A listening post monitoring public education and teachers’ unions.

New Warnings of Teacher Shortage Sound Like Déjà Vu All Over Again

Written By: Mike Antonucci - Sep• 21•16

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Bay Area School Choice Program Is Mostly For District Employees

Written By: Mike Antonucci - Sep• 20•16

I waited a week to see how much commentary would arise from this story by KQED’s Devin Katayama headlined “Why Oakland Students Leave for Public Schools in Other Cities.”

I can’t find any.

Katayama examined the practice of inter-district transfers in the Bay Area. Parents can apply to send their kids to schools in other districts if they qualify. “Legitimate reasons include: the student’s parent works in another district, the student has special health or safety concerns, a sibling attends another district, or a special program exists in another district,” he reported. You can’t just want to put your child in a better school.

Your assigned district must approve the transfer, but so does the accepting district, and that’s where you run into some interesting facts and attitudes.

Over the last two years, the Berkeley Unified School District has accepted about 75 percent of all requests, said admissions manager Francisco Martinez. Most of those are for families who work for Berkeley Unified, he said. Last year, Berkeley had more than 700 inter-district transfer students. Of those, about 40 percent were from Oakland.

School districts have some level of discretion for which students they accept. School boards in each district set those policies, and if interdistrict transfer students don’t maintain adequate eligibility, the district can send them back to the home district.

“If they are accepted, they have to have satisfactory grades, attendance and behavior,” Martinez said.

How nice that Berkeley Unified, which has a residency enforcement investigator, also runs a school choice program that mostly benefits the children of its own employees who live outside of the district’s borders. And if transfer students don’t keep up their grades, or behave, they can get booted out.

No accusations of cherry-picking. No allegations of trying to pad test scores. No claims of renewed segregation. No cries of lost funding because students leave. Traditional public schools are apparently immune to those criticisms.


Newark Teachers Union Goes Begging

Written By: Mike Antonucci - Sep• 19•16

GoFundMe is an online fundraising site usually reserved for people with steep medical expenses or charitable causes, but now it’s the home of an effort by the Newark Teachers Union to “stop the war on teachers.”

The union of about 3,000 members has a goal of $100,000 for its campaign, but after the first four days it has raised zero. The union claims this unique project is necessary because “we don’t have access to the same funding sources as those who want to destroy our public schools.”

That might be literally true, but NTU has an annual budget of about $3.4 million and is affiliated with the American Federation of Teachers, a parent organization whose budget is $188 million. The idea that it requires a GoFundMe campaign for $100,000 is laughable.

It’s possible this is merely a PR stunt to rouse the zeal of activists in the state, or perhaps AFT refused to fund this particular scheme. But if you have a few extra bucks, I suggest you bypass NTU’s page and instead donate to Bonnie’s bullet removal surgery.


Invoke the Slaughter Rule

Written By: Mike Antonucci - Sep• 16•16

“This network of billionaire donors mirrors the dark money networks used by the Koch brothers. In fact, many of the same donors were directly implicated in an illegal dark money scheme in 2012. This group promised to spend even more in the November election and have already begun writing big checks.” – August 31 press release from the California Teachers Association.

Those big checks had lots of zeros in them. But it turns out that’s all they had. Here’s the fundraising status for Proposition 55, the CTA-supported initiative that extends the “temporary” highest income tax brackets.


You read that correctly. It’s $46.1 million to zero. CTA’s contribution to that total so far is $16.5 million.


The Teacher Shortage Crisis Is Always “Coming”

Written By: Mike Antonucci - Sep• 15•16

The Learning Policy Institute, created by Linda Darling-Hammond, issued a report on teacher shortages to coincide with its day-long forum on the topic in Washington DC. It even has a hashtag. This prompted the usual alarm and demand for solutions. The top story on Politico‘s Morning Education is headlined “The coming teacher shortage crisis.”

My analysis of teacher shortages has been consistent for a very long time – about as long as we’ve been hearing about teacher shortages. But it’s hopeless. The teacher shortage crisis has been “coming” since the early 1990s. I suppose it will get here eventually. While we’re waiting, here’s a graph from the National Center for Education Statistics showing the pupil-teacher ratio for the last 10 years for which we have comprehensive data.

If you prefer text:

The number of students per teacher, or the pupil/teacher ratio, has generally been decreasing over more than 50 years at both public and private schools. In fall 1955, there were 1.1 million public and 145,000 private elementary and secondary school teachers in the United States. By fall 2013, these numbers had nearly tripled to 3.1 million for public school teachers and to 441,000 for private school teachers. However, increases in student enrollment were proportionally smaller over this period: from 30.7 million to 50.0 million public school students (a 63 percent increase) and from 4.6 million to 5.4 million private school students (a 17 percent increase). For public schools, the pupil/teacher ratio fell from 26.9 in 1955 to 15.9 in 2003. The ratio continued this decline until 2008, when it dropped to 15.3. In the years after 2008, the pupil/teacher ratio rose, reaching 16.1 in 2013.

But there’s no stopping a tidal wave of political activism with a sand wall of historical data. The teacher shortage is coming. Run for your lives.


Unions Have Cash But Not Partners In Fight Against MA Charter Proposal

Written By: Mike Antonucci - Sep• 14•16

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NEA’s Ballot Fund Being Brought to Bear in States

Written By: Mike Antonucci - Sep• 13•16

The National Education Association collects an annual special assessment from each member that goes into the national union’s Ballot Measure/Legislative Crises Fund. State affiliates then apply for grants, which are either approved, reduced or denied by the union’s executive committee and board of directors. At last check the fund contained $58 million.

NEA keeps the amount of these disbursements close to the vest, but we have learned that the union pledged $1.4 million to Massachusetts, $1.5 million to Georgia, $2 million to Oregon and $500,000 to Maine.

Now enough time has passed for that money to start appearing in campaign finance disclosure reports and it appears that the deployment of the funds differs from state to state.

In Massachusetts, NEA delivered the $1.4 million in one lump sum to the No on Question 2 campaign on September 1. This is uncommon, as the union usually prefers to send money in smaller batches as it is being used.

In Georgia, the campaign to oppose the governor’s Opportunity School District initiative has so far reported only a $125,000 contribution from the Georgia Association of Educators and no money from NEA, though the campaign begins running TV ads today.

In Oregon, Yes on Measure 97 reported $750,000 in contributions from the Oregon Education Association and $750,000 from SEIU Local 503, but nothing yet from NEA. The measure is polling well, which might give NEA the option of reducing its commitment if the money isn’t needed.

In Maine, the committee in support of Question 2 received $300,000 from NEA. Another $40,000 came from in-kind contributions of staff time from the Maine Education Association, accounting for almost all of the committee’s income.

Looking at the total picture, it appears NEA hasn’t yet committed the full force of its donations to state-level campaigns and at the end of the month will be able to authorize even more grants from the ballot measure war chest. We will likely not know the extent of the national union’s contributions until after the election.