A listening post monitoring public education and teachers’ unions.

Non-Denial Denial

Written By: Mike Antonucci - Sep• 30•14

There was a second sick-out by teachers at two Jefferson County, Colorado, high schools yesterday. Chalkbeat Colorado reported the story this way:

The Jefferson County Education Association today once again denied any role in the mass teacher absences.

“This was not organized by JCEA but we certainly understand the frustration our teachers and the entire community are experiencing when their school board majority are making decisions in secret, wasting taxpayer dollars, and disrespecting the community’s goals for their students,” said John Ford, president of the union, in a statement.

The John Ford quote does not support the inference made in the first paragraph. “This was not organized by JCEA” may be literally true, but that doesn’t rule out a host of other possibilities:

* It was organized by the Colorado Education Association.

* It was organized by NEA UniServ directors.

* It was organized by teachers at the two high schools, but JCEA approved it.

* It  was organized by teachers at the two high schools, JCEA knew about it, and did nothing to discourage it.

Regardless, the Jefferson County school board now has a rare opportunity to use a tactic that has traditionally been deployed only by unions: work-to-rule. The teachers’ contract has a provision titled “Verification of Absence.” It reads:

Upon notice to a teacher, the teacher shall be required to furnish to their supervisor proof of illness. Proof of fitness to return to duty, or proof of fitness to continue to perform duty, as verified by a written statement from a licensed physician, if required, should be submitted to Manager, Employee Leaves. If deemed necessary by the District, the teacher may be required to be examined by a physician designated by the District, at District expense. If a difference of opinion exists between the two (2) physicians, a third physician may be designated, at District expense, to render an opinion.

The contract also requires that one day’s notice to an immediate supervisor is required before taking personal leave.

This requires no legal action on the board’s part, and cannot be considered an “escalation” since it entirely adheres to the negotiated language of the collective bargaining agreement, which as we know is sacrosanct, despite all this celebration of civil disobedience.

Such widespread illness among the teaching staff could signify an outbreak of some kind, and we wouldn’t want to put the students at risk. Best to have those teachers visit a doctor or two or three before returning to work, just to be on the safe side.


Wicomico Postscript

Written By: Mike Antonucci - Sep• 29•14

Click here to read.


Providence Teachers Union Prefers Convicted Felon to Charter School Director

Written By: Mike Antonucci - Sep• 29•14

The executive board of the Providence Teachers Union “overwhelmingly” endorsed Vincent “Buddy” Cianci Jr. for mayor. “Mr. Cianci had a little bit more experience in terms of the city’s schools and had a better understanding of the fundamental needs of the schools as they exist in this point in time,” said PTU president Maribeth Calabro. Cianci also picked up the endorsements of the police and firefighters unions.

If the name sounds familiar, it’s because Cianci holds the distinction of having been forced from the office of Providence mayor not once, but twice, for felony convictions. The first time was in 1984 when Cianci assaulted a man he believed was having an affair with his estranged wife. The second time was in 2002, after which he served 4 ½ years in prison for running a “corrupt criminal enterprise” as mayor.

Cianci’s opponents are Jorge Elorza, a Democrat, and Daniel Harrop, a Republican. Elorza is a former judge who sits on the board of Achievement First, a network of charter schools.

No contest.

Cianci was the subject of an award-winning documentary where he’s described as “America’s Most Notorious Mayor,” and, completely filling the stereotype, has his own line of marinara sauce, which isn’t entirely on the up-and-up, either.

“To us, it’s ancient history,” said Calabro. “It’s done and over with, and we’re trying as an organization not to go backwards in terms of negativity and things like that.”


The Password Is: “Escalating”

Written By: Mike Antonucci - Sep• 26•14

Yesterday we reported on the Colorado Education Association looking for someone to coordinate “escalating activity” in “high intensity campaigns” in targeted school districts.

LA School Report also notes the words of United Teachers Los Angeles president Alex Caputo-Pearl in his “State of the Union” speech to members. “Keep your eye out for the first of a series of monthly escalating actions starting in October at school sites,” he said.

Both of these actions seem to imply that union officers believe escalation is a unilateral strategy. Perhaps they’re right. This story about the cowed opposition to a Washington Education Association class size initiative suggests a lack of intestinal fortitude when it comes to facing down the teachers’ union.

Each locale will handle these actions as circumstances and personalities dictate, but as a general rule I would advise riding that escalator to see who jumps off before reaching the top.


Colorado Protests Not Exactly Spontaneous

Written By: Mike Antonucci - Sep• 25•14

Last November, voters in Jefferson County, Colorado, elected a conservative majority for their school board. This didn’t sit well with those who lost, most prominently the Jefferson County Education Association. And though the two sides hammered out a collective bargaining agreement in May that was approved by 88 percent of the membership, the union fought with the board on a number of issues.

Perhaps it’s all a coincidence, but at the end of July, 48 NEA UniServ directors from 18 states were sent to Jefferson County to train local officers and activists in conducting home visits with members. Once the school year began, there was a flurry of union activity.

JCEA issued a vote of no confidence in school board president Ken Witt. Last week, two high schools had to cancel classes because of a teacher sick-out. JCEA denied responsibility for organizing it, but said it understood teachers’ “frustration.” The local heightened its presence and contributions in campaigns for the state legislature, and is encouraging student protests over the AP History curriculum.

The union’s plan is not only to continue its recent activities in Jefferson County, but to spread them to other districts in the state. The Colorado Education Association received a one-year NEA funding grant to hire an organizing specialist “to help bring educators together to fight back against the movement to privatize public education.” The job requires coordinating organizing campaigns in five unnamed Colorado local affiliates in three “metro area school districts.”

The organizing plan will incorporate “escalating activity” in “high intensity campaigns” to include “rallies, marches and other direct actions.”


Let’s Play “Who Is Arne Duncan Talking About?”

Written By: Mike Antonucci - Sep• 24•14

These folks are so interested in making money, they’ve lost a sense of values, they’ve lost a sense of what’s important…. I feel bad for young kids looking up to these situations. Until people start thinking beyond dollar signs, we’re going to see this kind of behavior continue to happen.

Fill in the blank with your favorite villain, but Arne was referring to the National Football League and its handling of the Ray Rice case.


Union Opposes Pre-K Funding Amendment in Hawaii

Written By: Mike Antonucci - Sep• 23•14

This November, voters in Hawaii will decide on a constitutional amendment to expand the supply of pre-kindergarten programs by allowing the legislature to contract with private nonprofit pre-K programs. Here’s an ad from the Children’s Action Network supporting the amendment.

But the Hawaii State Teachers Association, which normally loves the idea of expanded pre-school, opposes the amendment due to one word – “private.” Here is the union ad:

I’m not suggest HSTA ought to support the amendment. I am suggesting that teachers ‘unions’ labor policies will trump their education policies every time.