A listening post monitoring public education and teachers’ unions.

How Racist & Discriminatory Layoffs Are Made

Written By: Mike Antonucci - Aug• 16•16

I recognize the point these protesters are making is that no layoffs should be made, but I think it’s relevant to note exactly what procedures are used in the Chicago Public Schools system, according to its collective bargaining agreement with the Chicago Teachers Union.

If changes in an attendance center or program require the lay off of some but not all teachers, the order of layoff of teachers within the affected unit and certification shall be by the following performance tiers and/or as follows:

1. Any teachers rated unsatisfactory;

2. Any substitute or temporary teachers;

3. Probationary appointed teachers by performance tier (emerging: 209-250 score; developing: 251-284 score; proficient: 285-339 score; and excellent: 340-400 score).

4. Tenured teachers rated satisfactory or, after the first evaluation in the new evaluation system issues, first tenured teachers rated emerging (209-250 score) and then tenured teachers rated developing (251-284 score).

5. All other tenured teachers.

Within each of the foregoing five tiers, teachers shall be displaced by inverse order of seniority, with the least senior teacher being laid off first.

The Sun-Times also reports that 508 teachers were laid off, but there are 1,000 existing teacher vacancies, for which the district is holding job fairs.


Teacher Shortage Data Shortage

Written By: Mike Antonucci - Aug• 15•16

School is about to start, so it’s time to dust off those teacher shortage stories and spread them around the Internet again. Last week we got the obligatory entry from Motoko Rich of the New York Times, headlined “Teacher Shortages Spur a Nationwide Hiring Scramble (Credentials Optional).”

As is the case with most of these stories, the Times had plenty of anecdotes coupled with statistics about enrollment in colleges of education. It lacked a few things, like the number of teachers hired (and compared to previous years) and the number of applicants (and compared to previous years) and the growth or decline in student enrollment and whether these were newly created positions needing to be filled or old ones left vacant due to retirement or dismissal and… well, you get the idea.

Rich reported that California districts need to fill 21,500 slots this year. In the same paragraph, she notes that the state “lost 82,000 jobs in schools from 2008 to 2012,” but she never puts the two figures together. What happened to those 82,000 laid-off workers? Were they vaporized? Did every one of them stand on the schoolhouse steps, shake a fist at the building, and vow never to return? Were they all called back and these are new openings? Who knows? Who cares?

Here’s a different story from the Journal News in New York State: “Of the teacher candidates certified in 2011-12, only 28 percent had found jobs in New York public schools more than a year later.”

Want more recent numbers? Well, you can’t have them because the state education department stopped updating them, and won’t answer the reporter’s questions about them.

It appears there is – and probably has always been – an oversupply of elementary education teacher candidates and a shortage of those in math, science and special education.

The teacher colleges say it’s not their job to inform students of their job prospects. Whose job is it, then?


In Chicago There’s a Border Patrol for Teachers, Too

Written By: Mike Antonucci - Aug• 12•16

I’ve written extensively about the school district practice of enforcing residency requirements for students, most recently a couple of weeks ago. The techniques used include private investigators and surveillance, sometimes to a disturbing degree.

Some might feel this is a small price to pay to ensure that only district residents attend district schools, but there is a place where the same rules hold true for teachers: Chicago.

Chicago is one of the last large districts to require teachers and other employees to physically reside within the city limits. There are exceptions. Teachers hired before 1996 are exempt, and there is a waiver process for hardship cases. The penalty for violating the residency requirement is termination, although investigation and enforcement seem to be intermittent and uneven.

A 2009 audit discovered 77 district employees who were residing outside of the city limits, but it took five years before an appeals court concurred with the district’s decision to dismiss two of them.

The people of Chicago, and even the teachers themselves, line up on both sides of the residency requirement, as evidenced by these pro and con columns that appeared last year in Catalyst Chicago and the comments following each.

The residency requirement does not seem to factor into the current dispute between the city and the Chicago Teachers Union, but based on the board’s rationale for instituting the rule, it might come up in negotiations. The board claimed:

– a) quality of performance of duties by officers and employees of the Board will be enhanced by a more comprehensive knowledge of the conditions existing in the school system and by a feeling of greater personal stake in the system’s progress;

b) resident officers and employees will be more likely to be involved in school and community activities, thus bringing them into contact with community leaders and citizens;

c) absenteeism and tardiness will be diminished;

d) economic benefits will accrue to the school system from local expenditure of salaries and the payment of local sales and real estate taxes, and educational benefits will be derived from residency by teachers, administrators and other employees in the City of Chicago.

I doubt if any of these four assumptions has been empirically tested, even though the system has cohorts of resident and non-resident employees to compare. However, the union might take the board at its word on the fourth claim and raise it as a factor in salary and benefit bargaining.


Caputo-Pearl’s Spending Stats “Hover Around” Accuracy

Written By: Mike Antonucci - Aug• 11•16

In his speech outlining his plan to “create a crisis” in California, United Teacher Los Angeles president Alex Caputo-Pearl cited several statistics to support his arguments. Such as:

“California hovers around 45th among the 50 states in per-pupil funding.”

There are multiple ways to measure this, but the closest statistic that matches Caputo-Pearl’s words is public school revenue per-student. The National Education Association’s Rankings & Estimates study places California in 39th position among states in this regard. I think that just barely makes the outside edge of a “hover,” but even so, it’s misleading. Check a few pages ahead in the NEA report and you find current expenditures per student – in other words, what the state actually spends. California ranks 22nd. You’ll need a lot of aviation fuel to hover between 45th and 22nd.

What about cost-of-living adjustments? Assuming we could agree on a measure, let’s not forget that the cost of California government contributes to the cost of living. And spending on schools eats up the lion’s share of the state budget. It’s easy to find oneself arguing that school spending needs to be high to compensate for… school spending being high.

Let’s move on.

“And, per prison inmate spending in California is 7 times the amount of per-pupil spending for K-12 students.”

Caputo-Pearl can get away with something you and I can’t. He compares the housing, feeding and incarceration of violent criminals with teaching California public school students. Nevertheless, his shocking statistic becomes a lot less shocking when you realize there are 6.2 million students in California public schools and about 129,000 inmates in California prisons (another 4,800 are incarcerated in Arizona and Mississippi). I know Caputo-Pearl understands the concept of fixed costs, since he and other UTLA officers constantly employ it to argue against the expansion of charter schools.

Leading us to…

“Broad-Walmart has stated they will spend close to $20 million on political campaigns and lobbying, while the California Charter Schools Association just dumped $10 million into the June elections, and is prepared to escalate that in the coming months. Comparatively, UTLA has $400,000 in our PACE account annually from member contributions. That alone equates to us being outspent 60-to-1.”

It does, if you compare the sum total of your opponents’ political spending with only one category of yours. This dodge is the first lesson in Union Officer 101. Here’s an example of Caputo-Pearl using it soon after he took office in an interview with an Los Angeles Times reporter who didn’t catch it.

Q: How much of members’ dues goes to UTLA’s political activities?

A: We have a separate way of raising money for electoral campaigns. Teachers have to sign up; it’s not automatic. That goes specifically for school board campaigns, things like that. Of course we want to know whether candidates support our “Schools L.A. Students Deserve” initiative, but financially it’s separate.

The question was about “political activities” and the answer was about “electoral campaigns.” It’s true: candidate PAC money is financially separate from the union’s general fund. But dues money – money kept in UTLA’s general fund and special assessment funds – is used for every other type of political activity, including lobbying, independent expenditures, GOTV efforts, issue ads, and the tens of millions targeted for the Prop 55 campaign and other ballot initiatives.

Nor does UTLA have to rely solely on its own revenues. It has the mammoth political war chests of the California Teachers Association, California Federation of Teachers, National Education Association and American Federation of Teachers from which to draw. And that doesn’t count other friendly unions and federations like SEIU, AFSCME and the AFL-CIO.

If creating a crisis requires being creative with numbers, Caputo-Pearl is off to a solid start.


Los Angeles Teachers Head Is Ready to Incite A ‘State Crisis’ If Union Demands Are Not Met

Written By: Mike Antonucci - Aug• 10•16

Click here to read.


Missed Approach

Written By: Mike Antonucci - Aug• 09•16

Teacher: I’ll ask a pilot how to fly a plane, not a CEO. Why won’t policymakers listen to educators?” – headline from Valerie Strauss’ column in the Washington Post.

A. That’s a rhetorical question.

B. Because it’s not the same thing.

C. We ask pilots how to fly a plane. We ask corporations to build one.

D. This.


Only Thugs Are Thugs

Written By: Mike Antonucci - Aug• 08•16

Maryland Gov. Larry Hogan is upset that the Maryland State Education Association doesn’t agree with his plans for the state budget. The union made its feelings known in a press release.

The governor responded on Facebook with “We provided record funding for education two years in a row and protected your pensions. Don’t believe this phony ‘cut’ propaganda from the union thugs.”

Drop the last word and you have a perfectly defensible statement. But the people responsible for a press release are not “thugs.”

I’m not too worried that MSEA officers and staff had their feelings hurt. They’ll survive. I’m more concerned that calling political opponents thugs or terrorists or Nazis obscures what those people really are. I criticize unions all the time, but I don’t equate their actions to violent assault, torture or mass murder.

A thug is “a violent person, especially a criminal,” so if you wanted to call this union guy a “thug”…

…go right ahead because he appears to be strangling a guy from behind. But no one ever went to the emergency room because of an assault from a press release. Gov. Hogan made a stupid mistake and should apologize for it.