Intercepts

A listening post monitoring public education and teachers’ unions.

Union Exposes Vast Right-Wing, Moderate & Center-Left Conspiracy

Written By: Mike Antonucci - May• 18•16

In 2013 a Massachusetts Teachers Association task force created “Threat from the Right,” a document designed to alert members to the evil forces arrayed against them. Today the union updated that report with “Threat to Public Education Now Centers on Massachusetts,” indicating the threat has expanded beyond the right-wing and even includes some foundations and organizations that have dealings with teachers’ unions. I have made the 101-page report available on EIA’s Declassified page.

The introduction begins:

The threats aligned against public education and unions today are broad, deep and substantial. More and more, they are focused on Massachusetts, where proponents of charter school expansion are preparing to spend millions of dollars as they test just how far they can go in privatizing public education and profiting off the public good. The outcome of this assault is vital to the future of our Commonwealth — and to the future of public schools, colleges and universities across the nation.

For MTA members and students, this is nothing short of an existential struggle.

If this is the sort of thing that gets your blood boiling – on either side – slog your way through it. For me, it brings back tiresome memories of similar past efforts, like NEA’s 1998 “Anatomy of the Far Right.” Now that MTA has more than $9 million to spend on such activities, perhaps they can add the standard conspiracy flow chart we’re accustomed to seeing.

MTA is clearly concerned about the “blurring of ideologies” that has occurred among its opponents since those days. As this report shows, it has not led to much introspection.

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How Green Is My SuperPAC?

Written By: Mike Antonucci - May• 17•16

We also have to address the unaccountable dark money in politics. I think the Supreme Court made a grave error with its Citizens United decision. And I will do everything I can do to appoint Supreme Court Justices who will protect the right to vote and not the right of billionaires to buy elections.

– Hillary Clinton, responding to an American Federation of Teachers candidate questionnaire

We… are hopeful of a day when the Building Trades and its members are afforded greater labor family consideration for their economic well-being before we attempt to repackage ourselves for newfound activist billionaire friends who have an agenda which is far different than ours.

– from a May 16 letter to AFL-CIO president Richard Trumka signed by the executives of the federation’s building trade unions

We object to the political agenda of the AFL-CIO being sold to a job-killing hedge fund manager with a bag of cash.

– from a May 16 letter to AFL-CIO president Richard Trumka from Laborers International Union of North American general president Terry O’Sullivan

The letters were written in response to the formation of a SuperPAC called For Our Future financed by the AFL-CIO, AFSCME, NEA, AFT, and environmental activist Thomas Steyer, who made his billions as a hedge fund manager. SuperPACs are political action committees whose existence and proliferation are largely due to the U.S. Supreme Court’s Citizen United decision. As reported by Politico, “All the unions involved in the new venture have endorsed Hillary Clinton.”

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Madeloni Wins, Gets $9.2 Million to Fight Charters

Written By: Mike Antonucci - May• 16•16

Click here to read.

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How Hedge Fund Billionaires Profit

Written By: Mike Antonucci - May• 16•16

To say that hedge fund managers are wrecking our schools and pose a threat to our very democracy might sound extreme. But take one look at how they make and protect their billions and it’s hard not to see hedge fund managers as cackling Monopoly men who light their cigars with dollar bills (and take candy from babies as they laugh all the way to the bank).

– from “Shocking: How hedge fund billionaires profit at the expense of our students” (March 21 NEA’s Education Votes web site)

The number of public pensions that use hedge funds has steadily increased to 282 in 2016 from 234 in 2010, data from research firm Preqin show. The average percentage of pension portfolios in hedge funds also rose to nearly 10 percent… A 2014 Preqin survey found the most important factor were returns uncorrelated to stock markets, followed by gains regardless of market direction, and lowering portfolio volatility, among others… Large public pensions planning or considering an increase to their hedge fund allocation are the California State Teachers Retirement System, and the general state pensions of Massachusetts and North Carolina. At least six pensions are considering an investment in hedge funds for the first time, according to Preqin, including the Chicago Firemen’s Annuity & Benefit Fund, Louisiana School Employees’ Retirement System, Iowa Public Employees’ Retirement System and the San Francisco Employees’ Retirement System.

– from “Public pensions stick with hedge funds despite frustrations” (May 10 Reuters)

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Bounced by Both NEAs!

Written By: Mike Antonucci - May• 13•16

Diane Ravitch and Michael Butera at 2016 NPE Conference.

I was contacted out-of-the-blue yesterday by several people interested in Michael A. Butera, until this week the CEO and executive director of the National Association for Music Education (NAfME). Butera was at an April 26 meeting arranged by the National Endowment for the Arts to discuss diversity and inclusion.

Another participant was Keryl McCord of Alternate ROOTS, who reported on the organization’s web site that Butera had said, “Blacks and Latinos lack the keyboard skills needed for this field.” Butera later stated that McCord’s portrayal of the discussion was “deeply inaccurate,” but at least one other individual present, Jesse Rosen, president and CEO of the League of American Orchestras, confirmed McCord’s story. Howard Sherman of the Arts Integrity Initiative provided an in-depth back-and-forth of the competing accounts.

NAfME placed Butera on administrative leave and, after a speedy investigation, announced that the organization and Butera had “agreed that he will not be returning.” That caught the attention of the New York Times.

How does all this work around to me? Well, Butera was once the executive director of the Maryland State Education Association and the Wisconsin Education Association Council before gaining a position as the National Education Association’s northeast regional director. In March 2008, he was abruptly dismissed from that position – an action so unusual and unexpected that delegates to the NEA convention that year submitted a new business item that would have required NEA to notify local and state leaders about the reasons why a regional employee was fired. That NBI was withdrawn before reaching the floor, leaving most insiders and all outsiders in the dark about Butera’s ouster.

I never learned what happened in 2008, but NEA and its affiliates are notoriously quiet about its personnel decisions, so that isn’t strange. Still, if this thing has any legs, I expect someone will eventually come forward.

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CTA Takes Over Lynwood Teachers Association

Written By: Mike Antonucci - May• 12•16

Details are scarce about why it was done, but the California Teachers Association established a trusteeship over the 700-member Lynwood Teachers Association in southern California.

Two CTA staffers were appointed as co-trustees, while Bill Freeman, former president of the San Diego Education Association and current member of the National Education Association board of directors, will also assist.

The only clue to the reason was the catch-all of failing to follow democratic procedures. There is also no evidence that there was any resistance to the takeover, such as occurred two years ago in Modesto.

EIA will update as more information becomes available.

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Written in Stone

Written By: Mike Antonucci - May• 11•16

I’m a bit under the weather today, having just given birth to a 11mm bouncing baby kidney stone. While I thoroughly medicate myself and wince, you’ll have to make do with these other exceptional articles from the education policy world.

* “United Front: Teachers Unions Quietly Spend Millions on ‘Grassroots’ Groups” – The 74 has an extensive piece on the origins and operations of The Hedge Clippers, those grassroots activists wholly dependent on union support. How little things have changed.

* The National Council for Teacher Quality continues its crucial work exposing the “drummed up teacher shortage crisis.” Maybe all those laid-off teachers from the recession became hedge fund managers.

* Over at TeacherPensions.org, Chad Aldeman asks “What Was Behind the Rise (and Subsequent Fall) in Teacher Turnover?” and reminds us that human nature and demographics are more responsible for varying levels of teacher turnover than is education policy – just like, well, every other profession.

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