A listening post monitoring public education and teachers’ unions.

NEA Convention 2014: We’re Gonna Need More Press Releases

Written By: Mike Antonucci - Jul• 03•14

New Business Item 10 will be presented to the delegates for a vote in the next day or so. It states:

The NEA shall respond with a news release to any action openly hostile to the NEA’s position, as expressed in its resolutions or legislative platform. The news release is to be sent to the media outlets in the community where the hostile action takes place, including rationale for protesting the action along with the distribution of talking points to our members. The NEA President shall determine when such a news release is warranted.


NEA Convention 2014: “Toxic Testing”

Written By: Mike Antonucci - Jul• 03•14

After the opening ceremonies and the keynote speech by NEA president Dennis Van Roekel, the delegates will be presented for their approval (and the public for their scrutiny) the union’s newest campaign against what it has branded “toxic testing.”

New Business Item A comes from the national union’s board of directors, and demands to “end the high stakes use of standardized tests.” It calls for action by the President, Congress, the U.S. Department of Education, the U.S. Consumer Protection Bureau, the Federal Trade Commission, states, and the public.

New Business Item B is titled “Redefining Public School Accountability” and will convene a group of union officers to “develop plans for a full system of public school accountability and support.”

The coupled items are meant to present both a defensive and offensive effort on the issues of testing and evaluation.


NEA Convention 2014: Membership Declines for Fifth Straight Year

Written By: Mike Antonucci - Jul• 02•14

I have covered the open hearing on NEA’s strategic plan and budget for 16 consecutive years. Fifteen minutes before the start of this year’s presentation, I learned that “open” had been redefined to “open to NEA members only.” Or, in layman’s terms, “closed.”

This was a troublesome obstacle, but not an insurmountable one. I can still report that in 2013-14 NEA lost members for the fifth consecutive year, and expects to continue to lose members for the next two years at least.

Here is the breakdown in full-time equivalents (FTEs) for both active professionals and education support employees since 2010-11 and extending to 2015-16. The use of FTEs corrects for members who pay less than full dues, and members belonging to merged affiliates, who split their dues between NEA and AFT. “Active” members are those currently working in the public schools.

2010-11 actual : 2,239,000

2011-12 actual: 2,153,000

2012-13 actual: 2,106,000

2013-14 projected*: 2,045,000

2014-15 projected: 2,015,000

2015-16 projected: 1,990,000

*NEA’s fiscal year ends August 31, so this projection should be very accurate.

When I am able I will report on the number of warm bodies who are NEA members, and break down those numbers by state, but they are not as easy to obtain as they were when membership was growing.

The national union will present a 2014-15 budget of $354.9 million to the delegates for approval, and a 2015-16 budget of $354.2 million. It includes a 3 percent raise for the executive officers, in line with what NEA reports as being granted to its national staff.


NEA Convention 2014: Drumming Up Labor Strife

Written By: Mike Antonucci - Jul• 02•14

Greetings from Denver, where the 2014 National Education Association Representative Assembly will officially open tomorrow. Today the delegates were themselves greeted by picketing NEA employees, who want the members to know that not only are they working without a contract, but that NEA management informed them it would no longer abide by every provision in the expired contract.

Let a school district try that and see what happens.



Off to Denver

Written By: Mike Antonucci - Jul• 01•14

I’m told it was 90 degrees in Denver yesterday. I better bring a coat.



Supreme Court Slaps Down Union Overreach

Written By: Mike Antonucci - Jun• 30•14

The U.S. Supreme Court allowed agency fees to survive as a general practice in its Harris v. Quinn ruling, but put an end to the wholesale conversion of home caregivers into union members.

Both NEA and AFT issued statements decrying the decision as an affront to working families and a sop to corporate interests.

Everyone has an opinion about what this all means for the future, but clearly the key element was the provision in the affected Illinois law that stated the caregivers were public employees “[s]olely for the purposes of coverage under the Illinois Public Labor Relations Act.”

This appears to be a rather blatant acknowledgment that the law was enacted only to swell union membership. But there was a more important and eminently more practical reason not to make them full-fledged state workers, as Justice Alito alluded to:

Just as the State denies personal assistants most of the rights and benefits enjoyed by full-fledged state workers, the State does not assume responsibility for actions taken by personal assistants during the course of their employ­ment. The governing statute explicitly disclaims “vicari­ous liability in tort.” Ibid. So if a personal assistant steals from a customer, neglects a customer, or abuses a customer, the State washes its hands.

That washing cleans both hands, because despite being “public employees,” the caregivers aren’t protected by the state’s whistleblower act.

So much for the workers’ voice.

There is good news for the unions. There are still more than 700,000 employees in the state of Illinois who actually work for the government.


Quote of the Week

Written By: Mike Antonucci - Jun• 27•14

There will be no communiqué on Monday, but I wanted to make sure we had a Quote of the Week anyway.

The reality is that there is no real war between teachers unions and Democratic education reformers. At least there shouldn’t be. Many Democratic reformers will tell you they support unions in the traditional sense of the word: teachers should be able to elect representatives that look out for their best interests in the workplace, and they should be able to use collective bargaining to ensure fair treatment. And, many teachers will tell you they want to do what’s best for their kids and that they believe in education reform. Problems arise when unions chip away at management rights, build school boards that operate in the interests of the unions themselves, and use their resources to elect policymakers who are required to listen only to them when it comes to education policy. That’s not good for educational quality, and that means it’s not good for kids. Unions are disingenuous when they claim to represent the interests of the students. That’s not what they were created to do and is not what they are paid by their members to do.

- Harrison Blackmond, Michigan state director of Democrats for Education Reform and former UniServ director and staff attorney for the Michigan Education Association. (June 25 DFER blog)