NEA Promotes Chief Lobbyist

The National Education Association named Mary Kusler as senior director for its Center for Advocacy, which oversees its departments of Government Relations, Campaigns and Elections, and Collective Bargaining.

Kusler has been NEA’s director of government relations since 2011.

The senior director position became vacant when Kim Anderson left in July to become executive vice president of the Democracy Alliance, where NEA executive director John Stocks holds court as chairman of the board of directors.

To my knowledge, NEA has not yet named Kusler’s successor at government relations.

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A New Mobile-Friendly Look For Intercepts

Didn’t mean to jar you, but as I slowly creep into the 21st century it has become increasingly clear that I have to adjust my output to coincide with the inputs many of you use. Hence the change.

Previous mobile users were redirected to a second site hosted by DudaMobile, but this responsive template works on all devices and ensures relative uniformity.

We older folks will also appreciate the larger print.

The EIA home site, containing the communiqués, declassified documents, assorted tables and statistics will remain as before for the time being.

This should be trouble-free, but you experience any quirks, bugs or outright disasters, fire off an e-mail to mike AT eiaonline.com. Thanks for your understanding.

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Act 10 at Five

The Milwaukee Journal-Sentinel published a special report on Sunday about the state of labor unions in Wisconsin since the passage of Act 10 in 2011, the law that severely limited public-sector collective bargaining and ended agency fees. Here are a few choice quotes from the story:

+ “Dave Weiland, an Oconomowoc school district teacher and local union leader, thinks the state union was stuck in a 1920s mentality. ‘The gravy train was running, and they didn’t see the curve,’ he said.”

+ “The seeds of a public backlash were planted by the arbitration law. ‘Some would probably argue that was the death knell of real collective bargaining in Wisconsin,’ said Rick Badger, now statewide head of AFSCME, the American Federation of State, County and Municipal Employees, which since Act 10 has lost 70% of its members at two of its councils.”

+ “After all, the arbitrators — not elected school boards — now usually decided their contracts. ‘Members disengaged,’ said John Matthews, who ran the Madison teachers union for 50 years. ‘We’d lost our pressure tactics.’”

+ “’I think we became, as a union, a paper tiger of sorts, focusing too much on collective bargaining at the expense of everything else,’ said Kim Schroeder, a teacher who is president of the Milwaukee Teachers’ Education Association. ‘We set ourselves up as a target.’”

+ “When administrators told the union at the negotiating table that budgets were tight, teachers didn’t believe them. And unions that caved at the bargaining table were ostracized. ‘That just kind of fell on deaf ears,’ [former local union president Gary Stresman] says.”

This kind of critical introspection is rare at the higher levels of unions and it’s refreshing to see it published in a public forum. Still, it always seems to involve past actions and not current practices. How might things have turned out differently if all of the above concerns had been raised and publicized at the time they were occurring?

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Greenhouse Shouldn’t Throw Stones

It’s understandable that we should be deluged with pundits trying to explain how the hell Donald Trump became President-elect. The latest in this series is from Steven Greenhouse, the former New York Times labor reporter, who penned an editorial for his former employers headlined “What Unions Got Wrong About Trump.”

For my part, I don’t think the unions got anything wrong about Trump. They relentlessly highlighted his untrue and hateful statements, and warned their members of the coming apocalypse should he be elected. “What Unions Got Wrong About Hillary” would have been a much more interesting topic.

“For the nation’s labor unions, the day after Election Day was going to be a victory lap,” Greenhouse wrote. “They planned to boast to the world that their vaunted get-out-the-vote operation had delivered the White House to Hillary Clinton by winning three crucial Rust Belt states for her: Michigan, Pennsylvania and Wisconsin. But the unions, to their shock and horror, failed to deliver those states — or victory — to Mrs. Clinton.”

The failure of unions to deliver the decisive votes for Hillary was certainly a factor, but an examination of Greenhouse’s Twitter timeline shows he has about a dozen explanations for Trump’s victory – a couple even before the election.

On November 3, it was because of FBI Director James Comey.

On November 7, he added Russian intelligence services.

The train really got rolling on Election Night. At 7:24 pm, it was because the Democrats didn’t nominate Joe Biden.

At 8:25 pm, it was because of dark money and voting restrictions.

At 9:38 pm, it was because Hillary didn’t run against Gerald Ford in 1976.

Greenhouse then slept on it, and at 7:23 am on November 9 he blamed it on the stupid.

Then he thought more about it and at 8:41 am settled on Debbie Wasserman Schultz and the Democratic National Committee.

But by 9:56 am he concluded with the Electoral College.

Maybe one, or more, or all of these are correct. But a week before the election, Greenhouse touted a New York Times story that stated “Trump’s alienation of key voting blocs has bolstered Democrats in the West and South, and Republicans fear it could be a grim glimpse of their future.”

In short, Greenhouse doesn’t have any idea why Trump won. He shouldn’t be embarrassed about this. Almost all of us don’t know. If we reexamine our assumptions and sources of information perhaps we’ll do better the next time.

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How to Improve Graduation Rates

There is no shortage of ideas of how to increase the number of kids who successfully graduate from high school. But when NEA president Lily Eskelsen García visited Rogers High School in Spokane, Washington, she cited its improved graduation rate and called it “a model for the nation.”

As Peter Cook points out today, Rogers isn’t exactly high-achieving. So how did Eskelsen García choose Rogers for a visit? It couldn’t just have been because Debby Chandler, the president of NEA’s National Council for Education Support Professionals, works there.

So what’s the Rogers secret?

And how are they doing this? It’s not a product that this district bought. It’s not more test prep. It really is giving people the time to feel like they’re family … what they’ve discovered here, the magic — the secret sauce — is, you know, we can actually just do stuff that we want to, like this pep rally. Let’s get everybody in the hall and let’s clap for these people that are never recognized, the lunch ladies, and let’s get a limo. The kids loved that. They loved planning it. They loved deciding who was gonna be recognized. And when it comes from — it sounds like a cliché — when it comes from the roots, when it comes from the community, then there’s joy to it. You’re not doing it because someone told you to.

We should applaud the school for teaching the kids appreciation for people who provide services for them. It’s an important attribute to take into their adult lives. But so is mastery of high school math, and apparently four of every five students at Rogers haven’t obtained that.

Standardized tests are misused and overused. But they provide us with information that teachers’ unions are determined to downplay or hide from public view. We should listen to what school employees tell us about students. We should not accept their descriptions as the unvarnished truth.

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