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Obama, Teachers Unions and Tax Evasion

President Obama has talked a good education reform game, but when push comes to threats, he is above all a good union man.

On August 25th, AFL-CIO boss Richard Trumka uttered a few words that seemed to resonate with President Obama. He said, “The AFL-CIO has not yet decided if it will participate in next year’s Democratic National Convention, as labor union members ponder whether President Obama has earned their support.…” He said the major economic speech the president has planned for early next month will tell union members what they need to know about whether he will be worth supporting.”

Trumka has a history of following through on his threats. As president of the United Mine Workers in the spring of 1993, he wanted to ensure that no one would be able to find employment as a miner without paying union dues to the UMW. Accordingly, he proceeded to order more than 17,000 mine workers to walk off their jobs, and told the striking miners to “kick the sh– out of every last one” of their fellow employees and mine operators who resisted union demands. UMW thugs dutifully responded by vandalizing homes, firing gunshots into management’s offices, and cutting off the power supply to another mine, temporarily trapping 93 miners underground.

Now it’s true that Trumka didn’t threaten to “kick the sh–”out of the president, but he may as well have. Last week, when Obama gave his speech to Congress, the thuggish Trumka was part of a small group who sat with Mrs. Obama listening to the President spew out yet another stimulus plan (how’d that last one work out, Mr. President?) This time it will cost $447 billion, and like the 2009 version, will allegedly fix all our economic ails. Long on demagogic rhetoric and short on details, the president made it sound so simple, “Pass this jobs bill, and we can put people to work rebuilding America.”

Perhaps even more important to the president than AFL-CIO backing is the support of the biggest union in the country – the National Education Association. So not surprisingly he also offered more “free” money – $60 billion – to education. This money will allegedly save 280,000 jobs according to U.S. Secretary of Education Arne Duncan. Since NEA gets $168 in dues from each of its members, it’s obvious why it welcomed Obama’s proposal. But that doesn’t mean that the union was satisfied.

When NEA President Dennis Van Roekel was asked if this was enough money to make him happy, he was dubious, saying that what’s needed is “more than they are willing to spend.” That’s because there is one dollar amount – and only one — that Van Roekel thinks is enough and that number is $MORE.

Clearly the extra money will fatten union coffers, but will keeping all these extra teachers’ jobs benefit American children and their families? Some will and some won’t. Due to the political heft of NEA, we still live in a country that treats teachers as widgets – and all do an equally good job.

As usual, Obama and his teacher union pals are avoiding a couple of obvious ways to save money. It has been demonstrably shown that charter schools do as good or better job for considerably less money and that a voucher system would save even more money.

As writer RiShawn Biddle put it, “This move is really just a waste of both taxpayer’s money and time that Obama could use to rally support for the education reform efforts that have been mostly-embraced on a bipartisan level. He would be better off tossing out the education portion of this stimulus and getting back to pushing for systemic reform.”

But Mr. Obama seems intent on his new tax-and-spend program and should Congress pass it, I have a suggestion as to where we might come up with some money. The NEA, which has an annual budget of $371 million, spent more than $56.3 million in the 2007-2008 election cycle on state and federal campaigns, political parties, and ballot measures, $12.5 million ahead of the second-place group. And yet, NEA doesn’t think it should pay income tax and rarely does.

The law says you must pay income tax unless you are a tax exempt entity, and if you are accorded that status, you cannot be involved with politicking. The Landmark Legal Foundation has been on to the NEA and its tax evasion for years now, and has gained some traction. In 2006, the Wisconsin Education Association, a NEA affiliate “realized it needed to pay $171,000 in federal taxes after LLF asked if the organization had paid taxes on $430,000 it gave to the Democratic Legislative Campaign Committee. Stan Johnson, the WEAC’s president, admitted the organization should have paid taxes on the expenditures.”

If NEA ever stopped blathering about the rich not paying their “fair share” and actually started paying its own (and were dinged for past years’ payments with appropriate penalties), it would certainly help to solve the budgetary problems it claims are inhibiting our education process.

Mr. President, as a “fair share” proponent, why don’t you look into why NEA, which spends hundreds of millions on politics – almost exclusively on liberal candidates and causes – pays almost no taxes? But then again, I guess I just answered my own question.

About the author: Larry Sand 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.

Reform Unionism: A Wolf by Any Other Name….

Despite good intentions, efforts to reform teachers unions and make them partners in education reform will not work.

Last week, the typically sane and sage Andrew Rotherham wrote a provocative article for Time Magazine entitled “Quiet Riot: Insurgents Take On Teachers Unions.” The main thrust of the piece is this:

“But perhaps the biggest strategic pressure for reform is starting to come from teachers themselves, many of whom are trying to change their unions and, by extension, their profession. These renegade groups, composed generally of younger teachers, are trying to accomplish what a generation of education reformers, activists and think tanks have not: forcing the unions to genuinely mend their ways.”

He spotlights three organizations he claims are leading a movement to reform teachers unions and make them partners in an attempt to improve the quality of public education — NewTLA, a dissident faction in the United Teachers of Los Angeles, Educators for Excellence, a reform group in New York started by two young Teach For America graduates, and Teach Plus, an organization that has gained traction in several states, whose goal is to “engage early career teachers in rebuilding their profession to better meet the needs of students and the incoming generation of teachers.”

In addition, Steven Brill (whose new book Class Warfare has received much acclaim) wrote “Super Teachers Alone Can’t Save Our Schools,” a provocative article in the Wall Street Journal this past Saturday. As the article’s title implies, teachers need help. But from whom? After describing the burnout of a young assistant principal at a charter school in Harlem, he says,

“The lesson that I draw from Ms. Reid’s dropping out of the race at the Harlem Success school is that the teachers’ unions have to be enlisted in the fight for reform.”

If only Rotherham and Brill were being realistic in their reform-the-union proposal.

Long time teacher union watchdog, Mike Antonucci, addresses the writers’ flawed prescriptions in “Let’s All See the Plan.” While praising NewTLA’s efforts, he says,

“The teacher union reform field is littered with the bodies of those who sought to alter the union’s primary mission – protecting teachers – and found themselves ousted in favor of challengers who promised to get tough with administrators.”

A day after Antonucci’s post, Terry Moe, another veteran teacher union critic, posted “Will Young People Reform Teachers Unions? Dream On.”

“There are well over 3 million active teachers in this country, and the groups Rotherham points to are a drop in the bucket. In unions all across the country, young teachers barely participate in union affairs–which are entirely dominated by their senior colleagues. In any event, if we look at young union members as a whole–not just those from TFA or insurgent groups, but all of them–the evidence suggests that their attitudes on basic issues are very similar to those of senior unionized teachers: they are highly satisfied with their union locals, they are highly supportive of collective bargaining, they believe that collective bargaining has benign effects for kids and schools, and they have similar positions on most matters of education policy….

“The argument that young teachers are going to transform the unions is just as fanciful, and just as wrong…. Unions are unions. They are in the business of protecting jobs: that is why their members join, that is what their members expect them to do, and that is what they actually do. If you expect them to do something else–to represent children or to represent the public interest–you will be wrong. Don’t expect a cat to bark.”

Over time, teachers tend to get very comfortable with all the perks that unions provide, even though they’re bad for kids – collective bargaining, seniority, tenure, a job that is virtually guaranteed for life, etc. (In Special Interest, Moe’s excellent new book about teachers unions, Chapter 3 and Appendix C deal with young teachers.)

Coincidentally, scholarly journal Education Next has just released its fifth annual survey in which teachers and the general public are interviewed about a variety of reform topics including the unions.

When the public was asked if teachers unions have a generally positive or negative effect on the nation’s public schools, 33 percent said “negative,” while 29 percent said “positive” and 38 percent were neutral – numbers almost identical to the 2009 and 2010 polls.

However, it’s a different story with teachers,

“Among teachers themselves, opinion is moving in precisely the opposite direction from that of the public at large. Only 17 percent now say that unions have a negative impact on the nation’s schools, down from 25 percent in 2010. Fifty-eight percent think they have a positive impact, up from 51 percent the previous year.”

As we see from these statistics, over the past year, teachers are becoming more in sync with their unions. Only one in six teachers thinks that the unions in their present state are harmful to education.

Assuming these numbers are accurate, the union reform crowd, no matter how noble their intentions and dogged their efforts, has little chance to accomplish much, if anything, meaningful. The traditional unionistas may give a bit here and there to seem fair-minded, but with a great majority of their members on board, their mission and game plan will remain essentially unchanged.

If meaningful change is going to happen, it will come from the citizenry via the ballot box. Within the past year, a shift in voting patterns has enabled reform-minded governors and legislatures to greatly restrict collective bargaining, increase school choice opportunities, modify tenure rules, etc. in Wisconsin, Indiana, Ohio and elsewhere. One can only wonder what could be accomplished if a majority of the voting public would realize the pernicious effect that teachers unions have on education and act accordingly.

But in any event, change will not come by reforming the teachers unions. As Little Red Riding Hood learned, a wolf in granny’s clothing is still a wolf.

About the author: Larry Sand 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.

Typical Teachers Union Tactics Kill Parent Trigger in Connecticut

Time for being shocked, shocked about teacher union methods and objectives is over.

Last week, writer Rishawn Biddle broke a story about the American Federation of Teachers’ recent successful actions to neuter a Parent Trigger bill in Connecticut. The first Parent Trigger law, officially the Parent Empowerment Act, was passed in California early last year. It allows parents, via a petition, to force change in the governance of a failing school should the petitioners get a majority of parents to sign on.

The educational establishment – school boards, teachers unions and other special interest groups, dubbed the “Government Education Complex” by Bruno Behrend, director of the Center for School Reform at The Heartland Institute, don’t like the law since it allows a group of parents to trump their power.

Most writers and bloggers who have written about the incident have focused on a pdf, originally a PowerPoint, posted on the AFT website, which very honestly and cynically describes the process by which the union did its dirty work. Realizing that this display of raw union power was not in keeping with its persona as a reform-minded partner, always willing to collaborate with parents, communities and other stakeholders, AFT pulled the pdf from its website shortly after the Biddle piece was posted and started to play defense…sort of.

In an email to education writer Alexander Russo, AFT President Randi Weingarten wrote, “The power point didn’t represent AFT or my views, nor does it represent the Conn Fed’s views….” And the punch line, “We are proud of the work in Conn, but disagree with the wording and what the wording in the power point represented.”

The wording? She disagreed with the wording??!! That’s like pummeling someone, stealing their money and then apologizing because you dropped a couple of F bombs in the process.

While I am certainly not a fan of AFT’s tactics, I am hardly shocked by them. They are a labor union. It is their job to do whatever they can do to protect the interests of its members.

In fact, if Randi Weingarten or National Education Association President Dennis Van Roekel were really honest, they’d lose all the phony caring about children rhetoric and say something like the following:

Truth is, Mr. and Mrs. America, we don’t give a damn about you, your children or your wallet. We want to have as many teachers as we can on the job, including the rotten ones – they pay dues also – and make you pay them as much as possible so that we can collect carloads of cash, which allows us to be a political powerhouse and pursue our very progressive social, economic and political agenda.

If they were being really honest. But of course, tactically, that would not be in their best interest. As Joy Pullmann, managing editor of School Reform News at The Heartland Institute, put it, “…unions must pretend to care for ridding schools of bad teachers, squeezing the most out of taxpayer dollars, and other public concerns.”

So, it is up to us – the public. We all must realize that no matter their rhetoric, teachers unions are anything but beneficent organizations that care about children, their parents, taxpayers or quality education. They must be seen as ruthless special interest groups that will stop at nothing to advance their agenda. No one should forget that the NEA playbook is adapted directly from Marxist community organizer Saul Alinsky. Alinsky’s best known book, “Rules For Radicals: A Pragmatic Primer for Realistic Radicals,” opens with a paean to one held in high esteem by the author – Lucifer.

Once the public became aware of the NEA-Alinsky connection, the union pulled most of their fawning comments about Alinsky from their website, leaving only The Activist’s Library entry:

Rules for Radicals
Saul Alinsky, Vintage Books, 1989
The classic book about organizing people, written by one of America’s foremost organizers.

However, I did manage to salvage one of the pulled docs. As you can see by this adoring review of Alinsky’s work, the NEA writer is so blindly in love with his subject that he can’t quite remember from sentence to sentence how to spell his hero’s name. The review begins with “An inspiration to anyone contemplating action in their community! And to every organizer!” and gets more breathless and impassioned with each rabid paragraph.

If that review, proudly posted on their website until recently, isn’t enough to convince the public of the true nature of the teachers unions, how about this – a training tape, clearly inspired by Alinsky, made by the Michigan Education Association, an NEA affiliate, in the 1990s for union negotiators who collectively bargain with school boards. I urge you to listen to the audio and not just read the text. The creepiness of actually hearing the trainer pitch his hardball tactics adds a dimension that is missing when you just read the words.

For example, at one point in the tape, the trainer is advising a union negotiator how to best deal with someone running for school board. He says,

“Find out about his family; his marital status; the number of children he has and their ages and what schools they go to. Are they public, parochial, or are they private? And also, don’t forget to check into his politics. …when checking into his employment you might want to find out what do his peers think of him; what is his relationship with his employer or employees; and does holding a public office help him advance in his job or produce business connections?”

After listening to the tape, go here and read Alinsky’s 13 rules of power politics. It would seem that the negotiator is applying rule #13,

“Pick the target, freeze it, personalize it, and polarize it.”

The teachers unions’ methods and objectives have been in plain view for some time now. Unless the public takes notice and withdraws their support, the unions’ perfidy will continue unchecked.

About the author: Larry Sand 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.

SOS Fest: Teachers Unions and Radical Left are in Charge

Teachers should think twice before marching in lockstep with this revolting crowd.

Americans have always had a warm spot for teachers. We all have memories of those who have taught us, who were there every day for us and felt like part of our family. But over the past 40 years or so, teachers unions have begun to chip away at the public’s perception of teachers. And this changing perception has accelerated during the recent fiscal downturn.

Education policy expert Jay Greene addresses this phenomenon in The Army of Angry Teachers which was posted on Education Matters, his own blog, and elsewhere last week. The crux of his piece is that typically people tend to look at teachers as an extension of their family. But now during stressful times for teachers, the teachers unions have whipped the rank and file into a state of deep anger. Greene writes “But when the public face of the teacher unions is the Army of Angry Teachers, they no longer seem like Mary Poppins and begin to look a lot more like longshoremen beating their opponents with metal pipes.”

Greene has hit on a major point. Not surprisingly, the post was met with negative responses by, well, angry teachers.

While some teachers may be justified in being angry about this and that, the teachers unions are doing their level best to convince teachers that they are underpaid and underappreciated and if not for the unions, teachers would be receiving minimum wage and spending their time being spat upon by the man in the street. This alleged “teacher bashing” couldn’t be further from the truth, but nevertheless, too many teachers have bought this nonsense hook, line and sinker and have become true believers of all things union. As such, from the inside out, the union’s game plan of making teachers psychologically dependent on them is working quite well.

These feelings of victimization and anger will be on full display this weekend in the nation’s capital. The teacher union-backed SOS (Save Our Schools) March on Washington – will have the Army of Angry Teachers and others taking to the streets and screaming about various education issues such budgetary shortfalls that must be made up by “taxing the rich.” Standardized testing and “teacher accountability schemes” are due for some harsh criticism also.

Because of the sorry collection of participants, this is going to end up being even worse for teachers than Greene alluded to in his article.

While the march itself will be on July 30th, there will be workshops on the 28th and 29th. Kicking off each of these days will be a keynote speech – one from 1960s relic Jonathan Kozol and the other from discredited education historian Diane Ravitch.

Education reformer Whitney Tilson refers to Kozol as a “dangerous crackpot who will cause this country’s most vulnerable children immeasurable harm.” Kozol has been beating the more-money-will-conquer-all-things-educational drum for 45 years now while blaming poor student performance on bogeymen like poverty and racism. Kozol conveniently omits the fact that the poor and minorities have made great strides when there is a real choice given to parents as to where to send their children to school – invariably to non-unionized ones.

Ravitch, whose scholarship once upon a time landed her on the prestigious Koret Task Force, a group that focuses on education reform options has now, for reasons known only to her, done a 180 practically overnight and become a shill for the teachers unions. In fact, she has done such a good job in her new career that the National Education Association bestowed on her their highest honor — the “Friend of Education Award” at the union’s 2010 national convention. (If there is anything more damning than to be honored by NEA, I can’t imagine what it would be.)

But the “be careful who you hang out with” warning goes way beyond Kozol and Ravitch. The endorsers of the confab include a laundry list of radicals — people and organizations — that are significantly outside the American mainstream. For example:

Students for a Democratic Society – Yes, they are still at it. The name sounds innocent, but this is the organization responsible for bombing the Pentagon and various police stations around the country 40 years ago.

Michael Klonsky – long-time proud Communist who was invited to China in 1977 to confer with his fellow Maoists.

Freedom Socialist Party – a typical progressive capitalist-hating socialist outfit, but with a feminist slant.

Rethinking Schools – Oh boy are they! From their website – “How do we bring the fight to protect and transform public schools into our classrooms? How do we connect our classrooms to the struggles in the streets? As the crisis over public education escalates, activist teachers are experimenting with new approaches.”

Radical Women – Their website proclaims this group is “the revolutionary wing of the women’s movement and a strong feminist voice within the Left.”

This is just the tip of the iceberg, but you get the idea. Oh, one more thing. Washington can get pretty swampy during the summer and the organizers have a film festival planned in a hopefully air-conditioned theatre. The kickoff film is “The People Speak,” which concerns itself with the late Communist Howard Zinn. The former college professor perhaps hit the nadir of a rather dubious professional career by penning “A People’s History of the United States.” When called on the carpet for writing a history book that played very fast and loose with the facts, Zinn freely admitted it, saying that his hope in writing the book was to create a revolution.

In any event, I’m sure some legitimate gripes of teachers will be addressed at this four day event. However, the teachers unions and the radicals will get most of the press coverage and teachers will come out of all this looking like useful idiots or worse. As such, teachers would do well to distance themselves from this unseemly event. If not, whatever esteem Americans still hold for its teachers of America will erode further.

About the author: Larry Sand 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.

National Teachers Unions Intensify War on Reformers

NEA and AFT ramp up attacks on non-existent teacher bashers, while vilifying those who are trying to reform a failing system.

In her address last week at the American Federation of Teachers TEACH conference, AFT President Randi Weingarten came out swinging. In an emotional speech to the faithful, she said that education reform should come from teachers and their communities, rather than from people “who blame teachers for everything.” While the teachers unions have been hammering away at this “blame the teacher” myth for some time now, the rants seem to be intensifying.

Invariably, what is labeled “teacher bashing” is nothing more than anger at the teachers unions for blocking every type of education reform imaginable, as well as the unions doing their level best to block school districts’ attempts to fire bad and even criminal teachers. So to be more specific, these phenomena should be called “teacher union bashing” and “bad teacher bashing.”

Education writer RiShawn Biddle does an excellent job of poking holes in the teacher bashing argument, claiming, among other things, that Weingarten “is just using a rhetorical trick often deployed by teachers unions and other education traditionalists to oppose school reform. They declare that any criticism of the unions and any effort to overhaul teacher quality are forms of ‘teacher bashing.’ And such proclamations end up forcing reformers onto their heels when they should actually take these critics to the woodshed.”

“Reformophobia” was also an important component at the yearly National Education Association convention that wrapped up a couple of weeks ago. At the NEA confab, we heard the same petulant tone from teachers who came from all over the country and convened as part of the Representative Assembly. One of the RA’s responsibilities is to propose New Business Items, which are messages of concern from the hoi-polloi to the NEA aristocracy. This year’s NBIs dealt heavily with the education reform issues that the union crowd is clearly (and understandably) most threatened by.

For example, NBI 33 says,” NEA will establish and articulate a position against the privatization of the American public school system.” (In other words, we are threatened by any kind of school choice system and will fight to the death to prevent this from happening on a grand scale.)

NBI 37 says, “NEA will investigate and inform its members about the anti-public education agenda behind the ill-informed intrusion of billionaires on education.” (Be careful, Bill Gates, you are not welcome into the world we now control.)

NBI 76 says, “NEA will facilitate access to empirical research and reviewed and/or valid studies, for member use, on the NEA website to assist members in combating the concerted attacks on public education and public educators.” (Our butts are getting kicked by the reformers and we need to find some snappy rejoinders to counter their attacks.)

NBI 80 says, “The NEA Representative Assembly directs the NEA President to denounce blatant age discrimination occurring across the United States, as veteran educators are targeted for dismissal by school superintendents and administrators who, under the guise of “improvement plans”, often subject these educators to harassment-style management. The President may point out that all school employees over the age of 40 are protected under the Age Discrimination in Employment Act of 1967, and stress the countless contributions made to public education by veteran teachers.” (Don’t mess with our seniority system because we will attack you as “ageist” and use a federal law to stop you if necessary.)

But perhaps the most vitriolic of the NBIs was the one attacking reform-minded Secretary of Education Arne Duncan. New Business Item C starts with, “The NEA Representative Assembly directs the NEA President to communicate aggressively, forcefully, and immediately to President Barack Obama and US Secretary of Education Arne Duncan that NEA is appalled with Secretary Duncan’s practice of….” and goes on to list “let-me-count-the-ways-we-hate-you” items – 13 in all. Interestingly though, Duncan’s boss Barack Obama not only got by unscathed but was given the NEA presidential endorsement for 2012. The message to Obama would seem to be, “We have to tolerate you because we’d rather die than support a Republican. Now please show us some love and pay us back by canning that creep Duncan.”)

Interestingly, there was one out-of-character measure taken by the NEA. According to Mike Antonucci, the union “is no longer opposed to the use of merit pay or performance pay compensation systems.”

While this would appear to be a tectonic shift, it in all likelihood is not. As Antonucci points out, “Categorical opposition to something on the fringe of education policy is practical, but as such things become more mainstream over time, this becomes less and less feasible and costs the union in public credibility. NEA’s solution is to stop saying, ‘No, you can’t,’ and start saying, ‘Well, you can, as long as you can pass through the eye of the needle.’”

In other words, NEA is saying, “You see. We are really not obstructionists.” But course, when it comes time to nail down specifics, the union will do what it always does – aggressively block anything approaching meaningful reform. Yes, the devil is in the details. And the devil will do everything in its power to ensure that the details don’t do anything at all to disturb the moribund status quo.

About the author: Larry Sand 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.

Wrestlers of the World, Unite!

Only on Planet Teacher Union can obnoxious American wrestlers and a potentially cataclysmic political situation in the Middle East be utilized to advance the teachers unions’ agenda.

My never ending quest to find something good that teachers unions do for children or taxpayers has led to some pretty strange dead ends, but lately we have hit on a couple of items that even the most jaded among us can’t quite digest.

The first story has made a few ripples in the blogosphere, but overall not exactly a big splash. On April 29th, the Creative Coalition and World Wrestling Entertainment (WWE) issued a press release to announce that they were partnering with the National Education Association. The Creative Coalition is a typical progressive arts activist outfit, which as a registered 501(c)(3) must officially be “nonpolitical.” This is the type of organization that you’d expect NEA to align with. However, that NEA has entered into a formal partnership with WWE is something that left even one as cynical as I, with mouth agape.

NEA has a very progressive social agenda, fighting against real and imagined isms – heterosexism, feminism, etc., while promoting others – socialism, egalitarianism, etc. Of late, NEA’s favorite cause célèbre has been anti-bullying. However, if you have spent more than 3 seconds watching WWE garbage, you know that bullying (“Do you fear me? I like that.”) is just what they promote — with more than a little misogyny (“Trish get on your hands and knees like a dog.”) thrown in…and seasoned with a dash of homophobia for taste (effeminate men mincing and kissing each other in the ring) – all things NEA professes to abhor.

Rosalind Wiseman, a children’s ethics specialist, asked Nora Howley, manager of NEA’s Health Information Network programs, why the teachers union decided to work with WWE. Her response was, “WWE wrestling is silly, scripted matches. And there’s no body of evidence that proves wrestling causes violence.”

Maybe they are silly and scripted to Ms. Howley but they aren’t silly and scripted to many of the impressionable children and young adults who watch this kind of “entertainment” on a regular basis. Ms. Wiseman, a very level-headed person, spent a fair amount of time analyzing the reasons for NEA entering into such a strange and perverse alliance. The best reason she could come up with is that the Creative Coalition and NEA “got stars in their eyes when they thought about reaching WWE’s large fan base. According to WWE’s own statistics, they have average online viewership of 8.9 million video streams per month. These organizations believe that WWE will enable the (WWE’s) ‘Be A Star’ (anti-bullying) program to be seen by many more people than if they didn’t work with WWE.”

Ms. Wiseman may be on to something. As Alix said, in her Association of American Educators blog, “What could possibly be the goal behind this coalition? The answer clearly lies in the NEA’s constant quest to promote social agendas and gain political clout.”

Hence, NEA’s myopic drive to advance its own brand of social justice has led it to a very bizarre and contradictory place – a coalition with an organization that promotes a product and behavior that runs counter NEA’s own agenda. The consequence of this partnership will bring more shame and indignity to an organization that has morally hit bottom and just keeps digging.

Perhaps in an attempt to outdo NEA, American Federation of Teachers President Randi Weingarten recently went to Egypt in a latter day attempt to fulfill the Marxist rallying cry of “Workers of the world unite!” According to Weingarten’s press release,

From Wisconsin to Cairo, citizens have been fighting efforts to keep workers silent. As public employees in Wisconsin continue their struggle to maintain collective bargaining rights, Wisconsin has been selected as a pilot site in the “Quality Public Services—Action Now!” campaign, through the AFT-affiliated Wisconsin Federation of Nurses and Health Professionals and AFT-Wisconsin…

Defending public services and the workers who provide them is a worldwide challenge, and the AFT is standing with allies around the globe to maintain those services and the rights of public employees. That’s why I led an AFT delegation that visited Egypt to meet with the independent Egyptian unions whose efforts proved decisive in bringing down the corrupt regime that ruled their country for decades.

Talk about moral confusion! She equates Wisconsin’s democratically elected governor and legislature that lawfully ended collective bargaining for teachers with Egypt, where the government led by Hosni Mubarak was a dictatorship and directly controlled the only union in the country – the Egyptian Trade Union Federation (ETUF.)

Weingarten also neglects to mention that while deposed Egyptian leader was no pussycat, the country is now in the hands of a military junta with a revived Muslim Brotherhood making significant political strides. The odds that Egypt will come out of this as anything close to a free country are somewhere between slim and none. But hey, when you are a teacher union boss, don’t sweat the details. Just come out with a pompous, self-aggrandizing press release and hope no one gives it a second thought.

I’ve heard that Weingarten’s next move is to bring a team of Egyptian wrestlers to Madison to bully and humiliate the governor of Wisconsin.

About the author: Larry Sand 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.

Progressive Education Circus Goes to Washington

The folks who have resisted real education reform will attempt to sell their broken ideas, tax-the-rich schemes and radical socialism in D.C. next month.

Sorry to be the bearer of unpleasant news, but the SOS (Save Our Schools) March on Washington — an attempt to con the public by diverting the debate away from real education reform issues like failing schools, irresponsible spending, retaining bad teachers, etc. – will be setting up their Big Top in Washington D.C. from July 28th to July 31st.

The annoying whiny voice in the SOS promotional video is probably an indication as to what the tone of the event will be. Its endorsers are the usual motley collection of progressive educators, socialist organizations and teachers unions that one would expect – Diane Ravitch, Jonathan Kozol, Students for a Democratic Society, the Freedom Socialist Party and the National Educational Association are just a few of the individuals and organizations lending their name to this circus. I will be reporting more on the event in the weeks to come.

Going through the event’s website, one sees the typical “progressive” reform ideas including pleas for “more money for education” and “smaller class sizes,” but one thing did jump out at me – the obsessive hatred of standardized testing. Many education reformers think that standardized testing is one way to tell if a child is learning his/her subject matter. However, the SOS crowd sees any use of standardized tests as evil. The progressive educators don’t like them because they think that teachers will only “teach to the test” and that children will be robbed of a “real education.” The teachers unions don’t like the tests because they know that teachers could be held accountable if children do poorly on them and teacher accountability is the last thing a teachers union will tolerate.

Unfortunately for the naysayers, standardized tests are now being used as part of a teacher’s evaluation in various school districts around the country. Even in Los Angeles, never in the vanguard of reform, an evaluation system including standardized test scores will be beta tested over the next couple of years.

For more on standardized tests – why we need them, why the teachers should be evaluated in part by them and why the results should be made public – please read my latest post in City Journal.

About the author: Larry Sand 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.

CTA, Transgender Clownfish and Our Children

The very creepy sexualization of young children, a part of the teachers unions’ progressive agenda, goes on unabated.

In the past few years, teachers unions in the United States have gotten into the perverse business of sexualizing children. I first wrote about this phenomenon several years ago. In 2004, the National Education Association gave its prestigious Human Rights Award to Kevin Jennings, the founder of the Gay, Lesbian, Straight Education Network (GLSEN) and the man who eventually became President Obama’s school safety czar. GLSEN is the group that presided over the infamous “Fistgate” conference held at Tufts University in Massachusetts in March 2000, where state employees gave explicit instructions about “fisting” and other forms of gay sexual activity to children as young as 12. The conference was secretly recorded and can be heard here. (Warning: The contents are extraordinarily vile.)

Then this past March, I dug up a story about an NEA “trainer of trainers” who at a U.N. conference claimed that oral sex, masturbation, and orgasms should to be “taught in education” to children as young as 11.

Currently in California, we have SB 48 being debated in Sacramento. This bill, supported in testimony by the California Teachers Association, if passed, would “require instruction (emphasis mine) in social sciences to also include a study of the role and contributions of Native Americans, African Americans, Mexican Americans, Asian Americans, Pacific Islanders, European Americans, lesbian, gay, bisexual, and transgender Americans, persons with disabilities, and other ethnic and cultural groups, to the development of California and the United States.” Just how is a teacher supposed to explain to a six year that so-and-so was a great inventor — and he was bisexual?!

And to bring us up to date is a bizarre story out of Oakland. Last week, with a $1,500 grant from CTA, a group called Gender Spectrum presented some rather interesting lessons over two days to the entire 350 student school. The specifics were reported by Fox News, which was invited to sit in on the lessons,

Joel Baum, director of education and training for Gender Spectrum, taught the classes. In the kindergarten class he asked the 5- and 6-year-olds to identify if a toy was a “girl toy” or a “boy toy” or both. He also asked which students liked the color pink, prompting many to raise their hands, to which he responded that boys can like pink, too.

In the fourth-grade class, Baum focused on specific animal species, like sea horses, where the males can have or take care of the children. He suggested that even if someone was born with male “private parts” but identified more with being a girl, that was something to be “accepted” and “respected.”

Students in the class were given cards, which included information on all-girl geckos and transgender clownfish, to illustrate the variations in nature that occur in humans, too.

“Gender identity is one’s own sense of themselves. Do they know themselves to be a girl? Do they know themselves to be a boy? Do they know themselves to be a combination?” Baum said. “Gender identity is a spectrum where people can be girls, feel like girls, they feel like boys, they feel like both, or they can feel like neither.”

The question here becomes why are elementary school children as young as five being exposed to sexual concepts and anomalies which they are totally incapable of understanding and can be very frightening and confusing to them?

There are two answers. One is “social justice.” With their progressive agenda, teachers unions are doing their best to socially engineer acceptance of all kinds of lifestyles.

The second answer is darker. In a piece written for Queerty, an online publication which proudly claims to be in favor of advancing the gay agenda, editor Daniel Villarreal writes Can We Please Just Start Admitting That We Do Actually Want To Indoctrinate Kids?

The article very matter of factly states that, “I and a lot of other people want to indoctrinate, recruit, teach, and expose children to queer sexuality AND THERE’S NOTHING WRONG WITH THAT.” (Caps in the original.)

There were many comments to this very controversial piece and most were written by homosexuals who were very angry at Mr. Villarreal for delivering what they consider a crushing blow to the cause for general homosexual acceptance. The rest of the comments supported the main thesis of the article.

The bottom line is that straight or gay, there are those amongst us with a radical progressive agenda who are determined to advance it in any way they can. And what better way to advance an agenda than by indoctrinating children.

It is thusly incumbent upon parents to become informed about how their child’s school is handling subject matter having sexual themes. It also may be worthwhile to ask the CTA/NEA why they are so intent on exposing young children to a sexual agenda that can be very damaging to them. Don’t expect honest answers though. And don’t accept anything less.

About the author: Larry Sand 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.

Teachers Unions Keep Fiddling While Public Education Burns

There are too many tenured incompetents and criminals who are teaching our children. The unions’ “reforms” will do little, if anything, to get these undesirables out of our nation’s classrooms.

As we all know, Navy SEALs recently killed terrorist mastermind Osama bin Laden in Pakistan. Unfortunately, it seems that it was easier to flesh out and kill American Public Enemy #1 in a hostile foreign country than to get rid of an incompetent or criminal teacher in the U.S. Too bad for OBL that he wasn’t a member of the National Education Association. He’d still be a working terrorist going through what unionistas laughably refer to “due process.” Actually, as teacher and blogger Darren Miller has pointed out, what was once “due” has become “undue process.”

James Smith, Executive Director of School Security for Paterson, NJ, and Michigan’s Education Action Group have prepared a flow chart, which shows that it takes two to five years to get rid of a criminal or poorly performing tenured teacher in New Jersey. This is not peculiar to the Garden State. Most states have to go through a similar circuitous and arcane maze get rid of teachers who should not be allowed near children, let alone responsible for them.

What the chart does not tell us are the hideous costs involved in such an endeavor. Recently in Los Angeles, it took $3.5 million just to try to get rid of seven tenured teachers who were said to be incompetent. Only four were actually removed.

Here are a few recent headlines that typify the difficulty in firing undesirable teachers:

MichiganTeacher Threatens to Kill Her Boss, Union Gets Her Six Figure Pay Day – A teacher shows an inappropriate film to her students and when called to account for it, she threatens to kill her principal.

California – High bar for firing kept Sacramento teacher on – A teacher is charged with six counts of sex crimes with children. Four years later he is still employed by his school district.

New YorkNYC’s fire-proof criminal teachers go back to class – More than 500 teachers convicted of crimes in the last five years – drunk driving, assault, manslaughter, etc. – are still on the job because the New York City Department of Education is hamstrung from getting rid of them.

ColoradoDenver Firings of tenured teachers rarely occur – A teacher physically and emotionally abused her students in the classroom. It took four years and dozens of complaints from parents to get rid of her.

Why is this cruelty to children allowed to continue unabated? To begin with, there are no teacher evaluation systems throughout most of the country. Then there are union contracts and state laws put into place by union-bought legislators that make for never-ending proceedings.

As more and more of these stories are coming to light, the public is starting to rebel and begin to demand more accountability. Sensing the changing zeitgeist, the unions have conjured up a couple of documents which they claim will solve some of the problems. Their proposals, however, will do for teacher accountability and discipline what a band aid does for lung cancer.

The American Federation of teachers has come up with an eight page document on teacher discipline. This is hardly an improvement – this document is just a more codified way of over-protecting undeserving teachers. Their proposal includes a 100-day process replete with multiple hearings and meetings that does allow for firing teachers for criminality, but contains no provision for getting rid of incompetent teachers. Another flaw with AFT’s proposal is “that a teacher could not show up for weeks, give no excuse, and still wait out a 100 day hearing process, collecting pay all the while, and still might not be let go.”

The NEA document is even more laughable; it deals only with teacher evaluation and has nothing about what to do with criminal teachers. And the union is in control of the evaluation process, which is akin to letting the fox be in charge of the henhouse,

Indicators of Teacher Practice demonstrating a teacher’s subject matter knowledge, skill in planning and delivering instruction that engages each and every student, and ability to monitor and assess student learning and adjust instruction accordingly. Such indicators may include the following indicators or others chosen by a local or state affiliate: classroom observations, proof of practice (e.g., lesson plans, curriculum plans, student assessments, minutes from team planning meetings, curriculum maps, and teacher instructional notes), teacher interviews and self-assessments.

Then there is an assessment problem with NEA’s proposal. Only a tiny part of their evaluation process concerns itself with student performance. About 95% of the NEA plan is fluff – good lesson plans, evidence of reflective practice, self-assessments, completion of meaningful professional development, etc. Even where student learning is addressed, it is mostly subjective – teacher-created assessments, district or school assessments, student work (papers, portfolios, projects, presentations); teacher defined objectives for individual student growth. Finally, at the end of the student assessment section there is a mention of using a standardized test as part of the overall plan.

What to do about all this?

Get rid of teacher tenure – or as it’s properly called, “permanence.” No one else is basically guaranteed a position for life after just a few years at their job. Secondly, get a real evaluation system in place that utilizes standardized tests and includes principal and expert evaluations. Also, work like the devil to return to a quick and orderly due process procedure and stop coddling criminals who just happen to be teachers.

Finally, parents must ultimately be given the right to choose where to send their children to school and have the state’s education money follow the child. This would empower parents by letting them determine what’s best for their own children. These reforms would negate the power of the teachers unions and their legislative toadies, all of whom seem intent on maintaining an abusive status quo where failure all too often has become acceptable.

About the author: Larry Sand 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.

NEA: We are One. We are everywhere. We are at war.

National Education Association declares war, but finding allies could be difficult.

It’s hardly a secret that the National Education Association is an organization that has had its political way for the past 35 or so years. However, voters are fed up with the union’s attempts to keep a failing public education system from being reformed and having massive debt foisted on them in the form of public employee pensions. In November, the populace voted flinty governors and no-nonsense legislators into state houses all over the country.

Clearly NEA, to maintain its hegemony, must now combat the reform fires that are spreading wildly from sea to shining sea. But according to teacher union watchdog Mike Antonucci, the megaunion is indeed going to war with not as much money as they once had. “… after some 27 years of increases, NEA membership is down in 43 states. The union faces a $14 million budget shortfall, and the demand for funds from its Ballot Measure/Legislative Crises Fund is certain to exceed its supply. Even the national UniServ grants, which help pay for NEA state affiliate employees, will be reduced this year.”

So, what will the war look like?

With whatever funds it can muster, NEA strategy is to stop legislation before it begins. Barring that, it will try get judges to overturn any legislation unfriendly to NEA. If they can’t get judges to do their bidding, they will then try to elect friendlier judges, as is happening in Wisconsin today.

But can they stop the tidal wave? As we see in two other Antonucci posts, threat maps and under-reported stories, the scope and intensity may indeed overwhelm NEA.

NEAs latest gambit is to rouse the troops and regain public support by taking to the streets and trying to tie their plight to the Civil Rights movement. They have set up a new website where they proclaim that We are one. We are everywhere. And yesterday, unions held rallies across the country in an attempt to channel Martin Luther King who died 43 years ago in Memphis while supporting striking sanitation workers.

But the rallies were very tame and not well attended – only 200 in Louisville and 300 in Cleveland, according to the AP. Even in King’s home town of Atlanta, only about a thousand demonstrators showed up.

Is it possible that private sector union members are waking up to the fact that maybe “We are not all one”? Maybe they realize that those in the NEA and other public employee unions are better paid and have more perks than they do – and that these extravagances are being paid for by taxpayers, which include those union members in the private sector.

Is it possible that many Americans realize that the NEA wouldn’t hold anything for MLK? This is the union that by being virulently anti-school choice is doing everything within its mighty power to keep African-American children stuck in failing schools across America. Even the union’s former allies in the mainstream media are now in increasing numbers coming down on the side of choice.

Is it possible that the NEA and other public employee unions have exposed themselves as bullies who are detrimental to the country at large?

Is it possible that fewer people are being fooled by their hollow and abusive rhetoric?

About the author: Larry Sand 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.

Teacher Union Leaders Go Public and Confirm Their Fecklessness

Weingarten is schooled by WSJ’s Jason Riley; Van Roekel is clueless as usual.

The National Education Association and the American Federation of teachers represent over 4.5 million teachers and educational support workers across the United States. These two unions have been under attack for the past few years by reformers who point to their slavish clinging to the status quo as a major barrier to badly needed education reform.

Since the election in November when American citizens voted forward thinking legislators and governors into office, education reform has made great strides across the country. The elected officials have been attacking the union’s sacred cows with a ferocity that hasn’t been seen before – eliminating seniority and tenure, introducing merit pay, defining teacher accountability, more school choice programs, etc. are all on the agenda.

The unions, feeling the heat, have decided to take their case to the public.

In an article on the NEA website, NEA President Dennis Van Roekel tries to take on what he calls the “anti-seniority crowd.” He claims that bad teachers shouldn’t be in the classroom. “If a teacher isn’t qualified, he or she shouldn’t be in the classroom. There are procedures in place in every school district to terminate unqualified or incompetent teachers, and administrators shouldn’t wait for a budget crisis to remove them. The fair dismissal process should be transparent, efficient and fair. We owe it to everyone concerned – especially students – to resolve cases as quickly as possible.”

As quickly as possible?

As you can see in this typical flow chart, getting rid of one incompetent teacher is a Byzantine procedure – 27 union mandated steps, 2 to 5 years to circumnavigate the process and a several hundred thousand dollar expenditure to the taxpayer. If, and it is a big if, the teacher is found guilty, they get to retire immediately with full benefits.

Then Van Roekel came out with a feeble attempt to defend the seniority system. “I taught math for 23 years, and I know without a doubt I was a much better teacher in year 20 than year 2. In no other profession is experience deemed a liability instead of an asset.”

Question for Van Roekel: “Since you are opposed to the thought of any objective based teacher evaluation, how do you know that you were better?” In fact, most studies have shown that after five years teachers don’t typically improve – thus a five year and a 25 year teacher are typically equally effective.

And then there is American Federation of Teachers President Randi Weingarten, who has been courting the media of late in an attempt to make a case that unions really are for reform. In last weekend’s addition of the Wall Street Journal, Ms. Weingarten consented to be interviewed by Jason Riley.

Bad move.

On point after point, she comes out with mind-numbingly vapid, standard issue unionista statements, attempting to discredit any real reform. Riley, to his credit, is not shy about explaining why everything she says is wrong.

On seniority, she says, “It’s not the perfect mechanism but it’s the best mechanism we have. You have cronyism and corruption and discrimination issues. We’re saying let’s do things the right way. We don’t want to see people getting laid off based on who they know instead of what they know. We don’t want to see people get laid off based on how much they cost.”

Huh? Cronyism? Discrimination?

Reform minded people want to get rid of bad teachers, not good teachers who can be replaced by an incompetent relative or someone of a certain skin color. Riley adds, “Why can’t teachers who have been chronically absent from work be the first to go? Or the ones who have been convicted of crimes? Or the ones who are languishing—with full pay and benefits—in some “reserve pool” because no school will hire them?”

Weingarten then tries to convince us that “teachers unions are agents of change, not defenders of the status quo.” But as Riley points out that in the next breath, she “shoots down suggestions for changes—vouchers, charter schools, differential teacher pay and so on—that have become important parts of the reform conversation.”

Each time union leaders speak, they show themselves to be nothing more than rigid and clueless — clinging to stale clichés, shopworn platitudes and empty rhetoric that doesn’t fool anyone any more. The public has caught on — bad news for the unions, but good news for children, their parents and all taxpayers.

About the author: Larry Sand 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.

Teachers Unions and Truth: Rarely Does the Twain Meet

Misinformation is at the heart of unionspeak.

Public school teachers have been told for years that they are only respected by the general public because Big Union fights for them and gets them that respect.

However, the opposite would appear to be true. America still loves its teachers…the good ones, that is. They don’t like the bad ones, the self-pitiers and the bullying unions that keep incompetent teachers on the job, ruining the lives of thousands of children every year. Nothing makes this point better than the recent situation in Wisconsin where certain members of the teaching community showed their true colors.

The unions also tell teachers that if not for them they’d be toiling away for minimum wage. But again, that’s wrong. And it’s not only teachers who buy this line – much of the general public does too.

Last week, Mike Petrilli, Executive V.P. of the Fordham Institute, became the latest to debunk the teacher salary myth. He compared teachers’ salaries in districts across the country which allow collective bargaining with those that don’t. He found that teachers who worked in districts where the union was not involved actually made more than those who were in collective bargaining districts. According to Petrilli, “Teachers in non-collective bargaining districts actually earn more than their union-protected peers–$64,500 on average versus $57,500.”

While admittedly his analysis was not methodologically sophisticated, it does jibe with other recent, more meticulous analyses.

Stanford Professor Michael Lovenheim, in an elaborately detailed 2009 study, The Effect of Teachers’ Unions on Education Production: Evidence from Union Election Certifications in Three Midwestern States came to a similar conclusion, saying, “I find unions have no effect on teacher pay.”

While Lovenheim’s study used data from just three states, Andrew Coulson, using national data, also came to the same conclusion. “Salary hikes, wage compression, and dramatic increases in the staff to student ratio have all undeniably occurred, but they have occurred in both unionized and nonunionized public school districts.”

The teachers unions also tell us that seniority is a fair way to make staffing decisions. They tell us that we need to hold on to arcane and harmful tenure laws which keep the worst rabble on the planet working with our children. They tell us that their budget busting pensions should not be blamed for the fiscal nightmare that many cities, counties and states find themselves in.

Okay, regarding the latter, it’s not all their fault. Other public employee unions share in the blame for that.

Recently at an international education conference, president of the National Education Association Dennis Van Roekel said, “It’s obvious to the people here that high-performing countries without exception have strong unions. You have to have strong collaboration with whoever is implementing the policies.”

When asked if lower performing countries have collective bargaining, Van Roekel said he didn’t know.

Indeed, the teachers unions don’t know very much and what they do “know” is wrong.

About the author: Larry Sand 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.

The NEA’s Influence on Sex Education Policy

NEA’s reprehensible sexual agenda goes on unabated and the MSM is MIA.

At a time when teachers’ unions are battling for their collective bargaining lives, courtesy of Governors Scott Walker, Chris Christie, John Kasich et al., it’s hard to go a day without reading a newspaper account of the latest union news. However, there is a story involving the National Education Association that has flown under the mainstream media radar.

I could not find a single MSM account of a talk given at a UN conference on March 3rd where Diane Schneider, representing the NEA at the “Commission on the Status of Women” said:

“Oral sex, masturbation, and orgasms need to be taught in education,” Diane Schneider told the audience at a panel on combating homophobia and transphobia. Schneider, representing the National Education Association (NEA), the largest teachers union in the US, advocated for more “inclusive” sex education in US schools, with curricula based on liberal hetero and homosexual expression. She claimed that the idea of sex education remains an oxymoron if it is abstinence-based, or if students are still able to opt-out.

Comprehensive sex education is “the only way to combat heterosexism and gender conformity,” Schneider proclaimed, “and we must make these issues a part of every middle and high-school student’s agenda.” “Gender identity expression and sexual orientation are a spectrum,” she explained, and said that those opposed to homosexuality “are stuck in a binary box that religion and family create.”


A woman wants to teach children as young as eleven about oral sex, masturbation, and orgasms in a public school setting and it’s not news!!??!!

A little digging finds that Ms. Schneider is a high school health educator and very active with the Gay, Lesbian and Straight Education Network (GLSEN) in upstate NY, where she is its co-chair. She is also proud of the Gay Straight Alliance (GSA) that she advises in her high school. Her presentation at the UN conference was part of her training from the NEA’s Lesbian, Gay, Bisexual and Transgender (LGBT) Trainer of Trainers.

The NEA’s LGBT Trainer of Trainers??

After my initial outrage, it quickly came back to me: the NEA has had a perverse agenda for many years now, taking pride in the fact that they are at the forefront of a movement to sexualize pre-pubescent children. With the MSM silent, I wrote in 2005 about GLSEN founder Kevin Jennings and his relationship with the country’s largest teachers’ union. In Outing the NEA , I wrote that

…at its 2004 convention the National Education Association gave its prestigious Human Rights Award to Kevin Jennings, the founder of the Gay, Lesbian, Straight Education Network (GLSEN). This is the group that presided over the infamous “Fistgate” conference held at Tufts University in Massachusetts in March 2000, where state employees gave explicit instructions (about “fisting” and other forms of gay sexual activity) to children as young as 12. The conference was secretly recorded and can be heard here. The contents are extraordinarily vile.

Unfortunately, “Fistgate” was not an isolated incident. On April 30 of this year GLSEN held an event at Brookline High School in Massachusetts, and distributed an obscene booklet to hundreds of middle and high school students. With headings like F**kin’, S**kin’ and Spit or Swallow?, it describes various sexual practices that can only be described as perverse.

Mr. Jennings’s career as a sleazy activist has never suffered – not even with his support of the North American Man Boy Love Association (NAMBLA), an organization dedicated to the joys of pedophilia.

In fact, he was promoted. Currently, he is President Obama’s hand-picked “school safety czar.”

While it is imperative that we address collective bargaining and its attendant evils, we must not lose sight of the fact that a teachers’ union is pushing a sordid agenda and is involved with people whose values many Americans find repulsive and abhorrent. Maybe one day the MSM will take notice.

About the author: Larry Sand 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.

No Citizen Left Untaxed

NEA boss has it backwards when he claims that America cannot have a middle class without unions.

Dennis Van Roekel, president of the National Education Association, America’s largest union, claims, “In actions more fitting for comic book arch-villains, a new crop of state leaders have launched blistering attacks on working families disguised as budget and education reforms, and many have sought to strip workers’ rights to have a voice through their union.”

If he is correct and the middle class is being threatened, it is the public employee unions (PEUs) that are doing the threatening. Fewer than one in eight Americans are in unions but more than 50% of them are in PEUs. It’s hardly a secret that PEU pensions are in the process of sending various states and cities around the country into insolvency.

Where are the states supposed to get this money to pay for the budget busting pensions? The PEUs want to raise taxes. But on whom?

The corporations? Perhaps not. At 39%, we already have the highest corporate tax rate in the world.

“The rich?” Well, maybe not. It seems that the rich, defined as the top 1% of taxpayers, earn approximately 21% of the nation’s income, yet already pay almost 40% of all federal income taxes. What about the top 25% of taxpayers? They earn almost 68% of the nation’s income, but pay 86% of all federal income taxes. How much more can we realistically expect to tax “the rich?”

Who’s left? The middle class. To state the obvious, increasing the taxes on middle income earners is hardly the way to increase membership in the middle class.

So the real point is not that America can’t have a middle class without unions. It’s that America can’t afford PEUs, which very often put the very politicians in office with whom they then negotiate. Ultimately, the taxpayer, middle class or otherwise, is disenfranchised. This is just the problem that “the new crop of governors” like Chris Christie, Scott Walker, Mitch Daniels and John Kasich are dealing with by trying to limit the vast power of the greedy PEUs.

About the author: Larry Sand 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.

Nervous Time for the Teachers Unions

Teacher union legal teams gear up for battles all over the country as union power is threatened.

With the recent changing of the political guard in statehouses across the country, teachers unions appear to be in for a rough ride. As one state succeeds in passing reform legislation, another state is encouraged to follow suit and perhaps go one step further.

Last week, the New York Times reported “Governors in Florida, Idaho, Indiana, Nevada and New Jersey have called for the elimination or dismantling of tenure. As state legislatures convene this winter, anti-tenure bills are being written in those states and others. Their chances of passing have risen because of crushing state budget deficits that have put teachers’ unions on the defensive.” Mike Petrilli, Vice President for National Programs and Policy at the Thomas B. Fordham Institute adds “These new Republican governors are all trying to outreform one another.”

Tenure laws, first passed over a hundred years ago, were meant to protect teachers from cronyism or discrimination over sex or political persuasion. However, the anachronistic system has morphed into a monster where once tenured, it is virtually impossible to fire a teacher, no matter how incompetent they are. In most states, this has been a rubber stamp process. Thus after two or three years in the classroom, a twenty-something teacher has a job for life even if they are incompetent.

Education Week’s, “Teachers’ Unions on Defensive as GOP Lawmakers Flex Their Muscles” tells us amongst other things that in Alabama, courtesy of SB 2, it is now illegal for the government to deduct union dues from workers’ paychecks. Hence, it would be up to teachers themselves to send the union their dues money. Still needing the government to be their bagman, the Alabama Education Association, state affiliate of mega-union National Education Association, is planning to appeal the decision.

In Tennessee, a blockbuster piece of legislation has been drafted that goes all the way. If passed, HB 130 would eliminate collective bargaining for teachers in the state, thus neutering the Tennessee Education Association. Not surprisingly, the TEA website informs us that the bill is anti-teacher. But it really is anti-collective bargaining and pro-teacher because it would give educators the right to individually negotiate their own contracts. Clearly, this proposed law would be a boon for good teachers, but could be a problem for the mediocre and inept.

These reform measures have one important common element: they empower the individual teacher and don’t treat them as part of a unified one-size-fits-all blob. As such, teachers will be viewed as professionals and not members of an industrial type union.

So expect to see the teacher unions’ legal machines go into overdrive in the months to come; liberated educators are the last thing they want. As such, the unions will fight to their extinction to maintain control over America’s teachers.

About the author: Larry Sand 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.

National Education Association: Big Union Bully on the Left

While anti-bullying programs for students are currently in vogue in our nation’s schools, teachers need to recognize that they too are being victimized.

As president of the California Teachers Empowerment Network (CTEN), I talk to people about teachers and education all the time. Politically speaking, most people think that teachers are to the left of center. But in fact, teachers typically replicate the political population of the area in which they live. A teacher in Los Angeles is more likely to be left of center along with the rest of the local population. The average teacher in Fresno leans to the right, as is the norm for that farming community.

Interestingly, the National Education Association has done some polling on this issue. In the Fall 2010 issue of Education Next, teacher union watchdog Mike Antonucci reports, “NEA members lean no further to the left than any other large group of Americans. The national union conducts periodic internal surveys to ascertain member attitudes on a host of issues. These surveys are never made public, and results are tightly controlled, even within the organization. The 2005 NEA survey, consistent with previous results, found that members “are slightly more conservative (50%) than liberal (43%) in political philosophy.”

In last week’s Communiqué, Antonucci’s weekly newsletter, he tells us, “An Education Intelligence Agency analysis of NEA’s financial disclosure report for the 2009-10 fiscal year reveals the national union contributed more than $13 million to a wide variety of advocacy groups and charities. The total was about half the amount disbursed in the previous year, though more than in 2007-08.”

Considering the rightward slant of its membership, one might guess that the union’s political spending might go in that direction.

Nothing could be further from the truth.

Though some went to organizations with no particular political bent, like the San Diego Public Library Foundation and a little even went to right-of-center groups like the Ripon Society and the Republican Main Street Partnership, the vast majority of that $13 million went to liberal and left wing groups that have nothing to do with education. Just to mention a few – People for the American Way, National Action Network, Media Matters, Gay and Lesbian Leadership Institute, National Women’s Law Center and the Rainbow PUSH coalition.

Now you ask, “Why would an organization purporting to be for teachers give so much money to organizations that have nothing to do with teachers or education? And since, by its own polling, most of the rank and file is to the right-of-center, why does the great majority of union largess go to left-of-center organizations?

The simple answer is that these decisions are made by the union elites whose politics swing way to the left and don’t give a damn about what the rank and file thinks. Just like any other oligarchy, decisions are top down with no input from the masses.

Making this situation even more infuriating, 28 states and D.C. are non-right-to-work states, meaning that union membership is a condition of employment. In these states, teachers are forced to pay union dues – and then watch as their money is spent in a way that they find objectionable or offensive.

Teachers, however, do have some redress. They can opt out of the political part of union spending, though they will still be forced to pay their “fair share” to the union for collective bargaining whether or not they want the union to represent them.

How many teachers actually do opt out? The unions know but never have divulged that information. Whatever that number is, it is too low. The bulk of its 3.2 million members are to the right of center. Why are any of them supporting the transparent left wing agenda of the nation’s biggest union? Maybe it’s ignorance of the fact that they can opt out of political spending. Or maybe it’s apathy.

In any event, teachers need to become more informed about their union and its spending habits. Those who are not happy need to learn what they can do to remove themselves as the union’s political ATM. A good place to get information and learn about the opt-out process is the CTEN web page that deals with these issues.

It’s time for independent and right-of-center teachers to demand some of their money back from the NEA bullies who force them to pay dues and spend that money in unacceptable ways.

About the author: Larry Sand 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.

A Charter School Needs a Union Like a Salad Needs Hemlock

Last month, teachers at Englewood on the Palisades Charter School in New Jersey decided to unionize. Then last Friday, Steve Gunn, director of Michigan’s Education Action Group, had an op-ed in the Newark, NJ-based Star-Ledger in which he rightfully laments the decision.

Charter schools are public schools that are allowed to bypass many of the school district and teachers’ union rules and regulations that strangle our public schools in a never ending stream of red tape.

The two national teachers’ unions have taken a divergent stance toward this type of school. The National Education Association website is full of stories about the alleged inferior quality of charter schools and their lack of oversight and wants no part of them. The other union, the American Federation of Teachers, is a bit more realistic and realizes that charters are here to stay and have taken a “if you can’t beat ‘em, join ‘em” attitude. Toward that end, AFT claims to have unionized 150 charters.

While we have no verification of that number, it is probably close to accurate. However, according to the Center of Education Reform, the country’s premiere advocate for charter schools, there are 5,453 charter schools nationwide. So even if AFT’s number is correct and we include 20 more charter schools that are unionized but not affiliated with AFT, that means just 3% of all charters are unionized. (The number, of course, is always changing… in both directions. In 2009-2010, three KIPP Charter Schools in New York unionized and then very quickly decertified the union because the teachers felt that as union members they would have to compromise their very high standards.) It is doubtful that the 3% number will grow appreciably since the reason that many teachers decide to work in a charter is to escape the unions’ odious rules that poison the educational well.

What is it about teachers’ unions that is so toxic?

• Unions are not interested in children getting a good education – they insist on tenure (aka a job for life) and seniority for all teachers – good and bad — and are vehemently against any kind of pay for performance. These are anti-child staples in almost every union contract.

• Unions promote adversarial relationships between administrators and teachers.

• Unions tell teachers directly and indirectly that they are disrespected – a “teachers vs. the world” mentality and that the union is there to save them, to fight for them, etc. They began telling teachers this over 40 years ago and they are still telling teachers the same thing – so just what is it that they have done for teachers?

• Unions tell teachers that they would be making minimum wage if it weren’t for them. But according to Andrew Coulson, director of Cato Institute’s Center for Educational Freedom and others, the effect of collective bargaining is very minor compared to general economic conditions.

• So there emerges a “U-bot” class that thinks of the union in deified terms. These are the zealots who give teachers a bad name. These days, now that the public has become more aware of what the unions are really about, non-union teachers are getting more respect.

• Unions can poison relationships between teachers. If a teacher is not in the union in a unionized school, they probably will be ostracized and possibly worse. They may be forced to eat lunch in their rooms alone. They may not drive home with a windshield. Just ask any dissident in a school that is that is full of union true believers.

• Unions call teachers professionals – but they are paid more like assembly line workers in Detroit – with a lockstep pay scale. Professionals get what they deserve to be paid – good doctors make more money than bad doctors, good lawyers command greater fees than middle of the roaders.

• Jaime Escalante, probably the greatest teacher of our time, was revolted by the union mentality. That he was a phenomenal teacher paled in comparison to the fact that he could not abide by all the UTLA rules he had to live with and the union proceeded to hound him out of Los Angeles.

With all this in mind, I agree with the optimistic note on which Mr. Gunn’s ends his op-ed. He has some good advice for charter school officials, parents and consumers.

Charter school officials can help combat this threat by treating their teachers with respect and listening to their suggestions. Happy employees generally remain non-union employees.

Parents also can help by refusing to send their children to charter schools with union teachers. They should know they won’t get the service they expect when the AFT and NEA are in the house.

Union charter schools won’t last long if consumers soundly reject them. And charter school teachers will be less likely to join unions if they know such a move could lead to the extinction of their employers.

In other words, the bottom line is that a charter school needs a union about as much as a salad needs hemlock.

About the author: Larry Sand 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.