A listening post monitoring public education and teachers’ unions.

Modesto Disaffiliation Vote Set for May 6

Written By: Mike Antonucci - Apr• 16•14

The Modesto Teachers Association is all set to decide whether it wants to continue being part of the California Teachers Association. The local claims 1,525 members, which would make it the largest CTA local affiliate to break away if the vote goes that way on May 6.

The decision by MTA’s officers was apparently triggered by the use of CTA grant money to give MTA’s executive director release time. CTA says the grant is for local officers only, not staffers. It seems a little weak for a casus belli, so I assume MTA has had its differences with CTA in the past.

MTA is a moderately large local, but not so large that its absence would significantly affect CTA’s coffers. Nevertheless, the state union can’t have locals running around doing their own thing. It would set a bad precedent for waverers elsewhere in the state.

CTA complained about lack of access to MTA’s members to get its message out, and is already threatening to contest the results of an election that is three weeks away.

The Modesto school district ruled that, according to the collective bargaining agreement, MTA is the exclusive representative and so CTA will not be allowed to distribute its materials to teachers, nor use district email.

CTA says the teachers are also its members, and filed an unfair labor practice against the district, claiming the district’s stance requires that “any attempt by MTA to amend its certification to reflect disaffiliation from CTA be denied.”

Although disaffiliations are rare, the National Education Association suffered a large one last year when the 3,000 members of the University of Hawaii Professional Assembly went their own way. I expect NEA and CTA will make every effort, including litigation, to keep this from becoming a trend. Only time will tell if they borrow the much more direct tactics of the American Federation of Teachers.


Charter School Unions: One Step Forward, Two Steps Back

Written By: Mike Antonucci - Apr• 15•14

In what now has become a media tradition, press outlets lit up with the news that the Pennsylvania State Education Association successfully unionized the Pennsylvania Cyber Charter School by a vote of 71 to 34.

The story notes, “PSEA has represented charter school teachers in the past, said spokesman Wythe Keever, but the approximately 115 teachers from the statewide online public school will be the only such members now.”

That’s a welcome detail usually omitted from charter school unionization stories, but it lacks some background, which I will happily provide.

PSEA has been trying to organize charters for more than 13 years and this, as far as I can tell, is the sum total of its efforts:

* PSEA won representation of employees at The Village Charter School, but the school was absorbed into the Chester-Upland School District in June 2008, its employees becoming members of the traditional local in that district.

* In June 2009, PSEA unionized the employees of the PA Learners Online cyber charter school, an achievement that was touted by NEA. The school later became the Stream Academy, and appears to have lost its union along the way. How that happened is a mystery to me, but PSEA no longer represents Stream Academy employees.

* In May 2012, PSEA failed to unionize the employees of Agora Cyber Charter School after a very long and expensive campaign.

* In June 2013, PSEA unionized employees of the Pocono Mountain Charter School. In July 2013, the school’s charter was revoked by the state appeals board, a decision that was recently reversed by a Commonwealth Court. The fate of the union is not clear, but PSEA does not count it as one of its locals.

In the meantime, the charter movement in Pennsylvania grew to a total of 183 schools last year.


Where Do All Your Tax Dollars Go?

Written By: Mike Antonucci - Apr• 14•14

Click here to read.


Unique Poll Question

Written By: Mike Antonucci - Apr• 14•14

Brown University conducted a poll about the candidates in the race for governor of Rhode Island. There was one question I had never seen used in a pre-election survey before.

The poll also tried to gauge how Democratic primary candidates were doing among voters affiliated with unions.

It asked those likely primary voters if they or any relatives were members of a union or teachers’ association. Of those who said yes, 33.9 percent said they would vote for Taveras and 23.5 percent would vote for Raimondo, a difference of 10 percentage points. Pell had support from 8.7 percent.

Among that same sample unaffiliated with a union or teachers’ association, Raimondo led with 32.2 percent to Taveras’ 23 percent and Pell’s 9.6 percent.

That’s about a 20 percent swing between union-affiliated Democrats and non-union Democrats. It makes me wonder if there are similar gaps in other races in other states.


Second-String Theory

Written By: Mike Antonucci - Apr• 11•14

It’s well past April Fool’s Day, so I guess this story is legitimate:

Tennessee had engineered some major education policy changes before boasting historic gains on the National Assessment for Education Progress last year.

But the Tennessee Education Association, the state’s largest teachers organization, has started to point to something simpler to help explain the big jump: a 90-second Tennessee Department of Education motivational video featuring then-Tennessee Titans quarterback Matt Hasselbeck and first lady Crissy Haslam.

TEA wants to ensure that the state’s gains are not attributed to education reforms it opposes, so it insists that a short video by a backup quarterback propelled Tennessee’s students into the NAEP end zone.

Hasselbeck is now warming the bench in Indianapolis, so it’s no surprise to see Indiana also experienced some NAEP gains. Hasselbeck spent most of his career in Seattle, so of course Washington also had some higher scores.

Massachusetts saw 4th grade reading scores drop significantly, which suggests to me that Ryan Mallett may be on the trading block.


The Other Union Election

Written By: Mike Antonucci - Apr• 10•14

Being engrossed in the New York State United Teachers election, I neglected to report the results of the contested elections for officers of the Broward Teachers Union. As you may recall, accusations were flying about eligibility and personal finances.

In the end, BTU president Sharon Glickman held on to office with 53.5 percent of the vote. The rival slate managed only to gain a runoff for the post of secretary-treasurer.

I don’t know if it was a factor, but next time the challengers put up a campaign web site, they should ensure that their names are larger than mine.


Berkeley Struggles With School Choice Black Market

Written By: Mike Antonucci - Apr• 09•14

You might not be up for reading a 5,000-word piece on “illegal enrollment” in the Berkeley Unified School District in California, but it’s an excellent article that covers the mixed feelings displayed by school officials, teachers’ unions and taxpayers. Do students who don’t reside in the district cost more money, or bring in more money? Is there an incentive to fill seats, or an incentive to preserve local schools for local students?

This is not a phenomenon unique to Berkeley, as many reports in the past have shown, but reporter Mary Flaherty fails in only one respect. She notes all the parallel arguments but does not make the obvious comparison with the question of illegal immigration. In some ways, crossing an international border causes less grief among residents than does crossing a school district boundary. It’s hard to imagine many Berkeley residents advocating for residency checks and multiple IDs for immigrants, but the Berkeley district hired an investigator to make home visits and authenticate addresses for school attendance.

There are basically two ways to deal with black markets – in school choice or any other commodity – you can try to eliminate them through law enforcement, or you can legalize them. Each has its costs, but the current arrangement rewards only those clever enough to know how to game the system. The law-abiding parents who might otherwise benefit from a different school for their children are left holding the bag.