Ah, The Good Old Days

“This could be the beginning of a promising new period for public education in this country,” said NEA President Dennis Van Roekel.

…In Chicago, Duncan set his sights on reducing the dropout rate, reducing school violence and creating successful new schools. His efforts have shown his commitment to quality public schools, Van Roekel said, and willingness to make decisive, bold changes.

“We applaud President-Elect Obama’s choice of Arne Duncan to be the next Secretary of Education,” said Jo Anderson, Executive Director of the Illinois Education Association. “In IEA-NEA, we have worked collaboratively with Arne Duncan on a number of ways to improve all Illinois public schools, including increased funding. In our experience, Arne Duncan is committed to working with others including the unions to promote excellence and equity in public education.”

National Education Association press release, December 15, 2008

The AFT commends the Senate for quickly approving President Obama’s choice of Arne Duncan as Secretary of Education.

…Arne Duncan has exhibited his commitment to public education and his willingness to listen as well as to lead. We hope Secretary Duncan’s team includes individuals who share these qualities, and who, like him, are committed to working with all stakeholders to strengthen and improve public education.

American Federation of Teachers press release, January 21, 2009


Building for Retirement

The California State Teachers’ Retirement System (CalSTRS) does pretty well for those who make a long career of teaching. The average teacher who retired in 2016 will receive $52,428 – about 60% of his or her final working salary.

But as Max Marchitello points out at TeacherPensions.org, that benefit comes at the expense of teachers who will receive nothing from CalSTRS, or less than they contributed to the fund while teaching.

The system is only 69% funded and required bailout legislation last year, but don’t think CalSTRS is suffering in the interim. It is planning a $181 million, 10-story office tower to sit alongside the $266 million, 13-story tower it completed in 2009.


The SEIU Budget Cut Mystery

Last week Josh Eidelson of Bloomberg BusinessWeek obtained an internal Service Employees International Union (SEIU) memo that alerted its employees to a 30 percent budget cut in 2017.

The December 14 memo from SEIU president Mary Kay Henry blames the cuts on the 2016 election results.

Because the far right will control all three branches of the federal government, we will face serious threats to the ability of working people to join together in unions. These threats require us to make tough decisions that allow us to resist these attacks and to fight forward despite dramatically reduced resources.

While it seems certain that the fat years are over for SEIU, it’s curious that union leadership feels the need to take such immediate and drastic steps. After all, the “dramatically reduced resources” haven’t been dramatically reduced yet, and preemptive cuts make it less likely that resistance will be effective.

I don’t have up-to-date financials for SEIU, but at the beginning of 2015 the union was sitting on $281 million in annual revenue with a $12.2 million surplus, and almost $147 million in net assets. So what’s the rush?

The SEIU watchdog Stern Burger with Fries and his sources have a sound theory: The union is preparing for its long-awaited merger with AFSCME.

As we have seen with NEA-AFT state affiliate mergers, staff unions can often negotiate no-layoff clauses to protect jobs. But if you institute staff layoffs because of Trump, you can then proceed with a union merger without hurdles.

Some labor commentators have suggested union mergers will become more common in a post-agency fee world. That may be, but it will have to be a long fall before NEA and AFT take up the issue again.


Declassified: NEA’s Case for Hillary

You probably thought we were all done with the Podesta e-mails, but here is a final foray into the stacks, at least as they relate to the National Education Association.

This one was forwarded by NEA executive director John Stocks to Podesta on October 7, 2015. It was a memo with an attachment from NEA president Lily Eskelsen García to the presidents of AFSCME, SEIU and the AFL-CIO. It read:

Subject: CONFIDENTIAL: NEA’s Presidential Primary Recommendation


It was nice to see you this afternoon to discuss our collective efforts to prepare for Friedrichs. I just came through a week of leadership meetings with our State Presidents and Board of Directors as you may know. While our conversations over here about the Presidential primary were not without thoughtful dissention (sic), at the end of the day, my leaders were convinced that recommending Secretary Clinton was the right choice. I know that you all are facing very similar dynamics in your own houses that we are facing inside ours, so I wanted to share the PowerPoint that I used to walk through the argument in case it’s useful to you. I ask that you not post it externally, but rather use whatever is helpful to you.

As an aside, Secretary Clinton hit it out of the park over here. She was gracious and personable and didn’t hesitate when I asked her to come. And our folks saw what they needed to see and have been waiting for: a strong leader who has four decades of experience and passion for the issues they care about most. On the pragmatic side, one of the most compelling arguments that folks repeated again and again was the impact of the top of the ticket on down ballot races. All of my folks are tired of living in the post-2010-Walker-Kasich-Snyder-et al world and certainly don’t want to lose more ground in gubernatorial and state legislative races in 2016.

I am convinced that the longer the progressive community waits to make a choice, the longer the Koch Brothers’/GOP have to weaken the strongest candidate in the field.

In unity,


I have posted the PowerPoint as a PDF file on my site, and you can also access it through EIA’s Declassified page.

There was never much chance that NEA would endorse Sanders instead of Clinton, but the union accomplished none of the things it promised by endorsing Clinton so early.

It is often said that generals are always fighting the last war, even though circumstances have changed. NEA’s leaders were determined not to repeat the experience of the 2008 primaries, when they failed to choose between Obama and Clinton until the race was decided. This time they committed the union to the logical candidate, but also to a flawed campaign strategy. Now the union will suffer the consequences of their leaders’ miscalculation.


What’s the Third Largest Teachers Union?

New Jersey: “Parent groups and the state’s largest teachers union have said the PARCC tests are unproven, confusing and excessively time consuming.”

Connecticut: “The Connecticut Education Association, the state’s largest teachers union, said the state needs to increase funding for public schools and for poor school districts in particular.”

New Hampshire: “An incoming state Senator who also heads New Hampshire’s largest teachers union says he’ll be open about any conflicts of interest that may come from serving in the two roles simultaneously.”

Michigan: “Four years after Michigan’s right-to-work law was passed, the state’s largest teachers union appears to be taking a different response to the fact that school employees no longer have to pay union dues or fees.”

Kansas: “Mark Desetti, the legislative director of the Kansas National Education Association, the state’s largest teachers union, called that nonsense.”

Pennsylvania: “The Pennsylvania State Education Association, the state’s largest teachers union, opposed the bill.”

All of these clips appeared in the last week, and they all use the same descriptor of the National Education Association affiliate – “the state’s largest teachers union.” But it’s a term without any real meaning.

NEA – often described as “the nation’s largest teachers union” – is one of only two national teachers unions. NEA and AFT each have affiliates in many states. In five states they have merged, leaving DC as the only place in the U.S. where AFT members outnumber NEA members. Belonging to the largest teachers union only means you don’t belong to the smallest teachers union.

It’s only at the local level that comparing union size makes any sense, because there may be hundreds of locals within a state, and tens of thousands across the country. Most are affiliated with NEA or AFT, but some, like the Akron Education Association in Ohio or the Memphis Shelby County Education Association in Tennessee, are independent.

So let’s retire that term and simply refer to a union’s affiliation – or at least the “larger” of the two teachers unions. Someday there may be many teachers unions at the state and national levels, but it hasn’t happened yet.