How Do You Steal $210,000 From a 90-Member Union?

Rose Marie Lyons was charged with felony theft for stealing more than $210,000 over a period of six-and-a-half years while president and recording secretary of the William Penn Education Support Personnel Association.

When Lyons left her position in December 2015, the union’s new officers found several suspicious financial transactions which they reported to police. After an investigation, the police found Lyons had made 448 unauthorized withdrawals totaling $210,592.91 from the union’s bank account. She would periodically replace the missing funds with gambling winnings and funds allegedly stolen from the school district and others.

In the greater scheme of things this is a minor incident, but some serious questions do arise. The Delaware County Daily Times reports that the William Penn Education Support Personnel Association (WPESPA) has only 90 members. Assuming the local itself charges no dues, the combined dues obligation for each of those members is $385.50 a year, payable to the Pennsylvania State Education Association and the National Education Association.

A review of the state and national unions’ disclosure reports show no mention of WPESPA being in arrears, although it is possible the amount may have been small enough not to be itemized.

Nevertheless, 90 support employees paying $385.50 a year for six-and-a-half years comes to a total of $225,517. Doesn’t this mean that Lyons, at one time or another, stole almost every dues dollar?

She must have been deft at replacing just enough missing funds to avoid detection, but how did she get away with it for so long?

The issue isn’t with the relatively small number of union officers and staffers stealing dues money. The question is how do members even know if their dues money is reaching the proper destination, instead of a craps table or a slot machine?


Union President Loses Her S**t Over Truthful Campaign Flier

Alan Webber is running to become mayor of Santa Fe, New Mexico. He has a campaign flier.

According to the Albuquerque Journal, The flier prompted local teacher union president Grace Mayer to send an angry email to Webber’s campaign with the subject line “Misrepresenting the Truth!”

“Your campaign has lost all of its integrity by using these dirty tactics to get ahead,” she wrote.

The only problem is Webber was, in fact, endorsed by AFT New Mexico.

Mayer is president of NEA Santa Fe, which, she claims, represents 1,400 school employees in Santa Fe, while the local AFT chapter represents just 65 support personnel. Her union endorsed Webber’s opponent, Kate Noble.

“How dare you insult us further by dismissing our Union,” she wrote.

I’ve yet to see a candidate send out fliers listing organizations that haven’t endorsed him or her, but Mayer seems to think that it’s called for in this case.

What makes Mayer’s rant especially odd is that most unions in the area have endorsed Weber. NEA Santa Fe and the local chapter of the hospital and health care employees union are the only ones behind Noble.

Stephanie Ly, president of AFT New Mexico, said she didn’t think Mayer’s email was “much of a story.”


Despite All the Talk, Charter School Unions Still Mostly a Function of State Law

Charter school teachers at the Port of Los Angeles High School voted to decertify United Teachers Los Angeles as their bargaining representative. It’s a big deal to them, but it doesn’t tell us much one way or the other about nationwide unionization trends in charters. It’s part of the natural ebb and flow of organizing and decert efforts.

Granted, when charter school teachers join a union, people fall over themselves declaring it a trend, and have been doing so for two decades. Fortunately the National Alliance for Public Charter Schools does a thorough survey on the state of charter school unions, and its latest report reveals… well, not a whole lot has changed.

There are 781 unionized charters, or 11.3 percent of the total. That’s a significant number. But NAPCS provides context that is usually missing from such statistics. Of the 781 unionized charters, 415 are bound to unions and existing collective bargaining agreements by state law or district policy.

Certainly some – perhaps many – of those charters would unionize anyway, but they didn’t get a say in the matter. Since the hoopla is all about charter school teachers seeking out unions, and unions organizing charters, let’s see how those efforts fared.

There were 6,939 charter schools during the 2016-17 school year, and 366 were unionized by choice. That’s 5.3 percent. Considering all the media attention attached to charter unionization, that’s a singularly unimpressive number.

Some in the charter school world are worried that in a post-Janus world, teacher unions will ramp up their efforts to organize charters in an attempt to bolster membership. Considering their track record, I believe the opposite will happen. Unions will need to conserve resources to keep the members they already have. Charter organizing drives won’t be worth the investment.


Colluding and Colliding

The mail-in vote for officers of the Clark County Education Association continues until February 23 and the campaign is heating up. The main issue, of course, is the future of the local union’s relationship with the Nevada State Education Association and the National Education Association.

The incumbent slate wants to sever ties with the state and national unions, while the challengers – the Clark County Educators for Change – want to remain. The future of the 10,000-member union hangs in the balance, so both sides are pulling out all the stops.

The incumbents recently accused NSEA and NEA of interfering in the election:

NEA and NSEA want to replace current leadership and Executive Board members with people who oppose CCEA’s Local Control. Every member has a right to vote and should not be harassed or pressured into voting for someone. CCEA has received multiple calls from members who have complained about NSEA, NEA and ESEA people coming to their school, calling them, texting them, emailing them, and coming to their home. It is clear this is a concerted effort to influence the election and is highly inappropriate and very unethical for NEA to engage in.

Not to be outdone, the challengers accused the incumbents of colluding with an even more powerful force… me.

CCEA has teamed up with several anti-public education, pro-reform groups and individuals, including Mike Antonucci of EIAOnline. Mr. Antonucci was the recipient of an award from the National Right to Work Committee, an organization that wants to abolish Teachers Unions.

Well, there are several things wrong with those two sentences, but let’s begin with the one thing they got right, since they lifted it off my web site: I did receive the Carol Applegate Education Award from the National Right to Work Committee in 2004. I am proud of it. Carol Applegate was a Michigan teacher who was fired when she refused to join NEA. Since Nevada teachers already enjoy the freedom to join or not join, it doesn’t seem all that controversial to me.

I object to the notion that CCEA and I have “teamed up” over anything.  I don’t know and have not communicated with any of the incumbent officers. I have reported on the Clark County situation as I have done with any number of similar beefs between locals and state affiliates in the past.

I informed Clark County Educators for Change that they could characterize my views however they wished but their “team up” claim was false. I asked them to remove it from their campaign material. They did not reply nor did they remove it. They did, however, add this to a Facebook post:

Because we believe in #Integrity and we believe that spreading untruths about people, even unintentionally, is simply not OK, we would like to correct the information we shared last night. Ms. Courtney has been out of the classroom for 6 years, not 10 as stated in the photo below. We sincerely apologize for this misrepresentation of fact. -CCE4Change

I will continue to scrutinize and report on whichever slate wins the CCEA election, though I admit I will have higher expectations of the people who believe so much in integrity that they hashtag it.


The Department of Education Is Wrong

About 100 protesters from NEA and AFT, including union presidents Lily Eskelsen García and Randi Weingarten, headed over to the U.S. Department of Education yesterday with boxes of failing report cards for Secretary Betsy DeVos. They were turned away at the door by security, citing the group’s lack of an appointment.

The group feigned outrage, apparently forgetting their pledge from last year that there would be no photo op with DeVos.

Still, the Department of Education was entirely mistaken about the composition of the group.

“It’s unfortunate that instead of working to have productive dialogue, the unions decided it was important to pull teachers out of the classroom for a two-hour political publicity stunt — for which they shot their own footage to send to media outlets,” said Department of Education spokeswoman Liz Hill.

I doubt many – if any – teachers were pulled out of the classroom. Both unions have their headquarters in the area, as does the Washington Teachers Union. They were undoubtedly augmented by the NEA board of directors, who are in DC for their regular meeting this weekend and traditionally use Thursday as a lobby day.

I don’t know what obligation public officials have to participate in union street theater, but we’ll see more of this sort of thing on February 24, when public sector unions will be staging their Janus protests.