fund was specifically designed not to be used for activities covered by other NEA programs or funds.
It does demonstrate yet again that union efforts to present the public with a positive agenda and image – sincere and otherwise – keep running up against the wishes of its own activists. NEA cannot simultaneously be the champion and opponent of education reform. Nor can it credibly organize charter school teachers while simultaneously trying to shut down, cap and hamstring their schools.
Whatever changes are made, one thing is certain: members won’t be getting their $3 back.
Recent Intercepts. EIA’s daily blog, Intercepts, covered these topics March 3-9:
* Test vs. Trust. The United Federation of Teachers and its charter school demonstrate why we have those standardized tests.
* NEA Names New Political Director. Promotion from within, but with an SEIU background.
* “Fair Share” vs. Free Association. Representing only those who want to be represented.
* NEA Sends Another $250K to Washington State. Buying new members.
* Massachusetts Teachers Association Moves to the ‘Burbs. Bye-bye Boston.
Quote of the Week. “I am a sixth-grade teacher from a ‘right-to-work-for-less’ state. I will tell you they passed that specifically to cut my pay.” – Lily Eskelsen Garcia, president of the National Education Association. (March 7 West Virginia Gazette)
The Utah right-to-work law was enacted in 1955, the year Eskelsen Garcia was born. The average instructional staff salary in 1949-50 in Utah was $3,103. The average in 1959-60 was $5,096, an increase of 32.4% in inflation-adjusted dollars over those 10 years.
March 2, 2015
One Member-One Vote or Creeping Merger? Each year at the National Education Association Representative Assembly (RA), delegates have the opportunity to submit constitutional amendments for the following year’s delegates to debate and vote upon. This year two amendments have the potential of altering the operations of the union and awakening the dormant question of merger with the American Federation of Teachers. They are already causing a lot of friction within NEA.
Constitutional Amendment 1, requiring a two-thirds majority by secret ballot at this year’s convention in Orlando in July, would repeal NEA’s current practice of reducing the representation of its five merged state affiliates according to what proportion of that state’s teacher union members belonged to NEA before the merger. It also divides national dues with AFT according to these proportions.
To use the most recent example, North Dakota United can seat about 81 percent of the delegates their membership numbers would normally allow, since 19 percent of the total were originally members of North Dakota’s AFT affiliate. Montana seats almost 71% and Education Minnesota about 69%.
If it were just those states, the amendment would probably pass, as it would make little difference in a sea of about 7,000 delegates. The problem is Florida and New York.
Almost 47 percent of the membership of the Florida Education Association originally belonged to the AFT, and in New York it is almost 92 percent. If the amendment passes, Florida could double the size of its delegation and New York’s delegation could increase almost twelvefold.
On most issues before the Representative Assembly, the addition of delegates from the five merged affiliates would have little effect. The views of the merged affiliates are almost indistinguishable from those of the NEA-only affiliates… except on one issue: merger.
Almost by definition, the merged affiliates are pro-merger. Those additional votes, paired with less animosity towards the AFL-CIO than existed in 1998 during the last national merger attempt, stagnant membership, diminished political power, and a concerted internal campaign could be enough to make a future national merger vote very interesting indeed.
Merger raises passions within NEA unlike any other issue. The union’s board of directors votes on each constitutional amendment to be presented to the RA delegates. As a group, the board could not settle on a position for or against the proposal, even after a long debate. It will have another opportunity to do so in May, but the board will not be able to present a united front on the issue, leaving the amendment open to what promises to be a lively floor debate and a secret ballot vote at the convention.
The second constitutional amendment might not seem to be related, but it is. It would reduce the frequency of the NEA RA from annually to once every two years starting in 2020. The AFT Convention is held only biannually and that difference was instrumental in the failed merger attempt in 1998.
From what I can tell, there remains no burgeoning support for anything with the word “merger” in it, but changes like these lay the groundwork for future measures. Brick by brick, the obstacles are removed or diminished until it only makes sense to try another vote. When it does, there will be hundreds more pro-merger votes that did not exist before.
Recent Intercepts. EIA’s daily blog, Intercepts, covered these topics February 18-March 2:
* Other Shoe Drops in Alabama, Boot to Follow. Executive director canned, cover-up begins.
* Minnesota Teacher of the Year Talks About Unions. “Unwelcome in union spaces.”
* Bad Day for Local Officers. Money and sex.
Quote of the Week. “We haven’t been given a raise in eight years, yet my apartment has gone from $750 to $1,800 a month and I’m expected to pay that on the same salary.” – High school algebra teacher Luis Blazer, demanding higher pay from the Los Angeles Unified School District during a protest. (February 26 Los Angeles Times)
Blazer’s rent is a separate issue, but if he is making the same salary as he was eight years ago, he needs to contact his union rep. In 2006-07, the minimum LAUSD teacher’s salary was $43,054. This year, that same teacher will be making no less than $49,260. A teacher at the top of the scale in 2006-07 made $75,541. A top wage today is $80,074.
February 17, 2015
Will Teachers’ Unions Exit Stage Left? We established last week that cognitive linguistic analysis would not be the salvation of teachers’ unions. Recent events dictate we revisit the possibility that teachers’ unions will revitalize themselves by moving to the left.
Yes, yes, I know many of you think there cannot possibly be any room remaining to them on that side, but it isn’t true. The officers and executive staff of NEA and AFT are committed liberals, but they are also very wealthy individuals overseeing a billion-dollar private enterprise. No matter what you hear coming out of their mouths, they won’t be leading the revolution, believe me.
But times are bad, and that is leading to upheaval in the ranks. Union activists further to the left than their superiors have been elected to lead large locals and one state affiliate. They believe they are approaching a critical mass to push the teacher union movement as a whole to the left.
Bob Peterson, president of the Milwaukee Teachers Education Association, is a long-time class warrior and recently had a manifesto reprinted in the pages of In These Times. It contains all the rhetoric you would expect, and a few targets you would not. Peterson decries teachers’ unions utilizing “a business model that is so dependent on staff providing services that it disempowers members and concentrates power in the hands of a small group of elected leaders and/or paid staff.”
Over at Counterpunch, union activists Ann Robertson and Bill Leumer also feel their unions are too enamored of the corporate model. They believe the only avenue open to them “will require breaking with the Democrats and acting independently by creating a huge mass movement that would demand our education operate above all in the interests of the people, not the corporations. Parents, teachers and students have already taken the first step in this direction. But their strength would be multiplied many times over if the teacher unions would join them, throw their vast resources into the struggle, and encourage all the other unions to do the same.”
This is the kind of stuff that can propel leftists into a union’s power positions, but also sows the seeds of their demise. I don’t see any reason to alter my previous analysis that organizing around social issues may be a winning strategy “as long as those issues are general and amorphous.” Everyone wants education to operate “in the interests of the people.” But how do the people express those interests? The people of Wisconsin keep reelecting Scott Walker as governor, which Peterson explains as Walker convincing “vast swaths of the white working class to vote their prejudice, not their class interests.”
It’s hell when the interests of the people don’t coincide with what you think they ought to be.
Peterson isn’t content with remaking his union. He wants to remake the classroom as well. “A key, but less talked about, aspect of social justice unionism is promoting social justice content in our curriculum,” he writes. “We need to fight for curriculum that is anti-racist, pro-justice and that prepares our students for the civic and ecological challenges ahead.”
The reason it is “less talked about” is because there is no widespread support for the kind of curriculum Peterson wants. It was only 10 years ago that Peterson’s approach to mathematics was blasted by none other than Diane Ravitch.
This more militant strain of unionism is a nostalgic shadow of the Sixties, with its reliance on rallies, street protests and industrial action. Perhaps that was inevitable given that the so-called business model of unionism depends on campaigns, media buys and lobbying. There will be more Petersons, and Madelonis, and Conns, and Lewises in the coming years. But they will run up against the same nagging problem: What do you do about the people who disagree with you?
You can accommodate or you can purge. One compromises your ideological principles and the other shrinks your movement. Most choose the former, which means the firebrand of today eventually becomes the target of the firebrands of tomorrow.
Recent Intercepts. EIA’s daily blog, Intercepts, covered these topics February 10-17:
* Union Protesters Demand Action From House… An Actual House. Milwaukee teacher union activists take parental involvement to a new level.
* New Simple Majority Election Ordered in Las Vegas. What the union denounces in Wisconsin it defends in Nevada.
Scheduling Note. There will be no communiqué next week. We’ll return on Monday, March 2.
Quote of the Week. “The EMRB has clearly overstepped its authority and we are confident the courts will overturn its order.” – Brian Christensen, executive director of the Education Support Employees Association, after the Nevada Employee-Management Relations Board called for a new representation election that would require a simple majority of votes to win. (February 12 Las Vegas Review-Journal)
February 9, 2015
NEA’s Troubles Won’t Be Reversed by Cognitive Linguistic Analysis. Over at The Daily Beast, Conor P. Williams declassified an internal document that NEA commissioned from pollster Celinda Lake detailing which words to avoid and which to embrace when talking about education reform. And the most important recommendation was to avoid talking about “education reform.”
“Using cognitive linguistic analysis, we deconstructed current language to determine what to test,” the document states. “Much existing language uses abstractions and ineffective jargon, like education reform that imply public schools are problematic and fail to spell out tangible gains for students from our policy preferences.”
The report recommends “education improvement” or “education excellence” instead of “education reform.” And it appears NEA has already put these recommendations into practice. During her “cloven-hoofed minions” speech in Ohio last December, NEA president Lily Eskelsen said, “How are we going to talk about our side? We are not going to use the word ‘reform.’ I used to try. Let’s capture that good word back. I’d say we want whole child reform. What we found out from focus groups and polls, whenever anyone uses the word ‘reform,’ they think something is corrupt and needs to be blown up and start all over again. We know that some of the best schools in the world are our public schools that have sufficient resources to do an amazing job. There is no need to blow up a public school system. So we are going to talk about getting serious about real education improvements for the whole child.”
This is not the first time NEA has sought solutions in public relations, nor will it be the last. The one thing the union never considers is that its stated communications strategy might be working perfectly. Perhaps the public understands exactly what NEA does, what it wants, and what it stands for. Maybe that’s the problem.
No-Votes and “No” Votes. Teamsters Local 14 in Las Vegas has long desired to unseat the NEA-affiliated Education Support Employees Association (ESEA) as the exclusive bargaining representative of the 11,258 support workers for the Clark County School District. Back in 2006, the Teamsters even won a representation election over ESEA by the lopsided margin of 2,711 to 1,932.
The problem for the Teamsters was, and remains to this day, that state law requires a majority vote of the entire bargaining unit. In essence, no vote at all is a vote for the incumbent ESEA.
Now, nine years later, the Teamsters were able to force another vote. And the margin was even greater. There were 3,692 votes (71.1%) for the Teamsters and only 1,498 votes for ESEA. But if every single vote cast had been for the Teamsters, it still would not have been enough to oust ESEA.
The Teamsters are pinning their hopes on two things: 1) that on Wednesday the state labor relations board awards the election to the Teamsters (unlikely); and 2) that they can prove ESEA doesn’t have a majority of the bargaining unit as dues-paying members (possible).
Even with the extraordinary advantages of incumbency, ESEA is hanging on by a thread. NEA might have to chalk up another few thousand member loss very soon.
“I’d Like to Thank the (Teaching) Academy.” The Education Teacher Performance Assessment (edTPA) is an odd bone of contention within the teachers’ unions. On the one hand, it has union fingerprints all over it. On the other, it is administered and scored by Pearson, which union activists believe is headquartered in the seventh circle of hell.
Part of the assessment is for the teacher candidates to submit an unedited 20-minute video of their classroom instruction. edTPA provides guidelines on how to produce a video, but they have not been kept up-to-date, and not everyone can manage the available software anyway.
American capitalism being what it is, an entrepreneur is filling this market niche. The Teachers Performance Network will, for the low, low price of $199, produce your teaching video, including wireless sound, an HD camera and a professional operator to shoot you.
The company has been producing video résumés for teachers, so the classroom environment is familiar territory.
I look forward to the addition of special effects, stunts and makeup to future teacher performance evaluations.
Recent Intercepts. EIA’s daily blog, Intercepts, covered these topics February 3-9:
Quote of the Week. “I have endured horrific constraints and undemocratic principles for over a month, not to mention an attempt to defame and degrade my accomplishments as a Howard County teacher and the achievements of my students.” – Jody Zepp, Maryland State Teacher of the Year and candidate for president of the Howard County Education Association. Zepp claims her union is attempting to thwart her campaign in an effort to protect incumbent Paul Lemle. (February 3 Baltimore Sun)
February 2, 2015
Shrinking Union Teachers, Annoying Orange and Dead Blogs. Thanks to the good folks at the Bureau of Labor Statistics and unionstats.com we can examine the union membership status of teachers from 1983 through 2014.
The numbers do lump private school teachers and public school teachers together in one category, and they do not include other education employees, but they do confirm in 2014 what occurred for the first time in 2013: There are more non-union teachers than union teachers in the United States.
How is this possible? Well, private schools and non-union charters cut into it, but it is more likely due to the population growth in Southern and Mountain states at the expense of union-heavy Northeastern states. Toss in recent events in Wisconsin, Michigan and Indiana, and it is easy to see how the tables have turned. For the unions, the trends are almost all in the wrong direction.
There were 3,753 more union teachers in 2014 than in 2013. That’s the good news for NEA and AFT. The bad news is that there were 34,921 more teachers overall, meaning the unions were able to recruit only 10.7 percent of the newbies.
The big picture is this: Of the 4,535,249 teachers employed in elementary, secondary and special education in 2014, only 49 percent were union members. And the unionization rates for pre-k, kindergarten and higher education were much lower.
Unionization rates are much higher among the old than the young, meaning unions have to increase recruiting just to tread water. Something dramatic has to happen or there is nothing left but to try to slow the rate of descent.
* Ah, the Sunshine State. Over the years we have had an AFT takeover of the United Teachers of Dade and the Broward Teachers Union, followed by a Florida Education Association takeover of the Palm Beach County Classroom Teachers Association.
But it must be getting too cold at AFT headquarters this winter, so union administrators headed south to oversee the Orange County Classroom Teachers Association because it is in “a serious state of dysfunction.”
The turmoil seems to center around local president Diana Moore. For a change, no one has been accused of stealing money, though there are allegations that Moore was manipulating elections to place her selectees in place, both in the teachers’ union and the separate support employees union.
Asked to comment, Moore said, “It’s an internal matter.”
* Andrew Sullivan announced he “decided to stop blogging in the near future.” This inspired a host of editorials about the death of the blog (here and here, for example), even though Sullivan has decided to stop blogging before… 10 years before.
I don’t want to sound like Andy Rooney – especially since some of you don’t remember him – but “blogging” is just a name for a technological improvement to what people have done for centuries. In the very old days, there were pamphlets. In my old days, there were newsletters. You typed them up, laid them out (literal “cut and paste”), went down to the copy store to print them up, stapled them, folded them, and mailed them to readers.
Labor intensive, yes, but hardly beyond the reach of regular humans. Blogs made the process cheaper and easier. If blogging has served its purpose, then there must be a more preferable way to do the same thing.
EIA has no Twitter, Facebook, Instagram or Pinterest accounts. I don’t have any objections to these outlets, but I simply can’t add them to my workload. They have to replace something.
If my delivery systems are out-of-date, I’m willing to use new ones. I encourage you to let me know your ideas and preferences. I can’t promise they will coincide with my own operational imperatives, but if there are better ways to do this, I’m all ears.
Recent Intercepts. EIA’s daily blog, Intercepts, covered these topics January 27-February 2:
Quote of the Week. “Responding to Conn, one teacher exclaimed angrily, ‘We want to abolish the (Education Achievement Authority), not organize them!’ Conn defended his position, saying the two questions were not mutually exclusive. ‘Organizing’ these teachers, he claimed, was part of the campaign to rid the district of charter schools and the EAA.” – from a January 27 report on the World Socialist Web Site about new Detroit Federation of Teachers president Steve Conn and his plans for the EAA’s charter and turnaround schools.
January 26, 2015
No Silver Linings. The Bureau of Labor Statistics released its annual report on union membership and the AFL-CIO had to dig very deep to find something to be cheerful about.
The overall union membership rate fell to 11.1 percent. I’ll wait for the boys at unionstats.com to disaggregate the raw data so we can apply the numbers to public school teachers, but there are really only two statistics you need to know to evaluate the current state of organized labor.
First, the U.S. economy employed 43.1 million more workers in 2014 than it did in 1983, but there were 3.1 million fewer union members.
Second, in 1983 the private sector union membership rate was 16.8 percent. The government union rate that year was 36.7 percent. Last year, the private sector’s rate was 6.6 percent and the government sector’s rate was 35.7 percent.
The lesson of the last 31 years is that one thing, and one thing only, positively affects union membership, and that is the growth of government. Despite robust growth in the private sector workforce over the years, unions lost members. They are not increasing their “market share” of government employees either. So the only thing that can keep organized labor afloat is the hiring of more government employees in already-organized occupations, teachers and education workers being the most numerous of these.
* Speaker of the New York State Assembly Sheldon Silver was arrested and charged with five counts of corruption related to kickbacks he allegedly accepted.
The charges were not related to public education, but Silver is “always a strong and constructive ally for the union” and “a friend in the statehouse,” according to New York State United Teachers.
NYSUT was especially gratified that Silver championed an extension of the state’s millionaires’ tax in 2011. “We should not give a special handout to multimillionaires and billionaires while our children’s futures are in jeopardy,” Silver said.
Even as the words were leaving his mouth, Silver was allegedly receiving payments for referring real estate developers to a specific law firm “which seeks reductions in New York City property taxes on behalf of its clients.”
One of the developers owned luxury rental properties collectively valued at more than $1 billion. The indictment notes that “in connection with these properties, Developer-1 has received substantial subsidies” from the state.
Apparently special handouts to multimillionaires and billionaires are contingent upon who gets cut in for a piece of the action.
* The union representing adjunct faculty at Columbia College Chicago decided to go it alone and disaffiliate from the Illinois Education Association. The vote was not close, 232-50, but that hasn’t stopped IEA from challenging the results on a number of levels, including the claim that many members had no prior knowledge of the vote or the disaffiliation proposal.
I find that to be a strange accusation, since I have known about it for more than six weeks – not because I’m psychic, but because the faculty union put a web site explaining the issues in great detail.
I don’t know if disaffiliation will ever become a trend, but it’s concerning to see the lengths to which the established unions will go to keep members of what is ostensibly a voluntary organization from choosing a different path.
Recent Intercepts. EIA’s daily blog, Intercepts, covered these topics January 22-January 26:
Quote of the Week #1. “CTA believes Association involvement in political campaigns, both direct and indirect, must be truthful and positive. The CTA Board of Directors shall implement this policy by setting ongoing standards for advertising truthfulness and positive approaches in CTA’s involvement in campaigns. These standards shall include avoidance of half-truths, slurs and unfounded scare tactics, to ensure that the integrity and credibility of CTA are maintained for its members and the public.” – from the California Teachers Association’s current policy regarding “Association Activity in Political Campaigns.”
Quote of the Week #2. “CTA believes Association involvement in political campaigns, both direct and indirect, must ensure that the integrity and credibility of CTA are maintained for its members and the public.” – the proposed new language for that policy recommended by the union’s Political Involvement Committee.
January 20, 2015
Free Lunch, Free Margaritas and Free Rein. The blog will remain devoted to NEA state affiliate finances for the next few weeks, so here’s what has been going on otherwise:
* The Washington Post reported that a “Majority of U.S. public school students are in poverty,” calling it “a statistic that has profound implications for the nation.” Or it would have if it were true. The New York Times has a more accurate summary of the same study, and Marginal Revolution delivers the accurate statistics.
* There was a free lunch program of a different sort at the DC eatery called Oyamel, where National Education Association president Lily Eskelsen Garcia held a party for her book Rabble Rousers, the proceeds from which go to United We Dream “and other fighters for social justice.”
Even the official program part of the evening was looser than the usual fare, with TV host Roland Martin acting as emcee and unofficial hype man. “C’mon, they’ve got free liquor!” he said at one point, by way of admonishing the crowd (which included Reps. Debbie Dingell and Cheri Bustos and Dem uber-consultant Hilary Rosen) to applaud louder for Garcia and her book, “Rabble Rousers: Fearless Fighters for Social Change.”
Martin’s presence was noteworthy, since last he appeared on our radar he was admonishing the Obama administration for backing NEA’s opposition to school vouchers. “This is one time where he should have opposed them and made it clear that vouchers can force school districts, administrators and teachers to shape up or see their students ship out,” he wrote.
* Pennsylvanians for Accountability, an advocacy group that spent more than $1 million to defeat Gov. Tom Corbett in the last election, failed to file its return with the IRS. It could face up to $50,000 in penalties. The group’s largest donor was NEA, to the tune of $650,000.
* We had quite a bit of union navel-gazing last week. American Federation of Teachers president Randi Weingarten said the American labor movement is at a crossroads, which would be the 797th consecutive crossroads it came upon without making a turn. California Federation of Teachers president Joshua Pechthalt believes teachers’ unions are pivotal to the reemergence of the progressive movement, though he admits none has developed. Chris Maisano, writing for the leftist In These Times, asks the heretical question, “But what if the labor movement gave up on the practice of exclusive representation and embraced members-only unionism, as was common through the 1940s?” He points out that voluntary unionism is common in the rest of the world.
* Move over, Karen Lewis, Barbara Madeloni, and any other president maneuvering to be the voice of militant teacher unionism. By a margin of 15 votes, Steve Conn was elected president of the Detroit Federation of Teachers.
Conn, whom we have encountered several times in the past, is a human hand grenade, but it’s a toss-up to determine who will have to dodge the most shrapnel. The district is a hot mess – fertile ground for Conn’s particular brand of activism – but all the other union offices and seats on the board of directors were captured by the opposing slate. In other words, Conn is on his own within the union hierarchy.
Short of becoming a sort of teacher union Bonapartist, Conn will be severely limited, though I expect his name will appear frequently in the papers.
Recent Intercepts. EIA’s daily blog, Intercepts, covered these topics January 13-January 20:
Quote of the Week #1. “We know you have to assess kids against benchmarks and determine if they’re learning or not. We want good data used in good ways, so we understand how kids are progressing.” – Lily Eskelsen Garcia, president of the National Education Association. (January 15 Politico)
Quote of the Week #2. “High-stakes tests punish students for factors beyond their control, increase dropouts, narrow curriculum, drive out good teachers, and misinform the public. High-stakes tests are bad for good education.” – Lily Eskelsen Garcia, president of the National Education Association. (December 6 speech to the Ohio Education Association Representative Assembly)
January 12, 2015
There’s Nothing More Permanent Than a Temporary Increase. The National Education Association has a lot of weapons in its political arsenal, but perhaps the biggest is the Ballot Measure/Legislative Crises Fund. The union collects a special assessment of $20 per member, of which $12 goes into this pot. Its purpose is to be a war chest of cash for ballot initiatives, lobbying and various sorts of issue advocacy in NEA’s state affiliates.
State affiliates have to apply for grants from the BM/LC Fund, and while NEA usually distributes most of the money in the year it collects it, any leftover funds roll over into succeeding years. This enables NEA to drop prodigious amounts of cash into states where its affiliates could not possibly raise such sums on their own (e.g. South Dakota, Utah). And in large states, it supplements the already sizable initiative funds the affiliate already has (e.g. California).
At the 2011 NEA Representative Assembly, the delegates doubled the assessment from $10 to $20 per member, but made it temporary, lasting five years. But just like the last time the union temporarily doubled the assessment, NEA will seek to make the $20 amount permanent at this year’s convention.
Normally this would signal a wave of new initiatives and legislation in a large number of states, but it might not necessarily be the case this time. There are a lot fewer active NEA members now than there were even in 2011, so maintaining the $20 assessment still means less money in the pot. Though there has been no formal action taken, it would not surprise me if NEA sought an additional increase to the fund.
If it did so, it would be following in the path of the private sector industrial unions, which for years have extracted more and more political money from fewer and fewer members. It is a technique that sacrifices organizing and recruitment for political clout.
Recent Intercepts. EIA’s daily blog, Intercepts, covered these topics December 30-January 12:
Quote of the Week. “If the secretary wants to invoke Shanker on accountability, then invoke him on his proposals for grade-span over annual testing. Shanker once called for ‘an immediate end to standardized tests as they are now,’ instead favoring testing over five-year intervals.” – Randi Weingarten, president of the American Federation of Teacher, taking issue with U.S. Secretary of Education Arne Duncan’s quoting of former AFT president Al Shanker in his remarks about the reauthorization of the Elementary and Secondary Education Act. (January 12 AFT press release)
Quoting Shanker should be done with caution, but he did once write, “It’s no surprise that our school system doesn’t improve; it resembles the communist economy more than our own market economy.”
January 5, 2015
The 2014 EIA Public Education Quotes of the Year
EIA is proud to present the 2014 Public Education Quotes of the Year, in countdown order. Enjoy!
10) “Her battles with the former teachers’ union president, Randi Weingarten, called to mind Mothra and Godzilla.” – Michael Powell, columnist for the New York Times, referring to Eva Moskowitz, founder and CEO of Success Academy charter schools. (March 12 New York Times)
9) “Unions are disingenuous when they claim to represent the interests of the students. That’s not what they were created to do and is not what they are paid by their members to do.” – Harrison Blackmond, Michigan state director of Democrats for Education Reform and former UniServ director and staff attorney for the Michigan Education Association. (June 25 DFER blog)
8) “I didn’t think it could get worse, but right now I think it’s just as bad as it’s ever been. People don’t want to believe that the unions are constructive, just generally.” – Susan Moore Johnson, a research professor at Harvard’s graduate school of education, discussing the public image of teachers’ unions. (November 17 Washington Post)
7) “The charter school movement was founded to deny teachers their labor rights.” – Brian Harris, president of the Chicago Alliance of Charter Teachers and Staff, an American Federation of Teachers affiliate created to organize charter school employees. (January 8 Progress Illinois)
6) “There are school districts all over the country peopled with Luddites who are tremendously resistant to change.” – Nolan Bushnell, co-founder of Atari and education technology entrepreneur. (March 4 Politico)
5) “This march to corporatization – that’s the word that we’ve been trying to use because it does sound a little more ‘evil’ than privatization.” – Gera Summerford, president of the Tennessee Education Association, at a panel discussion at Tennessee State University. (March 29 The Tennesseean)
4) “I have been called some awful names. I have gotten hate mail. And the funny thing is, I’ve written about abortion and terrorism, and I don’t get the same level of vitriol from those stories…. I had a teacher in Connecticut call me a c**t. So that was a low moment.” – Amanda Ripley, Time journalist and author of The Smartest Kids in the World, describing the reaction her education stories have received. (October 1 Medium.com)
3) “I don’t think it’s something we would invite our members to, but David Campos is a well-rounded man with many constituents and many interests.” – Dennis Kelly, president of the United Educators of San Francisco, upon hearing that the union’s recommended Assembly candidate, David Campos, hosted a fundraiser at an adult film studio that bills itself as “the largest fetish porn company in the world.” (May 6 San Francisco Chronicle)
2) “We’re looking to remove anything that would jeopardize a teacher’s career.” – Karen Magee, president of New York State United Teachers, explaining the union’s negotiating position on the state’s teacher evaluation system. (June 18 Chalkbeat New York)
1) “Who cares? Who cares?” – Diane Ravitch, reacting to the findings of the latest CREDO study from Stanford University showing academic gains for charter school students in Los Angeles. (March 12 Salon)
December 29, 2014
Ohio Education Association President Delivers “The Brutal Truth.” Last week I shared some of the remarks NEA president Lily Eskelsen Garcia made to the Ohio Education Association Representative Assembly earlier this month. OEA president Becky Higgins also addressed the assembly, and her comments were worthy of our attention as well.
Higgins spoke of a meeting an OEA committee had with Dan Burkhalter, the former executive director of the Wisconsin Education Association Council. Burkhalter was in charge during the period that Act 10, the legislation that severely restricted teachers’ collective bargaining in the state, was passed. Higgins recounted his words:
He used the analogy of a tree, and he said before their troubles began, he thought that the Wisconsin Education Association tree was solid. Its core was strong. The roots were in the ground and nothing could topple it.
But then along came that mighty, mighty storm, and quickly the 100,000-member Wisconsin tree was toppled, just like that. In one fell swoop, they lost everything. Gone. The tree that they thought was solid and would never fall fell, and fell hard.
Where three years ago there were over a hundred thousand members, today, there are 40,000. Where once they had a staff along the same lines as OEA, they now have a staff of less than 20. Their power and influence, he says, are virtually gone.
And one of the main reasons he said this happened, why their tree toppled, was because they couldn’t or wouldn’t confront the brutal truth. They were not willing to see where the weaknesses were and then take steps to make the changes necessary to make their tree healthy. And when I say they, I don’t mean just the officers and staff. I mean the members of the Wisconsin Education Association.
He told us one of the myths that happened during their fight. I’m sure you all saw many times those rallies and demonstrations at the statehouse, where you saw all of the hundreds of thousands of people, day in and day out, over those weeks down at the statehouse. And in my mind, I was thinking, those are all members of the Wisconsin Education Association down there rallying. I thought it was all of the members that were down there.
He said, though, in reality, when the tree fell and they looked back, during those times of rallies under those hundreds of thousands, day in and day out, it is estimated that only about 10,000 of their members actually were at that statehouse throughout the whole time.
So what I thought and what most people thought wasn’t really happening. Most of those demonstrators were from other groups. They were not the teachers.
Higgins went on to tell of the impending agency fee case, Friedrichs v. California Teachers Association. NEA affiliates across the country are trying to prepare for life after agency fee is gone. No one is very hopeful the union will prevail in court. Higgins told the delegates that the chances of CTA losing the case “look pretty good.” CTA seems to agree.
Finally, Higgins talked about the union’s position after the November elections.
One of the things that has always given me pause is that we need to fight those at the statehouse with everything we have. Right now, that means fighting many, many Republicans who do not see things our way.
But I’ve always been distressed that, when I look out here at the audience today, I know that this audience – you – are made up of Republicans, Democrats, and independents. And it is real easy to say I’m a Democrat. But I know many, many members and delegates who won’t say that they’re Republican because they are afraid of the backlash that the members have when they might own up to that.
We can no longer do that.
If you remember back in 2010, when John Kasich was elected, over 40 percent of our members voted for John Kasich. Now the makeup of our membership is about 30 percent, 30 percent, 30 percent. So it is clear that it was not just Republicans who elected John Kasich. There were many other people, and we have to work together.
We have to quit saying Democrat, Republican. It’s we are advocates for pro-public education, and that’s what we’re going to work for. We have got to stop labeling people.
There’s a lot to chew on in there, so I’ll leave it with just one question for you: Is Higgins’ point of view the majority opinion among NEA’s state affiliate officers and executive staff, or an outlier?
Recent Intercepts. EIA’s daily blog, Intercepts, covered these topics December 23-29:
December 22, 2014
NEA President Tries to Sweet Talk “Cloven-Hoofed Minions.”Education Next just published a lengthy article of mine, which was largely about how the teachers’ unions tailor their message to the audience they are addressing. I did not expect to see such a fine illustration surface so quickly.
On December 16 National Education Association president Lily Eskelsen Garcia delivered a speech to the Detroit Economic Club, a group of business leaders headed by William Clay Ford Jr. of the Ford Motor Company. It cannot be said that its members are necessarily hostile to teachers’ unions, but the Club’s executive committee includes former Detroit mayor and charter school supporter Dave Bing, and its board of directors includes the chairman of Kelly Services, which has education staffing contracts with about a dozen public school districts.
Eskelsen Garcia acknowledged this was not her usual audience, but opened with an olive branch.
I am a union leader, along with being a teacher, and many of you are here because you are business leaders, and I think the news story of the day is that you and I are best friends. At least we should be.
She went on to describe her hope that the rhetoric could be toned down.
I think we get to a better place when we can actually have a dialogue that’s not shrill, that’s not saying ‘you’re right, you’re wrong’ and we actually look at the evidence that would move us forward.
The evidence she then presented was highly selective, but we’ll ignore that for now. She concluded her almost hour-long speech with a final appeal. “I need you. We cannot succeed without you,” she said.
It’s safe to say that any members of the Detroit Economic Club who might have been moved by Eskelsen Garcia’s remarks were entirely unaware of her speech to the representative assembly of the Ohio Education Association only 10 days earlier.
It touched upon similar topics: exemplary education systems in other countries, the education reform movement, evidence or the lack thereof of its effectiveness, et al. The tone, however, was quite a bit different.
So we know how to talk about the Global Education Reform Movement, or the GERM, that has infected us. And we know all about what their pillars are, no matter what they are proposing, they love to say reform, reform, it’s corrupt, it needs to be changed, it’s all bad, little bad girls and little bad boys.
…It doesn’t work anywhere in the entire universe. No one can come up and say, if you privatize a school system, if you de-professionalize it and put a bunch of good-hearted folks in there that just want to try being teachers for a while, teach for a while, and none of it is working anywhere. We also know that the evidence is on our side. Privatization doesn’t work.
She rhetorically asked the delegates why reformers would continue to promote failing policies, then answered:
Follow the money. When it comes to K12 education, we see a $500 billion sector in the US alone that is waiting desperately to be transformed by teacher of the year, Rupert Murdoch.
…Who stands in our way? I don’t want to demonize the Koch brothers or the cloven-hoofed minions who dance at their side.
This is all about an agenda that says we will take advantage of some of the poorest communities, which in this country are high-minority communities, and we will wave these things in front of them that says your child deserves a private school, meaning a charter school.
The ALEC folks that will take out the unions because they want low, low, low taxes every day. Millionaires and billionaires who want to destroy public education and public unions, they’re the ones who stand in our way. But the public stands with us.
Eskelsen Garcia repeated AFT president Randi Weingarten’s assertion that in the November election “when the public looked at the issues that we supported for working families and for our schools, we won. And then they turned around and voted for people who weren’t for those things, which is what we’re trying to figure out, where the disconnect is.”
The bilingual Eskelsen Garcia is adept at speaking two different languages, but her audiences deserve to know if there’s one version for the natives and a different one for the foreigners.
Recent Intercepts. EIA’s daily blog, Intercepts, covered these topics December 16-22:
Quote of the Week. “[T]here is an informal candidate slating process from which African Americans have been denied access. The Ferguson-Florissant National Education Association is a local teachers’ union that has a large influence on the school board elections, and consistently chooses to endorse white candidates. It has rarely endorsed African Americans.” – from an American Civil Liberties Union lawsuit alleging the at-large school board election system utilized by the Ferguson-Florissant School District in Missouri is a violation of the Voting Rights Act. (Missouri NAACP v. Ferguson-Florissant School District, filed December 18)
December 15, 2014
Greenhouse, Green Mountains, and Greenmail. With the blog turned over to NEA affiliate finances for the time being, here are the union-related stories from the past week.
* It is being treated as the official end of an era. Steven Greenhouse of the New York Times accepted a contract buyout, leaving Melanie Trottman of the Wall Street Journal as the last full-time labor reporter at a major American newspaper.
I have always been of two minds about Greenhouse’s work. I applauded the sadly unique occasion he was teamed with Sam Dillon, the Times education reporter, for a story on the teacher firings in Central Falls, Rhode Island. And his coverage of corruption in New York City’s bus drivers’ union was top-notch.
On the other hand, he tended to identify with the labor movement he covered and often lacked a skeptical eye about its claims. A few years ago I referenced a long list of Greenhouse stories about coming union resurgences that never materialized.
This exit interview highlights Greenhouse’s blind spots, including his failure to note the irony of explaining the decline of newspaper labor coverage to Gawker.
A commenter expressed it best with “Great interview of a man retiring from writing about dying labor practices for a dying industry.”
Mourning is the normal response when something dies, but thanks to the Internet we now live in a world where we don’t have to wait for a New York Times article to learn about something. I’ll miss Greenhouse, but in the same way I miss movies shot in black and white.
* The American Federation of Teachers spent four years lobbying for legislation that would allow Vermont’s child care workers to unionize. The law passed this year and 1,323 workers were eligible to vote. They rejected union representation 418 to 398.
Agency fee was a big factor in the result, and something more fundamental. “We’re all small businesses, we’re not employees,” said Elsa Bosma, a child care provider who organized the opposition.
* The Connecticut Education Association hired former state Speaker of the House Christopher G. Donovan as a field representative, making him the second state legislative leader to land a job with the teachers’ union. Connecticut Mirror reporter Jacqueline Rabe Thomas explains why Donovan was available.
Donovan – the house speaker from January 2009 to January 2013 – left the General Assembly after 20 years in office to run for congress in Connecticut 5th district. His campaign crashed after federal authorities indicted two of his highest-ranking campaign officials, among others, on charges that they conspired to hide contributions from businesses hoping to derail legislation.
Why lobby the legislature when you can just hire it away?
Recent Intercepts. EIA’s daily blog, Intercepts, covered these topics December 9-15:
Quote of the Week. “You should not receive favorable tax treatment unless you are a resident of this city, paying taxes to this city.” – Michael Mulgrew, president of the United Federation of Teachers, proposing a tax on luxury apartments in New York City. UFT is a tax-exempt organization. (December 10 New York Post)
December 8, 2014
Taking Stocks, Two Cents about Nickels, and the Wrath of Conn. I am devoting the daily blog for the next few weeks to an accounting of the finances of each of NEA’s state affiliates. It makes sense to devote this space to items of news that arise during the week. Rest assured in the unlikely event something earth-shattering occurs, we will find time and space for it.
It is fair to question why we examine union finances in such detail. For an answer, let’s turn to an expert – NEA executive director John Stocks. In an undated memo to state affiliate officers and staff about affiliate organizational capacity, Stocks had this to say about finances:
Close monitoring of annual revenue (dues) and expenditures (budget) is no longer sufficient to ascertain the financial health of our affiliates. In addition to adopting organizational budgets and setting dues rates, affiliate leaders and executive staff must become familiar with a variety of other financial data and indicators. These include: membership/revenue projections; non-dues based revenue; balance sheets and the ratio of assets to liabilities; pension liabilities; post-retirement health care commitments; year to date budget expenditures; monthly cash flow projections; debt service on borrowing and net assets.
The overall financial health of an organization is critical to building and sustaining its organizational capacity. In some cases it may forecast an organization’s very existence over time. Increasingly, we must pay keener attention to the financial systems, position and health of our affiliates.
If NEA believes those details can help forecast affiliates’ very existence, we should believe them.
Up next is an unusual story. Maureen Nickels ran unopposed and won a seat on the Nebraska State Board of Education. A former elementary school teacher, Nickels now works as a UniServ director for the Nebraska State Education Association.
The problem is that state law prohibits teachers from sitting on the board, and the state constitution directs that board members “shall not be actively engaged in the educational profession.” Gov. Dave Heineman felt Nickels’ NSEA job disqualified her from holding that seat. “I can’t think of an organization that cares more about education … than NSEA,” Heineman said. “So if you’re working for them, it would seem to me you’re actively involved in the field of education.”
NSEA told the Lincoln Journal-Star that the union supported Nickels’ right to sit on the board, but didn’t directly address whether she was engaged in the field of education.
I’m sure the lawyers will hash it all out. I find it strange that the union would take the stance that Nickels’ job is – strictly speaking – not in the field of education. However, I agree with them. They work as labor representatives. Obviously they cannot do their jobs without detailed knowledge about teachers and education systems, but they don’t have to be teachers or school system administrators.
Similarly, I define myself as an education labor reporter, not an education reporter. There are already more than enough people digging through Race to the Top regulations and Common Core State Standards.
Finally, there is news from Michigan about Steve Conn, perennial candidate for president of the Detroit Federation of Teachers. When last we heard from him, he was suspended from the union for seven months for disrupting the swearing-in of the last set of DFT officers. In the video, Conn is the one screaming.
He was eventually reinstated and lost a run-off in 2012. This year he is once again in a run-off for the DFT presidency with Edna Reaves, who is the sitting executive vice president.
“As president, my first order of business will be to call mass meetings of teachers, students and the entire Detroit community to decide what actions we take to stop these attacks and to defend the jobs of Detroit’s teachers and win an equal, quality education for the students,” Conn said.
I’m not sure what the turnout will be for those mass meetings, since only 858 members voted in the first round, Conn receiving 300 votes. The union claims 4,000 members.
We wish him good luck, since the logical next step after a Conn regime will be a corporate takeover by Omni Consumer Products.
Recent Intercepts. EIA’s daily blog, Intercepts, covered these topics December 2-8:
* Hyperbole History. In them old cotton fields back home.
Quote of the Week. “We look forward to embracing the spirit of collaboration that is needed to provide a high-quality education for all kids.” – Randi Weingarten, president of the American Federation of Teachers, after union-backed candidates won a majority on the Jefferson Parish school board in Louisiana. AFT national headquarters contributed almost $650,000 to board candidates in Jefferson Parish. (December 8 New Orleans Time-Picayune)
December 1, 2014
Financial Status of All NEA State Affiliates. In-depth analysis will follow in the weeks to come, but for now here is the table containing total membership, total revenues, surplus or deficit status and net assets for all 52 National Education Association “state” affiliates for 2012-13. If the image is difficult to view, click here for the Adobe Acrobat version.
A few highlights:
* Even without accounting for the income of some 13,000 local affiliates, NEA took in almost $1.6 billion in dues and other income.
* Revenue was down in most affiliates due to falling membership, but many were able to run significant budget surpluses by reducing expenditures – mostly personnel costs.
* 18 affiliates operated in the red during the 2012-13 school year.
* Despite various forms of staff pension relief, nine affiliates have negative net worth.
Recent Intercepts. EIA’s daily blog, Intercepts, covered these topics November 25-December 1:
* Randi Weingarten Unintentionally Makes the Case for Standardized Tests. Trust, but verify.
* Another Lesson on Union Officer Pay. There’s only one reason to defer income.
* In Case You Missed It. The anti-Ravitch.
* Shop With a Clear Conscience. Protesting in front of the wrong stores.
* Happy Thanksgiving (?) The joy of freelancing.
Quote of the Week. “Jobs restored in the public sector have fueled consumer confidence and helped create jobs in the private sector.” – Joshua Pechthalt, president of the California Federation of Teachers, on why the temporary taxes enacted by Proposition 30 should be made permanent. (November 30 Sacramento Bee)
November 24, 2014
The Old Get Old and the Young Get Stronger. Last year I reported on some demographic information the National Education Association compiled about its delegates soon after the union’s annual convention. It revealed that the 7,000 delegates, who are NEA’s most active and devoted members, were on average about 51 years of age. Only 10 percent of them were younger than 35.
I recently obtained the same information for the 2014 convention, and learned that while the average age fell to 49, the percentage of sub-35-year-olds also fell, to 8 percent. This suggests that the lower average age was almost entirely due to the retirements of very old delegates.
Even with all the other problems teachers’ unions are having, the age of its activists by itself is a serious concern. Not only is the generation gap all professions face present, but the effects of an education and union generation gap go to the heart of NEA’s policies.
The majority of teachers enter the profession in their mid-20s, so we can infer that the average NEA delegate has 20 or more years of experience. Is it such a leap to think that their interests are more likely to lean towards seniority and pensions instead of starting salaries, training and advancement?
It goes further. I noted a quote in the Washington Post from an AFSCME local president who had this to say about his members:
If they were more active over the last 10 years, maybe we wouldn’t be in the situation we are now. Our employees have always taken for granted what we’ve got. And I don’t think they realize the lives that have been lost, and I don’t think they show enough respect for what those who went before us did to get us where we are.
He might even be right, but telling them how tough you had it and that they don’t show enough appreciation for their elders will lead only to eye-rolling. The “these kids today” attitude is just as common in teachers’ unions as it is in the rest of society.
A Governing magazine article from July addressed this issue, and the author was relatively optimistic about the labor movement’s chances of appealing to a younger demographic. But it is going to be very hard to do if that younger demographic is nowhere to be found in the unions’ representative bodies.
Could you successfully choose what kind of music or films a 20-something would like? Then why would you think you could choose what kind of workplace policies they would like?
Teachers’ unions can make great strides in asking them what they want and listening to the answers. I very much doubt, however, that they have the will to turn those answers into action. It would require sacrificing the interests of those in the room for those still outside the building.
The Millennials themselves can change the unions over the natural course of time, as they assume positions of power from the retired. But they might not hang around that long.
Recent Intercepts. EIA’s daily blog, Intercepts, covered these topics November 18-24:
* Have a Coke and a Smile. AFT’s slippery slope of politically incorrect soft drinks.
* Split Decision in Staff Lawsuit Vs. Oregon Education Association. Union shows the way to meeting mandated staffing ratios – shut down offices.
* Let’s Review. Corroboration.
* Post-Election Union Analysis on the Left. We welcome all ideas, then discard them.
* Where Everybody Knows Your Name. If you can’t beat ’em, hire ’em.
Quote of the Week. “There are downsides, no doubt, to being seen as the party of organized labor. Still, it brings plenty of benefits, and it’s an identity – and that’s something the Democratic Party is rapidly losing.” – Elias Isquith, Salon staff writer. (November 20 Salon)
November 17, 2014
Former High-Ranking NEA Staffer Speaks Out on Union’s Direction. Until retiring last July, Bill Raabe was the National Education Association’s Director of the Center for Great Public Schools. Before that, he led NEA’s Collective Bargaining & Member Advocacy department. And before that, he had a long and storied career as a union staffer.
Bill commented on my Friday blog post, but there it will be seen only by a handful of people, and it deserves wider dissemination. I reprint it here without editorial comment.
Since the day after the election I have contemplated writing my thoughts about the reaction of unions (and specifically school employee unions) to this year’s election drubbing. To be fair, until July of this year, when I retired from the NEA, I have been either a member or staff of a school employee union since 1974. I have a deep commitment to school employees and their unions. So, all of what I think is impacted by the past forty years.
What I fear the most is that the unions will double-down on old strategies and tactics and use the term “organizing” over and over again as meaning to get more union members involved in the political process – not a bad thing in and of itself, but a losing long-term strategy if it is their intended means to build union relevancy. I have seen several unions indicate that they must do a better job organizing. I agree, but what that looks like in practice is the key to the future success of unions across this country –for school employee unions this must be a focus on the professional needs of educators . I also am concerned that the unions will build themselves up by suggesting they won’t back down – again not bad, unless it means they will continue to only be good at saying “no” to change. For too long unions (school employee unions, too) have relied on past successful strategies to deal with their current realities and their hoped-for futures. It is time for them to rethink how they operate.
To me relevancy is the key. Unions must recreate themselves to be relevant not only to the leaders who thrive on internal and external political drama, but to the average member who is a school secretary in Washington, first grade teacher in Minnesota, or higher education faculty in Florida. Relevancy means focusing first and foremost on the learning lives of students and the professional lives of educators. This focus must be accomplished through real action, not just idle platitudes. Poll after poll of education professionals indicate their primary concern is to be effective in their responsibility to help students learn. School employee unions are well-positioned to meet those needs. Unions can lead in providing quality professional learning. They can use advocacy strategies (including collective bargaining where it exists) to move an agenda that meets the needs of students. They can listen to the community and act on the community’s needs. They can develop evaluation systems that include student learning as an important component – after all, isn’t student learning the goal? They can lead real efforts to stimulate collaborative cultures to address the challenges facing public education.
Unions must also realize that all who are advocating for change (“the reformers”) are not the enemies of public education or the unions. Granted, there are those who want to privatize education and do away with the unions, but to be obsessed with those and not focus on the learning needs of students and professional needs of educators will do the unions little long-term good.
I am an optimist, some may call me naïve, but I see the day in the not too distant future where school employee unions, boards of education, administrators, the community, “reformers,” think tanks, foundations, parents and students will all be striving together in a culture of collaboration to meet the needs of every student who crosses the threshold of the schoolhouse (whether that is a brick and mortar schoolhouse or an electronic schoolhouse).
My optimism will be misplaced if the unions’ reaction to the election is to do more of the same, only harder. If they hope that doing so will reverse the trend of declining membership, they will be sorely mistaken. I hope their reaction is double-down on their commitment to students’ needs and the professional lives of educators and build unions that have real “power” because educators see the unions as being totally relevant to their work lives.
I do not expect, nor want, the unions to remove themselves from the political process, that too would be foolish. Yet a serious evaluation of what they stand for, where to focus resources, and where to focus their energies is necessary. What if the unions would spend millions of dollars on a professional learning academy for educators? What if they would send national staff to “targeted” states to develop union-led professional development schools? What if they would focus on developing truly collaborative cultures in local after local across this country? My hope for the unions is that some of these “what ifs” enter into the conversations in union board meetings soon!
I want the unions to thrive in the future. The “voice” they can give to educators is essential to quality public education.
Unions, please react to the elections in a way that moves you forward into a brighter future.
Recent Intercepts. EIA’s daily blog, Intercepts, covered these topics November 11-17:
* Good News! NEA Says It Wasted Only $40 Million. Can’t call any numbers exaggeration or downplay if we don’t define categories.
* Veterans Day: Remembering the Computer Age. I was using a wireless computer in 1982.
* Subtle. It was “about the most stereotypically racist move I’ve ever seen from any campaign,” said an SEIU spokesman. What kind of candidate would do such a thing?
* Palm Beach Pickets. Union staff wants contract adherence from union management.
* Credit Where Credit Is Due. Payback is a… surprise.
Quote of the Week. “I didn’t think it could get worse, but right now I think it’s just as bad as it’s ever been. People don’t want to believe that the unions are constructive, just generally.” – Susan Moore Johnson, a research professor at Harvard’s graduate school of education, discussing the public image of teachers’ unions. (November 17 Washington Post)
November 10, 2014
2014 Election: Not Waterloo, But Elba. Now that we have let the results of last Tuesday’s midterm election sit for a spell, and have accumulated the reactions of observers and all parties involved, we can view the big picture. The brief analysis is: The pundits are right, and this was a defeat of titanic proportions for the two national teachers’ unions. It’s both a short-term and long-term catastrophe. Where they overestimate its effects is the intermediate term, say, around 2016.
This will take some time, so bear with me. First, let’s recap the results in light of union campaign priorities.
Governors – Unhappy with incumbent Democratic governors who have embraced school reform in varying degrees, NEA and AFT sought to install friendly Democrats in key states – Florida, Michigan, Pennsylvania and Wisconsin. They won in Pennsylvania and lost the other three.
In states where they supported the Democrat but weren’t that happy with him, they won in Connecticut and lost in Illinois.
For most of us the defeat of Anthony Brown in Maryland was completely unexpected, but NEA at least must have had some qualms, sending president Lily Eskelsen Garcia to the state on Election Day. They were also unable to win in Kansas or Maine despite a heavy commitment of time and money.
Senate – The unions lost every key Senate race they targeted with millions in Super PAC money and staff resources – Alaska, Arkansas, Colorado, Iowa and North Carolina.
House – NEA’s Super PAC ran ads against Bruce Poliquin in Maine (he won), Lee Zeldin in New York (he won), and Steve Southerland in Florida (he lost).
Add these up and you get an electoral disaster at the national level. Not only are NEA and AFT on defense for the next two years, but their defense is based entirely on the political calculations of President Obama and Secretary of Education Arne Duncan. Yikes.
Some of the post-election analysis suggested that the teachers’ unions will rethink their strategy, or regroup. Ridiculous.
Usually if you spend $60 million with such paltry results there isn’t a new pot of cash waiting to be handed to the same people who engineered the debacle. Teachers’ unions aren’t usual. No one at NEA or AFT will lose a job or be demoted. And there will be at least $60 million – probably more – in their war chests in 2016.
When the union hammer doesn’t work, they don’t find another tool. They go out and buy a bigger hammer.
Common sense suggests that this is a losing strategy in the long term. But the alternatives require an admission of error, and I don’t see that level of introspection from NEA or AFT. They will draw a lesson from the 2014 election and the current political environment, but it is not the one everyone thinks. I refer, of course, to the Pacific Coast Exception.
You don’t have be a seasoned political observer to notice that national Republican tsunamis peter out upon reaching Hollywood and the Bay Area. This year was no different. In an otherwise meaningless election for state superintendent of public instruction, a proxy war of epic proportions erupted and incumbent Tom Torlakson rode his union support to victory over challenger Marshall Tuck.
Some have called the relatively small margin evidence of a “moral victory” for reformers and a “hollow” win for the unions. Nonsense.
David Plank, the executive director of Policy Analysis for California Education, described the Tuck campaign best when he said, “They had a very strong, articulate, well-funded candidate. Incredible assets: a good bio, an issue (the Vergara case) distinguishing him from the incumbent, the endorsement of all of the state’s major papers. Yet he could not overcome the institutional advantages of the unions: motivated teachers and an ability to spend on their behalf.”
Plank left out another prerequisite that Tuck filled – he is a Democrat. He also omitted the fact that Torlakson’s union backing was virtually the only thing he had going for him. And he still won.
Reformers shouldn’t cherrypick results. The California Teachers Association proved it owns education in the state. Strangely enough, the 2014 election did illustrate once again the only way to beat CTA, but the cost is much too high to make it worthwhile. A short history lesson is instructive.
In 1992, California became the second state to enact a charter school law. How? Leaving aside a series of parliamentary maneuvers, it was because a voucher initiative was to appear on the 1993 ballot. At the time, CTA believed that getting out of the way of this moderate reform would defang the argument for vouchers.
In 1998, CTA spent millions to defeat a paycheck protection initiative. On the same ballot, an English immersion initiative passed. It surely would have received the brunt of CTA’s opposition had the other measure not been on the ballot.
Torlakson’s reelection consumed CTA leaders for months. Their secondary concern was to get Tim Sbranti elected to the Assembly in the East Bay Area. Sbranti was once the chairman of CTA’s Political Involvement Committee. The unions spent more than $1 million in independent expenditures on his behalf. But he lost to Republican Catharine Baker.
So the only notable defeats for CTA in the political realm involved victories on higher priority issues. Who’s going to fund $10 million diversions?
NEA and AFT would like California to be the model for the future, where union-loyal candidates win against all comers. They are tired of supporting wobbly Democrats as the lesser of two evils, mainly because they can’t be trusted once elected.
Unfortunately for them, the trend lines aren’t bending that way. Let me go back to the Napoleon analogy in the headline.
The teachers’ unions suffered a bitter defeat, but their ability to fight was not touched at all. So for the next two years, they are in exile, waiting for 2016 in order to return in force and resume power.
It won’t be Waterloo until the time comes when they can no longer raise another $60 million after a loss. If the unions have California as a beacon of hope, their opponents have Alabama.
Having lost its ability to extract dues from teachers’ paychecks, the Alabama Education Association spent about $20 million this year in an effort to reverse its fortunes. It came up mostly empty in the primaries and completely empty in the general election. For AEA, there will be no more grand campaigns, only a continuous struggle to keep the organization afloat.
The political climate is not quite as hostile to unions elsewhere, but it is reasonable to expect that Indiana, Wisconsin and Michigan will soon be in the same boat. Union affiliates in non-collective bargaining states will continue to scrape for members.
The teachers’ unions cannot reverse this decline, but as long as they can collect enormous sums of money and spend it without any sort of internal accountability, they can succeed in putting off the day of reckoning.
Recent Intercepts. EIA’s daily blog, Intercepts, covered these topics November 4-10:
* Galvanized. Multiple defeats make you weaker, not stronger.
* Dark Clouds Have Dark Linings. Even the minor races went badly for the unions.
* Long, Long Wait for Washington Class Size Initiative Results. Now at 80% tallied, looks like it will win.
* GOP Wave Reaches 170 Degrees West Longitude. Bypasses California and Hawaii, gets to Samoa.
* Torlakson Visits His Constituents. Keeping your friends close.
Quote of the Week. “I’m disappointed in white voters. Too many of them are voting against their self-interests.” – Joe Reed, former associate executive secretary of the Alabama Education Association. AEA lost every single race it targeted. (November 9 AL.com)
November 3, 2014
2014 Election Pre-Mortem. Unless the polls are historically wrong, tomorrow will be a bad day for the Democratic Party and, by extension, the teachers’ unions. It’s certain that when this election cycle began, NEA and AFT weren’t expecting to be spending so much time and money in places like Maine, Iowa and Hawaii.
Last week we looked at where the unions’ hopes lie in gubernatorial races. The Washington Post ran a piece on which state legislatures could switch hands. Outside of those races, here are a few more where the unions can salvage something from an overall down year.
* North Carolina – NEA’s Super PAC spent heavily to protect almost all of the vulnerable Senate Democrats, but was especially active in North Carolina. If Kay Hagan wins by a close margin, the union could justifiably claim its efforts put her over the top.
* Missouri, Washington and Nevada ballot initiatives – Amendment 3 in Missouri would tie teachers’ jobs to students’ performance. The initiative’s sponsors stopped campaigning for it, but the unions were still concerned enough to sink several hundred thousand dollars to defeat it. Washington’s Initiative 1351 would purportedly lower class size, but is in fact simply a mandate to hire school employees. NEA and its state affiliate invested heavily in it. Just about everyone else abandoned Nevada’s margin tax initiative, but the Nevada State Education Association owns it exclusively. Should NEA’s side prevail in all three races, it could provide momentum for more education-related ballot initiatives in the coming cycle.
* California – The Superintendent of Public Instruction race between union-supported incumbent Tom Torlakson and challenger Marshall Tuck will, in my opinion, have almost no immediate effect on the policies or infrastructure of the state’s public school system. Nor does it really have national implications, since most states already have a reform Democrat vs. union Democrat split. But as an indication of which way California is headed, it is extraordinarily important.
Wave elections often crash on the Sierras, and a Torlakson victory would continue that trend. The California Teachers Association has staked all of its political capital and reputation on Torlakson. Should Tuck defeat him, it would be a signal to California Democrats, particularly down ballot, that it’s no longer career suicide to go your own way on education policy. A Torlakson win would not only cement CTA’s grip on the state’s education system, but would be a warning shot across the bow of any future Tucks, even very well-funded ones.
* Wisconsin – Though it’s a gubernatorial race, it’s worth repeating here that NEA and AFT would consider a victory by Mary Burke over incumbent Gov. Scott Walker almost worth defeats everywhere else. Retribution for Act 10 is enough motivation, but the possibility of Walker campaigning nationally on the issue would consume the unions for a full two years.
Whatever happens, NEA and AFT are determined to start the 2016 election cycle on Wednesday morning. Members should watch their wallets accordingly.
Recent Intercepts. EIA’s daily blog, Intercepts, covered these topics October 28-November 3:
* Teachers Unions and the War Within. One union, two audiences, two messages.
* Who Needs Union Votes When You Have Union Cash? Money spent to persuade those who put up the money.
* CTA Hires The Sphinx. “You must lash out with every limb, like the octopus who plays the drums.”
* Strike While the Irony Is Hot. We can’t have outside corporate interests spending 1/15th of what outside union interests are spending.
Quote of the Week. “I believe these kinds of changes are probably the single best thing that I can do as governor that’s going to matter long-term, to break what is in essence one of the only remaining public monopolies – and that’s what this is, it’s a public monopoly.” – New York Gov. Andrew Cuomo, speaking about the state’s public education system. (October 27 New York Daily News)
October 27, 2014
Teachers Unions’ Last Chance to Repopulate Ranks of Friendly Governors. The big question on everyone’s minds, including the powers-that-be at the National Education Association and the American Federation of Teachers, is whether the Democratic Party can maintain its majority in the U.S. Senate. But as a practical matter the unions’ fortunes rely more heavily not just on which party wins state governors’ seats, but which candidates.
There are currently 21 Democratic governors, seven of whom are not up for reelection this year. For the teachers’ unions, the remaining 14 can be divided into mostly reliable incumbents, mostly unreliable incumbents, and open seats.
The reasonably friendly incumbents are Jerry Brown in California, John Hickenlooper in Colorado, Mark Dayton in Minnesota, Maggie Hassan in New Hampshire, and Peter Shumlin in Vermont. It is indicative of the unions’ plight that three of these governors have had significant run-ins with teachers’ unions – Shumlin just last week.
The mostly unfriendly incumbents include Dan Malloy of Connecticut, Pat Quinn of Illinois, Andrew Cuomo of New York, and John Kitzhaber of Oregon. In these four elections, the unions either did not endorse, or held their noses in an effort to keep the Republican candidate out.
The open seats are a mixed bag for the unions. Likely winners Anthony Brown in Maryland and David Ige in Hawaii will be a plus, while Arkansas will likely return to the GOP. Massachusetts is turning into a disaster, with either a Republican pick-up or the flawed Martha Coakley gaining the seat. A similar scenario exists in Rhode Island, where the unions have the unpalatable choice of Republican Allan Fung or Democratic pension reformer Gina Raimondo.
At best, these races might end up in a wash for NEA and AFT, so they are pinning their hopes on ousting hostile Republican incumbents in Florida, Kansas, Michigan, Pennsylvania and Wisconsin. In each of these cases the Democratic challenger would be greatly indebted to the unions. And from the unions’ point of view, a win in Wisconsin would almost transcend losses everywhere else.
A bad year in the Senate races would be difficult for the teachers’ unions to swallow, but they already have their sights set on 2016. A bad year in the gubernatorial races would not only mean continued hard times for struggling NEA and AFT state affiliates, but would provide a boost for Democratic education reform candidates for years to come. Maybe forever.
Recent Intercepts. EIA’s daily blog, Intercepts, covered these topics October 21-27:
* Massachusetts Teachers Association Becomes a Tenant. Moving out.
* NEA’s Next Target: Florida’s 2nd District. Close is close enough.
* High Roller. Las Vegas teacher health coverage is a game with loaded dice.
Quote of the Week. “As you know, educators can’t write million-dollar checks or $10 million checks, but they can write $25 checks and $10 checks.” – Karen White, political director for the National Education Association, explaining how the union will spend in the “$40 million range” on the midterm election. (October 22 Fox News)
I’d love to see this stack of $10-$25 checks and total them up.
October 20, 2014
Compromise(d). State affiliates of the National Education Association have always battled Republican office-holders. The most significant change in education labor policy in the past 20 years is how many Democratic office-holders find themselves dodging barbs from teachers’ unions. Things were so much simpler for the unions when the villains were easily identified by the (R) next to their names.
Recent information illustrates the tightrope NEA is walking with its support of Democrats who often fail to comply with its wishes.
In Connecticut, the Hartford Courant reported on how union officers “have been working for weeks to fire up the rank and file” to support Gov. Dannel Malloy. Some of them refuse to ignite.
Four years ago, Kevin Egan, president of the Waterbury teachers union, was part of a loyal army working on behalf of Malloy.
Not this year. The Waterbury Teachers Association recently polled its 1,600 members about which gubernatorial candidate to endorse. About 700 teachers participated: 24 percent chose Foley and just 11 percent backed Malloy. The overwhelming majority — 52 percent — urged the union to make no endorsement.
The vote was largely symbolic — the Waterbury Teachers Association is part of the Connecticut Education Association, which ultimately endorsed Malloy.
But Egan said the poll results reflect the degree to which rank and file teachers mistrust the governor. He said several factors contributed to the fractured relationship, including Malloy’s appointment of an education commissioner who supports charter schools, and the governor’s controversial comment that teachers merely had to show up to get tenure. (Malloy later apologized for using what he called “bad language.”)
“They’re angry,” Egan said, noting that he received emails from teachers who wanted to break with the CEA after the group endorsed Malloy. “The poll speaks volumes about how deeply rooted the concerns are.”
In Massachusetts, the Boston Globe reported the state teachers’ union was upset with gubernatorial nominee Martha Coakley after she “expressed disappointment about a recent state decision against greenlighting any new independently run charter schools this year.”
The Massachusetts Teachers Association supports a limit on the number of charters, and has spent $1 million in support of Coakley’s campaign.
In California, the unions have committed millions to the reelection of Tom Torlakson to the office of state schools superintendent against his challenger, Marshall Tuck, also a Democrat. Despite this disbursement of members’ dues, the California Teachers Association is concerned enough about the rank-and-file’s vote that it is asking State Council reps to use their personal cell phones this Saturday to spend three hours calling members to get them to vote for Torlakson.
The reps will receive a raffle ticket for every 10 members they contact between 3 and 6 pm (voice mail counts). The prizes are $100 gift cards.
Let me repeat that: The union is giving away $100 gift cards to reps who call members on a Saturday afternoon asking them to vote for the guy they are supporting with millions of dollars of dues, including, presumably, the cost of the gift cards and the phone calls.
Well, it’s money well spent if it keeps public education from the clutches of the Gates Foundation and all of the education reform groups it funds, helpfully listed by Education Dive today. Yes, all the usual suspects are there, including toxic testers at the Educational Testing Service and… wait… what’s this? The National Education Association with its $3.9 million windfall.
Education politics is a messy business when the party lines are erased. You need a scorecard to determine who is playing on which team, regardless of the uniform they wear.
Recent Intercepts. EIA’s daily blog, Intercepts, covered these topics October 15-20:
* NEA Drops $335K Into House Race in Maine. Got to spend it somewhere.
* NEA Spending Almost $80 Per Arkansas Member on Senate Race. How’s that for out-of-state money?
* Has NEA Abandoned the Nevada Tax Initiative? The world’s smallest coalition.
* Philly Follies. Maybe we should test the kids’ knowledge of collective bargaining, too.
Quote of the Week. “Opponents of public charter schools essentially argue that public education is between labor and a district; it’s pre-ordained and any attempt to change or adapt it is an attempt to destroy public education as we know it. This is a dumb argument when the right makes it. It’s a dumb argument when the left makes it.” – Lynnell Mickelsen of Put Kids First Minneapolis, a self-described “long-time progressive Democrat.” (October 19 Twin Cities Daily Planet)
October 14, 2014
NEA’s Super PAC Goes on “Grassroots” Shopping Spree. The numbers are growing even as I type this, but the NEA Advocacy Fund has spent about $12.4 million to date in campaign independent expenditures since the union’s representative assembly in July. A large portion of that spending went to self-identified grassroots groups in various states where NEA wants to influence elections.
Since none of the spending involves direct contributions to or coordination with political candidates, all of it comes from members’ dues money. NEA estimates it will spend between $40 and $60 million this election cycle, but that amount includes not only campaigns past, but political communication to members.
NEA’s largest gift to an advocacy organization was $900,000 to the Democratic Governors Association. The national union has not taken much of a direct hand in gubernatorial races, except for about $704,000 in opposition to Michigan Gov. Rick Snyder. It is also unclear whether the union’s ad buy in the unexpectedly close Hawaii governor’s race is related to the DGA contribution.
The next largest total ($587,500) went to Patriot Majority New Mexico, which is trying to unseat Republican Gov. Susan Martinez and prevent the GOP from gaining its first legislative majority in 60 years.
Another $580,000 went to Pennsylvania Families First, a group seeking to unseat Republican Gov. Tom Corbett. It claims it is funded by “organizations that represent hundreds of thousands of working Pennsylvanians.”
Next up is Kentucky Family Values. It received $550,000 from NEA. A passage on its web site reads, “The main difference between Kentucky Family Values and other groups is that we are based here in Kentucky. We are opposed by out-of-state super PACs that are spending millions to buy this election and impose an outside agenda on Kentucky that will harm our state’s families.”
NEA gave $500,000 to Fair Share Action, which is operating in Florida and Colorado. It describes itself as using “a combination of grassroots organizing and communications to help elect candidates who will work for a fair economy and to defeat politicians who place extreme ideology or corporate profits ahead of ordinary people.” Its PAC was created “to balance out the big money that floods politics and drowns out the voices of voters.”
Arizona Wins received $350,000 from NEA. It appears the money is meant for statewide ballot measure campaigns, but it isn’t entirely clear.
Grassroots for Florida received $325,000. Information on the organization is sparse. It is listed only as a Florida partner of America Votes, and its physical address is evidently a UPS box in Tampa. That much money should be enough to rent a storefront.
North Carolina Citizens for Protecting Our Schools got $250,000. It believes “North Carolina’s future prosperity can only be guaranteed through sustained state investments in public education.”
Michigan For All received $200,000. It is located in Washington DC.
Win Minnesota Political Fund received $100,000 and the Committee to Rebuild Maine’s Middle Class got $75,000, a moribund group from 2012 that NEA apparently revived.
Rounding out the outside advocacy organizations that received NEA money is Democrats for Public Education, which got $25,000.
Additionally, the NEA Advocacy Fund spent millions directly on ads related to targeted U.S. Senate races: $490,000 against GOP candidate Tom Cotton in Arkansas, about $728,000 against GOP candidate Dan Sullivan in Alaska, $202,000 against GOP candidate Cory Gardner in Colorado, and almost $3 million against GOP candidate Thom Tillis in North Carolina.
We are still three weeks away from Election Day, so it is highly likely the direct spending will increase significantly. Dues income does not dry up quickly, and even if NEA were to experience a cash crunch, the guaranteed flow of revenue each year makes it a simple matter to borrow whatever it might need.
Recent Intercepts. EIA’s daily blog, Intercepts, covered these topics October 7-14:
* Flash! NEA Not Planning to Change Much. Busy work.
* Education Journalism Quote of the Week. The keepers of tolerance.
* TANSTAAFL. Eating your lunch.
* Old Habits Die Hard. Agency fee.
* A Debate to Liven Up Your Columbus Day. Byzantine.
* Mythical Creatures. Temporary.
Quote of the Week. “My name is Ashley Pledger and I’ve been an Arkansas teacher for 10 years…. Tom Cotton would deprive Arkansas students of the opportunities that helped him. As a high school teacher, I know how hard it is for my students to go to college. Tom Cotton is hurting their chances.” – Ashley Pledger, president of the Education Association of Rogers, in a campaign ad paid for by NEA’s Super PAC. (October 14 NEA press release)
October 6, 2014
NEA Membership Numbers Accelerate Downward. Officers of the National Education Association expressed some optimism last July that the union’s falling membership numbers were finally reaching their nadir. Active membership losses totaling more than 9 percent since 2008-09 had slowed to a drop of about 17,000 by the end of the 2013-14 school year. While still a significant loss, surely the end of the lean years was in sight.
That is, until the first figures for the 2014-15 school year came in. NEA is down 37,000 active members from this time a year ago.
Total membership did not fall quite as badly, but the demographic trend cannot be comforting to the union. Student membership fell by 4,700, but was more than offset by an increase of 6,600 retired members. Of course, the idea is that student members are likely to become active members when they are hired to work in public schools. Retired members remain retired members, paying only $30 per year.
NEA’s total membership now stands at approximately 2,960,000 members – its lowest level since the merger of NEA New York with New York State United Teachers in 2006.
The union’s admission to the lower numbers came only in a subtle form, as I suggested it would back in July 2013:
We’ll know the white flag has gone up when the footer on NEA press releases changes from “more than 3 million” to “about 3 million” or “almost 3 million.”
The union projected a loss of 30,000 full-time equivalent members this year, so unless the downward spiral accelerates further, this drop should have no additional budget repercussions.
It does lead to one conclusion. Though the economy has improved, NEA’s membership outlook has not.
Recent Intercepts. EIA’s daily blog, Intercepts, covered these topics September 30-October 6:
* Non-Denial Denial. Union officers rarely tell a bald-faced lie to the press. But they often give an answer to a question different from the one that was asked.
* Hmmmmm…What happened to the Hawaii State Teachers Association pre-K campaign?
* Personal Incident? What if he had driven his car into the CTA lobby?
* Win, Lose or Draw for Nevada Margin Tax? Confused polling.
* Which Ad Is Funnier? Red Dawn scenario.
Quote of the Week. “Instead of coming up with a budget and saying ‘here it is’ and giving people basically 24 hours to comment on it, why couldn’t we be a part of the process of putting the budget together in the first place?” – Karen Lewis, president of the Chicago Teachers Union and would-be mayoral candidate. (October 3 NBC Chicago)
Great idea. Let’s use it for the next teachers’ contract, too.
September 29, 2014
Wicomico Postscript. Back in April, the Wicomico County Education Association in Maryland made headlines by being the site of a “coup” carried out by angry site representatives who were unhappy with the scheduling of a vote to disaffiliate the local from the Maryland State Education Association.
It was later revealed that MSEA was involved in the takeover, though it publicly distanced itself from events. Eventually a court order restored the union’s headquarters and assets to the elected officers. Nevertheless, when the smoke cleared it looks as though MSEA got just about everything it wanted.
A new election was held, but incumbent president Kelly Stephenson did not stand for reelection. Gary Hammer, the leader of the coup, ran unopposed. No disaffiliation vote took place and is now extremely unlikely to ever happen.
The only sign of the former officers is this web site for the newly formed Eastern Shore Education Association, which is clearly not affiliated with MSEA. Kelly Stephenson is listed as treasurer. No other activity is evident.
The lesson is clear. There is no such thing as a friendly disaffiliation. The architects have to treat it as if it were a representation campaign against a hostile union. It won’t be pleasant, but it’s the only way to succeed.
Recent Intercepts. EIA’s daily blog, Intercepts, covered these topics September 23-29:
* Colorado Protests Not Exactly Spontaneous. Part of “high intensity campaigns.”
* The Password Is: “Escalating.” The empire strikes back.
* Providence Teachers Union Prefers Convicted Felon to Charter School Director. Who’s your buddy?
* Let’s Play “Who Is Arne Duncan Talking About?” Thinking beyond dollar signs.
* Union Opposes Pre-K Funding Amendment in Hawaii. Can you guess why?
Quote of the Week. “Arni was really involved with the association through the years and I think most people viewed him as a very positive contributor. Pretty good finance guy and investor and that sort of thing.” – Bill Henkle, principal of Whitefish Bay High School, discussing Arnav “Arni” Mahant, former math teacher and treasurer of the Whitefish Bay Education Association, who pleaded guilty to embezzling more than $560,000 from the union, then replacing it with money stolen from his in-laws. (September 26 Fox6Now.com)
September 22, 2014
Balance Your Budget the NYSUT Way! New York State United Teachers has a lot of suggestions about how the state should finance education, collect property taxes and see to it that revenues match needed expenditures. The union felt that this year’s state budget “falls considerably short.”
One would expect that NYSUT would demonstrate its expertise in budgeting with its own revenues and expenditures, but the evidence tells a different story.
The union took in almost $133.7 million in 2012-13, an increase of about $1.6 million from the previous year, yet it spent more than $167.9 million, an increase of almost $12 million. The $34.2 million deficit is its largest so far – at least that I can document – and NYSUT last had a balanced budget sometime before 2008.
Its long-term financial health isn’t much better, since its liabilities more than triple its assets. NYSUT does own $38 million in real estate, but the corporation it created to control it also ran a deficit.
What’s the cause of all this red ink? It’s no mystery. In 2012-13 NYSUT collected almost $117.2 million in dues, and paid its employees $118.6 million in salaries and benefits – an increase of 13.1 percent from the previous year.
The current slate of officers ran on a platform of internal financial transparency. Are they correcting the compensation imbalance? Well, maybe in one sense.
Ed Notes Online broke the story, picked up by Capital New York, about how the new NYSUT officers arranged for an amendment to state law so they could simultaneously earn credit in the NYSUT pension system and the state teacher retirement system. Sweet!
Let’s at least give NYSUT credit for consistency. An organization that annually spends much more than it collects has no qualms in demanding the government spend much more than it collects. The problem is that such policies are highly dependent on having enough citizens who spend less than they earn. That well is running dry.
Recent Intercepts. EIA’s daily blog, Intercepts, covered these topics September 16-22:
* A Little More Charter School Transparency. The Annenberg Institute’s charter school oversight report hopes you’ll overlook the author.
* Help Me Make Some Dough. Difficult decisions require thought, judgment, and apparently, cash.
* Alabama EA Board Orders Audit. We have what, but not who, when or how.
* Thanks, But No Tanks. The right to bear arms.
Quote of the Week. “She’s been very realistic – we have a law in place and it’s not going to be a healthy environment to just come in and flip that law.” – Kim Kohlhaas, president of AFT Wisconsin, explaining why Democratic gubernatorial candidate Mary Burke doesn’t mention Act 10 when she campaigns. (September 19 Al Jazeera America)
September 15, 2014
Proxy War. I don’t often dig through the Shamokin News-Item looking for information about teachers’ unions and school management, but an article by reporter Sarah DeSantis caught my eye. It provides a detailed background and history of contract negotiations between local affiliates of the Pennsylvania State Education Association and school boards in the central part of the state. It turns out that sometimes the success or failure of collective bargaining has more to do with the personalities of people who don’t work in the district.
School districts in the region often use Benjamin L. Pratt of the CGA Law Firm to represent management in negotiations. Over the last year or so, Pratt has found himself across the table from Mark McDade, PSEA’s UniServ director for the area.
The two men have faced each other in four school districts. Two times the union has gone on strike. Now they are on opposite sides in the Line Mountain school district. Teachers there have set a strike date of November 5.
DeSantis interviewed both men and, unsurprisingly, each blames the other for the lack of settlements and the overall negative environment of bargaining.
The Shamokin school board stopped using Pratt – not because they were dissatisfied with his expertise, but because he “didn’t mesh well” with McDade and it “became so hostile that it hampered negotiations.”
I don’t know anything about the local issues involved, but I’m confident central Pennsylvania isn’t the only place where this is a problem. Most school districts and local unions are too small to keep contract negotiators on salary. The districts turn to private firms that specialize in collective bargaining. Their continued business requires negotiating deals that are beneficial to the board. The local unions turn to UniServ reps, who are employees of the state union and are subsidized by the national union. They negotiate at the direction of the local, but since they since they have several locals as “clients,” they have an interest in gaining similar pay and benefit raises for all of them. They also have to abide by the priorities of the state union, which occasionally may cause some conflicts.
Both sides need their proxies for the expertise and practical experience they hold. But those assets can be accompanied by additional motivations, styles and methods that can muddy the negotiations, if not swamp them all together.
It is better for all involved, including the taxpayers, if the outcome of bargaining is determined by what’s on the table, rather than who are in the seats.
Recent Intercepts. EIA’s daily blog, Intercepts, covered these topics September 9-15:
* Things Are Going South in Alabama. Paul Hubbert tosses a grenade.
* Another Shoe to Drop in Alabama? Why did the union go to a scandal-plagued investment firm?
* Your Mom’s Union. Eternal incumbency.
* NYSUT Local Wants to Withhold AFT PAC Money. Circumvention.
* Georgia On My Mind. And another NEA southern state affiliate with money troubles.
Quote of the Week. “Certainly right-to-work changes the narrative because I’m from the era … when your union membership was never a question. Now that narrative will change. You’re going to have to go out and convince people to be part of a union. That will be hard for any union, but especially a teacher’s union with the assault that has been laid on them.” – Keith Johnson, president of the Detroit Federation of Teachers, after announcing he would be stepping down. (September 11 Detroit Free Press)
September 8, 2014
How Arne Duncan Exposed the NEA. The big story that came out of July’s National Education Association Representative Assembly was the union adopting a measure that called for the resignation of U.S. Secretary of Education Arne Duncan. You don’t have to take my word for it. The Associated Press ran it on The Big Story page.
There never was a realistic chance that Duncan would resign, but we were assured that it was necessary to send a message that it was intolerable that Duncan would “promote policies and decisions that undermine public schools and colleges, the teaching education professionals, and education unions.”
But during the summer that new business item seems to have lost any teeth it had.
New NEA president Lily Eskelsen Garcia has been making the rounds, interviewing with anyone holding a microphone or a notebook, and any question about Duncan was answered by how nice he was, or how his intentions were good, but that he was wrong on standardized testing.
I made it clear to the secretary that I don’t want to demonize anybody. He’s sincere and he’s absolutely wrong. We agreed at the end of that meeting; we were very clear. He was very clear that he thinks we need to stay on what he calls accountability. I believe that has come to mean you hit your number and there’s a consequence for not hitting your number.
She told The Daily Kos:
The call for the secretary’s resignation came from a place of very deep disappointment. And by the way, it was hotly debated, and it was not overwhelming, but it won the day. It was more than Race to the Top. It was a feeling that the secretary just doesn’t get it. I know Arne Duncan. He’s a good person. He’s not a bad person, he’s not part of a deep dark conspiracy, but he’s wrong. He is just dead wrong on this obsession with test scores, and with offering states grant money if they will link things like a teacher’s evaluation to test scores…
NPR asked if she discussed Duncan’s resignation with President Obama:
No. We didn’t talk about that. Why would I? We have a lot of things in common with the administration, like Head Start, preschool, affordable college, immigration reform that keeps families together and protects children and their right to an education. [But] if [they] don’t end this obsession with high-stakes punishments hooked to a standardized test score, none of that will matter.
NPR followed up “Do you still think Duncan should resign?”:
We have a huge disconnect with … Duncan on the use of testing. We believe testing should be used to guide our instruction and he will agree with that but has not yet told us that [he] has made a big mistake hooking big-stake consequences to those tests.
She told the Washington Post:
“Arne Duncan is a very nice man. I actually believe he is a very honest man. And that cannot excuse the fact that he is wrong wrong wrong on just about everything that he believes is reform. I could just give him hugs when he talks about preschool. I love when he talks about affordable college. Its not that he is in the pocket of the Koch brothers and wants to destroy public schools. But he has drunk the Kool-Aid. He has drunk the factory reform Kool-Aid.
She told EdSource she conveyed the members’ perspective to Duncan and now has “every intention of working with the secretary going forward.”
NEA and Duncan do have a lot in common, and it’s only practical to continue to deal with the fact that he isn’t going away. But the union’s disillusionment with Duncan goes far beyond standardized testing, and it wasn’t even the trigger for the vote on the resignation NBI – his positive reaction to the Vergara ruling was.
I’m reminded of the laundry list of complaints about Duncan the union passed in 2011 – I described it then as “two counts of heavy focusing, four counts of failure to recognize, one count of felony myth-perpetuating, and a misdemeanor count of weighing in.”
Duncan has been U.S. Secretary of Education for five years, and there is every indication he will remain in that office for the rest of the President’s term. More than that, for all his perceived missteps and blunders, he hasn’t suffered a single tangible consequence. Indeed, the allowance from the NEA president that he’s “a very nice man” is probably the only compliment a union officer at any level will give him. Nevertheless, he is Education Secretary despite the union’s explicit and direct call for his ouster, and the education policies of the Obama administration move forward much as they have since 2009.
So the question arises: If President Obama and Secretary Duncan can safely ignore NEA’s demands, why can’t we all?
Recent Intercepts. EIA’s daily blog, Intercepts, covered these topics September 3-8:
* Michigan EA Loses 5K Members in One Month, Declares Victory. Could be raining.
* Gallup Poll Shows Public Doesn’t Buy Unions’ “Fair Share” Argument. Freedom of association.
* Those Who Remember the Past Are Condemned to Repeat It. Santayana’s corollary.
* Palm Beach Local Finally Elects New President. Out with the old.
Quote of the Week #1. “I’m hoping that the Waiting for Superman obligatory events designed to hype the movie and sell tickets is (sic) finally winding down.” – Lily Eskelsen Garcia, president of the National Education Association. (January 3, 2011 Lily’s Blackboard)
Quote of the Week #2. “Head to the movie theaters this Labor Day weekend to watch The Giver, the critically acclaimed film based on Lois Lowry’s beloved classic novel starring Jeff Bridges and Meryl Streep and The Weinstein Company and Walden Media will donate 50 cents of every ticket to The NEA Foundation in support of NEA’s Read Across America up to $250,000!” – from NEA’s Read Across America web page. Walden Media produced Waiting for Superman.
September 2, 2014
Highlights from the 2014-16 NEA Strategic Plan and Budget. The National Education Association works on a two-year budget cycle and the 2014-16 edition lays out the union’s priorities and expectations in a general way. I have posted the full document on EIA’s Declassified page.
Here are a few relevant items and quotes from the 76-page document:
* “Early indications are that educator employment will not return to pre-recession levels during this two-year budget cycle.”
* “As we investigated 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.”
* NEA projects 15,000 fewer active full-time equivalent members in 2015-16 than it has today.
* “Develop and implement a timely and strategic Presidential nomination program for NEA and strategically align opportunities for NEA priorities through the nomination process, the campaign, and the Administration (Presidential, DNC, RNC, Executive Branch, transition).”
* “Develop, execute, and win electoral campaigns through messages to members and the public using members’ voices, third party validators, social media, and paid and earned media.” (embedded link added)
* “Take control of the education debate”
* “Prepare and support local Association and site leaders serving NEA priority schools (or other schools identified with greatest need) with tools and strategies necessary for successful implementation of the Common Core State Standards.”
* “Develop strategic engagement with select education research think tanks focused on public school reform and closing the achievement gaps.”
* “Membership and Organizing: This area is laser focused on figuring out how to grow membership and plans to do this through research-based campaigns engineered to determine what works. Specific attention is placed on young members, developing and supporting the implementation of alternative dues collection options, and developing models for new and nontraditional membership types.”
* “Design and implement a strategic and research based campaign to create a 10 year pipeline of young member engagement around issues meaningful to them such as closing the achievement gap, college affordability, and income equality.”
* “Support state and local affiliates’ ‘scratch’ organizing campaigns of new units with particular attention to charter schools and higher education.”
* “Develop and implement detailed processes and procedures for making, monitoring, and evaluating annual financial and in-kind contributions to partner organizations to ensure sufficient and impactful returns on investment, monitored progress towards NEA’s strategic goals and achievement of outcomes.”
* “Maintain the national media and digital presence for Read Across America (RAA) and assist states and locals in creating and leveraging their RAA events to further our Association’s student-centered, Association-led goals and organizing efforts.”
* President’s base salary $286,899. Additional taxable income includes 20% for benefits and 20% for living allowance, for a total of $401,659.
Recent Intercepts. EIA’s daily blog, Intercepts, covered these topics August 26-September 2:
* NEA Partners With Waiting for Superman Producers. Securing a box on the conspiracy flow chart.
* Awkward. “Nothing I do is unusual compared to what every other teacher does.”
* Polarization. Two audiences. Two messages.
* Double or Nothing. There goes the mortgage money.
Quote of the Week. “Just a year ago, 76% of teachers backed the Common Core, but the portion in favor has now plummeted to 46%. Meanwhile, teacher opposition has more than tripled, from 12% to 40%.” – from “No Common Opinion on the Common Core” in the Winter 2015 issue of Education Next.
August 25, 2014
Hedging. In the teachers’ union pantheon of evildoers, a special wing exists for hedge fund managers. They serve as convenient shorthand for the type of corporate big-wigs whose presence and money are driving public education reform at the expense of its practitioners.
Back in 2011, when National Education Association president Dennis Van Roekel was trying to get his activists to endorse Barack Obama early for a second term, he said, “This is the time to make decisions about the direction of our country, and we have real choices to make. As activists, engaged educators, we should get involved now. Will we allow Congress to gut Medicare, slash education and cut Social Security, and continue to make it just fine for hedge fund managers and corporations to sidestep paying taxes?”
NEA, of course, doesn’t have to sidestep paying taxes; it is tax-exempt. And when you don’t have to pay taxes, sometimes you have a ton of money to invest. And when you have a ton of money to invest, you just might go to the usual suspects to manage it.
NEA Members Insurance Trust is a tax-exempt 501(c)(9) entity that provides a host of insurance products to NEA members through the union’s Member Benefits Corporation. In fiscal year 2012-13, it took in almost $8.3 million more than it spent. Elsewhere, this would be called profit.
More than 10 percent of the trust’s $122 million in net assets were about equally invested in two funds: the Hatteras Core Alternatives TEI Fund and the Aurora Offshore Fund LTD II. The former consists of 70 percent hedge funds.
The latter is a hedge fund offered by Harris Associates’ Alternative Investment Group. The investment firm describes the fund this way:
“The Alternative Investment team assembles portfolios of independent managers — and actively allocates capital among these managers — in pursuit of consistent rates of return which bear little or no direct correlation to the U.S. stock or bond markets. Through a unique combination of quantitative and qualitative factors, the Alternative Investment Group invests with those managers that have an identifiable and sustainable edge. Over a period of two decades, the team has created an extensive, proprietary database of over 2,500 hedge fund managers to aid in their due diligence process.”
Offshore funds are appealing because they avoid U.S. taxes and regulation.
The American Federation of Teachers made headlines last year by publishing an asset managers enemies list in the name of transparency. Are the two national teachers’ unions equally familiar with the politics of their own hedge fund managers or is a good return sufficient?
Recent Intercepts. EIA’s daily blog, Intercepts, covered these topics August 19-25:
* Opt-Out: Great Success or Great Failure? Check your denominator.
* Deo et Patriae. Farm team.
* Walker: WEAC’s Great White Whale. Dismasted.
* Arne Duncan Is Still Secretary of Education. Feel better?
* E-Mail Nightmare. If you couldn’t reach me last week, the problem is fixed now.
Quote of the Week. “I have 200,000 members. Getting them all to agree on something is impossible.” – Michael Mulgrew, president of the United Federation of Teachers, explaining why UFT co-sponsored a march against police brutality. (August 23 New York Times)
August 18, 2014
What Happened to Eddie Tech? Let me begin by apologizing for the way I have reversed this story. Normally I discover something and then tell you about it. This one is a little different. There is something, but I don’t really have any idea what it is. Maybe you know and can tell me about it.
Back in 1996, Congress authorized the creation of the National Education Technology Funding Corporation, a private nonprofit entity, to “leverage resources and stimulate private investment in education technology infrastructure, to encourage States to create and upgrade interactive high capacity networks for elementary schools, secondary schools and public libraries, to provide loans, grants and other forms of assistance to State education technology agencies, and other educational purposes.”
The new corporation trademarked the name “Eddie Tech” to highlight its similarity to corporations like Freddie Mac and Fannie Mae.
Fast forward to 2009, when Eddie Tech became part of the American Recovery and Reinvestment Act (ARRA), better known as the stimulus package. The National Education Association had a clear role “coordinating the program to help schools maximize use of ARRA funding.”
In 2010, along with the American Association of School Administrators and the National School Boards Association, NEA announced it would “endorse and help market Eddie Tech’s work” to “assemble bond portfolios that can be packaged and sold into the national capital markets.”
None of this captured my attention at the time, nor now, until the corporation’s web site – eddietech.org – went dark sometime after June 23 of this year. I have since learned that NEA owns the Eddie Tech web site, and has since 2000, and held four of the nine seats on the board of directors, including the president and executive vice president slots.
Other than being under the radar it still didn’t rise to a sufficient level of interest until I read a relevant paragraph from NEA’s financial reports. It references “MBC,” which is NEA’s Member Benefits Corporation.
MBC has a $400,000 note receivable from the National Education Technology Funding Corporation, a not-for-profit corporation chartered to assist schools in financing technology, infrastructure, and other purposes to improve the quality of public education. In lieu of interest, borrower will pay risk premium of 0.0004 percent of certain certificates issued during the term of the loan. The note matured on December 31, 2011. As of August 31, 2013 and 2012, MBC has recognized an allowance for doubtful debt against this note in its entire amount.
I don’t know how NEA and the other school organizations ended up in control of Eddie Tech. I don’t know why NEA would have special expertise in technological infrastructure or the pooling of bond portfolios. I don’t know why its Member Benefits Corporation was involved. I don’t know why MBC lent $400,000 to Eddie Tech, or why Eddie Tech could not pay it back. And I don’t know why Eddie Tech has apparently faded into non-existence.
Maybe it’s nothing at all, but it seems weird, so I thought I would mention it.
Recent Intercepts. EIA’s daily blog, Intercepts, covered these topics August 12-18:
* Overdue Process. The sensationally bad vs. the ordinarily bad.
* Karen Lewis Explains How to Become the Highest-Paid Teacher. Just work longer hours.
* NYSUT Doesn’t Endorse Cuomo. That’ll show him.
* First Responder. Cops vs. teachers.
* Is It Dark Money If We All Know Where It Came From? Sometimes the dark disappears if you open your eyes.
Quote of the Week. “Here I’m going to admit the unholy of unholies – and I’m sure I’m going to hear about it from D.C. – but what we’re talking about is issues having to do with the teachers union.” – Frank Biden, director of the Florida Charter School Alliance and brother of Vice President Joe Biden, identifying the main obstacle “standing in the way, obstructing what is clearly a benefit to the vast majority of the most least-privileged of our electorate – babies born in poverty, people confined to a geography that limits them to a school that has failed over and over and over and over again.” (August 17 Palm Beach Post)
August 11, 2014
NEA Wrote Off $8.1 Million of Indiana Loans as Bad Debt. Back in May 2009, the Indiana State Teachers Association (ISTA) found itself it in dire financial straits. Due to a combination of budgetary red ink plus mismanagement of the funds invested in the union’s insurance trust, ISTA was in very real danger of outright bankruptcy.
NEA took over the administration of ISTA and rescued its state affiliate by purchasing its real estate and buildings. ISTA has been a tenant in those buildings ever since. To engineer this unique solution, NEA created NEA Properties, Inc. in July 2009. The idea was to let ISTA get back on its financial feet and resume self-sufficiency by December 2020.
Unfortunately for NEA, the road back to health proved more difficult than forecast for ISTA. In 2010, its officers predicted the union would not be solvent until 2027. Considering the accumulated debt since then, even that late date might be optimistic.
Since NEA Properties itself has been losing money ($1.4 million in rental income in 2013, $1.46 million in expenses), it was perhaps inevitable that we would see something along the lines of this paragraph from NEA’s financial reports:
On May 16, 2009, NEA entered into a long-term promissory note agreement with the Indiana State Teachers Association (“I.S.T.A.”) to provide supplemental support and direct loans. The promissory note is unsecured and bears interest at one half of one percent above the London Interbank Offered Rate (“LIBOR”) per annum. The promissory note is repayable in full on or before December 31, 2020. As of August 31, 2013 and 2012, the outstanding note balance including accrued interest is $16,830,304 and $16,370,457, respectively. Due to the unsecure nature of the promissory note, NEA recognized an uncollectible allowance of $8,100,000 for fiscal years ended August 31, 2013 and 2012. In addition, NEA has accrued interest in the amount of $689,901 since the inception of the note.
The accountants put a seal on something that must have been obvious to the executives early on – ISTA did not require a loan; it required a bailout financed by the dues money of NEA members of other states.
It is difficult to predict the endgame for the ISTA coffers and the financial obligations to NEA, but when almost half the outstanding balance is designated as uncollectable, it suggests the other half might end up in the same category.
Recent Intercepts. EIA’s daily blog, Intercepts, covered these topics August 5-11:
* Declassified: California Teachers Association Strategy Documents. “How to choose the right bad guy” and other useful tips.
* AFT Front Group Fined $30K. Who will pay?
* This Could Catch On. Torn.
* The Trouble with Democratic Governors. Abercrombie’s a zombie.
* It Happened: We Finally Have “Teachsters.” Teamsters break new ground.
Quote of the Week. “We look forward to working with him in his new role to ensure that Board certification becomes the norm in teaching and that accomplished teachers are at the forefront of shaping education policy and practice. This will only strengthen our close partnership with the NEA.” – Ronald Thorpe, president and CEO of the National Board for Professional Teaching Standards, on the news that NBPTS chief operating officer Andy Coons was hired by NEA to be the senior director of the union’s Center for Great Public Schools. (August 6 NEA press release)
August 4, 2014
When It Comes to Union Legal Services, Read the Fine Print. They take a public relations beating for it, but teachers’ unions use their efforts to defend their members in court as a huge selling point, particularly in states where they have to compete for members.
Although very few teachers will need access to legal counsel during their careers, most are comforted that they have that union benefit. It gives them a greater feeling of security as they work. But because it is a rarely-used benefit, most union members do not familiarize themselves with the details until they are already in need of the service.
The Valley Advocate in Northampton, Massachusetts, tells the tale of teacher Debra Caldieri, who used a union-appointed attorney to pursue a disability claim with the state retirement system, which was denied.
While Caldieri has a right to appeal, which she plans to do, she finds herself without a lawyer: shortly following the MTRB decision, Caldieri received a letter from her union-appointed attorney, Stephen Allard, an associate at Boston-based Shaevel & Krems.
“After reviewing the matter with the Massachusetts Teachers’ Association General Counsel, the determination has been made that the MTA and the law firm of Shaevel & Krems, LLP will not be representing you in your pending appeal,” Allard wrote.
When I reached Allard to ask why he and the MTA decided to cut Caldieri loose, he said his “firm doesn’t feel it is appropriate to comment at this time.” A spokesperson for the MTA, meanwhile, told me the union won’t discuss legal matters involving its members. He said that Caldieri received an explanation and could share it with me if she so chose. Caldieri said she’s received no explanation from the MTA or Allard.
Caldieri’s case is of interest in its own right, and I recommend the story, but for our purposes it is a chance to review how union legal representation works, using the Massachusetts Teachers Association (MTA) as an example.
MTA’s legal services policy is posted on its web site, and provides 19 pages of definitions and provisions. The key points are these:
* The union chooses the attorney who will represent the member.
* Services rendered are “subject to the availability of money” expressly designated by the MTA board of directors for such services.
* The member is entitled to up to three hours consultation with the attorney, and up to $1000 for an investigator, if approved by MTA’s general counsel.
* MTA pays up to $5000 in attorneys’ fees if the general counsel finds them reasonable.
* MTA stops paying and withholds services if the member “consistently fails to follow the legal advice” of the attorney, including, we presume, whether to continue to pursue the case.
* Union will not normally pay “filing fees, cost of service of process, printing or transcription.”
* If punitive damages are awarded and provision for attorneys’ fees are part of the settlement, MTA must be reimbursed out of those damages.
In short, belonging to the union defrays some of the potentially heavy costs associated with a legal action. But, as with most things in life, he who pays the piper calls the tune. The attorney hired by the union must follow the priorities of the union before the desires of the client.
The reality is that unions are required by law and eager by nature to represent all employees of a unit in all instances in matters related to collective bargaining. Once those matters exit the workplace and enter the courts or administrative panels, the union’s decisions are made very much like those of any other individual or entity: on the expectation of success and the costs involved. Members, and even critics, expect the union to go to the mat on every teacher’s case. In fact, the wallet eventually becomes the determining factor.
Recent Intercepts. EIA’s daily blog, Intercepts, covered these topics July 29-August 4:
* Act II of Act 10. Some of the defeated reap the spoils of victory.
* NEA Reaches Tentative Agreement With Staff Union. Labor peace.
* CTA Staff Threatens to Strike if Contract Not Settled by September 1. Could have been a big problem.
* Merely a Coincidence. CTA suddenly settles.
* Washington Class Size Initiative Qualifies for Ballot. More bucks to follow.
Quote of the Week. “Parents and taxpayers want standards and accountability, while the education establishment, including the NEA and the AFT, demands that more money be spent on schools and teachers, so long as they aren’t held responsible for what happens (or doesn’t) as a result.” – Leslie C. Francis, former staffer for the California Teachers Association and former executive director of the Democratic National Committee. (July 30 Education Week)
July 28, 2014
Here’s What Didn’t Become NEA Policy. During the four days of debate at the 2014 Representative Assembly in Denver, the delegates were presented with 110 items of new business. NEA placed and preserved on its web site the full text of every item that was either approved by the assembly or referred to committee. What disappeared forever are the items that the delegates voted down.
That’s understandable, but if we want to know where the organization is trending on policy, it is just as worthwhile to examine what they didn’t want to do alongside what they did. So I will fill that gap as briefly and concisely as I can.
Of those 110 NBIs, a total of 24 didn’t pass muster with the delegates. Fifteen were defeated, six were withdrawn, two were ruled out of order and one was not considered.
NBI 1 – An NEA constitutional convention.
NBI 6 – Unified action plan with AFT against testing, “destructive evaluation procedure,” and the Vergara decision.
NBI 14 – State-by-state inventory of implementation practices related to ESEA waiver requirements.
NBI 17 – Vetting of potential partners prior to creating outside partnership.
NBI 20 – Non-voting membership category for parents.
NBI 44 – Investigate impact of NEA membership in the AFL-CIO.
NBI 49 – Continue to bargain in good faith with the Association of Field Service Employees (AFSE) staff union.
NBI 50 – Include school administrators as members.
NBI 57 – Study percentage of articles in NEA media related to education support employees.
NBI 65 – Initiate activities using The Plan Workbook: A Guide for Women Raising African-American Boys from Conception to College.
NBI 75 – Return music teacher Iris Stevenson to Crenshaw High School in Los Angeles.
NBI 87 – Online survey related to professional development.
NBI 99 – Written justification for increases or bonuses to salaries and benefits for NEA executive officers or executive committee members.
NBI 102 – Information for English Language Learner parents to navigate the U.S. educational system.
NBI 105 – Publicize information about Zapatista teachers and unrest in Chiapas, Mexico.
NBI 4 – I cannot find the text of this NBI, except that it was endorsed by the Badass Teachers Association and introduced by a delegate from Connecticut.
NBI 12 – Reexamine appropriateness of PreK-3 standards.
NBI 28 – Text unavailable.
NBI 42 – Moratorium on state takeovers of school districts.
NBI 88 – Additional funding for chairs of NEA’s ethnic and minority caucuses.
NBI 94 – Develop criteria for entering into partnerships with outside organizations.
Out of order:
NBI 79 – Promote legislation to ensure initiative signature-gatherers are registered voters of that state.
NBI 97 – No new charter schools and conversion of charters to traditional public schools.
NBI 77 – Oppose U.S. involvement in Middle East conflicts.
Recent Intercepts. EIA’s daily blog, Intercepts, covered these topics July 22-28:
* New NEA Election Target: Members’ Spouses. Union discovers where those stubborn middle-aged white males live.
* Hugging It Out. NEA gets physical with Arne Duncan.
* Remember Hope? The seven-year itch.
* Free Meeting Space. Accommodations.
Quote of the Week. “We will always need teachers’ unions, as you yourself have said. My need and desire to advocate for polices and resources for my students are what brought me into the union — the need for the professionals’ voice remains and the union is the means of providing professionals that voice. But there is going to have to be a transition to a new kind of contract, one that is a better fit for professionals. Union members, however, are not going to give up their industrial union rights to enjoy the benefits of being treated like real professionals until they are treated as real professionals.” – Dennis Van Roekel, outgoing president of the National Education Association. (July 25 Education Week)
July 21, 2014
Official NEA State Affiliate Membership Numbers for 2013. Once again it took a bit of detective work but at last I can provide the state-by-state membership numbers for the National Education Association as of the end of the 2013 school year. More recent comprehensive state numbers are unavailable to outsiders, but we know the union has lost a total of 17,000 active members nationally so far in 2014. That’s an average loss of about 340 additional members per state affiliate in 2014, though it is becoming increasingly clear that the healthy affiliates are rebounding while the weak ones continue to sink.
I have compiled the numbers in a handy table, which provides both the total and active membership for each state affiliate. Active members are employed teachers, professionals and education support workers. Total membership includes retirees, students, substitutes and all others.
Along with the numbers are the changes in those figures since 2012 and 2009, when NEA reached its membership high-water mark. In the last four years, NEA lost 9.2 percent of its active members.
For quick reference you can refer to this chart as I detail the exact numbers.
The biggest losers over the four-year period were Arizona (49 percent active member loss), Wisconsin (39.4% loss), North Carolina (38.3% loss), Idaho (24.2% loss), Tennessee (21.7% loss) and Louisiana (21.5% loss).
Other affiliates with losses of more than 15% include Arkansas, Georgia, Indiana, Oklahoma, South Carolina, South Dakota, Virginia, West Virginia and the Utah School Employees Association.
NEA is also experiencing a widening gap between membership numbers and revenue numbers. The five merged affiliates (Florida, Minnesota, Montana, North Dakota and New York) have some of the healthiest membership numbers in the organization, but their national dues revenues are split between NEA and AFT.
The 2014 numbers will show a loss of 3,000 members from the University of Hawaii Professional Assembly, mitigated by the gain of 2,000 or so merged AFT-affiliated employees in North Dakota. But the UHPA members used to pay full national dues to NEA and the new North Dakota members won’t.
Increases in retired members are better than losing them all together, but each new retired member also constitutes a loss of a full dues-paying active member. These factors help explain why NEA is expecting membership losses to flatten out, but still budgeted to lose full-time equivalents over the next two years.
The short-term outlook is relatively simple. Virtually all NEA state affiliates suffered over the last four years, but those that avoided heavy losses will soon resume slow but steady growth. Those affiliates that took the biggest hits will likely continue to hemorrhage members, and will be a drain on NEA’s national resources in an attempt to keep them afloat.
Recent Intercepts. EIA’s daily blog, Intercepts, covered these topics July 7-21:
* Will Karen Lewis Be the Next Mayor of Chicago? It tells you a lot about union democracy that she has a better chance of becoming mayor than becoming AFT president.
* Oregon Union Sued by Own Staff. That’s why it’s called binding arbitration.
* Old Fracking and New. Even some NEA affiliates have a hard time taking those new business items seriously.
* NEA & AFT Give More Than $2.2 Million to Democratic Governors. Win now, fight later.
* Florida State Union Takes Over Palm Beach Local. Caretakers or more?
* Meanwhile, in Modesto. Unresolved.
* Merger Issues Never Go Away. Full representation.
* “Common Labor Practice” Under Examination. A body in motion can come to a halt.
* Arne’s Riposte. Sending back a message.
* AFT Saves Me Money, Endangers My Liver. Hooray for live streaming.
* Nine Stories About Teachers’ Unions I Didn’t Write Last Week. Yes, even more stuff!
Quote of the Week. “As a former union leader and a lifelong Democrat who supports collective bargaining, I am deeply troubled by the rhetoric and strategy we heard at both national conventions. They attacked an administration in Washington that helped protect 400,000 teaching jobs during the recession, has actively promoted labor-management collaboration and has empowered classroom teachers to help shape policy.” – Antonio Villaraigosa, former mayor of Los Angeles, the former speaker of the California Assembly and a former organizer with the United Teachers of Los Angeles. (July 21 Wall Street Journal)
July 14, 2014
Direct Links to All NEA Convention 2014 Blog Posts. In case you didn’t follow along all last week with EIA’s gavel-to-gavel coverage of the 2014 National Education Association Representative Assembly from Denver, here are the direct links to each post, in chronological order. Enjoy!
Drumming Up Labor Strife – NEA employees picket the convention.
Membership Declines for Fifth Straight Year – Projected to decline for two more.
“Toxic Testing” – Let’s involve the U.S. Consumer Protection Bureau.
We’re Gonna Need More Press Releases – Spam vs. “hostile actions.”
Rage Against the Machine – Everyone is suspect.
Pearson’s Conspiracy Really Is Wide-Ranging – The real masterminds behind the edTPA teacher assessment.
Fewer Than 3 Million Bodies – No amount of double-counting, retirees, part-timers or non-paying members can hide it.
Milk of Human Kindness – Celebrate lactosity!
Collaboration – We can all get along.
Union Calls On Arne Duncan to Resign – While thousands of rank-and-file members ask, “Who’s that?”
Everyone Climbs One Rung – Steps and lanes.
Playing the Long Game – That’s what you do when your butt is being kicked in the short run.
Headline I Hope to See – Tenure.
Laboring – Delegates apparently don’t want their union to bargain in good faith.
The World Will Little Note, Nor Long Remember What We Say Here… – Back to the future.
You Had to Be There – “RA Memes” captured the true flavor of the convention.
You Might Just Be a Member – Items of note from the final day.
June 23, 2014
Coverage of the NEA Representative Assembly Begins July 2. For the 17th consecutive year EIA will provide daily gavel-to-gavel coverage from the floor of the National Education Association Representative Assembly (RA). This year the convention takes place in Denver, Colorado. For those of you who are new to the communiqué, you should know that distribution works a little differently that week.
I will blog each day’s events on Intercepts, which you can check at your convenience, or you can subscribe to the blog’s RSS feed. If you prefer, go to the Intercepts page, where you can sign up for blog updates via automatic e-mail. You need provide only your e-mail address. Feedburner will send you a verification e-mail and then confirm your subscription. From that point on you’ll get one, and only one, e-mail per day with the full text of the content I have added to the blog that day.
The first convention report will be posted July 2 and each evening thereafter until the convention closes on July 6.
You will not receive a communiqué for the next two weeks. On July 14 I will send a communiqué with direct links to all the items I posted on the blog during the week of the convention.
Shorter version: If you want to read about what’s going on as it happens, subscribe to the blog. If you can contain yourself until the 14th, do nothing.
Amid the fire and brimstone I will be available via 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 17-23:
* NEA Man to Head California Senate. A new venue to practice singular skills.
* In Defense of Checking Footnotes. Turnover assertions have some dust on them.
* Emerging Stocks. NEA’s executive director is handed a big wallet.
* Local News. Voting sure makes things complicated.
Quote of the Week #1. “Districts get public money for the purpose of spending it in the classroom, not for hoarding it.” – Mike Myslinski, spokesman for the California Teachers Association, after Democrats inserted into the state budget a provision that limits the amount of money school districts can keep in their reserves. (June 14 Los Angeles Times)
Quote of the Week #2. “We’re looking to remove anything that would jeopardize a teacher’s career.” – Karen Magee, president of New York State United Teachers, explaining the union’s negotiating position on the state’s teacher evaluation system. (June 18 Chalkbeat New York)
Quote of the Week #3. “Four uncontroversial resolutions were passed. One called for a $15 per hour minimum wage; another called for retirement security like we have for every working person; a third was on expanding parking for UFT members and a fourth was on boycotting Staples because they hire non-union people to do work that US Postal Service Workers do. All of the resolutions carried and after the meeting there was a raffle. Irony of all ironies was when I was told the raffle papers were printed on Staples paper.” – James Eterno, United Federation of Teachers chapter leader, reporting on the union’s recent delegate assembly. (June 15 MORE blog)
June 16, 2014
School’s Out, But Teacher Union Stories Are In. The Vergara ruling pushed the subject of teachers’ unions from the arcane pages of obscure niche blogs in northern California to the front pages and lead stories of press outlets everywhere.
While the mainstream media played catch-up, the edusphere highlighted some union-centric stories to help bring all of us up to speed.
* Education Week ran “NEA Aims to Revive Organizing as Membership Drops.”
For one, observers say, the NEA’s organizing skills got rusty during the boom years of the 1990s, when class-size-reduction initiatives and flush budgets helped pushed up membership. For another, “agency fee” laws in some states that compel nonmembers to pay some portion of bargaining costs assured that the union won dollars, but not always loyalty, from teachers.
“People actually had to pay for the service they were using, but on the other hand, it meant [the NEA] didn’t have to worry about organizing new members,” said Julia Koppich, a San Francisco-based independent consultant who has written extensively about unions.
The paradox is that as NEA’s membership revenues shrink, it becomes even more cost-effective to use the statehouse to pick up new members, rather than recruit them retail.
* Case in point, in a follow-up to this story, NEA executive director John Stocks was named the chairman of the board of directors of the Democracy Alliance, a coalition of wealthy liberals. Stocks replaced Rob McKay, heir to the Taco Bell fortune.
Van Roekel, the NEA president, said dissent is inevitable. “When there are 3 million members, we’re rarely going to have 100 percent unanimity,” he said. But he said he believes “the vast majority” of union members back the strategies the leadership has laid out.
What’s more, Van Roekel said he senses an “organic groundswell” of support for the union’s vision of the future of public education and believes parents will rally behind their teachers, no matter how the legal cases go or how much money rolls in to support opposition candidates.
…And some analysts, even those sympathetic to organized labor, say the teachers unions risk alienating the public with their constant complaints about the conspiracy of wealthy forces arrayed against them and their defense of job protections like those found unconstitutional this week in California.
* “We’re not going away. I can guarantee it,” Van Roekel told Politico. But he is going away. He is term-limited out of office this year and will be replaced by vice president Lily Eskelsen Garcia. Education Next published a mostly sympathetic profile of Eskelsen Garcia under the headline “Teacher of the Year to Union President.”
Still, in an interview in her office, Eskelsen García said the unions are far less powerful than they were in their heyday in the 1970s and 1980s.
But, she acknowledged, that may be for the best.
“When you feel like you don’t need anybody’s help and you’ll just do it on your own, you just talk to yourselves about what it is we need out there,” she said. “You forget to ask parents what is it they’re looking for for their kids, and you forget to ask taxpayers what they think is a good investment of their tax dollars.”
* In the same issue, Education Next excerpted a chapter called “Facing the Union Challenge” from Terry Moe’s new book.
Superior power doesn’t mean that the teachers unions always get the policies they want. The American system of checks and balances makes that impossible, because its multiple veto points ensure that shepherding new laws through the political process is extremely difficult. The flip side, however, is that blocking new laws is much easier, for opponents need succeed at just one veto point to win. And this is how the teachers unions have used their political power in shaping the nation’s schools: not by imposing the policies they want, but by blocking or weakening those they don’t want – and thus preventing true reform.
If we keep getting this much coverage of union stuff, maybe I can retire.
Recent Intercepts. EIA’s daily blog, Intercepts, covered these topics June 10-16:
* Judge Rules in Favor of Vergara… Thanks to David Berliner?! Defense witness cited in judge’s ruling.
* Berliner Denies Making “Grossly Ineffective” Remark. And elaborates in this story.
* Teacher Union Wordsmiths. The magic words.
* Arne Duncan’s Moonwalk. How to say two things at once.
* Meanwhile, Colorado Union Also Loses Tenure Battle. Turns out having the school principal consent to a teacher’s hiring isn’t unconstitutional.
Quote of the Week #1. “I think teaching is deeply uncertain work. You go in, you engage in a relationship and you see what together you and the students discover and the knowledge that you make. You shouldn’t know what’s going to happen. The whole idea that we have lesson plans that are designed around goals and objectives, and people go in and watch and say – and it’s happening everywhere, you know – ‘Are your goals on the board? Are your objectives on the board? If I ask that student, will they know the goal of this classroom?’ That’s entirely and completely contrary to how I understand what it means to be an educator. And that’s being forced on us.” – Barbara Madeloni, president of the Massachusetts Teachers Association, at the National edTPA Conference on March 8.
Quote of the Week #1a. “I don’t care who you are. If you teach any course, whether you have a syllabus or a textbook, you have to know something about what you expect of students. Can you imagine teaching a class of any grade and everyday having no idea what you were going to do? ‘We’ll just let the flow go.’” (audience laughter) – Dennis Van Roekel, president of the National Education Association, at the Arizona Education Association Delegate Assembly on April 26.
June 9, 2014
Barbara Madeloni Plays the Race Card. Newly elected president of the Massachusetts Teachers Association Barbara Madeloni is clearly going to be the source of much entertainment for the next few years. We have her explanation of what makes a good teacher. Now we can learn about teacher evaluations and race.
Madeloni was until recently the director of the secondary teacher education program at the University of Massachusetts at Amherst’s College of Education. A profile in the Boston Globe directed me to this video of her at a March conference at Barnard College. If you can’t watch the entire 14 minutes, shoot ahead to about the 11-minute mark.
Here you will find Madeloni describing teaching as “deeply uncertain work,” and that “you shouldn’t know what’s going to happen.” She says having lesson plans with goals and objectives is “entirely and completely contrary to how I understand what it means to be an educator.”
That’s fine. Her work was with graduate students, and if they didn’t like the way she approached education, they could easily find another instructor or another school.
Madeloni is angry about outsiders interfering in her classroom and evaluating what happens there. She doesn’t believe teachers and students should be judged by “people they don’t know” and suggests that such practices are dangerous in the “surveillance state” in which we live.
Who knew that the NBPTS and the NSA were working together?
Madeloni is often described as an opponent of standardized testing. It’s more correct to say she is an opponent of standardization. She calls it a means “to get rid of difference.” And then she swings for the fences.
“In our culture, which is infused with white supremacy, that’s what white supremacy is, is getting rid of difference,” she said.
There ought to be a law against old white people lecturing us on white supremacy.
UMass Amherst ranked 910th in ethnic diversity among American colleges and universities. Out of 1,596 graduate students in Fall 2013, 62 were African-American (3.9%). About 4.6 percent of the faculty were African-American, and of the 68 faculty members in the university’s school of education, 14 were minorities (21%). Their race/ethnicity was not further disaggregated.
Madeloni’s workplace was mighty white, but her hometown of Northampton is even whiter. U.S. Census Bureau data from 2010 report a population of 12.3% minorities (2.7% African American). The evidence suggests Madeloni doesn’t live on the poor side of town.
If the goal of the standards movement is getting rid of difference, it can bypass Madeloni’s environment. That mission has been accomplished.
Recent Intercepts. EIA’s daily blog, Intercepts, covered these topics June 3-9:
* Alabama and the Black Knight. It’s just a flesh wound!
* Why the Alabama Education Association Rolled the Dice. Automatic PAC money about to dry up.
* Yee-sh. There’s always 10 percent who don’t get the word.
* The Marxist Dialectic. Which is more capitalist – China or Vermont?
* Movers Drive Down Union Numbers. U-Haul over union hall.
Quote of the Week. “No union – even one in Chicago – can be that stupid.” – Ben Joravsky, columnist for the Chicago Reader, upon learning that SEIU Local 73, which represents city and school support employees, had contributed $25,000 to Mayor Rahm Emanuel’s reelection campaign. (June 4 Chicago Reader)
June 2, 2014
Alabama GOP Gets Dose of Teacher Union Bipartisanship. Two articles of faith about teachers’ unions are being put to the test in Alabama’s primaries tomorrow. The first is that Alabama is one of those “weak union” states. The other is that teachers’ unions give all their political money to Democrats.
The Alabama Education Association (AEA) is attempting to put both of those beliefs to rest simultaneously as it makes an unprecedented effort to dismantle the Republican supermajority in the state legislature. Its unique method of accomplishing this is to throw huge amounts of money at Republicans.
Our story begins with National Research Services, a previously unknown firm with a Tennessee post office box that incorporated in Delaware on a Friday and received hundreds of thousands of dollars of AEA PAC money the next Monday.
National Research Services then provided campaign advertising to a slew of friendly Republican incumbents and the primary challengers to the unfriendly Republican incumbents. On May 9, the union’s PAC had already spent more than $2.1 million on the primaries, far exceeding any other group.
AEA is so set on ousting the sitting GOP legislators, it is spending money on mailers accusing the incumbent Republicans of voting to “bring Obamacare to Alabama.”
The weekly campaign disclosure reports continue to show almost all of AEA’s PAC contributions going to Republican candidates.
State representative Todd Greeson is a Republican running for an open senate seat. He has received $200,000 from AEA, but sought to highlight his independence.
“Outside of probably the NRA, that’s probably the only group I’ve voted 100 percent with,” he said. “And pro-life – I’m about 100 percent (voting) on pro-life. That’s about it. That’s the only areas I’ve voted with a special interest group. But the NRA doesn’t really contribute money in a legislative race.”
AEA is either getting very broadminded in supporting gun-toting, abortion-hating, Obamacare-damning Republicans for office, or it is engaging in the worst kind of cynical political power play – the kind of thing teachers’ unions always claim to be above.
But there’s plenty of cynicism to go around. The Republicans and pundits who have complained for years about the percentages of teacher union money going to Democrats can now see what the reverse looks like. Do they feel better or worse?
Recent Intercepts. EIA’s daily blog, Intercepts, covered these topics May 28-June 2:
* Will There Be an NEA Constitutional Convention? Three-ring circus.
* All the Seats at the Table. Union wants to negotiate who negotiates.
* “Zip It and Follow Orders.” What it’s like to report on unions… from the left.
* Newly Declassified. How it all works.
Quote of the Week. “One of the positive outcomes Zuckerberg points to: Newark’s teacher contracts, which, among other things, provide for performance-based pay bonuses for the district’s best teachers. He says the contracts are “better than anything that had been negotiated before…to reward teachers who were the top performing teachers and hold teachers accountable who were not performing well.” – from a May 29 Associated Press story on Facebook CEO Mark Zuckerberg’s $100 million donation to the Newark public school system.
May 27, 2014
NEA Sets Aside $10 Million for 2014 Elections. The National Education Association has designated $10 million from member dues contributions for the 2014 general election, an increase of $2 million from 2012.
The money will be used for a variety of political activities in states designated by NEA’s leadership as important battlegrounds, presumably to help Democrats retain control of the Senate, and for targeted House races. These activities are generally described as “communication to the public around candidates and issues.”
Since it is dues money, it cannot be donated to political candidates or their parties, nor can its use be coordinated with political candidates or their parties. Direct campaign contributions are limited to voluntary payments from members to the union’s political action committee.
Though we can expect NEA to independently use the bulk of the money to promote its education agenda, it may coordinate and partner with other labor unions on broader public policy issues.
Recent Intercepts. EIA’s daily blog, Intercepts, covered these topics May 20-27:
* NEA Looking to Dodge Pension Obligations? Defined benefit plans are a huge financial burden. Who knew?
* Barbara Madeloni on Good Teachers. Will the union let you fire a teacher for having a closed heart?
* NEA Sends $750K to Washington for Class Size Initiative. Mind the loopholes.
* Tennessee Education Association Will Ditch Dues Formula. A more reliable revenue stream.
* The Source. There’s no other way.
* Memorial Day. Origins.
Quote of the Week. “Without opposition, democracy withers. Politics, including union politics. is hollow, autocratic, or despotic in the absence of opposition.” – Gary Zabel, labor advocate. (May 23 Open Media Boston)
May 19, 2014
NEA Survey Shows Growing Member Opposition to Common Core. The combined Left-Right opposition to the Common Core State Standards (CCSS) has drawn considerable media attention. But the uproar has been offset by the wide coalition supporting them – from business and education reform interests to the two national teachers’ unions.
The National Education Association intensified its backing last fall with the results of a poll and focus group of 1,200 members conducted by Greenberg Quinlan Rosner Research. The union proudly noted that “more than 75 percent of NEA members either support the standards wholeheartedly or with some reservations.”
The breakdown of the findings was 26% in wholehearted support, 50% in support with reservations, 13% without an opinion, and only 11% opposed.
Even while NEA was touting these figures it was conducting a wider web survey, encompassing almost 17,000 members in 33 states. The results of that survey showed a worrisome trend for the union and for Common Core supporters in general.
Support for the standards fell only slightly, down to 71%. Opposition, however, solidified to almost triple the previous number. A full 29% of NEA members do not support CCSS.
NEA’s response to this will be a more expansive version of what we have already seen. Since February, the party line has been to support the standards while denouncing their implementation as “botched.” NEA took this position despite the 2013 poll also declaring that “79 percent of respondents said they were well or somewhat prepared to implement the new standards” and that “44 percent said teachers were playing a major role in the implementation of the standards. 32 percent said teachers were being consulted.”
We can expect the union to more specifically criticize an overabundance of standardized testing associated with CCSS and especially its use as a means of teacher evaluation.
NEA wants to be the Common Core champion while washing its hands of the accountability provisions established in Common Core’s name. If it were just a tricky PR problem, the union might be able to pull it off. But if the opposition continues to grow at its current pace, NEA will start abandoning CCSS, and lay the blame on the usual suspects.
Recent Intercepts. EIA’s daily blog, Intercepts, covered these topics May 13-19:
* The Teacher Evaluation Test. Amorphous “multiple valid data points that have been appropriately vetted.”
* Send in the Clowns. Whoa, Nellie.
* Updates from Modesto & Wicomico County. Will the rank-and-file votes straighten it all out?
* NEA Names Malala Yousafzai 2014 Friend of Education. Previous choices pale in comparison.
* NEA Lifts Cap on Merged Affiliates. More than six now allowed.
Scheduling Note. Next week’s communiqué will appear on Tuesday, May 27.
Quote of the Week. “Is there any rational reason why you would give an assessment that 65 percent of our students would fail?” – Hanna Vaandering, president of the Oregon Education Association, calling on the state to cancel next year’s new reading and math tests. (May 12 The Oregonian)
May 12, 2014
New Narrative: Stodgy Union Leaders vs. Up-and-Coming Rabble Rousers. Over the weekend, delegates to the Massachusetts Teachers Association representative assembly elected Barbara Madeloni as their new president. She defeated the incumbent vice president Tim Sullivan 54%-46% for the office.
“We need to tell the stories of the destructive impact of corporate reform and hyper-accountability on students, education workers, and school character,” she wrote in a message to delegates. “We need to stop this assault at every level, however it manifests. We need to re-imagine public education as a space of joy, creativity and connection for students and all education workers.”
Spaces of joy don’t come cheap, so Madeloni proposes a “truly progressive income tax,” along with a three-year moratorium on “high-stakes testing, field testing and teacher evaluations.”
Madeloni’s victory is correctly noted as signaling a new direction for MTA. She replaces the term-limited Paul Toner, who was lauded as “forward- looking” by the Boston Globe for his willingness to work with school administrators.
We seem to be in a stream of more confrontational teacher union leaders these days. Los Angeles, Milwaukee and, of course, Chicago, have all elected union presidents with views similar to those of Madeloni. In Seattle, Jesse Hagopian, leader of a testing boycott, just barely failed to unseat incumbent Jonathan Knapp. Hagopian’s candidacy prompted one blogger to post a story headlined, “Seattle Teachers Have A Chance To Replace Their Stodgy Union Leaders With Up-and-Coming Rabble Rousers.”
National union leaders are feeling the heat. Their union bona fides are compromised by their association with neoliberals, corporations and some of the same Democratic politicians these locals are battling. They are triangulating by lauding the Common Core standards while damning their implementation.
Some union state affiliates, such as those in Tennessee and Ohio, are embracing this distinction in order to delay Common Core. But the middle ground isn’t holding up to attacks from both flanks. “It appears high standards are fine until they are about to be implemented,” snarked the Washington Post editorial board, while the Chicago Teachers Union passed a resolution opposing Common Core, stating it will now lobby to eliminate its use and will “work to organize other members and affiliates to increase opposition to the law that increases the expansion of nationwide controls over educational issues.”
Where is all this heading? Are these the dying cries of dinosaur unions unable to adapt? Or is it the harbinger of a new union militancy, aiming to combine economic populism with social justice issues to revive the labor movement?
Strangely enough, my views have to occupy middle ground as well. Policymakers, legislators and school boards who may have enjoyed cordial partnerships with teachers’ unions in the past may soon find their calls aren’t being returned. Their joint committees may have less consensus and more argument. The officers they have been used to dealing with may even disappear. The hand-in-hand stroll to the future of public education could revert to hand-to-hand combat.
But let’s not get too carried away. This movement is hardly a revolution. As is usually the case, a little history is instructive.
Back in 2000, Cincinnati Federation of Teachers president Rick Beck was lauded in the pages of the New York Times for his role in helping establish a modest performance pay plan in the district. The following year he was voted out by nearly a 4-to-1 margin.and replaced by Susan Taylor.
In 2006, long-time Minneapolis Federation of Teachers president Louise Sundin, one of the leading figures of the Teacher Union Reform Network, was ousted by Robert Panning-Miller.
Both were elected as up-and-coming rabble rousers, but by 2009 neither Taylor nor Panning-Miller remained in office, and the fortunes of both unions were hardly altered. There are many more examples of outsiders becoming insiders, or outsiders being unable to run a union effectively. Whether this current outbreak of militancy lasts is an open question.
In the meantime, life goes on for the stodgy union leaders. AFT president Randi Weingarten announced she would run for reelection, about a year after she called for a one-year moratorium “on assessment-driven sanctions tied to Common Core State Standards.”
And outgoing Massachusetts Teachers Association president Paul Toner? He’s running for a seat on the NEA executive committee. He has the endorsement of 20 NEA state affiliate presidents.
Recent Intercepts. EIA’s daily blog, Intercepts, covered these topics May 5-12:
* State Union Complicit in Wicomico Coup. Coup Plotting 101: If you’re trying to disguise your role in taking over a local union headquarters, don’t pay the locksmith yourself.
* BREAKING: California Teachers Association Seizes Modesto Local. An attempt to stop a disaffiliation vote by the rank-and-file.
* Police Turn Away CTA Takeover. Modesto officers keep wolves from the door in order to hold a disaffiliation vote by the rank-and-file.
* Modesto Teachers Vote to Remain With CTA. Rank-and-file get their say. Now both sides look stupid.
* A Way to Dodge the School District Border Patrol? Proof of residency more demanding than proof of homelessness.
* Only in New York…. Paperwork reduction.
* School Board Evicts Teachers Union. Why the Oregon City Federation of Teachers should be negotiating your mortgage.
Quote of the Week #1. “I don’t think it’s something we would invite our members to, but David Campos is a well-rounded man with many constituents and many interests.” – Dennis Kelly, president of the United Educators of San Francisco, upon hearing that the union’s recommended Assembly candidate, David Campos, hosted a fundraiser at an adult film studio that bills itself as “the largest fetish porn company in the world.” (May 6 San Francisco Chronicle)
Quote of the Week #2. “It is important to note that Ms. Gallagher’s campaign platform and opinions are her own and do not reflect The SCEA’s current agenda. While we applaud Ms. Gallagher’s creativity — and the additional money for education is sorely needed — The SCEA remains confident that additional revenue streams for education can be identified, perhaps through policies to reduce unnecessary tax exemptions to businesses locating here or to increase the quantity of taxable property.” – Jackie B. Hicks, president of the South Carolina Education Association, commenting on state superintendent of schools candidate and former SCEA president Sheila Gallagher’s proposal to legalize the use of marijuana in the state and use the tax revenue for education. (May 6 Charleston City Paper)
May 5, 2014
Plan B. The story I had planned for today isn’t ready for publication yet, so forgive me for resorting to consolation prizes.
* The executive council of the California Federation of Teachers voted unanimously to boycott Staples because of the office supply chain’s decision to operate postal counters without the benefit of the American Postal Workers Union.
“By this simple act – asking our members and educators across the country to buy their school supplies elsewhere – we put USPS management and a profit seeking corporation on notice that the quality of mail delivery is not for sale,” said CFT president Joshua Pechthalt.
* High school history teacher Jesse Hagopian is challenging incumbent Jonathan Knapp for the presidency of the Seattle Education Association. Hagopian led a testing boycott and is what you might term a social justice unionist. He has adopted an unusual tactic in this election: endorsements from outside the union.
Two city council members and a school board trustee recommended Hagopian for the job.
“This is the first I’ve heard of where political leaders have actually gotten into union leadership politics,” said David Freiboth, executive secretary of the King County Labor Council. “It’s pretty unprecedented and it’s pretty troubling.”
* I thought to headline this item “Do you understand the words that are coming out of my mouth?”
Yet another state, this time Vermont, has devised a brilliant scheme to save education costs. It is – you guessed it – school district consolidation!
The New York Times reports the state’s lower house passed a bill that “would give districts a few years to find ways to combine voluntarily. A state team monitoring the process would design a final plan for any remaining districts, ultimately forming 44 to 55 K-12 districts, many with at least 1,000 students. The new structure would go into effect in 2020, after approval by voters in the voluntarily aligned districts and legislators. How much money the measure would save is unclear, but proponents say it would create efficiencies and increase student opportunities by sharing resources and collaborating on programming, as well as reduce administrative costs.” (emphasis added)
A short dip into the EIA archives should be sufficient for most. In public education, bigger is not cheaper.
Recent Intercepts. EIA’s daily blog, Intercepts, covered these topics April 29-May 5:
* BREAKING: Court Restores Wicomico Union Officers. Reckoning.
* 18 Days. The coup fails. Now we’ll learn who was behind it.
* Nevada AFL-CIO Opposes Education Tax Hike Initiative. “…in fact it is a Gross Income tax.”
* First Responders. “They’re asking us to vote on something without documentation of what’s in it. That’s ridiculous.”
* Gag. Contract hits.
* Race to the Bottom. Teacher union vice president is “grossly immoral” but fairly well-off.
Quote of the Week. “The actions of Media Matters executives have placed employees in the impossible position of continuing to produce content espousing pro-labor values for an employer who is challenging our right to unionize. Not only is management subjecting Media Matters employees to arduous NLRB procedures, the actions of their attorneys indicate Media Matters executives object so tenaciously to our union that they appear willing to prevent employees from ever having the opportunity to vote on the matter. ” – Statement from the Media Matters Organizing Committee. (April 28 SEIU Local 500)
April 28, 2014
The Wicomico Union Coup Heads to Court. The takeover of the Wicomico County Education Association (WCEA) by a band of union site representatives is a bizarre event, unique in the annals of National Education Association history, as far as I know. There are many instances of national or state unions establishing trusteeships over rogue locals, and employing tactics similar to those used in Wicomico to gain control. But in those cases, the parent unions had the cloak of union by-laws and affiliate agreements to justify their actions. In Wicomico, the actions of the “interim managers” are entirely extra-constitutional.
While the question of who engineered the overthrow of the union’s entire elected leadership is still a mystery for the time being, we can ascertain the timeline and key ingredients.
Citing the costs of maintaining affiliation with the Maryland State Education Association (MSEA) and NEA, WCEA’s officers planned to put the question of continuing the relationship to the local union’s representative assembly, which consists of the building representatives of each school site. This action was controversial, and one of the major concerns of the opposition was that the question would not be presented to the entire rank-and-file.
MSEA seemed most alarmed by the prospect. In a letter to Wicomico members, MSEA made its position plain. “Actually, MSEA wholly supports an all-member secret ballot vote on the very important issue of disaffiliation,” the memo states. “Because of the importance of bylaws and the impact of this amendment, the best and fairest procedure is to conduct an all-member secret ballot vote.”
On March 19, however, the WCEA representative assembly voted not to take any actions to amend the by-laws prior to the end of the 2014-15 school year. Opponents of disaffiliation believed this put the matter to rest, citing the representative assembly as “the governing body of the organization.”
The WCEA officers and board saw it differently. They believed the rank-and-file had the ultimate decision-making authority and scheduled the all-member vote for April 28 and 29.
A group of building representatives, led by Gary Hammer, saw this action as a subversion of the will of the assembly, and set out to recall all sitting officers and board members from office. The WCEA by-laws set a low threshold for recalls – a petition containing the signatures of 20 percent of the membership, as long as the signatures came from at least 10 school sites.
They had a few problems, though:
a) A recall could only be initiated because of “an alleged violation of the Code of Ethics of the Education Profession or for alleged malfeasance, misfeasance, malfeasance in office.” It would be a stretch to label the calling of an all-member election as an act of misfeasance or malfeasance, but this was not an insurmountable obstacle.
b) The petition had to be submitted to the board of directors, who would verify its compliance with the by-laws and appoint a review board to authenticate the signatures.
c) There was no provision to recall every officer with a single petition.
Hammer and his associates cut this Gordian knot by circulating a second petition, which would immediately suspend from office all the WCEA officers and board members and appoint a group of “interim managers” to run the organization. The group claims to have 700 valid signatures on that petition, a number which would constitute a majority of the membership.
If the first petition had technical difficulties and disputable assertions, the second one was completely ad hoc. A petition with the signatures of every WCEA member would not give someone the authority to suspend the elected officers.
At 3:30 p.m. on April 15, WCEA president Kelly Stephenson and office manager Margaret Roe left the building for the day, locking the door behind them. The only remaining person in the building was MSEA UniServ representative Marinus van Kuilenburg.
Sometime during the evening of the 15th, the “interim managers” managed to gain entry to the building, change passwords for the email accounts, cancel the union’s credit cards, and change the locks on the doors. At some point they were also able to persuade the bank to change the signature cards on the union’s account.
Around the same time, they dispatched messengers to the homes of Stephenson and several other officers to present them with the recall petition and the petition appointing the interim managers. Some of the notifications were mailed to board members, so the seizure of the office occurred before all the affected officers even knew of the recall.
Having quickly disposed of the union’s entire elected hierarchy, the interim managers then fired officer manager Roe, whose own employment contract, as you might imagine, does not allow for summary termination without due process.
With control of WCEA’s electronic communications, Hammer and the managers notified the members of their action with an e-mail blast and web page statement.
“We have established a Review Board to handle the recall process as outlined in Article XII of the WCEA Bylaws,” they stated, which in effect means they will be in charge of authenticating the petition signatures they themselves gathered.
MSEA’s role in all of this is unclear. The toppled WCEA officers are convinced the state union masterminded the plot in an effort to avoid a disaffiliation vote. Indeed, it’s hard to believe there was no collusion at some level both prior to and immediately after the event.
However, this is a tricky situation for MSEA. MSEA’s officers may have found a disaffiliation vote threatening, but they can hardly be thrilled with the precedent of members seizing control of a local and bouncing the elected officers and employees like so many lingering customers in a saloon at closing time.
Asked to comment about the situation in Wicomico, MSEA director of communications Adam Mendelson told EIA, “Local WCEA members are currently engaged in a democratic process of determining who their leaders will be and whether they will continue to affiliate with MSEA/NEA. We trust and respect their decisions.”
That is a neutral statement, but one wonders if it would have been equally neutral if the sides were reversed, and disaffiliation supporters had ousted MSEA-backed incumbents.
For their part, the WCEA officers have retained counsel, and asked for a restraining order against the interim managers. The pleading is straightforward:
“There is no authority for Defendants to suspend Plaintiffs from office immediately following the presentation of the petition for recall. There is also no authority for Defendants to circulate a petition authorizing the Individual Defendants to act as ‘Interim Managers.’ The Bylaws do not envision using the recall process as a coup d’etat, which is, in effect, how Defendants have utilized the recall process.”
A hearing is scheduled for Thursday, May 1st in the Wicomico County Circuit Court.
Recent Intercepts. EIA’s daily blog, Intercepts, covered these topics April 22-28:
* NEA Executive Director Could Become the Left’s Big Enchilada. Expected to succeed Taco Bell heir.
* Wicomico President-in-Exile Speaks. Facebook remains in loyalist hands.
* Wicomico Junta Digs In. Advises members to vote “no” in election it just subverted.
* Indiana’s Eternal Special Dues Assessment. Join us and help pay our debt!
* No Reply. For the first time in its existence, Media Matters falls silent.
* This Week’s Local Union Embezzlement. Time to keep state and national dues out of the hands of local officers.
Quote of the Week. “As I consider Secretary Arne Duncan’s decision, I can only conclude rescinding the waiver is a failure of federal policy, not of our public schools, students or teachers. If we really want to do what is right by our students, we need to meet our constitutional responsibility to fund K-12 public education in Washington state. ” – Kim Mead, president of the Washington Education Association, after U.S. Secretary of Education Arne Duncan rescinded the state’s waiver to the provisions of the No Child Left Behind Act. (April 24 Politico)
April 21, 2014
Building Rep Launches Coup at Maryland NEA Local. My apologies if this ends up sounding like a dispatch from some war-torn Third World country, but it really is a tale from southeastern Maryland.
The elected officers and members of the board of directors of the Wicomico County Education Association (WCEA) scheduled an all-member vote for the 1,000-member local to disaffiliate from the Maryland State Education Association (MSEA) and the National Education Association. The issues were the usual ones in such cases – the local officers felt an awful lot of dues money was going up the line to the parent affiliates in exchange for not much in services for the local. After last week’s events, that vote – scheduled for April 28 and 29 – is very much up in the air.
Upset by the actions of WCEA’s board, Gary Hammer, a union site representative at Bennett Middle School, began circulating petitions to recall all the WCEA officers and members of the board, and to suspend them from office until the recall took place. Hammer and his supporters claim to have gathered 700 signatures, which would constitute a majority of the bargaining unit.
Last Tuesday, Hammer and others “entered the WCEA offices, changed the locks and codes, removed or altered office equipment and purported to illegally fire the Association’s only employee.” According to WCEA president Kelly Stephenson, “These actions were not taken in accordance with the governing documents of WCEA or in accordance with the law.”
Stephenson insists the disaffiliation vote will go on as scheduled.
As any good coup plotters would, Hammer and his associates seized the radio station, er, union web page. They have posted this message while deleting much of the site’s previous content:
On April 15 a majority of the members of the Wicomico County Education Association stood together and took necessary steps to prevent a small minority of members from dismantling the union with attempts to disaffiliate from our state and national Associations. The members have spoken and have declared that we are stronger together, and the support we have from the Maryland State Education and National Education Association adds to that strength. We have collected the necessary signatures to recall the officers of WCEA and have put an interim board of managers in place, effective immediately. This board will assume day to day operations of the Association and will move to conduct an election of a new slate of officers. These actions clearly reflect the wishes of the majority of our members who are anxious to move forward and who remain committed to giving Wicomico County’s public school students the excellent instruction and service they deserve.
They haven’t yet gained control of the union’s Facebook page, although there have been no updates from Stephenson or the other elected officers since last Wednesday. The internecine battle has already descended into anonymous accusations and name-calling.
It seems almost beside the point to note that there is no provision in WCEA’s by-laws to remove the union’s entire elected leadership with a single petition whose signatures have not been verified by any independent authority. Nor is there any provision for the summary displacement of elected officers by an unelected “board of managers.” Nor have the charges contained in the recall petition been examined to see if they meet the recall requirements set out in the by-laws.
It is beside the point because the legality of such actions becomes secondary once you have succeeded in pulling them off. The American Federation of Teachers has turned into an art the recapture of rogue locals, with one such incident being declared illegal by the U.S. Department of Labor, and moot at the same time.
A legal battle will almost certainly arise out of this, but if the WCEA officers want to retain office, they had best respond to the coup’s tactics in like manner.
Recent Intercepts. EIA’s daily blog, Intercepts, covered these topics April 15-21:
* Modesto Disaffiliation Vote Set for May 6. California Teachers Association restrains itself, so far.
* Charter School Unions: One Step Forward, Two Steps Back. Reporters love stories about new charter school unions, but never ask what happened to the old ones.
* In Wisconsin, It’s All Over But the Shouting. The resistance to Act 10 is in its final act.
* Support Media Matters for America! Hypocrites have rights, too.
* Run for the Border. What, no residency investigators?
Quote of the Week. “We’re willing to be militant about workers’ rights, and we also don’t feel the need to separate ourselves as ‘professionals’ from other workers. I’m as much a sister to an electrician as I am to a pediatrician, and I think that’s a shift in thought. Absolutely, I do want to be treated professionally and honored for my educational status and for what I bring to this world, but I don’t separate myself from my janitor at all.
“…Social justice unionists have to win union elections so we can push leadership to then become political and not always be just a rubber stamp for the Democratic Party. I can’t speak for all social justice unionists, but I know for myself that whatever party is in power, I need to be able to push them to the left.” – Michelle Gunderson, co-founder of the Network for Social Justice Unionism. (April 20 The Real News)
April 14, 2014
Where Do All Your Tax Dollars Go? For tomorrow’s income tax deadline, CNBC created a “tax tracker” so you can get an idea where the federal government gets its money and where it spends that money.
It also helpfully provides the differences from last year, and in the case of spending, the difference from what was budgeted.
Education is only a small part of overall federal spending, being mostly a state and local concern. Fortunately CNBC also includes all of the state income tax rates and state/local taxes per capita.
We have school spending statistics elsewhere, so it’s relatively simple to compare them to income tax revenues. As I eyeball each state individually, it seems to be a reasonable rule of thumb to say that on average it takes the full tax revenue from 2 to 3 people to pay the costs of one public school student.
I don’t mention this to make any specific point, just to ensure that we all have some sort of familiarity with the numbers. We can argue back and forth about policy, but all sides should be concerned about how unfamiliar many Americans are with basic facts of education. They don’t know what charter schools are, they don’t know what Common Core is, they don’t know what collective bargaining is, they don’t know what teachers make, and they don’t know how much we spend on education.
If they knew more of the indisputable, then the disputes we do have would be over the proper policies we should follow. Instead, we spend most of our time finding new ways to appeal to their ignorance in the name of votes or, more often, neutrality. Insiders and stakeholders then determine the issue. It’s no wonder we get education policy that appeals to them.
Recent Intercepts. EIA’s daily blog, Intercepts, covered these topics April 8-14:
* Second-String Theory. The Tennessee Education Association tosses up a Hail Mary.
* Berkeley Struggles With School Choice Black Market. Should out-of-district students refer to themselves as undocumented?
* Mixed Signals. Oh, Magee, you’ve done it again.
* Unique Poll Question. Union Democrats vs. non-union Democrats.
* The Other Union Election. Incumbent hangs on in Broward.
Quote of the Week #1. “The Wisconsin Education Association Council is recommending Mary Burke for governor.” – April 2 WEAC press release.
Quote of the Week #2. “Meet 10 Millionaires Spending Big Bucks to Win Higher Office…. Mary Burke (Democrat, Wisconsin governor, $400,000).” – April 13 National Journal.
Quote of the Week #3. “Mary Burke says Scott Walker left Wisconsin women without equal pay protections…. We rate Burke’s claim False.” – April 13 PolitiFact Wisconsin.
Quote of the Week #4. “Walker has 16 point lead in latest poll.” – April 10 WIBA radio.
April 7, 2014
Number Crunched: The New York State United Teachers Election. Delegates to the New York State United Teachers (NYSUT) representative assembly met over the weekend to conduct its usual business, and one item of unusual business. For the first time they were going to have to choose between two candidates for union president, instead of just crowning one by acclamation.
How NYSUT got to that point was the subject of much analysis and conjecture, most of it more informed and knowledgeable about the daily workings of the union than I could ever hope to be. The reasons, however, were irrelevant to the outcome of the vote. Whether it was a scheme, conspiracy, or simply a long-festering idea, NYSUT vice president Andrew Pallotta split from president Richard Iannuzzi, and a competing slate of candidates, called Revive NYSUT, was born.
I won’t even speculate about when Michael Mulgrew, president of the United Federation of Teachers (UFT) in New York City got involved. But as soon as he threw his weight behind Revive NYSUT, Iannuzzi’s days were numbered.
Depending on how you do the counting, somewhere between one-quarter and one-third of NYSUT’s members belong to UFT. This advantage was further magnified because the convention was held in New York City, making it much easier for UFT delegates to show up than it was for those delegates in, oh, Potsdam.
Also, UFT’s delegation belongs to the internal Unity Caucus, which has a loyalty oath binding its members to vote as the caucus decides or face expulsion. In short, the UFT delegates vote as a bloc.
Since there would inevitably be others who, for various reasons, would join the UFT side, Iannuzzi and his incumbent slate, Stronger Together, (minus Pallotta) needed the backing of virtually everyone else – all the other large locals, for starters. That didn’t happen. The higher education locals joined Revive NYSUT and eventually so did the largest K-12 locals.
All that remained was to estimate the margin of victory. NYSUT’s system of voting is arcane, in which “600,000 members,” of whom 382,000 are working members, send nearly 3,000 delegates to a convention to cast 328,013.8682 votes. I didn’t have the breakdown of available votes by local, nor was there any pre-polling of delegates.
But I had a pretty good idea of how many teachers were in each local and after a little math wizardry estimated Revive NYSUT held 56% of the delegates and the incumbents 24%. The incumbent slate seemed to have more activism and enthusiasm on its side, so I awarded them the bulk of the unknown delegates.
My prediction: Revive NYSUT picks up at least 60 percent of the vote. If it climbs to 70 percent, I would not be surprised.
Late Saturday night, NYSUT announced Karen Magee had been elected president and the Revive NYSUT slate swept all the officer seats. The union seems disinclined to report the margin. However, the MORE caucus, the opposition to Unity in New York City, posted the details.
Karen Magee received 61.2 percent of the vote and Iannuzzi received 38.8 percent.
I like being right. More than just about anything. But the hard part wasn’t predicting the outcome; it was listening to people who told me those numbers were wrong, or didn’t matter. Delegates in committed locals would switch sides. Many would be peeled off. Speeches would change minds. In the end, Revive NYSUT had a majority and the line of least resistance. Why risk leaving the winning side?
Now that the election is over, what does it all mean? The union wants to believe it was some sort of message to New York Gov. Andrew Cuomo.
If you say so, but it doesn’t really change the electoral calculus. Either Cuomo is re-elected or Republican Rob Astorino takes his place. Neither result advances the union’s interests, no matter who is at NYSUT’s helm.
There are three things to watch for:
1) Will NYSUT’s agenda become more focused on New York City at the expense of the rest of the state?
2) Will NYSUT’s policy on Common Core become “end it” instead of “mend it”?
3) Now that Revive NYSUT holds the purse strings, will it practice the financial transparency it claimed its predecessors lacked?
We’ll be watching.
Recent Intercepts. EIA’s daily blog, Intercepts, covered these topics April 1-7:
* Why Iannuzzi Is Toast. Union elections are much easier to predict than real ones.
* NYSUT Wants Education Commissioner Fired. Champions of summary dismissal.
* Union Campaign Contributions May Help Fund Yee’s Defense. And in California, PAC contributions can come out of teachers’ paychecks.
* Is Common Core on the Ropes from Lefts and Rights? Corporate plot? Government plot? Both?
* Iannuzzi Lightly Toasted. Bracketology.
* NYSUT Election Will Be Held Saturday Evening. Reckoning.
Quote of the Week. “With people in business I often say, imagine you’re thinking about taking over a company. What would you look for as indicators to see if it’s a healthy company? You wouldn’t look at their checkbook balance for one day of the year.” – Dennis Van Roekel, president of the National Education Association. (April 2 Politico)
March 31, 2014
California Teachers Association State Council At Work. A couple of weeks ago I put up a post called “NEA Fundamentals” and an Acrobat file that describes in rudimentary terms how the National Education Association governs itself. It is as useful for me as it is for you, since I spend a lot of my time answering basic questions about who does what at the teachers’ unions, and who sends money where.
I have come across a similar document describing the work of the California Teachers Association State Council. The council consists of about 760 delegates from across the state, and it functions very much like the NEA Representative Assembly, introducing new business items, electing union officers and approving the budget.
It is a single page headlined “What Happens at State Council?” I place it here, as well as on the EIA web site.
The State Council met over the weekend in Los Angeles. Outside of the speeches, positions on state legislation and political glad-handing, there were a few actions that illustrate how the body spends its time: sometimes reasonable, sometimes mundane, sometimes silly.
* The council’s Negotiations Committee addressed a new business item that called on CTA to lobby for performance audits of charter schools by the State Auditor. In a surprisingly level-headed move, the committee rejected the measure, with this rationale:
Charter schools are already subject to the same audit requirements as regular k-12 districts. Charter schools in fact have an additional layer of scrutiny because the authorizing agency of the charter school must review the charter school financials as well as the County Office of Education in addition to the required annual audit. Requiring the State Auditor to perform the audit of every charter school in the state is physically and financially unfeasible. The Local Control Accountability Plan applies to charter schools as well as regular k-12 districts.
* The Communications Committee wants members to share copies of the union’s newsletter, called the California Educator. It suggested “leaving copies of the magazine in public areas such as airports, dentist office etc., allowing the public to see the work we are doing and promoting teachers in a positive light.” This seems rather sad and archaic advice. Most people in those locations don’t look up from their phones long enough to even spot a union publication.
* A new business item from the floor called on CTA to “lobby Lazy Dog Restaurant & Bar and all other restaurants participating in Round It Up America, and RIUA itself, to shift their current charitable giving that goes to Teach for America and redirecting all of it to local schools in the communities being served.”
The makers of the motion explained:
Round It Up America lets debit and credit card users at over 200 restaurant locations round up their bill to the nearest dollar, and have the difference donated to charities. Lazy Dog Restaurant and Bar operates 14 locations in California and their primary beneficiary of RIUA donations is TFA. TFA has been criticized for sending underprepared “corps members” into high-needs schools, displacing experienced teachers, failing to support recruits, exacerbating inequalities, union busting practices, and deep connections to the likes of the Broad Foundation and Michelle Rhee. Charitable giving would be better directed to the schools in the communities being served.
The item was referred to the union’s board of directors.
NEA state affiliates of similar size have similar structure and procedures. As I come across such material in concise form, I will share it here.
Recent Intercepts. EIA’s daily blog, Intercepts, covered these topics March 25-31:
* NEA Membership Numbers Still Sinking. Lost the equivalent of Kansas since February 2013.
* We Hardly Knew Yee. “California teachers are proud to endorse Leland Yee.”
* Awkward Non-Gun-Related Leland Yee Tweets. “Thinking of all the teachers who helped me get to where I am today.”
* To NEA’s Credit. For all your banking needs.
* Local Union Treasurer Arrested. Safeguards in place.
Quote of the Week. “This march to corporatization – that’s the word that we’ve been trying to use because it does sound a little more ‘evil’ than privatization.” – Gera Summerford, president of the Tennessee Education Association, at a panel discussion at Tennessee State University. (March 29 The Tennesseean)
March 24, 2014
The “Social Justice Math” Equation. EAGnews.org posted video of Chicago Teachers Union president Karen Lewis talking about teaching math using “social justice” concepts at the Network for Public Education conference in Austin, Texas, earlier this month. She said:
You want to talk about organizing? You want to talk about social justice? People always talk about how that there’s no politics and values in math, that you can teach math without a place for social justice….
Johnny has five pencils and if he spent two cents for the red pencils and eight cents for the green pencils, and he has 47 cents, how many pencils can he buy? We’ve all seen that, right? That’s a very political statement, because it’s all about consumerism – it’s about buying stuff, right?
[Milwaukee Teachers Education Association president] Bob Peterson tells them about José working in a factory making piecemeal clothes. He uses the same numbers and gets the same answer. Math is political, too.
I wasn’t aware that the Chicago Teachers Union had a huge communal pencil bank, stocked with writing implements made from recycled ice cream sticks and graphite mined by Brazilian worker collectives. Everywhere else we buy pencils.
Lewis’ reference to Bob Peterson leads us to the book he edited with Eric Gutstein titled Rethinking Mathematics: Teaching Social Justice by the Numbers. The paperback edition is available to capitalist running dogs everywhere for the low, low price of $16.95. An expanded second edition was released last year.
When the book was published in 2005, it caught the eye of one sour old pundit, who reviewed it this way in the Wall Street Journal:
Partisans of social justice mathematics advocate an explicitly political agenda in the classroom. A new textbook, “Rethinking Mathematics: Teaching Social Justice by the Numbers,” shows how problem solving, ethnomathematics and political action can be merged. Among its topics are: “Sweatshop Accounting,” with units on poverty, globalization, and the unequal distribution of wealth. Another topic, drawn directly from ethnomathematics, is “Chicanos Have Math in Their Blood.” Others include “The Transnational Capital Auction,” “Multicultural Math,” and “Home Buying While Brown or Black.” Units of study include racial profiling, the war in Iraq, corporate control of the media, and environmental racism. The theory behind the book is that “teaching math in a neutral manner is not possible.” Teachers are supposed to vary the teaching of mathematics in relation to their students’ race, gender, ethnicity, and community.
This fusion of political correctness and relevance may be the next big thing to rock mathematics education, appealing as it does to political activists and to ethnic chauvinists.
It seems terribly old-fashioned to point out that the countries that regularly beat our students in international tests of mathematics do not use the subject to steer students into political action. They teach them instead that mathematics is a universal language that is as relevant and meaningful in Tokyo as it is in Paris, Nairobi and Chicago. The students who learn this universal language well will be the builders and shapers of technology in the 21st century. The students in American classes who fall prey to the political designs of their teachers and professors will not.
Ravitch has famously disavowed her pre-2007 views on school reform, but I wonder if we are supposed to disregard everything she wrote back then or is our amnesia supposed to be more selective? Surely such a prolific writer can spare a few minutes to let us know which statements are operative and which are inoperative.
As for social justice math, well, two can play at that game. If we’re going to inject that kind of thing into math class, these questions should be acceptable as well:
* How many loaves and fishes does it take to feed five thousand people?
* How many divisions does the Pope have?
* How good does something have to be before it is double-plus good?
Recent Intercepts. EIA’s daily blog, Intercepts, covered these topics March 18-24:
* Reruns. In the Los Angeles teachers’ union, it’s a short walk from fire-breathing outsider to fired insider.
* The Lesser of Two Evildoers. What are unions to do when Democrats leave the reservation?
* Both Sides Agree: Unions Got Squished in Illinois. Signs of public-private split?
* Krell Brain Boost? Aye robot.
* Decert Trend Goes All the Way to Guam. Can a single school break off from its union?
Local Control Quote of the Week. “We appreciate the efforts of the (San Jose Unified School District) and the San Juan Teachers Association to ‘ensure high quality teaching in every classroom’ as provided in their current collective bargaining agreement. Nevertheless, we believe however well-intentioned, granting the school board authority to unilaterally extend the probationary period of a certificated employee by an additional year would set a precedent that denies fundamental aspects of due process for all probationary certificated employees.” – Dean Vogel, president of the California Teachers Association, in a March 10 letter to the state board of education urging it to deny a request by its own San Jose local for flexibility in awarding tenure – shortening it by a year in some cases, extending it for a year in others.
Vogel further states that those provisions of the contract negotiated by San Jose Teachers Association “fall short” of CTA policy. (March 21 NBC Bay Area)
March 17, 2014
Special Quote of the Week Issue. It was another one of those weeks when the quotable were particularly quotable.
* “Who cares? Who cares?” – Diane Ravitch, reacting to the findings of the latest CREDO study from Stanford University showing academic gains for charter school students in Los Angeles. (March 12 Salon)
* “Her battles with the former teachers’ union president, Randi Weingarten, called to mind Mothra and Godzilla.” – Michael Powell, columnist for the New York Times, referring to Eva Moskowitz, founder and CEO of Success Academy charter schools. (March 12 New York Times)
* “It’s just another case when I was naive – I thought people who spoke out against the Common Core would be people who read the Common Core.” – Bill Gates, addressing criticism of Common Core while at the conference of the National Board for Professional Teaching Standards. (March 14 Washington Post)
* “Two signatures are on all our checks…[There is] no clerical error here.” – Maceo Dubose, president of the Guilderland Teachers Association, explaining why he went to the police when funds were missing from the union’s treasury. (March 13 Altamont Enterprise)
* “I believe in the dealership. I believe in the service that I get there but, given the political climate of what’s going on in West Virginia, the timing was wrong.” – Dale Lee, president of the West Virginia Education Association, after appearing in a TV ad for the Bill Cole Automall. Bill Cole is a Republican state senator who owns the car dealership. (March 17 MetroNews)
Recent Intercepts. EIA’s daily blog, Intercepts, covered these topics March 11-17:
* 1,200-Member Local to Vote on Leaving California Teachers Association. Not a fringe movement anymore.
* How to Find Bad News in Any Statistic. Turning higher retention into a retention crisis.
* NEA Fundamentals. Union governance simplified.
* Somehow Union Embezzlement Keeps Happening. Safeguards.
* The Campaign Trail. For the children.
March 10, 2014
Union Share of Teacher Workforce at Historic Low. Last week we examined how teacher unions stand in relation to the rest of the labor movement. As the number of union members overall continued its decades-long decline, teacher unions were able to add members for many years, and so became the predominant sector of organized labor.
But how have the National Education Association and American Federation of Teachers fared in relation to the teaching workforce? Was teacher union growth a function of organizational effort, or simply the expansion of the teaching population? Thanks to data provided by the Bureau of Labor Statistics and unionstats.com, we have an answer.
BLS began tracking union data in 1983. That year there were more than 2.6 million people employed as primary, secondary and special education teachers in both public and private schools. More than 1.5 million of them were union members, for a unionization rate of 57.5 percent.
By 1995 there were 600,000 more teachers, but the unionization rate was virtually identical. In the 18 years since, the rate has never approached that height again.
In fact, while America’s schools added almost a million and a quarter new teachers, teachers’ unions added fewer than 345,000 new members, for a rate of 27.8 percent.
Last year was the first time since BLS has been collecting such statistics that there were more non-union elementary, secondary and special education teachers than union teachers.
This is an extraordinary turn of events after an era in which NEA and AFT mostly had their way in education policy and totally dominated education labor policy. Industrial unions have been unable to reverse similar circumstances. Is there reason to believe teacher unions will be different?
Recent Intercepts. EIA’s daily blog, Intercepts, covered these topics March 4-10:
* Is Common Core Really Botched? “ObamaCore” mimics Obamacare.
* AFT Won’t Accept Gates Money, Except When It Does. Plus, guess who makes up the difference?
* Common Core: The Past 24 Hours. Not exactly settled.
* Put This One in the Circular File. Other than everything, the allegations were accurate.
* For One Dollar More. Bounty.
Quote of the Week. “There are school districts all over the country peopled with Luddites who are tremendously resistant to change.” – Nolan Bushnell, co-founder of Atari and education technology entrepreneur. (March 4 Politico)
March 3, 2014
Teachers, Not Teamsters, Are the Typical Union Members. We can watch the ebb and flow of union membership from year to year, thanks to the Bureau of Labor Statistics and unionstats.com. And we can watch the ebb and flow of teacher union membership from year-to-year if I can continue to pry it from a secretive National Education Association and American Federation of Teachers. But there has not been much tracking of how much of a share NEA and AFT have of union membership overall in the United States.
I have put together a table and posted it on the EIA web site that shows the combined active NEA and AFT membership for each state and DC in 2012 and the share it constitutes of active public employee union (PEU) membership and total (public sector + private sector) union membership. It illustrates that teachers’ unions make up the bulk of the public employee labor movement, and a growing percentage of organized labor overall.
* Nationwide, NEA and AFT members comprise 21.2 percent of all union members, and 41.5 percent of PEU members.
* The five states where teacher union members make up the largest share of the total union population are Nebraska, Alabama, North Dakota, Vermont and Idaho.
* The five states where teacher union members make up the smallest share of the total union population are Mississippi, Hawaii, South Carolina, Maine and Texas.
* The five states where teacher union members make up the largest share of the PEU population are Alabama, Nebraska, Idaho, Virginia and North Dakota.
* The five states where teacher union members make up the smallest share of the PEU population are South Carolina, Mississippi, Hawaii, Louisiana and California.
* Teacher union members are more than one-quarter of the total union population in 22 states.
* Teacher union members are more than half of the PEU population in 21 states.
(click for larger version or follow this link)
Recent Intercepts. EIA’s daily blog, Intercepts, covered these topics February 25-March 3:
* Breaking: Wisconsin Unions Postpone Merger Vote. WEAC cagey about why…
* Dues Issues Stall Wisconsin Union Merger For a Year. …but we find out anyway.
* Let the File Shredding Begin! New York’s largest locals declare for Revive NYSUT slate.
* Temperatures Rise in South Florida. Broward Teachers Union at it again.
* Whatever Happened to Ohio’s Charter Union Drive? Sound and fury, and dues money.
* “Final Clicking of the Tumblers.” Something’s definitely rattling.
Quote of the Week #1. “We can’t just assume that what we as leaders believe is exactly what our members believe.” – Dennis Van Roekel, president of the National Education Association. (February 24 Associations Now)
Quote of the Week #2. “Incented by federal grant programs, the influence of the 45 states that have now agreed to adopt the Common Core of content standards may have passed the ‘tipping point’ in forcing this issue on every state. Nebraska can be proud of its local and state autonomy in determining its own course. For as long as we are able, resisting the national folly of an immutable educational uniformity will be this state’s gift to its children.” – Craig R. Christiansen, executive director of the Nebraska State Education Association. Nebraska is one of the states that has not adopted the Common Core Standards. (March 2014 NSEA Voice)
February 24, 2014
Still One Growth Sector for Unions in South: Government. The world’s media outlets were virtually unanimous in their assessments of the failed attempt of the United Auto Workers to unionize employees at Volkswagen’s plant in Chattanooga, Tennessee. Reuters called it “a stinging defeat” for a years-long campaign “which had been seen as organized labor’s best chance to expand in the U.S. South.”
It was a stinging defeat all right, but organized labor’s best chance to expand in the U.S. South is actually the only place it has expanded anywhere for the past 50 years: government.
The Bureau of Labor Statistics produces a much-cited annual report on union membership based on the Current Population Survey, but it takes Barry Hirsch of Georgia State University and David Macpherson of Trinity University to present the disaggregated data on their web site unionstats.com. I am chagrined to admit I did not know the site existed until tipped by Stan Greer of the National Institute for Labor Relations Research. It is a treasure trove of information that I will be culling for weeks, but I will start with a comparison of the membership numbers for public employee unions (PEUs) in each of the 50 states and DC in 2013 and 2008.
I have posted a simple table on the EIA web site. Examining statistics for public employee unions alone yields interesting results. Cumulatively, PEUs lost 8 percent of their members in the last five years. Thirty-six states suffered losses.
PEUs in 14 states and DC experienced growth in the aftermath of the recession. Seven of them grew by 15 percent or more. Six of the seven growth areas are in Southern states.
The list is headed by Georgia, where government unions grew by more 36 percent between 2008 and 2013. Virginia followed with 31.9% PEU growth. And though Tennessee is now seen as an anti-union enclave because of the UAW vote, government unions grew 27.4% there in the past five years. Kentucky (22.1%), Oklahoma (19.8%) and Texas (15%) round out the list. In the North, only Vermont (16.7%) was able to crack this group.
To be sure, the South still is not uniformly friendly to public sector unions. The largest declines in government union membership occurred in Mississippi (-53%) and Arkansas (-42.5%).
But if unions want to stave off total disintegration, they would do well to concentrate their efforts on the one sector of the U.S. economy that operates without market competition or ordinary limits on workforce growth. That is as true in the South as it was in the Northeast and Midwest.
Recent Intercepts. EIA’s daily blog, Intercepts, covered these topics February 19-24:
* “It Is Up to Us to Ensure We Get It Right.” That “seat at the table” has a trapdoor.
* Largest NYSUT Locals Set to Fall in Line Behind UFT. Can’t fight city hall.
* Smack Talk. Just a little needling.
Quote of the Week. “Off script she’s a gaffe-prone name caller who deals the race and class cards off the bottom of the deck.” – Eric Zorn, columnist for the Chicago Tribune, in a mostly tongue-in-cheek op-ed urging Chicago Teachers Union president Karen Lewis to run for mayor. (February 21 Chicago Tribune)
February 18, 2014
NEA to Send $750,000 to NYSUT… for Common Core Implementation. Three weeks ago I thought NEA’s Common Core policy had reached the depths of incoherence when New York State United Teachers withdrew its support for the state’s Common Core standards until major corrections are made and a three-year moratorium enacted on any consequences from standardized testing.
“We’ll have to be the first to say it’s failed,” said NYSUT president Richard Iannuzzi.
But the unions have managed to go one step beyond. As befuddling as it may seem, NEA will award NYSUT a $750,000 grant over three years from its Great Public Schools Fund for the express purpose of implementing the Common Core Standards.
Sure, they can say that chunk of dues money is intended to implement the unions’ vision of what Common Core is supposed to be, as opposed to the way it is currently being implemented by the unholy coalition of corporations, reform groups and neoliberal politicians. That argument might even look good to some if they squint hard enough, but it entirely ignores the current situation at NYSUT.
Iannuzzi is struggling just to hold on to his job, and even his supporters acknowledge his recent actions constitute a change in direction for him. The three-year NEA grant is designed to fund a plan that may not last past the NYSUT elections in six weeks.
So what happens if Iannuzzi loses? The Revive NYSUT slate describes its Common Core platform this way:
We do not support the Common Core as it is. Unlike the current NYSUT leadership that supports it but declares it abstract and vague, “SED needs to get it right”, we will not support Common Core until it is “right” which includes the restoration of local control, a curriculum that is developmentally appropriate and an end to high stakes testing.
NEA’s officers have the option to pull the second and third year of the grant, but will they actually do that? I expect that next year NEA will be sending a Common Core implementation check to a group of union officers elected on a platform of opposition to Common Core.
Recent Intercepts. EIA’s daily blog, Intercepts, covered these topics February 11-18:
* Where NEA’s Common Core Policy Is Headed. They like big “buts” and they cannot lie.
* Pest Control, Dumpster Rentals and NEA Priority Schools. I guess the domain name wasn’t a priority.
* Mass Confusion in Kenosha. Brazen.
* The Island of Misfit Toys. I want to hear more about the “NYSUT saboteurs.”
* Ain’t It the Truth. Why we should never get too excited.
* Happy Presidents Day! You can learn from tests.
Quote of the Week. “We’ve become accustomed to having a peacetime chief, and that’s OK, I have nothing against anybody in particular. But what I’m trying to get people to understand now is that we are at war. And we need a wartime chief.” – Agustin Morales, a member of the Educators for a Democratic Union caucus, explaining why he supports a challenger to incumbent Massachusetts Teachers Association president Paul Toner. (February 12 In These Times)
February 10, 2014
New York Accounts for 90 Percent of Union Membership Growth. The Bureau of Labor Statistics released its annual survey of union membership last month, and the 2013 numbers were not as bad as many thought. The overall union membership rate remained at 11.3 percent (technically, it fell from 11.26% to 11.25%), and unions grew by 162,000 members to 14,528,000.
The Associated Press, Wall Street Journal and even the AFL-CIO focused on the gains in the private sector that were partially offset by losses in the public sector. Regional press reports highlighted state membership rates, but everyone failed to put the two together.
In 2013, almost 90 percent of union membership growth came from one state: New York.
According to BLS, New York added 213,000 jobs in 2013 and 145,000 union members – an astonishing marginal unionization rate of 68.1 percent. The entire rest of the nation added 1,320,000 jobs and 17,000 union members – a marginal unionization rate of 1.3 percent.
The BLS does not disaggregate its state data into public and private sectors, and I was unable to find it myself while digging through the Current Population Survey. However, last month the New York State Department of Labor released statistics that between December 2012 and December 2013 the state added only 110,000 private sector jobs and lost 13,000 public sector jobs.
Anomalies are normal when agencies compute statistics from different sources, but the New York numbers, coupled with the report of unexpected union membership gains in places like Michigan and Wisconsin, require at least a reexamination of this year’s BLS figures.
Recent Intercepts. EIA’s daily blog, Intercepts, covered these topics February 4-10:
* CTA Makes First Pledge of $3 Million for Ballot Initiatives. The floodgates start to open.
* Who Has the Deepest Pockets? Dominating the evil Super PACs.
* Texas Hold ’Em. Try it from our end.
* Randi Defends UFT. Plot? What plot?
* The Public Megaphone. If it’s free speech, why do we have to pay for it?
Scheduling Note. Next week’s communiqué will appear on Tuesday, February 18.
Quote of the Week #1. “Her claim was she gave the money to the homeless and students in need.” – Smithfield (Virginia) Police Lt. Patrick Valdez, referring to Stephanie Bailey, former president of the Isle of Wight Education Association, who was arrested for embezzling more than $43,000 in union dues. (February 7 Tidewater News)
Quote of the Week #2. “The summit began with a keynote speaker, Dan Thurmon, an energetic motivational speaker, performer, and author of ‘Off Balance on Purpose’. He used backflips, juggling, and unicycles to show that balance in your life is an illusion.” – Tim Brinker, retired member of the Illinois Education Association, describing the opening of the NEA National Leadership Summit at the Mirage in Las Vegas last month. (January 24 IEA Retired Informer)
Democracy in Action Quote of the Week. “There was a gentlemen’s agreement between Thomas Hobart and Al Shanker when they created NYSUT that the president would be chosen by the state and the (executive vice president) would be chosen by NYC.” – from a February 10 post on the Revive NYSUT Slate Lies Facebook page.
February 3, 2014
Special Quote of the Week Issue. With all the fun going on with the New York State United Teachers and elsewhere, I thought the time propitious to devote the lead article to quotes of the week.
* “Those FEA members who have been in Fairport for more than seven years know that I am very concerned that NYSUT is not transparent in its financial reporting to members or in its decision making process. Efforts to advocate for transparency have had little effect on the current leadership team. We know little of the way NYSUT pays its officers, sets them up with annuities for life, manages its debt, and no official minutes of its Board of Director meetings are provided to rank and file members or to local presidents/officers.” – John Baynes, president of the Fairport Education Association. (January 23 Revive NYSUT)
* “Given the opportunity to send a message of support and solidarity for the teachers of NY, NEA instead played Mad Libs with PR boilerplate and a list of stock phrases from every puff piece written about (Common Core). (Dennis Van Roekel) barely mentioned the substance or point of NYSUT’s resolution, but instead used it as an excuse to issue one more love song of support for CCSS. Lordy. How many months left till the summer?” – Peter A. Greene, NEA member. (January 27 Curmudgucation)
* “To be honest about it, the state is open for business – monkey business – and it is Mario Cuomo’s son Andrew who is the biggest monkey we got…. The people of this state are sick and tired of being had by this moron.” – Danny Donohue, president of the Civil Service Employees Association, an AFSCME local in New York. (January 29 CBS-TV 6 in Albany)
* “There is nothing ‘vibrant’ or ‘democratic’ about the way the AFT/NYSUT/UFT currently works. The bosses make the decisions, the party hacks vote the way the bosses want, the smaller unions join suit so as to be on the right side – and the patronage is handed out and punishment doled out for any who do not comply.” – New York blogger “Reality-Based Educator.” (January 31 Perdido Street School)
* “You can’t just order people to do stuff. If their health plan gets wrecked, why would they then go campaign for the folks responsible for wrecking their health care?” – Donald Taylor, president of UNITE-HERE. (January 31 Washington Post)
Recent Intercepts. EIA’s daily blog, Intercepts, covered these topics January 22-27:
* Iannuzzi Is Toast. It’s not about anything but vote counts.
* NEA May Change Rules After Wisconsin Merger. Like it or not, NEA has to revisit decisions it made in 1999.
* Get Out of Dodge? No one ever went broke telling people want they want to hear.
* UtahTube. Doing my part to help get out the vote.
* Punt. Performance pay?
January 27, 2014
NEA Can’t Deliver Common Message on Common Core. It is the established policy of the National Education Association that the Common Core State Standards are a good thing. There is a sizable faction within the union that disagrees. The problem is that there is an ebb and flow to the strength of these opposing positions that NEA seems entirely incapable of managing coherently.
Last July, delegates to the NEA Representative Assembly approved the creation of the Great Public Schools Fund, financed with a $3-per-member assessment. The roughly $6 million raised annually would go to union affiliates that “demonstrate leadership in enhancing the quality of public education and to assist in the development and implementation of a proactive agenda that engages members and leads to success for every student.” That is a fairly broad description, leading to expectations that a broad category of activities would be funded.
Nevertheless, the ultimate authority to release the funds rested in the hands of only two men, NEA president Dennis Van Roekel and executive director John Stocks. Last week the union announced 13 recipients of the grants. Nine of the grants are geared to ease the implementation of the Common Core standards.
The NEA delegates approved the fund by a relatively slim margin (55.6% to 44.4%). The margin might have been slimmer yet, or even entirely overturned, had Van Roekel hinted that most of the money would go to Common Core.
The NEA president is expending a lot of energy to diminish the concerns of the anti-Common Core members, writing in an editorial that “change is hard.” He also states, without a note of irony about the history of union communications, that “as a general rule, doomsday scenarios rarely materialize.”
As a practical matter, the BATs are a minor annoyance for NEA’s powers-that-be. Of more concern is the recent unanimous vote of the board of directors at the New York State United Teachers to withdraw its support for the state’s Common Core standards until major corrections are made and a three-year moratorium enacted on any consequences from standardized testing.
“We’ll have to be the first to say it’s failed,” said Richard Iannuzzi, president of New York State United Teachers.
So the national union is heavily promoting a program that its largest state affiliate is denouncing, while its members continue to pay to implement it.
If that’s not confusing enough, Iannuzzi might be out of office by April, and Van Roekel will be gone by September. Will this policy continue under their successors, or will there be a change in direction?
Recent Intercepts. EIA’s daily blog, Intercepts, covered these topics January 22-27:
* It’s Official: Civil War in NYSUT. Will it be New York City on one side and the rest of the state on the other? Inside the teachers’ union, that’s an even battle.
* Your Money, Your Voice, Your Choice. The forces of evil.
* Alabama Education Association Needs a Dentist. Bark but no bite.
* Let’s Do the Time Warp Again. The number one reason new teachers leave the profession is because we make them.
Quote of the Week. “Membership to the Unity Caucus in New York City is by invitation only. To be accepted into the caucus, one must sign a statement pledging to support the decisions of the caucus in union and public forums (the so called Unity loyalty oath). There is no public dissent allowed. In exchange for absolute loyalty, Unity members get all expense paid trips to the AFT Convention and the NYSUT Representative Assemblies where they vote as an enormous bloc. I very much doubt that the smaller locals in New York State have the funds to pay for their Delegates to travel to the RA and stay at the Hilton. The party discipline Unity has would make Mao envious.” – James Eterno, United Federation of Teachers chapter leader and member of the MORE caucus. (January 26 ICEUFT Blog)
January 21, 2014
NEA’s Own Elected Leaders Conclude They Are Disconnected From Members. In the wake of persistent membership losses, the National Education Association began a review of its organizational structure in an effort to improve efficiency and cut costs. Part of the project included a survey of NEA’s board of directors, state affiliate officers, Representative Assembly delegates and rank-and-file members.
The survey response rate itself suggested a problem. Thirty-eight percent of those holding an elected position responded, but only 10 percent of the rank-and-file did so. Since part of the survey sought to gauge member involvement, NEA was not off to a roaring start.
Each answer was analyzed in aggregate as well as within the governance level to which each respondent belonged. The first consensus was “NEA’s governance structure is too large and cumbersome to be effective.” A number of respondents referred to the union as “top-heavy” and disconnected from rank-and-file members. Even within the top levels of the organization, some leaders expressed a desire to remove levels of governance, or reduce the size of representative bodies.
Few members of each group said that the work of any level of the union’s governance structure was “relevant to their work as an educator.” Coupled with that was a desire for NEA to focus more on education issues and less on everything else. Even when education was the main topic, many at every level felt that the annual Representative Assembly (RA) and the board meetings did not spend enough time on business and spent too much time on ceremony.
The results of the governance review might result in less frequent RAs, or a smaller board of directors, or any number of other internal structural changes, but NEA’s greatest challenge is how (or whether) it deals with its relative irrelevance to the daily lives of its members.
To illustrate, the union asked the rank-and-file members whether they had contact with a union representative in the past year. Three-quarters had met at least once with a local building rep and 60 percent had contact with a local affiliate board member. But very few members had any contact whatsoever from a union rep above the local level.
More than 60 percent had zero contact with the state affiliate board, more than 70 percent had zero contact with an RA delegate, and more than 80 percent had zero contact with a member of the NEA board of directors.
The middle statistic is the most significant. There are anywhere from 7,000 to 9,000 delegates that attend the annual convention, and boast about being “the world’s largest democratic deliberative body.” In practical terms, the RA cannot be very democratic or deliberative if it never hears from three-quarters of its constituents.
But it is difficult to generate outrage on behalf of the rank-and-file, since they seem to be perfectly content – especially the younger members – with their lack of contact with NEA at any level. This is causing much consternation at NEA, but not much among young teachers.
The most involved NEA activists are much older than the rank-and-file members. When asked to explain why so few young members attend the RA, state affiliate leaders had remarkably similar answers:
Alaska: “Many younger members don’t know about RA, and don’t understand the association.”
Arizona: “They are often unaware of the RA or NEA as parent group, and they are not sought out to run/attend.”
California: “Some members do not know what NEA does and some don’t even know that they are NEA members!”
Colorado: “Most of our members including those under 35 do not have any idea that RA exists let alone how to be elected as a delegate.”
Montana: “Awareness about the NEA RA amongst younger members is low.”
New York: “[Little] knowledge of what the RA does/why it matters.”
In addition to these reasons, many affiliates noted that many older delegates go every year and don’t step aside for others to take their place – or, to be more accurate, to allow their funding to attend the RA to go to someone else. One state affiliate stated that the younger members “have little name recognition and are not likely to be elected if they run.”
Both supporters and opponents of the teachers’ unions should learn from this. Ordinary teachers and rank-and-file members should not be criticized for the actions of their union, nor should they be expected to defend those actions. Chances are they haven’t a clue what the union above the local level is up to. At the same time, the unions can’t use ordinary teachers and rank-and-file members as a shield against criticism of the union’s actions. Very little of NEA’s agenda was created by popular demand, or even created with popular knowledge.
What comes out of NEA headquarters is owned by the people inside that building. We should all keep that in mind when determining how to respond.
Recent Intercepts. EIA’s daily blog, Intercepts, covered these topics January 14-21:
* Is “Revive NYSUT” Viable? A proxy war for control of the largest state union affiliate in the nation.
* Revive NYSUT Plot Thickens. What’s really behind the effort to throw Iannuzzi under the bus?
* Call Screening? Call me maybe not.
* Living in a Gray Area. Where does your state rank in fiscal solvency?
* You Only Found the Bugs I Wanted You to Find. Union dues at work.
* Value-Added? Grade inflation.
Quote of the Week. “What do teachers receive for their dues? Why should we continue to support you? What rights and protection do current teachers really have? Why do new teachers have to pay the same dues with virtually no protection? Our groups plan to continue to spread the truth regarding the lack of IEA/REA support of its teachers.” – Jane Hayes of the pro-union Watchdogs for Ethics in Education and Rockford Educators Advocating Civil Treatment (WEE/REACT), in an open letter to Illinois Education Association president Cinda Klickna. (January 15 Rock River Times)
January 13, 2014
California Will Be Next Pension Battleground. Ignored for years, the unfunded liabilities of public employee pension plans have finally reached such proportions that even the most timid legislators are being forced into action. In Illinois it took ages to reach a deal, but a pension reform bill was passed and signed into law last month by Gov. Pat Quinn – and immediately challenged in court as unconstitutional by the Illinois Retired Teachers Association.
There is another large state with a mostly union-friendly but debt-frightened governor with a major pension problem: California. Gov. Jerry Brown released his budget proposal the other day. Boosted by higher taxes and increased capital gains from an improved stock market, the state expects a $3.2 billion surplus in a $108.7 billion budget. Well, it’s a surplus if you don’t apply any money to the state’s almost $218 billion in unfunded pension liabilities, the largest of which is the more than $80 billion the California State Teachers Retirement System (CalSTRS) is short.
Gov. Brown said he will “meet with the key players over the next year to create a plan for long-term solvency.” California has a Democratic super-majority in both houses of the legislature, yet the governor has no illusions about what’s ahead. “It’s going to be daunting,” he said. “It has to be done, and sometimes it’s hard to get things done until people really see disaster ahead.”
The flares have been going up for years, but it’s hard to imagine that even at this late date a solution can be found that will both reduce the liabilities and satisfy the public employees unions. The California Teachers Association made supportive noises, with a little reminder added:
We look forward to working with the governor and the Legislature on this state budget, as well as a plan to address the CalSTRS shortfall. Making sure educators have a secure retirement is critical to attracting and keeping quality educators in the profession. The state must ensure the retirement commitments made to our hard-working teachers.
That might even be achievable, at least until it bumps up against an even bigger CTA priority: increasing wages and hiring more teachers. The Los Angeles Times reports the union is already filing its wish list for the $10 billion in increased K-12 funding for 2014-15.
One-party rule and surplus cash can paper over a lot of disagreements. But if meaningful measures are taken to address California’s pension problems, the battle that will ensue will make Illinois look like a garden party.
Recent Intercepts. EIA’s daily blog, Intercepts, covered these topics January 7-13:
* This Can Never Occur Again. It has, and it will.
* The 21st Paragraph. Don’t let context spoil your sob story.
* How Investigative Journalism Really Works. Sausage-making.
* Grammar Pet Peeves. Supposably I seen alot of there errors. Irregardless, I could care less.
Scheduling Note. The next communiqué will appear Tuesday, January 21.
Quote of the Week. “The charter school movement was founded to deny teachers their labor rights.” – Brian Harris, president of the Chicago Alliance of Charter Teachers and Staff, an American Federation of Teachers affiliate created to organize charter school employees. (January 8 Progress Illinois)
January 6, 2014
The 2013 EIA Public Education Quotes of the Year
EIA is proud to present the 2013 Public Education Quotes of the Year, in countdown order. Enjoy!
10) “A lethargic membership is more cancerous than reforms, charter schools, and excessing. Members’ expectation of any president must be tempered with what they are willing to do for themselves.” – Nathan Saunders, outgoing president of the Washington Teachers Union. (July 31 letter to members)
9) “We’re not about picking a mayor. We’re about making a mayor, making the winner. And that’s what we’re gonna do…. I talk to them (the mayoral candidates) constantly. All of them. I know all about all of their families. I know about their dogs and this and that.” – Michael Mulgrew, president of the United Federation of Teachers, two weeks before the union endorsed Bill Thompson for mayor of New York City. (June 4 Politicker)
8) “Once at City Hall it became clear that the union — especially under its current leadership — was an enormous impediment to reform. Watching the parade of candidates genuflecting before the UFT and pledging fealty to its positions is an embarrassment. The prospect of the next mayor handing the keys of Tweed over to Michael Mulgrew makes me fear for the future of the city.” – Howard Wolfson, deputy mayor of New York City and former consultant to the United Federation of Teachers. (June 19 Capital New York)
7) “Where is the line in terms of how far the government gets involved in the operation of a private business, which is what MEA in its essence is.” – Doug Pratt, the Michigan Education Association’s temporary director of member benefits, testifying before a state senate committee about the union’s compliance with the right-to-work law. (December 5 MLive.com)
6) “As we celebrate the 150th Anniversary of CTA, we must remember that we were founded for one reason – and one reason only – and that was to engage in politics. We were founded to engage in the political process in order to create an organized system of public instruction and to elevate the profession of teaching in California.” – Carolyn Doggett, executive director of the California Teachers Association, in a January 27 speech to the union’s State Council.
5) “Anytime there’s an audit of Title I dollars, you’re going to see errors at the school level because schools spend money for what they need, and then sometimes they worry about if it fits the parameter of the grant later.” – Andres Alonso, CEO of the Baltimore City Schools, after a federal audit revealed that Title I and stimulus dollars were used for dinner cruises, meals, theater performances and a mother/daughter makeover. (May 23 CBS Baltimore)
4) “We don’t blame the firefighters when there’s a fire, and we don’t blame the police for crime! Why would we? Then why are educators being blamed for the struggles of our public schools? Let’s look at the policies and the policymakers instead of the people doing the work every day.” – Earl Wiman, current member of the National Education Association Executive Committee. (April 12 speech to the Virginia Education Association Delegate Assembly)
3) “It would be akin to making you and your wife redo your marriage license every year.” – John Havlicek, president of the La Crosse Education Association, describing Wisconsin’s annual recertification requirement for teachers’ unions. (November 27 La Crosse Tribune)
2) “Because maybe these teachers have an ungodly fear of interviews. Or maybe they’re on vacation in the Netherlands and don’t want to return for an interview. Or maybe they think interviews are a sham. It doesn’t matter.” – Lynn Nordgren, president of the Minneapolis Federation of Teachers, explaining to school district negotiators why unplaced tenured teachers who refuse to show up for job interviews should not be dismissed. (September 27 MinnPost)
1) “Since a teacher’s working conditions are a child’s learning conditions, attacking teachers is the same as attacking children.” – Randy Mousley, president of United Teachers of Wichita. (February 9 Wichita Eagle)
December 23, 2013
Pension Predicament: 14 NEA Affiliates Have Almost $700 Million in Unfunded Liabilities. The good folks at Bellwether Education Partners created a web site called TeacherPensions.org in order to focus some much-needed attention on the structure of the retirement system and its financial implications. The site features a range of opinions about teacher pensions, including that of National Education Association president Dennis Van Roekel, who says flatly: “There is no teacher pension crisis.”
Van Roekel defends the defined benefit system, and explains that a key principle of the system is “When actuarial liabilities exceed actuarial assets, the state and/or employer must make the necessary additional contributions to amortize the unfunded liability in no more than 30 years.”
That seems like a pretty simple solution, but if it were, perhaps Van Roekel’s own organization and its affiliates would not be experiencing their own mammoth shortfalls, due mostly to the pensions and retiree health care benefits they granted their own employees.
An Education Intelligence Agency analysis of 2011-12 Internal Revenue Service filings reveals 14 NEA state affiliates do not have the financial assets to match their liabilities and total almost $700 million in combined debt.
The ability of these affiliates to address their long-term debt by increasing pension contributions, as Van Roekel suggests, is compromised by their short-term debt. Nine of the 14 affiliates had deficits in 2011-12. In fact, the combined spending of all of NEA’s state affiliates exceeded their combined income by almost $24 million.
Even at the national level, NEA’s pension plan for its 2,600 employees and retirees was only 87.9 percent funded in 2012, down from 94.2 percent in 2010.
EIA has constructed a table that lists each of NEA’s state affiliates, its budget deficit or surplus for 2011-12 and its net assets, positive or negative, as of the end of the 2011-12 school year. For purposes of comparison, the table also lists the number of days each affiliate could operate solely on reserves based on its 2011-12 expenditures and net assets.
The 14 state affiliates with a negative net worth are:
* New York State United Teachers, with net assets of negative $302.8 million and a $24 million deficit in 2011-12. NYSUT contributed almost $30.8 million to its employee pension plan that year.
* Michigan Education Association, with net assets of negative $160.5 million, and a $4.8 million deficit in 2011-12. MEA contributed $14.1 million to its employee pension plan, and instituted a three-year, $50 annual assessment on its members for the express purpose of funding the staff pension.
* New Jersey Education Association, with net assets of negative $77.5 million. NJEA had a $13.2 million surplus in 2011-12, even after contributing $17.1 million to pension costs.
* Washington Education Association, with net assets of negative $35.1 million, and a $3.7 million deficit in 2011-12. WEA contributed $8.1 million to its employee pension plan.
* Massachusetts Teachers Association, with net assets of negative $26.7 million. MTA had a $7.8 million surplus in 2011-12 after contributing $4.1 million to its employee pension plan.
* Illinois Education Association, with net assets of negative $17.7 million, and a $17.9 million deficit in 2011-12. IEA paid $26.3 million to its employee pension plan. Despite its own mess, IEA is adamantly opposed to the Illinois state government’s efforts to address public employee pension debt.
* Indiana State Teachers Association, with net assets of negative $16.4 million, and a $4.5 million deficit in 2011-12. ISTA paid $4.1 million toward employee pensions.
* Iowa State Education Association, with net assets of negative $12.7 million, and a $4.3 million deficit in 2011-12. ISEA paid $2.2 million into its employee pension plan.
* Ohio Education Association, with net assets of negative $11.5 million, and a $1.2 million deficit in 2011-12. OEA paid $8.2 million in pension costs.
* Texas State Teachers Association, with net assets of negative $11.3 million, and a $243,000 deficit in 2011-12. TSTA contributed $1.4 million to its pension plan, and holds a $1.6 million quasi-endowment “to sustain the association for the long-term.”
* Pennsylvania State Education Association, with net assets of negative $8.3 million, though it did have a $9.2 million surplus in 2011-12, suggesting another similar year would put it in the black. It spent $7.3 million on pensions.
* Virginia Education Association, with net assets of negative $5.1 million, and a budget surplus of $1 million. VEA contributed almost $2.2 million to its employee pension plan.
* West Virginia Education Association, with net assets of negative $2.2 million, and a budget surplus of $132,000. It is unclear how much WVEA contributed to its employee pension plan in 2011-12, but its pension liabilities totaled $3.7 million.
* Georgia Association of Educators, with net assets of negative $1.8 million, and a $476,000 deficit in 2011-12. GAE paid $746,000 to its employee pension plan.
NEA’s largest affiliates are overrepresented on this list. This is problematic because the health of the large affiliates, particularly in collective bargaining states with agency fee provisions, enables NEA national to funnel crucial subsidies to its small affiliates. Many small affiliates could not sustain themselves at current levels without those funds.
As a union, NEA believes state governments should extract more revenues from taxpayers to sustain the defined benefit system of public employees. As an employer, NEA is aware of the pitfalls of extracting more dues money from members to sustain the much more generous defined benefit system of union employees.
It’s a race against time for NEA as it attempts to stave off public pension reform before it is swamped by its own private pension costs.
Recent Intercepts. EIA’s daily blog, Intercepts, covered these topics December 17-23:
* WEAC Asks NEA for Permission to Merge With AFT-Wisconsin. Delegate vote in spring, probably merged for 2014-15 school year.
* National Board to Cut Prices to Attract More Teachers. Pearson profit margins also cut?
* Wisconsin Recertification Votes Mean What You Want Them to Mean. Behold the power of apathy.
* Utah Education Association Fires Chief Lobbyist. If you see the governor, don’t smile.
* Pennsylvania Nurses Union Leaves AFT and NEA. “It just seemed like it would be a wise decision to move to a nursing union.”
Scheduling Note. There will be no communiqué next week. The next issue will appear Monday, January 6. Merry Christmas and Happy New Year, everyone!
Quote of the Week. “We still want open meetings. But we want them legally and contractually. We want them to have a discussion with us about it…. They open meetings unilaterally, and they closed meetings unilaterally.” – Paul Lemle, president of the Howard County Education Association, as his union and the district school board continue to bicker about opening collective bargaining sessions to the public, something both sides say they want. (December 23 Baltimore Sun)
For background on this story, follow this link.
December 16, 2013
Despite Staff Cuts, 25 NEA State Affiliates Ran Deficits. An Education Intelligence Agency analysis of Internal Revenue Service filings reveals 25 National Education Association state affiliates spent more than they earned in the 2011-12 school year, even though many of them instituted large-scale layoffs, staff cuts and early retirement incentives.
The union as a whole lost 3.6 percent of its active membership, but increases in rates were able to compensate so that total dues revenues increased 0.6 percent to $1.414 billion.
EIA created a table, now posted on its web site, listing the financial figures for NEA and each of its 53 “state” affiliates (50 states plus the directly affiliated Federal Education Association, which represents NEA teachers overseas and on military bases, the University of Hawaii Professional Assembly, and the Utah School Employees Association). The numbers include each union’s dues revenues, revenues from sources other than members’ dues, and the amount devoted to employee compensation. The statistics do not include the income of any of NEA’s 14,000 locals.
The dues-only revenue is the amount each state affiliate raises for itself, while the bulk of the “other revenue” is the amount it receives in UniServ and assistance grants from NEA national headquarters. A comparison of the two reveals which state affiliates are most heavily reliant on national subsidies to continue operating at current levels.
It is also instructive to note that while many affiliates and NEA national reduced staff size, the cost of employee compensation actually rose slightly. In most cases this was due to additional money that needed to be set aside to fund defined benefit pension plans and post-retirement health care for the union’s employees.
Thirty-two affiliates accumulated less in dues revenue in 2011-12 than in the previous year. The greatest declines occurred in Arizona, Idaho, North Carolina, Tennessee and Wisconsin.
The 25 affiliates that spent more than they took in from all sources (up from 15 in 2010-11) were Alabama, Arizona, Arkansas, Colorado, Connecticut, Georgia, Illinois, Indiana, Iowa, Kentucky, Louisiana, Michigan, Montana, New Mexico, New York, North Carolina, Ohio, Oregon, Rhode Island, South Carolina, Texas, Washington, Wisconsin, UHPA and USEA.
These figures provide a single-year snapshot of the union’s budgetary health. A turnaround in school hiring could provide more members and thus more revenue to mitigate these deficits. However, a significant number of NEA state affiliates are suffering long-term financial problems due to unfunded liabilities. Next week EIA will identify and analyze those state unions with red ink dilemmas that need structural solutions.
Recent Intercepts. EIA’s daily blog, Intercepts, covered these topics December 10-16:
* Literal NIMBYs. Oregon Education Association tells homeless to get off its lawn.
* Sub-Zero in Minneapolis. Another episode in the teachers’ unions inability to deal positively with charters.
* Music Has Charms to Soothe a Savage Breast, But It Won’t Raise Your Kid’s IQ. Music for music’s sake, not math’s.
* Happy National Day of Inaction! Lower price tag, same results.
* Teachers Union Skit. “Hail Satan!”
Quote of the Week. “Schools without standards, without accountability, are not worthy of a $4,200 check. The government-run voucher program described in this unconstitutional legislation will siphon public money from schools already struggling to make ends meet. As a father of children in the public schools, as a taxpayer, I find this offensive and wrong. I do not want my tax dollars paying for children to attend private schools.” – Rodney Ellis, president of the North Carolina Association of Educators, which filed suit against the state’s new school voucher law. (December 12 WRAL-TV Raleigh)
Quote of the Week #2. “Local educational agencies furnishing special education and related services to children with disabilities may contract with private special education facilities or service providers to furnish any of these services that the public providers are unable to furnish.” – North Carolina General Statutes, § 115C-111.2, first enacted in 1977.
December 9, 2013
The Indiana State Teachers Association Trust Collapse: Who Spent What Where. The state of Indiana finalized a settlement with the Indiana State Teachers Association (ISTA) in which the union will pay $14 million to 27 school districts. The settlement arose from an estimated $23 million the ISTA insurance trust owed those districts for misuse of their premiums.
ISTA issued a statement:
No members’ dues were used to fund this settlement. To protect the interest of school employees, ISTA and NEA funded litigation to sue those actually responsible for the collapse of the ISTA Trust. That litigation generated settlements in excess of $14 million, which are the sole source of the funds being used to resolve the state and school districts’ cases.
ISTA regrets that the Office of the Indiana Secretary of State has decided for political reasons to misrepresent the resolution of this case.
Even if the statement turns out to be true – and the available public documentation does not yet support it – it entirely ignores the costs of the trust’s collapse not just to ISTA members, but to NEA members across the country.
Let’s take a trip back in time to 2009, when NEA established an administratorship over ISTA and created NEA Properties, Inc. for the sole purpose of purchasing ISTA buildings and leasing them back. That resulted in a payment of more than $13.6 million from NEA to ISTA. All of that came from NEA dues money.
During the 2009-10 school year, ISTA had 140 full-time and part-time employees, with $21.3 million in dues income. Despite the building sale, the union was $9.9 million in the red, partially because it transferred more than $7.8 million to the insurance trust to fund “long-term disability claims, capital calls, legal fees, and operating expenses.” All of that came from ISTA dues money.
So the union was in the red, and driven further into the red not just to cover the trust’s liabilities, but because the trust was also operating in the red. Its expenses were $3.6 million more than its revenue in 2009-10. The trust’s legal expenses alone that year totaled $2.3 million.
Faced with monumental debt and future liabilities, ISTA raised dues by $40 per member and cut staff. During the 2010-11 school year, ISTA employed only 106 people. However, dues revenue fell to less than $20.7 million, the union ran a budget deficit and its total red ink increased to almost $12.6 million. To cover expenses and liabilities, ISTA transferred $11.9 million to the trust, which by now was taking in no revenue and had $6.5 million in expenses. All of that came from ISTA dues money. Legal expenses alone totaled $4.4 million. It did receive cash from its first legal settlement: $200,000.
The 2011-12 school year found ISTA with 88 employees, its dues revenue down to $19.7 million, another budget deficit, and its red ink up to almost $16.4 million. It transferred another $9.1 million to the trust, all of it from ISTA dues money. The trust actually ran a $1.1 million surplus that year, thanks to a $5.1 million settlement payment, presumably from UBS Financial Services. The trust’s legal expenses alone totaled $3.1 million.
If the ISTA trust accumulated a total of $14 million in settlement money which it then passed to the school districts, the final $9 million or so must have been received in the 2012-13 school year. We will find out eventually. It still does not erase the sum total of all these numbers.
Between 2009 and 2012, ISTA sent a grand total of $28.9 million in dues money to the trust, of which the trust spent $15 million, most of it in legal fees. At the end of that period, ISTA held a “note payable” to NEA of almost $16.6 million. NEA continues to use national member dues money to pay ISTA’s electricity bill, stock its restrooms with soap, and repair its sprinklers. The costs of the national administratorship have not been tabulated.
The ISTA transfers to the trust are fungible, so if it is accurate to say no members’ dues were used to pay the state settlement, it would be equally accurate to say it was entirely paid with members’ dues, and that the money the trust received from UBS and others instead paid for three years of legal fees and other operating expenses. Or to put it another way, NEA, ISTA and the trust received $14 million from the people they sued, but they had to spend $15 million to get it.
No matter what money you place in what box, ISTA and NEA members are still out tens of millions of dollars because of a scheme carried out by ISTA employees and advisors, and overseen by its elected officers.
Recent Intercepts. EIA’s daily blog, Intercepts, covered these topics December 3-9:
* My True Love Gave to Me a National Day of Action. I guess showing up somewhere is a sort of action.
* The Payments That Unite Us. Quite a few on the list of “National Day of Action” sponsors show up on another list.
* How NYSUT Can Reduce School Spending Inequality. What’s the number one expense in every school district?
* No Dues Used for ISTA Insurance Trust Settlement? Prompting this week’s feature article.
* So’s Your Old Man. How dare you notice my union ties?
Quote of the Week #1. “Where is the line in terms of how far the government gets involved in the operation of a private business, which is what MEA in its essence is.” – Doug Pratt, the Michigan Education Association’s temporary director of member benefits, testifying before a state senate committee about the union’s compliance with the right-to-work law. (December 5 MLive.com)
Quote of the Week #2. “Do I have a deal for you! For a small annual fee of $669, you can join a political organization I’m starting. It’s called the MEA—Matt’s Education Association. Don’t worry about writing a check; my friends in government will gladly withhold my fee from your paycheck, just like taxes, and send it to me free of charge…. You say you don’t want to join or pay anything at all? I understand, that’s your free choice—as long as you choose to find a job someplace else.” – Matthew J. Brouillette, president and CEO of the Commonwealth Foundation. (December 4 Pottstown Mercury)
December 2, 2013
Prison Pay, Valet Service and Ice Machines: NEA’s Contract with Its Own Employees. Though I have written about the fact often, it bears repeating that the National Education Association and its affiliates are employers. Between them they hire thousands of workers to perform a variety of tasks. Virtually all of these workers are covered by collective bargaining agreements in which the teachers’ union is management – bosses, to put it plainly. Union employees use the contract to set salaries, benefits, working conditions and protections against arbitrary actions by union executives.
About 500 people work at NEA national headquarters in Washington, DC. A handful of unions represent them, the largest being the National Education Association Staff Organization (NEASO). NEA and NEASO negotiated a 136-page collective bargaining agreement in June 2012, and it runs through the end of May 2015. I have posted the full document on EIA’s Declassified page, but to save you the energy of mining it yourself, here are a few provisions I thought were worthy of highlighting:
* It is explicitly noted that “An employee shall be permitted time off as necessary to use the restroom.”
* NEA must assume financial liability for an employee who is prosecuted or sued “because of any act taken by him/her in the course of his/her employment.” Under these circumstances, unless the employee is guilty of “gross negligence or gross irresponsibility,” he or she “shall be paid at his/her regular hourly rate for all time spent in jail.”
* NEA can fire or discipline an employee for just cause. Just cause for immediate termination includes “habitually being under the influence of alcoholic beverages or drugs during working hours to the extent that the employee is unable to perform adequately his/her assigned functions,” which implies that you can’t be immediately fired if you only do it once. Immediate termination can also occur for an “unprovoked assault on or threats to an NEA representative or another employee during working hours,” which implies assaulting or threatening someone during off-hours will not result in immediate termination.
* Outside of the usual crimes and misdemeanors, the only thing that will get you immediately fired is failure to pay NEASO dues.
* NEA reimburses employees for valet service if they travel for five consecutive days.
* NEA reimburses employees for loss or damage of personal items during travel if not covered by insurance.
* If NEA is forced to cancel an employee’s previously approved vacation time, it must “reimburse the employee for any deposits or other similar out-of-pocket losses necessarily sustained by him/her as a result thereof.”
* Employees can be reimbursed up to $700 for “technical equipment with a business purpose,” including broadband and Internet.
* NEA is required to provide “an appropriately furnished lounge” for employees at union headquarters. The contract specifically requires NEA to “make an ice machine available to employees in the building.”
* “An appropriately equipped and staffed health services unit shall be open during normal business hours at NEA Center. A registered or licensed practical nurse shall be on duty during those hours.”
* The contract dictates that computer monitors must be “equipped with a screen designed to reduce glare” and NEA must provide employees who work at computer monitors for an average of two hours or more per day a vision examination once every two years. NEA will reimburse employees for special lenses and frames for computer monitor use which are prescribed at that exam.
* Any “conceptual design decisions regarding the configuration of NEA office space” must be referred to joint labor-management council.
* NEA may be liable for job-related injuries or illnesses that occur while an employee is working at home.
* NEA grants administrative leave during national periods of mourning and on Inauguration Day.
* NEA provides no more than 214 parking permits for its headquarters building, and so must issue a $60 monthly commuting benefit for those who use the DC Metro, or $10 per month for those who bike to work. The contract requires NEA to maintain a bicycle rack. The issuance of parking permits is an important issue, as is evident by this paragraph:
If a non-bargaining-unit employee who holds a parking permit is moved to a bargaining-unit position, he/she shall be placed on the waiting list for a parking permit according to his/her most recent date of hire, unless his/her seniority would make him/her immediately eligible for a permit, in which case he/she shall retain his/her permit.
If a contract between union employees and union employers looks like this, it is only sensible to assume that unions believe such provisions are an essential part of the collective bargaining process. Do you?
Recent Intercepts. EIA’s daily blog, Intercepts, covered these topics November 26-December 2:
* “The union cares about all workers.” That’s why it won’t let them go.
* Another Kansas Teachers Local Decertifies NEA. Jayhawkers.
* Loving Gives No Loving to NEA-Loving. The price of a secret ballot.
* Happy Thanksgiving! Enjoy your ham.
* Black Friday Lesson in Fiscal Policy. Spending and saving.
Quote of the Week. “It would be akin to making you and your wife redo your marriage license every year.” – John Havlicek, president of the La Crosse Education Association, describing Wisconsin’s annual recertification requirement for teachers’ unions. (November 27 La Crosse Tribune)
November 25, 2013
Realty Reality: Massachusetts Teachers Association Puts Headquarters Up For Sale. It never occurred to me that covering teachers’ unions would require so much research into real estate, but land and buildings are valuable assets for most of the National Education Association’s state affiliates. The Boston Business Journal reported last Friday that one of these, the Massachusetts Teachers Association (MTA), is placing its headquarters building in the Beacon Hill area on the market.
The building, assessed at almost $5.2 million, has eight stories and 41,000 square feet of office space. MTA is reportedly seeking a short-term sale leaseback, which would allow the union to continue to occupy at least some of the space as a tenant.
One developer believes the building could fetch as much as $8 million if converted to apartments, but that would require the union to seek office space elsewhere. MTA would not comment on the story, but did post a release acknowledging the listing, admitting “Should a sale occur, the association may relocate some or all of the employees now in Boston.”
Executive director Ann Clarke said the possible sale was being explored “as the MTA looks at its options for meeting the future needs of the union’s members.”
That sounds like code for “we could use the cash.” I have reported previous instances of unions utilizing their real estate holdings to deal with debt, most notably the Indiana State Teachers Association and the United Teachers of Dade. MTA’s dues revenue continues to grow, but the union does have an expense that makes for an ugly balance sheet: staff pensions.
MTA’s most recent filings show accrued pension liabilities of almost $51 million, up from $23.9 million in 2011. Coupled with accrued vacation, post-retirement health benefits and other liabilities, MTA totals almost $70.2 million in liabilities against $43.5 million in assets.
Many of NEA’s largest state affiliates are in similar straits, and it remains to be seen whether they will liquidate property or employees or some combination of the two to address their shortfalls.
In the meantime, if you’re looking for an apartment right across from the statehouse, you might have some new options in the coming year.
Recent Intercepts. EIA’s daily blog, Intercepts, covered these topics November 19-25:
* Arne Duncan Still Safe. A web site to sign up for ObamaDon’tCare.
* Standardized Test Scores Don’t Mean Anything… Unless They Go Up. One-way accountability.
* Hope vs. Experience. California in the black…as long as pension debt is ignored.
* Crowder Named Tennessee Education Association Executive Director. Release time.
* Arizona Education Association Executive Director to Take Ohio Job. Out of the fire, into the frying pan.
Quote of the Week #1. “The school finance partnership was well-meaning and led to some great conversations among education leaders. However, its makeup was lopsided in favor of the status quo: leadership from school boards, administrators and teacher unions.” – Van Schoales, CEO of A+ Denver, reflecting on why the school tax initiative he supported failed at the polls. (November 19 EdNewsColorado)
Quote of the Week #2. “I think we ran as good of a campaign as we possibly can. Overall it was a fantastic campaign. People just didn’t want to raise taxes.” – Jim Strickland, member of the Memphis City Council, explaining why the city’s proposed sales tax hike for pre-kindergarten programs failed at the polls. (November 21 WREG-TV Memphis)
November 18, 2013
NEA Has 99 Problems, But a Pitch Ain’t One. In front of me is an internal National Education Association document detailing the compiled results of a brainstorming session of the union’s state affiliate leaders and representatives. These folks were split into groups and given a handful of tasks, the most interesting of which was to list those things preventing NEA from being more successful. They came up with 101, but we’ll subtract two in honor of Jay-Z.
Though they used different vocabulary, the participants repeated three broad themes they believed were the biggest problems with the organization: money, rigidity and communication.
* Money. In various forms, NEA activists worried that shrinking membership numbers and correspondingly shrinking budgets were affecting their ability to think long-term and strategically. Less money meant less time to spend on things other than putting out fires.
* Rigidity. Many activists complained that NEA was in a rut, doing things according to its traditions, enforcing top-down decisions and intimidating those who disagreed. They cited territorial battling, a lack of trust, and insecurity coupled with a fear of conflict.
* Communication. The activists addressed this both in the public relations sense (bad press, weak media coverage) and in the human relations sense (being in the dark, misunderstandings, slow response). Poor communication was the national union’s largest hurdle to overcome, according to the discussion participants.
There is nothing unique about these sorts of organizational difficulties. However, certain characteristics of teachers’ unions might tend to exacerbate them.
These problems didn’t spring into being along with the 2008 recession. They were there during the fat years, but as long as the organization was thriving financially they didn’t seem to hurt anything. What is now seen as rigidity and fear of conflict was celebrated as democratically derived consensus. Organizations devoted to solidarity prize internal support very highly. Internal dissension is acknowledged and tolerated only to the extent it doesn’t interfere with the union’s message. For NEA, there is world of difference between saying “this is what teachers want” and saying “this is what many teachers want.”
This brings us to communication. It is a failing of many advocacy groups to believe of their audience “If only they understood, they would support us.” Or, to put it more harshly, “If only those idiots would just listen!” A large number of NEA activists believe that the union is simply failing to gets its message across, and if it were more successful communicating NEA’s virtues to both the public and the membership, all else would be manageable.
The public doesn’t know what good we do. The younger members don’t know our history of accomplishments. The teachers don’t realize how hard we work for them every day. All of this might even be empirically based and entirely defensible, but it is also awfully convenient. It eliminates contemplating the possibility that your audience hears you fine, and is rejecting your message.
As I mentioned when reporting about the age gap between NEA activists and the rank-and-file, meaningful participation by a new group of members necessarily means relinquishing some power. Teachers most of all should know that communication is a two-way activity. Otherwise it’s a lecture.
Recent Intercepts. EIA’s daily blog, Intercepts, covered these topics November 13-18:
* Three Small Locals Oust California Teachers Association. “Regaining control of our association.”
* Michigan Education Association Demonstrates Why Teachers Need Representation. Contract players.
* NEA Sends $250K Common Core Grant to California. The new constructivism?
Quote of the Week. “Even during the Clinton years, teachers unions enjoyed the same political status as nurses, doctors, firefighters and veterans – a politically untouchable class of employee that engendered fuzzy feelings in the electorate and exultant, if robotic, praise from politicians in both parties. Those days are long gone. Since the recession, teachers’ unions across the country have weathered bitter, sometimes unfair, accusations that they defend their own ranks at the expense of students’ well-being – and, more to the point – their often generous pensions at the expense of taxpayers.” – Chase Olivarius-Mcallister, staff writer for the Durango Herald in Colorado. (November 12 Durango Herald)
November 12, 2013
School District Size and the Goldilocks Problem. Over the last century, the number of school districts in the United States has shrunk even as the population has ballooned. Today, the average American public school district enrolls about 3,600 students.
Even so, over the last decade more than a dozen states either instituted school district consolidations and mergers, or have attempted to do so. In each case, supporters have argued that larger districts lead to economies of scale and increased productivity.
The latest study to examine the issue appeared last August. Ulrich Boser of the Center for American Progress came to some measured conclusions about district size, the most prominent of which was that “many states have large percentages of small, nonremote districts that may represent hundreds of millions of dollars in lost potential capacity.” In particular he named New Jersey, New York, Illinois, Texas, California, Vermont, Oklahoma, Missouri, Montana and Wisconsin as states that could save money through targeted district mergers.
Boser did fine work, but seems overly concerned with the spending of these tiny districts while the flip side of the question goes unexamined. Having just compiled and analyzed per-pupil spending for all U.S. districts, and because I have frequently and forcefully expressed opinions on the issue, I decided to examine the differences in per-pupil spending between the largest districts in each state and the rest of the districts in each state.
I used the largest five percent in enrollment as the cutoff. That is, if a state had 100 school districts, I compared the five largest with the other 95. The results were educational. Of the 49 states (Hawaii has a single statewide district), 28 had large districts outspending smaller ones, including five of the 10 Boser listed as experiencing lost capacity.
(Click on table to enlarge)
These findings don’t disprove the claim of higher expenditures for very small districts. On the contrary, in places like Alaska, Montana and New Hampshire the results show some states are paying a premium price for smaller districts. But for some reason, no one wants to break up overly large districts to control costs.
One could just as easily make the argument that large districts in places like Massachusetts, Ohio, New York and Vermont are driving up the overall costs of education in those states.
Most states like to have school district boundaries coincide with city boundaries, but no one cares enough to examine why that it always necessary. Since very small and very large school districts both seem economically inefficient, perhaps states can find a sweet spot somewhere in the middle. That would be a policy discussion worth having.
Last Week’s Intercepts. EIA’s daily blog, Intercepts, covered these topics November 5-12:
* NEA Not Done Yet in Colorado. $1 million to challenge TABOR.
* Vallas Morghulis. The night is dark and full of terrors.
* Marginal. Has anyone at the Nevada State Education Association ever filled out a Schedule C?
* Work to Rule? That’s not in the contract.
* The History of Randi Weingarten. More than you wanted to know.
* How I Spend Veterans Day. Not with a bloomin’ onion.
Quote of the Week. “I felt a little guilty when I voted against it. It tugged at my heartstrings. I just don’t always believe that money solves problems. It’s difficult for me to write a blank check to the government.” – Erin DeMarco, a Colorado Democratic voter who pulled the lever against the Amendment 66 tax increase. (November 6 New York Times)
November 4, 2013
Who Will Get NEA’s Great Public Schools Grants? Last July, the National Education Association offered the delegates to its representative assembly a choice. They could either approve a budget with a dues level of $179, or a budget with a dues level of $182. The latter choice would set up a $6 million Great Public Schools fund, which would disburse grant money to state and local affiliates for projects “enhancing the quality of public education.”
NEA was deliberately vague about what kinds of projects these might be, but made clear that it was in response to “those with little or no practical classroom experience” who were “crafting policies and implementing practices that we know won’t work for our students.” The $6 million annually would allow the union to “fund our own ideas.”
The delegates approved the dues increase and the creation of the fund, although it was a close vote by the standards of NEA elections. It gave the union’s 12-member Executive Committee the power to write the grant guidelines, subject to the approval of the board of directors. I mentioned at the time that, as a practical matter, it gave the Executive Committee the power to dispense the money any way it wished.
Now that the board has (as it routinely does) overwhelmingly approved what came from the Executive Committee, it seems the disbursement of the funds is in the hands of even fewer union officers than I first suspected.
Single grants are limited to a maximum of $250,000 annually, unless waived by the Executive Committee. Applications are first reviewed by NEA staff to ensure that the request doesn’t conflict with the union’s other programs, and that the request does not ask for money for overhead, PR, lobbying or campaigning.
From there the application will be reviewed by a newly established Great Public Schools Oversight Committee, consisting of nine members, all of them at the highest levels of the national organization, such as the NEA vice president and secretary-treasurer, and the presidents of NEA internal groups representing the interests of large urban locals, state affiliates, education support employees, and higher education faculty. While all these folks have education experience, their presence on the committee is due to their place in the union hierarchy, not to their expertise.
If the Oversight Committee rejects the proposal, that’s the end of it. But if it approves, the application still can’t be funded until final approval is given by NEA president Dennis Van Roekel and executive director John Stocks. The two men can approve the grant, reduce it, or reject it. The only appeal applicants will have will be to the Executive Committee.
NEA has the right to set up any method it desires for the disbursement of funds, but I wonder if the delegate vote in July might have turned out differently if Van Roekel’s pitch during his keynote speech had been “You come up with a way to transform a school, then John Stocks and I will decide if it’s any good.”
The guidelines list seven criteria for evaluating grant applications, but I get the feeling that #6 and #7 will play an oversized part: the application’s “intentional alignment with key NEA initiatives,” and plans for the “engagement of members and/or non-member recruitment in proposed programs and activities.”
Of course there’s a big difference between Van Roekel and Stocks funding initiatives they approve, as opposed to Bill Gates doing it.
Gates uses his own money.
Last Week’s Intercepts. EIA’s daily blog, Intercepts, covered these topics October 29-November 4:
* Teacher Steals $10K from Union, District Doesn’t Care. A “faithful employee.”
* On the Wrong Side of the Final Frontier. “qaStaH nuq?” she asked.
* Bargaining and Selling. Public sector collective bargaining ignores most of the public.
* Vegas, Baby! NEA’s crap shoot.
* Wyoming Bucked the Trends. Boom times.
Quote of the Week. “When you look at all the uncertainty, you spend what you need to.” – Ginger Gold Schnitzer, director of government relations for the New Jersey Education Association, commenting on the union’s expenditures of almost $13.8 million on tomorrow’s elections. (November 1 NJ Spotlight)
October 28, 2013
NEA Activism: Not a Game for the Young. We are all getting older, individually and collectively. Some groups are aging relatively faster than others, and none more so than those who hold a position with the National Education Association.
As EIA reported last week, the short-term outlook for NEA is not bright, with membership losses continuing to plague the union. The long-term outlook may be even bleaker, because most of NEA’s activists – the people who hold union office, show up for rallies, and walk precincts during political campaigns – are nearing the end of their careers.
While they still can be a force in their retirement, the union will have to replace them, and the evidence suggests that NEA’s younger members just aren’t all that interested in teachers’ unions. It’s causing headaches at NEA headquarters, where the powers-that-be are brainstorming ideas to attract millennials to union activism.
To understand NEA’s consternation, we need to look at a series of demographic statistics. They are not all from the exact same year but they get us in the ballpark. The 2010 U.S. Census tells us that the median age of an American was 37.2 years. The National Center for Education Statistics states that the median age for a traditional public school teacher in 2011-12 was 41.2 years. The Center for Economic and Policy Research revealed that the typical union member (in 2008) was 45 years old.
NEA collected demographic data from the 7,000 delegates to its 2013 Representative Assembly (RA). The majority of these delegates already hold union office, whether as state and local presidents, members of state- and local-level union representative bodies, or as site representatives at their local schools. In short, RA delegates are NEA’s most active members. This year NEA learned their average age was 51.
This wouldn’t necessarily be troubling if it was just a vestige of retiring Baby Boomer teachers, but the same report also revealed that only 10 percent of RA delegates were under 35 years of age.
To put that in perspective, 24.3 percent of all union members are under 35, roughly 34.5 percent of public school teachers are under 35, and 47.2 percent of the U.S. population is under 35. Even worse for the union, the median age of charter school teachers is 34.2.
Discussion among NEA insiders centers on the communications aspects of the problem. If only the union could get its message through to these youngsters. Alas, social media and smart phones aren’t going to solve these connection difficulties. Think of it this way: Will a young teacher feel more comfortable and empowered in a group of people her own age, or in a group of people her mom’s age?
Opening up union leadership to younger activists will mean relinquishing some control over the direction of the organization. Suppose seniority and retirement isn’t as much of a priority with them as it is with the 50-somethings. Will the old guard stand for that kind of change?
All large organizations reach this stage. Do you want new people with new ideas or new people with your ideas? Unless the union is able to hash it out, the younger members will continue to display their indifference and seek professional and political accommodation elsewhere.
Last Week’s Intercepts. EIA’s daily blog, Intercepts, covered these topics October 22-28:
* “Let’s Get Rid of Step and Lane” Says NEA President. And then a little “revise and extend.”
* Public School Staffing at Highest Level in Two Years. Despite sequestration.
* NEA Rhode Island Officially Joins AFL-CIO. Slow disappearance of “professional association” arguments.
* West Virginia Thrived During Economic Downturn. Not usually mentioned among big-spending states.
* How Will Act 10 Affect Wisconsin School Spending? High-water mark in 2011.
Quote of the Week. “One privilege the insured and well-off have is to excuse the terrible quality of services the government routinely delivers to the poor. Too often, the press ignores — or simply never knows — the pain and trouble of interfacing with government bureaucracies that the poor struggle with daily. That can allow the problems in those bureaucracies to fester.” – Ezra Klein. (October 25 Washington Post)
October 21, 2013
NEA Membership Numbers Continue to Slide. The National Education Association lost an additional 61,000 active K-12 members during the 2012-13 school year, bringing the union’s cumulative losses to almost 300,000 working public education employees since 2008-09.
The NEA student program also took a beating, losing almost 11 percent of its members in a single year.
The loss of members will leave NEA with about $10.2 million less than it otherwise would have had, though it appears the union’s 2013-14 budget anticipated the shortfall.
I have no data on which states suffered what losses, but membership losses impact NEA state affiliate activities much more than those at the national level. State affiliates are likely to lean heavily on NEA funding for ballot initiative and legislative battles in the coming year. NEA national expects to have $38 million available to distribute for those purposes in 2014.
Last Week’s Intercepts. EIA’s daily blog, Intercepts, covered these topics October 15-21:
* Can’t Make This Stuff Up. Plan to show “how bargaining works for the benefit of public schools and the public school employees” leads to union grievance.
* Union Evaluates Teacher Knowledge… of Union. The standardized test of the year.
* NEA & AFT Affiliates in Michigan Form Partnership. Based on national model?
* Navel Gazing. Unions and the belly button tax.
* Washington State Districts Held Steady During Recession Years. Better off than many.
Quote of the Week #1. “Oliver Stone is the history teacher, and if you think of every approach you would not use for reaching your most disengaged students, you’ll get a sense of Stone’s instructional strategies. He drones on while the camera zooms in on the clock ticking and students falling asleep at their desks.” – Rachel Nobel of the United Federation of Teachers, commenting on the reality TV show Dream School, in which celebrities help teach dropouts. (October 16 Edwize)
Quote of the Week #2. “The kids were far better than this, and my experience was far more connective, an example of what this reality mentality does to all of us.” – Oliver Stone, illustrating that if he can’t teach, he’s at least learned the standard response to evaluation. (October 7 Starcasm.net)
October 14, 2013
Who’s in Charge at NEA? That’s more than a rhetorical question at the headquarters of the National Education Association these days as the union takes the first tentative steps toward reworking its governance structure. Preliminary reactions from high-level insiders suggest it will be a long and difficult process.
The current structure is similar to a multi-tiered representative democracy – similar, not identical, because the rank-and-file members get only one formal vote. They elect most of the delegates to the union’s annual Representative Assembly (RA), which meets for four days every July. The state affiliate representative bodies elect someone to fill each state’s seats on the NEA board of directors, which meets four times annually over a long weekend. The next highest tier is the 12-member Executive Committee, which includes the union president, vice president and secretary-treasurer. All the committee members are elected by a vote of the RA delegates. Additionally, NEA has a number of standing committees, such as the one on resolutions, whose members are also elected by RA delegates.
That’s the textbook version. Just like most other large bureaucracies, the real decision-making flow chart would look a little different. Declining membership and revenues has led NEA to re-examine a governance structure that was built on perpetual growth. The first move in this direction was requiring that one meeting each year of the board of directors and each standing committee be held electronically, instead of in person.
Now, ever so gently, the union is floating the idea of making the RA every other year, instead of annual. Coupled with it are a series of proposals to restructure the composition of the board of directors and reduce it in size from its current level of about 165 seats.
Most of these ideas are meeting with stiff resistance from the board itself. A large majority of directors are particularly opposed to having local and state affiliate officers serve on the board. Indeed, many are resentful that NEA’s officers seem to bypass the board and deal directly with state affiliate presidents and executive directors. Apparently NEA president Dennis Van Roekel habitually holds a meeting with state affiliate presidents just prior to board meetings. Some board members believe this undercuts their authority.
Somewhat predictably, board members are more open to changing the structure of other union bodies. They are willing to consider having regional seats on the Executive Committee, instead of the current at-large seats. There is also majority support for reducing the size of the Resolutions Committee, but the board is evenly split on whether to limit changes to the resolutions to every two years.
There is sentiment among board members that their meetings too often consist of lectures from the national officers and not enough decision-making participation from the board.
Whether or not the NEA board of directors is a rubber stamp for decisions already reached is open to debate. What is clear is that no matter what the true situation is, the board doesn’t want to be treated like a rubber stamp. The union’s dilemma is whether its current straits will lead to more democracy, or less.
Last Week’s Intercepts. EIA’s daily blog, Intercepts, covered these topics October 8-14:
* UFT’s Ghost Consultants Don’t Even Have a Logo. Laziest cover-up ever.
* The Scales of Justice. Weak bill vetoed, status quo unacceptable.
* More Students, Not Much Money in Utah. Stretching a dollar.
* Vermont’s Large Districts Not Matching Staff to Enrollment. Spending ballooned.
* School Spending Hikes Lagged in Virginia. Conflicting teacher numbers.
Quote of the Week. “A significant percentage of SEIU 1000 are Republican. Forty percent of the CTA members are Republicans. For years those Republicans have been trying to get their leadership – most of whom are activist Democrats – to give some of that money to Republicans. I’ve been working with the Republicans in these unions and they have been encouraging their leaders to take some of their dues money and give it to Republican causes.” – California Republican Party chairman Jim Brulte, explaining why the state party has been soliciting and receiving contributions from public employee unions. (October 9 Fox & Hounds)
October 7, 2013
Hawaii State Teachers Association Plans to Join AFL-CIO. The board of directors of the Hawaii State Teachers Association approved the submission of an application to join the AFL-CIO. If the process is successfully completed, HSTA would become the first National Education Association state affiliate to join the organized labor federation without a merger.*
NEA is not only the largest labor union in the U.S., it is by far the largest union with no formal affiliation with either the AFL-CIO or Change to Win. NEA has partnership agreements with both coalitions, and a structure in place that allows NEA state and local affiliates to join the AFL-CIO, if they so choose.
The five NEA state affiliates that have merged with American Federation of Teachers affiliates – Florida, Minnesota, Montana, New York and North Dakota – are all affiliated with the AFL-CIO to one degree or another, while a small number of local affiliates elsewhere have followed suit on their own. AFT and all of its affiliates belong to the AFL-CIO.
Under president Dennis Van Roekel, NEA has increased its ties to the rest of the labor movement, but there is no great sentiment for the national union to merge with AFT and join the AFL-CIO en masse. A modest attempt to restore merger negotiations was shot down by the delegates to NEA’s Representative Assembly last July.
There is no AFT presence in Hawaii, although the AFL-CIO is well-represented among the other public employee unions in the state, including the University of Hawaii Professional Assembly, which left NEA on September 1.
It’s difficult to see what immediate effect HSTA’s action will have, but with an increasing majority of public sector unions in the AFL-CIO, it is likely that the old barriers between it and NEA will continue to diminish.
*NEA Rhode Island has voted to affiliate all of its locals over a three-year period.
Last Week’s Intercepts. EIA’s daily blog, Intercepts, covered these topics October 1-7:
* Michigan and the 1%. Union president locks up fee-payers, then brags about high retention.
* UFT Paid $370,000 to Ghost Consultants. A lot of money to a group that doesn’t seem to exist.
* Patience, Patients. I lost my coverage because of Obamacare, and I’ve lost a lot of hours trying to get it back.
* What You’re Missing Today. Unaffected by government shutdown: hot air and helium.
* Tennessee Enrollment Grew Everywhere, Except Memphis. I’m noticing a trend.
* Enrollment & Hiring Gusher in Texas. Except for Houston and Dallas.
Quote of the Week. “It’s not a contest to see how many highly effective teachers are in a school. Publishing this data is unfair to all of the other teachers who may be doing a fantastic job in the classroom.” – Carnell Washington, president of the East Baton Rouge Federation of Teachers, after the school board recognized by name all the district teachers who were rated “highly effective” with a full-page ad in the local newspaper. (October 1 New Orleans Times-Picayune)
September 30, 2013
Education Reform: Before It Was Cool. Next week I’ll be heading to Washington, DC to participate in a panel for the Center for Education Reform’s 20th anniversary conference and gala. I’m proud and happy to do so. CER and outgoing president Jeanne Allen have been the driving force behind charter schools from their very inception, and charter schools are one of the very few transformative – and bipartisan – education reforms of the modern era. The conference has as its theme “Education Reform: Before It Was Cool.”
Well, I don’t know if education reform is cool even now, but CER is right to point out the contrast with the state of things 20 years ago:
Two decades ago, Education Reform was not cool. If you weren’t about reducing class size and advocating for more money, you were nobody.
The media was gaga over the education Blob. They had dozens of alliances and confabs that seemed to be always “happening”. People waited to get a glimpse of the Blob going in and out of the White House, the Departments of Education, the New York Times building! It was a big fat party, that education Blob, and some of us were fighting to get past the bouncers so we can shake up that party.
At the risk of sounding like a crotchety old man (Too late, you say!), it’s probably difficult for the younger set to imagine how out of the mainstream one used to be for suggesting that money wasn’t the answer to every ill, that schools might fare better if freed from mandates, that parents might prefer a wider choice of schools, or that teachers’ unions were a political special interest group. For my own part, I routinely dealt with reporters who weren’t even aware that their local union and the NEA were both part of the same organization. It was an uphill battle, to say the least.
The world hasn’t been turned upside down, but today those positions are at least accepted in polite society. The press especially caught on in the last 20 years that maybe what was coming out of NEA and AFT headquarters might be missing a few relevant facts and details, and that they should delve further.
So it’s a better world than it was, but there’s a little bit of rain on the parade. Twenty years might not seem too long when pushing against public education’s entrenched bureaucracy, but almost two full cohorts of children have passed through the K-12 system in that amount of time. Members of the first group now have children of their own entering or already in the system.
Will the next 20 years bring more incremental progress, a revolution, or a backlash? My Magic 8-Ball says “outlook good,” but I’ll be long-retired by then. If we’re very lucky, by 2033 we won’t need education reform, because all parents will have access to the type and quality of school they want and need. Here’s to you, CER, and to hoping.
Last Week’s Intercepts. EIA’s daily blog, Intercepts, covered these topics September 24-30:
* Union Files Grievance Over Volunteer Paint Job. America’s school employee unions – protecting your kids from trash disposal and lumber.
* Graph of the Day. A century of positive slope.
* Something Boston and New York Have in Common. Teacher union mayoral endorsements just aren’t what they’re cracked up to be.
* South Carolina Could Use More Teachers. One of few states to cut teachers while enrollment grew.
* Hiring Boom in South Dakota’s Largest Districts. Plenty of room, plenty of jobs.
Quote of the Week. “Because maybe these teachers have an ungodly fear of interviews. Or maybe they’re on vacation in the Netherlands and don’t want to return for an interview. Or maybe they think interviews are a sham. It doesn’t matter.” – Lynn Nordgren, president of the Minneapolis Federation of Teachers, explaining to school district negotiators why unplaced tenured teachers who refuse to show up for job interviews should not be dismissed. (September 27 MinnPost)
September 23, 2013
The Problem with Social Justice Unionism and Other Big Tent Strategies. It has always been a wonderful concept for political movements: We are not big enough to defeat our opponents on our own, but if we only unite with like-minded allies, we will prevail. And while expanding your base makes intuitive sense, it brings with it a host of complications, some of which are more trouble than they are worth.
Labor unions observe their power and influence shrinking, and naturally see the joining of forces with other progressives as a way to reverse the trend. Liberal groups join protests in Madison and Chicago, while unions support Occupy Wall Street and a host of other non-labor organizations. So, the theory goes, unified power leads to the ability of each individual constituency to get almost everything it wants.
But as countless coalitions of both conservatives and liberals have learned in the past, sometimes those constituent groups want mutually exclusive things. Additionally, no matter who’s in power, resources are finite while desires are infinite. Denied desires lead to frustration, and often the coalition splinters.
It is with all this in mind that we note a recent article by Kevin Bogardus of The Hill headlined “Unions push back against labor’s ties to progressive groups.” It seems some of the AFL-CIO’s member unions think the embracing of the environmental movement hurts labor’s agenda. “We are supposed to be representing workers and workers’ interests,” said Harold Schaitberger, president of the International Association of Fire Fighters. “We are not going to be the American Federation of Progressive and Liberal Organizations.”
The AFL-CIO also painted itself into a corner with its support of the Affordable Care Act. The unions committed themselves to its passage, even though its provisions threatened to dismantle some of the health insurance benefits union members currently enjoy. Now they find themselves in the uncomfortable position of demanding an exemption from the White House, which so far has been refused.
On the education front, the National Education Association has mirrored this balancing act. Always a financial supporter of progressive causes, NEA now considers itself to be a driving force for social justice, and demands joint action in exchange for its dollars.
But while the union strokes its left wing, it also tries to shore up its mainstream credentials, and its left wing is flapping about it.
NEA recently released the results of a member survey it commissioned, announcing that a “majority of educators support the Common Core State Standards.” Well, 26 percent support them wholeheartedly, while 50% support them with some reservations.
Strange then, that the comments beneath this announcement are uniformly negative, and Politico reports that when NEA president Dennis Van Roekel is “getting an earful” about Common Core when he visits with members.
This is the answer for those who ask why we can’t all just get along and do what’s best for the kids. We don’t all agree what’s best for the kids, and when we do, we don’t all agree how to go about it. That goes for allies as well as opponents.
Last Week’s Intercepts. EIA’s daily blog, Intercepts, covered these topics September 17-23:
* The Untold Story About Philadelphia Staffing Cuts. If you hired 100 teachers last year, and laid off 90 this year, is it still a cut?
* Ohioans Abandoned Large Urban Districts. Six largest districts all shrink.
* Enrollment Growth Strongest in Oklahoma’s Largest Districts. Oklahoma had the opposite experience.
* Feast or Famine in Oregon School Districts. Portland made out pretty well.
* All But One Rhode Island District Lost Students. Rapid decompression in the Northeast.
Quote of the Week. “Ravitch the historian undoubtedly would have asked such questions as: What led this current generation of education leaders — a generally left-leaning bunch — to challenge the teachers unions? What lessons did they take away from many decades of failed district reform efforts? When they tried to improve local teacher evaluation systems, what resistance (or worse) did they get from the teachers unions that led these leaders to opt for the admittedly imperfect federal Race to the Top law to break the stalemate? But Ravitch didn’t ask, appearing to have done only cursory research on this group. As such, Reign of Error signals the completion of Ravitch’s shift from historian to polemicist. A brief, distorted section on historical ‘context’ is included only to reassure her loyal audience that there is some basis for their strong feelings. Having long since made up their minds, they won’t care if her evidence is true, false, or cherry-picked. To them, she delivers.” – Jessica Levin. (September 19 Huffington Post)
September 16, 2013
Teacher Turnover Hyperbole Gets JOLTed. In order to support the narrative that public school teachers are under assault, we are periodically treated to claims that they are leaving or being driven out of the profession in swarms, mostly because of lousy pay, poor working conditions, standardized testing, and tyrannical principals and administrators.
It arose again recently when a well-known pundit wrote of teaching, “In no other profession do so many people exit so rapidly.” There’s no evidence to support this statement, and the statistics usually cited are based on an extrapolation computed from 11-year-old data.
No one compiles turnover rates by profession, or subdivides them by number of years of experience. But every month the Bureau of Labor Statistics releases its Job Openings and Labor Turnover Survey (JOLTS) that provides definitive information on hiring, firing and quitting by broad industry categories. Each January survey contains annualized statistics for the previous year, so we have comparable rates for 2008 to 2012.
The first table I reproduce here has the separation rates for each industry. “Separation” includes quits, layoffs, discharges and all other separations from employment, “also referred to as turnover,” the BLS explains. Public school teachers would fall under the category of “state and local government.”
As you can see, state and local government workers separated at a rate of 16.4 percent in 2012, up from 15.6 percent in 2008. However, the national average for all industries in 2012 was 37.1 percent. Turnover in state and local government was lower than all but one other segment of the U.S. economy – that of the federal government. The lowest private sector turnover in 2012 was 22.2 percent in durable goods manufacturing.
Of course, dismissals are much more common in the private sector than in the public sector, and especially in teaching. And since the story is supposed to illustrate how frequently teachers are voluntarily leaving their jobs, let’s take a look exclusively at the “quits” statistics.
In 2012, state and local government workers voluntarily left their jobs at a 7.4 percent rate, slightly lower than in 2008. Again, that is the lowest rate in the nation save for that of federal government workers. In the private sector, every segment except durable goods manufacturing (9.5%) had a double-digit quits rate. The national average was 18.8 percent.
Finally, if these claims of school employee churn were accurate, we would expect to see it reflected in the tenure statistics – not tenure in the school sense, but in the number of years an employee has worked for his or her current employer. Fortunately, the Bureau of Labor Statistics collects that data, too.
For 2012, the median number of years employees had worked for their current employer was 4.6. In local government, the category where most public school teachers fall, it was 8.1 years. That was more than every industry except the federal government, utilities, and paper and printing.
These figures can’t be conclusive on the issue because they don’t disaggregate education employees from other local government workers, but they are highly suggestive that compared with other professions, teachers are keeping their jobs and holding them for longer periods of time. Assuming teachers aren’t irrational, the jobs must be desirable.
Last Week’s Intercepts. EIA’s daily blog, Intercepts, covered these topics September 10-16:
* Key Detail of Kenosha Decertification Under Dispute. This is why I don’t single-source internal union news.
* Confirmed: No Election Held in Kenosha. Union still decertified, but it doesn’t tell us anything about level of member support.
* Will UFT Get “One for the Thumb?” Union picks mayors like the Jets pick quarterbacks.
* Wisconsin’s Act 10 Ruled Constitutional. Free speech does not guarantee an audience.
* The Good Times Rolled in North Dakota. Spending surge.
Quote of the Week. “We’re not about picking a mayor. We’re about making a mayor, making the winner. And that’s what we’re gonna do…. I talk to them (the mayoral candidates) constantly. All of them. I know all about all of their families. I know about their dogs and this and that.” – Michael Mulgrew, president of the United Federation of Teachers, two weeks before the union endorsed Bill Thompson for mayor of New York City. (June 4 Politicker)
Headline of the Week. “Bill Thompson concedes to Bill de Blasio in New York City Democratic mayoral primary.” – September 16 New York Daily News.
September 9, 2013
Philadelphia School Funding Crisis Was a Long Time in the Making. I have been closely following events in the Philadelphia school district because they feature many now-familiar angles – a follow-on to last year’s teacher strike in Chicago, another example of a machine Democrat at odds with the teachers’ union, et al. But I have taken a particular interest in the issue of massive education employee layoffs. The reason is that Philadelphia once exemplified the overexpansion of the education mission.
Way back in 1999 I wrote a report – no longer available online – called “Mission Creep: How Large School Districts Lose Sight of the Objective — Student Learning.” Its premise was that as school districts got larger, they expanded their mission. At the beginning these expansions are sensible – transportation, food services, after-school programs – but then each of these activities spawned their own support services, bureaucracy and constituencies. After a time, the district gets larger and larger and spends a correspondingly smaller and smaller percentage of time and resources on its reason for existence – educating children.
I featured Philadelphia in that report, and I’d like to reproduce that segment here:
There are school districts in America where the superintendent, assisted only by a secretary, is also the principal of the school and teaches fifth grade. In the Philadelphia School District, the superintendent supervises over 25,000 employees and 261 schools. He has a staff of 10. The school board has a support staff of six. The general counsel has a legal staff of 27. These staffers evidently can’t speak with the public or the legislature on their own, so there is a communications and government relations staff, which consists of 13 people. Then there is transportation, school safety, human resources, leadership and learning, purchasing and warehouse, print shop, etc. According to the district, the total administrative staff for 1997-98 was 1,474. But “administration” is a term open to interpretation, and we should make no rash assumptions.
The district defines the following personnel as “providing direct services to students.” They include 12,005 classroom teachers, 3,750 assistant teachers and classroom assistants, and 413 principals and assistant principals. After that, some job titles are self-explanatory and others, well, are not.
(All figures are for 1997-98. Source: School District of Philadelphia 1997-98 Amended Operating and Grants Fund Budgets)
Job Title Number of Employees
Department Heads and Coordinators 103
and Technical Staff 197
School Coordinators, Bilingual, Computer
and Science Lab Assistants 371
School Safety Officers 337
Non-teaching Assistants 630
Nurses/Health Providers 305
Guidance Counselors 403
Administrative Assistants and Facilitators 218
Librarians and Assistants 231
Food Service Workers 1,098
Noon-time Aides 1,045
Bus Drivers 677
Bus Attendants 569
School Aides 81
Custodians and Building Engineers 2,361
This list raises a lot of questions, but one stands out. The Philadelphia School District has 2,895 custodians, building engineers and maintenance people, plus 121 staffers to oversee them. That’s an average of 11.5 people per school site whose jobs are merely to service the buildings. Perhaps each and every one of them is vitally necessary. But it is obvious that so many custodians equals fewer teachers, or less pay for those you have.
Why is this important? For one reason, because we tend to think of bloat as something that happens to education only at the state or county level. For another, because these bloated districts are home to overwhelming percentages of the nation’s minority students. Philadelphia alone enrolls 47.6 percent of the minority students in the entire state of Pennsylvania.
…Minority students in large urban districts bear a double burden. They are stuck in school districts that do not have the tax base to compare to surrounding suburban districts, plus the available funding gets diverted to areas unrelated to the district’s primary mission: educating students. Suburban schools may spend more per-pupil, but how many, like Philadelphia, have two bus attendants, three non-teaching assistants, four noon-time aides, and nine custodians for every school? And there are labor implications. Which district is more likely to have difficult contract negotiations or work stoppages? The district with 15 bus drivers, or the one with 677 bus drivers?
All those numbers are from 15 years ago. An examination of today’s numbers shows deep reductions in staffing at all levels, although the deepest cuts only occurred after 2011. And it appears cuts were made virtually equally across the board. Job classifications from classroom teachers to administrators to classroom support services are all down 20-30 percent from 10 years ago (some of this due to enrollment), but the district still managed to increase the number of counselors, librarians, psychologists, therapists and paraprofessionals.
Staffing requirements change over the years, but it seems as though the Philadelphia authorities were more concerned with making the numbers work than with matching staffing to priorities.
It’s fashionable to blame the recent recession for every budgetary problem encountered by school districts these days. Certainly, traditional staffing practices are only one component of the crisis in Philadelphia. But stronger medicine in the late 1990s might have obviated the need for the current amputation.
Last (Two) Week’s Intercepts. EIA’s daily blog, Intercepts, covered these topics August 27-September 9:
* The Most Important Education Labor Issue No One Talks About. Even though it’s destiny.
* Bloggers Go Ballistic. School’s in!
* Lusty Lady Labor Lesson. Stripped bare.
* Labor Day Tribute. No press releases about these union stalwarts.
* Rest of Nevada Didn’t Share Vegas Growth. Clark County owns almost three-quarters of the state’s K-12 students. The other quarter is shrinking.
* Northeast Demographic Shift Plagues New Hampshire. Go west… and south.
* Spending Slowed in New Jersey. Unlike its counterparts across the Hudson.
* Mostly Status Quo in New Mexico. Neither here nor there.
* New York: Fewer Teachers, More Money. It’s a big education apple.
* Enrollment Growth Steady in North Carolina. Unlike most everywhere else.
Quote of the Week. ”The impact of these historically low interest rates on PSEA’s employee pension and post-retirement medical obligations has been dramatic. PSEA’s total unfunded long-term pension and post-retirement medical liability stands at $72 million. As a result, PSEA is in an overall negative asset position of $8.2 million, meaning we owe more than we own. However, PSEA is not in imminent financial danger.” – from the 2013 annual report of the Pennsylvania State Education Association.
August 26, 2013
I’m Struck Dumbo. It seems like a good time of year to take a short break, so there will be no communiqué next week. Intercepts will still be updated daily.
I’ll be at Disneyland for the Labor Day weekend, as I have accepted the Dumbo Double Dare. I also expect I’ll have a churro or two.
Enjoy the last week of August, and I’ll see you back here for the start of the 2013-14 school year.
Last Week’s Intercepts. EIA’s daily blog, Intercepts, covered these topics August 20-26:
* Weingarten Attacks ”Austerity-Mongers” in Speech at Jamaica Resort. “Escape to the all-inclusive splendor.”
* Currency Exchange. It’s still a lot of money, but it is Jamaican money.
* Maybe Adults Need a Common Core. ”Don’t know” cedes authority to “in the know.”
* Great School Board Election Resource. A cure for the eeny-meeny-minie-mo method of electing school board trustees.
* Spending Much Higher in Montana’s High School Districts. Disaggregation makes for a clearer picture.
* Nebraska’s Schools on the Upswing. No austerity here.
Strange Bedfellows of the Week. ”The BATs (Bad Ass Teachers) represent a new wave of liberal opposition to the Common Core standards, which includes some union leaders, progressive activists and Democratic lawmakers. They are joining forces with tea party groups and libertarians, who want states like Florida to slow down efforts to adopt the new benchmarks and corresponding tests.” – August 26 Bradenton Herald.
August 19, 2013
Randi Weingarten on Book Cooking. It’s not surprising that the Tony Bennett scandal would lead to calculated outrage from teacher union officers, but American Federation of Teachers president Randi Weingarten was being especially clever when addressing a group of teachers in South Florida.
“I love when somebody says, like Jeb Bush, ‘[Bennett] had to resign because of hits he was taking from the right and the left.’” Weingarten said. “No. He had to resign because he was cooking the books. Just like Tornillo had to leave.”
For the newbies out there, “Tornillo” was Pat Tornillo, the late former president of the United Teachers of Dade who pleaded guilty to spending union dues on, among other things, luxury vacations and python print pajamas. It’s a weak analogy, and not just because Tornillo was a convicted criminal.
For one thing, the AFT knew something was wrong with Tornillo’s handling of union dues long before the FBI raided UTD headquarters in April 2003. UTD and its parent affiliates routinely denounced and tried to spike broadcast reports that Tornillo was crooked. Indeed, there is some evidence that Tornillo’s schemes dated back to the mid-1980s. No union affiliate took action until after UTD’s chief financial officer took the books to the feds. Well, at least the union learned its lesson, recognizing Tornillo as the crook he was.
Not so fast.
Tornillo was a “strong lifetime proponent of civil and human rights,” and “an advocate of strong local education organizations,” leading Florida Education Association president Andy Ford to submit a resolution that – in 2008, mind you – “posthumously honors the long and dedicated service of Pat L. Tornillo, Jr. to public education in Florida and the United States; to the children of our state and nation; to the rights and cause of all teachers and education professionals, and by extension, all organized labor; and to his faithful efforts to promote justice for all regardless of their race, gender, creed, or sexual orientation.”
It seems now that Weingarten’s analogy is even more inappropriate. Tornillo was a hero of organized labor, civil rights and universal justice – even after he had to exchange his python print pajamas for an orange jumpsuit for stealing teachers’ money. Tornillo’s transgressions go unmentioned in the resolution.
Bennett should continue to take his lumps for what he did, but if union officers are so worried about nefarious deeds by Indiana superintendents of public instruction, they have a great opportunity to show their concern for the public’s welfare.
Last Week’s Intercepts. EIA’s daily blog, Intercepts, covered these topics August 13-19:
* Indiana “Ponzi-like Scheme” Will Cost NEA $14 Million. Getting off cheap.
* ISTA: By the Way, We Have a Secret Settlement Fund with $14 Million In It. I’m not omniscient, but this sounds like b.s. to me.
* Changing of the Guard in Missouri School Districts. Kansas City half the size it was, but spending per-pupil is up almost one-third.
* Big Districts Growing, Small Districts Shrinking in Mississippi. Hiring boom.
* Rejected. Most Valuable Player ill-fitted as union president.
Misinformed Headline and Subhead of the Week. ”National Education Association teacher union wisely engages dissenters – The National Education Association engages the critics in its ranks, a strategy based on inclusion and survival.” – August 15 Seattle Times.
August 12, 2013
The Elusive Militant Incumbent. I suspect the reason Chicago Teachers Union president Karen Lewis has such a large following among the union disaffected is because she alone among her peers is an incumbent rabble-rouser.
There’s no shortage of militants among those out of power, particularly in affiliates that don’t practice term limits. But it’s amazing how many of them suddenly are perceived as sell-outs once they take office.
I was reminded of this phenomenon last week when LA School Report disclosed that challengers are already lining up to unseat Warren Fletcher as president of United Teachers Los Angeles. “Warren Fletcher has led our union down the wrong direction,” said prospective candidate Jose Lara. “We have seen a series of constant losses. Any victories we get are despite Warren Fletcher, not because of him.”
What a difference two years make. Back in 2011, it was Fletcher who was the outsider haranguing the incumbent and his chosen successor. But UTLA has a long history of that kind of turnover. Here’s the relevant portion of the February 7, 2011 EIA Communiqué:
Current UTLA president A.J. Duffy is moving on to run for the vice presidency of the California Teachers Association. Mail-in balloting is taking place for his successor, and eight candidates are running.
The Los Angeles Times reports:
“Except for Washington, who is part of the union leadership, candidates insisted that UTLA has become too weak, too compliant, too ineffectual, too willing to compromise under president A.J. Duffy, who is finishing his second and final three-year term.”
Flashback six years to Duffy’s election, when the Times reported that Duffy’s slate pushed for “militant rank-and-file unionism.” Outgoing president John Perez admitted, “I think they want a more aggressive attitude toward LAUSD.”
When Perez was elected in 2002, he defeated Mike Cherry, who said, “We need to do something about salaries. If that means being more militant, that’s what I’ll do.” He also defeated Warren Fletcher, who said the union under Day Higuchi had become too bureaucratic and “too cozy” with the district.
“Every year we send them to market with the family cow and every year they come back with magic beans,” Fletcher said.
Now it seems as though there are quite a few candidates who want to grind Fletcher’s bones to make their bread. And to take their turn as a sell-out.
Last Week’s Intercepts. EIA’s daily blog, Intercepts, covered these topics August 6-12:
* Matt Damon Explains It All. Amid his private school choice, the actor also reveals a lot about his mom, President Obama, and deficit spending.
* While the Cat’s Away. The folks up north will see me no more.
* The Shrinking Massachusetts Teaching Corps. Twelve of the 13 largest districts lost teachers.
* Michigan Enrollment Tumbles As Spending Climbs. Detroit’s a mess, but you wouldn’t know it from per-pupil spending statistics.
* Minnesota Enrollment Down, Staffing Up. Minneapolis replaced students with teachers.
Quote of the Week. ”Certainly, ousting ineffective or conservative leaders is an important goal of militants among teachers, as it is for other union activists.” – Lee Sustar, columnist for SocialistWorker.org. (August 8 SocialistWorker.org)
August 5, 2013
NEA Settles Suit With State of Indiana. The Indianapolis Star reports that the Indiana Secretary of State, the Indiana State Teachers Association and the National Education Association have reached a settlement of the state’s $24 million lawsuit against the union stemming from the financial collapse of ISTA’s insurance trust in 2009.
The state accused ISTA of unlawful sale of securities and fraudulent misrepresentation, and named NEA as liable because of its oversight of the UniServ program.
Settlement negotiations began in earnest after NEA failed to have itself removed from the suit. The settlement was apparently filed last Friday, though the magistrate judge agreed to the parties’ wishes to keep the details under seal.
I expect these will eventually come to light (and will do my best to be the one to bring them to light), but a good guess would be a denial of wrongdoing in exchange for a multi-million dollar payout, though somewhat south of $24 million.
Since there’s no chance ISTA itself can cover any kind of financial settlement, it will be incumbent upon NEA national to generate the necessary funds. That means more dues money from across the country flowing into the Indiana affiliate.
NEA has done a fine job of hole-plugging to this point, but the supply of plugs isn’t inexhaustible. Healthy affiliates may start wondering why they are paying so much for life support for sick ones.
Last Week’s Intercepts. EIA’s daily blog, Intercepts, covered these topics July 30-August 5:
* AFT Troops Topple Another Local Affiliate. Coup, then sue.
* Mouth Off. Ignoring teacher voice isn’t limited to school districts.
* How to Close “Open” Bargaining Sessions. Gag order.
* You Will Be Assimilated. If money talks, it talks everywhere.
* Counting Pennies? School spending instead of district spending.
Quote of the Week. ”A lethargic membership is more cancerous than reforms, charter schools, and excessing. Members’ expectation of any president must be tempered with what they are willing to do for themselves.” – Nathan Saunders, outgoing president of the Washington Teachers Union. (July 31 letter to members)
July 29, 2013
Union Unions: A Look at NEA Affiliate Employees. It is easy for the layman to get confused when I start discussing the staff unions of the National Education Association and its affiliates. “Union management” is an oxymoron to most people, and “union employees” sounds redundant.
The terminology gets murky, but the situation isn’t complicated. Teachers work for a school district and are represented by a teachers’ union. People who work for the teachers’ union are represented by a separate and wholly independent staff union. In the case of NEA, most unionized employees are represented by an affiliate of the National Staff Organization (NSO), an umbrella group of state-based staff unions.
These employees operate under collective bargaining agreements that are negotiated with the staff union on one side of the table, and the elected teacher union officers and executives on the other side. This sometimes leads to irony, hilarity and all sorts of hijinks.
There are basically two kinds of NEA affiliate employees: professional and associate. The professionals include UniServ directors (who are primarily the labor negotiators and political operatives), communications officers, attorneys, et al. The associates are the clerical workers, assistants, and support staffers. Although ratios differ somewhat from state to state, in the aggregate there is about one associate for each professional.
Sometimes the associates and professionals have separate staff unions. Sometimes they join together in one. The Michigan Education Association has eight staff unions.
I have obtained a list of the number of NEA employees represented by an NSO staff union in each of 49 state affiliates. The 50th – New York – has three staff unions unaffiliated with NSO and their numbers are unavailable. The figures date from 2012.
The total, including most employees working for NEA national headquarters, numbers 4,320. Judging by Mississippi and South Carolina, it appears the lower limit for staffing an NEA state affiliate is eight employees – not counting management.
While these folks make a pretty good living, the worrisome cost for the teachers’ unions is what they are owed when they retire. Funding pension obligations is a serious problem for NEA and its state affiliates just as it is for state governments. Retiree health care costs are an additional financial burden.
There is roughly one union staffer for every 700 NEA members. Considering recent membership losses, and those to come, we can expect further union employee layoffs across the country.
Last Week’s Intercepts. EIA’s daily blog, Intercepts, covered these topics July 23-29:
* Looper. Bob Chase should demand royalties.
* Dream Job or Nightmare? The Ohio Education Association needs a new skipper, but there are icebergs ahead.
* Chicago “Works to Rule” on Union. More than you bargained for.
* New Season of DC Teachers Union Horror Show. Where a single election will never do.
* Maryland Schools Boomed During Recession. It was a very good year(s).
Quote of the Week. “But according to a person who has reviewed the group’s internal numbers, (the Wisconsin Education Association Council) has lost roughly 50% of its 98,000 dues-paying members since Walker signed Act 10. The financial pressure has caused the union to cut a large share of its staff. For a time last year, union executives considered selling WEAC’s prominent hilltop headquarters on the south side of Madison. The union’s board stepped in and put a halt to the idea, according to sources familiar with the matter.” – Daniel Bice, columnist for the Milwaukee Journal-Sentinel. (July 20 Milwaukee Journal-Sentinel)
July 22, 2013
Happy Holiday! These are the dead days of summer, with little of import to command attention in the education labor world, so I won’t tax you with lesser news. Instead, let’s simply enjoy the rest of Rat Catcher’s Day.
Last Week’s Intercepts. EIA’s daily blog, Intercepts, covered these topics July 16-22:
* Louisiana’s Strange Success Story. The state has everything: vouchers, charters and weak unions for conservatives, booming spending and hiring trends for liberals.
* It’s All For the Kids… Except For That Sandwich. There ain’t no such thing as a free lunch, unless you’re a New Jersey school board member or district employee.
* Kentucky Schools Weathered Recession Well. Spending growth continued apace.
* Hard Times in Maine. Everything shrinking.
* The Most Unlikely Inspiration For a Novel Ever. Must-read?
Quote of the Week. ”Asked whether the membership report is accurate, [Idaho Education Association president Penni] Cyr said the IEA’s membership is ‘very fluid’ and subject to a ‘constant ebb and flow’.” – July 16 Idaho Ed News.
Headline of the Week. ”Teachers’ union confirms membership drop, nationally and in Idaho.” – July 18 Idaho Statesman.
July 15, 2013
Official NEA State Affiliate Membership Numbers for 2012. Thanks to the unofficial efforts of a handful of folks at the National Education Association Representative Assembly, I’m able to bring you the official 2012 membership numbers for each NEA state affiliate.
It hasn’t been a problem accessing or computing the national numbers, but the state-by-state breakdown has been difficult to get hold of in recent years, which is especially troublesome because those are the numbers I’m asked about most.
I have compiled the numbers in a handy table, which provides both the total and active membership for each state affiliate. Active members are employed teachers, professionals and education support workers. Total membership includes retirees, students, substitutes and all others.
Along with the numbers are the changes in those figures since 2011 and 2009, when NEA reached its membership high-water mark. In the last three years, NEA lost almost 7 percent of its active members and only six affiliates had more active members in 2012 than in 2009.
The biggest losers over that period were Arizona, North Carolina and Wisconsin, all of whom lost more than a fifth of their active members. The Arizona Education Association is almost half the size it was in 2009.
Other affiliates that experienced double-digit percentage active membership loss over those three years were Arkansas, Georgia, Idaho, Indiana, Kansas, Louisiana, Michigan, Mississippi, Nevada, Oklahoma, South Carolina, South Dakota, Tennessee, Virginia, West Virginia, DC and the Utah School Employees Association.
The union’s largest affiliates managed to keep their losses in the 5-8% range, but the gap between the haves and have-nots among NEA state affiliates grew steadily. We also know that membership again fell nationally in 2013, albeit at a reduced rate, and the dark clouds remain for the coming school year. Michigan and Wisconsin numbers will continue to drop as collective bargaining agreements expire, and the 3,000 members of the University of Hawaii Professional Assembly will come off the books.
Some affiliates are no longer viable as independent entities, but much of NEA’s reputation hinges on its having an affiliate in each state. The chances of the national union allowing one to fold are nil. Since even in the fat years NEA wasn’t increasing its market share of the public education workforce, the only way the current situation will turn around is through massive hiring increases by school districts, particularly in the mandatory collective bargaining states. Whether that will happen is the shape of political battles to come.
Last Week’s Intercepts. EIA’s daily blog, Intercepts, covered these topics July 9-15:
* “We’d like to thank you for trying to destroy our union.” The “world’s largest democratic deliberative body” doesn’t deliberate – or notice – the accusations of its soon-to-be ex-affiliate.
* Incumbent Bounced, But Apathy Still Rules. It’s tough to make assumptions about union direction when so few vote.
* Shrinking Districts in Indiana Spend Most. Lagging cuts.
* Diseconomies of Scale in Iowa. Size matters.
* Small Districts in Kansas Spend Big. Some things can’t be reduced with enrollment.
Quote of the Week. “There’s no incentive for schools to get it right.” – Hawaii Board of Education Chairman Don Horner, commenting on the chronic problem of schools inflating their enrollment figures. (July 15 Honolulu Civil Beat)
July 8, 2013
Direct Links to All NEA Convention Blog Posts. In case you didn’t follow along all last week with EIA’s gavel-to-gavel coverage of the 2013 National Education Association Representative Assembly from Atlanta, here are the direct links to each post, in chronological order. Enjoy!
June 24, 2013
Coverage of the NEA Representative Assembly Begins July 2. For the 16th consecutive year, EIA will provide daily gavel-to-gavel coverage from the floor of the National Education Association Representative Assembly (RA). This year the convention takes place in Atlanta, Georgia. For those of you who are new to the communiqué, you should know that distribution works a little differently that week.
I will blog each day’s events on Intercepts, which you can check at your convenience, or you can subscribe to the blog’s RSS feed. If you prefer, go to the Intercepts page, where you can sign up for blog updates via automatic e-mail. You need only provide your e-mail address. Feedburner will send you a verification e-mail, then confirm your subscription. From then on you’ll get one, and only one, e-mail per day with the full text of the content I have added to the blog that day.
The first convention report will be posted July 2 and each evening thereafter until the convention closes on July 6.
You will not receive this communiqué next week. On July 8 I will send a communiqué with direct links to all the items I posted on the blog during the week of the convention.
I expect the proceedings will contain a lot of talk about “turning the corner” and “going on offense,” very similar to what we have heard from the AFL-CIO for the past, oh, 25 years. It’s an off-year, and as far as I know, NEA has nothing earthshaking planned.
I will be available via e-mail for your questions and comments during the convention, but please make allowances for delays in my response. Happy Independence Day!
Last Week’s Intercepts. EIA’s daily blog, Intercepts, covered these topics June 18-24:
* The Cabin in the Woods. “Enjoy your private compound.”
* Untaxed $1 Million to Support Nevada Tax Initiative. We exempt ourselves.
* Florida Class Size Reduction Saved Teacher Jobs. Class size limits for all grades.
* Georgia Matched Staffing to Enrollment. Any guesses how?
* Enrollment Down, Hiring Up in Hawaii. One statewide district not so different from many small ones.
Quote of the Week. “Once at City Hall it became clear that the union — especially under its current leadership — was an enormous impediment to reform. Watching the parade of candidates genuflecting before the UFT and pledging fealty to its positions is an embarrassment. The prospect of the next mayor handing the keys of Tweed over to Michael Mulgrew makes me fear for the future of the city.” – Howard Wolfson, deputy mayor of New York City and former consultant to the United Federation of Teachers. (June 19 Capital New York)
June 17, 2013
“Strategic Leverage” Underpins California Teachers Association Bargaining Goals. The State Council of the California Teachers Association recently adopted collective bargaining goals for the upcoming 2013-14 school year. The goals and their rationale make for interesting reading, particularly if you are an upper-level school district administrator and think you are negotiating a contract only with the people on the other side of the table.
To be sure, all local unions have some degree of independence and flexibility when it comes to collective bargaining, but the state union leaves little doubt about what it strongly urges its locals to do. The bargaining goals spell out these positions on the major education labor issues of the day.
With the passage last November of the statewide tax increase it supported, CTA believes its lean years are ending and that its affiliates should focus on restoring previous concessions. While noting that its members “suffered a loss of job security, wages, benefits and working conditions,” CTA seems even more concerned that the concessions “created a chasm between members and their leaders.”
The state union advises locals to meet their own situations and needs, “provided, however, that any such adaptation maintains consistency with the organization’s core values and the statewide bargaining goals.” CTA specifically addressed salaries, health care coverage, teacher evaluations and Common Core.
When it comes to a district’s financial picture, CTA recommends skepticism, telling locals to differentiate between the district’s wants and needs. In communications with members, the state union calls on locals “to reframe the issue and to counter the persistent `doomsday’ predictions that may be coming from the district and other external sources.”
“If salary comparability is low and the employer’s reserves are high and/or growing, then association leaders and bargaining teams should continue to organize for increased compensation regardless of the external economic factors,” the goals state. Whatever the local does, its approach to compensation “must always seek to build the union and its organizational capacity.”
CTA’s stance on charter schools is well-documented, but this context lends some additional perspective to the union’s motivations. CTA states, “Charter schools, if unorganized and/or paid at levels below comparable public schools’ salary levels, will erode salary standards and local associations’ bargaining power. It is important for locals to determine if they wish to represent the employees of charter schools within their district in order to maintain a high level of compensation and mitigate the erosion of working conditions.”
Differing health care coverage needs among members are also sacrificed on the altar of union solidarity. CTA warns that the “marketing of high deductible health plans along with Health Savings Accounts cause more divisions within the bargaining unit, as the higher paid or younger/healthier members consider such plans to save money for themselves while causing more adverse selection and higher premiums for those who remain in the regular health plans.”
Making some individuals pay more so that others can pay less may be a standard union procedure, but what about those who don’t want to go along? CTA advises, “Prohibiting opt-outs should be the first choice in bargaining to protect the integrity of the risk pool. If that is not achievable then local associations should bargain that districts shall be required to make health care premium contributions for all unit members even if they opt out of coverage so that there is no financial incentives for districts when members opt out.”
In CTA’s mind, local control is a wonderful thing, as long as all locals do the same thing. “Inconsistency of positions on health care among local associations continues to undermine our statewide strategic leverage.”
It would be wise of school district officials to determine if a local union’s demand at the bargaining table is designed to improve the teachers’ working environment or the union’s statewide strategic leverage. It might make a great deal of difference in how to proceed.
CTA recognizes that “the political pressure to change compensation and evaluation systems to take into account student test scores will continue to grow.” It suggests locals check with CTA before agreeing to any changes in the use of student growth for evaluations in the School Improvement Grant program.
Finally, you can bury yourself in analysis of Common Core these days, but you’ll find precious little about the collective bargaining aspects. CTA fills in that gap:
“Bargaining teams shall demand to bargain the funding and the impact of the Common Core on salaries and working conditions. Locals shall demand to bargain the pacing of program implementation, as well as purchasing books and materials. Districts shall utilize and compensate our members for doing work above what is normally required, such as developing assessments, curriculum and professional development.”
And you thought Common Core had something to do with English and math.
These goals reinforce the notion that collective bargaining is not simply a bilateral negotiation between management on one side and labor on the other. It is more correctly a trilateral negotiation to reconcile management’s demands, the employees’ demands, and the union’s demands. While the latter two may overlap, they are not the same. The more people realize that, the more honest public education collective bargaining can be.
Last Week’s Intercepts. EIA’s daily blog, Intercepts, covered these topics June 11-17:
* That’s the Union Spirit! As subtle as a punch in the face.
* Rainone Resigns After Bar Fight. Union meeting = cocktails at two.
* Friday Farrago. Differential pay, layoffs and other staffing stories.
* The Living Is Easy in Connecticut. You can be reasonable when the pay is good.
* Spending Growth Slowed in Delaware. But hiring was way up.
Quote of the Week. “If I did not work at NJEA, the only other position that would have been as rewarding would have been playing centerfield for the New York Yankees.” – Vincent Giordano, executive director of the New Jersey Education Association, announcing his pending retirement. Centerfielder for the Yankees is also one of the few jobs that pay more than NJEA executive director. (June 14 NJ Spotlight)
June 10, 2013
The Research I Paid For Supports My Views. A couple of weeks ago, Minnesota Gov. Mark Dayton vetoed a two-year, $1.5 million appropriation to recruit, train and hire 50 additional Teach for America teachers. The action prompted a disapproving editorial from the Minneapolis Star-Tribune, who saw it as a sop to Education Minnesota, the state teachers’ union.
Education Minnesota president Tom Dooher responded with an editorial of his own, deriding TFAers as “enthusiastic but barely trained rookies.” He’s entitled to his opinion, which he supported with this citation:
TFA teachers are paid the same as fully credentialed teachers, but they don’t produce the same results. According a review of the national research on TFA by the National Education Policy Center at the University of Colorado, “studies indicate that the students of novice TFA teachers perform significantly less well in reading and mathematics than those of credentialed beginning teachers.”
Dooher concluded, “Based on the independent research, on observing the program up close in our schools and on knowing the needs of the students we work with every day, we concluded that the earmark was inappropriate.” He allowed that TFA mitigates teacher shortages in some states. However, he wrote, “Minnesota doesn’t have a widespread teacher shortage.”
Well, maybe he’s right. Leaving aside for a moment the irony of a teachers’ union president judging the performance of a group of teachers entirely on their students’ scores on standardized math and reading tests, let’s take a look at that review of the national research. It is in fact posted on the web site of the National Education Policy Center. It was authored by Julian Vasquez Heilig and Su Jin Jez in June 2010. The report states it was “made possible in part by funding from the Great Lakes Center for Education Research and Practice.”
The same report appears on the Great Lakes Center web site, though that acknowledgement is slightly altered to read that the report was produced “with funding from the Great Lakes Center for Education Research and Practice.”
The Great Lakes Center, of course, is fully owned and operated by a coalition of six National Education Association state affiliates, including Education Minnesota. The decisions about what research gets funded are made by the Center’s officers and trustees, who are – every last one – officers or employees of one of those union affiliates.
That alone would make the research the opposite of “independent,” but it goes further than that. One of the Center’s trustees is Tom Dooher himself.
It’s regrettable that much education research is similarly compromised, so let’s look at some research that even Dooher might trust. Last year, the NEA staff concluded, “No evidence suggests that the TFA contracts are being used to reduce teacher costs, silence union voices, or as a vehicle to bust unions.” After checking with its 500 largest locals, the union found only a few who had a problem with TFA.
Dooher delivered good news by announcing that Minnesota doesn’t have a widespread teacher shortage, but he might want to notify NEA, which on the Minnesota page of its web site notes a “Teacher shortage in special education, world languages, math, physical sciences, art, and music.”
If only he had access to an organization that could research these things for him.
Last Week’s Intercepts. EIA’s daily blog, Intercepts, covered these topics June 4-10:
* Marginalized Students. A variation of Economics 101 in K-12.
* California Solves Teacher Shortage. The hard way.
* Performance Pay No Deterrent to Teacher Hiring in Denver. New employees adapt to incumbent systems.
* Arkansas Schools Defied the Recession. Success story, at least when it comes to funding.
* Arizona K-12 Enrollment Took a Nosedive. Staffing followed suit.
Quote of the Week. “A majority of the people I know in my middle-income bracket send their kids to private schools. Too many of these families have lost faith in the system.” – Segun Eubanks, new chairman of the school board in Prince George’s County, Maryland. Mr. Eubanks and his wife are both employed by the National Education Association. Their household income puts them in the “middle-income bracket” of the top 4 percent of households in the DC/Virginia/Maryland area and in the top 2 percent of the United States. (June 7 Teacher Beat)
June 3, 2013
California Teachers Association’s Two-Faced Approach to Charters. The board of directors and standing committees of the California Teachers Association will have their hands full with proposals concerning charter school teachers. The union will decide in the coming months whether to send its monthly organ, California Educator, to all active charter school teachers, to create promotional materials for distribution to charter school teachers about the joys of teachers’ unions, and to create workshops for union activists with the title “How to Unionize Charter School Teachers.”
At the very same time, these decision-makers will contemplate creating a standing committee on the problem of charter schools, reversing a recent state law that gives charters first crack at surplus school property, persuading the legislature to order performance audits of charter schools, and shutting out charters from basic school appropriations so that they would have to have their own separate source of funding.
The rationale for this latter proposal is that “The harmful impact of charter schools needs to be made transparent. Having our active members vote on this issue will both educate and make the harm done by charter schools evident.”
I’m pretty sure this stuff won’t appear in the promotional materials CTA distributes to charter school teachers, but I’m confident they’re informed enough to know that the union has been the most implacable foe of charter schools in California for more than 20 years.
Last Week’s Intercepts. EIA’s daily blog, Intercepts, covered these topics May 29-June 3:
* Nevada Disaffiliation Attempt Defeated. NEA hangs on to 11,000 members.
* Coming Up: State-by-State Breakdowns of Spending and Staffing. Stats for almost 13,500 school districts.
* Alabama Teaching Ranks Down Almost 15%. Large districts hardest hit.
* Teacher Job Market Held Steady in Alaska. Bucking the trends.
Quote of the Week. “My job is to recruit teachers to join the union, but you won’t allow me to join a union.” – Maria Elena Hermanson, former organizer for the Clark County Education Association. Hermanson filed a complaint against CCEA with the National Labor Relations Board, claiming she was fired for wanting to join the staff union. CCEA executive director John Vellardita claimed it was for poor performance, and emphasized that in Nevada employers can fire workers without cause. (June 2 Las Vegas Review-Journal)
May 28, 2013
Per-Pupil Spending Decreased in 2011. The effects of the recession hit K-12 public education a lot later than the rest of the economy, with the nation’s school systems recording their first decrease in per-pupil spending since the U.S. Census Bureau began tracking that data in 1977. The annual Census Bureau report on public school revenues and expenditures was released last week. It covered the 2010-11 school year. As is my practice, I’ve coupled the Census figures with staffing statistics from the U.S. Department of Education’s National Center for Education Statistics Common Core of Data and state departments of education for a full picture of the fiscal and labor scene.
Average current spending per-pupil in the 2010-11 school year fell to $10,560, with 21 states spending less than the previous year. The number of full-time equivalent K-12 teachers fell by about 82,000. Thirty-five states employed fewer teachers in 2011 than in 2010.
Annual figures can spike in either direction, so I have constructed a table of the 50 states that examines enrollment, hiring and labor costs over a five-year period (I will eventually update figures for each of America’s more than 13,000 school districts).
From 2006 to 2011, student enrollment decreased a cumulative 0.2 percent, while the K-12 teacher workforce decreased 0.3 percent. Per-pupil spending increased 15.6 percent (about 3.6% after correcting for inflation). Spending on education employee salaries and benefits increased 16 percent.
It’s likely that the 2012 numbers will reflect even sharper declines in spending, after which we can expect a plateau. What happens from here on out is the $600 billion question.
Last Week’s Intercepts. EIA’s daily blog, Intercepts, covered these topics May 21-28:
* A Stroll Through the Moratorium Mausoleum. Remember the full inclusion moratorium of 1994? Don’t worry. No one does.
* Pink Slips, Layoffs and RIFs Are Not the Same Thing. Reckless use of synonyms.
* NEA to Debate Firing Arne Duncan, Again. Sound and fury, signifying nothing.
* Union Trigger. Two stories about accountability and teacher voice.
* Census Bureau Releases 2011 Education Finance Report. The big picture.
* Memorial Day. The words to say.
Quote of the Week. “Anytime there’s an audit of Title I dollars, you’re going to see errors at the school level because schools spend money for what they need, and then sometimes they worry about if it fits the parameter of the grant later.” – Andres Alonso, CEO of the Baltimore City Schools, after a federal audit revealed that Title I and stimulus dollars were used for dinner cruises, meals, theater performances and a mother/daughter makeover. (May 23 CBS Baltimore)
May 20, 2013
Can Florida Real Estate Bail Out United Teachers of Dade? Ten years ago, the FBI raided the headquarters of the United Teachers of Dade, bringing to public view the theft of millions of dollars of dues money by UTD president Pat Tornillo. The embezzlement was disguised by a series of late dues payments, bank loans and the collateral of the union’s real estate holdings. When the truth came to light, UTD was placed in the unenviable position of making good on the debts Tornillo left behind.
Since 2003, UTD has been able to avoid the bald-faced larceny that marked the Tornillo years, but it hasn’t exactly been smooth sailing financially, either. It sold its headquarters building for $22 million and has leased space in it since then. Despite the election of reform-minded officers, the union has had more than its share of internal problems.
Today, with the election of a new president, who was the sitting secretary-treasurer, UTD would appear to be poised to finally escape its debt-ridden history and reestablish itself as a major teachers’ union local. But the numbers don’t lie, and UTD is still a ward of its parent affiliates ten years after Tornillo’s arrest.
UTD owes AFT more than $2.4 million of an operations loan, and another $2.1 million in back dues. It also owes the Florida Education Association almost $1.5 million in back dues.
Six million dollars of debt is substantial for a $10 million enterprise, but the picture is worse because UTD continues to budget based on unrealistic membership projections. The 2012-13 budget was crafted with the expectation of 12,000 full-time equivalent members. But the union only has 11,554 FTEs – a shortfall of $365,000 that has to be made up somehow.
Nevertheless, UTD drafted an optimistic 2013-14 budget based on 11,650 FTEs.
UTD can bumble along this way indefinitely, but it will never be able to pay off its debt. And so it once again has turned to dumping property.
The senior housing building the union’s non-profit subsidiary owns is apparently under contract to a seller for $14 million, though there is some controversy over why UTD turned down a more lucrative offer last year. The union still owes money on this building, but has promised to turn any profits from its sale over to its foundation for teaching excellence.
Additionally, though UTD sold its headquarters building on Biscayne Boulevard, it still owns the 71,000 square foot empty lot that sits behind it. UTD recently decided to put that lot up for sale. It has been assessed at more than $2.1 million.
A source tells EIA that AFT was directly involved in the decision to make the sale, suggesting the proceeds might be targeted to loan or dues repayment. Just as with NEA, the national union will naturally intervene to keep its state and local affiliates afloat. But it could become problematic if the number of fiscal basket cases continues to grow.
Last Week’s Intercepts. EIA’s daily blog, Intercepts, covered these topics May 14-20:
* NEA Offense Looks a Lot Like Defense. Pulling the goalie.
* Education Song Rejects. These didn’t make Andy Rotherham’s list.
* Staff Union Strife in Washington State. Maybe it’s the weather.
* Free Enterprise. Commercialization of schools!
Scheduling Note. The next communiqué will appear Tuesday, May 28.
Quote of the Week #1. “Everybody wants to see more spending. That’s what this place is, a big spending machine. You need something? Go over there and see if you can get it. Well, I am the backstop at the end, and I’m going to keep this budget balanced as long as I’m here.” – California Gov. Jerry Brown. (May 15 San Jose Mercury News)
Quote of the Week #2. “Even as Gov. Jerry Brown pledges to chip away at the state’s debt, his budget plan will leave California on the hook for billions more in school funding down the line.” – Los Angeles Times reporters Chris Megerian and Anthony York. (May 16 Los Angeles Times)
May 13, 2013
NEA Membership Numbers Haven’t Hit Bottom Yet. The National Education Association thinks it sees light at the end of its long tunnel, reporting losses of 38,000 members this year, which is a significant slowing from 2012. The economy has stabilized, if still weak, and it only makes sense that teacher layoffs would level off as well.
Before you get too excited, there are a number of problems unrelated to school district staffing that still exert a downward influence on teacher union membership. In fact, without a countervailing increase in the level of hiring, it is likely that NEA’s total membership will soon fall below 3 million – a level it hasn’t seen since the NYSUT merger in 2006.
The state unions acted quickly in Wisconsin and Michigan in the face of new collective bargaining laws. Many local affiliates were still under contract, or quickly finalized new contracts, which will allow them to hang on to their members for the time being. However, as time passes and those locals feel the effect of the new laws, their membership numbers will steadily continue to drop. As it is, the Wisconsin Education Association Council cut its dues by $27 in an effort to retain members.
Also, NEA’s current numbers do not yet account for the loss of its lone higher education state affiliate, the University of Hawaii Professional Assembly. The 3,000 UHPA members won’t come off NEA rolls until September.
In the meantime, NEA engineered a campaign to get the UHPA board of directors to reverse its disaffiliation vote. The national union organized phone banks and volunteers in an effort to drum up opposition, which has largely fallen on deaf ears. This isn’t necessarily because there was so much support for disaffiliation, but because the average member really doesn’t care one way or the other.
The UHPA leadership cares, though, and it sent an e-mail memo lambasting NEA for interfering in its internal affairs:
On March 18, UHPA President Adrienne Valdez issued a letter to NEA President Dennis Van Roekel requesting that NEA stop direct communications with UHPA members. This request has not been honored. Members continue to receive phone calls and other communications from the National Education Association.
…NEA’s communications are designed to undermine the UHPA elected leadership and the By-laws of our union. The NEA direct communication with members also challenges UHPA’s role as the exclusive collective bargaining representative for the UH faculty through attacks on leaders that do not agree with them. NEA has even begun to circulate a petition in an attempt to rescind the Board’s vote to disaffiliate with the NEA.
…Unfortunately, the NEA tactics make this a battle of winning at all costs. In part this relates to the significant membership and dues loss suffered by NEA since 2010. When NEA President Van Roekel spoke to the UHPA Board in July 2012, he noted that between September 1, 2010 and September 1, 2012, the NEA was projecting to lose 150,000 members. Projections from NEA in 2012 cite an anticipated total loss of 308,000 members by 2014.
UHPA’s membership represents 1/1000 of NEA’s total membership and collectively contributes more than $350,000 in net dues to NEA. With NEA’s declining membership, even UHPA’s decision is a threat to NEA and its bottom line. However, NEA’s foremost concern may be UHPA’s influence on other higher education affiliates to consider independence as an option.
At such a critical time when UH faculty members should be focused on priorities that include legislative issues affecting UH funding and preparing for our new contract negotiations, it is unfortunate the NEA is creating a distraction and seems more concerned with self-preservation than the welfare of its own members.
NEA could learn from AFT that this sort of tactic rarely works out.
With its internal situation in turmoil, the union will increasingly look to external means – increased hiring and funding from state agencies and school districts – to restore its former glory. Expect major initiatives, especially in union-friendly states, centering around class-size reduction and rescinding layoffs, in an effort to bolster membership numbers.
Last Week’s Intercepts. EIA’s daily blog, Intercepts, covered these topics May 7-13:
* Boo-Hooey. Duncan and the AERA deserve each other.
* What the AFL-CIO Can Do for Veterans. From underpaid to overpaid in one fell swoop.
* NEA Names Sen. Patty Murray 2013 “Friend of Education.” Someone has to win.
* Who’s to Blame for Widmer’s Theft? You can follow the money from either end.
* Feature or Bug? When did self-promotion become a liability for union presidents?
Quote of the Week. “Do you want to know what kind of person makes the best reporter? I’ll tell you. A borderline sociopath. Someone smart, inquisitive, stubborn, disorganized, chaotic, and in a perpetual state of simmering rage at the failings of the world. Once upon a time you saw people like this in every newsroom in the country. They often had chaotic personal lives and they died early of cirrhosis or a heart attack. But they were tough, angry SOBs and they produced great stories.” – columnist Brett Arends. (May 12 MarketWatch)
May 6, 2013
Devastating Budget Cuts Still Look Like Increases So Far. The National Center for Education Statistics issued its “First Look” at comprehensive school district revenues and expenditures for the 2009-10 school year. It’s a welcome report, though not exactly a “first look” since it uses U.S. Census Bureau figures available since last fall.
According to the authoritative National Bureau of Economic Research, America’s “Great Recession” began in December 2007 and ended in June 2009. Because of the vast number of agencies involved, it takes years to gather and report definitive public education revenue and spending data. So while we may eventually see figures that corroborate the tales of woe we hear from those quarters, that time has not yet arrived. Quite the contrary, in fact.
Here are a few of the center’s findings:
* School districts reported $599.9 billion in total revenues.
* That was an increase of 0.8 percent from the previous year, in inflation-adjusted dollars.
* Current expenditures per-pupil, however, rose 1.0 percent in inflation-adjusted dollars.
* Some states did experience significant spending cuts – Arizona, Hawaii, Nevada and Utah all had reductions of more than 5 percent. On the other hand, Illinois, Nebraska, North Dakota, Ohio, West Virginia and the District of Columbia all increased spending by more than 5 percent.
* About 61.2 percent of those expenditures went towards employee salaries, and another 21.3 percent to employee benefits. That left about 17.5 percent for just about everything else – student transportation, school books and materials, energy costs, external services, and supplies.
* Outside of current per-pupil spending, we spent $47.1 billion on school construction, $3.3 billion on land and existing structures, $9.4 billion on equipment, and $17.7 billion in interest on school debt.
These numbers are important not just because they highlight the truly awe-inspiring amount we spend on public education, even in terrible economic times, but what we spend it on as well. Whether you think it’s too much or too little, it’s mostly spent on labor, and so the economics and politics of labor have an influence far beyond any focus on curriculum, performance or evaluation. School is big business.
Last Week’s Intercepts. EIA’s daily blog, Intercepts, covered these topics April 30-May 6:
* Who Cares About Apathy? Lack of member involvement can work to your advantage.
* Nope, Still Not Worried About Charter School Unionization. Pushing against the tide.
* Sometimes the Union Is Not at Fault (It’s True!). A taste of IRS bureaucracy.
* Around the Horn. A farrago of factoids from across the country.
* Mobile Site No Longer Stationary. Tech problem fixed.
Quote of the Week. “Once they got somebody in there they thought was doing a good job, they let them stay forever. It was like pulling teeth to get people to do any of those (union) jobs.” – Philip Dello Stritto, former Auburn Teachers Association vice president under the late Sally Jo Widmer, who was alleged to have stolen $808,000 from the union. (May 5 Syracuse Post-Standard)
April 29, 2013
Stealing by Stalling: Dues Transmittal Delays Can Cover Up Theft. Over the past 10 years we have had a string of local teacher union officers committing major theft of dues money: Pat Tornillo in Miami, Barbara Bullock in Washington DC, Pat Santeramo in Broward County, and several others. But these were presidents of large locals, with many members and big budgets. More recent crimes involve officers of small locals.
In Maryland, Denise Inez Owens was the treasurer of the 600-member Worcester County Teachers Association, but she still managed to steal more than $433,000. Last week we learned that Sally Jo Widmer, president of the 400-member Auburn Teachers Association in New York, made off with at least $808,000. This is only possible because of a bug in the dues transmittal system, which is a reasonably efficient method of passing dues up the chain so that parent unions get their share.
In most cases, school districts extract the entire amount of each member’s dues and send it to the local union each pay period. But the local isn’t required to immediately forward the state and national unions’ share. The NEA by-laws spell out the normal procedure:
A local shall transmit to a state affiliate and a state affiliate shall transmit to the Association at least forty (40) percent of the Association dues receivable for the year by March 15 and at least seventy (70) percent of the Association dues receivable for the year by June 1; the percentage shall be based upon the last membership count prior to January 15…
In short, even small locals have large sums deposited for several months before they have to transmit the funds to their state affiliates. It might even be easier for officers of small locals to commit fraud under these circumstances because there are fewer people to enforce safeguards and/or become whistleblowers.
An examination of the 2012 financial disclosure report for the New York State United Teachers (NYSUT) reveals the Auburn Teachers Association under Widmer was behind on its dues transmittal by $36,816 – $18,339 of which was overdue by more than 90 days. That’s not much cash in the overall scheme of things, but in a local of 400 members, it is a significant amount.
There are dozens of legitimate reasons for a local to fall behind on its dues obligations to the state and national affiliates, but the major cases of fraud noted above were almost always accompanied by late dues transmittals (see item#4 here, just prior to the raid on Tornillo’s office).
The handful of teachers’ unions subject to the Landrum-Griffin Act are required to report the status of their accounts receivable, which includes overdue dues transmittals from locals, but they are not required to itemize every single one. NYSUT, for example, was owed money by at least 39 locals in 2012, including more than $19.7 million by the United Federation of Teachers, the largest local in the nation, of which almost $6.9 million was more than 180 days overdue. The local at New York University owed $627,297, all of it more than 180 days overdue.
Smaller locals also had late dues transmittals. The Goshen Teachers Association owed $39,580, much of it 90 days late. The same was true of the East Williston Teachers Association, the Clarence Teachers Association, the Uniondale Teachers Association, and the Rockland Community College Federation of Teachers.
In other areas of the country, the Chicago Teachers Union was almost $2.3 million behind, “various” Michigan locals were a total of $257,473 behind, the Jefferson Federation of Teachers in Louisiana was almost $419,000 behind, and the West Virginia School Service Personnel Association was $225,515 behind. And of course, the United Teachers of Dade (UTD) still owes AFT more than $2.5 million, stemming from the Tornillo scandal. UTD also owed almost $1.5 million to the Florida Education Association.
NEA and its affiliates have some laggards. NEA national was short almost $2.2 million from Florida, $590,000 from Georgia, $557,000 from Alabama, and $1.7 million from the Wisconsin Education Association Council, probably due to sudden membership losses in that state. NEA wrote off an additional $196,000 in fiscal year 2011 dues that it was never able to collect from various state affiliates.
Among those state affiliates, there were more late dues transmittals from locals. In Illinois, Local Education Association of District 300 ($100K), Downers Grove Elementary Education Association ($95K) and District 21 Education Association ($77K) owed money. In Florida, the Big Bend/Central Panhandle Service Unit and the local in Escambia owed a combined $166K and were more than 180 days late.
The list goes on: the Montrose Education Association in Pennsylvania, the Northwest Local Education Association in Ohio, Port Huron and Ionia City education associations in Michigan, and the Minneapolis Federation of Teachers in Minnesota all owed money to their parent affiliates.
There is no way for an outsider to tell – and few ways for insiders – how the national and state unions ensure that dues reach their prescribed destinations, and whether delays are because of legitimate shortfalls and unforeseen circumstances.
The financial structure of the teachers’ unions makes it possible for wealthy affiliates to organize and subsidize poorer affiliates. Consequently, fraud and misappropriations can affect the bottom lines of all associated unions. It’s a rare crook who would steal from a local but leave the state and national funds untouched.
Last Week’s Intercepts. EIA’s daily blog, Intercepts, covered these topics April 23-29:
* Late Union President’s Astonishing $800K Theft. More than $2,000 per member.
* Widmer Committed Suicide, Left $50K to Union in Will. Remorse or insult to injury?
* Big Fish in a Little Pond of Voters. Does this make UFT the ex-teachers’ union?
* Aberration or Trend? Unusual election outcomes in some NEA state affiliates.
* NEA Should Have Reconsidered Its Motion to Reconsider. Spanked again by Indiana judge.
Headline of the Week. “Maine lawmakers propose $30 million in additional education funding without revenue to pay for it.” – April 24 Bangor Daily News
April 22, 2013
Seven Not-So-Fun Facts About the Costs of Public Education. I was in the midst of writing this for posting on Income Tax Day when last Monday’s tragedy occurred.
For many years we have expressed education expenditures as “per-pupil spending.” This is a reasonably good way to frame the numbers, though controversy sometimes arises over what is included and what isn’t. The following is a list of different angles on the same spending. All the figures cited are for 2010, courtesy of the National Center of Education Statistics, the Bureau of Labor Statistics, and the U.S. Census Bureau.
1) Revenues collected by governments for public education in the United States totaled $593.7 billion. About $261.4 billion came from local sources, $258.2 billion from state sources, and $74 billion from federal sources.
2) That’s about $1,922 from each and every American.
3) Or $2,531 from each adult, 18 and older.
4) Or $4,567 from each non-farm American worker on a payroll.
5) That amounts to 11.4 percent of the average worker’s salary, or $2.20 per hour.
6) The average American employee thus works almost one hour every day to fund public schools.
7) It would take the entire salary of 14,842,500 employees to pay for U.S. public schools, equivalent to the entire retail trade workforce.
Public education advocates often speak of school spending as an investment. It’s clear that our portfolio is heavily weighted in the education sector. The shareholders are understandably upset by weak ROIs and incessant margin calls. No wonder they responded by downsizing.
Last Week’s Intercepts. EIA’s daily blog, Intercepts, covered these topics April 16-22:
* The Evergreen Charter School Unionization Story. There you go again.
* Hawaii Pays for Performance Pay. That’s a pretty big carrot.
* Exclusive Video of Chicago Teachers Union Candidate Training. Look, it’s the queen of diamonds!
* Hedge Fund Hilarity. Fair share.
* Math Skills Not Required. We’re gonna need a bigger calculator.
Quote of the Week. “We don’t blame the firefighters when there’s a fire, and we don’t blame the police for crime! Why would we? Then why are educators being blamed for the struggles of our public schools? Let’s look at the policies and the policymakers instead of the people doing the work every day.” – Earl Wiman, current member of the National Education Association Executive Committee. (April 12 speech to the Virginia Education Association Delegate Assembly)
We pay firefighters to put out fires. We pay police officers to catch criminals. We pay teachers to educate children. NEA pays Wiman to obscure the issue.
April 15, 2013
1) Say a Prayer for the Victims of the Boston Marathon Explosions. Horrible news today, but even worse for the group of Newtown, Connecticut parents who were running in the race in memory of the victims of the Sandy Hook massacre.
As I write this, the Boston Police Department is reporting 2 dead and 23 injured. Keep them all in your thoughts and prayers.
UPDATE: Newtown Patch reporting Sandy Hook parents who ran in race are safe.
2) Last Week’s Intercepts. EIA’s daily blog, Intercepts, covered these topics April 9-15:
* What Happens When You Assume. Rose-colored glasses improve the view, but not the smell.
* Union Uses PAC Money to Pay School Board President’s Campaign Fine. Is that what it’s for?
* New Jersey School Stats Stir the Pot. Current vs. total.
* WEAC Executive Director Stepping Down. New direction or slow descent?
* A Very Special Episode of “Glee.” No, not the school shooting stuff.
3) Quote of the Week. “We do think it’s paramount… that districts do get restored at least back to their ’07-’08 levels.” –Andrea Ball of the California School Boards Association, voicing some discontent with Gov. Jerry Brown’s school funding plan. (April 10 SI&A Cabinet Report)
April 8, 2013
1) Relativity and Its Effect on Education Staffing Levels. Don’t worry. This isn’t going to be a treatise of any sort. It’s just that the March 2013 Employment Situation report from the Bureau of Labor Statistics has bad news not just for the U.S. economy in general, but for education employees specifically. Most of these workers, including most K-12 public school teachers, fall under the BLS category of “Local government, education.” That sector lost 2,000 jobs in March, and 24,200 jobs since March 2012.
It continues an interrupted downward trend in the public education workforce since its peak of more than 8.1 million employees in July 2008, as depicted by this simple graph.
That’s a 4.4 percent drop in about five years. While that’s a hardship on everyone involved, it only took the four previous years – from June 2004 to July 2008 – to add those jobs to the public education workforce.
If we take the extreme long view, this decline is hard to notice. The BLS statistics go back to 1955, and this is what staffing looks like over the entire 58-year period.
The staffing numbers for 1955 would obviously be inadequate for the student population of 2013. The same for 1985. But since desires are infinite, and resources are finite, how are we so certain that the staffing levels of 2008 were an optimal use of funding?
The economy will eventually improve. Tax revenues will grow, and lawmakers will find ways to spend them. The pressure will be on to restore staffing to pre-recession levels. Before that becomes mired in the usual political wars, wouldn’t this be a good opportunity to ask why?
2) Last Week’s Intercepts. EIA’s daily blog, Intercepts, covered these topics April 2-8:
* The Less-Than-One-Percenters. How small does a rally have to get before it’s downgraded to “get-together.”
* Rhee-actionaries. How lefties deal with racism in the ranks.
* How Slow Can You Go? Cut to the Chase.
* New Argument Against Vouchers: Your Kid Might Have to Ride the Bus. Whatever works.
* There’s No App For That. Low data plan.
3) Quote of the Week. “Money for implementing the new Common Core State Standards and adult education would also be part of the new formula and decided at the local level. That, quite honestly is unacceptable. And CTA has had those conversations with the governor. There must also be accountability provisions in this funding proposal to ensure districts spend the money the way they are supposed to in order to meet student needs. It will be important for educators to get involved and have a say in these local issues, which is why we are recommending that local chapters not rush into settlements between now and when the revised state budget comes out in May.” – Dean Vogel, president of the California Teachers Association, in an April 6 speech to the union’s State Council.
April 1, 2013
1) Money and Membership Dominate NEA State Affiliate Concerns. Spring is when many National Education Associations state affiliates hold their conventions, and while I wish I had access to all their budgets contemporaneously, there is usually a delay of a year or more before comprehensive numbers are available.
In the meantime we have to make do with a hand-gathered sample of states and what they are facing for the 2013-14 school year.
* Connecticut Education Association – One of NEA’s healthier state affiliates in 2011 became significantly less healthy in 2012 despite a budget surplus of more than $1 million. That’s because revenue projections to fund post-retirement benefits for union staff had to be reduced because of continued low interest rates. CEA has about $12 million in staff pension liabilities and an additional $9 million in post-retirement medical benefit liabilities.
The union budgeted for a membership level of 36,260, which would be about 1,000 members below 2011’s level.
* Missouri NEA – Planning on a $10 dues increase after a loss of 1,000 members last year – to just under 27,000. The union is budgeting 65 percent of its income for personnel costs.
* Ohio Education Association – OEA closed two field offices, reduced 10 staff positions by attrition, and realigned service regions to allow fewer employees to cover more ground. The union lost 4,600 members last year and is expecting to lose 3,000 more by the end of this school year. If the trend is not reversed, OEA will soon fall below 100,000 full-time equivalent members.
OEA also suffered greatly from its post-retirement obligations. It currently has about $60 million in pension and retiree health care liabilities. Pension and health care contributions was by far the largest line-item in the union’s budget, exceeding even salaries plus payroll taxes.
* Vermont NEA – Planning on no change in active membership of 10,350, but calling for an $18 per member dues increase for a $4.65 million budget for 2013-14. All but $1 million of that will be spent on employee salaries and benefits.
* Virginia Education Association – I don’t have detailed budget information for VEA, but it is reducing the number of regional districts from 26 to 17, and reducing the minimum number of representatives on the board of directors from 33 to 15. Additionally, VEA will amend its by-laws to allow for electronic meetings and conferences.
* Other affiliates are planning for dues increases. The Nebraska State Education Association will ask for $380 (up $4), Kansas NEA $374 (up $5), Iowa State Education Association $489 (up $8), South Dakota Education Association $381 (up $11), and Wyoming Education Association $490 (up $15).
If you have similar information for other affiliates and it can be verified with documentation, send it along and I’ll update everyone.
2) Last Week’s Intercepts. EIA’s blog, Intercepts, covered these topics March 26-April 1:
* Bad, Bad Week in Indiana Courts for NEA, ISTA. The unions will face trial for securities fraud.
* Is James G. Blaine Finally Dead? Vouchers will continue to see legal challenges, but one argument might become moot.
* Decertification Oddities in Florida and Montana. Deadlines.
* “House of Cards” Causes Union Guy to Flush. Switch to decaf, dude.
* Campus Gun Ban Hit By Musket Volley. The shot heard ‘round the world.
* Labor-Saving Technology. No e-mails for three weeks, and then all in one day from Feedburner. I switched to MailChimp and let’s hope that mess is behind us. Thanks for your patience.
3) Quote of the Week. “We don’t condone cheating, but when you have high-stakes testing, which are one-shot deals that don’t tell you whether a child is going to fail or succeed, the whole setup in terms of No Child Left Behind was unfair to children, unfair to educators.” – Verdaillia Turner, president of the Georgia Federation of Teachers, remarking on the indictments in the Atlanta test cheating scandal. (April 1 MSNBC)
If you received this all right via e-mail, let me know. I switched to MailChimp and will be tweaking it in the coming weeks. Thanks for your patience.
I apologize for the failure of the system to get you last Monday’s communique’ – and maybe previous Mondays as well. I’m trying out a new service, so if you receive this via-email, respond and let me know.
If it works, there will probably be a few tweaks to the design, so if you have suggestions or desires, get them in now and I’ll try to incorporate them. Thanks for your patience. Automation is a lot of work.
I am having lots of problems with the Communique RSS feed, particularly the e-mail delivery, so bear with me while I try to work it out. Thanks.
March 25, 2013
1) NEA’s Legacy: $310 Million in Direct Campaign Spending Since 2000. I was recently provided with a partial summary of the ballot initiative spending of the National Education Association and its state affiliates over the last five years. The figures were substantial, to say the least. A few years ago, I attempted to create a comprehensive accounting of the unions’ political campaign spending, but concentrated on a single election cycle. Using the data compiled by the National Institute on Money in State Politics, I decided to check on NEA’s total direct campaign spending since 2000, the year NEA created its Ballot Measure/Legislative Crises Fund and assessed each member to fill its coffers.
NEA and its state affiliates spent more than $310 million in direct contributions on political campaigns for candidates and issues in that 12-year period. That figure does not include independent expenditures or issue advertising. Almost $53.4 million came from NEA national headquarters, while another $257.1 million was spent by affiliates.
More than 47.3 percent of that total – almost $147 million – was spent in California or on behalf of California ballot measures and candidates.
The union spent more than $92.3 million on candidates and party committees. About 86.3% of those were Democrat-affiliated, and 11.5% were Republican-affiliated. The rest were nonpartisan or third-party candidates. About $60.9 million went to candidates alone, 66.3% of whom were incumbents and 14.2% challengers. The rest were open seats. Candidates backed financially by NEA and its affiliates won 73.2% of the time.
NIMSP data on ballot initiative spending only goes back as far as 2004, and while I have NEA national expenditures for the previous four years, I don’t have figures for every state affiliate. Suffice to say additional millions were spent on ballot measures from 2000-04, but we can’t adequately account for it all.
NEA and its affiliates spent almost $218.1 million on ballot initiatives alone from 2004 to 2012. Of the ten measures that drew that most spending by the union, eight were in California. The other two were in Ohio in 2011 and Oregon in 2008.
The National Education Association and its state affiliates are a giant political machine in perpetual motion. That machine is fueled with the dues and PAC contributions of 3 million public school employees and retirees. We would do well to keep that in mind as we debate the relative merits of things like Common Core or teacher evaluation systems and their outlooks for success.
2) Last Week’s Intercepts. EIA’s blog, Intercepts, covered these topics March 19-25:
* NEA “Only” Down 70,000 More Members. Half the budgeted loss.
* I Still Don’t Understand the News Cycle. 70,000 in one year is news, but 150,000 in two years isn’t?
* Hawaii Teachers Now Contractually Obligated Not to Flee Scene of Emergency. Work-to-rule protection?
* Union Health Trust Begins Its “Journey of Change.” Which side wants to increase teachers’ premiums and which side says no.
* How “Informal Bargaining” Works in Wisconsin. Campaign of annoyance.
3) Quote of the Week. “I stand for direct election of any CTA board of directors member who represents a geographical district. Currently your CTA Board member is elected by CTA State Council. Direct election of Board candidates will put the electoral process in school site lunchrooms and local union offices and make our politics more accountable to membership. Your CTA dues are $647 per year; shouldn’t you be allowed to vote?” – Mark Kotch, candidate for vice president of the California Teachers Association. (March 2013 California Educator)
March 18, 2013
1) NEA to Unveil “Raise Your Hand” Campaign. The National Education Association often feels itself to be the target of education reform, so it routinely generates reform campaigns of its own. The latest in the series has its roots in December 2010, when the union formed the Commission on Effective Teachers and Teaching (CETT) to “craft a new teacher-centered vision of teaching and the teaching profession.”
The commission produced a report the following year, which was well-received in many circles – including here at EIA – and led NEA president Dennis Van Roekel to hold a press conference in December 2011 to announce a “new three-part action agenda to strengthen the teaching profession and improve student learning,” under the heading of “Leading the Profession.”
The three parts of the action agenda were “raising the bar for entry,” “teachers ensuring great teaching,” and “providing union leadership to transform our profession.” Each item had specific and measurable goals to be reached:
* “…the implementation of at least 50 high-quality residency programs over the next several years and teacher performance assessments in at least 10 state licensure systems.”
* “…establish at least 100 new Peer Assistance and Peer Assistance and Review programs over the next three years.”
* “…train 1,000 accomplished teachers to be voices for their profession, both as instructional leaders and at all levels of policymaking.”
While this had all the earmarks of being a major NEA campaign, it still hit a hurdle at the 2012 Representative Assembly when a group of influential delegates sought to “address internal barriers to organizational engagement about teaching quality and student learning” by involving UniServ directors in teacher quality issues. The idea was a CETT recommendation. UniServ staffers are state affiliate employees partially funded by NEA to deal with labor and political issues. The delegates voted down the proposal by a substantial margin.
Van Roekel is now introducing a new campaign, called “Raise Your Hand,” designed to follow on the progress of the “Leading the Profession” campaign. But Raise Your Hand has a few things Leading the Profession lacked. It has four components instead of three, it has a logo and, best of all, it has a $3 per member special assessment budgeted for it.
The four action items for this campaign are “successful students,” “accomplished professionals,” “dynamic collaboration,” and “empowered leaders.” And, like its predecessor, each item has goals – the training of 1,000 teacher leaders, the establishment of at least 50 peer review programs (down from 100, it appears), the creation of an online professional collaboration system involving 30 state affiliates, 250 locals and 30,000 members, and the development of a leadership training curriculum for 200 selected teachers.
Whether these goals will be reached or, having been reached, will actually result in better public schools, is open to debate. It is also unclear whether these kinds of initiatives will actually generate the laudatory press NEA seems to think they deserve.
The ultimate test of NEA’s reform program won’t be an acknowledgement by the public of the union’s role in improving education. It will be an endorsement by the rank-and-file members and staffers of an approach that places teacher quality issues on an equal footing – at least – with grievance, contract and compensation issues.
2) Last Week’s Intercepts. EIA’s blog, Intercepts, covered these topics March 12-18:
* Union Calls Off Representation Election at Chicago Charter School. A hasty retreat.
* Staff Union Sanctions Idaho Education Association. Hostile work environment.
* It’s Thursday, So It’s Time for Another Union Resurgence. So many union turnarounds leave us dizzy.
* Card Check No Panacea. No rush to unions in Oregon.
* Payback. Tax on them. Spend on me.
3) Quote of the Week. “When the powers that be ignore you and dismiss you, then you have no other choice than to resort to civil disobedience to confront an immoral act.” – Randi Weingarten, president of the American Federation of Teachers, explaining why she was arrested during a protest in Philadelphia. (March 12 Washington Post)
March 11, 2013
1) Text of the AFSCME-NEA-SEIU Statement of Solidarity. In an attempt to circle the wagons, the National Education Association sought a series of agreements with fellow public sector unions AFSCME and SEIU to increase cooperation and avoid inter-union squabbles. The three organizations ultimately drafted and adopted three documents: one for dispute resolution, one for representation boundaries, and one a statement of solidarity. Here is the full text of the statement of solidarity:
AFSCME-NEA-SEIU STATEMENT OF SOLIDARITY
We, the American Federation of State, County and Municipal Employees (AFSCME), the National Education Association (NEA), and the Service Employees International Union (SEIU), are committed to working in partnership with one another in a continuing, united effort to advance the rights and well-being of America’s workers; to revitalize and expand the American labor movement; and to establish a strong, unified and effective voice in support of social and economic justice. In furtherance of these goals, we pledge to:
• Mutually advocate and advance policies and positions designed to enhance the well-being of working Americans, their families and their communities; promote social and economic justice; and protect and extend labor union rights and protections;
• Engender respect, foster partnership and encourage collaboration between and among our affiliates and members;
• Strengthen the formal ties between our three unions, resolve expeditiously and amicably all actual and foreseeable disputes or disagreements between our unions and/or affiliates, honor the respective work jurisdictions and workplace actions of each of our three unions, and establish meaningful no-raid and jurisdictional agreements at the national and state levels;
• Assist each other in enhancing and expanding America’s middle class by countering the attacks and decline of private and public sector unions, increasing union membership and support, and initiating joint organizing projects and providing mutual assistance wherever possible;
• Stand together against our common adversaries and in joint condemnation of policies, programs, proposals, and/or actions that undermine the rights, interests, or welfare of our nation’s workers and their families.
While the documents establish a closer relationship among these unions than existed before, the lessons of the NEAFT Partnership and AFL-CIO/NEA Labor Solidarity Partnership suggest the organizations will work together when it’s easy to do so, and accomplish little when conflicts arise, particularly among their state and local affiliates. NEA has been inching closer to the rest of the organized labor movement for years, but it’s hard to argue that it has increased the teachers’ union’s power, influence or membership externally.
However, such new agreements are an acknowledgement that teachers’ unions are already the bulk of the labor movement and will own an increasing share of total union membership in the coming years. Eventually someone will ask the question: Why not have just one big union for everyone?
2) Last Week’s Intercepts. EIA’s blog, Intercepts, covered these topics March 5-11:
* NEA President on the State of the Union. A rare fly-on-the-wall discussion.
* $433K Union Theft Not Reported Because of “Potential Impact on Membership.” Evidently what happens to your dues after they’re extracted from your paycheck is none of your business.
* Randi Gets 5-O’d. Unionier than thou.
* The Man Behind the Curtain. Captive audience.
* Wi-Fi WTF? Low test scores? Maybe it’s your network.
3) Quote of the Week. “We struck, we fought, we gave Karen Lewis all the power she needed, but she didn’t deliver at the bargaining table.”– Tanya Saunders-Wolffe, who is running for the presidency of the Chicago Teachers Union. (February 20 Chicago Tribune)
March 4, 2013
1) 3,000 Hawaii Faculty Leave NEA. In a move not seen since the 1970s, a direct affiliate of the National Education Association left the organization and became independent.
The University of Hawaii Professional Assembly (UHPA), representing some 3,000 faculty members and other employees of the UH system, disaffiliated from NEA by a narrow 13-10 vote of its board of directors on February 23. UHPA is completely separate from the Hawaii State Teachers Association, NEA’s K-12 affiliate in the state. HSTA is unaffected by the vote.
The split is the result of chronic differences over money, support and communications, not only between UHPA and NEA, but between UHPA and HSTA, who often do not see eye-to-eye on union issues. In a February 2012 memo, UHPA executive director J.N. Musto laid out the arguments for disaffiliation that centered on value added for money spent.
“The NEA does not provide UHPA with any information, support, assistance, access to elected officials, benefits, or programs that the organization is not able to provide itself either at the same, or less, cost to UHPA,” wrote Musto, noting that over its history, UHPA had sent $2.9 million more to NEA than it had received in grants and services.
Support for disaffiliation grew to the point that NEA president Dennis Van Roekel visited UHPA in June 2012 to attempt to dissuade the board from pursuing it further. I’ll have more information on that meeting later this week. Following Van Roekel’s visit, UHPA convened a task force to make recommendations on disaffiliation. The committee did not reach a consensus, but did agree to poll the members.
Respondents favored a continuation of the NEA relationship, but at numbers just short of a majority. About 49% favored affiliation, 35% opposed, and 15% had no preference. The UHPA by-laws grant affiliation powers to the board of directors, so the disaffiliation vote is final, barring some extraordinary occurrence.
With sentiment so evenly split, NEA may still hold out hopes of reversing the decision, though it will definitely want to avoid additional internal strife over the issue. The disaffiliation does not go into effect until September 2013.
UHPA will net a quarter-million dollars annually by retaining the dues formerly sent to NEA, and NEA will see a corresponding loss of revenue, although the blow to the national union is more psychological than financial, amid the membership losses sustained over the past few years.
2) Intercepts. EIA’s blog, Intercepts, covered these topics since February 12:
* Even NEA Dues Cut Will Result in Dues Hike. The dodge of the “special assessment.”
* Union Treasurer Sentenced to Two Years for $433,784 Theft. Lots of questions go unanswered.
* Dissected Nurses’ Union Affiliates With AFT. Shifting alliances.
* Tower for Red Ink? Miami union’s way out of debt?
* What Do You Do With a Closed School? Buildings not really suited for anything else.
3) Quote of the Week. “When you say things like ‘we were railroaded, we were lied to’ by everybody from the governor to the janitor, those are statements of weakness, not strength. This was an awful loss for AEA in about every way it could be.” – Alabama Rep. John Rogers (D-Birmingham), describing the effect of the Alabama Accountability Act on the Alabama Education Association. (March 3 Birmingham News)
February 11, 2013
1) AFT Donated $6 Million to Advocacy Groups. An Education Intelligence Agency analysis of AFT’s financial disclosure report for the 2011-12 fiscal year reveals the national union contributed $6 million to advocacy groups and charities.
A $1.2 million donation to Californians Working Together, the group formed to support Prop 30, the tax increase ballot initiative, was the national union’s largest single contribution. A host of special interest groups, charities and religious organizations also received money from AFT, including the Center for Tax and Budget Accountability, the Economic Policy Institute, and the University of Colorado National Education Policy Center.
These figures do not include grants and contributions made to other unions (such as Colorado WINS) or union coalitions such as the AFL-CIO. For example, AFT contributed $1,150,000 to the AFL-CIO’s State Unity Fund.
Here is an alphabetic list of the recipients of AFT’s contributions, with relevant web links. All of these were paid for with members’ dues money (the union’s federal PAC is a separate entity funded through voluntary means):
Alliance for a Better California 2012 – $500,000
Alliance for Retired Americans – $6,000
America Votes – $5,000
America Works USA – $100,000
American Constitution Society – $5,000
American Labor Museum – $5,000
American Labor Studies Center – $5,000
The American Prospect – $200,000
American Rights at Work – $25,000
Annenberg Institute for School Reform – $41,333
A. Philip Randolph Institute – $5,000
Asian Pacific American Labor Alliance – $10,550
Blue Green Alliance Foundation – $160,000
Brave New Foundation – $125,000
California Community Foundation – $24,000
Campaign for America’s Future – $10,000
Center for Citizenship Education (Mongolia) – $9,155
Center for Tax and Budget Accountability – $100,000
Center for Teaching Quality – $10,000
Child Labor Coalition – $5,000
Citizens for Public Schools – $15,200
Citizens for Tax Justice – $15,000
Clergy Strategic Alliances – $96,000
Clinton Global Initiative – $250,000
Coalition of Black Trade Unionists – $5,000
Coalition of Labor Union Women – $6,000
Committee for Education Funding – $17,713
Congressional Hispanic Caucus Institute – $30,000
Council on Competitiveness – $10,000
CTSP Haiti – $17,000
Economic Policy Institute – $230,000
Economic Research Institute – $5,943
Educating Maryland Kids – $100,000
First Book – $15,178
Florida State Conference of the NAACP – $10,000
Freedom House – $10,000
Gamaliel Foundation – $60,000
Good Jobs First – $22,500
Healthy Schools Campaign – $12,000
Helmets to Hardhats – $7,000
In the Life Media – $5,000
Jewish Labor Committee – $10,300
Keystone Research Center – $15,000
The King Center – $5,000
Labor Project for Working Families – $50,000
La MaMa – $5,000
Leadership Conference on Civil Rights – $50,000
League of United Latin American Citizens – $17,500
Learning First Alliance – $53,964
Learning Forward – $30,000
Little Rock Nine Foundation – $5,000
Massachusetts Jobs with Justice – $28,450
The Nation Institute – $10,000
NAACP – $10,875
NAACP Legal Defense and Educational Fund – $20,000
National Consumers League – $15,000
National Council of La Raza – $12,500
National Council of Negro Women – $5,000
National Democratic Institute – $25,000
National Labor College – $299,749
National Public Pension Coalition – $135,000
National Urban League – $5,020
Netroots Nation – $30,000
Network Education Program – $5,000
New York City Parents Union – $5,000
Ohio Unity Coalition – $7,350
Organizers in the Land of Enchantment – $24,619
OpenPlans – $10,000
Parent Teacher Home Visit Project – $46,665
The Peggy Browning Fund – $5,000
Policy Matters Ohio – $25,000
Pride at Work – $5,000
Progressive National Baptist Convention – $10,000
Rainbow PUSH Coalition – $50,000
Rebuild America’s Schools – $30,000
Save the Children – $10,000
Schott Foundation for Public Education – $10,000
Thomas B. Fordham Institute – $10,000
TransAfrica – $10,000
United States Student Association – $22,501
United Students Against Sweatshops – $5,000
United Way of the National Capital Area – $15,000
Urban Farming Inc. – $5,000
U.S. Hispanic Leadership Institute – $10,000
Vermont Medical Response Team – $5,000
We Are Ohio – $209,230
WNET.org – $150,000
Working America – $505,000
2) Last Week’s Intercepts. EIA’s blog, Intercepts, covered these topics from February 5-11:
* Thunderclap Augurs New Deals Between NEA, AFT, SEIU & AFSCME. Closing ranks.
* Are You a Union Member or a Lease? A community of workers. The way East Berlin was.
* District Bullies Steal Kids’ Lunch Money. Those lawn sprinklers weren’t to help lunch vegetables grow.
* Vermont Teacher on Agency Fees. Fair share.
* Arne Duncan One-on-One with Usain Bolt? Out of their element.
3) Scheduling Note. The EIA Communiqué will be on a break until Monday, March 4. Daily updates will still appear on Intercepts.
4) Quote of the Week. “Since a teacher’s working conditions are a child’s learning conditions, attacking teachers is the same as attacking children.” – Randy Mousley, president of United Teachers of Wichita. (February 9Wichita Eagle)
February 4, 2013
1) North Dakota Becomes Fifth Merged NEA/AFT State Affiliate. The representative bodies of the North Dakota Education Association and the North Dakota Public Employees Association formally approved a merger of the two unions over the weekend. The new organization, named North Dakota United, will begin operations in September.
NDU will join teachers’ unions in Minnesota, Florida, Montana and New York as merged state affiliates of both the National Education Association and the American Federation of Teachers. About 650,000 members belong to both national unions. Wisconsin is also on the road to merger.
NDEA represents about 7,500 education employees and 1,500 retirees. NDPEA represents just about every other public sector employee, from custodians and higher education faculty to nurses and wildlife specialists. Their combined membership will be about 10,000. There are only 20,000 union members in all of North Dakota.
The decision will inevitably raise questions once again about the prospects of a national merger. Certainly having so many merged state affiliates might make the idea more appealing than it has been in the past. However, the five merged states, plus Wisconsin, were largely in favor of national merger when it came to a vote back in 1998. There probably won’t be any renewed momentum to take up that banner again until a previously anti-merger affiliate switches sides.
The only state where that scenario is plausible is Michigan – not because the Michigan Education Association and AFT Michigan have suddenly developed a deep affection for each other – but because the new right-to-work law might make the previously unthinkable seem thinkable. It happened on a smaller scale in New York when the anti-merger Buffalo Teachers Federation fell into line after threatening to go independent, and is now by all accounts content within New York State United Teachers.
It would take such a weakening of the anti-merger states, plus the diluted reasons for past opposition (such as AFL-CIO affiliation), plus renewed energy at the national level from the heir apparent to the NEA presidency, Lily Eskelsen, to gather the two-thirds secret ballot majority to make it happen. Those are still big hurdles to leap.
In the meantime, we will continue to watch for signs of external pressures pushing other NEA and AFT affiliates together, since internal momentum seems lacking.
2) Last Week’s Intercepts. EIA’s blog, Intercepts, covered these topics from January 29-February 4:
* Greenhouse Gas. I’m afraid the silver linings the New York Times sees in the union membership numbers are just tinsel.
* CTA Behind the Media Scenes. This newspaper story is union pre-approved.
* Another Union Health Trust About to Go “Belly Up.” It spends more money than it brings in. Who could predict something like that would be a problem?
* Union “Benefits Review” Requires Birth Certificates, Tax Returns. Sit through a sales pitch or lose your health insurance.
* Palm Reader. Listen to the hand.
3) Quote of the Week. “We’re trying to find out who’s in the buildings and how many people are in the buildings, for the point of organizing.” – Larry Carter, president of the United Teachers New Orleans, explaining why he requested the names and contact information of teachers in 35 New Orleans charter schools. (February 4 Baton Rouge Advocate)
January 28, 2013
1) Ten Things You Should Know About Union Membership Numbers. The Bureau of Labor Statistics released its annual report on union membership last week and the news was pretty grim. While the economy added almost 2.4 million jobs in 2012, union membership was down by almost 400,000.
Digging through the data led to several more interesting discoveries.
1) Since 2008, private sector unions have lost more than 1.2 million members – almost equivalent to losing the entire rank-and-file of the Teamsters.
2) All of the government jobs lost since 2008 were added in the three-year period 2005-2008.
3) Almost half of all union members work in just seven states – California, New York, Illinois, Pennsylvania, Michigan, New Jersey and Ohio – though these states employ only about one-third of the U.S. workforce.
4) Union membership increased in 14 states and the District of Columbia. Of these, only five added more than 10,000 members (California, Georgia, Kentucky, Oklahoma and Texas).
5) Local government (teachers, police officers, firefighters, et al.) is by far the most unionized sector of the American workforce.
6) Members of the two national teachers’ unions, the National Education Association and the American Federation of Teachers, comprise more than 25% of all union members in the United States, and just under half of all public sector union members.
7) About 42% of U.S. workers are 45 years of age or older. Almost 52% of union members are.
8) If unions were able to organize all the workers at Wal-Mart, by far America’s largest employer, it would only raise their share of the private sector workforce to 8.5% – less than the share they had in 2002.
9) If the trends recorded since 2000 continue, by 2051 there will be 8 million union members in the United States – 6.6% of the total workforce – and they will all work for the government.
10) Five million of them will be teachers.
2) Last Week’s Intercepts. EIA’s blog, Intercepts, covered these topics from January 23-28:
* Teacher Glut Is Elementary. Schools of education keep churning out candidates for jobs that don’t exist, while shortages in specialized areas persist.
* Indianapolis Star Gives Teacher Union Troubles Front-Page Treatment. Mainstream media corroboration.
* Union Membership at 62-Year Low. In actual number of warm bodies.
* Evidently Only Money Can Light a Fire. Just the beginning.
3) Quote of the Week. “As we celebrate the 150th Anniversary of CTA, we must remember that we were founded for one reason – and one reason only – and that was to engage in politics. We were founded to engage in the political process in order to create an organized system of public instruction and to elevate the profession of teaching in California.” – Carolyn Doggett, executive director of the California Teachers Association, in a January 27 speech to the union’s State Council.
January 22, 2013
1) NEA Dues Keeping the Lights On in Indiana. Teachers in Mississippi or New Mexico who are paying dues to the National Education Association should have a reasonable expectation that their money is paying for utilities and building maintenance at NEA headquarters in Washington, DC as well as the national union’s regional offices. But should they have an expectation that their dues money is doing the same for the Indiana State Teachers Association?
Back in 2009, the ISTA insurance trust collapsed under the weight of high-risk investments. Coupled with other financial difficulties, it drove the Indiana affiliate deep into the red, requiring the establishment of an NEA trusteeship. To bail out ISTA, NEA formed NEA Properties, Inc. (NEAPI) to purchase the real estate and buildings owned by ISTA. Since then, ISTA has been leasing space in its own buildings, paying NEA $1.5 million in rent in the 2010-11 fiscal year.
This seemed to be an adequate solution to ISTA’s problems, but it failed to account for the union’s continued budget shortfalls due to large losses in membership. ISTA ran a $4.2 million deficit in 2010-11 and was a cumulative $12.6 million in the red at the time. We can safely assume things haven’t improved.
Even more distressing for NEA is the news that NEAPI is losing money as well, reporting a $111,000 deficit in 2010-11. An examination of NEA’s financial disclosure report shows where some of the money has been going:
Electricity – $205,609
Property management – $198,752
Security – $96,316
Building repair and remodeling – $83,536
Custodial services – $74,008
Plumbing/HVAC repair – $47,671
Legal – $45,754
Monthly steam supply – $39,364
Maintenance – $36,100
Water – $30,814
Accounting – $27,908
Property taxes – $25,060
Concierge services – $22,961
Sprinkler repair – $17,655
Unspecified building supplies – $11,915
Pest control – $9,305
Door/glass repair – $8,437
Hygiene supplies – $7,892
Window cleaning – $6,975
Space planner – $6,458
These items alone total over $1 million, and when coupled with insurance costs and depreciation, leave NEAPI at a loss.
The Indiana problem would be relatively small potatoes if all was well elsewhere. But if ISTA is still wholly dependent on its NEA bailout after almost four years, what does that portend for staggering state affiliates in Wisconsin, South Carolina, Michigan and a lot of other places? Will NEA use national dues to pay for exterminators in Texas, janitors in New Jersey and handymen in Iowa? Can it even afford to?
2) Last Week’s Intercepts. EIA’s blog, Intercepts, covered these topics from January 15-22:
* RIP CQE. Communities for Quality Education goes unfunded.
* More Than You’ll Ever Need to Know About Lily Eskelsen. Accession announcement.
* Class Size Reduction the Natural Way. Demographics and destiny.
* Wisconsin Victory Only Leads to Next Battlefield. Keep your head.
* Silver Lining in NYC. No deal better than toothless deal.
* Union of 1% Same as Those of Other 99%. Congolese airlines and Chinese soul food.
3) Quote of the Week. “America’s educational system contains enough empty platitudes and kitten posters. It’s time to fill our students with some real content, create some connections, and see what sticks.” – Jessica Lahey, English and Latin teacher at the Crossroads Academy in New Hampshire. (January 16 Coming of Age in the Middle)
January 14, 2013
1) NEA Gave $15 Million to Advocacy Groups. An Education Intelligence Agency analysis of NEA’s financial disclosure report for the 2011-12 fiscal year reveals the national union contributed just under $15 million to a wide variety of advocacy groups and charities. The total was about $3.8 million lower than the previous year.
The expenditures fall into broad categories of community outreach grants, charitable contributions, and payments for services rendered. In this list, EIA has deliberately omitted spending such as media buys, or payments to pollsters or consultants that have no obvious ideological component. The grants range from $4,568,000 to We Are Ohio, down to smaller grants to organizations such as People for the American Way, Media Matters and Netroots Nation.
Here is an alphabetic list of the 94 recipients of NEA’s contributions, with relevant web links. All of these were paid for with members’ dues money (the union’s federal PAC is a separate entity funded through voluntary means):
AFL-CIO – $1.15 million
Alliance for Justice – $5,000
America Votes – $376,100
America Works – $250,000
American Bridge 21st Century – $200,000
American Constitution Society – $10,000
Asian American Justice Center – $10,000
Be the Change – $100,000
Board of Hispanic Caucus Chairs – $10,000
California Community Foundation – $6,000
Campaign for America’s Future – $20,000
Center for American Progress – $35,000
Center for Economic Organizing – $12,800
Center for Teacher Leadership – $63,178
Center for Teaching Quality – $120,767
Citizens Helping Heroes – $10,000
Citizens for Tax Justice – $15,000
Committee for Charlotte 2012 – $250,000
Committee for Education Funding – $17,713
Committee on States – $25,000
Congressional Hispanic Caucus Institute – $55,000
Council of State Governments – $6,000
Daily Kos – $30,000
Democracy Alliance – $235,000
Democratic GAIN – $10,000
Economic Policy Institute – $250,000
Educating Maryland Kids – $200,000
Education Writers Association – $10,500
Excelencia in Education – $10,000
Fair Districts Now – $478,000
Fair Elections Legal Network – $50,000
Good Jobs First – $15,000
Health Care for America Now! – $125,000
HEROS, Inc. – $100,000
Hip Hop Caucus Education Fund – $25,000
Idahoans for Responsible Education Reform – $1,042,000
Japanese American Citizens League – $5,000
Kansas Values Institute – $49,950
Keep It Local North Dakota – $135,000
Learning First Alliance – $91,200
Learning Forward – $25,000
Marylanders for Marriage Equality – $50,000
MediaMatters – $100,000
Montanans for Fiscal Accountability – $25,555
Moving South Dakota Forward – $225,000
NAACP – $11,000
National Action Network – $25,000
National Black Justice Coalition – $20,000
National Hispanic Leadership Institute – $25,000
National Public Pension Coalition – $135,000
National Women’s Law Center – $10,000
Netroots Nation – $15,000
New Hampshire Unity Table Fund – $50,000
Ohio Democratic Party – $150,000
Opportunity to Learn Action Fund – $300,000
Parent Teacher Home Visit Project – $58,353
Partnership for 21st Century Skills – $35,000
Patriot Majority PAC – $100,000
People for the American Way – $135,000
Progressive Majority – $50,284
Project New West – $140,000
Protect Maine Votes – $81,500
Public Education Defense Fund – $1 million
Quality Education and Jobs – $50,000
Republican Main Street Partnership – $25,000
Ripon Society – $10,000
Robert Russa Moton Museum – $50,000
SEIU – $15,333
Taxpayers in Support of Public Education – $30,000
TIDES Foundation – $100,000
U.S. Hispanic Leadership Institute – $100,000
Voces de la Frontera – $23,515
We Are Ohio – $4,568,000
Wellstone Action – $30,586
Many of the largest donations from NEA headquarters went to state ballot initiative groups, but these do not constitute the sum total of the national union’s spending on state political measures.
For example, the national union sent millions of dollars directly to state affiliates to fund various activities, including $5 million to the California Teachers Association. Much of this money was also then directed to initiative campaigns.
All of these figures were culled from NEA’s disclosure report for the U.S. Department of Labor. To see the full report for yourself, follow this link, then type “000-342” in the File Number box at the top of the page.
2) Last Week’s Intercepts. EIA’s blog, Intercepts, covered these topics from January 8-14:
* CLAS Back in Session? What can happen when you replace bubble tests.
* Maryland Bill Would Make Agency Fees Mandatory. Forget collective bargaining.
* Means, Motive and Opportunity. What it takes to get ahead.
* Guns, Laws and Education. Many districts already have the power to allow armed adults in schools, including Connecticut.
* Left Turn on Main Street. RINOs become R-not-even-INOs?
3) Scheduling Note. The next e-mail communiqué will appear on Tuesday, January 22.
4) Quote of the Week. “Throwing money at it doesn’t always solve the problems, but it does help a little bit.” – Wes Fifield, president of the Upland Unified school board in California. (January 3 Los Angeles Daily News)
January 7, 2013
The 2012 EIA Public Education Quotes of the Year
EIA is proud to present the 2012 Public Education Quotes of the Year, in countdown order. Enjoy!
10) “The numbers of teachers are going up faster than are the numbers of students. That is a ticking time bomb. … With an economic downturn, the troubles with our economy, it’s hard to picture how school districts can sustain that increase and pay for it. I don’t see it as sustainable.”- Richard Ingersoll, a professor in the Graduate School of Education and Sociology at the University of Pennsylvania. (July 26 Detroit News)
9) “We bear a lot of responsibility for this. We were focused – as unions are – on fairness and not as much on quality.” – Randi Weingarten, president of the American Federation of Teachers, commenting on the union’s traditional defense of seniority over performance. (August 18 New York Times)
8) “Trust me, if you can cut such deals with Randi Weingarten, who is president of the American Federation of Teachers, you can do them with Vladimir Putin and Bibi Netanyahu.” – Thomas L. Friedman, New York Times columnist, explaining why he supported U.S. Secretary of Education Arne Duncan for Secretary of State. (November 27 New York Times)
7) “The office had a longstanding common practice of using profanity long before he got there.” – Josh Gruenberg, attorney for former San Diego Education Association executive director Craig Leedham, who was dismissed in part because of his style of dealing with employees. (May 21 Voice of San Diego)
6) “I find you and your organization wholly ineffectual and ineffective. Teachers cannot sit idly by facing financial ruin while you enjoy your wine and chocolates.” – Eric D. Przykuta, president of the Lancaster Central Teachers Association, in a February 17 letter to New York State United Teachers president Richard Iannuzzi.
5) “We had a very aggressive savings plan.”- Lynne Webb, president of the United School Employees of Pasco, explaining to a judge how she and her husband, former Broward Teachers Union president Pat Santeramo, who was indicted for racketeering and money laundering, were able to put away more than half a million dollars in CDs while paying off a $574,000 vacation home in just three years. (July 13 Miami Herald)
4) “I think people need reassurance that their tax dollars aren’t getting wasted, that something good is happening [at school] that can be measured. I understand that ferocious need, coupled with falling test scores, with the difficulty in removing teachers who aren’t performing and the unions’ unwillingness for a long time to look at how to change things – all those things made us ripe for the picking. Or the kicking.” – Rebecca Mieliwocki, 2012 National Teacher of the Year. (May 16 Los Angeles Times)
3) “If I’m a parent in poverty I have no clue because I’m trying to struggle and live day to day. The idea of parents making decisions simply based on choice is the abandonment of public schools.” – Michael Walker Jones, executive director of the Louisiana Association of Educators, commenting on Gov. Bobby Jindal’s plan to expand school vouchers in the state. (January 23 New Orleans Times-Picayune)
2) “We feel TFA is undermining our profession. We see TFA as a vehicle for union busting … the district is hiring uncertified teachers to reduce costs.” – Diane Brown, president of United Teachers of Richmond, speaking about Teach for America two weeks after her parent union, the National Education Association, provided her and other delegates with a report that concluded, “No evidence suggests that the TFA contracts are being used to reduce teacher costs, silence union voices, or as a vehicle to bust unions.” (July 18 San Jose Mercury News)
1) “Things will never go back to the way they were.” – from the introduction to the 2012-2014 National Education Association Strategic Plan and Budget.
December 17, 2012
1) Nothing to Say. With one event overshadowing everything else, it feels impossible to blithely move on to other topics. Since this was to be the last communiqué of 2012 anyway, let’s just call it a year and take a deep breath. Intercepts will continue to be updated daily but the next weekly communiqué will not appear until Monday, January 7. Happy Holidays, everyone.
2) Last Week’s Intercepts. EIA’s blog, Intercepts, covered these topics from December 11-17:
* Who Are the Freeloaders? Why should unions have to represent non-paying non-members? Because they won’t allow competitors.
* Teachers’ Union Supports Full Employment… for Animators. Propaganda cartoons are all the rage. Here’s what’s next.
* Education Bar Graphs of the Year. Something very important to keep in mind when you read the results of an opinion poll.
* I Don’t Know. I suspect I’m not the only one.
* Ask and Ye Shall Receive. A neglected story gets un-neglected.
3) Quote of the Week. “As opposed to your criticism that it’s ‘crass,’ ‘sophomoric’ and ‘garbage,’ the cartoon conveys these political ideas through the tools of fairy tale and animation, which by nature are allegorical and use caricature and visual metaphor for satirical effect.” – Joshua Pechthalt, president of the California Federation of Teachers, defending the union’s recent cartoon in a letter to the editor of the San Francisco Chronicle. (December 10 San Francisco Chronicle)
December 10, 2012
1) Are NEA, SEIU and AFSCME Working on “No Raid” Agreement? It’s no secret that the National Education Association is working more closely than ever before with its counterparts in organized labor. NEA, SEIU and AFSCME teamed up to fund a series of ads targeting key lawmakers in the fiscal cliff negotiations and they are the driving force behind today’s “day of action” rallies in a number of cities.
While three of the largest public employee unions in the nation are cooperating on external communications and operations, they are also crafting an internal agreement that would establish a détente over competition for members. A group of high-level NEA officials met with teams from SEIU and AFSCME last week to put together a deal that would establish jurisdictions for the individual unions, similar to the arrangement NEA made with AFT after the failed attempt at national merger in 1998.
The two national teachers’ unions and many of their state affiliates made “no raid” agreements – pledges not to try to recruit the other organization’s members. There have been hiccups along the way and a number of affiliates that refused to go along, but for the most part the cutthroat competition for members is a thing of the past.
SEIU and AFSCME don’t represent teachers, but they sometimes compete with the teachers’ unions for education support employees. Nevertheless, it shouldn’t be too much of a hardship for each side to agree to stay away from the other’s members. Once that’s in place, it will pave the way for all the public sector unions to cooperate more frequently and efficiently.
The days when NEA stood far apart from the broader labor movement are gone. The AFL-CIO was once shunned by NEA delegates, but now more than one-quarter of NEA members are affiliated with the labor federation. This helps NEA in projecting political power, but could hurt its “professional association” image and embroil it in issues far removed from education.
Today’s union movement is almost entirely a public sector union movement. It only stands to reason that the largest public sector union would take a larger part.
2) Last Week’s Intercepts. EIA’s blog, Intercepts, covered these topics from December 4-10:
* And They Lived Happily Ever After. The moral of the story is: Don’t get mad. Get even.
* WEAC Approves Moving Forward With Merger. Suppose we get to 10 or 12 merged state affiliates. Then what?
* Teacher Misconduct Bill a Test Case for California Legislature. Moderation or tidal wave?
* Going Mobile. Reading Intercepts on your phone just got a little easier.
3) Quote of the Week. “A new, satirical video titled ‘Tax the rich: An animated fairy tale’ was created by the California Federation of Teachers, not by the California Teachers Association. Some media have confused the two organizations.” – from a December 6 California Teachers Association press release.
December 3, 2012
1) The Perks of Being a Union Executive. We tend to pay a lot of attention to what teachers’ unions spend on politics, but even that lofty amount pales in comparison to what they what they spend on themselves. Like teaching, union work is a labor-intensive enterprise. Unlike teaching, the structure of union benefits resembles an inverted pyramid, where a lot of people receive similar perks and only the lowest level employees receive standard workplace accommodations.
Wage amounts are usually public record, but are perilously difficult to pin down. What a union executive makes can be inflated in the record by sick leave accrual or severance payouts, or can be understated because of tax deferments or allowances in lieu of pay. Still, with that caveat in place, an examination of 2010-11 tax records reveals wages of the highest paid employees of the National Education Association and its state affiliates – defined here as the money reported in box 1 of a W-2 form – ranged from almost $540,000 down to less than $92,000.
Financial records also show that certain perks are common among NEA and state affiliate executives, while others are controversial even in the corporate world.
Housing allowances are prevalent. Union officers often will receive a cash payment to cover the costs of maintaining a home near union headquarters, usually located in the state capital. Some affiliates actually provide a home. Which officers receive a housing allowance and for how much varies from state to state, but it ranges from 20 percent of salary all the way down to $800 per month.
One would expect the union to cover the costs of executive travel, but some affiliates allow first-class travel and many also reimburse for the cost of companion travel – in one case up to $2,000 per year. Unions have been known to reimburse officers for home, pet and garden care while they are away on business, although it isn’t known whether these kinds of perks have survived recent budget shortfalls. Auto allowances and gas cards are also common.
A growing number of officers receive payment for annual health or social club dues and initiation fees, with one affiliate offering up to $1,000 a year in “wellness-related expenses.” A handful of affiliates also provide the president with a discretionary spending account or clothing allowances.
Accounting for these varied forms of compensation can get complicated, so some unions provide free tax preparation. At least one affiliate even offers relief if a union officer’s accumulation of previously deferred payments or leave buy-outs leads to higher tax obligations – in the form of the “gross-up” payment.
If you are unfamiliar with the term, that’s when the employer picks up the tab for the additional tax the employee will have to pay for a unusually large lump sum payment. Of course, the “gross-up” payment itself is taxable, so it is often made large enough to help cover that extra tax as well. The practice has come under fire in corporate America, so it’s ironic to see it turn up in a union.
Since much of this alternative compensation is hidden, it will be difficult to discern how much it will be affected by membership losses and budget cuts. When revenues can’t cover payroll, union staffers are laid off. But executive officers are elected. Some have accepted pay freezes, but I haven’t heard any talk of rolling back these kinds of benefits. If done, it will be done quietly, so as not to alert the rank-and-file to their existence in the first place.
2) Last Week’s Intercepts. EIA’s blog, Intercepts, covered these topics from November 27-December 3:
* Graduation Stats Show Equality and Inequality. Racial gaps persist, but some states have equally bad stats across all groups.
* School Districts Ride CABs to the Poorhouse. Next big idea: payday loans!
* Tryptophan Coma at the New York Times. Thomas Friedman wasn’t the only one with goofy Cabinet suggestions.
* NEA Affiliate Staff Updates. Contract settlements are not always good news.
* Detroit President Re-Elected; Miami President Won’t Run Again. Apathy still in front.
3) Quote of the Week. “There’s a lot of cynicism in labor about the capacity of ordinary, working-class people to run their unions. Leaders think those people should have good lives, but they don’t think they have the capacity to do big things. Even among ‘progressive’ unions, democracy is not high on the list of must-haves. That has really hurt our movement.” – Mark Brenner, director of the pro-union publication Labor Notes. (November 30 In These Times)
November 26, 2012
1) Important Message for E-Mail Subscribers. For more than 15 years I have been distributing the weekly EIA Communiqué using 1997 methods – bulk e-mail from a list maintained by hand. This required a lot of list maintenance on my part and sometimes difficult dealings with AOL and its spam restrictions. It got to the point where I stopped recruiting new e-mail subscribers in the hope new readers would instead migrate to the daily blog.
Happily I have managed to cut the Gordian knot. With EIA’s recently updated web site and some techno-maneuvering, it is now possible for me to disseminate the weekly communiqué via the automatic e-mail service provided by Feedburner. This will expand the content possibilities for the e-mail newsletter while greatly reducing the time I spend administering the list.
It will, however, require one bit of action on your part. Sometime before the next communiqué appears on Monday, December 3, each current e-mail subscriber will receive an e-mail from Feedburner with “Education Intelligence Agency” or “EIA Communiqué” in the subject line. In the body of the e-mail will be an embedded link for you to click, or cut and paste into your web browser’s URL address window.
Click the link and you will verify your subscription and continue to receive the newsletter via e-mail as usual – once a week, no more and no less.
Don’t click the link and you will be unsubscribed from future e-mail communiqués.
This verification measure is a bit of a pain, but necessary to ensure that each subscriber has asked to be placed on the list. Otherwise Feedburner and similar services would be overrun with spammers and useless for the rest of us.
If you don’t receive your Feedburner e-mail by next Monday, check your spam filter and/or contact me at email@example.com.
Thanks for helping out with this housekeeping. Next week we’ll return to news.
2) Last Week’s Intercepts. EIA’s blog, Intercepts, covered these topics from November 20-26:
* Crimson vs. Indigo. Multiple experiments in one-party rule.
* WEAC Looking for New Direction. The Peterson Plan.
* Hawaii Teachers “Work to Rule.” Next best thing to a strike.
* Black Friday 1940. The scariest day of the year.
* Happy Thanksgiving, Everyone! Bridging the gaps.
3) Quote of the Week. “I don’t think they should sit on the sidelines. I think they should do what they do when they give to the Lyric Opera. They don’t go to the Lyric Opera, give money and then tell the singers how to sing. Give your money and walk away, buddies.” – Karen Lewis, president of the Chicago Teachers Union, when asked what the backers of Mayor Emanuel’s school reform agenda should do. (November 20 Chicago Sun-Times)
Um, they may not tell the singers how to sing, but they have a big say in what they sing, don’t they?
November 19, 2012
1) Will Marching Against Poverty Restore NEA’s Bottom Line? The National Education Association is looking for a way out of a bind. As it proved once again this year, NEA’s main avenue of success is its ability to win elections through the massive application of committed activists and cold cash. Its problem is that political defeats are costly, but victories are often only temporarily beneficial. The 2008 elections did lead to stimulus packages and edujobs bills, but they also led to the worst four-year membership losses in NEA’s long existence. So while favorable results at the ballot box in 2012 are helpful, they don’t guarantee smooth sailing ahead for the union.
The Occupy movement, the Wisconsin protests, the Chicago teacher strike and the 2012 voter turnout, combined with the accession of John Stocks as NEA’s executive director, have led the union’s officers to adopt an approach they believe will establish NEA not only as a powerful labor union, but as a leader in the broader realm of social issues.
Stocks unveiled this move with his “social justice patriot” speech at the NEA representative assembly last July, but it didn’t start there:
Never in the history of our nation have public schools been under such relentless attack. Never in the history of teacher unionism has there been a greater urgency to rethink strategy.
To meet these challenges, our public schools and our teacher unions should set two key goals: survival and justice. Furthermore, these goals are inextricably linked. Our system of public education and our teacher unions will not survive unless they more forthrightly address issues of social justice.
Those words didn’t come from John Stocks in 2012; they came from Bob Peterson, now the president of the Milwaukee Teachers Education Association, in 1999. Peterson was, and is, a proponent of the concept of “social justice unionism,” which he described as “part of a broader movement for social progress rather than merely focused on narrow self-interest.” Stocks spent much of his career in Wisconsin and appears to want to apply these themes nationally.
The value of social justice unionism as a philosophy is a matter for academics. I am only interested in its practical application for a union that needs to increase membership and ameliorate budget deficits. We already have a few clues about how this will work.
For one thing, NEA is trying to get out of the business of simply providing cash grants to friendly organizations and will insist on joint efforts in exchange for financial support. Additionally the union will hold a “dialogue on social justice” next month. This is to have the dual goal of placing NEA firmly in the civil rights picture while activating minority members in the union ranks.
The long-term strategy is to recruit new members and increase the participation of existing members through social justice issues. In fact, NEA organizers have been told to stop emphasizing the union’s services, liability insurance and workplace protections and instead focus on “core values.”
A large number of NEA staffers have been reassigned to training state and local officers in organizing – a skill some have let atrophy during the decades of booming enrollment and teacher hiring. While overall staffing levels will require political work in state legislatures, NEA plans to seek out new markets in charter and online schools, early childhood education workers, and members of non-union teacher organizations.
It’s important to note that these are NEA’s plans. They face a number of obstacles internally, regardless of whether outsiders put up a fight. First, NEA’s devotion to social justice unionism does not necessarily mean it will be embraced wholeheartedly in all of its state affiliates. Changes of direction are relatively easy to map out in a DC conference room, but notoriously difficult to implement among state and local officers with agendas of their own. Ask Bob Chase.
Second, organizing a union of 3 million members around social issues may be a winning strategy as long as those issues are general and amorphous. Protecting the working class, equal rights for all, affordable health care and reducing poverty will generate widespread support. But if the specifics turn out to be in service of a narrow liberal political worldview, it will have no more success than NEA’s current strategy, and might in fact play into the hands of the union’s political opponents.
Third, positioning NEA as one of the leaders of a mass movement opens the door for other organizations to take up the “self-interest” mantle. Members might prefer a union that spends its time negotiating contracts instead of heightening climate change awareness.
NEA believes that stressing its broad social justice principles will improve its self-interests. It’s nice when those things coincide. We’ll see which one the union chooses if they don’t.
2) Last Week’s Intercepts. EIA’s blog, Intercepts, covered these topics from November 13-19:
* Election Win for Charters Is Only the First Hurdle. First the ballot box, then the courtroom.
* The Wrath of Conn. Will Detroit make Chicago look like Topeka?
* Back to Reality. Union organizing isn’t what it used to be.
* Technology Marches On. Changes to the EIA web site, and perhaps to this e-mail newsletter as well. Stand by for more.
* Summary of NYSUT’s Campaign Financing. How do I elect thee? Let me count the ways.
3) Quote of the Week. “President Obama not only won this election, but so did his ideas and his values. The American people want fairness. They want everyone to pay their fair share…. But what we also have to do is to make sure that the corporations who earn billions of dollars pay some tax, and now they’re paying none.” – Dennis Van Roekel, president of the National Education Association, a $1.6 billion tax-exempt organization. (November 13 PBS NewsHour)
November 12, 2012
1) Five of Eight Largest Teacher Union Locals Had Budget Deficits. An Education Intelligence Agency analysis of 2010-11 Internal Revenue Service filings reveals five of the eight largest teacher union local affiliates in the nation operated with budget deficits. Half of the 36 largest locals saw their dues revenue decrease from the previous year.
Most of these locals are either affiliates of the American Federation of Teachers, or jointly affiliated with AFT and the National Education Association. AFT’s governance structure is largely centered on its locals, just as NEA’s is centered on its state affiliates, which had their own financial troubles. The largest teachers’ union local in the U.S., the United Federation of Teachers in New York City, accumulated dues revenue of $125.5 million in 2010-11, but still ran an $11.8 million deficit due to a 12.1% increase in employee compensation costs.
The United Teachers Los Angeles, United Teachers of Dade, Broward Teachers Union, and United Educators of San Francisco were the other four top locals to experience deficits.
Other locals may have been in the black but are still on shaky ground. Figures for the Washington Teachers Union for 2010-11 were unavailable, while the Detroit Federation of Teachers’ small surplus did not cover the $1.4 million it still owed AFT.
Just like NEA’s state affiliates, a number of locals were able to achieve pension liability relief to improve their bottom lines. But high personnel costs continue to worry many locals.
EIA has posted a table on its web site listing the dues revenue of the 36 largest locals, along with their other revenues, number of employees, their total compensation, and their budget deficit status.
2) Last Week’s Intercepts. EIA’s blog, Intercepts, covered these topics from November 6-12:
* Teachers’ Unions Win a Defensive Victory. Four more years.
* Gravy Train Drying Up for NEA’s Favorite Advocacy Groups? Play for pay.
* Heading for the Hills in California. The two states of California, but one is a permanent minority.
* Call Me Maybe. Two-way spam?
* Eat Your Vegetables! Voting scolds.
3) Quote of the Week. “We have the capacity to rebuild this state.” – Dean Vogel, president of the California Teachers Association, commenting on the results of Tuesday’s election. (November 8 Reuters)