Intercepts

A listening post monitoring public education and teachers’ unions.

Long, Long Wait for Washington Class Size Initiative Results

Written By: Mike Antonucci - Nov• 06•14

Washington is an all vote-by-mail state, but ballots can be postmarked on Election Day and still count, so we don’t have a decision on Initiative 1351, the Washington Education Association’s class size reduction measure.

With about 59 percent of the vote counted, it couldn’t be much closer.

Last updated on 11/06/2014 8:03 AM

Measure Vote Vote %
Yes
692,394 49.59%
No
703,825 50.41%
Total Votes 1,396,219 100%

The geographic results so far suggest a correlation between support for the initiative and proximity to Puget Sound.

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Dark Clouds Have Dark Linings

Written By: Mike Antonucci - Nov• 05•14

Everyone has an election round-up today – and I have to hand it to Alexander Russo for going full-meta and posting a round-up round-up – but I’m holding off on mine until Monday. For one thing, the leadership of the NEA was apparently abducted by aliens and held incommunicado shortly after Tom Wolf was elected governor of Pennsylvania. No word since.

The spin masters at AFT were able to escape long enough to churn out Randi Weingarten’s statement, but they were clearly confused by events in the alternate universe they were visiting (perhaps Mongo?), since Weingarten is saying that the union side actually “prevailed.”

So while I let this all congeal over the weekend, let me devote this post to highlighting those results you might not have heard about through your usual outlets.

* Despite the overwhelming endorsement of the Providence Teachers Union, twice-convicted felon Buddy Cianci lost his mayoral race.

* Mia Love, once called “a crazy person” by NEA president Lily Eskelsen Garcia, was elected to Congress in Utah, something Eskelsen failed to achieve in 1998.

* There were plenty of high profile campaigns to worry about, but the unions spent time last week on down-ballot races, too. While on a six-state GOTV blitz, Eskelsen Garcia showed up in Tucson for a fundraiser for Arizona attorney general candidate Felecia Rotellini. She lost.

* Chicago Teachers Union president Karen Lewis won’t be running for mayor, and she surprised a lot of people by endorsing Cook County commissioner Jesus “Chuy” Garcia for the job. Unfortunately, among the people she surprised were her own union activists, who strangely expected to at least be notified and asked for approval before such a step was taken. This, according to Substance News, sets up a contentious meeting of the CTU House of Delegates tonight.

* Finally, the Jefferson Parish school board races that attracted so much AFT money resulted in two wins, two losses and one runoff. The local teachers’ union president lost her bid for a school board seat.

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Torlakson Visits His Constituents

Written By: Mike Antonucci - Nov• 04•14

The staff at the California Teachers Association building in Fairfield.

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2014 Election Pre-Mortem

Written By: Mike Antonucci - Nov• 03•14

Click here to read.

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Strike While the Irony Is Hot

Written By: Mike Antonucci - Nov• 03•14

On October 31, the Washington Post published a letter to the editor from Elizabeth Davis, president of the Washington Teachers Union (an AFT affiliate), and Delvone Michael, director of DC Working Families. The relevant portion reads:

Across the country, wealthy business interests and conservative political operatives are buying up local boards of education. And if we don’t stand up and say no, D.C. will be the next notch on their belt.

Otherwise sleepy races for school boards have been drowned in cash from outside interests who want local candidates to support charter schools and oppose the protections of unions. Now it’s happening here in the District, too.

Reasonable people can and do disagree about the direction of “school reform” in our community, but I think we can all agree that we should not let people with a national agenda overpower the will of voters to pick and choose whom we elect.

This past July, we had a special election to fill a vacant seat on the school board in Ward 8. An outside group spent more than $31,000 to elect its candidate of choice. Why all this fuss over a special election won with only 700 votes?

…The money flowing into our races is from a wide range of folks who have two things in common: They don’t live here and they have an interest in nationalizing our decisions about our local schools.

Our concern doesn’t reflect on the qualifications of the candidates. It’s about making sure that our education agenda isn’t dictated by national groups. We don’t like it when Congress butts in to our local business, and this is no different.

Wow. $31,000 of outside money for a school board seat is outrageous. What adjective, then, should we use for this October 28 story in the New Orleans Times-Picayune?

The American Federation of Teachers has spent almost $450,000 on the Jefferson Parish School Board elections, recent campaign finance reports show. That’s more than all individual candidate contributions combined.

The union’s local political action committee calls itself the AFT Committee for School Board Accountability in Jefferson Parish. It received two payments totaling $446,000 from the AFT Solidarity Fund in September and October.

Of that amount, the committee spent more than $165,000 on canvassing and online advertising for five School Board candidates during the reporting period that ended Sept. 25…

All five candidates are union supporters largely seeking to disrupt the board’s 5-4 voting bloc, a business-backed majority that in 2012 rejected the Jefferson Federation of Teachers’ collective bargaining contract and greenlighted other controversial reforms.

…The Jefferson elections are one of many down-ballot U.S. contests on which the AFT plans to spread about $20 million in campaign financing. AFT spokeswoman Janet Bass said that’s because these races are key to fostering real change. “It’s not all about the president of the United States; it’s about what happens at the local level,” she said. “The local school boards have a great impact on what is happening in the classroom.”

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Who Needs Union Votes When You Have Union Cash?

Written By: Mike Antonucci - Oct• 31•14

California has had its share of extraordinary elections over the years, but the 2014 edition will have something singular. As expected, every Democrat seeking statewide office will evidently coast to victory. There are two Democrats vying for one office, State Superintendent of Public Instruction, and their race couldn’t be closer.

Tom Torlakson is the incumbent. He’s a former state legislator and has been the unions’ guy since he took office in 2010. He’s opposed by Marshall Tuck, a charter school executive who is supported by reform Democrats and the Corporate Axis of Evil.

The race has become a proxy battleground for the direction of the Democratic Party. Spending on the race will exceed $20 million before all is said and done – a truly outrageous amount considering the office itself isn’t exactly imbued with overarching education policy power.

Step back from the battleground, and the campaign assumes its natural level. The latest Field Poll shows Torlakson and Tuck each with 28% support, and an amazing 44% undecided. Strange as it seems, those undecided numbers haven’t changed much since last month’s poll. But that’s far from the strangest number.

The California Teachers Association will end up throwing more than $10 million into this one race – most of it dues money. The union is flogging its activists to contact members, work phone banks and walk precincts for Torlakson. It turned most of its State Council meeting last weekend into a Torlakson campaign rally, complete with an appearance from the candidate himself.

Odd, then, that the Field Poll shows support for Torlakson from union households in California at an anemic 31%, with 23% backing Tuck, and 46% undecided. That’s after months of hyping Torlakson through every available union communications outlet.

The question arises: If 69% of union households are not, or not yet, backing Torlakson, how did the unions approve spending $10 million on his behalf?

That’s a rhetorical question, of course. The answer is that CTA practices representative democracy in reverse. Decisions are made by the small handful of officers and shop stewards who participate in union activities. Then they justify, promote and sell these decisions to the membership-at-large – using the members’ own money to do so.

Some union members may think I’m overstating the dysfunction of such a system. Well, what would be the reaction of the rank-and-file of the New York State United Teachers if the union leadership endorsed and spent $10 million supporting Gov. Andrew Cuomo and lobbied NYSUT members to support him? Probably open rebellion. I might add that Cuomo is disliked by teacher union members, but he probably has more than 31 percent support.

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Maryland NEA Affiliate: Teacher Union or Covert Op?

Written By: Mike Antonucci - Oct• 30•14

After the cloak-and-dagger events in Wicomico County, one would think the Maryland State Education Association would stay far away from such stuff for a while. But check out this allegation from the school board in St. Mary’s County:

The majority of the St. Mary’s County Board of Education has taken the unusual step of voting to recommend that the State Board of Education remove member Marilyn Crosby for “immorality, misconduct in office and willful neglect of duty.” School Board Chairman Dr. Sal Raspa, Vice Chairman Brooke Matthews and board member Cathy Allen voted for the resolution. Board member Mary Washington abstained; Crosby voted against it.

The resolution comes after the board hired an investigator at $300 an hour to find who was behind alleged leaks to the media of confidential personnel information.

The issue related to the candidacy of Assistant Superintendent Brad Clements to become interim superintendent and then his subsequent withdrawal from consideration.

The resolution states: “The independent investigator determined that all of the Board members, including Mrs. Crosby, had been provided with confidential personnel information in envelopes labeled ‘Confidential,’ to be reviewed and discussed during the Executive Session of the Board of Education and determined by a preponderance of the evidence that Mrs. Crosby provided copies of the confidential personnel documents, or at least their material contents, to the media and the MSEA UniServ Director without the knowledge or permission of the employee, which disclosure was in violation of Maryland Public Information Act and Board Policy BC.”

The resolution also says, “In disclosing the documents, Mrs. Crosby interfered with the effective operation of the St. Mary’s County Public Schools, interfered with the well-being of the employee whose rights were violated, violated Board Policy, and subjected the Board of Education to penalties under the Maryland Public Information Act.”

During discussion of the motion to approve the resolution, Crosby admitted giving the Enterprise a copy of Clemens’ letter announcing his withdrawal of candidacy, however she says there was no confidential personnel information contained therein. She flatly denies giving any information to or talking to Maryland State Education Association (MSEA) UniServ Director Liz Purcell-Leskinen.

There is far from enough evidence to draw a conclusion one way or the other. Clements withdrew his name from consideration because his candidacy – in his own words – “caused considerable controversy within the Board of Education, the community, and the employees associations.” However, the local teacher union president said she supported Clements for the interim position.

What we need is someone on the school board to leak the independent investigator’s findings. Which one should we call?

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