August 29 Communique’ Is Up!

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1) NEA Pledges Additional $5 Million Against California Initiatives
2) Ohio Education Association Plans Internal PR Campaign
3) Will Massachusetts Teachers Association Go After Charter Teachers?
4) Detailed Results Show AFT Was Pummeled in Puerto Rico
5) National Teacher of the Year Speech to NEA Delegates
6) Not Enough Thought Amid the Action
7) Las Vegas Teamsters Will Get to Argue in State Supreme Court
8) AFT President to Meet with KIPP Co-Founders
9) Why Even Hostile NEA Members Should Read the EIA Communiqué
10) Scheduling Note
11) Quote of the Week


Wal-Mart Shoppers, Workers Ignore NEA-AFT in Droves

You’ll need to register with the site to read this article, but it’s worth the effort. Katherine Kersten of the Minneapolis Star-Tribune went to a local Wal-Mart to ask real people about shopping and working there. Turns out they like it, and don’t much care about the boycott or the Wake Up Wal-Mart campaign. Kersten writes:

“A woman loading packs of ballpoint pens into her cart caught my eye. No, she didn’t have 120 children. She was Karla Keller Torp, executive director of the Caring Tree in Bloomington, a nonprofit organization that partners with social service agencies such as the Boys and Girls Clubs to get school supplies to low-income kids across Minnesota.

“Torp told me that 121,000 Minnesota kids live at or below the poverty level. Last year, Caring Tree outfitted 17,000 of them for school. Yes, she knew about the teachers’ union boycott, but wasn’t deterred.

‘At the Caring Tree, we’re trying to squeeze every dollar we have for the sake of the kids. Wal-Mart helps us leverage and maximize our dollars.'”

People exercising their consumer choice is the best response to the union campaign. And isn’t this kind of consumer choice the reason Wal-Mart is being targeted by NEA-AFT, instead of, say, non-union Target, also the focus of a UFCW organizing drive?


The Unthinkable for NCLB Supporters and Foes

* No matter your position on the No Child Left Behind Act — I happen to think it’s a federal power grab but that many of its opponents are hypocritical — you should read this piece by Linda Shaw of the Seattle Times.

The implicit suggestion in the article is that — in Washington State anyway — NCLB will neither work wonders nor utterly destroy public schools. In fact, school districts will simply do what they have always done without much concern about it one way or the other.

“I don’t have the time to worry about it,” said William Miller, superintendent of Wahluke, a small district in Grant County.

I believe this is the default position of any bureaucracy as large as America’s public school system. The people who want reform institute it without federal insistence. The people who don’t want reform won’t institute it no matter who insists. If forced to reform, they will undermine it.

So, as with so many education issues, it devolves to winning or losing the political battle, without any regard for the ultimate outcome.

* Outpost of the Odd: Without a doubt, the low point in the history of California law enforcement.

Have a great weekend!


Dissension in the Ranks and Trips to the Banks

* A few stories today about riled union members:

1) A small group of teachers from the Anchorage Education Association are unhappy about the way contract negotiations are being handled. “We are not pleased with the lack of information being communicated to the general membership by the board that is now doing the bargaining,” said Kelly Parsons, a history teacher at Eagle River High School. Members will vote Monday night on whether to authorize a strike.

2) Family News in Focus reports that the Conservative Educators Caucus is ready to bail out of NEA.

3) The State Employees Association in New Hampshire claims it has 6,000 members, which gives the union the statutory right to collect agency fees from the 4,000 non-members. “I think it stinks, to tell you the truth,” said Cindy Heisler, who works in payroll for the state Department of Agriculture. It isn’t widely understood that unions want agency fees not so much for the extra money it brings in, but because they induce non-members to become members.

4) If you’re following the Northwest strike, you don’t want to miss this post on the pro-union Working Life blog. Solidarity forever!

* What do Central Islip, New York, and New Orleans, Louisiana, have in common? Not much, except scandals where employees have been ripping off the school district.

* My favorite headline this week comes from the Duluth News Tribune, about its new school superintendent, Keith Dixon:

Dixon opens doors to unions, others

It’s heartwarming to see how taxpayers, parents and principals rate the status of “others” behind the true focus of the school system.


Good News, Bad News for California Initiatives

* A new “Contract Hits” has been posted.

* A new poll in California shows two of Gov. Schwarzenegger’s three initiatives appear to be dead in the water, but the one still floating is his teacher tenure measure, with 49 percent support (42 percent opposed). Even that isn’t much good news. Traditionally, yes votes erode as election day approaches.

The paycheck protection initiative, which the governor hasn’t yet endorsed, is the strongest of the bunch, with 58 percent support (33 percent opposed). Its ultimate fate depends entirely on whether campaign history repeats itself.

In 1998, Californians voted on a paycheck protection initiative. Two and a half months before the election (as it is now), support for the measure was at 60 percent with 29 percent opposed. But it was defeated on election day — 46.5 percent to 53.5 percent.

The state’s political dynamics and the public’s attitude towards government is different today than it was then, but the public employees’ unions also have a lot more money to throw around these days. It will be close, one way or the other.

* Next time you hear about a teacher shortage, think of Theresa Porter.

* A group in Montgomery County, Maryland, wants the school district to stop designating certain kids as “gifted and talented” because “children suffer when some are labeled gifted and others are not.”

Which, of course, brings us to Syndrome, the villain in Disney’s 2004 cartoon feature The Incredibles, who rants: “And when I’m old and I’ve had my fun, I’ll sell my inventions so that everyone can have powers. Everyone can be super! And when everyone’s super… no one will be.”


Almost Heaven

* The West Virginia Education Association held a news conference yesterday to complain about its state ranking of 47th in teacher salaries. The union is calling for across-the-board salary increases of 15 percent over three years. There has also been some (illegal) strike talk.

The response has been mixed. One newspaper raised the specter of teachers fleeing the state for higher-paying jobs in Pennsylvania, Maryland, Ohio, Virginia and Kentucky. EIA hears this argument all the time, but has yet to see an empirical study of how many teachers actually cross state lines for higher pay and what the net effect is on any particular state.

Gripes about state rankings also raise the question: Which state should be 47th? One of them has to be, but no one wants the job.

There is also the question of benefits. West Virginia spent more than 44 cents on teacher benefits in 2002-03 for every dollar it spent on teacher salaries. That number places the state second in the nation (just behind Indiana).

Local columnist Chris Stirewalt delves deeper into the issue, and gives us a nice little lesson in medieval English history, too.

* Here’s a capsulized view of the Massachusetts Federation of Teachers’ efforts to organize charter school employees in the state.


Huh? Times Three

* David Heiber, assistant principal at Thurgood Marshall Middle School in Baltimore, ran 13 miles to other middle schools in the area, to collect donations for building repairs at his school. Nice human interest, local TV news kind of story. Except district officials say Heiber’s school only needs cosmetic work, and that Heiber wants things like mini-blinds for all the classrooms.

I ran 13.1 miles through San Diego last week. No news story and no mini-blinds. Just this nice photo.

* Officials from Falcon School District 49 in Colorado are baffled because enrollment decreased 26 percent from October 2004 to May 2005. They blame the decline on crowded schools. Which brings to mind the classic quote from Yogi Berra: “Nobody goes there anymore; it’s too crowded.”

* Lots of people will analyze the results of the 37th Annual Phi Delta Kappa/Gallup Poll for its implications regarding public education. I like its insights into human nature instead.

Fifty-nine percent of respondents said they knew “very little” or “nothing at all” about the No Child Left Behind Act — even though the law is now four years old and has been reported and commented on to death in the nation’s media.

That would be bad enough, but worse is the fact that 40 percent of those who said they knew “very little” about the law still felt confident enough to express an opinion on whether it was good or not. And an amazing 23 percent of those who said they knew “nothing at all” about NCLB still expressed an opinion about it. By the way, both of these groups split pretty evenly on NCLB’s merits, so neither side is winning the PR battle for the support of the ignorant.