Intercepts

A listening post monitoring public education and teachers’ unions.

Only Terrorists Are Terrorists

Written By: Mike Antonucci - Apr• 21•16

Karen Lewis, president of the Chicago Teachers Union, made headlines yesterday – which was certainly her intent – by characterizing Illinois Gov. Bruce Rauner as an ISIS recruit. Here are the relevant remarks:

Bruce Rauner is a liar. You know, I’ve been reading in the news lately about all of these ISIS recruits popping up all over the place—has Homeland Security checked this man out yet? Because the things he’s doing look like acts of terror on poor and working class people.

Rauner is a public figure, wealthy, governor of a large state, and has a professional communications staff. In other words, he doesn’t need defending. Public policy disputes lead to all sorts of rhetoric, but these are just words, after all. No one gets hurt.

The problem is that it belittles terrorism. If there is no difference between Gov. Rauner and a terrorist, then there is no difference between a terrorist and Gov. Rauner. Except that there is.

Acts of terror on poor and working class people would be blowing them to bits with explosives, or lopping their heads off with a sword, or taking them as sex slaves, or crucifying them. One can only imagine how ISIS would respond to a teacher strike.

In 2004, U.S. Secretary of Education Rod Paige referred to NEA as a “terrorist organization” in a private meeting with governors. He was rightfully lambasted for doing so, and the comments of teacher union leaders at the time should be remembered.

Reg Weaver, NEA president: “Our members say that once again this national leader has insulted them, this time beyond repair, with words filled with hatred — and merely because they raised legitimate concerns about the president’s so-called ‘No Child Left Behind’ law.” NEA sent a letter to President Bush demanding that Paige step down.

Diana Garchow, NEA board of directors: “I can tell you what my first response was: Scary. That’s really frightening. It’s scary that you can’t voice an opinion in this country without being called a terrorist.”

Lu Battaglieri, Michigan Education Association president: “Secretary Paige is acting like a schoolyard bully, resorting to name calling and insults. He needs to be removed.”

A statement from the American Federation of Teachers said it was “unconscionable and irresponsible for any public figure, let alone a U.S. Cabinet member, to undertake this kind of name-calling.”

I’m pretty sure AFT won’t be sending a similar statement to Karen Lewis.

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Teachers Unions Still Underperform in Clinton’s Biggest Victory

Written By: Mike Antonucci - Apr• 20•16

Let’s make one thing immediately clear: Hillary Clinton’s supporters, which include NEA and AFT, got the job done in New York. They beat Sanders handily, and for once the union household vote was substantially in Clinton’s favor (57%-43%).

The self-congratulation was immediate. “NEA’s Educators for Hillary program continues to play a critical role in the grassroots effort that has pushed Hillary’s pledged delegate and popular vote leads to insurmountable levels in the Democratic presidential primary,” reads NEA’s press release, while AFT quoted New York State United Teachers president Karen Magee, “And it’s an affirmation of the important role that NYSUT members play in elections when they are engaged and motivated to knock on doors, make phone calls and hand out literature for a candidate they believe in.”

Well, maybe. But Clinton beat Sanders 55%-45% among non-union households, suggesting the organized labor role wasn’t as critical as they believe. Once again, the real deciding factor was Clinton’s strength among minorities. She captured 63% of the Hispanic vote in New York and 75% of the African-American vote.

So while the confetti falls, it’s still not too early to wonder which way President Clinton would lean on education issues where teachers’ unions and minority groups might not see eye-to-eye – like charters, or accountability, or teacher assignment, or even testing. That seat at the table might be at the far end.

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Ohio Education Association’s Finances

Written By: Mike Antonucci - Apr• 19•16

The Ohio Education Association managed to cut staff compensation costs by $12 million in one year. Nevertheless, its post-retirement staff liabilities amount to almost $61.7 million.

Total membership – 118,711, up 28 members

Total revenue – $60.4 million (86.2% came from member dues), down $506,000

Surplus – $6.3 million

Net assets – $45.5 million

Total staff – 221

Staff salaries and benefits – $37.2 million

Highest paid employee – Larry Wicks, former executive director – $177,876 base salary

Highest paid contractorCloppert Latanick Sauter & Washburn – $1,037,757

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Teachers’ Unions Should Mind Their Business

Written By: Mike Antonucci - Apr• 18•16

Click here to read.

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Teachers: This Is Why You Don’t Get More Media Love

Written By: Mike Antonucci - Apr• 15•16

Classroom teachers often argue that they are overworked, underpaid and unappreciated. Many of them can’t understand why the press is reluctant to highlight the unfairness of credentialed college graduates earning an average of only $57,379 (according to NEA).

The problem may not lie in whether their argument is true or not; it might be the audience to whom that message is being delivered.

CareerCast.com released its annual list of the best and worst jobs in America, based on salary, work environment, stress and outlook. Its researchers examined 200 job titles and concluded that elementary school teacher ranked 122nd on that list.

That’s not great, though it was tied with stockbroker and ahead of sewage plant operator.

The headline, however, is that for the third year in a row newspaper reporter came in dead last. Broadcaster ranked 198th.

The decline of newspapers isn’t even news anymore. The industry is in free fall, and the average reporter makes $36,390 – and is probably happy to have the work.

So if you want a more sympathetic ear, you might consider adjusting your talking points to account for the poor slob who has to write about how tough you have it.

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NEA Affiliate Executive Directors Under Pressure

Written By: Mike Antonucci - Apr• 14•16

In the NEA affiliate system, executive directors are the most senior, highest-paid employees on the staff. They oversee all aspects of the union’s operations and deployment of personnel. And they tend to last a long time – a serious advantage when most elected officers are term-limited.

However, it isn’t all cakes and ale for them. Recent movement among their ranks suggests more unrest than usual.

* Richard Sanders, the executive director of the Oregon Education Association for five years, resigned without warning last month. No explanation was given, but Sanders was not popular among the staff, which has gone without a new contract for almost two years.

* Going from the frying pan into the fire, Brenda Pike resigned as the executive director of the debt-ridden Indiana State Teachers Association in order to take the executive director position of the debt-ridden Alabama Education Association.

* Rachelle Johnson has only been the executive director of the troubled North Carolina Association of Educators for two years, but it has already been a rocky tenure. The staff union recently declared a unanimous vote of no confidence in her, citing several deficiencies, including “failure to ensure a safe working environment in the headquarters building.”

* Vermont NEA announced the retirement of Joel Cook, who has been its executive director for the past 16 years. By all appearances it is a quiet and happy separation, but I am reminded that it was exactly eight years ago when EIA broke the story of the battle within the union’s leadership and representative bodies over whether Cook’s contract would be renewed. Weeks later, Cook was given a new deal, but there was similar turmoil among NEA state affiliates at the time.

NEA’s staff unions have been constrained in recent years by the recession, early retirements, RIFs, and the threat of Friedrichs. With those concerns mostly behind them, we may see them try to make up for lost time – and money. That will make for turbulent times among executive directors and union management in general.

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Signature-Gathering Blitz Needed to Qualify Tax Hike Extension for CA Ballot

Written By: Mike Antonucci - Apr• 13•16

The California Teachers Association and other labor unions backing an extension of the state’s temporary income tax hike are well-suited to gather petition signatures. But they have a busy couple of weeks ahead of them to even get it on the November ballot.

CTA president Eric Heins told the union’s State Council last weekend that 60 percent of the 585,407 required signatures had been collected. Other CTA state officials told activists that the union had pledged to gather 150,000 of those, but that they were “nowhere near that.”

There are two different deadlines for submitting signature to the state, depending on which method of counting one needs. The deadline for full counting has already passed, leaving initiative backers with an April 26 deadline to submit 110% of the needed signatures, or 643,948. CTA is asking volunteers to place those petitions into the state union’s hands by April 22.

Members will be crucial in reaching the required number, but the bulk of the work will have to be done by paid signature-gatherers. To that end, the State Council increased the spending authorization from the union’s Initiative Fund from $3 million to $5 million.

In my estimation, there is no way the coalition of unions will allow this to fail due to lack of signatures. They will devote all their energy and resources to it. Let’s hope county and state election officials put as much effort into verification.

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