New Delaware State Education Association President Was Struggling Blogger

The recent election for president of the Delaware State Education Association was unusual in a couple of ways. First, DSEA is one of the few NEA state affiliates that holds a rank-and-file vote for its executive officers, and second, the election ended in a tie between incumbent vice president Karen Crouse and former president of the Red Clay Education Association Mike Matthews.

In another way, the DSEA election was very much like other union elections in that turnout was less than 20 percent. Crouse and Matthews each received 862 votes in a four-way race.

A runoff was held, turnout increased to just over 20 percent, and Matthews emerged the victor by 119 votes.

Matthews will be an unusual state union president. His politics are predictably liberal, but he leaves a long Internet trail thanks to his prolific blogging in the last decade.

He launched his personal site – Down With Absolutes! – in 2004. “It was my take on how much I hated George W. Bush and how I would do anything to ensure he wasn’t re-elected in November,” he wrote.

Matthews majored in journalism at Temple University, but discovered “though I still loved to write, I didn’t want to have to write at the whim of some editor at a mid-circulation newspaper where I’d make no money. I took a temporary position with a substitute teacher service, where I am presently employed.”

He got his Master’s in Elementary Education from Wilmington College in May 2007, but as of September 2008 “I still don’t have a teaching job!”

Matthews shut down his blog in July 2009 because “I realized I have spent far too much time on this and have reaped far too little financial gain,” he wrote. “I decided DWA would take a backseat to my job hunt.”

He left to the generally good wishes of his readers, with the notable exception of commenter “buddy,” who wrote “You’re an egotistical moron. Here’s to continued failure, a**hole.”

It’s safe to say Matthews has the last laugh on “buddy,” and we look forward to observing whether his blogging experience ends up being a help or a hindrance in the big league of Delaware politics.


Union’s Internal Cost-Cutting Is Thorny

The finances of New York State United Teachers are a mess, but NYSUT’s officers are not entirely blind to the problem. When a union tries to cut its costs, it not only runs into labor unrest with its own employees, it might also provide political fodder for internal opponents.

Case in point: NYSUT sought to save a few bucks by hiring Certify, a company that supplies mobile apps and reporting tools for the processing of expense reports. This task is usually done in-house.

The staff contract bans outsourcing of work previously done by bargaining unit members without the staff union’s permission. NYSUT had to make the new process optional for employees, and evidently every single one of them has refused to use Certify.

NYSUT managers and executives, however, are not members of the staff union, and are required to use Certify. This irritated not only the staff union, but also Stronger Together, the opposition caucus within NYSUT that is running candidates for the union’s executive positions. It posted its complaint, which I excerpt here:

We are perplexed and disheartened by the decision made by our current officers to subcontract the work of our union brothers and sisters. According to Secretary-Treasurer candidate Nate Hathaway, “This flies in the face of our core values as unionists. We must not fall into the trap of pursuing expediency at the expense of what is right. Union workers are paid more because they defend the value of the individual worker and the concept that a worker should have protections in the workplace and be compensated with a reasonable, living wage. What do we stand for as an organization if we espouse these principles in grand platitudes, yet pursue a policy of employing the services of those not afforded the very rights we claim to fight for? This is very disheartening news.”

​To address the budget issues that exist within NYSUT, our officers need to reduce costs through a transparent process that honors the work and commitments made to our unionized staff.

A noble sentiment, but honoring the work and commitments made to NYSUT’s unionized staff has resulted in net assets of negative $413 million. The teachers of New York are on the hook for that.


Teacher Shortage Truthers?

When last we beat this dead horse, we learned that California has a teacher shortage, no matter how many teachers we hire. Something about a distinction between “filling vacancies” and solving shortages.

This morning we went a step beyond, discovering that we can lay off almost 2,000 teachers and still have a teacher shortage.

How to explain this apparent paradox?

This year, Gov. Jerry Brown proposed a minimal 2.1 percent increase for K-12 education in January, which educators said would not be enough to cover districts’ increasing salaries, benefits and costs.

Districts negotiated compensation increases beyond their ability to pay, leaving them no choice but to reduce the number of people to whom they pay that higher compensation.

That might be a bad thing, but if 2,000 teachers are laid off, aren’t they then available to be hired elsewhere during this catastrophic teacher shortage, perhaps even in areas of greater need? That could be a good thing, couldn’t it?

A state senate bill to address the teacher shortage has gotten a lot of national play. It would exempt teachers from paying California state income tax if they remain in the classroom for five years.

I don’t know if this will rid us of the teacher shortage, but I’m in favor of it anyway. The next step should be to exempt police officers and firefighters from the income tax. Then construction workers and farmers. Then everyone else.


Union Board Sends Ultimatum to Suspended President

Last January, the executive board of the Syracuse Teachers Association suspended president Karen Fruscello for reasons too stupid to repeat here.

The board didn’t have the authority to do so, but here we are. Now the board is threatening to do something for which it does have the power: call on the STA representative assembly to remove Fruscello from office.

In the meantime, the board gave Fruscello the opportunity to resign.

The board charged Fruscello with, among other things, “union busting.” Naturally, she refused to resign.

The STA representative assembly meets tomorrow, though an impeachment trial is not listed on the agenda. It would take a two-thirds vote to declare the presidency vacant.

That might be a difficult threshold to meet, if the members quoted in the story are any indication. Meanwhile, the specter of NYSUT or AFT intervention hangs over the process.


NEA’s 2016 Presidential Election Performance Was Even Worse Than We Thought

I’m told NEA is encouraging its activists not to look back at the 2016 elections and the union’s endorsement process because next time the candidates and situation will be different.

I can understand this thinking, because the last thing NEA wants is for its most active members and elected officers to evaluate the union’s campaign performance.

I’ve only just come across some detailed last-minute campaign strategy from last October and it illustrates just how big NEA’s failure was.

In addition to all the usual motivational efforts to get the membership-at-large to promote Hillary Clinton’s candidacy, NEA selected six battleground states for maximum effort – not only using teachers and union staff from those states, but deploying teachers and union staff from neighboring states.

The targeted states were Iowa, Nevada, New Hampshire, North Carolina, Ohio and Pennsylvania.

Trump won four of those six states, but it is the margin of victory that really makes one question NEA’s strategy and effectiveness.

Clinton’s victories in Nevada and New Hampshire came by an average of 2.4 points and a combined total of 29,938 votes.

Trump’s victories in Iowa, North Carolina, Ohio and Pennsylvania came by an average of 5.5 points and a combined total of 811,762 votes.

It’s entirely possible that NEA is conducting secret evaluations of its political operations and I just don’t know about them. But everything I am seeing suggests the union is prepared to carry on as it always has. If so, it’s good news for Republicans, no matter what kind of nuttiness Trump gets up to.


School Leadership Showdown: Principal Flutie vs. Principal Snyder

Today marks the 20th anniversary of the first episode of Buffy the Vampire Slayer. We didn’t get too many in-depth characterizations of the teachers at Sunnydale High School, but we will always remember Buffy’s principals: Flutie and Snyder, who had very different leadership styles.

Principal Flutie was all about the kids. He wanted to be sure they were comfortable and happy in the school environment, and sought to relate to them as equals:

“Welcome to Sunnydale. A clean slate, Buffy, that’s what you get here. What’s past is past. We’re not interested in what it says on a piece of paper.”

“We all need help with our feelings. Otherwise we bottle them up, and before you know it, powerful laxatives are involved.”

“I’m always here if you need a hug, [jumps back] but not a real hug! Because there’s no touching, this school is sensitive to wrong touching.”

Even dealing with the worst sort of student discipline problem, Principal Flutie remained measured and reasonable: “I’m willing to talk to the school counselor and we can discuss options.”

Seconds later, he was eaten alive by students who were possessed by demonic hyenas.

His replacement, Principal Snyder, was very much the authoritarian. He was dismissive of Principal Flutie’s leadership style on more than one occasion:

“My predecessor, Mr. Flutie, may have gone in for that touchy-feely relating nonsense, but he was eaten. You’re in my world now. And Sunnydale has touched and felt for the last time.”

“That’s the kind of wooly-headed liberal thinking that leads to being eaten.”

“A lot of educators tell students, ‘Think of your principal as your pal.’ I say, think of me as your judge, jury, and executioner.”

“One day, the campus is completely bare, empty. The next, there are children everywhere…like locusts. Crawling around, mindlessly bent on feeding and mating. Destroying everything in sight in their relentless, pointless desire to exist.”

“Congratulations to the Class of 1999. You all proved more or less adequate.”

Principal Snyder was also eaten alive, by Sunnydale mayor-turned-snake-demon Wilkins.

The lesson is brutally obvious. No matter your school leadership style, you will be eaten alive.