Beware of Union-Led Anti-Republican Politicking in Your Kids’ Classrooms

I watched the GOP presidential debate because my students are counting on me” is the title of a piece posted on the National Education Association website by “guest writer” Tom McLaughlin, a high school drama teacher from Council Bluffs, IA. He claims that “… in addition to this debate, I had an obligation to watch future debates, take notes, and share the truth. I have a responsibility to do that for my students.” (Hmm – just why is a drama teacher delving into politics with his students? Brought back memories of a Che Guevara poster prominently displayed in the music teacher’s class at my former middle school.)

So in any event, I’m thinking this will be a commentary about Common Core, since it garnered the only discussion of education at the first Republican debate in Cleveland last Thursday. In reality, that issue provoked a brief back-and-forth between Jeb Bush and Marco Rubio which really didn’t shed much light on the subject. But the words “Common Core” never appear in the piece by McLaughlin. Instead, the drama teacher’s “truth sharing” includes comments like:

Many of the candidates on last night’s stage have clear records of draining critical funding away from public schools to give to private schools, supporting charter schools that are unaccountable to students, parents and taxpayers, and slashing education funding and those programs that serve students and help them in the classroom.

As educators and trusted messengers in our communities, we must make sure the public is informed and not fooled by presidential candidates who say they believe in a world-class education system but have a history of starving our public schools of critical funding and supporting flawed so-called reforms that don’t work.

Obviously McLaughlin never intended to report on the debate, but rather to deliver a diatribe infused with standard teacher union talking points against any and all who favor reform and dare have an “R” after their names. (Curiously, Chris Christie, Scott Walker and Jeb Bush all took shots at the teachers unions during the debate and there was no mention of them in McLaughlin’s critique.)

Over at the “NEA Votes” Facebook page, the union faithful were having a field day with McLaughlin’s post and the debate. With one or two exceptions, the comments were posted by pro-union mouthpieces using the same tired talking points that the union elite use. Perhaps the loopiest of all was a post that equated conservatism with Fascism:

The scary part of all this is that these teachers, who don’t seem to have an objective bone in their collective bodies – and are proud of it – have a captive audience of children, many of whom will be the recipients of their teachers’ anti-reform, anti-school choice and anti-Republican rhetoric leading up to the presidential election in 2016.

If you are a Republican parent (or just a fair-minded one of any political persuasion), please be ready for the political onslaught supporting the Big Government-Big Union complex (aka the Blob) your kids may be in for. When the indoctrination starts, don’t be shy about speaking up. Please mention to anyone who is spouting the union party line (and your kids) that in Jeb Bush’s Florida, there are more than 40,000 teachers who do not work for school districts and 14,000 of them have chosen to work in charter schools. They’ve made these choices for the same reason parents do – because charters offer a better fit for their individual needs.

Tell them that despite McLaughlin’s absurd comment, charter and private schools are indeed accountable … to parents. If parents aren’t happy with those schools, they close, unlike traditional public schools which are accountable to no one and typically get more money thrown their way if they are failing.

Tell them that we have tripled our public education funding nationally – in constant dollars – over the last 40 years and have nothing to show for it.

Tell them that Wisconsin’s test scores have risen since the teachers unions’ favorite Republican punching bag Scott Walker has been governor.

Tell them that homeschooling is advancing across the country – especially in big cities – because parents of all political stripes are tired of a one-size-fits-all Blob education.

Tell them that in California, the Blob is under attack and that the effort is bipartisan. The StullReed and Vergara lawsuits, all of which have successfully challenged Blob work rules like tenure and seniority and fought to get a realistic teacher evaluation system in place, have seen Republicans and Democrats working together to undo the mess that McLaughlin and his ilk have helped to create.

Perhaps most importantly explain that when it comes to education policy reform, the battle is not typically between Democrats and Republicans or liberals and conservatives, but rather between those who defend the status quo and those who are demanding reasonable reforms to an outsized, outdated, outmoded and out-of-touch educational system.

When I was growing up, I never had a clue what my teachers’ politics were. They understood they were not there to indoctrinate me. Accordingly, I followed suit when I taught public school for 28 years. But there are many now who have decided not to check their politics at the classroom door, instead bringing it to their students with a religious zeal that makes Elmer Gantry look like a wallflower. Many teachers now take their cue from the likes of National Education Association Executive Director John Stocks who, at the recent NEA convention, told his flock that teachers need to become “social justice warriors.”

Silly me, all along I thought teachers were there to teach.

Larry Sand, a former classroom teacher, is the president of the non-profit California Teachers Empowerment Network – a non-partisan, non-political group dedicated to providing teachers and the general public with reliable and balanced information about professional affiliations and positions on educational issues. The views presented here are strictly his own.

SCOTUS’ Decision To Hear Friedrichs Case Has Unions In A Tizzy

Rebecca FriedrichsOn June 30th, the Supreme Court decided to hear Friedrichs v. California Teachers Association et al, a case that could seriously change the way the public employee unions (PEUs) do business. If the plaintiffs are victorious, teachers, nurses, sanitation workers, etc. would be able to work without the financial burden of paying union dues. The responses to the Court’s decision from the teachers unions and their friends have ranged from silly to contradictory to blatantly dishonest.

In a rare event, leaders of the NEA, AFT, CTA, AFSCME and SEIU released a joint statementexplaining that worker freedom would be a catastrophe for the Republic. Clutching their hankies, they told us that, “big corporations and the wealthy few are rewriting the rules in their favor, knocking American families and our entire economy off-balance.” And then, with an obvious attempt at eliciting a gasp, “…the Supreme Court has chosen to take a case that threatens the fundamental promise of America.” (Perhaps the labor bosses misunderstood the wording of the preamble to the Constitution, “In order to form a more perfect union….” No, this was not an attempt to organize workers.) While the U.S. is not without its problems, removing forced unionism will hardly dent the “fundamental promise of America.”

The California Federation of Teachers, which typically is at the forefront of any class warfare sorties, didn’t disappoint. The union claims on its website that the activity of union foes “has resulted in a sharp decline in median wages for working people and the decline of the middle class alongside the increasing concentration of income and wealth in the hands of the one per cent.” But wait a minute – the unions are the most potent political force in the country today and have been for a while. According to Open Secrets, between 1989-2014, the much maligned one-percenter Koch Brothers ranked 59th in political donations behind 18 different unions. The National Education Association was #4 at $53,594,488 and the American Federation of Teachers was 12th at $36,713,325, while the Kochs spent a measly $18,083,948 during that time period. Also, as Mike Antonucci reports, the two national teachers unions, NEA and AFT, spend more on politics than AT&T, Goldman Sachs, Wal-Mart, Microsoft, General Electric, Chevron, Pfizer, Morgan Stanley, Lockheed Martin, FedEx, Boeing, Merrill Lynch, Exxon Mobil, Lehman Brothers, and the Walt Disney Corporation, combined.”

So the question to the unions becomes, “With your extraordinary political clout and assertion that working people’s wages and membership in the middle class are declining, just what good have you done?”

Apparently very little. In fact, the National Institute for Labor Relations Research reports that when disposable personal income – personal income minus taxes – is adjusted for differences in living costs, the seven states with the lowest incomes per capita (Alaska, California, Hawaii, Maine, Oregon, Vermont, and West Virginia) are forced-union states. “Of the nine states with the highest cost of living-adjusted disposable incomes in 2011, Iowa, Kansas, Nebraska, North Dakota, South Dakota, Texas, Virginia and Wyoming all have Right to Work laws.” Overall, the cost of living-adjusted disposable income per capita for Right to Work states in 2011 “was more than $36,800, or roughly $2200 higher than the average for forced-unionism states.”

But the most galling and downright fraudulent union allegations about Friedrichs concern the “free rider” issue. If the case is successful, public employees will have a choice whether or not they have to pay dues to a union as a condition of employment. (There are 25 states where workers now have this choice, but in the other 25 they are forced to pay to play.) The unions claim that since they are forced to represent all workers, that those who don’t pay their “fair share” are “freeloaders” or “free riders.” The unions would have a point if someone was sticking a gun to their collective heads and said, “Like it or not, you must represent all workers.” But as Iwrote recently, the forced representation claim is a big fat lie. Heritage Foundation senior policy analyst James Sherk explains:

The National Labor Relations Act (NLRA) allows unions that demonstrate majority support to negotiate as exclusive representatives. If they do so they must negotiate fairly on behalf of all employees, including those who do not pay dues. However unions may disavow (or not obtain) exclusive representative status and negotiate only for their members. Nothing in the National Labor Relations Act forces exclusive representation on unwilling unions.(Emphasis added.)

Mike Antonucci adds:

The very first thing any new union wants is exclusivity. No other unions are allowed to negotiate on behalf of people in the bargaining unit. Unit members cannot hire their own agent, nor can they represent themselves. Making people pay for services they neither asked for nor want is a ‘privilege’ we reserve for government, not for private organizations. Unions are freeloading on those additional dues.

If there are still any doubters, George Meany, the first president of the AFL-CIO, whose rein began in 1955 and continued for 24 years, told Congress:

When a union has exclusive recognition with a federal activity or agency, that union is required to represent all workers in that unit, whether or not those workers are members of the union. We do not contest this requirement. We support it for federal service, just as we support it in private industry labor-management relations.

While the NLRA applies only to private employee unions, the same types of rules invariably govern PEUs. Passed in 1976, California’s Rodda Act allows for exclusive representation and it’s up to each school district and its local union whether or not they want to roll that way. However, it is clearly in the best interest of the union to be the only representative for teachers because it then gets to collect dues from every teacher in the district. It’s also easier on school boards as they only have to deal with one bargaining entity. So it is really a corrupt bargain; there is no law foisting exclusivity on any teachers union in the state.

So exclusive representation is good for the unions and simplifies life for the school boards, but very bad for teachers who want nothing to do with organized labor. It is also important to keep in mind that the Friedrichs case is not an attempt to “bust unions.” This silly mantra is a diversionary tactic; the case in no way suggests a desire to do away with unions. So when organized labor besieges us with histrionics about “the promise of America,” the dying middle class, free riders etc., please remind them (with a nod to President Obama), “If you like your union, you can keep your union.” In this case, it’s the truth.

Originally published by Unionwatch.org

Larry Sand, a former classroom teacher, is the president of the non-profit California Teachers Empowerment Network – a non-partisan, non-political group dedicated to providing teachers and the general public with reliable and balanced information about professional affiliations and positions on educational issues. The views presented here are strictly his own.

American Workers Subsidizing Unions With Tax Dollars

In St. Charles, IL, a teacher is paid $141,105 not to teach. In Philadelphia, “ghost employees” who don’t do work for the state collect benefits from the state. In Kalamazoo, MI a former teacher is collecting a government pension of $85,903 a year even though he didn’t teach his last 14 years, but instead worked as a union employee.

Called “release time,” or “official time” at the federal level, it’s a practice that allows public employees to conduct union business during working hours without loss of pay. These activities include negotiating contracts, lobbying, processing grievances, and attending union meetings and conferences.

According to Trey Kovacs, a policy analyst at the Competitive Enterprise Institute, this racket has cost the federal government about $1 billion since 1998. Between 2008 and 2011, the fraud has increased from 2.9 million hours at a cost of $121 million to 3.4 million hours at a cost of $155 million.

School boards, which frequently consist of members bought and paid for by the teachers unions, are particularly guilty of this crime against the taxpayer. In CA, where the California Teachers Association wields great power, the situation is particularly egregious. Typically this scam is written into collective bargaining contracts and comes in different flavors. Sometimes the school district will pay for the cost of a sub if the teacher/union employee needs to do work for the union. In Los Angeles, page 6 of the teacher contract states that the United Teachers of Los Angeles “may request the release of designated employees from their regular duties with no loss of pay for the purpose of attending to UTLA matters, with the expense of the substitute or replacement to be borne by UTLA.”

Sounds fair, right? But it’s not.

The substitute invariably makes a lot less than the teacher/union employee and the taxpayer is sucking up the difference in pay. The teacher is also racking up pension time, (which is taxpayer-subsidized), while doing union work. And of course the students lose out by having frequent subs, who often are nothing more than placeholders.

In other districts, the union gets a completely free pass. Page 15 of Orange County’s Fountain Valley School District contract reads, “The Association (union) President or designee may utilize one (1) day per week for Association business. The District shall bear the cost of the substitutes.” So a classroom teacher of 15 years, who doubles as union president, makes an$89,731 yearly salary, or $485 a day. The taxpayer is also paying $100 a day for a sub which brings the total to $585 for one day of union business per week. Repeated over the 38 week teaching year, the taxpayer is on the hook for $22,230. And that amount does not include the thousands of dollars the employer (ultimately the taxpayer) has to pay for contributions to the teacher/union leader’s retirement fund, health benefits, unemployment insurance and workers compensation.

With over a thousand school districts in the state doing business like Los Angeles and Fountain Valley, we are talking about serious larceny.

Not everyone has rolled over and accepted this criminal arrangement. Jim Gibson, a former Marine Corps Captain who had sat on the Vista Unified School District board for 13 years, was outraged at the fraudulent set-up and decided to act. He initiated a lawsuit against the Vista Teachers Association in 2011, using a section of the California education code to make his case:

The governing board of a school district shall grant to any employee, upon request, a leave of absence without loss of compensation for the purpose of enabling the employee to serve as an elected officer of any local school district public employee organization, or any statewide or national public employee organization with which the local organization is affiliated.

… Following the school district’s payment of the employee for the leave of absence, the school district shall be reimbursed by the employee organization of which the employee is an elected officer for all compensation paid the employee on account of the leave.Reimbursement by the employee organization shall be made within 10 days after its receipt of the school district’s certification of payment of compensation to the employee. (Emphasis added.)

Gibson and the school district won the case.  All monies paid to do union business were ordered to be repaid by the union to the district. This ruling should have had ramifications statewide, but clearly it hasn’t. And things won’t change until enough citizens rise up and put an end to it.

What can be done?

One way to stop the criminal practice of taxpayer-supported “release time” would be to open collective bargaining negotiations to the public. That kind of sunlight would go a long way toward disinfecting wounds inflicted by unions and compliant school board members.

More than anything, citizens need to get involved. Examine the part of your local teacher union contract that is headed Organizational Security, Association Rights or (Name of local union) Rights. Ask your local school board president how the district deals with this policy. Go to school board meetings and ask questions about the contract wording and ask for verification that that district actually lives up to the contract. Talk to your friends, family, neighbors and your kid’s teacher. Talk to the media if necessary.

If we the people don’t care enough to stop it, union orchestrated taxpayer theft will go on unabated.

Larry Sand, a former classroom teacher, is the president of the non-profit California Teachers Empowerment Network – a non-partisan, non-political group dedicated to providing teachers and the general public with reliable and balanced information about professional affiliations and positions on educational issues. The views presented here are strictly his own.

Teachers Union Determined to Purge Koch Brothers from College Campuses

Koch BrothersThe National Education Association’s mission to drive Charles and David Koch, the two wealthy philanthropist brothers from Kansas, into the sea is showing no signs of slowing down. According to its latest Labor Department filing, the nation’s biggest union gifted $150,000 (up from a mere $100,000 the year before) to the American Bridge, a leftist hit-PAC whose mission is to annihilate every politico whose politics run to the right of the late Joe Stalin. (Nothing new here: Over the years, NEA has lavished gifts on such leftist stalwarts as MALDEF, People for the American Way, Media Matters, ACORN, Al Sharpton’s National Action Network and Occupy Wall Street.)

The American Bridge’s latest gambit is to remove the Koch brothers’ influence from 250 campuses where they support educational initiatives in economics, philosophy, entrepreneurship, criminal justice and other disciplines. A recent case in point: Mississippi State will soon launch the Institute for Market Studies, which was made possible in part by a $365,000 grant from the Charles Koch Foundation. But before its launch, American Bridge filed an open-records request seeking emails between professors, and between the school’s faculty and the Koch foundation. This is nothing more than an intimidation tactic to discourage the faculty from participating in the venture.

Sadly the above is hardly an isolated incident. “UnKoch My Campus,” another group of NEA fellow travelers, is busy all over the country trying rid our schools of the dreaded brothers. From the NEA website,

Between 2005 and 2013, the billionaire Koch brothers spent at least $68 million on college and university campuses — to fund faculty, research and publications, and to spread their anti-worker gospel to generations of students.

Last week, NEA Higher Ed faculty and staff leaders sat down in a windowless room in Orlando, Fla., and pledged to shine a light on those Koch campus investments — as well as the pernicious effects of the broad ‘corporatization’ of public higher education.

This is about corporate interests trying to control higher education. The Koch brothers are just one of those interests,’ said Theresa Montano, president of NEA’s National Council for Higher Education, who called for greater transparency of where that money goes and what exactly it buys.

After reading the above, one would think that the Kochs want to exploit and corporatize the schools they donate to, and run them as right wing monoliths. But nothing could be further from the truth. The Kochs are libertarians which pretty much rules out the dictator angle. But in another post on the NEA website, we learn the real reason for the NEA’s enmity toward the brothers – the Kochs want to “… limit the rights of teachers, firefighters, police and other public workers through ‘right to work’ legislation and the elimination of fair share.”

There it is! The union dreads the Kochs, not because they want to rule the world but because they have the audacity to want to free workers from being forced to join a union if they don’t choose to. And freedom to the unions is like a crucifix to Dracula. Lindsey Berger, the co-founder of UnKoch My Campus, pretty much admits this. Quoted on the NEA website, she says, “Every dollar spent by Koch in academics is there for a reason.” And then, quoting Charles Koch, “There are basically four ways in which we can fight for free enterprise. Through education, through the media, by legal challenge, and by political action…I do maintain however that the educational route is the most vital and most neglected.”

So in addition to worker freedom, we can add “fighting for free enterprise” as a reason why the union loathes the brothers.

Are the NEA and friends’ attempts at capitalism-bashing effective? It has worked on college campuses where many students are taught that capitalism is the root of all evil (while they enjoy their  many toys and comfy lifestyle that were created by it.) They are also not taught that a competitive market and freedom of speech are inexorably tied, or that the most successful countries in the world employ free markets, or that global poverty has been cut in half in the last 20 years primarily due to capitalism.

As the battles rage on our college campuses, the anti-Koch strategy may not be working so well in the political realm, however. In fact, several Democratic officials have blamed their party’spoor showing in the 2014 election on its obsession with the brothers. “[Attacking the Koch brothers] raises money for sure. But is it good to motivate a voter? No,” said one anonymous state party executive director. Minnesota Democratic-Farmer-Labor Party chairman Ken Martin said, “Americans are focused on bread and butter issues and could care less about who is funding the campaigns.”

No matter. The NEA won’t stop its assault on the Kochs. The union’s leaders are obsessed to the point of derangement, as worker freedom and free markets are anathema to their existence. The Kochs scare them to death. As well they should.

Originally published by UnionWatch.org

Larry Sand, a former classroom teacher, is the president of the non-profit California Teachers Empowerment Network – a non-partisan, non-political group dedicated to providing teachers and the general public with reliable and balanced information about professional affiliations and positions on educational issues. The views presented here are strictly his own.

Hardball tactics pay off for L.A. teachers with 10% raise

Hardball paid off for the United Teachers Los Angeles late Friday when negotiators reached tentative agreement on a three-year deal that provides L.A. Unified teachers with a 10 percent pay raise in the first two years. That’s far more than other LAUSD unions got in collective bargaining.

The deal was sold as a win-win proposition by both LAUSD and UTLA leaders. But for nearly a year, LAUSD number-crunchers had fought for a much smaller raise in briefing L.A. school board members, citing the need to prepare for the pain of the phased-in 130 percent increase in district contributions to the California State Teachers’ Retirement System required by the 2014 CalSTRS bailout legislation.

The CalSTRS fix will cost LAUSD an extra $1 billion a year in fiscal 2020-21 when the phase-in is complete. That’s a giant burden for a district that this fiscal year has a $6.6 billion budget.

Nevertheless, school board members were ready for labor peace after the UTLA took serious steps toward a districtwide strike. They not only agreed to a 10 percent raise over two years, they dropped their hard line on making teachers pay more toward their health benefits.

Union ID’d funds for raises that were supposedly encumbered

The question of whether LAUSD had the legal authority to grant the raises never was seriously addressed. Early in negotiations, the UTLA sought a 17.6 percent immediate raise and cited the influx of funds the district had available because of the Local Control Funding Formula reform adopted by the Legislature in 2013.

That reform was supposed to earmark additional school funds for districts to specifically help troubled English-language learners and other struggling students. When the reform was adopted, Gov. Jerry Brown depicted it as a “revolutionary” step toward helping ensure California had a skilled workforce in coming generations. His aides downplayed the idea that the reform could be gamed at the local level by powerful local union chapters.

However, the Brown administration had no reaction to a Legislative Analyst’s Office report in January that none of 50 California school districts it surveyed, including the 11 largest, had adequate safeguards to make sure the funds were not diverted.

Another aspect of the labor talks also received little attention from the mainstream media. That was UTLA’s claim that members had not received a raise in eight years. In fact, in most California school districts, teachers receive automatic pay raises of 3.5 to 4 percent for 15 of their first 20 years on the job — “step” increases. They can also improve their pay classification by taking graduate coursework in any field — “column” increases.

In large school districts, this usually means at least 60 percent of teachers get pay-scale raises every year. The percentage is higher in districts with more turnover.

Originally published by CalWatchdog.com

New lawsuit challenges hegemony of CA teachers unions

For the third time in three years, a lawsuit has been filed in California that challenges the way the teachers unions do business. In May 2012, eight California public school children filed Vergara et al v. the State of California et al in an attempt to “strike down outdated state laws that prevent the recruitment, support and retention of effective teachers.” Realizing that some of their most cherished work rules were in jeopardy, the California Teachers Association and the California Federation of Teachers chose to join the case as defendants in May 2013.

But three days before they signed on to Vergara, the unions were targeted again. On April 29, 2013, the Center for Individual Rights filed suit on behalf of ten California teachers against CTA and the National Education Association. The Friedrichs case challenges the constitutionality of California’s agency shop law, which forces public school educators to pay dues to a teachers union whether they want to or not.

Now in April 2015, the teachers unions are facing yet another rebellion by some of its members. Bain et al v. CTA et al, a lawsuit brought by StudentsFirst, a Sacramento-based activist outfit founded by Michelle Rhee, was filed on behalf of four public school teachers in federal court in California. It challenges a union rule concerning members who refuse to pay the political portion of their dues. Contrary to what many believe, teachers are not forced to join a union as a condition of employment in California, but they are forced to pay dues. Most pay the full share, typically over $1,000 a year, but some opt out of paying the political or “non-chargeable” part, which brings their yearly outlay down to about $600. However, to become “agency fee payers,” those teachers must resign from the union and relinquish most perks they had by being full dues-paying members. And this is at the heart of Bain. As EdSource’s John Fensterwald writes:

Although paying this portion is optional, the teachers charge that the unions punish those who choose not to pay it by kicking them out of the union and denying them additional economic benefits, such as better disability and life insurance policies. The unions provide those benefits only to members. This coercion, the teachers argue, violates their constitutional right to free speech. About one in 10 teachers in California have opted out of paying the portion of dues supporting politicking and lobbying.

In addition to losing various types of insurance, the affected teachers also give up the right to vote for their union rep or their contract, the chance to sit on certain school committees, legal representation in cases of employment disputes, death and dismemberment compensation, disaster relief, representation at dismissal hearings and many other benefits.

The question becomes, “Why should a teacher lose a whole array of perks just because they refuse to pay the third or so (it varies by district) of their union dues that go to political causes?”

That very sensible question summons up a great number of erroneous statements, hysteria, lies and general panic among the mainstream media and unionistas alike. Let’s examine a few of them starting with a partial-truth from the estimable John Fensterwald. He wrote, “Both the CTA and CFT are obligated to negotiate contracts dealing with pay, benefits and working conditions on behalf of union and non-union teachers.” That’s true; all teachers do indeed become “bargaining unit members.” However, that is only because the unions insist on exclusive representation. The unions would have a case here if teachers were free to negotiate their own contracts, but they aren’t allowed to. (For more on this issue, see my back-and-forth with CFT VP Gary Ravani in the comments section of Fensterwald’s piece.)

A Los Angeles Times editorial claims that the case at its core is “an attack on the power of any public employee union to engage in politics.” How they came up with that assessment defies logic. If Bain is successful, unions will still be free to “engage in politics.” It is true that more teachers may opt out of the political part, thus leaving the union with fewer coerced dollars to spend. But to say it is an “attack” is a great exaggeration.

Alice O’Brien, general counsel for NEA, said in a statement, “The Bain lawsuit attacks (there’s that word again) the right of a membership organization to restrict the benefits of membership to those who actually pay dues.” What?! The teachers in question are all dues payers and will still be dues payers if their case is successful.

Never one to be subtle, American Federation of Teachers president Randi Weingarten claims that the lawsuit is “part of a siege against unions by StudentsFirst.” (Before starting StudentsFirst, Rhee – now departed – was Washington, D.C. school chancellor, where she and Weingarten tangled constantly.) In a statement Weingarten said, “This is the same group that has worked for five years to stifle the voices of teachers, and strip them of collective bargaining and other rights and tools to do their jobs.” Then as if to clarify this baseless statement, she added, “The suit cites political activity on issues it considers unrelated to education – like gun control, for example.”

The Friedrichs case, with a possible Supreme Court decision next year, is much further along than Bain. If the former case is successful, it will be interesting to see what becomes of the latter.Friedrichs claims that all union spending is political and therefore joining should be voluntary. If it flies, teachers will have an option to join the union or refrain from doing so. That could take the wind out of Bain’s sails as there will probably not be the two tiers or classes of membership that there are now. If all dues are political and you join the union, then all fees will be chargeable and teachers couldn’t then opt out of the political portion because all of it would be political. However, should Friedrichs fail, Bain will be all the more important.

Other scenarios are possible, with the courts, of course, having the final say on how it all gets sorted out.

In any event, the teachers unions’ heavy-handed political arm-twisting would seem to be in jeopardy and their days of unbridled power numbered. And that can only be good news for teachers, students, parents and taxpayers.

Originally published by UnionWatch.org

Larry Sand, a former classroom teacher, is the president of the non-profit California Teachers Empowerment Network – a non-partisan, non-political group dedicated to providing teachers and the general public with reliable and balanced information about professional affiliations and positions on educational issues. The views presented here are strictly his own.

CA GOP Introduces Bills to Overhaul Teacher Hiring, Firing, Evaluation

Last year, Los Angeles Superior Court Judge Rolf Treu ruled that California’s archaic seniority, tenure, and dismissal statutes were unconstitutional, adding that the evidence submitted by the plaintiffs “shocks the conscience.” The state and two teachers unions, the California Teachers Association and the California Federation of Teachers, are appealing Treu’s decision in Vergara v. California. Should the judgment survive the appeals process, legislators would need to pass new laws to fill the void. But Republican lawmakers aren’t waiting for a decision, which won’t come down for months—or possibly years.

On March 4, the 28-member Assembly Republican Caucus introduced a half-dozen bills to overhaul the way California’s teachers are hired, assessed, and dismissed. Assembly Bill 1047 by minority leader and Modesto Republican Kristin Olsen, for example, would update the Stull Act, California’s four-decade-old teacher evaluation law that school districts have largely ignored. Olsen’s bill would require that teachers have annual evaluations, replacing an antiquated pass-fail system with four new categories: highly effective, effective, minimally effective, and ineffective. AB 1248 by Oceanside Republican Rocky Chavez would extend a teacher’s probationary period from two years to three before awarding permanent status, and would make tenure contingent upon positive evaluations. Other bills would repeal the “last in, first out” system that puts seniority before teacher effectiveness and require school districts to submit detailed reports on teacher training and local school expenditures.

The Republican bills are in line with a set of “policy pillars” by Students Matter, the group behind the Vergara lawsuit. Most of the suggestions are vast improvements over the laws currently on the books. The tenure pillar, for example, says, “Permanent status should be able to be rescinded if a teacher receives multiple evaluations showing an ineffective rating.” That’s a sound idea—though if permanence can be rescinded, why call it permanence at all? As for the state’s onerous dismissal statutes, the legislature took a positive first step last year with AB 215, which expedites the process of firing a teacher found guilty of “egregious and immoral conduct.” Students Matter recommends “explicitly including ineffectiveness as grounds for dismissal and mirroring for teachers the same dismissal process established for classified employees.” The teachers unions steadfastly oppose the idea, but it’s past time for public education to join the rest of the civilized working world, weeding out not only criminals but also employees who don’t get the job done. As Hoover Institution scholar Eric Hanushek points out, if schools cut the bottom-performing 5 percent to 7 percent of teachers—a common practice in the private sector—our education system could rival that of highly ranked Finland. If California adopted Hanushek’s idea, about 18,000 teachers in California would be let go. But they’re not going anywhere any time soon, which means about 450,000 kids are getting an inferior education year after year.

When it comes to seniority, Students Matter suggests, “student learning [should] be the preponderant criterion in layoff decisions.” The current “last in, first out” system of picking winners and losers is an awful way to run a school system. Length of time on the job should never be the sole determinant for keeping that job. Nobody in his right mind would choose a surgeon who has been maiming his patients for 20 years over a gifted surgeon with ten years’ experience. In the real world, Dr. Quack’s clientele would dry up, his medical license would be revoked, and he would be looking for a new line of work. Why should teachers be treated any differently?

The answer, of course, is that the teachers unions say so. The unions stopped using “permanence” not long ago and now employ the more reasonable-sounding “due process” in defense of their most inept members. California’s existing dismissal statutes are weighted so heavily in favor of the unions that just two “permanent” teachers per year on average lose their jobs due to incompetence. That’s two teachers out of roughly 300,000 public school teachers statewide. In my nearly 30 years in the classroom, there were always at least two teachers at my school alone who deserved to be shown the door. Even to attempt to fire a teacher is an expensive proposition. Between 2000 and 2010, the Los Angeles Unified School District spent $3.5 million trying to pink-slip seven teachers (out of more than 30,000) for poor classroom performance. Of those, only four were let go.

The challenge for Republican legislators is they are currently a virtually powerless minority in a body dominated by Democrats and their union patrons. The CTA wasted no time denouncing the proposed legislation. “These bills are ill-conceived and premature,” said union spokesman Frank Wells. Republicans believe, however, that time is of the essence and that they can attract at least a few Democratic votes for their reforms. As Olsen explained to an interviewer, “We have seen throughout history that cases can take years to resolve in courts. Systemic problems have been failing kids for years. We need to take action now and hope Democrats will become partners.” But as former state senator Gloria Romero told me, “Ultimately, the resolution of the Vergara case will rest with the same body that enacted these unconstitutional statutes. It is not only unlikely, but extremely improbable that legislators dependent on CTA money to fuel their reelection campaigns will enact comprehensive reforms.”

So what will it take? Perhaps hordes of angry parents descending on the capital, brandishing lanterns and pitchforks. Short of that, how about a flood of letters and e-mails to lawmakers, imploring them to do right by the children of California? Only when enough good people get involved and fight the destructive agenda of the teachers unions will public education make a great leap forward in the Golden State.

Teachers demand CalSTRS unload firearms investments

As reported by the Sacramento Bee:

When a gunman slaughtered 26 children and adults at a Connecticut elementary school, California’s teacher pension fund responded with a forceful denunciation of gun violence and said it was rethinking its investment in the company that manufactured the firearm used in the shooting.

Two years later, the investment remains intact, and some of CalSTRS’ chief constituents – schoolteachers – are losing patience.

The California Federation of Teachers plans a protest outside a CalSTRS board meeting in West Sacramento on Thursday, demanding the pension fund follow through on its pledge to unload its investment in Cerberus Capital Management, the private equity firm that owns gun manufacturer Freedom Group.

LAUSD Offer Worth $122,938 Per Year – Will They Strike Anyway?

LAUSD Offer Worth $122,938 Per Year – Will They Strike Anyway?

By Ed Ring, executive director, California Policy Center

“Our demands, they’re not radical. When did it become radical to have class sizes that you could actually teach in? When did it become radical to have staffing and to pay people back after eight years of nothing?”
 – Alex Caputo Pearl, President, UTLA, February 26, 2015, Los Angeles Times

If the 35,000 members of the United Teachers Los Angeles, the union that represents employees of Los Angeles Unified School District, actually go on strike, in large part it will be because they want an 8.5% salary increase and the district is only offering them 5%. They also want smaller class sizes – tough to do when you’re passing out salary increases. But how much do these teachers actually make?

If you review the most authoritative source of public information on LAUSD salaries, the California state controller’s public pay website you will get the impression they aren’t making much. The summary page for LAUSD shows “average wages” of $40,506 per year and employer paid “average retirement and health” benefits at $10,867 per year.

This is extremely misleading. These “averages” include part-time workers such as student teachers and substitute teachers. But the “Raw Export” tab of the state controller’s website yields more comprehensive information.

If you eliminate part-time workers and eliminate workers who were hired or left employment mid-year – based on screening out of the data any individual record where the recorded “base pay” is 10% or more less than the stated “minimum pay for position” for that record – a very different compensation profile emerges. In reality, teachers who worked full-time during 2013 for the LA Unified School District made direct pay that averaged $72,781, and they collected employer paid benefits averaging $17,012, meaning their total pay and benefits package was $89,793. And they collected this in return for working between 163 and 180 days per year (ref. UTLA/LAUSD Labor Agreement, page 30).

Properly estimating how much LAUSD teachers make, however, requires at least two important additional calculations, (1) normalizing their pay to take into account their extraordinary quantity of vacation time, and (2) taking into account the state of California’s direct payments into CalSTRS as well as the necessity to increase CalSTRS contributions in order to pay down their unfunded liability.

Normalizing for vacation time is easy. Using the larger number referenced in their labor agreement, 180 days per year of work, based on 260 weekdays per year, means LAUSD teachers work 36 weeks a year and get 16 weeks off. The typical private sector worker rarely gets more than four weeks off, two weeks of vacation and two weeks of paid holidays. While many professionals earn more than two weeks of vacation, they are also required to be perpetually on call and often work far more than 40 hour weeks. Many entry level or low income workers don’t get paid for any holidays or vacation. It is reasonable to assume the typical teacher works 12 weeks less per year than the average private sector worker. This translates into a $24,260 value on top of the average LAUSD teacher’s direct pay of $72,781 per year.

“Eight years of nothing.” Really, Mr. Caputo Pearl?

Normalizing for the value of pensions is not easy, but using similarly conservative assumptions we can develop reasonable estimates. For starters, from the CalSTRS website, here’s what the state contributes:

“The state contributes a percentage of the annual earnings of all members to the Defined Benefit Program. Under the new funding plan, the state’s contribution is increasing over the next three years from 3.041 percent in 2013–14 to 6.328 percent beginning July 1, 2016. The state also contributes an amount equal to about 2.5 percent of annual member earnings into the CalSTRS Supplemental Benefit Maintenance Account. The SBMA account is used to maintain the purchasing power of benefits.”

Sticking with current contributions – 3.041 percent plus 2.5 percent, based on “member earnings” referring to “direct pay,” that adds another $4,033 to the average earnings of an LAUSD teacher.

In summary, LAUSD teachers are threatening to strike because they only make – using real world equivalents – $97,041 in direct pay, plus $21,045 in employer paid benefits. The average full-time LAUSD teacher earns total compensation worth $118,086 per year. Throw onto direct pay the 5% offer from the district, worth another $4,852 per year, and you have a total average teacher compensation proposed to go up to $122,938 per year.

Any critic of this analysis who happens to be an LAUSD teacher is invited to work 48 weeks a year instead of 36 weeks a year, or, of course, give up their pension benefit. Otherwise, these are the numbers. To verify them, download this spreadsheet analysis which uses payroll and benefit data provided by LAUSD to the California State Controller’s office:  LAUSD_2013_Compensation-Analysis.xlsx (10.0 MB).

No reasonable person should fail to sympathize with the challenges facing teachers in Los Angeles public schools. But the solution is not higher pay. The solution is to purge the system of bad teachers, reward excellent teachers, give principals more autonomy, stop promoting and retaining teachers based on seniority, measure teacher effectiveness based on the academic success of their pupils, and, gasp, improve the ratio of teachers to support staff. As it is, during 2013 LAUSD spent $2.6 billion on full-time and part-time teachers, and $2.1 billion on full-time and part-time other staff. Do they really need to spend 45 percent of their payroll outside the classroom? The solution is also to lower the cost of living for everyone, through supporting government policies that encourage competitive development of land and resources.

Finally, this estimate of the value of average total compensation for LAUSD full time teachers is still dramatically understated, because CalSTRS remains wallowed in an underfunded position that is officially recognized at $73.7 billion.

To the extent the leadership of the UTLA and their membership subscribe to “left wing” political sentiments, remember this:

There are currently $4.0 trillion of state/local U.S. government worker pension fund assets overseen by managers who rampage about the entire planet demanding annual yields north of 7.0 percent per year. This is a financial maelstrom of cataclysmic proportions that is corrupting the entire global economy. It is an act of wanton aggression against honest capitalists and private households attempting to save for retirement. Ongoing annual returns of this size require asset bubbles which require risky investments and cheap credit – antithetical to sustainable economic growth.

Remember this as you fight to enhance your compensation and defend your pensions as they are – you have exempted yourself from economic reality and are recklessly gambling with the future of the people you supposedly serve. Through your pension funds, you are benefiting from capitalism in its most aggressive and parasitic form.

Remember all this when you go on strike because you’ve had “eight years of nothing.”

*   *   *

Ed Ring is the executive director of the California Policy Center.

Report: New Teachers Aren’t Ready For Common Core

Even though nearly half a decade has passed since a large majority of U.S. states began converting to Common Core, most states are failing to prepare new teachers for the shift in standards, says a critical new report released today by the National Council on Teacher Quality.

NCTQ’s annual State Teacher Policy Yearbook investigates and rates states based on what policies they have in place to ensure high quality for new teachers.

This year’s report puts particular focus on the recent push by both the White House and most state governments to raise educational standards in an effort to ensure that high school graduates are “college and career-ready.”

Common Core, which is the current set of standards used in over 40 states, was designed to be “college and career-ready” and is the main set of standards referred to when policymakers talk about the topic.

College and career-ready standards are generally considered to be more demanding than those that came before, and they also involve new expectations about how educators will teach material. The most significant shifts are in reading, which is supposed to be taught with a higher number of informational texts and with a greater degree of incorporation into subjects other than English or language arts.

Despite these changes, however, the majority of states have taken half-hearted or no action whatsoever to make sure that incoming teachers grasp how reading is supposed to be taught going forward.

States fall short in a variety of ways when it comes to makes sure new teachers are prepared, NCTQ finds. For example, 14 states still do not require prospective elementary school teachers to demonstrate that they understand the science of teaching children to read, while another 19 require it but use inadequate tests. Only five states require high school teachers to pass content tests in each of the subjects they will be certified to teach.

The report does see areas of significant improvement, however. More and more states are toughening up the admissions requirements to teacher preparation programs by requiring them to have at least a 3.0 GPA or an above-average score on college admissions tests such as the SAT or ACT.

Ironically, of the five states NCTQ praises for making sufficient changes to adapt to higher standards, three of them — Texas, Indiana, and North Carolina — either do not use Common Core or are transitioning away from it.

“With such a profound change occurring in K-12 student standards across the country, it would stand to reason that parallel changes would occur on the teacher side,” said NCTQ vice president Sandi Jacobs. “States need to ensure that new teachers are adequately supported in the transition to higher standards and beyond. And there is no better place to start than where new teachers begin to learn their craft—in teacher preparation programs.”

Some of the funding for the report came from philanthropic organizations with ties to Common Core, including the Bill and Melinda Gates Foundation and the Carnegie Corporation of New York.

This article was originally published by the Daily Caller News Foundation.