A listening post monitoring public education and teachers’ unions.

Personal Incident?

Written By: Mike Antonucci - Oct• 06•14

Rafael Estrada is running for a seat in the California state senate in the San Diego area. He’s a Democrat, an Air Force veteran, a public school paraeducator, and the treasurer of the local chapter of the California School Employees Association, the statewide union for education support employees.

But he didn’t receive the endorsement of the California Teachers Association. That went to the incumbent, Ben Hueso.

Hueso is facing a lawsuit alleging he unlawfully used campaign funds to pay the legal fees of a previous lawsuit. In August he was arrested on suspicion of DUI.

Hueso was arrested Aug. 22 on suspicion of DUI after driving the wrong way on a one-way road in a state-owned car near the Capitol. His blood alcohol content was 0.08 percent, according to the Sacramento District Attorney’s Office.

After initially charging the senator with two counts of misdemeanor DUI, prosecutors have subsequently offered Hueso a lesser reckless driving charge that includes no jail time. A hearing in the case was set for September but was put off until Nov. 6, two days after the election.

Does this faze CTA? Nope, it stands by Hueso.

“CTA’s State Council of Education endorsed him back in March, long before this personal incident happened, and they endorsed him for his proven record and commitment to California’s public schools and colleges,” said a CTA spokeswoman.

I’ll drink to that.


Win, Lose or Draw for Nevada Margin Tax?

Written By: Mike Antonucci - Oct• 03•14

The Nevada State Education Association managed to put a two-percent margin tax on the November ballot, with the help more than $1 million of dues money. Its ultimate fate is uncertain, and the polling isn’t providing much help in that regard.

A July poll showed 40% in favor and 49% opposed. A September poll showed 53% in favor and 42% opposed. A new poll has it 37% in favor with 40% opposed and 23% undecided.

I don’t know if Nevada trends follow those of California when it comes to ballot initiatives, but usually you need a very large initial lead to withstand the whittling away the “No” side can always manage up to Election Day. These results are all over the place.

One thing’s for sure: Win or lose, this is the teacher unions’ baby. Culinary Workers Union Local 226, which boasts 60,000 members, just came out against the tax. Las Vegas Review-Journal editorial writer Steve Sebelius notes:

That measure has already drawn the opposition of the gambling industry, the mining industry, the business community (including the Las Vegas Metro Chamber of Commerce), the construction industry, the manufacturing industry and even the Nevada Farm Bureau Foundation.

But the initiative — which would impose a 2 percent margin tax on businesses that earn more than $1 million — has also drawn the opposition of labor. First, the AFL-CIO came out against it (notwithstanding that its executive secretary-treasurer, Danny Thompson, used to be a big supporter). And now, the Culinary.



Written By: Mike Antonucci - Oct• 02•14

Updates to two stories we ran in the last few days:

* Some readers noticed that the link to the Hawaii State Teachers Association web page opposing a proposed constitutional amendment to expand access to pre-school was no longer working. Not only that, but the campaign ad that had been running on Hawaii TV stations suddenly disappeared from the airwaves and the web.

Honolulu Civil Beat tried to learn what was going on, but was stonewalled.

Lea Okudara, a spokeswoman for the union, confirmed to Civil Beat on Monday that “the HSTA ads are currently not running” even though the union’s original contracts with the stations included spots that were slated to run this week.

Okudara said Wednesday she didn’t know why the ads are off the air. The HSTA’s executive director, Al Nagasako, didn’t respond to a request for comment Wednesday, and the union’s president, Wil Okabe, was out of town and unavailable for an interview.

This is odd. I’ll see what I can find out.

* Meanwhile, in Jefferson County, The Complete Colorado turned up e-mails that – if not exactly smoking guns – certainly leave the scent of gunpowder in the air.

On Tuesday I suggested that the Jefferson County Education Association’s claim that it did not organize teacher sick-outs was an evasion. No one organizes a labor action without at least checking with the union.

An e-mail from a union rep at the district’s virtual school called on members to support the September 19 sick-out. She concluded with, “JCEA supports a sick out but they can’t officially organize one. It’s up to us!”

This is only the first leak. It won’t be long before the full extent of the subterfuge is revealed.


Which Ad Is Funnier?

Written By: Mike Antonucci - Oct• 01•14

In California we have a close race for Superintendent of Public Instruction. Here’s the California Teachers Association video ad for incumbent Tom Torlakson.

Here’s the new ad for challenger Marshall Tuck.

I find them both equally hilarious.


Non-Denial Denial

Written By: Mike Antonucci - Sep• 30•14

There was a second sick-out by teachers at two Jefferson County, Colorado, high schools yesterday. Chalkbeat Colorado reported the story this way:

The Jefferson County Education Association today once again denied any role in the mass teacher absences.

“This was not organized by JCEA but we certainly understand the frustration our teachers and the entire community are experiencing when their school board majority are making decisions in secret, wasting taxpayer dollars, and disrespecting the community’s goals for their students,” said John Ford, president of the union, in a statement.

The John Ford quote does not support the inference made in the first paragraph. “This was not organized by JCEA” may be literally true, but that doesn’t rule out a host of other possibilities:

* It was organized by the Colorado Education Association.

* It was organized by NEA UniServ directors.

* It was organized by teachers at the two high schools, but JCEA approved it.

* It  was organized by teachers at the two high schools, JCEA knew about it, and did nothing to discourage it.

Regardless, the Jefferson County school board now has a rare opportunity to use a tactic that has traditionally been deployed only by unions: work-to-rule. The teachers’ contract has a provision titled “Verification of Absence.” It reads:

Upon notice to a teacher, the teacher shall be required to furnish to their supervisor proof of illness. Proof of fitness to return to duty, or proof of fitness to continue to perform duty, as verified by a written statement from a licensed physician, if required, should be submitted to Manager, Employee Leaves. If deemed necessary by the District, the teacher may be required to be examined by a physician designated by the District, at District expense. If a difference of opinion exists between the two (2) physicians, a third physician may be designated, at District expense, to render an opinion.

The contract also requires that one day’s notice to an immediate supervisor is required before taking personal leave.

This requires no legal action on the board’s part, and cannot be considered an “escalation” since it entirely adheres to the negotiated language of the collective bargaining agreement, which as we know is sacrosanct, despite all this celebration of civil disobedience.

Such widespread illness among the teaching staff could signify an outbreak of some kind, and we wouldn’t want to put the students at risk. Best to have those teachers visit a doctor or two or three before returning to work, just to be on the safe side.


Wicomico Postscript

Written By: Mike Antonucci - Sep• 29•14

Click here to read.


Providence Teachers Union Prefers Convicted Felon to Charter School Director

Written By: Mike Antonucci - Sep• 29•14

The executive board of the Providence Teachers Union “overwhelmingly” endorsed Vincent “Buddy” Cianci Jr. for mayor. “Mr. Cianci had a little bit more experience in terms of the city’s schools and had a better understanding of the fundamental needs of the schools as they exist in this point in time,” said PTU president Maribeth Calabro. Cianci also picked up the endorsements of the police and firefighters unions.

If the name sounds familiar, it’s because Cianci holds the distinction of having been forced from the office of Providence mayor not once, but twice, for felony convictions. The first time was in 1984 when Cianci assaulted a man he believed was having an affair with his estranged wife. The second time was in 2002, after which he served 4 ½ years in prison for running a “corrupt criminal enterprise” as mayor.

Cianci’s opponents are Jorge Elorza, a Democrat, and Daniel Harrop, a Republican. Elorza is a former judge who sits on the board of Achievement First, a network of charter schools.

No contest.

Cianci was the subject of an award-winning documentary where he’s described as “America’s Most Notorious Mayor,” and, completely filling the stereotype, has his own line of marinara sauce, which isn’t entirely on the up-and-up, either.

“To us, it’s ancient history,” said Calabro. “It’s done and over with, and we’re trying as an organization not to go backwards in terms of negativity and things like that.”