What’s the Third Largest Teachers Union?

New Jersey: “Parent groups and the state’s largest teachers union have said the PARCC tests are unproven, confusing and excessively time consuming.”

Connecticut: “The Connecticut Education Association, the state’s largest teachers union, said the state needs to increase funding for public schools and for poor school districts in particular.”

New Hampshire: “An incoming state Senator who also heads New Hampshire’s largest teachers union says he’ll be open about any conflicts of interest that may come from serving in the two roles simultaneously.”

Michigan: “Four years after Michigan’s right-to-work law was passed, the state’s largest teachers union appears to be taking a different response to the fact that school employees no longer have to pay union dues or fees.”

Kansas: “Mark Desetti, the legislative director of the Kansas National Education Association, the state’s largest teachers union, called that nonsense.”

Pennsylvania: “The Pennsylvania State Education Association, the state’s largest teachers union, opposed the bill.”

All of these clips appeared in the last week, and they all use the same descriptor of the National Education Association affiliate – “the state’s largest teachers union.” But it’s a term without any real meaning.

NEA – often described as “the nation’s largest teachers union” – is one of only two national teachers unions. NEA and AFT each have affiliates in many states. In five states they have merged, leaving DC as the only place in the U.S. where AFT members outnumber NEA members. Belonging to the largest teachers union only means you don’t belong to the smallest teachers union.

It’s only at the local level that comparing union size makes any sense, because there may be hundreds of locals within a state, and tens of thousands across the country. Most are affiliated with NEA or AFT, but some, like the Akron Education Association in Ohio or the Memphis Shelby County Education Association in Tennessee, are independent.

So let’s retire that term and simply refer to a union’s affiliation – or at least the “larger” of the two teachers unions. Someday there may be many teachers unions at the state and national levels, but it hasn’t happened yet.


The Strange History of the Minnesota Guild of Public Charter Schools

I’m going to save myself some work today and merely point you to a story by Rachel Cohen, published on MinnPost.com. It’s about the Minnesota Guild of Public Charter Schools, a unique charter school authorizer in that it was created by the Minneapolis Federation of Teachers and financially supported by AFT.

It’s a fascinating and mysterious history, including the claim that there was no rank-and-file union member input into whether this should be done.

Read it all the way through, then come back here to read this little nugget that helps place the whole “Al Shanker came up the idea for charter schools!” argument in a Minnesota context.

When Shanker was AFT president, he wrote a column about the charter concept, originated by Ray Budde. But what did his union do when the first charter school law was proposed in Minnesota in 1991? The Education Week archive tells us:

“Ironically, the Minnesota Federation of Teachers, Mr. Shanker’s state affiliate, remains the most vocal critic of the new law.

“Rose A. Hermodson, the union’s lobbyist, said that while Mr. Shanker ‘used the term’ charter schools, ‘it may not be the same concept.’

“The union claims the law lacks sufficient collective-bargaining guarantees for teachers, puts existing public schools at a disadvantage by not extending deregulation to all schools, and fails to ensure adequate accountability.”

The accountability argument was legitimate, and school systems are still wrestling with it today. But isn’t it interesting how back then the union downplayed Shanker’s link to the idea, then claimed the law was no good because a) the charters didn’t have to be unionized, and b) because regular public schools weren’t also deregulated.


Teachers Union Boots Santa For Violating Work-to-Rule Job Action

Dateline – Cape Breton, Nova Scotia:

The Christmas spirit took a hit in one Cape Breton elementary school Monday when Santa Claus and a group of volunteer firefighters were told to leave because their annual visit violated work-to-rule job action.

Raymond Eksal, chief of the Scotchtown Fire Department, said the department has been visiting Greenfield Elementary with “Santa” the week before Christmas every year for more than half a century.

“I don’t understand it,” said Eksal. “We weren’t putting any requirements on the teachers.”

…Santa and the fire department volunteers were invited in and began handing out candy canes and chatting with students.

After about 20 minutes, Eksal said the school’s principal asked them to leave because the visit was violating the terms of work-to-rule job action the (Nova Scotia Teachers Union) began Dec. 5.

…The president of the local NSTU, Sally Capstick, called the incident “unfortunate.” She said under work-to-rule, guest speakers — even Santa Claus — aren’t allowed.

“We just teach,” explained Capstick. “So that eliminates things like parties and visits from Santa, it eliminates people going in to read, it eliminates a whole lot of those other things.”


Burying the Lede

When women retire, yet another gap” reads the headline from the latest post on Lily’s Blackboard, the blog of National Education Association president Lily Eskelsen García. The post addresses the likelihood of women being in poverty during retirement, and attributes it to the gender gap in pay.

The National Institute on Retirement Security reports that women have substantially less income than men in retirement. In fact, women are 80 percent more likely than men to be impoverished at age 65 or older. And those between the ages of 75 and 79 are three times more likely than men to be living in poverty.

…A report released by the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention found that women live, on average, almost five years longer than men. Less pay over the course of a woman’s working life plus a longer life span means women face a higher likelihood than men of spending retirement in poverty, or on the edge of it.

Not to downplay the plight of women spending their retirement years in poverty, but let’s not skip over the fact that there’s one thing worse: death.

Women in their late 70s may be much more likely to live in poverty, but men at the same age are much more likely not to be living.

According to the National Center for Health Statistics, 63.3 percent of women will survive to age 80, while only 49.7 percent of men will.

This is not only bad for men, obviously, but bad for the women they leave behind. It stands to reason that many women may be impoverished in retirement because their husbands are deceased.

Oh, and the membership of the National Institute on Retirement Security is largely made up of public employee retirement agencies and public employee unions, including AFT and six NEA state affiliates. The institute advocates for defined benefit pension plans.


Things Are Getting Sticky in Carmel

The 900-member Carmel Clay Education Association (CCEA) in Indiana is getting pounded both top and bottom. The Indiana State Teachers Association (ISTA) informed the local it was no longer “in good standing” because of its failure to pass the required state dues up the chain. That means CCEA representatives will not be seated at state assemblies until the dispute is resolved.

At the same time, CCEA is facing a decertification challenge from a group of teachers who formed the Carmel Teachers Association. CTA wants to be an independent union and has already successfully filed for a representation election. CCEA is stalling the process on procedural grounds.

CCEA doesn’t want to lose power, and ISTA can’t afford to lose another 900 members. The state union never recovered from the financial collapse of its insurance trust in 2009, and its candidates were crushed in the 2016 election.

It’s still way too early to call this a trend, but the number and size of these breakaway locals are increasing. Lost members means less money available to subsidize other weak affiliates, leading to more breakaway locals. That’s no merry-go-round for NEA and its state unions.