A listening post monitoring public education and teachers’ unions.

Kaine’s “A” Rating From NEA Doesn’t Mean Much

Written By: Mike Antonucci - Jul• 25•16

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I Guess We Ran Out of Great Education Governors

Written By: Mike Antonucci - Jul• 25•16

I spend so much time on what NEA is doing, sometimes I miss what it has stopped doing, and this one completely got by me.

Back in 2008 NEA began handing out the “America’s Greatest Education Governor” award at its annual convention, the initial recipient being North Carolina Gov. Mike Easley. In subsequent years it went to Richardson (New Mexico), O’Malley (Maryland), Beshear (Kentucky), Dayton (Minnesota), Brown (California) and Patrick (Massachusetts).

But I suppose it was getting to be problematic, with a shrinking number of Democratic governors who had not already received the award. It took me until now, almost three weeks after the 2016 convention ended, to realize that the award had been discontinued.

Except I checked last year’s notes and press releases and learned that there was no award in 2015 either. I didn’t realize it. No other reporter realized it. The governors didn’t realize it. And it doesn’t look like America realized it either.


Who Would Be NEA’s Choice for Hillary’s VP?

Written By: Mike Antonucci - Jul• 22•16

Hillary Clinton is expected to name her running mate this afternoon, and the conventional wisdom crowns Virginia Senator Tim Kaine as her choice. The 74 helpfully provided the education policy backgrounds of eight potential VPs, but missed a big connection for one of the candidates – U.S. Secretary of Agriculture Tom Vilsack.

It’s forgivable for this memory to have faded, but Vilsack was once a registered lobbyist for the National Education Association on the No Child Left Behind Act.

It was never entirely clear what lobbying Vilsack did, but when Vilsack was nominated for the cabinet post, the union insisted he did no lobbying on school nutrition programs, which come under the purview of the Department of Agriculture. NEA supported his nomination, stating Vilsack “worked closely with our affiliate, the Iowa State Teachers Association (ISTA) in promoting a positive agenda in support of children and families.” (The NEA affiliate in Iowa is actually called the Iowa State Education Association.)

Certainly NEA would be satisfied with any choice other than Sen. Cory Booker (because of his ties to education reform), but having a former employee as Vice President could amount to two seats at the table.


And Now, A Word About Union Unity

Written By: Mike Antonucci - Jul• 21•16

Joe Thomas is the new president of the Arizona Education Association. He posted a tweet this morning.


Trump Jr. Passes Up Chance to Plagiarize Al Shanker

Written By: Mike Antonucci - Jul• 20•16

Education never figures big in presidential campaigns, but Donald Trump Jr. used it to fire a salvo during his speech at the Republican National Convention yesterday evening.

Our schools used to be an elevator to the middle class, now they’re stalled on the ground floor. They’re like Soviet-era department stores that are run for the benefit of the clerks and not the customers, for the teachers and the administrators and not the students.

The mention of the Soviets triggered a memory for me, so I dug through the ancient scrolls of education thought and came up with this stuff that Trump Jr. or any RNC speaker could have used without controversy.

It’s time to admit that public education operates like a planned economy, a bureaucratic system in which everybody’s role is spelled out in advance and there are few incentives for innovation and productivity. It’s no surprise that our school system doesn’t improve: It more resembles the communist economy than our own market economy.

…schools would have to be free to try new ideas. So management would be required to waive all regulations that might keep schools from considering any and all promising changes – except of course for rules dealing with health, safety and civil rights. And unions would have to grant staffs the right to waive provisions of union contracts that get in their way. School boards would also be required to give each participating school total control over its budget. Since lots of central regulating would be eliminated, the central budget would shrink – which means lots more money to turn over to schools. Finally, since the participating schools would vary a good deal in what they were doing, school boards would have to permit parental choice.

…School staff would be united as a team. They’d read and try new methods. They’d make painful decisions they now avoid. If their math staff were weak, they might offer a higher salary to attract new talent. They’d shape up their weaker colleagues. They’d reach out to the community, explore technology. They’d focus on student learning.

…We’ve been running our schools as planned economies for so long that the notion of using incentives to drive schools to change may strike some people as too radical – even though that’s the way we do it in every other sector of society. But no law of nature says public schools have to be run like state-owned factories or bureaucracies. If the Soviet Union can begin to accept the importance of incentives to productivity, it is time for people in public education to do the same.

That’s all from the July 23, 1989 “Where We Stand” advertorial published in the New York Times by Al Shanker, legendary president of the American Federation of Teachers. Shanker is no longer with us, which normally would bar his appearance on a convention stage, but he has the unique ability to speak to us from the Great Beyond. I wonder what he’d say?


Taking Release Time From the AFT Convention

Written By: Mike Antonucci - Jul• 19•16

I am not in Minneapolis attending the AFT Convention, which means I missed Hillary Clinton showing up fashionably late to deliver a speech “substantially similar” to the one she gave at the NEA Representative Assembly two weeks ago, including the same hurried reference to charter schools. And there was some commotion in the back of the hall that was shouted down by Hillary supporters. just like at NEA. Summer reruns.

Those observing from the floor are doing a fine job of reporting, but if you need more, AFT has gone the extra mile to live stream the proceedings. They have even gotten inside my head. When I checked the live stream at the appropriate time, I saw this…


…which is exactly what the insides of my eyelids look like as I doze off during most of these events. Now in Mexico, they have lively teacher union conventions, as we see from this YouTube video. The dispute was apparently about the number of delegates present from rival factions within the union.

In accordance with Robert’s Rules, that can be categorized as a decision by the chair.


Which Side Are You On?

Written By: Mike Antonucci - Jul• 18•16

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