A listening post monitoring public education and teachers’ unions.


Written By: Mike Antonucci - Oct• 08•14

The New York Times Magazine headlined a story by Nicholas Confessore “How School Lunch Became the Latest Political Battleground,” but it should have been called “How Big Business and Big Government Conspire to Screw Up Something As Simple As Feeding Kids.”

It’s a long piece, but definitely worth your time. If you can’t spare it, here are a few short clips from the article that I think illustrate the insanity of it all:

* “’Right now we’re in that phase where you’re fighting a rear-guard action to hold on to as much territory as you can.’”

* “The starchy-vegetable lobby was quick to take offense.”

* “The new rule counted two tablespoons of tomato paste as two tablespoons of tomato paste…”

* “Representative Collin Peterson, a centrist Democrat from Minnesota whose district is home to Schwan’s headquarters, demanded that a U.S.D.A. official explain the scientific basis for the tomato rule.”

* “In Wisconsin and New Jersey, students staged lunchroom strikes.”

* “You have to tell a six-foot football player, ‘You didn’t take your fruit or your vegetable,’ ” she said incredulously. He might just walk away. “And guess what? They can’t get reimbursed for that meal, because he didn’t take the full components.”

* “Cafeteria directors complained that they were being forced to raise prices on their best customers while offering them less of the food they liked most.”

The prices go up and the choices go down. That doesn’t sound like a problem unique to school lunches.


Education Journalism Quote of the Week

Written By: Mike Antonucci - Oct• 07•14

I have been called some awful names. I have gotten hate mail. And the funny thing is, I’ve written about abortion and terrorism, and I don’t get the same level of vitriol from those stories…. I had a teacher in Connecticut call me a c**t. So that was a low moment.

– Amanda Ripley, Time journalist and author of The Smartest Kids in the World, describing the reaction her education stories have received.


NEA Membership Numbers Accelerate Downward

Written By: Mike Antonucci - Oct• 06•14

Click here to read.


Personal Incident?

Written By: Mike Antonucci - Oct• 06•14

Rafael Estrada is running for a seat in the California state senate in the San Diego area. He’s a Democrat, an Air Force veteran, a public school paraeducator, and the treasurer of the local chapter of the California School Employees Association, the statewide union for education support employees.

But he didn’t receive the endorsement of the California Teachers Association. That went to the incumbent, Ben Hueso.

Hueso is facing a lawsuit alleging he unlawfully used campaign funds to pay the legal fees of a previous lawsuit. In August he was arrested on suspicion of DUI.

Hueso was arrested Aug. 22 on suspicion of DUI after driving the wrong way on a one-way road in a state-owned car near the Capitol. His blood alcohol content was 0.08 percent, according to the Sacramento District Attorney’s Office.

After initially charging the senator with two counts of misdemeanor DUI, prosecutors have subsequently offered Hueso a lesser reckless driving charge that includes no jail time. A hearing in the case was set for September but was put off until Nov. 6, two days after the election.

Does this faze CTA? Nope, it stands by Hueso.

“CTA’s State Council of Education endorsed him back in March, long before this personal incident happened, and they endorsed him for his proven record and commitment to California’s public schools and colleges,” said a CTA spokeswoman.

I’ll drink to that.


Win, Lose or Draw for Nevada Margin Tax?

Written By: Mike Antonucci - Oct• 03•14

The Nevada State Education Association managed to put a two-percent margin tax on the November ballot, with the help more than $1 million of dues money. Its ultimate fate is uncertain, and the polling isn’t providing much help in that regard.

A July poll showed 40% in favor and 49% opposed. A September poll showed 53% in favor and 42% opposed. A new poll has it 37% in favor with 40% opposed and 23% undecided.

I don’t know if Nevada trends follow those of California when it comes to ballot initiatives, but usually you need a very large initial lead to withstand the whittling away the “No” side can always manage up to Election Day. These results are all over the place.

One thing’s for sure: Win or lose, this is the teacher unions’ baby. Culinary Workers Union Local 226, which boasts 60,000 members, just came out against the tax. Las Vegas Review-Journal editorial writer Steve Sebelius notes:

That measure has already drawn the opposition of the gambling industry, the mining industry, the business community (including the Las Vegas Metro Chamber of Commerce), the construction industry, the manufacturing industry and even the Nevada Farm Bureau Foundation.

But the initiative — which would impose a 2 percent margin tax on businesses that earn more than $1 million — has also drawn the opposition of labor. First, the AFL-CIO came out against it (notwithstanding that its executive secretary-treasurer, Danny Thompson, used to be a big supporter). And now, the Culinary.



Written By: Mike Antonucci - Oct• 02•14

Updates to two stories we ran in the last few days:

* Some readers noticed that the link to the Hawaii State Teachers Association web page opposing a proposed constitutional amendment to expand access to pre-school was no longer working. Not only that, but the campaign ad that had been running on Hawaii TV stations suddenly disappeared from the airwaves and the web.

Honolulu Civil Beat tried to learn what was going on, but was stonewalled.

Lea Okudara, a spokeswoman for the union, confirmed to Civil Beat on Monday that “the HSTA ads are currently not running” even though the union’s original contracts with the stations included spots that were slated to run this week.

Okudara said Wednesday she didn’t know why the ads are off the air. The HSTA’s executive director, Al Nagasako, didn’t respond to a request for comment Wednesday, and the union’s president, Wil Okabe, was out of town and unavailable for an interview.

This is odd. I’ll see what I can find out.

* Meanwhile, in Jefferson County, The Complete Colorado turned up e-mails that – if not exactly smoking guns – certainly leave the scent of gunpowder in the air.

On Tuesday I suggested that the Jefferson County Education Association’s claim that it did not organize teacher sick-outs was an evasion. No one organizes a labor action without at least checking with the union.

An e-mail from a union rep at the district’s virtual school called on members to support the September 19 sick-out. She concluded with, “JCEA supports a sick out but they can’t officially organize one. It’s up to us!”

This is only the first leak. It won’t be long before the full extent of the subterfuge is revealed.


Which Ad Is Funnier?

Written By: Mike Antonucci - Oct• 01•14

In California we have a close race for Superintendent of Public Instruction. Here’s the California Teachers Association video ad for incumbent Tom Torlakson.

Here’s the new ad for challenger Marshall Tuck.

I find them both equally hilarious.