+ The big story in the world of teachers’ unions this week has been the release of NEA’s response to the 20/20 program on public schools. Reporter John Stossel highlighted the questions of teacher competency, school bureaucracy, funding and competition. NEA President Bob Chase’s column, which appeared in Sunday’s Washington Postand was disseminated directly to state affiliate presidents and communications staff, and throughout NEA headquarters, contained the expected nouns and adjectives describing Stossel’s report: “muck,” “unfair,” “false,” “shocking attack,” “Chicken Little hysterics,” “brazenly biased,” “editorial rant,” “propagandistic,” “affront,” and so on.
Stossel and ABC can defend themselves. No doubt they’re both gratified by the jerking knees at NEA. There was something in Chase’s response, however, that requires exposition. The people writing Chase’s copy are engaging in selective citation, a tendency both they and Chase have exhibited in the past.
In 1998, while addressing the NEA Representative Assembly on the issue of merger, Chase cited Professor Bruce Cooper as writing “A big union can tackle big problems in big ways. It could annually select three major national projects to improve schools for children. Such as universal pre-schooling. A computer for every desktop. Literacy for every student by third grade.” Chase didn’t mention that in the same essay Cooper also wrote “A single union could easily become an oligarchy, with centralized power, the re-election of the same leaders term after term, and the weakening of dissent within union ranks.”
A recent Chase column claimed that class-size reduction produced better results than school vouchers, and at a lower cost. He alleged Milwaukee’s voucher program cost $25 million for 6,000 children “while 11,000 other children are being educated through SAGE, a statewide program that reduces class size in selected public schools — at half the cost.” While Chase’s figures are arguable standing by themselves, the real dodge is that the cost of the Milwaukee voucher program is the total cost of educating its students, while the cost of the SAGE program is in addition to other spending on behalf of its students.
Chase’s column about the 20/20 program says: “A recently released study by the Educational Testing Service — the folks who produce the SAT tests — concluded that ‘teachers in academic subject areas have academic skills that are equal to or higher than those of the larger college-graduate population.’”
That’s different than what Chase said when the ETS study was released in May. At that time, he claimed the study “confirms that SAT and ACT scores and college grade point averages for prospective teachers seeking certification are as high, if not higher than, their college peers.”
Neither quote is the full truth.
The ETS study showed that teachers certified in certain academic subject areas — namely math, science, English and foreign languages — performed better on the SAT than their college peers. The problem is the vast majority of public school teachers don’t certify in those subjects. According to the ETS report, teachers with an elementary education certification make up more than half of the teaching population. Their test scores, according to ETS, are a combined 129 SAT points lower than other college graduates. The teacher candidate sample is also much whiter than the more diverse SAT-taker sample, resulting in inflated scores.
NEA President Chase is touting an ETS study in support of teacher quality — a study that concluded: “In the career selection process that takes place during college, the group of students who choose teaching as a career, taken as a whole, are not as high achieving as their college peers with respect to SAT scores.”
+ Among the many things Chase found objectionable about the 20/20 report was the description of public education as a “government monopoly.” NEA disseminated a list of companies that sponsored 20/20 on the night Stossel’s report aired, presumably so teachers could write and complain. Ironically, the list included the United States Postal Service. EIA imagines that irate teachers can threaten: “I’ll never use your stamps again!”
+ For more than five years, the California Teachers Association has been trying to find a way to place a school funding initiative on the ballot. Other initiatives — paycheck protection, 95-5, CCRI, etc. — have held the union up, along with the fact that Californians are still as leery of tax increases as they were 20 years ago. CTA seems now to have sidestepped the problem. The union authorized an initial expenditure of $300,000 to qualify a school funding initiative for the November 2000 ballot. But the measure will not stipulate how the money is to be raised, it will simply mandate that it must be raised. This enables CTA to wash its hands of a tax increase (“we didn’t require a tax hike”), while also letting the Legislature off the hook (“we have to fund it somehow“).
+ Teachers in Birmingham, Alabama, ended their illegal strike after the school board rescinded a 20 percent pay increase for Superintendent Johnny Brown. “What Superintendent Brown has done is the worst possible thing that can happen to destroy the morale of employees,” said Alabama Education Association Executive Director Paul Hubbert. “It is apparent Brown believes it is more important to pay central office personnel than show concern for instructional support, class sizes, much less salaries for teachers and support personnel.” But if teachers were worried about exorbitant pay raises, they should have examined the pay stubs of Hubbert himself. According to state retirement records uncovered by Jay Reeves of the Associated Press, Hubbert received a 79 percent pay raise last year, putting his salary at $304,427. Hubbert claimed he received the raise because he had reached the age where he could make more money from his pension and Social Security. “It was costing me money to work,” said Hubbert, who earned over $162,000 in 1997. “I make no apologies. I’ve been at it 31 years.” It bears noting that AEA’s UniServ directors are among the lowest paid in the country.
+ The story of Col. Bill Corrow, reported in the November 8 communiqué, has hit the big time. The Boston Globe ran a lengthy piece on the controversy in today’s paper. Corrow, you may remember, volunteered to teach a course called “Conflict in the 20th Century.” He is a former teacher, credentialed in English, has a bachelor’s and master’s degree, is a Vietnam veteran, and served on a United Nations commission investigating war crimes in Bosnia. What he lacks, of course, is a social studies credential and a union card. After attempts to get rid of Corrow met with school board and community resistance, Vermont NEA offered a compromise that would allow Corrow to continue teaching as long as it wasn’t for credit, and as long as he was supervised by a credentialed teacher. “Every other teacher is held to those standards,” said Vermont NEA UniServ Director Mark Hage. “I see no reason Mr. Corrow should be allowed to sidestep them.” Corrow and the school are standing firm. “If Lawrence of Arabia arrived here and said, ‘I would like to do a course in Anglo-Arab studies,’ unless he was certified to teach he couldn’t do that?” Corrow asked.
+ A Fortune magazine survey of lawmakers and congressional and White House aides named the National Education Association as the 9th most powerful lobbying organization in Washington, D.C. No other single union ranked in the top 20 (the AFL-CIO, an umbrella group of labor organizations, ranked 5th).
+ At a regional meeting of the American Federation of Teachers, AFT President Sandra Feldman urged union leaders to keep their focus on organizing and to stand ready to organize charter school employees.
+ One question on Milwaukee’s High School Writing Proficiency Assessment, for which a passing grade is required in order to graduate, reads: “Public tax dollars are being diverted from public schools to pay for students who want to go to private schools. You attend a public school. Tell why you think this is/is not a good idea.” EIA’s question: Does the pronoun “this” in the third sentence refer to the declarative statement in the first sentence or the one in the second?
+ EIEIO President Mike Antonucci announced preliminary union dues to be 75% of employee income. “Sure, it’s high,” said Antonucci, “but that includes an EIEIO coffee mug and a pocket calendar listing all the Italian holidays.” About $666 (plus tax) will go to EIEIO’s political action committee. Chief lobbyist Mike Antonucci said its primary purpose would be to seek out cold refreshments for EIEIO officers. “I’m calling it the SixPAC,” he explained.
+ Quote of the Week: “Wearing a tie doesn’t get respect from the students. Coming to class prepared to teach earns respect. This is reactionary, not constitutional and not part of the bargaining (agreement).” — Franklin (New Hampshire) Education Association Co-President Dennis Perreault, on his district’s new policy that requires male teachers to wear neckties, and female teachers to wear skirts, dresses or slacks.
+ Comparative Quotes of the Week: “So let me state categorically what NEA will do…. To school boards and administrators, NEA pledges to engage you in a new partnership — at the bargaining table and in our day-to-day relationship — aimed at transforming the quality of our schools.” — NEA President Bob Chase, from his now-famous “new unionism” speech at the National Press Club on February 5, 1997.
“Administrators do earn a credential, but it is a joke. I know three people who got their administrative credential by taking a 150-question multiple choice test — two of them are now principals…. Yet there are now newspaper editorials and political leaders advocating more power and higher salaries for these 150-question-test wonders and calling them ‘CEOs.’ They are already paid from 40 to 300 percent more than the top-paid teacher for doing work that is nowhere near as difficult and certainly not as fundamental to the education process as what a teacher does. The administrators see themselves differently; they have power and they use it. Many are simply petty tyrants who apparently enjoy demeaning teachers…. All the certificated personnel who work in and for the schools are valuable, and there’s no valid reason for paying one category, whether elementary teachers or secondary teachers or administrators, more than another.” –California Teachers Association President Wayne Johnson in the November 1999 California Educator. Johnson makes three times the average California teacher salary for administering CTA.