A listening post monitoring public education and teachers’ unions.

The Campaign Trail

Written By: Mike Antonucci - Mar• 17•14

Running a big-city teachers’ union is a time-consuming job, and so is running for that job. Alex Caputo-Pearl, a candidate for the presidency of United Teachers Los Angeles, found he was having trouble juggling the time commitments of campaigning for office and teaching high school social studies. Something had to give.

So Caputo-Pearl took unpaid leave for the equivalent of 17 school days to campaign. He had his principal’s permission, but the district says the principal exceeded his authority and now Caputo-Pearl may face disciplinary action for unauthorized leave.

Superintendent John Deasy said the district should never have to pay a substitute for time spent campaigning.

“When your duties are done for which we pay you, campaign your hearts out,” Deasy said. “In the meantime, please teach.”


1,200-Member Local to Vote on Leaving California Teachers Association

Written By: Mike Antonucci - Mar• 14•14

The Modesto Teachers Association will hold an all-member vote on whether to disaffiliate from the California Teachers Association, the Modesto Bee reported yesterday.

A CTA spokesman said the two organizations are at odds over the use of the local’s UniServ grant money. I suspect the real issue is whether Modesto feels it is getting its money’s worth from the dues it passes up the chain.

The local will hold a series of meetings before the vote, which apparently has not yet been scheduled.

Modesto is one of CTA’s larger locals, representing approximately 1,200 teachers. If it leaves CTA, it will be the largest local to do so, and the second largest group of California teachers not to be affiliated with NEA or AFT. The 1,600 or so teachers in the Clovis Unified School District have never formed a union.


How to Find Bad News in Any Statistic

Written By: Mike Antonucci - Mar• 13•14

The United Federation of Teachers wants a new contract with substantial raises and back pay. In support of that goal, UFT president Michael Mulgrew held a press conference yesterday in which he claimed teachers were fleeing New York City’s schools for better conditions and pay in the suburbs. Rather than bolster his case with anecdotes, he elected to pull out some charts purporting to illustrate this exodus.

Mulgrew is advocating for a particular result, so we should expect him to be selective in his use of data, but choosing teacher retention as the linchpin for his argument seems like a poor choice.

UFT’s own research shows that 3,233 teachers resigned their positions in NYC schools in 2008 (4.1%). In 2013, only 2,130 did so (2.9%).

As for the appeal of the suburbs, Charles Brecher, research director of the Citizens Budget Commission, told Chalkbeat NY that only about 200 of the city’s roughly 75,000 teachers left for schools in other parts of the state last year.

“I wouldn’t say that’s an epidemic,” he said.

A cynic might suggest those teachers who left for the suburbs simply wanted to get their own kids into better schools.


NEA Fundamentals

Written By: Mike Antonucci - Mar• 12•14

In connection with its leadership summits, the National Education Association put together this PowerPoint presentation (here in PDF form) to describe the union’s history and structure.

The last 15 or so slides provide concise and useful basic information about NEA governance, committees and representation. While it is the “civics textbook” version of how NEA operates and omits description of the UniServ system, it is a handy little guide to reference if the intricacies of the union’s organizational flowchart get confusing.

Download or bookmark it, especially if you have occasion to write about NEA, and it will ensure you get the nuts and bolts in their correct places.


Somehow Union Embezzlement Keeps Happening

Written By: Mike Antonucci - Mar• 11•14

inigoDespite the repeated establishment of financial safeguards to prevent it from ever happening again, wily union officers keep finding ways to steal money from their local treasuries.

This week’s allegations involve the Union City Education Association in New Jersey, which after discovering “significant discrepancies and irregularities” in its financial records, had its attorney send a letter to its former treasurer demanding the return of 25 years’ worth of documents. The union posted the correspondence on its web site.

Meanwhile in New York, the Guilderland Teachers Association filed a police report claiming embezzlement of union funds. The union president would not identify the culprit, only saying it was a member of the local. The treasurer’s post is currently vacant.


Union Share of Teacher Workforce at Historic Low

Written By: Mike Antonucci - Mar• 10•14

Click here to read.


AFT Won’t Accept Gates Money, Except When It Does

Written By: Mike Antonucci - Mar• 10•14

Over the last four years, the American Federation of Teachers has taken more than $10 million from the Bill & Melinda Gates Foundation. Now Randi Weingarten announced AFT will no longer accept Gates money… for the union’s Innovation Fund. But that only accounts for half the money AFT has received from Gates. According to Politico, “AFT’s executive council hasn’t formally voted to reject Gates funding for other projects, but Weingarten said she would be very cautious about taking such grants.”

Somehow a headline that reads “AFT Shuns Gates Funding” gives a different impression than one that reads “AFT Will Be Very Cautious the Next Time It Accepts Gates Funding.”

This is a victory for those who complained that AFT was being compromised by the Gates contributions to the Innovation Fund, but it’s a victory with a price tag. Weingarten said the union will push for a dues increase to offset some of the lost funding. It should give teachers a sense of empowerment to know their money is being used to compensate for the Gates shortfall.