Intercepts

A listening post monitoring public education and teachers’ unions.

The Grassroots Grow From The Top Down

Written By: Mike Antonucci - Apr• 25•16

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Story Most Likely To Be Ignored

Written By: Mike Antonucci - Apr• 25•16

Cries about national teacher shortages might be overblown” by Jill Barshay of The Hechinger Report.

Read it. She’s restrained in her conclusions, but it won’t matter. The National Council on Teacher Quality forwarded this graph from economist Dan Goldhaber on the number of teachers produced by traditional programs since 1984.

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That won’t matter either. Many aspects of education labor policy have proven resistant to empirical data. Let’s just accept the level of teacher hiring as the political battle it is and wage it on those terms.

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The Comedy of Terrors

Written By: Mike Antonucci - Apr• 22•16

I really have to thank the teachers’ unions. They have no reason to reinforce my arguments, but yesterday Chicago Teachers Union president Karen Lewis and the Pennsylvania State Education Association unknowingly teamed up to illustrate how they can hold two mutually exclusive positions.

On Wednesday, Lewis compared Illinois Gov. Bruce Rauner to an ISIS recruit. Yesterday, she defended the comparison with this tweet:

OK. Here’s the definition of domestic terrorism from the U.S. Code:

“Domestic terrorism” means activities with the following three characteristics:

* Involve acts dangerous to human life that violate federal or state law;

* Appear intended (i) to intimidate or coerce a civilian population; (ii) to influence the policy of a government by intimidation or coercion; or (iii) to affect the conduct of a government by mass destruction, assassination. or kidnapping; and

* Occur primarily within the territorial jurisdiction of the U.S.

We have to agree that Gov. Rauner’s actions occur primarily within the territorial jurisdiction of the U.S.

So it was with an impeccable sense of timing that this story appeared, about a Pennsylvania state senate campaign. One Republican candidate, Mike Regan, was miffed that another Republican candidate, Jon Ritchie, was accepting contributions from unions, including the Pennsylvania State Education Association.

“It’s like Al-Qaeda saying they back George Bush,” he said.

PSEA responded with a press release, quoting union president Jerry Oleksiak and PSEA-Retired member Paul Wade, a Navy veteran.

“Any elected official who compares teachers to terrorists owes every educator in Pennsylvania an apology. Mike Regan should know better than to make such a ridiculous and outlandish claim,” Oleksiak said. “I’m sure the people who live in the 31st district are as disgusted by this as I am. It’s an insult, an outrage, and another example of why political discourse has sunk to an all-time low.”

“I served my country in the Navy for 20 years and then served kids every day in the classroom for another 20 years, and I don’t think I’ve ever heard anything as insulting as this,” Wade said. “This is the kind of politics that we should all reject. Al-Qaida is a brutal, murderous terrorist organization. Using their name to score political points cheapens the sacrifices made by America’s veterans, including my son, a Marine who served two tours in Afghanistan. Mike Regan owes me, every teacher I know, and every veteran I’ve ever served with an apology.”

Wade was wrong. Lewis was wrong. Rod Paige was wrong. One reader wondered if I reserved my criticism only for union officers who use the terrorism analogy. You can check out Item #3 from the February 23, 2004 EIA Communiqué to see if I’m consistent on the issue.

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Only Terrorists Are Terrorists

Written By: Mike Antonucci - Apr• 21•16

Karen Lewis, president of the Chicago Teachers Union, made headlines yesterday – which was certainly her intent – by characterizing Illinois Gov. Bruce Rauner as an ISIS recruit. Here are the relevant remarks:

Bruce Rauner is a liar. You know, I’ve been reading in the news lately about all of these ISIS recruits popping up all over the place—has Homeland Security checked this man out yet? Because the things he’s doing look like acts of terror on poor and working class people.

Rauner is a public figure, wealthy, governor of a large state, and has a professional communications staff. In other words, he doesn’t need defending. Public policy disputes lead to all sorts of rhetoric, but these are just words, after all. No one gets hurt.

The problem is that it belittles terrorism. If there is no difference between Gov. Rauner and a terrorist, then there is no difference between a terrorist and Gov. Rauner. Except that there is.

Acts of terror on poor and working class people would be blowing them to bits with explosives, or lopping their heads off with a sword, or taking them as sex slaves, or crucifying them. One can only imagine how ISIS would respond to a teacher strike.

In 2004, U.S. Secretary of Education Rod Paige referred to NEA as a “terrorist organization” in a private meeting with governors. He was rightfully lambasted for doing so, and the comments of teacher union leaders at the time should be remembered.

Reg Weaver, NEA president: “Our members say that once again this national leader has insulted them, this time beyond repair, with words filled with hatred — and merely because they raised legitimate concerns about the president’s so-called ‘No Child Left Behind’ law.” NEA sent a letter to President Bush demanding that Paige step down.

Diana Garchow, NEA board of directors: “I can tell you what my first response was: Scary. That’s really frightening. It’s scary that you can’t voice an opinion in this country without being called a terrorist.”

Lu Battaglieri, Michigan Education Association president: “Secretary Paige is acting like a schoolyard bully, resorting to name calling and insults. He needs to be removed.”

A statement from the American Federation of Teachers said it was “unconscionable and irresponsible for any public figure, let alone a U.S. Cabinet member, to undertake this kind of name-calling.”

I’m pretty sure AFT won’t be sending a similar statement to Karen Lewis.

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Teachers Unions Still Underperform in Clinton’s Biggest Victory

Written By: Mike Antonucci - Apr• 20•16

Let’s make one thing immediately clear: Hillary Clinton’s supporters, which include NEA and AFT, got the job done in New York. They beat Sanders handily, and for once the union household vote was substantially in Clinton’s favor (57%-43%).

The self-congratulation was immediate. “NEA’s Educators for Hillary program continues to play a critical role in the grassroots effort that has pushed Hillary’s pledged delegate and popular vote leads to insurmountable levels in the Democratic presidential primary,” reads NEA’s press release, while AFT quoted New York State United Teachers president Karen Magee, “And it’s an affirmation of the important role that NYSUT members play in elections when they are engaged and motivated to knock on doors, make phone calls and hand out literature for a candidate they believe in.”

Well, maybe. But Clinton beat Sanders 55%-45% among non-union households, suggesting the organized labor role wasn’t as critical as they believe. Once again, the real deciding factor was Clinton’s strength among minorities. She captured 63% of the Hispanic vote in New York and 75% of the African-American vote.

So while the confetti falls, it’s still not too early to wonder which way President Clinton would lean on education issues where teachers’ unions and minority groups might not see eye-to-eye – like charters, or accountability, or teacher assignment, or even testing. That seat at the table might be at the far end.

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Ohio Education Association’s Finances

Written By: Mike Antonucci - Apr• 19•16

The Ohio Education Association managed to cut staff compensation costs by $12 million in one year. Nevertheless, its post-retirement staff liabilities amount to almost $61.7 million.

Total membership – 118,711, up 28 members

Total revenue – $60.4 million (86.2% came from member dues), down $506,000

Surplus – $6.3 million

Net assets – $45.5 million

Total staff – 221

Staff salaries and benefits – $37.2 million

Highest paid employee – Larry Wicks, former executive director – $177,876 base salary

Highest paid contractorCloppert Latanick Sauter & Washburn – $1,037,757

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Teachers’ Unions Should Mind Their Business

Written By: Mike Antonucci - Apr• 18•16

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