Category Archives: Teacher Unions

“I’m Randi Weingarten (@rweingarten) and Now, the Fake News.”

by Larry Sand of California Teachers Empowerment Network

Teachers union makes news with meaningless words and a misleading poll.

Norm MacDonald is famous for opening the comedic news segment on Saturday Night Live by introducing himself and telling the audience that it’s time for the “fake news.” I thought of this when, at the recent American Federation of Teachers convention, President Randi Weingarten essentially said that bad teachers should find new jobs. Her words were dutifully reported by a compliant press, but it didn’t take much to see that the comment was devoid of any conviction whatsoever.

Responding to Weingarten’s comment that “…if someone can’t teach after they’ve been prepared and supported, they shouldn’t be in our profession,” EAG’s Ben Velderman pointed out,

Notice the huge caveat in Weingarten’s comment: “after they’ve been prepared and supported.”

Weingarten is actually saying that incompetent and ineffective teachers should have lots of time and assistance to improve their classroom performance.

In fact, “lots of time” would be an eternity or so, with the teacher in question going through a battery of master teachers, on-site administrators, coaches, peer assistance review teams, and then various administrative panels, lawyers, endless appeals, all with a tree-killer paper trail. Hence, there is nothing but empty rhetoric here.

Mike Antonucci gives Weingarten’s comment an historical perspective, enumerating high- sounding teacher union leader’s past proclamations which did nothing to change the moribund status quo. He links Weingarten’s merit pay speech in 2008 in which she says she is “willing to discuss new approaches to issues like teacher tenure and merit pay.” Yet when the rubber hit the road in 2010, Weingarten fought DC Chancellor Michelle Rhee tooth and nail on these very issues. It was as if the union boss had forgotten that she made any noise about tenure and merit pay.

Antonucci goes back to 1997 when National Education Association president Bob Chase made a feel-good speech in which he acknowledged the existence of the “vast majority of Americans who support public education, but are clearly dissatisfied. They want higher quality public schools, and they want them now.”

Since his speech a full generation of children has passed through the entire pre-K to 12 public school system. What changes we have seen during that time have come with the teachers’ unions trailing behind, yelling “stop!” I have seen the future, and it is more of the same.

Just as fraudulent as Weingarten’s tough talk on bad teachers is a new AFT “poll,” the results of which were reported on solemnly by union cheerleaders like The Washington Post’s Valerie Strauss. This push poll’s intentionally skewed results were used by Weingarten and the true believers in the press to hammer home the idea that parents are against education reform.

But the Cato Institute’s Jason Bedrick wasn’t buying it, and wrote that the “Teachers Union Poll Is Not Credible.” One example of how the AFT phrased their questions:

With which approach for improving education do you agree more?

APPROACH A) We should focus on ensuring that every child has access to a good public school in their community. We need to make the investments needed to ensure all schools provide safe conditions, an enriching curriculum, support for students’ social and emotional development, and effective teachers.

APPROACH B) We should open more public charter schools and provide more vouchers that allow parents to send their children to private schools at public expense. Children will receive the best education if we give families the financial freedom to attend schools that meet their needs.

It’s no surprise that 77 percent agreed with the first approach and only 20 percent agreed with the second. Either “invest” in “good” public schools in your “community” and receive all sort of wonderful goodies (“enriching curriculum!” “effective teachers!”) or forgo all that so that some parents can send their kids to private school “at public expense.” Aside from the fact that this is a false choice (competition can actually improve public school performance and school choice programs can save money), the wording is blatantly designed to push respondents toward Approach A.

Bedrick then writes about a 2012 Harvard poll that was worded fairly. Its findings:

  • 54% of parents favor giving all families a “wider choice” to “enroll their children in private schools instead, with government helping to pay the tuition” compared with 21% opposed.
  • 46% of parents favor giving low-income families a “wider choice” to “enroll their children in private schools instead, with government helping to pay the tuition” compared with 21% opposed.
  • When not given a neutral option, 50% of parents favor giving low-income families a “wider choice” to “enroll their children in private schools instead, with government helping to pay the tuition” compared with 50% opposed.
  • When the question omits the words “a wider choice” and only asks about using “government funds to pay the tuition of low-income students who choose to attend private schools,” 44% of parents are in favor with 32% opposed.

Education Week’s Stephen Sawchuk also had problems with the AFT poll, reminding us to take it “with a grain of salt and examine the questions’ phraseology carefully.” (I would suggest adding an ample amount of Maalox to the salt.)

Take, for instance, a bunch of paired statements asking parents to select the one they most agree with. Unsurprisingly, they tend to favor the idea that it’s better to “treat teachers like professionals” than to “regularly remove poorly performing teachers.”

…  A few results appear contradictory. Nearly half surveyed had a negative impression of using test scores in teacher evaluation, but 68 percent approved of paying teachers more if their students show gains in academic achievement.

In another refutation of the biased AFT poll, The Heritage Foundation’s Lindsey Burke writes that “Unions Can’t Ignore Support for Choice in Education.”

PDK/Gallup poll released last summer found that, when asked nearly the same question—whether they supported allowing students to choose private schools at public expense—44 percent of Americans said yes. Gallup has asked respondents the same question for the past decade and found that support for school choice has jumped 10 percentage points in just the last year alone.

Something that may be of interest to Ms. Weingarten is the result of a Rasmussen poll in which we learn that “only 26% of Likely U.S. Voters rate the performance of public schools in America today as good or excellent.  Thirty-four percent (34%) rate public education as poor.” Unlike the AFT poll, Rasmussen used straightforward language:

Overall, how would you rate the performance of public schools in America today?

No deception here, unlike the AFT pedaled “fake news.” But then again, when you have nothing legitimate to sell, snake oil will do the trick.

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 with reliable and balanced information about professional affiliations and positions on educational issues.

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The Media and Teachers Unions: Creepy Crass Actors

by Larry Sand

Joining a racially charged situation, largely inflamed by the media, the nation’s teachers unions hypocritically play the civil rights card.

To acknowledge the obvious, the February 26, 2012 events in Sanford, FL were tragic. Trayvon Martin is dead and George Zimmerman will be haunted – and very possibly hunted – for the rest of his life. While there are gray areas of the incident where good people can disagree, there is one overarching truth that cannot be denied: Much of the nation’s mainstream media behaved in a downright despicable way. They have done everything possible to stoke racial tensions with exaggeration, misrepresentation, pandering, deceit and lies. Just a few examples:

  • March 21, 2012 – CNN accused Zimmerman of using a racial slur, which two weeks later it later retracted.
  • March 22, 2012 – Zimmerman, of mixed race, was dubbed by the New York Times a “white Hispanic.”
  • March 27, 2012 – NBC edited a tape to make Zimmerman appear to be a racist.
  • March 28, 2012 – ABC News falsely claims Zimmerman wasn’t injured the night of shooting. 

The whole narrative of Zimmerman as a rabid Klansman also disintegrates when you look at what the vast majority of the media didn’t report:

  • He is of white and Afro-Peruvian descent.
  • He and a black friend partnered in opening an insurance office in a Florida.
  • He’d engaged in notably un-racist behavior, such as taking a black girl to his high-school prom.
  • He tutored underprivileged black kids.
  • He launched a campaign to help a homeless black man who was beaten up by the son of a white cop.

Now here’s where we go from contemptible to perverse. The heads of the two national teachers unions – Dennis Van Roekel (National Education Association) and Randi Weingarten (American Federation of Teachers) – are leading the charge to put Zimmerman behind bars by any means necessary. The two bosses urged their members to sign petitions to the Justice Department, saying that “Zimmerman must face the consequences of his actions.”

All of a sudden the teachers unions are worried about civil rights??!! What a brazen and sleazy attempt to divert attention from their day-to-day “we-really-don’t-give-a-crap-about-the-kids-but-can’t-come-out-and-directly-say-it” modus operandi. To wit:

  • In 2009, desperate to kill Washington, D.C.’s popular and successful opportunity scholarship program, NEA President Dennis Van Roekel wrote a threatening letter to every Democratic member of Congress. The union boss clearly declared that NEA strongly opposes the continuation of the DC private school voucher program. He went on to say that he expected that any member of Congress whom the union has supported will vote against extending the program and warned that, “Actions associated with these issues WILL be included in the NEA Legislative Report Card for the 111th Congress … Vouchers are not real education reform. . . . Opposition to vouchers is a top priority for NEA.”

The sad fact is that DC public schools have the lowest NAEP scores and the highest dropout rate in the country, whereas just about every student in the voucher program graduates from high school, almost all of them going on to college. The fact that thousands of children, a great majority of whom are African-American, would be forced to remain in their failing schools, thus closing the door on their future, didn’t seem to faze Mr. Van Roekel one bit.

  • In 2011, AFT’s state affiliate in Connecticut neutered a Parent Trigger law and bragged about how it managed to snooker the mostly-minority parents. The union went so far as to post the step-by-step process on its website. Fortunately, writer RiShawn Biddle managed to save the document before AFT pulled the webpage, having realized that their gloating might not be in sync with its pro-minority persona. Parent leader Gwen Samuel, an African-American mother of two, saw through the union’s malfeasance, however. “When will parents matter?” she asks.
  • In 2011, the ACLU filed a lawsuit that would have exempted 45 of the worst schools in Los Angeles – predominantly black and Hispanic – from teacher union-mandated seniority rules, enabling those schools to keep good teachers instead of being subjected to constant turnover. In an Orwellian statement, United Teachers of Los Angeles elementary vice-president Julie Washington fumed,

This settlement will do nothing to address the inequities suffered by our most at-risk students. It is a travesty that this settlement, by avoiding real solutions and exacerbating the problem, actually undermines the civil and constitutional rights of our students.

The suit was successful, but subsequently the ruling was overturned on a technicality. Having no concern about the rights of the minority children disparately affected by the archaic last-in, first out statute, UTLA was thrilled.

  • If successful, the Students Matter  (Vergara v. California) lawsuit in California will remove the tenure, seniority and arcane dismissal statutes from the state education code, thus making it easier to get rid of incompetent and criminal teachers. While this lawsuit will help all students in the state, inner-city kids would benefit the most.

Collectively, the laws Vergara v. California challenges deprive those students arbitrarily assigned to the classrooms of ineffective teachers of their fundamental and constitutionally guaranteed right to equal opportunity to access quality education.

Though not named in the suit, the teachers unions just couldn’t sit idly by and accept a change in the rules that would benefit kids at their expense.

Two state teachers unions – the California Teachers Association and the California Federation of Teachers – released a joint press release … announcing that they had filed a motion “to intervene in litigation.” This means that CTA and CFT would like to be become involved in the case because they feel that the current defendants – the state and the school districts – are not adequately representing the interests of their teachers, whose rights they maintain could be adversely affected by the case.

There are countless other examples which exemplify the fact that the teachers unions’ raison d’être is preserving their influence, and doing so by any means necessary. That minority children are the ones who suffer the most from the unions’ ongoing power-lust is of no concern to them. That these raving hypocrites are now grandstanding and calling for the scalp of George Zimmerman boggles the mind.

Of course, it is highly unlikely that you will be reading about this latest outrage in the mainstream media. Like the teachers unions, these bad actors are doing their best to push their agenda and con the public.

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 with reliable and balanced information about professional affiliations and positions on educational issues.

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Workers of the World, Your Rights!

By Larry Sand (follow on Twitter)
UnionWatch

LOS ANGELES – Unknown to many employees throughout the country – especially in non-right-to-work states – they have a right to not belong to a union.

This year, June 23rd – 29th is being dedicated to informing America’s wage earners of their union membership options. This project, National Employee Freedom Week (NEFW), is spearheaded by the Nevada Policy Research Institute (NPRI) and the Association of American Educators (AAE).

The idea for this undertaking came about in the summer of 2012 when NPRI, a non-partisan think tank based in Las Vegas, launched a small-scale campaign to let local teachers know that they could opt out of their union, the Clark County Education Association, by submitting written notice from July 1st to July 15th.

The reaction was stunning. Teachers thanked NPRI for sharing that information. Hundreds of teachers wanted to leave CCEA, each for their own unique reasons, but didn’t know it was possible or forgot because of the narrow and inconvenient drop window. Empowered by the information NPRI shared, over 400 teachers opted out by submitting written notice and over 400 more left CCEA and weren’t replaced by a union member.

The U.S. is comprised of 24 “right-to-work” states which grant workers a choice whether or not to belong to a union. In the other 26 and Washington, D.C., they don’t have to belong but must still pay the portion of union dues that goes toward collective bargaining and other non-political union-related activities. The dissenters who select this “agency fee” option typically do so because they don’t like that about one-third of their dues goes for political spending. Even though over 40 percent of union households vote Republican, over 90 percent of union largess goes to Democrats and liberal causes. (There is an exemption for religious objectors; if an employee is successful in attaining that status, they don’t have to pay any money to the union, but must donate a full dues share to an approved charity.)

As president of the California Teachers Empowerment Network, I am well aware of teachers’ frustrations. We have been providing information to educators about their rights since 2006, and thousands have exercised their right to resign from their teachers union in the Golden State. It is important to note that different unions in different states have specific opt-out periods during which a worker can exercise their right to leave. In many states, one not only has to resign, but also must ask for a rebate of the political portion of their dues every year during a specified – and frequently very narrow – window of time.

To be clear, NEFW is not about denying anyone the right to belong to a union, but rather about letting employees know their options and providing them with facts that they can use to make an informed decision. Unions are threatened when workers choose to opt out, and typically accuse dissidents of being “free riders” or freeloaders. But, if employees don’t want the services that the union has to offer, they have no choice but to accept them because the union demands exclusivity. As I wrote recently, quoting Heritage Foundation’s James Sherk,

Unions object that right-to-work is actually “right-to-freeload.” The AFL-CIO argues “unions are forced by law to protect all workers, even those who don’t contribute financially toward the expenses incurred by providing those protections.” They contend they should not have to represent workers who do not pay their “fair share.”

It is a compelling argument, but untrue. The National Labor Relations Act does not mandate unions exclusively represent all employees, but permits them to electively do so. (Emphasis added.) Under the Act, unions can also negotiate “members-only” contracts that only cover dues-paying members. They do not have to represent other employees.

The Supreme Court has ruled repeatedly on this point. As Justice William Brennan wrote in Retail Clerks v. Lion Dry Goods, the Act’s coverage “is not limited to labor organizations which are entitled to recognition as exclusive bargaining agents of employees … ‘Members only’ contracts have long been recognized.”

As Sherk says, while unions don’t have to represent all employees, they do so voluntarily to eliminate any competition. So instead of “free rider,” a better term would be “forced rider.” Teacher union watchdog Mike Antonucci explains,

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.

One final thought: If unions are so beneficial for workers – as they keep telling us – why must they force people to pay for their service?

I never have received a response to that question. Maybe because there is no good answer. Something for all of us to ponder during National Employee Freedom Week.

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 with reliable and balanced information about professional affiliations and positions on educational issues.

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Republican teacher-turned-lawmaker sues Missouri school district after being fired over unpaid leave dispute

We reported on this story back in January. It appears there has been an update. This is cross-posted from EAGNews.

By Ben Velderman
EAGnews.org

ST. CHARLES, Mo. – High school teacher-turned-lawmaker Bryan Spencer was officially fired by Missouri’s Francis Howell School District earlier this week.

But that doesn’t mean the long-running dispute between Spencer and his former employer over his unpaid leave rights is settled.

Spencer spent 22 years with the district as a high school teacher, before getting elected to the Missouri House of Representatives the last November.

School leaders have consistently denied the veteran teacher’s request for unpaid leave from his job while he serves in the state legislature.

The school board took things a step further on Monday night and voted 5-2 to officially fire Spencer.

The board determined Spencer had violated his teaching contract with the district “by refusing to perform his duties” since early January, which is when his legislative term began, STLToday.com reports.

On Thursday, Spencer responded by filing a lawsuit against the school district in St. Charles County Circuit Court. In his complaint, Spencer describes the school board’s decision as “arbitrary and capricious,” and a violation of his constitutional rights to free speech and to seek and hold elective office, reports STLToday.com.

The crux of Spencer’s argument is that the district is discriminating against him because he is a Republican. Spencer notes that the district has routinely granted unpaid leave to officials of the local teachers union to tend to union business, which often benefits the Democratic Party.

“The board president has said the union officials are different because they work full time on education and interact often with the district,” the news site reports.

If the district had granted Spencer an unpaid leave of absence, he would not have received any of his salary, and he would have had to shoulder the costs for any job-related benefits he received.

An unpaid leave would have allowed Spencer to rejoin the district at a higher “step” on the salary schedule than when he left, the news site notes.

Mostly, the unpaid leave would have simply allowed Spencer to resume his teaching career with the district after his legislative career ends.

It was a minor issue that’s quickly becoming a major legal expense for the district, as the controversy is sorted out by the courts.

As one Facebook commentator notes, “Granting the leave would have cost the district nothing. Now, no matter which side prevails, this will cost the district a bunch of money. Being a resident and taxpayer in the Howell district, I believe that the board members who voted ‘no leave’ should pay the legal fees out of their own pocket. I pay taxes to help educate the kids, not to waste money.”

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Rethinking Release Time of Union Teachers

This is an op-ed from J. C. Bowman that was originally posted on TheChttanoogan.com. J. C. is the Executive Director of Professional Educators of Tennessee.

The Tennessee General Assembly is considering legislation relative to teachers acting as representatives of a professional employees’ organization (Senate Bill 867/House Bill 847). In my role as Executive Director of a professional employees’ organization, we welcome the debate and the chance to reallocate tax dollars to the classroom for instruction or into teacher salaries.  We applaud Senator Delores Gresham, Representative John Ragan and others for their willingness to discuss an issue that has sparked national debate.

Recently, the Office of Personnel Management calculated the time and costs of “release time” or “official time” by the federal government and the numbers were astounding: 3,395,187 total hours and an estimated cost of $155,573,739.25. OPM says that the cost comes to about one-tenth of one percent of the total payroll.

According to Ben DeGrow, senior policy analyst of the Independence Institute’s Education Policy Center in Denver, Co., the practice of paid time for these activities “is very common in every unionized school district.” DeGrow points out that districts provide paid union leave either through specified employee salaries or through a pool of hours made available to the union to assign and use as it chooses. The school district then must pay a substitute teacher to fill the opening caused by a unionized teacher being absent from work to do union business. DeGrow stated his organization documented teachers on paid leave lobbying the legislature. This practice undoubtedly occurs in Tennessee.

Many school districts give an allotment of general release days for professional employees’ organization activities. The number of days tends to vary with the size of the district and the number of teachers. Local professional employees’ organization officials and representatives may use these days to attend business meetings or workshops, which may include political advocacy.

While our organization does engage in advocacy on behalf of our members, we do not endorse or contribute to political parties or candidates with our member dues.  In regards to political contributions, the Tennessee Education Association was the second largest donor to political campaigns in 2012, according to the Follow the Money website. In fact, they spent $262,500 in reported political contributions in 2012.

In 2012, the Tennessee Education Association gave $234,000 to Democratic Candidates and $20,500 to Republican Candidates, as well as $8,000 to Independent Candidates.  To further illustrate, these political contributions meant that 89.14 percent went to Democrats, 7.81 percent to Republicans and 3.05 percent went to Independents.  They only won 56.2 percent of the political races they funded, but lost 43.2 percent of the races.   It is hard to make a convincing case that these political donations benefit Tennessee educators or improve student achievement.  The question legislators must ask themselves, “were any of the individuals who were granted release time conducting political activities on the taxpayer dime?”

Our organization clearly understands that we must operate in a transparent manner when using taxpayer dollars.  We would have no problem with legislation that requires a professional employees’ organization to pay the full cost of teachers who use release time to conduct organization business, or to require the teacher using release time to deduct it from their personal leave.

However, we do disagree with school districts that permit release time to representatives and then turn right around and grant them teaching experience for their time in service to the professional employees’ organization. These individuals then continue advancing on the salary schedule as though they have accrued actual classroom teaching experience. This is not fair to the hardworking classroom teachers who are engaged in the actual teaching of students across Tennessee.  Why should a professional employees’ organization representative advance on the salary schedule for conducting organization business?   We know of several cases where the professional employees’ organization representatives have not been in the classroom for years.

There are still several school districts that have provisions in collective bargaining agreements, giving a certain number of paid leave days to a teacher who has been elected to serve as a national, state or local director for the teachers’ professional employees’ organization.  Legislation should not impact these districts until these contracts expire in 2014.  Our organization also supports the concept that time spent during normal working hours by a teacher representative of a professional employees’ organization participating in a grievance procedural meeting, or a disciplinary or employment rights meeting at the request of another teacher be considered as engaging in school duties.

In an era that demands accountability, our organization is committed to work with legislators to ensure taxpayer money is wisely spent in Tennessee. We welcome a civil discussion on this subject by policymakers and taxpayers.

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If unions do so much for their members, then why bully?

larrysand1

Cross-posted from EAGNews.

by Larry Sand from UnionWatch

LOS ANGELES – The Michigan Education Association had its apple cart turned upside down when the Wolverine State went “right-to-work” in December.

This means that, unlike California and 25 other states, a worker doesn’t have to pay union dues as a condition of employment.

My introduction to union coercion came in 2005, when, as a middle school teacher in Los Angeles, I joined the Prop. 75 campaign. That initiative would have prohibited public employee labor organizations from collecting the part of union dues which goes for politics without prior consent of the employee. Sensing a disruption in their forced dues gravy train, the California Teachers Association went into overdrive. It raised union dues on its members for a three-year period and mortgaged their offices in Sacramento, then used the millions they accumulated to scare teachers and the public – ominously warning them of imaginary horrors that would be visited on them if the proposition passed.

Teachers unions are forever telling its members how much the union does for them in the way of wages, job benefits, etc. You would think that an organization that does so much for its members wouldn’t have to resort to bullying to keep them in the fold. But the unions know that without forcing the issue, many teachers would just say, “No.” For instance, in Wisconsin, after Act 10 came into law allowing teachers to quit their union, about 30 percent have already quit with more to follow this June when their contracts expire.

Also, typically unspoken in the unions’ talking points is the fact that while union members in forced union states may make more than their counterparts in RTW states, the costs of goods and services are far lower in these states, the result being a net gain for the employee. The unions also don’t tell you that workers are flocking to RTW states, which have a lower unemployment rate than in states that are dominated by unions.

In Michigan, a skittish MEA is doing what it can to intimidate teachers. First, they are scrambling to get new contracts for teachers all over the state before March when the new RTW law takes effect. Also, MEA boss Steve Cook issued a threat that any teacher who decides to bail in March will be sued. According to a Wall Street Journal editorial,

“Members who indicate they wish to resign membership in March, or whenever, will be told they can only do so in August,” Mr. Cook writes in the three-page memo obtained by the West Michigan Policy Forum. “We will use any legal means at our disposal to collect the dues owed under signed membership forms from any members who withhold dues prior to terminating their membership in August for the following fiscal year.”

Got that, comrade?

If nothing else, recent events have shown without a shred of doubt, the union is about maintaining its power and collecting every last penny they claim is owed to them. All the lofty talk about the children is just so much camouflage for their real agenda – accumulating money and power.

Another expression bandied about by the unions is the term “free rider.” They try to gain sympathy by suggesting that those in RTW states who don’t voluntarily join are getting something valuable for free. This specious argument really needs to be countered. Many teachers would happily say, “I don’t want any part of the union and the perks it may get me. I think I have a valuable service to offer and want to negotiate my own contract.” Seems reasonable, right? Well, that decision is not up to the teacher. As Heritage Foundation’s James Sherk points out,

Unions object that right-to-work is actually “right-to-freeload.” The AFL-CIO argues “unions are forced by law to protect all workers, even those who don’t contribute financially toward the expenses incurred by providing those protections.” They contend they should not have to represent workers who do not pay their “fair share.”

It is a compelling argument, but untrue. The National Labor Relations Act does not mandate unions exclusively represent all employees, but permits them to electively do so. Under the Act, unions can also negotiate “members-only” contracts that only cover dues-paying members. They do not have to represent other employees.

Teacher union watchdog 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.

So those deemed free riders by the unions are really forced riders.

Having seen the union’s lies and intimidating ways up close and personal, I am hardly surprised at MEA’s hardball tactics. But it seems that the voters in states like Michigan and Wisconsin have awakened, perhaps signaling that worker freedom just may be the wave of the future.

Larry Sand, a retired teacher who taught in Los Angeles and NYC public schools for 28 years, is the president of the California Teachers Empowerment Network. This post originally appeared as a guest column in the Orange County Register and is republished here with permission from the author.

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Missouri Teacher Turned Republican State Representative Locked in Battle With His School District

Bryan Spencer was elected to represent the people of West St. Charles County and Eastern Warren County last November.  Instead of being able to focus on legislative priorities in Jefferson City, the Missouri state capitol, he has to fight a battle with the Francis Howell School District.

Spencer decided to run for office after redistricting from the 2010 census due to request from parents, former student, colleagues, and members of community service/political/religious organizations encouraged him to run.  Before filing, he filled out a personal day form to take a day away from school to file for office.  He then consulted with his principal at Francis Howell North High School.  The principal explained that there had been other teachers that have filed for political offices and were not successful.  Spencer was wished the best of luck and told that it would be a great learning experience for him.

After winning the primary election, Spencer thought it would be good to ask for an unpaid leave of absence in case he won the general election. The Francis Howell School Board denied the request simply stating that they had reviewed the request and the request was denied.  There was no specific reasoning given for their denial. Spencer went on to win the November general election. Once again, he went to his school board and asked for an unpaid leave of absence.  This time Spencer listed precedent when other teachers have been granted leaves of absences for a variety of reasons.  The school board once again denied his request.

One might ask why should the district accommodate Spencer? The school district has granted numerous unpaid leaves for various reasons in the past. Most interestingly, the Missouri State NEA President is Chris Guinther. According to her biography on the MNEA website, Guinther is from the Francis Howell School District, and according to Spencer, she is currently on an unpaid leave of absence.  She has been on a leave of absence since 2001.  Spencer also claims that the current NEA President of the district’s local chapter, Anita Miller, is on an unpaid leave of absence. One would assume what is fair for the NEA is surely fair for an elected representative of the people.  There have been many teachers on leave for a variety of reasons.

On January 17 the Francis Howell School District had a closed door meeting to discuss the future of Spencer’s employment with the school district. Shortly after the meeting, Spencer received a letter from the district stating that he was in breach of his contract for excessive absenteeism. The district is currently pursuing a due process hearing for tenured termination. There is also a risk that the school district may pursue filing charges against Spencer with the Missouri Department of Elementary and Secondary Education (DESE). Depending on DESE’s response, Spencer risks losing his teaching certification with the state of Missouri.

To further complicate matters, Spencer could be in violation of the law. Missouri law states that a person cannot collect two paychecks from the government. Because he is fighting for the unpaid leave, Spencer has not voluntarily terminated his contract with the district. He has stopped any direct deposit of his salary, and he is not collecting his paycheck in any form.

Probably the saddest part of all of this is that Spencer was inducted into the Francis Howell Hall of Fame in the spring of 2011. Spencer has taught for twenty two years, all of which have been spent with the Francis Howell School District.

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The NEA Donates $15 Million to Partisan Politics

The Association of American Educators,  the national non-union professional educators organization recommended by Conservative Teachers of America, recently published a list of the donations of the NEA to partisan political organizations. How many of your colleagues that join the NEA because they “need insurance” do not know this? Take a minute and share this list with them. Oh, and by the way, the AAE does not donate any money to partisan groups. It’s probably one of the reasons they are able to offer twice the liability insurance the NEA offers.

AFL-CIO – $1.15 million

Alliance for Justice – $5,000

America Votes – $376,100

America Works – $250,000

American Bridge 21st Century – $200,000

American Constitution Society – $10,000

American Sustainable Business Council Action Fund – $15,000

Asian American Justice Center – $10,000

Asian Pacific American Labor Alliance – $5,000

Be the Change – $100,000

Board of Hispanic Caucus Chairs – $10,000

California Community Foundation – $6,000

Campaign for America’s Future – $20,000

Center for American Progress – $35,000

Center for Economic Organizing – $12,800

Center for Teacher Leadership – $63,178

Center for Teaching Quality – $120,767

Central Intercollegiate Athletic Association – $50,000

Citizens Helping Heroes – $10,000

Citizens for Tax Justice – $15,000

Committee for Charlotte 2012 – $250,000

Committee for Education Funding – $17,713

Committee on States – $25,000

Congressional Black Caucus Foundation, Inc. – $70,000

Congressional Hispanic Caucus Institute – $55,000

Council of State Governments – $6,000

Daily Kos – $30,000

Democracy Alliance – $235,000

Democratic GAIN – $10,000

Economic Policy Institute – $250,000

Educating Maryland Kids – $200,000

Education Writers Association – $10,500

Edward M. Kennedy Institute for the United States Senate – $200,000

Excelencia in Education – $10,000

Fair Districts Now – $478,000

Fair Elections Legal Network – $50,000

Gay Lesbian and Straight Education Network – $7,500

Good Jobs First – $15,000

Great Lakes Center for Education Research and Practice – $250,000

Health Care for America Now! – $125,000

HEROS, Inc. – $100,000

Hip Hop Caucus Education Fund – $25,000

Idahoans for Responsible Education Reform – $1,042,000

Initiative for Responsible Investment – $5,000

Japanese American Citizens League – $5,000

Jump$tart Coalition for Personal Financial Literacy – $9,300

Kansas Values Institute – $49,950

Keep It Local North Dakota – $135,000

Lawyers Committee for Civil Rights Under Law – $25,000

Leadership Conference on Civil Rights – $5,000

Learning First Alliance – $91,200

Learning Forward – $25,000

Marylanders for Marriage Equality – $50,000

MediaMatters – $100,000

Mexican American Legal Defense and Educational Fund – $10,000

Montanans for Fiscal Accountability – $25,555

Moving South Dakota Forward – $225,000

NAACP – $11,000

National Action Network – $25,000

National Association of Latino Elected and Appointed Officials Education Fund – $5,000

National Black Justice Coalition – $20,000

National Coalition on Black Civic Participation – $5,000

National Conference of State Legislatures – $31,385

National Council for Accreditation of Teacher Education – $202,646

National Hispanic Leadership Institute – $25,000

National Public Pension Coalition – $135,000

National Women’s Law Center – $10,000

Netroots Nation – $15,000

New Hampshire Unity Table Fund – $50,000

Ohio Democratic Party – $150,000

Organizations Concerned About Rural Education – $5,000

Opportunity to Learn Action Fund – $300,000

Parent Teacher Home Visit Project – $58,353

Partnership for 21st Century Skills – $35,000

Patriot Majority PAC – $100,000

People for the American Way – $135,000

Progressive Majority – $50,284

Project Love Remember the Children Foundation – $250,000

Project New West – $140,000

Protect Maine Votes – $81,500

Public Education Defense Fund – $1 million

Quality Education and Jobs – $50,000

Republican Main Street Partnership – $25,000

Ripon Society – $10,000

Robert Russa Moton Museum – $50,000

SEIU – $15,333

Taxpayers in Support of Public Education – $30,000

TIDES Foundation – $100,000

University of Colorado Boulder Sponsored Project – $250,000

U.S. Hispanic Leadership Institute – $100,000

Voces de la Frontera – $23,515

Washington, DC Martin Luther King, Jr. National Memorial Project Foundation – $166,666

We Are Ohio – $4,568,000

Wellstone Action – $30,586

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2012 NEA Convention: Membership Declines & Hyper-Partisanship

We wanted to cross-post this piece from the Association of American Educator’s (AAE) blog. For those that are not familiar with the AAE, they are a non-partisan, non-union alternative to the National Education Association. It is our opinion that the AAE is the organization for education professionals. The AAE offers dues that are $15 a month, no donations to any political cause, and liability insurance that surpasses that provided by the NEA.

While most Americans were enjoying a festive Independence Day last week, the National Education Association was holding their annual conference in Washington, D.C. Beaten down after another solid year of negative press, declining membership, and legislative and legal battles, the NEA convention took on a somber and partisan tone in 2012.

The convention was meant to be a rallying cry for union members as the NEA tried to create an atmosphere resembling a political party convention complete with theme music and intense cheering. Despite best efforts, the conference was noticeably lacking delegates and talk immediately turned to harsh budget realities.

NEA Secretary-Treasurer Becky Pringle predicted an even more challenging time in the years ahead calling budget numbers “devastating.” Projected losses total 287,000 active teachers and 21,000 additional personnel over the 2010-14 school years. The numbers amount to a $65 million budget reduction over that same time period, undoubtedly leading to staff reductions and declining political power.

In light of the upcoming election and the union-crippling legislation in states across the country, the speeches at the convention were meant to rally the members in attendance to stay strong despite the obvious setbacks. One of the more partisan speeches came from NEA Executive Director John Stocks who called NEA members “Social Justice Patriots,” according to the union-watchdog Education Intelligence Agency. Stocks said union members’ roles should be to fight “opponents of the DREAM Act and voter ID laws, CEOs who make too much, and big corporations.”

The NEA’s most high-profile guest was Vice President Joe Biden, who was sent in place of President Obama. Vice President Biden mainly stuck to the union staples, including expressing support for their collective bargaining plight and accusing Governor Mitt Romney of not supporting public education. After some grumblings from delegates about his no-show status, President Obama did call in to thunderous applause stating, “The folks on the other side, they want to take us back to the policies that didn’t work in the last decade, they want us to go back to a policy that just does big tax cuts for the wealthiest, [to] cut education spending, cut investments in all the things that help us grow.”

Following the President’s call, NEA President Dennis Van Roekel promised that the union would put its full support behind the president’s re-election: “We believe in you, Mr. President, and we’re behind you all the way.”

Despite the mass applause for candidates and partisan speakers, news broke that Republican and independent teachers among the delegation were expressing frustration with the hyper-partisan tone of the convention. In interviews with The Associated Press, dozens of teachers said they felt pressure from union leaders to support Obama’s re-election — and felt marginalized when they wouldn’t. Some teachers said they were so worried about retribution from their colleagues that they wouldn’t provide their names for publication in newspapers.

Delegate teacher Maureen van Wagner expressed her concern to the media. “What I don’t like is the harassment going on for people to be an ‘EFO’ — an educator for Obama.” Other teachers were offended that NEA leaders had been urging members to hold house parties to educate their friends about why President Obama deserves a second term.

In conjunction with their commitment to another Obama endorsement, the NEA approved a series of controversial measures. Among their many policy recommendations, NEA delegates considered resolutions opposing any policy of U.S. military action against Iran, an initiative to gather information on groups that “discourage NEA membership,” and a failed effort to recommend the ousting of reform-minded Secretary of Education Arne Duncan.

Information from the convention continues to surface following an eventful week. Be sure to read the AAE blog this week for the latest developments. As NEA Vice President Lily Eskelsen stated, “Times have been bad before, but they’ve never been this bad.”

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The Declining Popularity of Teacher Labor Unions #TCTOT

We wanted to share this post from the Association of American Educators. “AAE is America’s fastest growing national, nonprofit, nonunion teachers’ association with members in all 50 states.”

This week’s recall election has thrust union special interests and teacher freedoms back into the national dialogue like never before. After a bitter campaign and an estimated $60 million spent on election efforts, the commanding win for Governor Walker illustrates an overwhelming shift in public opinion against teachers unions. As the dust settles on this historic election, it’s no coincidence that according to a new public opinion poll, teacher unions nationally are reaching all-time low approval levels.

In the latest national survey instituted by Harvard’s Program on Education Policy and Governance and Education Next, scholars found that the share of the public with a positive view of union impact on local schools has dropped by a whopping 7% in the past year alone. Among teachers, union approval has reached an astonishing 16% decline. Whereas 58% of teachers took a positive view of unions in 2011 for example, just 43% feel the same in 2012.

These sentiments are further confirmed by a dramatic decline in union membership nationwide. According to Education Intelligence Agency’s Mike Antonucci, the National Education Association is reporting a decline of 150,000 members in the past two years and they further project that they will lose 200,000 more members by 2014.

According to researchers the survey’s most striking findings come from teachers themselves. Obviously teachers are frustrated by the unions’ controversial tactics, political spending, and outlandish dues. As the unions cope with the unilaterally negative press and legislative and legal battles across the country, members understandably do not want to be identified with a dying organization based on an outdated model of representation.

Based on the data, teachers are fleeing the unions and seeking alternative organizations in record numbers. It’s no coincidence that while the unions lose members, the Association of American Educators (AAE) and state chapters throughout the country are growing by leaps and bounds. Not only has our membership grown exponentially across the country, but AAE membership has particularly grown in states that are at the forefront of the education and labor debate, including the forced union battleground of Wisconsin.

The results of this poll also give further evidence of the need for a robust non-union educator movement nationally – a movement that embraces innovation and reform while focusing on professionalism, collaboration and excellence. It is this positive voice that teachers are demanding as a professional option. As respected professionals, teachers should distance themselves from the self-serving interest of labor unions and align themselves with an organization that respects their true priorities.

As the summer begins and teachers look to a new school year in the coming months, we encourage teachers across America to take these findings to heart and choose membership in an organization that best represents them and their profession. Those who don’t identify with the unprofessional, hyper-partisan tactics of the unions should join with the over 300,000 other teachers who have embraced truly professional organizations like the Association of American Educators.

If you are tired of the unions in your profession, consider joining the AAE.

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