Intercepts

A listening post monitoring public education and teachers’ unions.

Thanks, But No Tanks

Written By: Mike Antonucci - Sep• 22•14

The Washington Post reports that some of the 120 education agencies that received excess military equipment will return or dispose of it. None of them admitted to finding a use for the grenade launchers, but the M-16s and mine-resistant, ambush-protected vehicles (MRAPs) still seem popular.

You might wonder why school districts and universities need this sort of weaponry and armor. If you read the progressive press, you would know. There’s a war going on.

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Help Me Make Some Dough

Written By: Mike Antonucci - Sep• 19•14

Chicago Teachers Union president Karen Lewis is struggling to determine whether she can better serve the city’s working class by making $201,000 as a union officer or $216,000 as mayor of Chicago. I have to applaud her ingenious method for coming to a decision: Send her money.

I don’t think donations will sway her one way or the other, since she has already concluded she can do both jobs. The combined salaries would raise her almost, but not quite, into Randi Weingarten territory.

I could write more about this, but I’m conflicted. Maybe a few bucks would help me choose.

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A Little More Charter School Transparency

Written By: Mike Antonucci - Sep• 18•14

Yesterday the Annenberg Institute for School Reform released a report called “Public Accountability for Charter Schools: Standards and Policy Recommendations for Effective Oversight.” It received immediate and glowing endorsements from the presidents of both NEA and AFT. It came to the conclusions that charters had “uneven academic performance; practices that pushed or kept students out of charter schools; overly harsh discipline policies; funding patterns that destabilized traditional schools; and a lack of representative governance, transparency, and adequate oversight, leading to potential conflicts of interests and instances of fraud and other problems.”

Maybe they do. But you have to work your way to the end to find the name of the primary author of the report, Leigh Dingerson. Let’s just say her opinions about charter schools and education reform in general are well-documented.

Here she is on the pages of Rethinking Schools:

But there’s nothing remarkably visionary going on in Washington. The model of school reform that’s being implemented here is popping up around the country, heavily promoted by the same network of conservative think tanks and philanthropists like Bill Gates, Eli Broad, and the Walton Family Foundation that has been driving the school reform debate for the past decade. It is reform based on the corporate practices of Wall Street, not on education research or theory. Indications so far are that, on top of the upheaval and distress Rhee leaves in her wake, the persistent racial gaps that plague D.C. student outcomes are only increasing.

She appeared at the 2013 AFT Civil, Human and Women’s Rights Conference. “This is a significant coming-together of parents, teachers and young people determined to protect public education from falling into corporate hands,” she said.

She is the author of “Unlovely: How the Market Is Failing the Children of New Orleans.” She wrote: “The elixir of ‘choice’ serves the privatizers’ interests. It serves up an individualized escape route that not only divides communities, but also weakens the political will for collective action in support of public schools.”

For U.S. News & World Report she wrote “The Promise of Parent Trigger Inspires, But Doesn’t Deliver.”

I could go on, but you get the idea. It’s important for charter schools to be held accountable – too important to be left to those working for their demise.

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The Loneliness of the Labor Reporter

Written By: Mike Antonucci - Sep• 17•14

Alexander Russo asks “We Need More Teacher Union Coverage — Right?” after he listened to the laments of New York Times labor reporter Steven Greenhouse about the demise of the union beat.

It’s strange that Greenhouse had a better sense in 1992 of where organized labor was headed than he does today, but mainstream coverage follows demand, and with only about 1 in every 9 employees belonging to a union, it is painfully obvious that labor is a niche beat. This makes education labor an even smaller niche beat.

There are many education reporters who do a fine job covering the teachers’ unions, but they are still education reporters. No one trained them in labor issues. Although this blog is devoted to inside information about teachers’ unions, much of my time is spent explaining the fundamentals of union operations and finances to those without knowledge of them. In the last 17 years, I probably have spent more time describing the UniServ program to reporters than NEA has. I ought to get a commission.

So my answer to Alexander’s question is a qualified yes, we do need more teacher union coverage. But what we really need are more individuals willing to choose a segment of the education beat and delve one yard below. We could use someone who writes exclusively about textbooks – the adoption process, the companies, the decision-makers, and the contents. How about someone who follows the professional development industry? I once did a series of stories about the National School Public Relations Association that was very well received. Where is the blogger who tears the veil off of school district PR strategies?

We have 12,000 people writing about Common Core, most of it the same as the next piece, but no one writing about the travails and/or foibles of school superintendents.

So this is my recruitment pitch: It’s easier to stand out if you’re not surrounded by everyone else. Pick something with low coverage and cover it. If you decide it should be teachers’ unions, I honestly wish you the best. I’m not going to live forever.

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Alabama EA Board Orders Audit

Written By: Mike Antonucci - Sep• 16•14

The Alabama Education Association board of directors gave its “full support” to the officers and executives of the organization, but called for an audit of the union’s finances. The action came on the heels of a letter to the board from former executive secretary Paul Hubbert questioning the AEA budget and operations.

The board met in executive session for five hours on Friday night before approving a budget with reduced expenditures. It is not clear what type of audit will be done or who will conduct it, but preliminary indications are that the AEA leadership envisions a routine audit, not a performance or forensic audit.

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Proxy War

Written By: Mike Antonucci - Sep• 15•14

Click here to read.

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NYSUT Local Wants to Withhold AFT PAC Money

Written By: Mike Antonucci - Sep• 15•14

Some local affiliate presidents of the New York State United Teachers are unusual in that they forcefully and publicly blast the higher-ups in their own union. We’re reminded of Eric D. Przykuta, president of the Lancaster Central Teachers Association, who was colorful and bombastic when describing NYSUT’s policies and leaders.

Continuing that tradition is Tony Felicio Jr., president of the Connetquot Teachers Association. Felicio is trying to organize what amounts to a boycott of the national union’s political action committee after AFT president Randi Weingarten made robo-calls for Gov. Andrew Cuomo’s running mate Kathy Hochul before the Democratic primary. NYSUT did not endorse Cuomo and has had a running feud with the governor.

Felicio sent a letter up the chain to NYSUT headquarters in an effort to withhold some $132,000 his local contributes to AFT. “We no longer want any of our hard earned dollars/dues going to an organization (AFT) whose leader so blatantly undermined the rank and file efforts in this past gubernatorial primary election,” he wrote.

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