Clark County Education Association Fires on Fort Sumter

The Clark County Education Association has been in a war of words and a war of litigation with its parent unions, the Nevada State Education Association and National Education Association, primarily over the distribution of dues money. CCEA comprises about half of NSEA’s entire membership, and the Clark County officers feel they are not getting their money’s worth from the state and national unions.

NSEA has responded by posting its IRS filings and a short video. The state union also released its 2017 budget report, printed with the disclaimer, “Confidential information: Do not copy or distribute without prior NSEA BOD or MGMT approval.”

NSEA states that CCEA officers must “immediately answer questions about transparency, accounting, and fiscal responsibility” and raises the specter of a forensic audit of the local union’s troubled health trust.

While the unions’ dueling lawsuits meander through the courts and the communications professionals trade salvos, CCEA raised the stakes considerably yesterday with an e-mail to its members.

Headlined “You Spoke, We Listened. Now We’re Asking, How About a Reduction in Dues?” the bulletin proposes local control:

We heard you loud and clear. Over 5,000 members recently participated in a survey and over 96% said that out of the $810 annual union dues you pay half should stay with the Local.

…Here’s how it would work. Currently, you pay $810 a year. CCEA only keeps $243.84 of that money. The rest goes to the State (NSEA) and the National (NEA). We can lower your dues in half to $405 and provide better benefits and services to you than you currently receive.

…NEA’s primary benefit was professional liability insurance and they just cut that off with only three days’ notice. However, Members need not worry, CCEA will make sure that no MEMBER will be left without protection. CCEA will provide better professional liability insurance at the same cost you now pay to NEA ($189/year). CCEA will provide more professional liability insurance at half the cost you pay in union dues to NEA which are $189 a year).

Ed. note: I think one of those last two sentences needs to be deleted.

CCEA has been in a de facto state of disaffiliation for some time now. It is not sending dues up the chain to NSEA and NEA, and the state and national unions are not providing services and benefits. The only remaining question is whether the two sides can reach an accommodation, or will CCEA make its disaffiliation official.

I can’t see CCEA backing away from this, particularly after floating a 50% dues cut and badmouthing NEA’s liability insurance.

NSEA is in a bit of a bind. It has now lost about $3.6 million in annual dues (out of $6.5 million total) and since it went to court to resolve the dispute it would be problematic to attempt the time-tested tactic of a midnight takeover and establishment of a trusteeship over the local. A judge might see such a move as an attempt to preempt a court ruling.

I have no information that a formal proposal will be presented to CCEA’s representative bodies for a vote. But if CCEA’s officers have the rank-and-file support they claim, a disaffiliation could occur as quickly as it did in Memphis.

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No One Is Running for the Border

Over at Chalkbeat, Matt Barnum reported on a National Bureau of Economic Research study that reveals teachers “are significantly less likely to move between states than others with similar jobs.”

Barnum views this through the lens of teacher certification, noting that a teacher who moves to another state may be required to perform additional coursework before certification.

Chad Aldeman of Bellwether Education Partners added that the lack of portability of teacher pensions plays a role in deterring teachers from moving between states.

Those are excellent points, but the first thing I wondered is how the NBER study will affect this standard media narrative:

Oklahoma: “Over the past few years, thousands of public school teachers in Oklahoma, like Sheehan, have left the state for better pay and less stress (fewer classes, smaller classes, less instruction time).”

South Carolina: “Reading from a statement by S.C. Superintendent of Education Molly Spearman, OCSD5 trustee Vernon Stephens said, ‘Our neighboring states are beating us out on teacher pay. We are going to see an exodus of South Carolina teachers to other states’.”

Idaho: “‘A number of teachers leave the state to other states. Others simply leave the teaching profession altogether,’ Idaho Education Association President Kari Overall said. ‘Most neighboring states that touch Idaho pay anywhere from $7,000 to $10,000 more’.”

West Virginia: “Peters cited nearby states that have more promising benefit incentives and pay than West Virginia. She, among many others, worry border counties will lose even more teachers to those neighboring states.”

I could probably find examples from 40 or so states that claim teachers are fleeing for better pay in other states.

A good story beats good data every time, so I predict zero change to the “teachers streaming over the border” narrative.

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Indiana State Teachers Association on Track to Fiscal Solvency… by 2027

It has been eight-and-a-half years since the Indiana State Teachers Association’s insurance trust went belly-up due to bad investments and mismanagement. The remedies included staff layoffs, a $40-per-member dues increase, and the sale of the union’s headquarters building to a newly established NEA real estate firm.

ISTA did get one thing right. It told its activists in 2010 that the union “will be reporting a substantial negative net worth for the next 17 years.”

A look at the latest numbers shows ISTA still owes NEA $10.5 million, but it has steadily paid NEA $1 million each year. If it can keep to those repayments, it should free itself of the obligation right on schedule, in 2027.

Of course by then the entire teacher union world may look vastly different. Both ISTA and NEA should be able to return to their respective status quo, but the next state affiliate to sabotage its own finances won’t find an NEA bailout so easy to obtain.

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A Question Rarely Asked

How many K-12 teachers does Vermont need?

Back in August the Learning Policy Institute asked “Where Have All the Teachers Gone?” The answer, evidently, is Vermont.

The state’s precipitous decline in student enrollment has led to… an escalating climb in the hiring of K-12 school employees. Public schools now have one employee for every four students.

Vermont Gov. Phil Scott thinks schools could get along fine with one employee for every five students, saving taxpayers about $100 million.

Vermont NEA reacted in a predictable manner: “Gov. Scott Wants to Fire Hundreds of Educators.”

You might think Gov. Scott’s plan is a harsh and abrupt way to deal with the situation, but I wandered back to the EIA Communiqué of April 6, 2009 and found an item I headlined “Vermont School Funding Mystery Solved“:

Public school enrollment in Vermont declined for the 13th consecutive year, and the state’s tax commissioner wants to know why education funding keeps increasing.

Hmmm, that’s a tough one. Could it have something to do with the fact that the state has 92,572 students and 19,145 full-time equivalent education employees? If California had a similar ratio, it would have almost 1.3 million school employees, of whom more than 650,000 would be classroom teachers.

The student-to-staff ratio then was 4.83 to 1, so Gov. Scott’s solution is simply to return to the slightly less untenable ratio of eight years ago.

So when you read your next teacher shortage story, remember that the number of teachers hired will always rise to the amount of money made available, without regard to the number of students enrolled.

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Winner of NEA PAC Giveaway Got Locked Away

This one is just bizarre.

I spent most of yesterday going through the National Education Association 2017 financial disclosure report to the U.S. Department of Labor. (If you want a comprehensive look at those numbers, you can’t do better than RiShawn Biddle’s November 30 piece at Dropout Nation.)

As I was churning through 354 pages of itemized expenditures, one entry caught my eye.

Before I go on, let me explain what the “RA Giveaway” is. Each year at the NEA Representative Assembly, the delegates spend a lot of time soliciting donations for the union’s federal PAC. They generate many incentives to contribute, but the biggest is the PAC giveaway. At the end of each of the four days of the convention, a name is drawn and that person wins a cash prize. The first day’s winner gets $5,000, the second day $7,500, the third day $10,000 and the final day $15,000. They get their picture taken with a giant check.

We can deduce that since Robert B. Bulk of Atchison, Kansas, won $10,000, he was the third-day winner at the 2016 NEA Representative Assembly in Washington DC. That was July 6.

At the time, Bulk was the president of the Atchison Education Association and a member of the Kansas NEA board of directors. The NEA leadership was at least minimally aware of him.

There is no photo of Bulk receiving his giant check, but you don’t have to be physically present at the time of the announcement to win. We do know that his good fortune was short-lived.

The very next day “officers executed a search warrant July 7 at Bulk’s residence where they seized computer equipment, some pornographic DVDs, CD-R CDs and other items belonging to Bulk. It was also there, during execution of the search warrant, when police discovered marijuana inside a container that was in a bedroom closet.”

Police arrested Bulk on July 8 on felony charges of electronic solicitation involving a child under the age of consent and sexual exploitation of a child.

On August 1 the Atchison school board suspended Bulk with pay.

On December 7 Bulk plead guilty to the two felonies.

On December 9 he resigned from his teaching job.

On January 9 he was sentenced to 68 months in prison.

NEA reported the payments to the three other PAC giveaway winners on last year’s disclosure, using the dates of the drawings in July. Only the payment of Bulk’s winnings was delayed until September. This may be because Bulk was not present at the drawing and/or the subsequent transfer of his winnings was problematic due to the police investigation.

There is no moral to this story – unless you want to note that Bulk never lost a day of pay and was allowed to resign. It’s just a weird turn of events.

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