Charter School Labor Relations

* Here’s a story you won’t see too often. The Grossmont Union High School District is involved in a bitter contract dispute with the local teachers’ union. But the district contains the Helix Charter High School, run by an independent board of directors, whose teachers are also represented by the local teachers’ union.

The district’s regular teachers appear to be headed for a strike, but the charter school teachers have already settled a contract with Helix’s board of directors. Now Helix’s parents are demanding that the Grossmont district release the funds to pay for the new contract. They fear their settlement will be held hostage by the poor relationship between the district and the union.

Maybe that vaunted charter school flexibility also oozes into labor relations. Wouldn’t that be ironic?

* Last week, Intercepts noted that the Cleveland public schools seemed to have made a tiny little error in counting their excused student absences for the year. Yesterday, a Cleveland school official acknowledged that the correct number of absences was not 620, but 519,000. This is an error roughly equivalent to inviting the Members of Congress, the Cabinet and the Supreme Court to a charity event and having the entire population of Washington, DC show up.

* Outpost of the Odd: A college student has sued her school under the Americans with Disabilities Act because it won’t let her keep her pet ferret in the dormitory. University officials can avoid the suit by claiming the Endangered Species Act requires them to keep one of these in the dormitory as well.

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Oh Canada!

* Our neighbors to the north are dealing with an illegal teacher strike in an intriguing way. The British Columbia Supreme Court ruled that the 40,000 member British Columbia Teachers Federation (BCTF) can no longer issue strike pay, or spend any union funds in support of the strike. That means no spending on communications, signs or any other method to further the job action. The court appointed a monitor to oversee the BCTF books to enforce the ruling.

This was actually a half-measure, as the court decided not to freeze the union’s operating funds, or send anyone to jail for contempt of court. The BCTF web site hasn’t addressed the ruling, but the page is still loaded with strike news and information, so we’ll see if there is a showdown brewing.

Washington Education Association President Charles Hasse addressed BCTF rallies in Sooke and Vancouver Island earlier this week. EIA is reminded of the near-strike in Issaquah in 2002 and wonders if WEA is still giving the same advice (see “Why ‘No Strike’ Laws Are a Waste of Paper“).

* The Liberty Counsel, a Christian conservative law firm, and the Christian Educators Association International are teaming up on an education and litigation campaign to see to it that Christmas celebrations are permitted in public schools and government offices and buildings. This isn’t a new battle. These folks, among others, have been trying to put Christ back in Christmas for years. Adeste fideles!

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Arguably?

* The editors of the Sacramento Bee have announced their opposition to Proposition 75, California’s paycheck protection initiative. This is not very surprising. But there’s a sentence in their editorial that just blows me away:

“Proponents of this measure claim it protects individual rights – which is arguably in the public interest – by requiring that public employee unions gain the explicit permission of members before spending their money for political purposes.”

Protecting individual rights is arguably in the public interest?

EIA performed some deep and extensive research this morning, and discovered this document, which I’m not sure the Bee editors have heard of, but it does have something to do with protecting individual rights.

* Here’s a shocker: Some people are wondering if Syrian Interior Minister Ghazi Kenaan actually committed suicide, even though the Syrian authorities insist he did. Syria’s foreign minister blames Kenaan’s death on the Lebanese media, while Syria’s attorney general wrapped up his one-day investigation just in time for Kenaan’s rather rapid funeral.

Let’s put it this way: if you believe the man who ruled Lebanon with an iron fist for 20 years was so overwrought by Lebanese press reports and a United Nations investigation that he shot himself, then you also have to believe that this guy will hang himself after a bad editorial in the New York Post and a harshly worded letter from the General Accounting Office.

* A new Contract Hits is up.

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Bringing Home the Davis-Bacon

The unions beat the Bush Administration about the head and shoulders for waiving the Davis-Bacon Act prevailing wage provisions for post-Katrina construction and renovation projects. “For the president to drive down wages further at a time when so many are in need of a paycheck is both exploitative and cruel,” said AFT President Ed McElroy.

Mickey Kaus did something the media failed to do: ask people involved exactly what effect Davis-Bacon provisions would have on a massive reconstruction like that facing us in the Katrina states. His conclusion: “Preserving Davis-Bacon may endear Democrats to the AFL-CIO’s construction unions, but it’s a slightly trickier case to make to voters–‘Hey, this will really slow rebuilding and make it way more expensive for taxpayers!'”

Check out the Kaus entries on the topic here and here.

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Kansas to Consider Dumping NCLB?

* Kansas Board of Education President Steve Abrams wants the board to consider opting out of the No Child Left Behind Act. “I’m trying to get to the bottom line to see what’s required, to see if there’s a benefit,” he told the Associated Press. Unlike other opponents of the law, Abrams would ask the state to simply forgo the federal Title I funds to free itself from the NCLB regulations.

* Want to make a killing in the real estate market? Sell to a school district.

* Syria’s Interior Minister Brig. Gen. Ghazi Kenaan committed “suicide” in his office… probably by failing to duck.

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80% of NYC Union Delegates Approve Contract… or Maybe 60%… or Maybe 75%

* Everyone agrees that the delegate assembly of the United Federation of Teachers approved the tentative contract agreement with the City of New York. But what was the margin?

Virtually all union assemblies are governed by Robert’s Rules of Order, which allow voice votes. If the voice vote is in dispute, a standing vote can be called for, and if that is in dispute, a roll call. How you move from one to the next is a judgment call. Roll calls are rare.

The contract vote was equivalent to a standing vote, with the delegates raising cards to signify their vote on one side or the other. The various claims about the margin illustrate its limitations. The UFT press release states “more than 80 percent” approved the contract. The New York Daily News reported “a 3-to-1 ratio.” The ICEUFT blog, opponents of the contract, said “60% in favor and 40% against.”

Fortunately, in this case the rank-and-file will get to vote by secret ballot. But most union policies are approved or defeated by unknown margins in anonymous fashion (voice vote) or without a permanent record of who voted how (standing vote).

* You can argue until the cows come home about whether charter schools are good or bad, but at least in California, the market is already deciding. And deciding.

* Unions protect workers against profit-hungry corporations. Unless, of course, they are one.

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