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NEA Greed Machine is in Overdrive

Tax Freedom Day is April 17th. Freedom from teacher union extortion? To be announced.

The National Education Association has thrown itself full force into the “corporate loophole” demagoguery campaign. According to the NEA, children are being victimized by avaricious corporate types who don’t pay their fair share of taxes. The NEA exhorts the American people to “stand up for the middle class and support closing corporate tax loopholes at the federal and state level, so that additional resources can be invested in public education and other services that build our communities.” In a message oozing with class warfare, we learn that “Corporate tax loopholes are costing our schools and communities resources that would help the next generation achieve the American Dream.” (Cue the violins.)

They then post a list of programs that would thrive if the greedy corporate bastards would just pay their fair share – Title 1, Pre-K education, etc. NEA of course fails to mention that these programs, though popular, are essentially federal boondoggles. They don’t really do what they purport to do. They do make work for unionized adults, however, which if you haven’t been paying attention, is all NEA really cares about. But I digress….

Using Citizens for Tax Justice as their source, NEA claims that closing the seven largest corporate tax loopholes would provide an estimated $1.487 trillion in additional revenues over the next ten years. Coincidentally, CTJ just happens to be the union founded and funded lobbying wing of something called the Institute on Taxation and Economic Policy.

At this time, the U.S. corporate tax rate is 35% which is the highest in the world and since their fiduciary responsibility is to their stockholders, corporations might indeed need to find ways to save money.

But, maybe there are a few corporate loopholes that should be closed. And I have just the one that we should start with. Using information gathered from the U.S. Department of Labor, RiShawn Biddle reports,

Overall, the NEA collected $399 million in dues and other revenues in 2010-2011, barely budging from revenue numbers last year. This despite a four percent decline in membership, from 3.3 million members in 2009-2010 to 3.2 million in 2010-2011.

Sad to say that the bulk of that $399 million comes from union dues automatically deducted from teachers’ paychecks. Most public school teachers in the U.S. are forced to pay union dues as a condition of employment. And of course, all public school teachers are funded by taxpayer dollars. So it is the private sector that is actually funding an entity that is trying to extort even more money from the private sector.

What did NEA do with that $399 million? One third or $133 million went on politics and “contributions” to groups that support NEA’s agenda. In fact, referring to the National Education Association and the American Federation of Teachers’ political spending, teacher union watchdog Mike Antonucci wrote in 2009,

…America’s two teachers’ unions outspent AT&T, Goldman Sachs, Wal-Mart, Microsoft, General Electric, Chevron, Pfizer, Morgan Stanley, Lockheed Martin, FedEx, Boeing, Merrill Lynch, Exxon Mobil, Lehman Brothers, and the Walt Disney Corporation, combined.

Moreover, if NEA gets its way and the 35% corporate tax rate stays in place and the loopholes are plugged, Americans will be paying more for the products made by corporations. Just what the country needs – higher prices. As of now, Americans will spend more in taxes in 2012 than they will on food, clothing, and housing combined.

Oh, and one other little minor detail. The NEA is a corporation that is accorded a 501(c)(5) tax exempt status. So out of the $399 million they took in, NEA paid $0 in taxes!

It is not only the national teachers unions that get away with loophole flimflam; all the state teacher union affiliates take advantage of their tax exempt status too. In my state, the California Teachers Association brings in almost $200 million a year and pays $0 in taxes. CTA also spends more on lobbying and politics (again, with forced dues) by far than any other corporation in the state.

If we are to close one corporate loophole, we need to start with the one that benefits the teachers (and in fact, all) unions. Parents, children and taxpayers will greatly benefit. The losers will be a certain group of brazen corporate types that have been getting away with theft for far too long.

Perhaps blogger Jason Arluck put it best,

Taken together, the National Education Association (NEA) and the American Federation of Teachers (AFT) represent the single largest lobbying conglomerate in the country, but unlike private firms, their contributions come from the pockets of American taxpayers who are forced to fund not just America’s failing public schools, but also one of main sources of their failure.

Today is April 17th, the day our income taxes are due. It would behoove each and everyone of us to think about how much of our hard earned money we are forced to pay to the more aptly named National Extortion Association and other teachers unions, the true exemplars of corporate greed.

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.

The Brazen Hypocrisy of the Teachers Unions

When teachers unions wear their duplicity like a bright red bandana, it shows the whole world what they really are about.

Last week, New Jersey Education Association Executive Director Vincent Giordano, who makes over $500,000 a year in salary and assorted perks, shoved his foot in his mouth big time. Appearing on “New Jersey Capitol Report,” he and the host were discussing Governor Chris Christie’s plan to install a voucher system in New Jersey. Such a plan would enable students in the state’s worst performing schools to escape them with a voucher that they could use to attend a private school.

Host: The issue of fairness, I mean this is the argument that a lot of voucher supporters make. People who are well off have options. Somebody who is not well off and whose child is in a failing school, why shouldn’t those parents have the same options to get the kid out of the failing school and into one that works with the help of the state?

Giordano: Those parents should have exactly the same options and they do. We don’t say you can’t take your kid out of the public school. We would argue not and we would say ‘let’s work more closely and more harmoniously’ …

Host: They can’t afford to pay, you know that. Some of these parents can’t afford to take their child out of these schools.

Giordano: Life’s not always fair and I’m sorry about that.

Unions hate vouchers because if such a system was instituted, it would mean that more kids would be attending private schools which are not unionized. This would result in less money and power for the teachers unions. Hence, when it comes to a chance for a poor kid to go to a better school via the voucher route, the NJ union boss is essentially saying, “Sorry, but we are going to keep you in your place.” (I can imagine Giordano telling Rosa Parks after complaining that she shouldn’t have to sit in the back of the bus, “Tough cookies Rosa, life’s not always fair.”)

Not surprisingly, he was taken to task by many for his candid and callous remark.

Kevin P. Chavous, senior advisor to the American Federation for Children, called for an immediate apology from Giordano.

Julio Fuentes, President and CEO of the Hispanic Council for Reform and Educational Options (Hispanic CREO) suggested that Mr. Giordano was having a ”bad day” and that his remarks “reflect a stunning insensitivity toward children who grow up in poverty.”

Governor Christie went even further, demanding Giordano’s resignation.

While I agree with Chris Christie on many things, I strongly disagree here. I don’t want fake warm and fuzzy union leaders like Randi Weingarten, who occasionally does a good acting job pretending that she really cares about “the children.” No, I want my union leaders to be like Mr. Giordano. They obviously don’t give a rat’s behind about children, so it’s refreshing when they don’t fake it. And as such, Mr. Giordano should be commended for his forthrightness.

Another example of proudly selfish union behavior that is out in the open was recently reported by Kyle Olson.

“Imagine your organization is facing attacks from all sides. Imagine it’s losing members and revenue. Imagine governors and mayors – of both political parties – publicly denouncing your industry as “broken” and move swiftly to stifle your power and influence, while you flail away helplessly.

“What to do? What else to do but go down drinking?

“That’s what members of the National Education Association’s National Staff Organization have apparently decided. The NSO is an association of sorts for teachers’ union staff – political and communications types.

“Following an ‘Advocacy Retreat’ with the theme ‘Building Our Unionism,’ members set sail on a 7-day cruise from Miami on February 5th “with stops at Cozumel, Grand Cayman Island and Isla Roatan.” Sounds fun! [In case the Facebook link disappears, never fear: here’s a PDF of the NSO newsletter.]”

There is nothing like tough economic times for a group that subsists on union dues (taken forcibly from teachers in 27 states) to take a seven-day luxury cruise. And they don’t even bother to hide it. In fact, NSO has a post on its Facebook page brazenly touting the cruise. And they have now added another post decrying Mr. Olson’s attack on them. One respondent sniffed, “They (people like Olson and me) just don’t understand….” No, we do understand…all too well. But thanks for keeping the subject alive. Better than trying to keep it from teachers who are forced to pay millions of dollars in dues to your bosses.

Perhaps the greatest hypocrisy is that the teachers unions, and their $500,000 a year presidents, embrace the Occupy Wall Street movement. These elite union 1 percenters see the OWS crowd – the so called 99 percenters — as useful idiots who will blindly follow their diktats. The California Teachers Association and many other teachers unions have been proudly and openly supportive of this group of ne’er-do-wells, losers, rapists, communists, thieves, litterbugs and people who just don’t want to work.

In fact, on March 5th, CTA is calling for the 99 percenters to gather in Sacramento to “Occupy the Capitol.” Not only is CTA inviting the OWS rabble, they are calling for teachers to attend, even though it is a school day, thus costing taxpayers all over the state untold thousands in costs for subs and robbing children of a productive school day.

CTA is proudly promoting the event on its website. As CTA President Dean Vogel says:

“We have seen class sizes grow, college tuitions increase, and job opportunities vanish at the same time that banks have received bailouts and large corporations and millionaires have received tax cuts. We are the 99%. It’s time to put Main Street before Wall Street, and for corporations to pay their fair share of taxes.”

“We are the 99%”?! We? Some union leaders like Mr. Giordano are pulling in $500K a year. Your $200K+ isn’t too shabby either. We?!

“…for corporations to pay their fair share of taxes.”?! Fair share? The US corporate tax rate of 35 percent is second highest of all industrialized countries. In fact, President Obama, hardly a fiscal conservative, is calling for a lower corporate tax rate.

You might wonder what CTA’s tax burden is. As Mike Antonucci points out, CTA is a tax exempt organization. Hence, the corporation that “earned” $186 million in 2009 by forcibly removing money from teachers’ paychecks didn’t pay a penny in taxes. You need a power saw to cut through CTA’s contradictions. But its deceitfulness is out in the open for all to see. Good for them! Let everyone know what hypocrites you are instead of sneaking around and doing your dirty work in private.

The bottom line is that you — Giordano, the NSO and CTA leaders — are blatantly self-serving, very highly paid and running a mini-plutocracy. No, this is not a good thing. But your ongoing public arrogance is important. Please keep it up. People are finally beginning to see through you, and your brazen hypocrisy will continue to enlighten even more people about your real agenda.

And when enough people get the message that your raison-d’être is the accumulation of wealth and power and that you are the number one impediment to education reform, you will go the way of the Edsel. And justly, when you are gone, the first beneficiaries will be the poor people that Vincent Giordano, so readily dismisses.

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.

The Route to Teacher Union Extinction: Is the Other Shoe Dropping?

In addition to online learning, Democrat’s abandonment of their traditional union allies could put an end to the educational status quo and decimate the teachers unions.

In my October 18th post, I wrote about Terry Moe’s book Special Interest: Teachers Unions and America’s Public Schools. I specifically addressed that part of the book in which he builds a scenario for the eventual undoing of the teachers unions. One of the two ways he claims this will happen is via technology, in the form of online learning. The other route to marginalization is the realization by Democrats that education is really a civil rights issue and that they are morally bound to get on board with reform and choice. By adopting this position, they will be abandoning their longtime political allies – the teachers unions.

As with the rapid ascent of online learning, Moe’s second nail in the unions’ coffin is picking up speed. In a recent Huffington Post entry, Joy Resmovits addresses the “new education lobby.”

“It’s ambitious, expansive and, in some cases, modeling itself after sprawling single-issue lobbying organizations like the National Rifle Association and AARP. The groups, which have in large part been created by hedge fund managers and lapsed government officials, count political operatives inside state legislatures and even the Democratic National Committee among their ranks. And they’re using the power of their fundraisers’ purses and sophisticated messaging outfits to push their agendas in local and school-board elections across the country.”

Traditionally, education reform and school choice have been conservative/libertarian causes. Starting with vouchers, a creation of libertarian Milton Friedman in the 1950s, the ideas for education reform, with few exceptions, have come from right leaning think tanks like Pacific Research Institute, Hoover Institution, Goldwater Institute, Reason Foundation, Friedman Foundation for Educational Choice, etc. The policy ideas put forth by these and other similar organizations have formed the basis for many of the education reforms that are in place today.

What is perhaps most interesting about this “new education lobby” that Resmovits writes about is that many of them are Democrats. Yes, Democrats are essentially picking up the ideas put forth by the right and taking them to statehouses all over the country. And the teachers unions are definitely not enthralled with this new development.

Democrats for Education Reform, founded in 2007, has become a potent lobbying force in just a few years. They have set up shop in ten states and their reform efforts are essentially indistinguishable from those on the right. Consequently, they have not escaped the wrath of the United Federation of Teachers in New York City. The union claims that DFER:
• doesn’t sound like Democrats.
• hates teachers.
• knows nothing about education.
• is made up of hedge fund managers (Whitney Tilson, John Petry, et al) and billionaires (Eli Broad, who funds DFER’s sister organization Education Reform Now.)
• is comprised of narcissists.

(Note to reform-minded Democrats – welcome to the world that those on the right have lived in for many years!)

Another example of the Democrat-as-reformer-lobbyist phenomenon is Michelle Rhee, who is a self-described “lifelong, card-carrying, dyed-in-the-wool Democrat.” After a short, successful and highly publicized reign as Chancellor of D.C. public schools, she left her position after the American Federation of Teachers donated over $1 million to unseat Rhee’s boss, Mayor Adrian Fenty, in 2010. Shortly after Fenty’s loss, Rhee founded Students First, an advocacy organization whose goal is to raise $1 billion in ten years. The AFT’s response to Ms. Rhee’s efforts was to put up a smear website called RheeFirst.

Whereas DFER is out to reform the Democratic Party, Rhee will work with anyone or any organization that shares her reform vision.

There are many other Democrats working hard for reform and incurring the wrath of the unions. Kevin Chavous, cofounder of DFER and Chairman of the Board of Black Alliance for Educational Options, Davis Guggenheim, director of Waiting For Superman and Ben Austin, who fathered the first Parent Trigger law, are just a few examples of Democrat’s joining the education reform movement.

Even with this new bipartisan reform effort, the teachers unions are not about to fold their tents and give up any time soon. It’s going to be a long bloody war with some battles being won (Wisconsin) and some lost (Ohio.) In fact, just last week, Dropout Nation’s Rishawn Biddle wrote about the recent release of the National Education Association’s 2010-2011 LM-2 filing, a required Department of Labor annual report. revealing recent political expenditures.

“The numbers are spectacular. The nation’s largest teachers’ union spent $133 million in 2010-2011 on lobbying and contributions to groups whose agendas (in theory) dovetail with its own. This included $255,000 to the Economic Policy Institute, the progressive think tank cofounded by Robert Kuttner and Robert Reich, whose education reports generally take a pro-NEA slant….”

“Among the big recipients of the NEA’s largesse this year were ProgressNow’s affiliates in Michigan and Colorado, each receiving, respectively, $10,000 and $125,000, for education policy advocacy and legislative advocacy activities. ProgressNow, by the way, was one of the key players in ousting school reform-minded Michigan legislator Paul Scott from his statehouse seat earlier this month and has decried Gov. Rick Snyder’s efforts to allow for the expansion of charter schools and school choice….”

“The usual suspects are also on the list: Communities for Quality Education, which has long been subsidized by the NEA, collected $1 million in 2010-2011. Anti-testing group FairTest picked up $35,000 this time around. So are some leading education traditionalists: Parents Across America co-founder) Leonie Haimson’s Class Size Matters picked up $25,000 from the union last fiscal year, while Western Michigan’s Gary Miron (whose rather flawed study on KIPP’s charter schools earlier this year was the subject of Dropout Nation‘s analysis) picked up $5,000. Meanwhile the NEA directly poured $43,000 into the Save Our Schools rally held this past July; this doesn’t include dollars poured in by state and local affiliates.”

With the ability to throw this kind of money around, NEA’s effect on maintaining the status quo with its attendant failing educational policies cannot be exaggerated. So those of us involved in reform will have to be satisfied as long as the ball is being advanced, even if it’s slower than we would like. As writer Louis L’Amour once said, “Victory is won not in miles but in inches. Win a little now, hold your ground, and later, win a little more.”

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.

“Indoctrination” – A Must Read For Parents, Taxpayers and Everyone Else

To a large extent, the progressives have taken over American education, are transforming it and are doing it in plain sight.

Indoctrination: How ‘Useful Idiots’ Are Using Our Schools to Subvert American Exceptionalism
is an invaluable book written by Kyle Olson, founder and CEO of the Education Action Group, an organization that is on the frontline of education reform and a champion of school choice.

In this brief and very readable book, Olson describes the ways that the progressives in our society have taken over K-12 education. They have been running most of our elite colleges and schools of education for years now and this step is in keeping with their plan to transform America.

As a public school teacher whose career spanned four decades, I have seen the long march first hand. Perverting the traditional purpose of American education (which has been to make better and more educated citizens), progressives have been inspired by the theories of Paolo Freire, a Brazilian socialist who saw everything through a Marxist class warfare lens.

Carrying Freire’s mantle, current gurus like revolutionary terrorist Bill Ayers and the recently deceased Communist Howard Zinn have been behind the effort to destroy America as we know it. They claim that basically the U.S. and its capitalist system are the root of all evil. Unfortunately, their love-the-world/hate-America attitude has gained an incredible amount of currency in our public schools in a relatively short time. Ayers, Zinn and their ilk have essentially managed to convince much of the education establishment to abandon every teaching technique and curriculum that benefited prior generations. For example, “drill and kill” has been thrown on the refuse heap; we are now supposed to let our students “discover” learning. The “sage on the stage” has been replaced by the “guide on the side.” The only problem with these techniques is that they haven’t worked, but they do sound good (at least to the progressives.) As such, we are now raising a nation of dunces.

On the 2010 NAEP history test, we learned that only 12 percent of high school seniors have a firm grip on American history. Yes, we are educating students to the point that almost half the nation thinks that the cornerstone of Communism, “From each according to his ability, to each according to his needs,” is in the U.S. Constitution. Only 2 percent of high school seniors know the significance of Brown vs. the Board of Education and only 4 percent of 8th graders could explain why urban populations rose and rural populations shrank over time.

So just what are we teaching them?

This is where Olson’s book shines. In chapter after chapter, he meticulously details lessons being foisted on students that are being taught for one purpose only – to advance the progressive agenda. A few examples:
• An examination of the nature and extent of police brutality, which is being promoted in middle schools by none other than Van Jones, conspiracy enthusiast extraordinaire.
• A clever lesson using poker chips, the aim of which is to convince students that unequal distribution of wealth has to do with the fact that the U.S. has more than its share of resources, not that we have a wealth-promoting capitalist system.
• “I Pledge Allegiance to the Earth.” Yup, no more of this silly patriotic stuff. Children, you are denizens of the earth! (I wonder what our political enemies think of this rubbish… when they stop laughing, that is.)

Rightfully, Olson reserves a special section for the unions whose far left agenda has been well documented, and who have gone to great lengths to make this country over in their own image. Their attempts to indoctrinate kids and glorify the union movement are staggering. For example,
• “Trouble in the Henhouse: A Puppet Show.” In this charming bit of propaganda put out by the California Federation of Teachers aimed at kindergartners, we find an oppressive farmer whose hens unionize and convince the heartless farmer that he’d better respect them or else.
• The “Yummy Pizza Company” is another lesson from CFT — actually ten, which delve 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 the AFL-CIO, tells second graders about unhappy cows that refuse to work until the mean farmer is forced to meet their demands.

And while we are teaching our children the joys of class warfare, earth worship and the importance of union membership, other countries that are more serious about educating their young are cleaning our clocks in every international comparison available.

Actually, it is even worse than Olson suggests. There is one aspect of the progressive takeover that he gave short shrift to. Except for SB 48, an obscene bit of legislation in California which will bring the contributions of homosexuals and transgenders into the K-12 curriculum, there is little mention of the progressives’ ongoing effort to sexualize children. From Gay-Straight clubs in middle school (where parents do not have to be notified of their child’s involvement) to attempts to teach orgasm to eleven year olds, the radicals led by the National Education Association have been making alarming progress.

Another example of the progressives’ sexual agenda is which holidays are deemed important. Few people are aware of what holiday is celebrated on November 20th. But every student at the middle school where I worked till my retirement in 2009 knows, because the school spent more time acknowledging that day — “Transgender Day of Remembrance” — than Veteran’s Day, November 11th. TDR was considered more worthy of the students’ time at my school than a holiday which acknowledges the contributions of American soldiers. (Maybe this shouldn’t be surprising. At the same school, posters of Che Guevara adorned the walls of no less than five classrooms, including an American history class that had no pictures of Washington or Lincoln. Che was considered a hero by these teachers who passed this admiration on to their impressionable students. Of course the real life Che was a sadistic mass murderer, but being a progressive means never having to sweat minor details like the truth.)

Clearly Indoctrination is a book that could leave citizens in a state of great despair. But fortunately, in the last chapter, Olson lists several important ways that parents and the general public can fight back. And if this country isn’t to become permanently transformed — fight back we must. None of our international enemies are as powerful, organized and, thus far, as successful as our home grown progressives who are bent on destroying public education as we know it in America. It is imperative that we all become more knowledgeable about what is going on in our schools and take action. Kyle Olson’s Indoctrination is an excellent place to start that process.

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.

Unions Continue to Swindle the Public

Unions are still treacherous, but with a generous helping of legislative malfeasance, their tactics are more subtle.

“On the Waterfront” portrayed union power at its rawest. In the 1950s, the unions typically got their way with nothing less than brute force. But today the tactics are different. In “Pretty Boy Floyd,” Woody Guthrie sang, “Some will rob you with a six-gun, and some with a fountain pen.” The unions are well entrenched in the “fountain pen” camp and recently, Illinois has been in their crosshairs.

In September, the Chicago Tribune broke a story about Dennis Gannon, a former sanitation worker who became a president of the Chicago Federation of Labor. He went back to work for the city for one day, then took a leave of absence and was legally allowed to collect a $158,000 pension, about five times the average sanitation worker.

Shortly after that, again in Chicago, two lobbyists with no prior teaching experience similarly gamed the system by taking advantage of a new law.

“The legislation enabled union officials to get into the state teachers pension fund and count their previous years as union employees after quickly obtaining teaching certificates and working in a classroom. They just had to do it before the bill was signed into law.

“(Lobbyist) Preckwinkle’s one day of subbing qualified him to become a participant in the state teachers pension fund, allowing him to pick up 16 years of previous union work and nearly five more years since he joined. He’s 59, and at age 60 he’ll be eligible for a state pension based on the four-highest consecutive years of his last 10 years of work.

“His paycheck fluctuates as a union lobbyist, but pension records show his earnings in the last school year were at least $245,000. Based on his salary history so far, he could earn a pension of about $108,000 a year, more than double what the average teacher receives.

“His pay for one day as a substitute was $93, according to records of the Illinois Teachers Retirement System.”

In a higher profile case, Reg Weaver was a teacher in Danville earning $60,000 a year. He worked his way up the union food chain and became National Education Association president in 2002. Termed out in 2008, he now makes a yearly $242,657 teachers pension. Weaver has the audacity to defend his outrageous pension which is based on his salary as a union leader. He told the Chicago Tribune,

“I worked seven days a week, 24 hours a day,” Weaver said. “There was not a time when someone was not able to get in touch with me. You ask my family. I didn’t take vacation. I worked in the office long hours. I worked anywhere from 15 hours, 16 hours a day.

“If you want to divide that $240,000 into the amount of hours spent, I think you would find that the per hour was probably not much at all, considering the work that had to be done.”

But what Weaver and some others in Illinois don’t seem to get is that whatever work he may have done for his union, his pension should come from the union, not in large part from the average taxpayer who was never a part of that union. (Memo to the Occupy crowd in Chicago: Why are you not up in arms about this? Or does OWS really stand for “Obviously, We’re Stupid”?)

These cases are egregious and not just limited to Illinois.

But there is a bigger, more insidious union-involved scandal that is nationwide and ongoing: “release time” from school for teachers who are union reps. These teachers are regularly given time off from their teaching duties so that they can do union business on school time and still be paid…by the district, i.e. the taxpayers. For example, in New York,

“The Department of Education pays about 1,500 teachers for time they spend on union activities — and pays other teachers to replace them in the classroom.

“It’s a sweetheart deal that costs taxpayers an extra $9 million a year to pay fill-ins for instructors who are sprung — at full pay — to carry out responsibilities for the United Federation of Teachers.”

“The UFT reimburses the DOE only about $900,000 of nearly $10 million it spends to replace the teachers, officials said.”

Far away from New York, in California’s conservative Orange County, there is a district that has this wording as part of their contract,

“The Association President or designee may utilize one (1) day per week for Association business. The District shall bear the cost of the substitutes.”

Just about every teacher union contract has this kind of screw-the-taxpayer clause written into it, usually in the area that deals with “Association Rights.” Yeah, every time the “Association” asserts a right, the taxpayers take it in the shorts. And all the while students are subject to a steady barrage of subs, which is never a winning formula for a good education.

Yes, “fountain pen” robbery is rampant. The question is when will the people who are footing the bill for these union abuses wake up and demand that their legislators put an end to it. And vote them out if they don’t.

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.

CTA Dons Victim Guise and Joins Occupy Wall Street Crowd

It’s almost Halloween and the California Teachers Association, a rich and powerful outfit, is in costume as one of the “99%ers” – protesters who claim to be have-nots.

A couple of weeks ago United Federation of Teachers President Michael Mulgrew and American Federation of Teachers President Randi Weingarten made sympathetic statements about the Occupy Wall Street movement. Now the California Teachers Association has jumped in with a full endorsement and suggestions on its website as to how teachers and others can get involved in OWS activities.

Stunning in its mendacity, CTA issued a press release (H/T Mike Antonucci) which announced its “support of the nationwide ‘Occupy Wall Street’ movement for tax fairness and against corporate greed.” It goes on to say, “…a stable tax structure begins with everyone paying their fair share.”

Paying their fair share?

Never shying away from class warfare, the union really has hit a new low here. According its latest available income tax form, CTA took in $186,216,493 in 2009. As a 501(c)(5), the union has a special tax exempt status with the IRS which is accorded to “Labor, Agricultural, and Horticultural Organizations.”

Hence, CTA would appear to be following the letter of the law in paying no money in taxes. But there is a bigger picture here, and it is bloated with hypocrisy. First CTA manages to siphon off $600+ yearly ($647 in 2011-2012) from every teacher in the state in forced union dues. Then it turns around and spends much of those dues on politicking — over $211 million on politicking from 2000-2009 — frequently on issues that have nothing to do with teachers or kids – and supporting causes that are contrary to the positions of many of its members. Then the union elites have the audacity to whine about millionaires and billionaires “not paying their fair share of taxes” when they don’t pay a penny, and all the while fund politicians who ensure that CTA’s pilfer-and-spend scheme rolls on undisturbed.

And just what do the “anti-greed” union bosses make for their efforts? In 2009, CTA President David Sanchez was compensated $289,550, three times what an average teacher in CA makes, while VP Dean Vogel had to suffer along with a mere $244,925 a year.

On a national level the union bosses do even better.

According to a recently issued LM-2 report (H/T RiShawn Biddle), we see that AFT President Randi Weingarten raked in a cool $493,859 last year. And NEA President Dennis Van Roekel managed to “earn” a whopping $543,868 in salary and benefits. I guess their justification for such high salaries is that it is very hard work to fight reformers who are actually concerned about educating children.

But CTA and other teachers unions can snooker people only for so long. Far from being a part of the 99%, they are big special interest businesses — spending millions to maintain their monopoly over American education, while paying not a penny in taxes. As Troy Senik wrote last week in Public Sector Inc., “The CTA is the one percent.” And poll after poll has shown that the general public is catching on.

If the OWSers were to put their bongs away, stop beating their drums, defecating on police cars, chanting and repeating nonsense in zombie-like tones for just a moment, they just may realize that the unions claiming to support them are really fat cats disguised as victims.

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 Tragedy and Farce of American Schools of Education

Education schools are nothing more than dumbed down, politically correct fad factories supported by the teachers unions.

If you ever wanted to have a complete file of Diane Ravitch’s inane union apologist utterances all in one place – here it is. As Part of NBC’s Education Nation, she and Harlem Children’s Zone’s President Geoffrey Canada duked it out for a half hour. (As I watched this, I recalled Steven Brill’s comment in Class Warfare, that American Federation of Teachers President Randi Weingarten should become the next New York City Chancellor of Education because she’s “smart” and could fix public education by making the rank and file perform better. I would add that in the highly unlikely case of this happening, Ravitch could easily replace Weingarten as AFT president.)

Needless to say, Ravitch vehemently disagreed with Canada on just about everything. However, they did agree that we needed to train our teachers better. This, of course, is like agreeing that snow is white.

The schools of education in the U.S. are by and large an abomination. Richard Vedder, a scholar at the American Enterprise Institute, pretty well nails it in a recent article he wrote for the Chronicle of Higher Education. He says that:

• colleges of education don’t really challenge their students.
• mindless education courses have crowded out study of subject matter.
• there is something of an anti-knowledge culture in many education schools; learning facts is actually disparaged.
• the education colleges have been great promoters of the highly dubious notion that self-esteem is critically important.
• schools of education have worked closely with teacher unions to convince legislators to keep archaic practices regarding teacher certification that prevent otherwise qualified persons from getting education degrees.

A few years ago, Education Reform Professor Jay Greene actually quantified one of the problems. Writing in City Journal, he and a research assistant explored the number of multicultural classes offered in our teachers’ colleges. They counted the number of course titles and descriptions that

“…contained the words ‘multiculturalism,’ ‘diversity,’ ‘inclusion,’ and variants thereof, and then compared those with the number that used variants of the word “math.” We then computed a ‘multiculturalism-to-math ratio’—a rough indicator of the relative importance of social goals to academic skills in ed schools.”

The results were very telling.

“The average ed school, we found, has a multiculturalism-to-math ratio of 1.82, meaning that it offers 82 percent more courses featuring social goals than featuring math. At Harvard and Stanford, the ratio is about 2: almost twice as many courses are social as mathematical. At the University of Minnesota, the ratio is higher than 12. And at UCLA, a whopping 47 course titles and descriptions contain the word ‘multiculturalism’ or ‘diversity,’ while only three contain the word ‘math,’ giving it a ratio of almost 16.”

It is beyond reprehensible that the ed schools make little effort to truly educate future teachers.

But why might they do that? Could the hairy hidden hand of the teachers union be behind this phenomenon?

Writer RiShawn Biddle explains,

“In 2009-2010, the NEA (National Education Association) ladled out $381,576 to the National Council for Accreditation of Teacher Education, which oversees teacher training programs, according to its filing with the U.S. Department of Labor; that’s part of $1.9 million the union gave to the group over a five-year period. In 2008-2009, the union handed out $252,262 to the American Association of Colleges for Teacher Education, the main trade group for ed schools.”

So NEA President Dennis Van Roekel does what so many teacher union leaders do. They mouth a popular education reform sentiment, (recently saying that the “system of teacher recruitment, training and hiring is broken and needs an overhaul”) but in reality put their money where their unions’ best interests lie. In this case, it means that while admitting the system is broken, Van Roekel and the NEA reinforce the status quo by supporting an agency that accredits these same “broken” schools of education. Not surprisingly, the NEA didn’t give a penny to the National Center for Alternative Education, a newer feistier organization devoted to helping teachers who are interested in avoiding the dreary ed school route.

The question becomes why the teachers unions would back a failing mode of teacher training that typically attracts students from the bottom of their class. A recent study found that just 23 percent of teachers came from the top third of college graduates.

A cynical theory has it that the teachers unions like recruiting future teachers from the bottom of their classes because they will be more compliant than their sharper classmates, thus making it easier for the unions to foist their socially progressive agenda and other dictates on them. This is the same mentality that defense attorneys employ when picking jurors; they prefer not to empanel critical types who will be more likely to challenge them. Let’s call this the O.J. Jury Theory of teacher recruitment.

Is there any good news on the horizon?

In The October 1st edition of the Wall Street Journal, there is an article which claims that a push is coming from the Obama administration to improve teacher quality by rewarding colleges of education that produce teachers whose students do well on standardized tests. Interestingly, the NEA gave vocal support to the proposal; AFT President Randi Weingarten, however, whined,

“…the U.S. Department of Education appears to be putting its foot on the accelerator by calling for yet another use for test.”

Whether any of this comes to pass is anyone’s guess. The only thing that is a given is that in the end, Van Roekel and the NEA will revert to form and do their utmost to see that the administration’s plan never sees the light of day. And so many of our children will continue to fail, because the system is rigged against them.

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.

Cherry Picking Facts + Bad Polling = Demagoguery

Teacher union boss cherry picks from a biased poll and ends up with the pits.

Cherry picking is a phrase that has become quite popular these days. The term simply refers to advancing a certain point of view by using only data which supports that POV and omitting any contradictory or mitigating information.

A recent illustration of this phenomenon is on display in an article written by NEA President Dennis Van Roekel. The ironically titled Back-to-School Reality Check is, in fact, quite short on reality. The article, primarily a pep talk for teachers, uses a recent Phi Beta Kappa/Gallup poll as its motivating source. Early on, Van Roekel tells us,

“73 percent (of the poll’s respondents) said teachers should have flexibility in the classroom.”

I’m all for that. But what the union boss leaves out is that for teachers to have more flexibility they would need to tear up the telephone book-size union contract that dictates every little move a teacher makes.

Question 10 of the PDK poll says,

“Most teachers in the nation now belong to unions or associations that bargain over salaries, working conditions, and the like. Has unionization, in your opinion, helped, hurt, or made no difference in the quality of public school education in the United States?”

Cherries jubilee here! Mr. Van Roekel didn’t acknowledge this question. Why? Because 47 percent of those polled said unionization has hurt education, while only 24 percent said it helped.

Also conveniently ignored by Van Roekel were the responses to the charter school question. That’s because, of those polled, a whopping 70 percent were in favor of charter schools — a major union bugaboo — and only 27 percent were not.

Then, he reverses the cherry picking process,

“In fact, a majority of those polled (52 percent) side with teachers unions and educators who have been under attack as a new crop of governors – Wisconsin’s Scott Walker, Florida’s Rick Scott, New Jersey’s Chris Christie, Ohio’s John Kasich – declared war on public employees and the middle class.”

Van Roekel is editorializing here. The poll itself did not name states or governors, nor did it say anything about war on the middle class. This is actually an example of reverse cherry picking: including information that doesn’t exist in the poll.

On the voucher question,

“…gimmicks like vouchers, (which the responders) opposed nearly 2 to 1.”

This is true. Sixty-five percent opposed vouchers, with just 34 percent in favor. But here we see a flaw in the question itself, which reads,

“Do you favor or oppose allowing students and parents to choose a private school to attend at public expense?”

As Jeanne Allen, president of Center for Education Reform noted in a criticism of the poll’s poorly constructed and biased wording,

“Choosing a private school at public expense is not only poorly received, but of course, it is poorly worded and a fictitious scenario. Parental choice dictates where the monies allocated for one’s education go and unless those parents can’t be considered part of the public, their rights are not an expense to anyone but the school that loses their funds, presumably for failing to meet their needs.”

Regarding education funding, Van Roekel says,

“The public’s primary concern about education is funding, which ranks far above any other topic.”

While the PDK poll does indeed report that 36 percent said that lack of funding was the number one problem, the question is flawed. When the public is asked about the current level of school funding, it is incumbent on the questioner to find out if the responder knows anything about what the current level of funding is. The PDK poll was highly negligent in this area, but a new poll by conducted by Education Next asked the question correctly.

“When the public was asked whether government funding for public schools in their district should increase, decrease, or stay the same, 59 percent selected the first option, only slightly less than the 63 percent that gave that opinion in 2010, and dramatically more than in 2009 (46 percent). Affluent respondents were less willing to spend more for their district schools, but even among them a clear majority (52 percent) preferred an increase in expenditures.”

“A segment of those surveyed were asked the same question except that they were first told the level of per-pupil expenditure in their community, which averaged $12,300 for the respondents in our sample. For every subgroup considered, this single piece of information dampened public enthusiasm for increased spending. Support for more spending fell from 59 percent to 46 percent of those surveyed. Among the well-to-do, the level of support dropped dramatically, from 52 percent to 36 percent. Among teachers, support for expenditure increases fell even more sharply—from 71 percent to 53 percent. (Emphasis added)

In fact, that kind of clarity and honesty was evident throughout the entire Education Next poll. When people have the facts clearly presented, they can give informed opinions which are obviously more meaningful.

The bottom line is that a poll which is biased and does not take into account the knowledge of the people being polled is misleading and dangerous. The public is led to believe that the responders are perceptive and knowledgeable, when in reality so many are not. Combine the inevitably distorted poll results with a teachers union president’s cherry picking and editorializing the data, and you wind up with nothing more than a heaping pile of demagoguery.

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.

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.