Intercepts

A listening post monitoring public education and teachers’ unions.

Highlights from the 2014-16 NEA Strategic Plan & Budget

Written By: Mike Antonucci - Sep• 02•14

Click here to read.

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Polarization

Written By: Mike Antonucci - Sep• 02•14

September 1 Washington Post:

Randi Weingarten, president of the American Federation of Teachers, agrees that the polarized debate is not productive. “The polarization . . . won’t solve the problems of social immobility, income inequality or help public education become the ladder of opportunity for more kids.”

She said her union welcomes “people who want to solve problems, and improve, rather than throw stones at public education,” but hasn’t agreed to otherwise support Education Post.

August 31 message from Randi Weingarten to union activists:

We are fighting back—whether it’s against Campbell Brown’s efforts to strip teachers of their due process rights and pit teachers against parents; corporate hospital chains seeking to enrich themselves at the expense of patients and healthcare professionals; politicians like Kansas Gov. Sam Brownback, who never met a public school, public service or public employee he didn’t want to eliminate; or those saddling students with debt, ripping them off and “Wal-Martizing” the higher education workforce.

The austerity hawks, the privatizers and the deprofessionalizers know that there’s a growing disconnect between what they are peddling and what the American people want. And the only way they can keep their power is by demonizing and marginalizing us.

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Have a Super Labor Day!

Written By: Mike Antonucci - Sep• 01•14

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Let’s Be Traditional

Written By: Mike Antonucci - Aug• 29•14

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NEA Partners With “Waiting for Superman” Producers

Written By: Mike Antonucci - Aug• 28•14

Here’s a press announcement that will reverberate throughout the National Education Association:

As part of its continuing efforts to promote literacy and in order to provide books to those children in America most in need, Walden Media and the Weinstein Company (TWC) have partnered with the National Education Association’s Read Across America to launch the “Ticket to a Better World” initiative. Fifty cents of each The Giver movie ticket sold during Labor Day Weekend will be donated to the Ticket to a Better World initiative to raise up to a quarter of a million dollars to buy books for those children most in need.

Well, so what? NEA often partners with big corporations, particularly for its Read Across America initiative. But Walden Media is a step beyond. Right on the press release, it notes that the company produced “the Sundance Audience Prize Winning documentary Waiting for Superman.”

Waiting for Superman is a 2010 documentary by Davis Guggenheim that highlights failures in the public school system and follows families attempting to get their kids into charter schools.

NEA president Dennis Van Roekel said of the film, “The producers of Waiting for Superman missed an opportunity to engage in a constructive and collaborative dialogue with educators about how to truly transform public education. Instead, the film demonizes public education, teachers unions, and, unfortunately, teachers.”

If Waiting for Superman were Walden Media’s only sin, we could put this down to letting bygones be bygones. But the company also produced Won’t Back Down, a fictional film about the parent trigger movement.

About that film, Van Roekel said, “They wrote a script. One of the villains is a union. But it didn’t offend me because that’s not my union. I have never seen any union like that. It’s a make-believe union that doesn’t care.”

But those are just movies. What else is Walden Media into? Well, it’s part of the Anschutz Film Group (AFG). The left-wing In These Times breaks it down for us:

The movie is produced by AFG’s Walden Media subsidairy. AFG operates as a subsidiary of Anschutz Entertainment Group, which in turn is a subsidiary of the Anschutz Company. Philip Anschutz, the Anschutz Company’s chairman and CEO and the billionaire owner of The Weekly Standard and other publications, has provided major funding to efforts to restrict obscenity on television and oppose bans on sexual orientation discrimination.

The United Church of Christ provides a list of organizations to which the Anschutz Foundation has donated, including union nemesis National Right to Work Legal Defense Foundation.

The delegates to this year’s NEA Representative Assembly voted down a new business item that would have required the union to investigate potential business partners. A second NBI called on the union to establish criteria for such partnerships. It was withdrawn. I suspect this news will revive that debate.

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Awkward

Written By: Mike Antonucci - Aug• 27•14

Last September, Aaron Knodel of West Fargo was named the North Dakota Teacher of the Year. He received a lengthy and glowing profile in the newsletter of North Dakota United. His union called him “an outstanding role model for his students, and for all educators in our state.”

Five months later he was placed on paid administrative leave after allegations surfaced that he had sex with a 17-year-old student in 2009. On Monday, the school board placed Knodel on unpaid leave after he was charged with five counts of felony corruption or solicitation of a minor. His attorney says he is innocent.

Here is video of Knodel after being named the West Fargo teacher of the year in February 2013. “Nothing I do is unusual compared to what every other teacher does,” he said.

The Teacher of the Year competition has not been the public relations boost North Dakota United hoped it would be. In 2008, the union made headlines when it invited teacher of the year Beth Ekre to speak at a conference, then barred her from the reception in her honor because she didn’t belong to the union. Ekre was recently fined $250 by the state Education Standards and Practices Board for not having the proper licensure for the subject she was teaching.

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Double or Nothing

Written By: Mike Antonucci - Aug• 26•14

What does an inveterate gambler do when he’s tapped out? He heads over to the ATM.

The Alabama Education Association dropped $7 million on the Republican primaries in June for a marginal return, mainly because the union knew it would no longer be able to automatically deduct PAC money from teachers’ paychecks.

With the general election approaching AEA decided it couldn’t sit on the sidelines in the battle against the corporate reformers and hedge fund managers. So it went to Regions Bank and borrowed $1.7 million.

An AEA representative said the union borrows money every election cycle. Perhaps, but in the past it had a guaranteed cash flow of PAC money thanks to that automatic deduction. This time AEA has to actually raise the money through voluntary donations.

Will Alabama teachers willingly finance AEA’s habit? Or will they cut off the high roller?

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