+ When California Gov. Gray Davis decided to make peer review part of his initial education reform package, the California Teachers Association did not exactly lead the cheers. The union is decidedly split on the issue, but Davis’ program addresses many of CTA’s concerns. It is voluntary, requires collective bargaining to implement, and includes some $413 million in funding for the first year. Many districts are negotiating peer review programs without much difficulty. Some district officials, however, are learning that showing too much enthusiasm for the concept can be a detriment to negotiations on other issues.
When the Glendale Unified School District proposed a peer review program, the Glendale Teachers Association agreed — provided the district would agree to implement agency fees. This would require teachers who do not belong to the union to pay a representation fee to the union (on average, about 70-80 percent of member dues). Since peer review funding appeals to the district, it might sacrifice the rights of non-members to keep the money. Other CTA locals are also treating peer review as a concession, agreed to only if the district responds with concessions of its own.
Peer review, whatever one’s position may be on the issue, is clearly a union concept, created by union officials, overseen by union officials, and promoted by union officials. District negotiators should avoid the calls to throw the union rabbit into the cabbage patch.
+ Just as peer review supporters in California are learning about unintended consequences, so too are voucher supporters in Florida. Under the Florida program, students in schools that receive a grade of “F” on standardized achievement tests for two consecutive years are eligible for vouchers. Two schools in Pensacola were the first to receive the “F” grade. Voucher supporters hope it will prompt those schools to improve. Evidently, the urge to improve is not quite as strong as the urge for self-preservation. Teachers at the schools have been joining the union in droves. Florida is a right-to-work state, where union membership is not required. “I used to have almost none in the union,” said principal Linda Scott. “Now nearly all have joined. It’s just about protecting yourself.”
+ The word about ABC’s 20/20 teacher knowledge story is getting around. Last week, EIA reported that the television news magazine was contacting teachers’ unions across the country in order to administer a general knowledge exam to elementary school teachers. The Texas State Teachers Association called the test “insulting” and advised its locals not to participate. The South Dakota Education Association has followed suit, saying the test consists of “forty trivia questions,” including “The last Republican presidential candidate who was defeated by President Clinton was?” No advance word yet from ABC on the story’s angle, but EIA guarantees the protest letters are being drafted already.
+ With much media fanfare, the Denver Classroom Teachers Association agreed to a contract that included a pilot performance pay plan. Last week, with much less media fanfare, it was revealed that the district and the union are having a hard time getting schools to volunteer to participate. Only 12 of the district’s 82 elementary schools have enlisted, and none of its 18 middle schools. The district is struggling to meet its modest goal of 450 teacher participants (out of 4,300 Denver teachers). Right now, the district has about 300 teachers on board. “We’re building a plane as it’s going down the runway,” said DCTA Vice President Becky Wissink, using an unfortunate analogy.
+ Education Austin, the merged NEA/AFT local affiliate in Texas, won an election to be the exclusive representative of teachers and support personnel under the district’s consultation policy. Texas law does not allow collective bargaining for public school employees. The union lauded its “spirit of cooperation” as being essential for both the merger and its representation victory.
The spirit of cooperation does not extend to Puerto Rico, where a bitter representation fight between NEA and AFT affiliates will soon be decided. Almost 87 percent of eligible teachers have already voted in polling that will close this Friday. The Puerto Rico legislature passed a collective bargaining law for public employees last year. Since that time, the NEA and AFT affiliates have conducted a war of money and words leading up to this exclusive representation vote. Whichever union wins will negotiate a single contract for the island’s entire force of 38,000 teachers, a situation mirrored only in Hawaii. School cafeteria workers will be represented by a union affiliated with the United Auto Workers, while elections to represent other support personnel have not yet been set.
+ Recommended reading: The Pittsburgh Post-Gazette is running a three-part series entitled “Dirty Secrets,” about sexual misconduct by educators. The newspaper found that the number of teachers who have lost their licenses because of sex offenses has increased nearly 80 percent since 1994. The series focuses on inadequate or nonexistent criminal records checks, and the lack of communication about sex offense charges between states, enabling offenders to get jobs in education in other states before their records catch up with them. The first two installments are available at:
A limited number of copies of EIA’s own report on crimes by educators are still available. Rotten Apples: School Crime from a Different Angle contains details of some of the 359 published offenses committed by school employees in 1998 — including 170 sex offenses. The report is free.
+ Remember where you read it: “NEA does not use dues dollars to contribute to candidates or political campaigns. Only voluntary member donations to the NEA Fund for Children and Public Education may be expended for those purposes. But the Gore Campaign does not accept PAC contributions, so there will be no financial assistance.” — from the November 1999 NSEA Voice, the monthly newsletter of the Nebraska State Education Association.
+ A poll of visitors to the web page of the United Teachers of Flint (Michigan) asks “Should vouchers be available for students to use in parochial schools?” Out of 357 votes tallied as of this morning, there are 166 yes votes, 170 no votes, and 21 undecided.
+ A Nebraska teacher testified at a legislative hearing last week that he thought state teachers should receive pay raises until they rank 5th in the nation in teacher salary, since Nebraska students rank 5th in the nation in academic achievement. Not a bad idea, but will teachers in California, Hawaii and DC sign on to the same system?
+ Quote of the Week: “These are mostly people who work for themselves, and yet they need representation.” — Sandra Feldman, president of the American Federation of Teachers, after the New York State Psychological Association affiliated itself with the teachers’ union.
Inspired by Feldman’s insight, Mike Antonucci, director of the Education Intelligence Agency, today formed a new local union, the Education Intelligence Extra Income Organization (EIEIO). “My first task is to organize the worker,” said Antonucci, petition and clipboard in hand.
“It’s about time somebody did this,” said Mike Antonucci, EIA’s worker, as he signed up. “For too long management has fed me long, uncompensated hours and sub-par pay. Worker of the world, unite!”