A listening post monitoring public education and teachers’ unions.

Nine Stories About Teachers’ Unions I Didn’t Write Last Week

Written By: Mike Antonucci - Jul• 11•14

I’m taking an early weekend, so here are stories that other people wrote last week about teachers’ unions and the NEA convention.

* “John Stocks Gets Angry at the NEA convention” - Diane Ravitch. “When you dare not say the name of your oppressor, you show weakness and fear at a time when courage and fortitude are needed.”

* “Most union members have ties to government” – Associated Press. Weak, with some out-of-date stats.

* “Meet the New NEA Presidents” – Curmudgication. “The union’s inability to function in any mode other than the pronouncement-by-press-release and occasional NEA-site essay makes a joke out of its other pronouncements.”

* “The NEA Demands Arne Duncan’s Resignation; No One Cares” – Curmudgeon Central (not to be confused with Curmudgication). “The problem isn’t Duncan (well, it isn’t just Duncan); it’s the guy who chose him…”

* “Next NEA leader’s first task: Win back public” – Politico. “She points to her younger self with a mass of black hair (she irons it flat every day now) and remembers the year she taught 39 fifth graders at once.”

* “New President Of Country’s Largest Teachers’ Union On TVAAS: It’s ‘The Mark Of The Devil’” – Nashville Public Radio. Value-added measurement designer Bill Sanders responds.

* “Why many Democrats have turned against teachers unions” – Washington Post. Deep intellectual analysis results in conclusion: “Another easy answer for why teachers unions have fallen out of favor with some liberals is that when education policy is the matter at hand, they don’t know what they’re talking about.”

* “Teachers Unions Turn Against Democrats” – New York magazine. We’re not sure who’s doing it to whom, but there’s a lot of “turning against” going on.

* “Departure of Official Is Sought by Teachers” – New York Times. Headline writer with a low score on a standardized test.


AFT Saves Me Money, Endangers My Liver

Written By: Mike Antonucci - Jul• 10•14

There is only so much teacher union convention I can sit through in one month, so I won’t be attending the American Federation of Teachers Convention in Los Angeles this weekend. But you don’t have to miss out on all the action (?) because AFT is live streaming the entire thing on its web site beginning tomorrow morning.

This is union-watching as it was meant to be experienced – at home in a comfy chair while holding a Bloody Mary. Play the union convention drinking game. Take a shot whenever someone says “corporate.” You’ll be hammered by noon.


Old Fracking and New

Written By: Mike Antonucci - Jul• 09•14

I’m having an amusing time reading all these articles and editorials about how NEA and many Democrats aren’t on the same page when it comes to education issues. This could have been considered a news flash back in, oh, 2008, but it actually traces its roots to the passage of the No Child Left Behind Act in 2001 with more Democrat votes than Republican ones.

These are old cracks opening into fissures so wide even New York magazine can see them. But the cracks to watch are the ones that are spreading like a spider web within the union itself. The Badass Teachers Association is a long way from being a determining force in NEA, but it can celebrate finally passing a Duncan resignation vote. We have the Barbara Madelonis of the union savaging edTPA while her own union’s officers sit on its policy advisory board. And now we have some evidence of a rift in the other direction.

I mentioned last week that “You shouldn’t get the idea that the delegates are going to return home and start burning down buildings. They will act as circumstances dictate in their states and local school districts.” Exhibit A appeared in the Casper Star-Tribune:

The nation’s largest professional teaching organization voted at a convention in Denver last week to demand U.S. Education Secretary Arne Duncan resign, saying his education agenda creates a high-stakes testing environment that undermines teachers.

Wyoming’s delegation abstained from the vote, said Kathy Vetter, president of the Wyoming chapter of the group, called the Wyoming Education Association.

“We felt we needed to listen to what the concerns were from the makers of the motion and the other states,” Vetter said. “Some of the larger states with the urban cities had more issues with Race to the Top and different things, where they would pit their schools in the same town against each other.”

…Thirty voting delegates represented Wyoming at the union’s annual conference, where leadership asked for voice votes from roughly 10,000 attendees on several dozen business resolutions. With about 6,000 paying members, the Wyoming Education Association is a professional organization, not a union, and is funded entirely by membership dues, Vetter said.

The delegation also did not take a stance on another business item that called for about $10,000 to educate its members on the “environmental and health effects of shale gas fracking.”

“The discussion on this was to make sure that valid information and education is being provided,” Vetter said. “There’s a lot of misinformation out there. You can go on the Internet and find two sides to everything.”

This is why we shouldn’t get too excited about last week’s pronouncements. Even if it passes democratically on the convention floor, what comes out of Burlingame won’t play well in Cheyenne. Those dealing with state unions should watch what they do, and take what they say diplomatically.


Florida State Union Takes Over Palm Beach Local

Written By: Mike Antonucci - Jul• 08•14

After months of disputes over election results, the Palm Beach County Classroom Teachers Association found itself without a president after the term of incumbent Debra Wilhelm expired. With a lawsuit by one challenger pending, and a runoff not scheduled until school is back in session, the Florida Education Association (FEA) stepped in and assumed control of the large local. FEA president Andy Ford will act as Palm Beach president until the runoff results are known.

In an open letter to members, Ford explained the timeline and his plans for the local.

FEA will help in these ways:

* Assuming all roles of Chief Executive Officer, including staff supervision and the assurance of all membership services including, the oversight of the final run-off election.

* Assuring that the run-off election is completed in a fair, transparent and legal manner.

* Identifying and attempting to fix those issues that fragment the CTA and detract from its operational needs and responsibilities to the membership.

* Assist in the development of the CTA 2014-2015 budget.

* Guide CTA through the process of electing pro-public education candidates for School Board, Legislature and Governor in the August primary and the November general election. We believe this election will significantly impact public education in Florida, not to mention the continued viability of the FEA and our affiliates. So it is critically important that CTA and its members be fully involved in this election cycle.

* Begin the negotiations process with District.

* Provide leadership training for the new Board of Directors and establish an ongoing leader-training program.

This is a short-term solution for an unusual circumstance. FEA will act as administrator for the shortest possible amount of time to ensure the stability of the local. It is my hope to have this process completed by the end of September 2014.

That list looks like a lot more than a series of interim caretaking functions. The next Palm Beach president may be in charge of a very different local.


Arne’s Riposte

Written By: Mike Antonucci - Jul• 07•14

Back home and glad for it. I’m posting this item for those who might believe that NEA’s call for the resignation of U.S. Secretary of Education Arne Duncan “sends a message.”

Kimberly Hefling of the Associated Press asked Duncan about NEA’s action, and he refused to comment, other than to say:

I always try to stay out of local union politics. I think most teachers do, too.


NEA Convention 2014: You Might Just Be a Member

Written By: Mike Antonucci - Jul• 06•14

The 2014 National Education Association Representative Assembly was gaveled to a close at 6:29 p.m. Here a few of the actions the delegates took on the final day of the convention.

* A new business item to “oppose sectarian conflicts and civil wars in the Middle East” was not considered.

* A new business item to “promote legislation requiring persons who circulate initiative petitions be registered voters of that state” was ruled out of order. I didn’t hear this mentioned, but such legislation might have put a crimp in the signature-gathering of NEA’s own affiliates.

* The delegates approved a measure to draft model state legislative language that would place several new requirements on the operations and reporting requirements of charter schools.

* A new business item that called for a ban on any new charter schools and the conversion of existing ones into traditional schools was ruled out of order since it conflicted with NEA’s current policy statement on charters. Had it been presented and adopted, NEA would have held two mutually contradictory positions on charters.

* Delegates voted down a measure that would have required the union’s board to provide written justification to the delegates whenever NEA’s executive officers received an increase in salary or benefits. Debate was closed after only one speaker.

* Delegates approved a pseudo-boycott of Staples, in solidarity with the American Postal Workers Union, which doesn’t want non-APWU workers handling the mail. It’s a pseudo-boycott because it will only involve a press release encouraging members to shop at other stores for supplies, but doesn’t bind NEA itself. I hear Walmart sells school supplies.

* The union’s policy statement on teacher evaluation and accountability was amended with the sentence “Standardized tests, even if deemed valid and reliable, may not be used to support any employment actions against a teacher.”

* The actions taken by the delegates over the past four days will require about $826,000 in new spending by NEA.

* Delegates contributed an average of $195 each to NEA’s political action committee during the convention, or about $1.4 million. The union’s PAC has raised almost $3.8 million this year.

There is a lot more to tell about what happened, and what will happen, but I’ll provide all of that information gradually over the summer. For now, I’m signing off and heading home. Here’s a little musical accompaniment for my exit. Back with you late tomorrow.


NEA Convention 2014: You Had to Be There

Written By: Mike Antonucci - Jul• 05•14

It’s the ultimate in in-jokes, mostly featuring stuff that only people inside the hall will get, but I have to give a shout-out to RA memes, a Twitter account poking fun at those taking this a bit too seriously.

So if you’ve ever SMH during an NBI, you’ll appreciate these thoughts…