A listening post monitoring public education and teachers’ unions.

In Chicago There’s a Border Patrol for Teachers, Too

Written By: Mike Antonucci - Aug• 12•16

I’ve written extensively about the school district practice of enforcing residency requirements for students, most recently a couple of weeks ago. The techniques used include private investigators and surveillance, sometimes to a disturbing degree.

Some might feel this is a small price to pay to ensure that only district residents attend district schools, but there is a place where the same rules hold true for teachers: Chicago.

Chicago is one of the last large districts to require teachers and other employees to physically reside within the city limits. There are exceptions. Teachers hired before 1996 are exempt, and there is a waiver process for hardship cases. The penalty for violating the residency requirement is termination, although investigation and enforcement seem to be intermittent and uneven.

A 2009 audit discovered 77 district employees who were residing outside of the city limits, but it took five years before an appeals court concurred with the district’s decision to dismiss two of them.

The people of Chicago, and even the teachers themselves, line up on both sides of the residency requirement, as evidenced by these pro and con columns that appeared last year in Catalyst Chicago and the comments following each.

The residency requirement does not seem to factor into the current dispute between the city and the Chicago Teachers Union, but based on the board’s rationale for instituting the rule, it might come up in negotiations. The board claimed:

– a) quality of performance of duties by officers and employees of the Board will be enhanced by a more comprehensive knowledge of the conditions existing in the school system and by a feeling of greater personal stake in the system’s progress;

b) resident officers and employees will be more likely to be involved in school and community activities, thus bringing them into contact with community leaders and citizens;

c) absenteeism and tardiness will be diminished;

d) economic benefits will accrue to the school system from local expenditure of salaries and the payment of local sales and real estate taxes, and educational benefits will be derived from residency by teachers, administrators and other employees in the City of Chicago.

I doubt if any of these four assumptions has been empirically tested, even though the system has cohorts of resident and non-resident employees to compare. However, the union might take the board at its word on the fourth claim and raise it as a factor in salary and benefit bargaining.


Caputo-Pearl’s Spending Stats “Hover Around” Accuracy

Written By: Mike Antonucci - Aug• 11•16

In his speech outlining his plan to “create a crisis” in California, United Teacher Los Angeles president Alex Caputo-Pearl cited several statistics to support his arguments. Such as:

“California hovers around 45th among the 50 states in per-pupil funding.”

There are multiple ways to measure this, but the closest statistic that matches Caputo-Pearl’s words is public school revenue per-student. The National Education Association’s Rankings & Estimates study places California in 39th position among states in this regard. I think that just barely makes the outside edge of a “hover,” but even so, it’s misleading. Check a few pages ahead in the NEA report and you find current expenditures per student – in other words, what the state actually spends. California ranks 22nd. You’ll need a lot of aviation fuel to hover between 45th and 22nd.

What about cost-of-living adjustments? Assuming we could agree on a measure, let’s not forget that the cost of California government contributes to the cost of living. And spending on schools eats up the lion’s share of the state budget. It’s easy to find oneself arguing that school spending needs to be high to compensate for… school spending being high.

Let’s move on.

“And, per prison inmate spending in California is 7 times the amount of per-pupil spending for K-12 students.”

Caputo-Pearl can get away with something you and I can’t. He compares the housing, feeding and incarceration of violent criminals with teaching California public school students. Nevertheless, his shocking statistic becomes a lot less shocking when you realize there are 6.2 million students in California public schools and about 129,000 inmates in California prisons (another 4,800 are incarcerated in Arizona and Mississippi). I know Caputo-Pearl understands the concept of fixed costs, since he and other UTLA officers constantly employ it to argue against the expansion of charter schools.

Leading us to…

“Broad-Walmart has stated they will spend close to $20 million on political campaigns and lobbying, while the California Charter Schools Association just dumped $10 million into the June elections, and is prepared to escalate that in the coming months. Comparatively, UTLA has $400,000 in our PACE account annually from member contributions. That alone equates to us being outspent 60-to-1.”

It does, if you compare the sum total of your opponents’ political spending with only one category of yours. This dodge is the first lesson in Union Officer 101. Here’s an example of Caputo-Pearl using it soon after he took office in an interview with an Los Angeles Times reporter who didn’t catch it.

Q: How much of members’ dues goes to UTLA’s political activities?

A: We have a separate way of raising money for electoral campaigns. Teachers have to sign up; it’s not automatic. That goes specifically for school board campaigns, things like that. Of course we want to know whether candidates support our “Schools L.A. Students Deserve” initiative, but financially it’s separate.

The question was about “political activities” and the answer was about “electoral campaigns.” It’s true: candidate PAC money is financially separate from the union’s general fund. But dues money – money kept in UTLA’s general fund and special assessment funds – is used for every other type of political activity, including lobbying, independent expenditures, GOTV efforts, issue ads, and the tens of millions targeted for the Prop 55 campaign and other ballot initiatives.

Nor does UTLA have to rely solely on its own revenues. It has the mammoth political war chests of the California Teachers Association, California Federation of Teachers, National Education Association and American Federation of Teachers from which to draw. And that doesn’t count other friendly unions and federations like SEIU, AFSCME and the AFL-CIO.

If creating a crisis requires being creative with numbers, Caputo-Pearl is off to a solid start.


Los Angeles Teachers Head Is Ready to Incite A ‘State Crisis’ If Union Demands Are Not Met

Written By: Mike Antonucci - Aug• 10•16

Click here to read.


Missed Approach

Written By: Mike Antonucci - Aug• 09•16

Teacher: I’ll ask a pilot how to fly a plane, not a CEO. Why won’t policymakers listen to educators?” – headline from Valerie Strauss’ column in the Washington Post.

A. That’s a rhetorical question.

B. Because it’s not the same thing.

C. We ask pilots how to fly a plane. We ask corporations to build one.

D. This.


Only Thugs Are Thugs

Written By: Mike Antonucci - Aug• 08•16

Maryland Gov. Larry Hogan is upset that the Maryland State Education Association doesn’t agree with his plans for the state budget. The union made its feelings known in a press release.

The governor responded on Facebook with “We provided record funding for education two years in a row and protected your pensions. Don’t believe this phony ‘cut’ propaganda from the union thugs.”

Drop the last word and you have a perfectly defensible statement. But the people responsible for a press release are not “thugs.”

I’m not too worried that MSEA officers and staff had their feelings hurt. They’ll survive. I’m more concerned that calling political opponents thugs or terrorists or Nazis obscures what those people really are. I criticize unions all the time, but I don’t equate their actions to violent assault, torture or mass murder.

A thug is “a violent person, especially a criminal,” so if you wanted to call this union guy a “thug”…

…go right ahead because he appears to be strangling a guy from behind. But no one ever went to the emergency room because of an assault from a press release. Gov. Hogan made a stupid mistake and should apologize for it.



Written By: Mike Antonucci - Aug• 05•16

As much as I’d like to dazzle you with brilliant analysis of NEA’s and AFT’s comments on proposed ESSA regulations, their sheer mass and density made it a losing proposition.

AFT’s letter clocks in at about 3,740 words, with seven uses of the word “stakeholder.”

NEA, being almost twice as large as AFT, felt compelled to write a letter almost twice as long. It’s about 6,400 words, with 13 instances of “stakeholder,” but showed some restraint by using “zip code” only once.

It’s a shame that this Christmas miracle to usher in a new era in public education already requires 10,000 words’ worth of correcting.


Is it Bribery to Withhold Cash?

Written By: Mike Antonucci - Aug• 04•16

I don’t think so, but that’s the charge being made by New Jersey State Senate President Stephen Sweeney against the New Jersey Education Association.

NJEA representatives called county Democratic chairs on Tuesday and told them that if the proposed constitutional amendment to ramp up pension payments is not voted on by next week, in time to put it on the ballot in November, they won’t get any political donations from the union until at least next year.

Sweeney is a Democrat and a vice president of the ironworkers union, but he has crossed swords with NJEA in the past. He sent letters to both the U.S. Attorney and the New Jersey Attorney General.

“These threats clearly cross the line from lobbying to attempted bribery and conspiracy. Essentially, the NJEA has put members of the New Jersey State Senate in the position of tying specific official action to the receipt of a campaign contribution,” Sweeney wrote. “Rather than engaging in public issue advocacy focused on the education of our children the NJEA has diminished advocacy to engage in unprecedented tactics designed to extort public officials into undertaking actions that would benefit the pocketbooks of its members.”

This is quite a dust-up, but there’s less here than meets the eye. Buried at the bottom of this story is the news that “the NJEA and its county affiliates are still supporting candidates directly.” Apparently it’s only the county Democratic party committees that will be shut out. That’s significant, but it’s not like NJEA is getting out of the campaign contribution and electioneering business.