Nevada State Education Association Says It Has No Obligation to Provide Financial Information to Affiliates

The dispute between the Nevada State Education Association and its largest local affiliate, the Clark County Education Association (background here) continues on two fronts – litigation and communications. The latest development shows how an advance on one front could lead to defeat on the other.

NSEA responded to CCEA’s lawsuit with a motion to dismiss. The state union argued that “nowhere in the Bylaws is there any provision establishing a duty on the part of NSEA to provide any specific financial information to local affiliates or to respond to requests from them for any such information.”

Additionally, NSEA stated its policies do not constitute a contractual agreement between itself and affiliates, and even if they did, neither do the policies require the state union to provide financial information to local affiliates.

NSEA went on to liken its bylaws to the U.S. Constitution and referenced a case in which a court ruled a homeowner had no contractual obligation to disclose water damage to a potential buyer – an argument that may have legal value but is not the kind of analogy you really want to make about yourself.

However NSEA’s motion plays in court, it already has played into CCEA’s hands on the communications front. The local quickly created another short video for its members, highlighting NSEA’s court declarations:

I’m constrained to point out that the phrase CCEA quotes from NSEA does not actually appear in the state union’s motion, but is instead CCEA’s interpretation of what the motion means.

If the court rules in favor of NSEA, it may only serve to strengthen CCEA’s communications message that dues money is being sent up the ladder with little or no accountability to members.

Again, the unique element in this feud is that CCEA constitutes almost half of NSEA’s entire membership. It is difficult for either side to conduct business as usual while this continues.

I will update this story as circumstances warrant, as long as my budget for court documents holds up.


Veterans Day: My Students Could Have Killed Me

As has been my tradition for the past few years, I like to spend Veterans Day reminiscing about my eight years as an officer in the U.S. Air Force.

When I started writing about teacher unions, I was often asked if I had any teaching experience. I would reply, “Not the kind you mean.” I wasn’t entirely a stranger to the classroom. I was an instructor navigator for much of my time in the military, and this involved an academic setting as well as teaching in the aircraft.

It wasn’t to be compared with teaching children in a public school, but there were similar tasks (lesson plans, staff meetings) and similar gripes (unrealistic expectations from superiors, being evaluated as a teacher based on the performance of students). I freely admit I have neither the desire nor temperament to teach schoolchildren.

Being a military instructor had different pressures, of course. My students were highly motivated and intelligent young adults, who were also exactly the types who tend to wrap their sports cars around telephone poles. So checking your student’s math – when they were computing emergency safe altitudes and minimum required fuel – could end up being a matter of life or death. Letting them learn from their mistakes doesn’t apply when it involves flying into a mountain or North Korean airspace.

As you might imagine, military instruction is big on OBJECTIVES. When you were being evaluated on your instruction, the evaluator would sit in the back of the room with the list of OBJECTIVES for that particular class and check them off as you covered them. He would also have a stopwatch, but that’s another story.

Here are the OBJECTIVES for a single 50-minute class on aircraft performance. I should mention that aircraft performance was the responsibility of the pilots and the flight engineer, not the navigator. Nevertheless.

The primary method of gauging student performance was the flight evaluation – the “check ride.” But there were also standardized tests. Lots and lots of standardized tests. What exactly did we test students on? The OBJECTIVES.

So, was there “teaching to the test?” Absolutely! It was built into the structure.

Was there “drill and kill?” You bet! Particularly the “boldface,” which were emergency procedures you had to memorize verbatim. One word wrong and you would flunk a check ride. I was a little surprised to find the C-130 pilot boldface available on flash cards online.

I would never suggest replicating military instruction in civilian classrooms. I do think the clarity of having OBJECTIVES eliminated a lot of confusion. Yes, we often had arguments about whether particular OBJECTIVES were stupid or obsolete. But they were all achievable and no one ever said they didn’t know what the OBJECTIVES were.

I enjoyed teaching, but it had a major downside that wasn’t related to students or the classroom. As a highly experienced non-instructor navigator, I was assigned all sorts of exciting work. I twice spent a month in Thailand flying special ops training missions, and once deployed to Malaysia for three weeks. I did beacon, leaflet and HALO missions. My additional duty was as squadron tactics officer.

When I upgraded to instructor, that all went away. I had student overwater training missions, like flying out to Minami-Tori-shima and back. A lot.

I don’t consider my teaching experience relevant to the beat I cover. I did once belong to a labor union, though. That’s a story for a different time.


A Good Election Day for Teacher Unions, Marred Only by Wasted $5.3 Million

Democrats were victorious just about everywhere on Election Day 2017, which means teacher union officers are celebrating just about everywhere. The results were so uniformly good it only made the race in New Jersey’s 3rd Senate District stand out all the more.

That’s where NJ Senate President Steve Sweeney holds his seat. Sweeney is a Democrat and an officer of the ironworkers union, but the brain trust at the New Jersey Education Association hates him so much because of his position on pension reform that they endorsed and financed his opponent, Fran Grenier, a pro-Trump Republican.

To the surprise of no one, Sweeney easily won re-election by 18 points. NJEA spent an estimated $5.3 million on the race, which comes to $238.70 for each vote Grenier received.

But there was no chagrin at NJEA headquarters. The union released a statement patting itself on the back for a job well done, stating Grenier’s “insurgent campaign electrified New Jersey politics and energized NJEA members, who remain determined to endorse and campaign for pro-public education candidates regardless of party affiliation.”

We’ll see how energized NJEA members are at the union’s convention in Atlantic City on tomorrow and Friday. But I suspect that the overall good news will dampen any criticism of how NJEA managed to spend the full dues allotment of about 6,000 members on a quixotic campaign.


Updates on Nevada/Clark County Union Dispute

The battle between the Nevada State Education Association and its largest local affiliate, the Clark County Education Association, continues with no resolution in sight (background here). Here are the latest developments:

* If the dispute over the allocation of dues money is to be settled through litigation, it promises to take a very long time. The 8th District Court set its first hearings on the dueling lawsuits. Next Tuesday the court will hear arguments on a motion to dismiss by the Clark County School District. The school district is the entity that actually deducts dues from paychecks, but it is caught in the middle of this fracas and wants to be relieved of any role in it.

This is a side issue that doesn’t deal with the actual point of contention between the two unions, so strap in for the long haul.

* In the meantime, CCEA is keeping up the communications pressure with members. The local officers asked the rank-and-file to respond to a survey, stating their preference between higher dues or a shift of 50% of state dues to CCEA.

You don’t create a survey like this without being pretty confident of the results, so it’s clear that CCEA wants to demonstrate to NSEA that it has popular support for its demands. It would also make a return to the status quo ante virtually impossible.

In a strict contest between CCEA and NSEA, the local has the advantage. NSEA needs CCEA’s money more than CCEA needs NSEA’s services. But NSEA has an ace-in-the-hole: the National Education Association. NEA can’t allow locals to hold state and national dues hostage, so it will spend – and probably overspend – whatever it takes to win this in court.


IRS Auditing NEA

Don’t ask for more details because that’s all I’ve got. I know it happened earlier this year. I don’t know if it was routine or if it was triggered by a complaint. I don’t know if it has been wrapped up or is ongoing.

To my knowledge, this is the first IRS audit of NEA since 2003, which was prompted by a Landmark Legal Foundation complaint about how the union reported taxable activities.


What’s Going On at the Chicago Teachers Union?

The city of Chicago has 32 charter schools unionized by the Chicago Alliance of Charter Teachers and Staff (ChiACTS). The local is affiliated with AFT, but ostensibly independent from the Chicago Teachers Union (CTU).

Recently the members of ChiACTS voted to merge with CTU. While I’m sure this will have repercussions for all parties involved, it doesn’t sound like the sort of thing that would cause uproar within CTU. But it has.

Apparently the absorption of ChiACTS requires wholesale changes to CTU’s constitution and bylaws. These amendments need the approval of both the union’s House of Delegates and the rank-and-file.

On Wednesday the House of Delegates was scheduled to vote on the merger, but it failed to do so due a lack of a quorum. The union played it off as a temporary setback, blaming the absence of delegates on paperwork deadlines from the district.

Well, maybe, but it isn’t as though the vote was sprung on delegates out of the blue. The CTU leadership has been intensely lobbying for months, which would only be necessary if there were significant opposition.

CTU President Karen Lewis penned a column in support of the proposal, even trotting out the specter of the union’s arch-enemies, Chicago Mayor Rahm Emanuel and Illinois Gov. Bruce Rauner.

“CTU-ChiACTS unification is Rahm and Rauner’s worst nightmare—a united force for the benefit of our students, their parents and our school communities,” Lewis wrote. “It is fulfillment of the potential that our union’s founders envisioned, and a necessary step for the future of public education.”

Lewis’ overwrought pitch, coupled with a letter from the ChiACTS president and a series of FAQs about the merger, suggests concern, at the very least, about how well the idea is going over with the delegates.

Over at Substance News, George Schmidt reports the constitutional changes came in at 54 pages. The current constitution is 29 pages. CTU is heralded by many in the labor movement as a model for 21st century public sector unions, but Schmidt declares “the failure of the leadership to bring in the vote represents, in the eyes of many delegates, the culmination of at least two years of growing mistrust of the leadership from the union’s rank-and-file in the schools.”

I never underestimate the ability of a teacher union’s officers to get what they want from a representative body, so I believe the charter union will eventually become part of CTU. Lewis rose to power on a wave of dissatisfaction with the previous incumbents, so I’m sure she understands the importance of keeping tabs on dissenters.