The teacher union war on charter schools ramps up with empty billionaire and accountability accusations.
Charter schools are like pesky chewing gum that the teachers unions just can’t quite get off their shoes. They have been persistent in trying to just get rid of the alternative public schools – except for the few they have managed to organize. The problem they’re having is that charters are very popular with parents and kids, especially with those who reside in the inner cities which are home to the worst traditional public schools. The latest pathetic attempt by union command-central to destroy charters emanates from the Center for Media and Democracy (CMD), which, as investigative reporter Eric Owens points out, is a reliably pro-union advocacy organization based in Madison, Wisconsin.
Perhaps “reliably pro-union” is an understatement. The American Federation of Teachers gave CMD $30,000 for “member related services” in fiscal year 2015. Also, one of the biggest funders of CMD is Democracy Alliance, which boasts AFT president Randi Weingarten as a member and National Education Association executive director John Stocks as its president. The dark money group also includes old leftwing billionaire George Soros and new leftwing billionaire Tom Steyer.
In a nutshell, the report asserts that the American public “does not have ready access to key information about how their federal and state taxes are being spent to fuel the charter school industry. Peppered with terms like “lack of accountability” and “flavoring flexibility over rules,” the summary is an indicator of how off-target the sloppy and factually-challenged report really is. As reported by LaborPains.org, for example, it attacks charter-friendly Arizona Governor Doug Ducey, offering reporters a misleading story about secret meetings and plots.
Emails obtained by CMD from Gov. Ducey’s office reveal that he (and his predecessor) helped propel a secret ‘School Finance Reform Team’ … The stated goal was for everyone on the school reform team to use their ‘different contacts to help get …legislation,’ which would effectively divert more money from public schools to charter school coffers passed.
But the Arizona Republic then printed the rest of the story. After reviewing the “secret” emails themselves, they found “nothing of the kind.” CMD was forced to issue a correction admitting that their reported premise was wrong. In the Republic’s words, CMD “used a handful of innocent emails to spin a conspiracy that just wasn’t real.
Of course there is nothing new about the unions and affiliated groups savaging charters with lies, using “unaccountable” and “billionaires” as their essential buzzwords. In June, NEA’s Brian Washington wrote, “…pro-charter forces are putting more money behind efforts to elect and lobby politicians who will implement policies resulting in unaccountable charter schools that threaten the futures of our students.”
The billionaire bash-of-the-week (seasoned with a dab of “accountability”), comes from Capital and Main, a union-friendly progressive website. There, Donald Cohen, founder and executive director of In the Public Interest, writes “Billionaires Can’t Teach Our Kids” which slams Eli Broad and a few other philanthropists for initiating a plan that would double the number of charter schools in Los Angeles. He claims, “Broad and his billionaire friends have decided that instead of investing in our public schools, they’ll just create new ones with less accountability and fewer standards ….” But a little digging reveals that In the Public Interest, which partnered with the American Federation of Teachers last year to push for more charter accountability, is a project of The Partnership for Working Families. An ACORN-like group, PWF hates anything capitalist and is a card-carrying member of the “Occupy Wall Street” movement, whose raison d’être is to vilify “one percenters.” Not surprisingly, several of PWF donors are rich philanthropists, including the aforementioned billionaire George Soros and other wealthy globalist/socialists.
Their billionaires don’t count, of course.
The very day CMD came out with its bogus report, reform-minded Ed Trust-West released “More Than Half of the Top California Schools for Low-Income Students Are Charter Schools.” This report highlights the top 10 highest performing schools for low-income 3rd, 8th and 11th grade students in California and finds in 3rd and 11th grade, “five of the top ten are charter schools. In 8th grade, seven of the top ten are charters.” (Education Trust-West analyzed data from schools where “at least 60 percent of the students qualify as low-income in order to determine the top 10 performers by subject matter and grade,” reported Kimberly Beltran.)
Additionally, a recent Stanford University’s Center for Research on Education Outcomes (CREDO) report shows that across 41 regions, “urban charter schools on average achieve significantly greater student success in both math and reading, which amounts to 40 additional days of learning growth in math and 28 days of additional growth in reading.” The CREDO report is certainly in line with the results of the California Assessment of Student Progress and Performance (CAASPP) test in Los Angeles, where Mr. Broad and his “billionaire friends” are seeking to make improvements. The results, released in September, show that only one-third of LA students in traditional public schools performed up to their grade level in English and one-fourth did so in math but that the city’s charter school students did much better.
Are charter schools perfect? Hardly. Not even all are wonderful. But as Nina Rees, president of the National Alliance for Public Charter Schools, notes in a rejoinder to the CMD report, when charters don’t do the job, they can and should be shuttered. “The public charter school bargain (has) more flexibility to innovate in exchange for accountability for higher student achievement. When public charter schools fail to meet their goals – whether for academic, financial or operational reasons – they should be closed, even if we have invested federal dollars in them. If we don’t close them, we undermine the whole concept of public charter schooling.” While there are a few exceptions, that’s the way charters schools operate.
The teachers unions and their fellow travelers would be best served if they’d stop their billionaire bashing and their tiresome accountability accusations. In fact, if traditional public schools were held to the same level of accountability as charter schools, the world will be a much better place. Why am I not holding my breath?
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.
The unions preen and posture as political underdogs, but nothing could be further from the truth.
Thanks to the teachers unions and the American left, the term “dark money” – political spending by groups whose own donors are allowed to remain hidden – is most closely associated with two successful industrialists from Kansas – the Koch brothers. But what many don’t know is that the teachers unions are involved in dark money – and worse – big time.
First, last fall there was a mysterious $480,000 ad buy which helped propel Martin Walsh to a Boston mayoral victory over John Connolly, a longtime adversary of the teachers unions. Turns out that the donated money, having taken a circuitous and sneaky path, was a gift from the American Federation of Teachers.
Massachusetts legislators didn’t think much of the AFT gambit, and are trying to pass laws requiring more transparency. But according to a Boston Globe report, the Massachusetts Teachers Association, the state’s National Education Association affiliate, is balking at the legislation and trying to eviscerate it, citing “technical issues.” The MTA can balk till the 12th of Never, but a couple of weeks ago AFT’s dark (and illegal) money groups got dinged to the tune of $30,000 for “failure to organize as a PAC, failure to disclose finance activity accurately, contributions made in a manner intended to disguise the true source of the contributions, receipt of contributions not raised in accordance with campaign law, and use of wire transfers.” Given that their illegal gift was a roaring success, the $30,000 fine was a slap on the wrist.
Then there is AFT president Randi Weingarten, who as a member of George Soros’ left-wing Democracy Alliance (whose president is NEA executive director John Stocks), was criticized for her participation in the dark money group. In response she tweeted, “…spending it to ensure reg folks had access to democracy…and a fairer economy.” (How she can say things like this with a straight face is beyond me.)
For the unions, the Kochs’ bête-noire status is only outdone by Citizens United, the 2010 Supreme Court decision that opened the door to the creation of “super PACs” and an accompanying uptick in dark money expenditures. The ruling especially benefited corporations – and unions – which had spending restrictions removed. But never missing an opportunity to twist the narrative by telling a blatant half-truth, Weingarten warned, “Citizens United and our failure to enact campaign finance reforms have led to an improper influence of corporate power. If the Supreme Court now strikes down aggregate contribution limits, it will further privilege wealthy donors in the political process and further undermine working people’s confidence that government is serving the public interest.” Loosely translated: “We can’t stand any competition.”
What the union leaders don’t tell us is that they have used Citizens United to their great advantage. The Sunlight Foundation, a nonprofit that tracks the political spending of groups and individuals who wrote checks of more than $10,000 to super PACs and other political committees, found that “big labor outspent big business by a margin of more than 2-to-1 during 2013.”
‘When it comes to writing big checks to favored candidates and causes, unions last year seemed to be taking greater advantage of the landmark Citizens United decision than corporations,’ said Jacob Fenton, an editorial engineer for the Sunlight Foundation.
That might come as something of a surprise, because the union — like many of its brethren — has publicly spoken against Citizens United and even called for Congress to overrule the Supreme Court on the issue.
AFT continued to bellyache, and in a 2012 statement called for the case to be overturned:
The Citizens United ruling has opened the floodgates to massive spending by corporations and even more so by wealthy donors. They are pouring money into our electoral system and threaten to drown out the voices of hard-working Americans.
Yet another flagrant half-truth. Looking at political spending in aggregate reveals a very different story. According to Open Secrets, from 1989-2014 12 of the top 17 “heavy hitters” are unions (NEA is #3 and AFT is #12) – all of which donate almost exclusively to Weingarten’s team – Democrats. ActBlue, which is by far the biggest spender sees over 99 percent of its largess go to Democrats. The other four major players (Goldman Sachs, AT&T, JP Morgan and the National Association of Realtors) disburse money to both parties. (Spending since the advent of Citizens United is in line with the 25-year numbers.)
In keeping with the unions grousing, victim-speak, disinformation and cheating, it should come as no surprise that CTA and SEIU led the charge against SB 52 in California. As reported in the San Jose Mercury News, the Democrat-sponsored bill would have let voters know who is paying for ballot measure ads – on the ads themselves. “Companies and unions could no longer hide behind front groups to keep their identities secret from voters. No more tiny on-screen text. TV ads would show the top three funders in big, readable letters on a black background.” But the unions got their way, managing to get the bill tossed in the “inactive file” this past Friday.
So while the unions join Harry Reid in excoriating the Koch brothers, they ultimately “out-Koch” them. They screech over Citizens United while at the same time taking maximum advantage of it. Then when a bill comes along to promote political donation transparency, they lobby to kill it. The unions are not about fairness; they are about power plain and simple – and using it in any way they can to force their agenda down our throats.
“…spending it to ensure reg folks had access to democracy…and a fairer economy.” I mean, really, Randi??!! All the faux appeals to “reg folks” can’t hide the exceedingly hypocritical dark side of unions – especially the teacher variety, which hose the “reg folks” on a daily basis. Fortunately the “reg folks” are figuring that out and the unions’ popularity with them is at an all-time low.
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.
Think rich conservatives rule the world? Think again.
“To see what is in front of one’s nose,” George Orwell famously wrote, “needs a constant struggle.” In front of my nose as I write this is a copy of last Sunday’s New York Times. I have opened it to the business section. Below the fold isone of many Times articles on Thomas Piketty, the French economist and author of Capital in the Twenty-First Century, which argues that America has entered a second Gilded Age of vast inequality, inherited fortunes, and oligarchic politics, where the shape of public discourse and public policy is determined by a wealthy few. Capital in the Twenty-First Century, the Timessays, “follows in a tradition of works on political economy” that includes The Wealth of Nations, An Essay on the Principle of Population, Principles of Political Economy, Das Kapital, and The General Theory of Employment, Interest, and Money. They’re not kidding.
Above the article on Piketty is another profile, headlined “Comcast’s Real Repairman.” Its subject is David Cohen, the executive vice president of the communications giant Comcast, who wants the government to approve the proposed merger between his company and Time Warner Cable. The deal would make Comcast the largest cable provider in America, with some 30 million customers.
Last year Cohen made about $14 million. He began his career as chief of staff to Ed Rendell, the former Democratic governor of Pennsylvania. And while he backs some Republicans, mainly Pennsylvania politicians who stand to make life easier for his Philly-based conglomerate, Cohen leans left. His political giving favors Democrats, as does the overall giving of his company. President Obama, who appears frequently on Comcast-owned networks, has golfed with Cohen’s boss. Obama has been to Cohen’s house. “I have been here so much,” he said during a 2013 visit, “the only thing I haven’t done in this house is have Seder dinner.” There is always next year.
If the business editors of the Times were aware of the irony of lamenting the political influence of great wealth on one half of their page while handling it with kid gloves on the other, they gave no sign. “Mr. Cohen says he understands the criticism that he has access most citizens do not,” says the article, before handing Cohen the microphone. “But I also don’t believe in unilateral disarmament,” he said. Two paragraphs earlier, he had said, “My priorities in political giving are Comcast priorities. I don’t kid myself. My goals are to support the interests of the company.”
There you have it: A wealthy Democratic donor admits he funds candidates to improve his bottom line. And yet I hear from the Senate floor no denunciations of his attempts to buy American democracy, no labeling of him as un-American. I have not received a piece of direct mail soliciting donations to fight David L. Cohen’s hijacking of the political process, nor do I wake up every day to investigations of the Cohen political and charitable network. Why?
My confusion only grows as I turn the pages of the paper and come to an article in the Sunday Styles section headlined “Including the Young and the Rich.” Here I learn that last month the White House held a secret meeting with “an elite group of 100 young philanthropists and heirs to billionaire family fortunes.” This “discreet, invitation-only summit” was intended, the author says, “to find common ground between the public sector and the so-called next generation philanthropists, many of whom stand to inherit billions in private wealth.” Media were not allowed, the author says in a parenthetical, but he was “invited to report on the conference as a member of the family that started the Johnson & Johnson pharmaceutical company.” The author’s name is Jamie Johnson, he is worth around $610 million, and as of 2011 he was, I see, one of the world’s most eligible bachelors.
“I was a little worried they were going to get a bunch of rich kids in the room and fundraise for the Democratic Party,” said one of the participants. “But they didn’t.” The quote comes from 30-year-old Liesel Pritzker Simmons, whose billionaire cousin is the secretary of Commerce, and who along with her brother earned a $560 million inheritance by suing her dad. The Obama team did not have to hit up Pritzker Simmons for cash. She and her husband, an heir to the Montgomery Ward fortune, have contributed hundreds of thousands of dollars to Democrats and liberal groups in recent years, including to ActBlue, the DSCC, Harry Reid’s Majority PAC, Priorities USA, Elizabeth Warren, and congressional candidate Sean Eldridge. Like Eldridge needs the money. He is married to Chris Hughes, who lucked into rooming with Mark Zuckerberg at Harvard and now is worth around $400 million.
Not every attendee at the trust-fund summit was an Obama donor. Zac Russell, “an eloquent 26-year-old” who recently joined his Russell Family Foundation, is “not an ardent supporter of the Obama administration.” Indeed, not even 30 years old, he speaks “with an air of cynicism” befitting his “scraggy Brooklyn-style facial hair” and “loosely fitting suit without a necktie.” He told Jamie Johnson, “Their head of public affairs contacted me and said, ‘Let’s talk,’ and so we’ll talk.” What they talked about was climate change and “grass-roots efforts to improve water quality in Puget Sound.” You know: real Tea Party stuff.
The world of unequal incomes that liberals self-righteously lament, the world of concentrated, inherited wealth, of politics dominated by the concerns of a few, is a world constructed by liberal methods according to liberal ideals. “The ruling ideas of each age have ever been the ideas of its ruling class,” Marx and Engels wrote in 1848. And there can be no denying that the ruling ideas of our age—diversity, multiculturalism, cosmopolitanism, gun control, free trade, unrestricted migration, sexual autonomy, feminism, environmentalism—are liberal ones.
The popular rhetoric of income inequality, the attacks on Charles and David Koch, the assertion that the system is rigged against the common man, the accusations that a vast right-wing conspiracy has despoiled the American landscape and society and polity—these are the means by which the ruling class masks its true position and justifies its continued agglomeration of power and of wealth.
The campaign against inequality and the call for higher taxes and the regulatory burdens placed on extractive industries further the self-interest of the liberals who rule our world partly because those liberals are already established in society and have already made their money, partly because like David Cohen or Tom Steyer or George Soros or Elon Musk or Warren Buffett they stand to benefit financially from their preferred outcomes, but also because there are fortunes to be made, there is status to be gained, in justifying the continued expansion of the welfare state, in designing plans for the redistribution of tax dollars, in demonizing those sections of the elite, and that minority of Americans, which dissent from the ruling ideas.
Seven of the 10 richest counties in the country voted for Barack Obama in 2012, many of them by huge margins. Six of the 10 are in the Washington, D.C., metro area, which has benefited from government employment and payment regulations, from government contracting, and from consulting, lobbying, and lawyering for clients petitioning the government. The median income of Falls Church City, Va., is $121,250 dollars. In 2012, Falls Church City voted for Obama 70 percent to 30 percent.
Democrats represent eight of the ten richest congressional districts in the country. Democrat Carolyn Maloney represents the district with the highest per capita income of $75,479. Outgoing congressman Henry Waxman represents the district with the second-highest per capita income of $61,273. The only two Republicans on the list are Rep. Leonard Lance, whose New Jersey district ranks seventh, and outgoing Rep. Frank Wolf, whose Virginia district ranks tenth. The average per capita income of Democratic House districts is $1,000 more than Republican ones.
Congressional Democrats have a higher median net worth than congressional Republicans. House Democrats have a higher median net worth ($929,000) than House Republicans ($884,000), while the median net worth of Senate Republicans ($2.9 million) is higher than that of Senate Democrats ($1.7 million). But it is not like the Senate Democrats are hurting financially. They have lost some wealthy members in recent years (Herbert Kohl, John Kerry, Frank Lautenberg). Of the 10 richest members of Congress, only three are Republicans.
The top 20 entries in the Forbes list of the 400 wealthiest Americans include conservative bogeymen such as Charles and David Koch (tied at number 4) and Sheldon Adelson (number 11). But these men are overwhelmed by Democratic fundraisers such as Warren Buffett (number 2), Michael Bloomberg (number 10), Jeff Bezos (number 12), Larry Page (number 13), Sergey Brin (number 14), and George Soros (number 19), as well as by billionaires who have donated more evenly between parties, such as Bill Gates (number 1) and Larry Ellison (number 3). Members of the Walton family, who fill four of the top 10 spots, have also donated to both parties, but in recent years have leaned Republican.
That does not include the Waltons’ charitable giving, however, which includes sizable donations to the left-wing Tides Foundation and Obama aide John Podesta’s Center for American Progress. Indeed, the partisan makeup of the super-rich is less interesting, and less important, than their ideological unity. The issues that the richest Americans care most passionately about, from gay marriage to comprehensive immigration reform to gun control to drug legalization to foreign aid, are liberal issues. Only the Kochs and Adelson are famous for making defiant and public stands against the spirit of the age.
The list of the 20 most highly compensated CEOs contains many Republicans, and some conservative ones. But it also contains plenty of Democrats and liberals. Ticket-splitter Ellison, who was paid $78.4 million in 2013, tops the list. Next is Disney CEO Bob Iger, who received $34.3 million in compensation in 2013, and is a generous Democrat. Other highly paid CEOs whose giving since 2009 has favored Democrats include outgoing Ford chief Alan Mulally, Larry Merlo of CVS, Kenneth Chennault of American Express, and Paul Jacobs of Qualcomm. When you make more than $19 million a year the line separating Democrats from Republicans becomes hazy. Is Lloyd Blankfein of Goldman Sachs a movement conservative? Is GE’s Jeffrey Immelt?
Eight of the 10 largest private foundations are liberal. The Bill and Melinda Gates Foundation, the largest foundation with $37 billion in assets, to which Warren Buffett has pledged his trust, has delivered grants to the Tides Center and the Center for American Progress. So have the Ford Foundation ($11 billion in assets), the Robert Wood Johnson Foundation ($10 billion), the Hewlett Foundation ($8 billion), the MacArthur Foundation ($6 billion), and the Gordon and Betty Moore Foundation ($6 billion). The Kellogg Foundation ($8 billion) has donated close to $30 million to the Tides Foundation and to the Tides Center, and the Packard Foundation ($6 billion) has chipped in another $30 million to Tides affiliates, as well as founding, at a cost of $71 million, the environmentalist Energy Foundation.
Of the top 10 foundations, only number 7, the Lilly Endowment (with $7 billion in assets) leans conservative. Other notably liberal foundations in the top 100 include Bloomberg Philanthropies, the Kresge Foundation, George Soros’s Open Society Foundation, the Walton Family Foundation, the Heinz Endowments, and Soros’s Open Society Institute. The notorious conservative foundations that constitute the “counter-establishment” do not even crack the top 100. The Lynne and Harry Bradley Foundation, the largest conservative foundation, has assets of $640 million. The Charles G. Koch Foundation in 2012 had assets of $277 million. Conservative foundations are out-gunned.
So, too, are conservative media. The right has talk radio, Fox News Channel, the New York Post, the Wall Street Journal editorial pages, the Washington Times, the Weekly Standard, National Review, and a bunch of plucky websites. Liberals have the New York Times, the Washington Post, the Los Angeles Times, the Financial Times, NBC, ABC, CBS, CNN, PBS, NPR, MSNBC, BBC, the Huffington Post, Slate, the Atlantic Monthly, the New Republic, the Daily Beast, GQ, Esquire, Time, Vogue, and many, many others. Not a single prominent institution of higher education, not a single prominent institution of high culture, can be described in any way as conservative. New York magazine admits that the “vast left-wing conspiracy is on your screen.”
The campaign of Barack Obama outraised the campaign of Mitt Romney. Overall, in 2012, the “red team” slightly outspent the “blue team” by a little more than $100 million. It made no difference. Not a single one of the top “all-time” institutional donors between 1989 and 2014 tilted Republican, according to a list compiled by the Center for Responsive Politics. Senate Democrats arewinning the 2014 money race. Even as they denounce Supreme Court rulings that loosen restrictions on political speech, liberal billionaires pledge gifts of $100 million and $50 million to Democrats in the 2014 election, and meet anonymously and in secret to coordinate giving to the multitude of organizations that make up the professional left. So effective has been the fundraising of hedge-fund billionaire Tom Steyer that President Obama, having delayed the Keystone pipeline yet again, is likely to kill it.
“It’s very difficult to make a democratic system work when you have such extreme inequality,” Piketty told the Times last Sunday, “and such extreme inequality in terms of political influence and the production of knowledge and information.” In fact the mechanisms of democracy seem to be working precisely as the capitalist and petty-bourgeois liberals would like them to work: the question among Democrats these days is just how permanent their majority is likely to be.
What we are in danger of losing because of the “extreme inequality in terms of political influence and the production of knowledge and information” are the classical liberal values of negative freedom, of religious liberty, of equality before the law, of free markets. The inequality of income our bipartisan ruling class sanctimoniously condemns is the very tool it uses to shore up the inequalities of power and communication from which it benefits. Affluent, self-righteous, self-seeking, self-possessed, triumphalist, out of touch, hostile to dissent—this is what oligarchy looks like in the twenty-first century. And it is all in front of one’s nose.
About the Author: Matthew Continetti is editor in chief of the Washington Free Beacon. Prior to joining the Beacon, he was opinion editor of the Weekly Standard, where he remains a contributing editor. The author of The K Street Gang: The Rise and Fall of the Republican Machine (Doubleday, 2006) and The Persecution of Sarah Palin: How the Elite Media Tried to Bring Down a Rising Star (Sentinel, 2009), Continetti’s articles and reviews have appeared in the New York Times, Wall Street Journal, Financial Times, Los Angeles Times, and Washington Post. This article originally appeared in the Washington Free Beacon on April 25, 2014 and appears here with permission.
In a refreshingly candid speech, union leader minimizes bromides about “the children” and relentlessly bangs the class warfare drum.
In his March 22nd state-of-the-union talk to the faithful, California Federation of Teachers president Josh Pechthalt made no bones about the ultimate mission of his union. Absent were the usual silly platitudes like “working together with other stakeholders” and “if we need to strike, it will be for the children.” Nah. Pechthalt didn’t waste any time using weasel words. He went right to the heart of the union’s raison d’être, which is advancing a leftist agenda. Here are a few snippets from a speech that would have made the late Karl Marx beam:
… CFT has been a beacon of progressive, social justice unionism.
… we have consistently supported single payer health care reform….
We are currently part of a coalition with many of our Millionaires Tax and Prop 30 partners working on an effort to amend Prop 13….
The super wealthy and their swollen circle of reactionary think tanks and echo chamber conservative media are committed to eradicating what remains of the labor movement and giving corporations unlimited power over every aspect of American life.
We understand that central to the mission of public education is the need to advocate for a different kind of society…. (Emphasis in original.)
Don’t get me wrong – I am not implying that teacher union bosses don’t care about children. They care, in fact they really care, but maybe not in ways that you and I do. They tend to see children as avatars-in-training for the brave new world that they are attempting to shove down our throats.
But getting our own members organized won’t be enough. We must reach out to our students, their parents and our community members and organizations.
Pechthalt clearly gives no thought to his members who don’t have the same affection for the Comintern that he apparently does. According to Pechthalt’s counterpart, California Teachers Association president Dean Vogel, about one-third of teachers in California are Republican. I wonder what was going through their minds when Pechthalt said, “… open school libraries have become as rare as a congressional republican (sic) with something good to say about the affordable care act (sic).” But then again, it really doesn’t matter, because the way the unions have things rigged, those right-of-center members are still forced to fork over monthly dues just like everyone else. But when you are a true-believer in “social justice,” purloining money from unwilling teachers is nothing more than a bourgeois concern.
Pechthalt was especially rough on the Students Matter (Vergara v California) case, which aims to ensure that all kids in California have an effective teacher by removing the tenure, seniority and dismissal statutes from the state education code. His comments were ad hominem and oozed class warfare sentiments.
The latest attack on public education has been the Vergara lawsuit, backed by billionaires David Welch and Eli Broad and the corporate-friendly law firm of Gibson Dunn and Crutcher.
… We did that while one of the backers of the Vergara lawsuit, Eli Broad, put money into a failed secret Arizona PAC effort that pumped millions of dollars into California in the run-up to the 2012 election to try and defeat Prop 30 and try to pass prop 32, the anti-union initiative.
… The hard cold reality though is that the Vergara suit underscores our challenge: to convincingly tell our story and build deep relationships with parents and community partners in the face of (a) well-funded effort by the opponents of public education to lie and twist reality and erode our influence. (Emphasis added.)
The vilification of Broad is particularly ironic because he is a lifelong Democrat. And regardless of his political affiliation, to progressives, some billionaires are less equal than others. For instance, why the Koch Brothers are considered evil and involved in “dark money” but George Soros is portrayed as an angel of light is beyond me. (Okay, it’s not beyond me….)
And in all the yammering about billionaires and the evil rich, it’s worth noting that when it comes to political spending in California, a teachers union – the California Teachers Association – is #1 by far. Between 2000 and 2013, it spent over $290 million on candidates and causes. That was far more than dreaded corporations AT&T, Chevron and Philip Morris spent in the Golden State combined.
Pechthalt’s and CFT’s attempts to conduct class(room) warfare by aggrandizing the union movement are well-documented. Courtesy of Kyle Olson’s Indoctrination, we know that CFT has put out “lessons” for tots as young as five. In “Trouble in the Henhouse: A Puppet Show” we find an oppressive farmer whose hens unionize and convince the heartless farmer that he’d better respect them “or else.” Then there is “The “Yummy Pizza Company,” another lesson from CFT – actually ten – that delves into the process of organizing a union local. They include instructions on how to collectively bargain as well as a sanitized look at prominent labor leaders. Click Clack Moo, a popular book promoted by CFT parent organization AFL-CIO, tells second graders about unhappy cows that refuse to work until the mean farmer is forced to meet their demands.
It’s important to note that the “workers of the world unite and bring your children to the party” mentality is hardly new for CFT. This is the organization that brought us “Tax the Rich: An Animated Fairy Tale” in 2012. This vile video pushed class warfare to the limit, attempting to whip up hatred of people who have been successful in life but “don’t pay their fair share of taxes.” As Investors Business Daily described it,
“Rich people love their money more than anything in the whole world,” narrates Hollywood actor and noted leftist Ed Asner, in tones used in reading to schoolchildren. “Over time, rich people decided they weren’t rich enough so they came up with ways to get richer.”
…The bile that oozes in the union’s puerile seven-minute screed was unspeakable: The world was a paradise full of good jobs and safe streets until “rich people” decided to get more money, so the video begins.
Instead of paying their “fair share” of taxes, the rich decided to do three things: seek tax cuts, engage in loopholes and evade taxes by shipping their fortunes to the Cayman Islands, illegally of course, mendaciously suggesting that any financial tie with the Caymans is illegal.
It only gets worse: The rich people’s supposed greed led them to buy media and politicians, with a not-so-subtle cartoon depiction of a man who looks a lot like Fox News owner Rupert Murdoch, and then money amassed as coins in big stacks, which then crashed down first on middle class people’s houses, and then on the jobs of police, firefighters, teachers and librarians.
After that “the rich” tried to blame defaulted mortgage holders and after that, teachers and firefighters (conveniently ignoring the bloated pensions and entitlements and waste that are the doings of public employee unions). “Maybe it was the firefighters,” Asner sarcastically narrated.
The scene that received the most attention was of a rich man urinating on the “poor.” CFT pulled that scene shortly after posting, but no matter, the highly offensive video was a shameful attempt to indoctrinate children into the ugly world of class conflict.
It is essential that teachers who are more in love with teaching than with CFT’s attempts to wage war on rich people stop supporting the union’s political agenda. (To learn how to do this, go here.) Until teachers do that, they are complicit in the union’s overall mission, which is dedicated to promoting class warfare and indoctrinating children.
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.
Latest teacher union stunt to discredit charter schools rings hollow.
As I have written before – as recently as last Tuesday – the teachers unions have a schizoid relationship with charter schools. Depending on the tides, they either want to kill charters off or unionize them. Last week – in kill mode – Randi Weingarten’s American Federation of Teachers and a group called In the Public Interest launched a website called Cashing in on Kids.
The website consists of several cases of alleged charter improprieties – fiscal hanky-panky at one, mismanagement at another, etc. Whether the stories are true or not isn’t the point.
No one has ever said that these alternatives to traditional public schools are perfect or should operate with impunity. In fact, accountability is the hallmark of charter schools which get shut down if they don’t do their job. It’s audacious for AFT to bloviate about accountability and transparency in the charter sector when it is the unions that fight (spending untold millions in the process) to maintain the failing educational status quo. In a spot-on response to the attack, Center for Education Reform president Kara Kerwin wrote,
… Unlike all other public schools, charters must be proactive in their efforts to stay open. They must set and meet rigorous academic goals, and actually meet or exceed their state’s proficiency standards. Unlike the conventional public schools that intentionally remain under the radar, charter schools operate under intense scrutiny from teachers unions, the media, and lawmakers. In states with strong charter school laws that allow for objective oversight, it is clear that performance-based accountability is working.
In a rhetorical gymnastics routine we’ve come to expect from teacher unions, this latest campaign against education reform irresponsibly suggests that profit and student success are mutually exclusive, ignoring the fact that K-12 education in the U.S. is a $607 billion enterprise annually.
… By law, for-profit companies may only contract with the non-profit governing board of a charter school. These are public schools that are held to the same state standards, open meeting laws, and transparency. Open-enrollment policies must apply, and students that attend charter schools, regardless of the tax status of the organization that manages it, do so by choice.
Education management companies bring investment and capital to the communities they serve, creating jobs, innovation, and cost-saving strategies. Most assume great financial risk on behalf of their non-profit clients to build infrastructure and facilities in communities that in any other industry would most likely not be considered ideal or open to business. In fact, like most charter schools, even those in public-private partnerships, receive on average 30% less per pupil than their traditional school peers whose management has no accountability or incentive to improve student outcomes. (Emphasis added.)
This latest attempt by the AFT to discredit charter schools is nothing more than an effort to stifle the calls for greater accountability in our conventional public schools that the American public demands.
And it’s even worse than Kerwin made it out to be. In a U.S. News & World Report article about the website, Weingarten is quoted:
This is a simple exercise of following the money. … How many times do people simply get up on a pedestal and say we care about kids, and then you realize that they care about profits, they care about tax deductions, they care about privatizing the public system?
This gets right to the heart of the matter: the latest attack on charters is really an anti-capitalist screed more than anything else. Its goal is to score political points and paint charters as evil money-grubbing outfits. In the Public Interest – a perfect partner for AFT – is a project of The Partnership for Working Families (PWF), which is an ACORN-like group that hates anything capitalist and is a card-carrying member of the “Occupy Wall Street” movement, whose raison d’être is to bash “one percenters.” Not surprisingly, several of PWF donors are rich “philanthropists,” including George Soros and other globalist/socialists.
Perhaps Weingarten, who is on a crusade to keep private entities from abusing public funds, should follow her own money. Her union – a private association – takes in $175,000,000 a year in union dues, which are purloined from teachers’ salaries in most states. And every penny of those salaries is paid by public tax money that originates with private citizens – the taxpayers.
Just what does the union do with all this public/private money? RiShawn Biddle reports,
For 2012-2013, the AFT spent $32 million on political lobbying activities and contributions …; this, by the way, doesn’t include politically-driven spending that can often find its way under so-called “representational activities”. This is a 19 percent increase over spending by the union during the 2011-2012 fiscal year.
This means that the union is pouring public/private money into causes that advance its main agenda which is essentially to keep public/private money flowing into its coffers. The union also pays its bosses quite nicely. According to the latest AFT tax filing, Weingarten pulls in $549,622 in total compensation. (Not too shabby for someone who rails against one percenters.) Her tax deduction crack is especially laughable because Weingarten, in her last year as United Federation of Teachers president, received a $194,000 payout for unused sick days, which pushed her total compensation for the year to over $600,000. And of course, it’s just a coincidence that she abandoned New York City that year for East Hampton, a very wealthy community on Long Island’s south shore, thus avoiding paying $30,000 in taxes.
Hopefully the “Cashing in on Kids” website will get little traction. I mean, really – just who exactly is cashing in on kids … and their parents … and the taxpayers?
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.
Unions were at the forefront in the desperate campaign for Obamacare.
The organization “Health Care for America Now!” included some 1,030 organizations and was the principal coalition working to pass the program. HCAN’s 20-member steering committee included the AFL-CIO, the Communication Workers of America, the teachers’ unions (both the National Education Association and the American Federation of Teachers), the American Federation of State, County and Municipal Employees (AFSCME), the United Food and Commercial Workers (UFCW), the United Auto Workers (UAW), and the Service Employees International Union (SEIU), along with Working America, an AFL-CIO front group.
Taking the lead in organizing unions and their allies for Obamacare was Dennis Rivera. Rivera was the longtime head of the nation’s largest union local—Local 1199 (SEIU Healthcare Workers East)—until he left that job in 2007 to run SEIU’s national effort to organize healthcare workers. In his new position, he was working for Andy Stern, the SEIU president who would later be the most frequent visitor to the White House in the early days of the Obama administration. Back then, in 2007, Stern said Rivera was perfect as chair of SEIU Healthcare because “He’s tough, smart, and compassionate, just what’s needed to transform healthcare in this country. At this moment in history, as the winds of change are blowing toward fundamental healthcare reform, and as SEIU redoubles its efforts to fix our broken healthcare system, Dennis’ decision to shift his focus to the national effort couldn’t come at a better time.”
Stern was eerily prophetic. Rivera was the perfect person to lead the change. Rivera’s specialty at Local 1199 was forming alliances with businesses and hospitals, as well as spending heavily on campaigns that supported his political friends and punished his political enemies. He was close to the leading Democrats in New York (and served on the transition team for Gov. Elliot Spitzer in 2006-2007), but he also took advantage of splits within GOP ranks, partnering with Gov. George Pataki and other Republicans who had big business ties. His skill at building anti-taxpayer coalitions would prove invaluable to the Obamacare effort.
In June 2009, shortly after President Obama took office, the pro-Obamacare “Kaiser Health News” reported that “Unions have created a formidable political machine for the battle on health care, one that they’re already begun to deploy to support their positions and undercut those they oppose. They say they’re ready to spend $80 million.”
The unions’ greatest worry was that they would spark a backlash among voters, such as the backlash against Hillary Clinton’s healthcare plan that, in 1994, gave Republicans control of Congress for the first time in 40 years. Said Len Nichols of the left-wing New America Foundation: The unions understand “that if Democrats fail, last time we got [House Speaker Newt] Gingrich, this time we could get [conservative radio host Rush] Limbaugh.”
(The worriers were right: The backlash against Obamacare gave Republicans, in 2010, their best election in 60-80 years, but by then the program had already become law.)
Forewarned and forearmed, prepared for perhaps the key political battle of their lifetimes, the pro-Obamacare unions and their allies set up their “Health Care for America Now!” campaign on Washington’s K Street, the infamous home for special-interest lobbyists. The operation was funded by MoveOn.org and other organizations funded by billionaire George Soros, and by Soros-connected donors such as the Atlantic Philanthropies, Peter Lewis of Progressive Insurance, and Herb and Marion Sandler. The tax disclaimer for HCAN stated: “HCAN is related to Health Care for America Education Fund, a project of the Tides Center, a section 501(c)(3) public charity.” On the board of the Tides Center was ACORN founder Wade Rathke [see Part 3, to be posted Monday, November 11].
During the campaign for Obamacare, SEIU’s Dennis Rivera took the lead in forming alliances with industries that hoped to profit from the new system directly (health insurance, non-doctor-owned hospitals, the pharmaceutical industry) and indirectly (companies like Walmart that hoped to dump their employees’ healthcare costs onto the taxpayer). Rivera also took advantage of the can’t-we-all-just-get-along weariness of opponents of nationalized healthcare. Many of them had been persuaded by the major news media that President Obama and the Democrats and their healthcare-rationing ideas represented the wave of the future; others wanted a place at the negotiating table as the nation’s healthcare resources were divvied up. In 2009, Crain’s New York Business reported:
Dennis Rivera, the indomitable labor leader, was on Capitol Hill in late June to persuade members of a powerful House committee to include a public insurance option in its massive overhaul of the nation’s health care system. Karen Ignagni [representative of the health insurance industry], perhaps the most feared lobbyist on the Hill, was there to sway the lawmakers in the opposite direction. Yet during a break in the hearing, Ms. Ignagni—whose group of insurers served up the “Harry and Louise” ads that helped kill the Clinton health care reform effort—walked over to Mr. Rivera, greeted him with a warm embrace and asked to meet the following week. . . .
[After his success in New York forming coalitions with Republicans and businesses, Rivera] has exported his mastery of transactional politics to the Beltway, appealing equally to would-be adversaries’ self-interest and their fears to lure them to the table. . . . As chairman of the Service Employees International Union’s health care division, he’s brought together groups including insurers, drugmakers and doctors—all of whom defeated previous attempts at reform. In a nation grown weary of confrontational politics, Mr. Rivera’s brand of bridge-building has injected civility into a complex process, forging a path to health care reform that has eluded Washington for decades.
Rivera, as the healthcare chief of the union most closely connected to President Obama, blurred the lines between his union and the Obama Administration. “To some degree, Dennis is an independent actor, and to some degree, he’s working for the White House,” said a senior vice president of a medical technology group. “That played into making the process a success and people wanting to get involved. It’s not too great to be on the wrong side.”
During the Obamacare campaign, Rivera convened strategy sessions at 9 a.m. in a “war room” at SEIU headquarters. According to Crain’s, the campaign deployed “an army of 400 SEIU staff and members who are fanned out across 16 priority states. Union leaders have identified 20 senators and nine representatives they believe need some swaying to the cause of reform, and researchers have produced 100-page dossiers on each of them. The reports contained detailed information ranging from lists of associates who might influence these legislators to notes about how they typically respond to TV ads that protest their positions. The union has drawn up specific plans to target each elected official, ranging from writing letters and making phone calls to bird-dogging and holding sit-ins. If an official typically doesn’t respond to union pressure, it’s duly noted, and sympathetic leaders from religious or women’s groups have been primed to work them over.”
Particularly valuable in Rivera’s effort were left-wing groups that are not perceived by the general public as left-wing, such as the AARP and the American Cancer Society, which are thought by most people to be a senior citizens’ group and a traditional charity.
One of the key politicians with whom Rivera formed an alliance was Sen. Max Baucus (D-Mont.), chairman of the Senate Finance Committee. A relative moderate from a conservative state, Baucus had little history with SEIU before 2008. Rivera targeted Baucus, gradually building a relationship, then using the endorsement of so-called “reform” by Walmart as leverage to get Baucus on board. Without the help of Baucus, it’s unlikely Democrats would have held together in support of Obamacare—and without the unanimous support of the Senate’s 60 Democrats, the legislation could not have passed.
The irony: It was Baucus who, this year, labeled the rollout of Obamacare a “train wreck.”
Rivera’s efforts bore fruit when Obamacare passed Congress. In the course of the campaign, the legislation’s supporters had labeled opponents as racists who only fought against the President’s program because it was proposed by a black man. In a 2010 speech, AFL-CIO President Richard Trumka recalled personally witnessing the racism of Obamacare opponents on the day of the key vote: “I watched them spit at people. I watched them call [civil rights hero and U.S. Rep.] John Lewis the N-word.” Recordings of the incident proved that no such display of racism ever occurred, but it hardly mattered. Claims by opponents that Obamacare would be a disaster, claims that were backed up by the most thoughtful analysis available, hardly mattered. To the unions, what counted was victory. Any problems could be fixed later—right?
Dr. Steven J. Allen (JD, PhD) is editor of Labor Watch. This post is the second of a three-part series originally published by Labor Watch, a project of the Capitol Research Center, and is published here with permission.
The teachers union not only plays the poverty card, but by battling reforms, ensures that the impoverished will remain that way.
“No Education Reform Without Tackling Poverty, Experts Say,” is the title of an article on the National Education Association website. Experts? A trip into the weeds leads to something called the Center on Poverty, Inequality and Public Policy at Georgetown University. Its main benefactor is none other than the Open Society Foundations run by megalomaniac George Soros, a man who once said he saw himself as “some kind of god, the creator of everything.” Expecting anything without an agenda from this bunch would be foolish.
The NEA’s “experts” claim that pouring money into education will eradicate poverty is wrong on all counts. For example, they state that children would be better educated by attending a “high quality pre-school.” Yet Head Start, according to Reason’s Lisa Snell, U. of Arkansas Professor Jay Greene and others, has been a bust. In 2010, Lindsey Burke at the Heritage Foundation wrote,
Taxpayers have been on the hook for more than $100 billion for the Head Start program since 1965. This federal evaluation, which effectively shows no lasting impact on children after first grade and no difference between those children who attended Head Start and those who did not, should call into question the merits of increasing funding for the program, which the Obama administration recently did as part of the so-called “stimulus” bill.
So, $100 billion later, children are no better off attending a preschool, but what’s important to the unions is that more adults are employed. And that means more dues for them to spend on their progressive political agenda which favors causes that have little to do with education – e.g. abortion on demand, same-sex marriage, income redistribution, and nationalized health care. In 2010-2011, NEA spent $133 million in lobbying and gifts to further its progressive agenda.
Also, with all the union kvetching, one might assume that we stint on education spending. In fact, in the U.S. since 1970, education spending has increased 150 percent. Compared to other countries around the world, we are number four in spending after Luxembourg, Switzerland and Norway. Yet,
The three-yearly OECD Programme for International Student Assessment (PISA) report, which compares the knowledge and skills of 15-year-olds in 70 countries around the world, ranked the United States 14th out of 34 OECD countries for reading skills, 17th for science and 25th for mathematics.
Thus the problem is not the amount of money we spend, but how it’s spent. Charter schools typically lead to better educated kids and save us money at the same time. Inner city charter school operators like Eva Moskowitz and Geoffrey Canada and the KIPP schools do a far better job – with fewer tax dollars – than traditional public schools. Even taking the superstars of the movement out of the mix, charter schools outperform traditional public schools. As Jay Greene writes, “Charter Benefits Are Proven by the Best Evidence.”
But no, the NEA doesn’t back charters. And the reason it doesn’t has nothing to do with education; it’s because charters are individually run and therefore very hard to unionize. In fact, only 12 percent of the nation’s 5,500 or so charters are unionized.
If the teachers unions were really serious about improving education and eradicating poverty, they would support the ultimate in school choice – voucher systems. A voucher would give a kid a chance to opt out of a failing public school and use his education dollars to pay for a private school of his choice. This would level the playing field for poorer families. However, the unions can’t abide vouchers because public schools would lose students to private schools, which are not unionized.
Eliminating the twin evils of tenure and seniority would go a long way to improving the current teaching force, by ceding more power to individual school districts. Bad teachers should be fired and the good ones should get raises. Better teachers can also handle slightly larger classes, thereby reducing the overall number of teachers we need.
But saving the taxpayers money, leveling the playing field for the poor, ceding power to local education agencies and thus having fewer dues-paying members are solutions nowhere to be found in the union playbook.
The nation’s education woes began about forty years ago – right at the time the NEA became a major force in education. Certainly other social trends have contributed to the educational morass we find ourselves in, but the National Education Association is the main reason for it – all the time using young children as pawns while vigorously pursuing its political agenda. Despite all the warm and fuzzy platitudes they spew, it is obvious that the teachers unions are not terribly interested in the education of our children or helping them get out of poverty.
About the author: 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.