The World’s Largest Oligarchical Organization

The WikiLeaks document dump exposes NEA’s manipulation of its purported democratic process.

The WikiLeaks email release, unmasking the Hillary Clinton campaign, has become a daily ritual. A treasure trove of communiqués has exposed Hillary to be just about everything that the right (and even many on the left) has said she is. The emails from hatchet man John Podesta, who goes by the title “campaign chairman,” uncover the double dealing and lies orchestrated by the Clinton camp. (Memo to Podesta: Was referring to Bernie Sanders as a “doofus” for his extremist position on climate change really necessary? Sheesh!! But kudos for not following up on the DNC suggestion to smear Sanders’ Jewish background. Too bad you and your cronies chose to slime Catholics, though. )

Lost in the daily email disclosures have been revelations that the National Education Association manipulated the endorsement process to ensure that Hillary was the union’s candidate of choice for president. As reported by Mike Antonucci, on June 13, 2015, four days after Clinton announced her candidacy, her director of labor outreach, Nikki Budzinski, sent a memo to other campaign officials discussing possible strategies for the upcoming NEA Representative Assembly (RA), set for the following month in Florida.

“They are sincerely doing their best to manage the activists at the RA. It only takes 50 signatures to raise a resolution on the floor and I have been warned about a Northeastern Sanders contingent. I think it would be good to be organized on our own behalf with a few key folks in the room (NH and IA leaders) in case anything comes up. I am a little nervous about this event. That said, their steps are moving toward a (sic) October 2nd/3rd endorsement all going to plan.”

NEA had not taken any formal steps to determine who its rank-and-file actually preferred for the Democratic nomination, but it’s no secret that there were many in the union who favored Sanders over Clinton, citing the socialist’s “opposition to charter schools, support for collective bargaining rights and free tuition at public higher education institutions.”

Then on June 19th, Budzinski warned colleagues of an impending endorsement of Bernie Sanders by NEA’s Vermont affiliate. That set off alarm bells and the manipulation machine was set in motion, which Antonucci meticulously details here.

Three months later, on Sept. 29th, an email sent by Podesta to Clinton explained that “despite the intense work” of NEA President Lily Eskelsen García and Executive Director John Stocks, there was no certainty that Clinton would receive enough votes from the union’s board necessary for the endorsement. As reported by Politico, Clinton met with them behind closed doors on Oct. 1st, a meeting coordinated by Podesta and Stocks that was deemed “critical” for the endorsement. The NEA also had a safety net in place that weekend: “They will not call the vote unless they are certain that they will hit the threshold,” Podesta wrote.

And later that same day, the announcement was made that Clinton was anointed, garnering 82 percent of the vote. In response, NEA president Eskelsen García continued the dog-and-pony show gushing, “It was truly what democracy looks like.

In Chicago, maybe.

Clearly complaints by Sanders and his followers in the union that he was being treated unfairly were justified. Ironically, NEA still refers to its legislative and policymaking body as “The World’s Largest Democratic Deliberative Assembly.”

Any teacher who is troubled by the NEA’s politics and/or its backroom dealing has virtually no options. It’s true that in non-right-to-work states, teachers can refuse to pay for union politicking but they must still fork over about two-thirds a full dues share to the union.

Can teachers join a different union? No. Throughout virtually the entire country, they are stuck with the monopoly bargaining unit that they had no role in electing.

Can you imagine being forced to use the same legal firm that your grandmother did? Nuts, right? But not in Big Labor Land. Most teachers unions were certified 30-50 years ago. As The Heritage Foundation’s labor economics expert James Sherk points out, just 1 percent of current teachers in the largest school districts in Florida were on the job in 1975 when the first and only union election process took place. The other states that Sherk studied have similar statistics.

Union democracy? Oxymoron.

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

The Myth of the Underpaid Teacher Lives On

 Yet another “study” showing how poorly teachers are paid has surfaced.

Well, it’s a new school year and there is much tumult in the world of public education. Common Core battles, testing opt-outs, and litigation about school choice and teacher work rules dot the landscape. But with all the uncertainty, it’s comforting to know that there is one thing we can count on in late summer: a new bogus study showing that public school teachers are woefully underpaid.

This year’s entry doesn’t disappoint. “The teacher pay gap is wider than ever,” subtitled “Teachers’ pay continues to fall further behind pay of comparable workers” is a 29-page report released by the Economic Policy Institute, whose mission is “to inform and empower individuals to seek solutions that ensure broadly shared prosperity and opportunity.” If this were an honest statement, the word “opportunity” would be followed by “as long as the solutions are in sync with the union party line.” You see, EPI is nothing more than a union front group whose board includes a rogue’s gallery of Big Labor honchos: AFL-CIO’s Richard Trumka, SEIU’s Mary Kay Henry, American Federation of Teachers’ Randi Weingarten, National Education Association’s Lily Eskelsen-García, et al.

And not only do the teachers unions have strong board representation, they donate heavily to EPI. According to the latest labor department reports, 2015 saw NEA present a $250,000 gift to EPI, only to be outdone by the smaller AFT, which kicked in $300,000 to the organization.

The study itself is just what you would expect: loads of numbers that are supposed to make people think that teachers are essentially little more than impoverished serfs, valiantly slaving away for pennies. Among the report’s claims:

  • Teachers’ weekly wages are 23 percent lower than those of other college graduates.
  • For public-sector teachers, the relative wage gap (regression adjusted for education, experience, and other factors) has grown substantially since the mid-1990s: It was ‑8 percent in 1994 and grew to a record ‑17.0 percent in 2015.
  • Regardless of experience, teacher wage gap expanded for female teachers.

Needless to say, the unions solemnly wrote about the report as if it were “news,” with NEA blogger Tim Walker suggesting that all teachers get a raise. And as day follows night, the media jumped on board. The relentless and reliably-unreliable Washington Post education blogger Valerie Strauss dutifully posted the whole report with the title, “Think teachers aren’t paid enough? It’s worse than you think.The Fiscal Times sounded alarm bells with “Teacher Pay Hits Record—but Not a Good One.”

But like most similar studies, EPI’s doesn’t do an apples-to-apples comparison. It omits a few things like the simple fact that teachers work 6-7 hour days and 180 days a year, whereas the study’s “comparable workers” put in an 8-9 hour a day and work 240-250 days a year. (Yes, yes, I know teachers take work home, but so do many other professionals who don’t get summers off.) Also, unlike private-sector workers, most teachers have extensive health benefits for which they typically pay very little, if anything. Furthermore, as University of Missouri professor Michael Podgursky points out, the pension benefits for teachers, which they only pay a tiny portion of – the taxpayer getting hosed for the rest – add greatly to a teacher’s total compensation. (The EPI report actually alludes to this, but buries it on page 14; more on this in a bit.)

Perhaps the most honest and well-researched study done on teacher pay, including the time-on-the-job and benefits factors, was done in 2011 by Andrew Biggs, a resident scholar at the American Enterprise Institute, and Jason Richwine, a senior policy analyst at the Heritage Foundation. In their report, they destroy the teacher union-perpetuated myth of the under-compensated teacher. Their study, in fact, found that teachers are actually paid more than private-sector workers.

They make the case that workers who switch from non-teaching jobs to teaching jobs “receive a wage increase of roughly 9 percent, while teachers who change to non-teaching jobs see their wages decrease by approximately 3 percent.” Additionally, when retiree health coverage for teachers is included, “it is worth roughly an additional 10 percent of wages, whereas private-sector employees often do not receive this benefit at all.”

Biggs and Richwine conclude that after taking everything into account, “teachers actually receive salary and benefits that are 52 percent greater than fair market levels, equivalent to more than $120 billion overcharged to taxpayers each year.”

Back to the EPI study. On page 14 of the report, it acknowledges,

Our analysis of relative teacher pay thus far has focused entirely on the wages of teachers compared to other workers. Yet benefits such as pensions and health insurance are an increasingly important component of the total compensation package. Teachers do enjoy more attractive benefit packages than other professionals; thus, our measure of relative teacher wages overstates the teacher disadvantage in total compensation. The different natures of wages and benefits should be kept in mind, as it is only wages that may be spent or saved. Thus, the growing wage penalty is always of importance.

So in essence, the authors of the study come clean in this paragraph and admit that their stress on wages alone overstates the real disparity in pay. The “spent or saved” comment is especially ridiculous. Pension earnings are indeed “saved” for the future. Whatever. It’s obvious that this report is meant to tug at the heartstrings, build righteous indignation and provide local teachers unions with ammo for collective bargaining battles with school boards.

For an honest assessment of teacher pay, stick with the Biggs-Richwine study. But if one is looking for skewed and incomplete data as fodder for a splashy headline or an emotional plea, the dishonest and self-serving union-sponsored EPI report fills the bill beautifully.

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

The Friedrichs Free Rider Fraud

The Supreme Court’s decision to hear the Friedrichs case has the unions in a tizzy.

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Mike Antonucci adds,

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

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

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

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

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

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

Public Union Foes and Defenders

The basic premise behind public employee financed campaigns is that the election is now while the bills may be deferred for years, particularly if they take the form of pension promises. Eventually, however, the bills do come due. This is why Governor Mitch Daniels (R-Indiana) said he decided on his first day of office in 2005 322 to end public employee collective bargaining rights and to stop collecting union dues. Without the state collecting dues, only 10% of union members chose to stay enrolled by paying their own dues.

Governor Chris Christie (R-New Jersey) stood before 200 of his state’s mayors in 2010 and declared that the era of “Alice-in-Wonderland” budgeting is over: “Money does not grow on trees. . . . For New Jersey and any number of other states and municipalities, it’s useless to pretend. . . . We have no room left to borrow. We have no room left to tax.” Chris Christie went on to say that his treasurer had presented him with  possible budget deletions or freezes to balance the budget and that he had adopted . Almost all observers thought that this was the end of the Governor’s career. Instead it made him a national figure and even won approval from New Jersey voters.

Governor Scott Walker (R-Wisconsin) was elected in 2010 and immediately moved to restrict collective bargaining for benefits (excluding police and fire) and also to stop collecting union dues. This led to a firestorm of protest and a recall election, which the Governor won. Governor John Kasich (R-Ohio), also elected in 2010, restricted public employee collective bargaining, including police and fire, but his actions were overturned by voters in a 2011 referendum.

In retrospect, Kasich’s chief error was in not moving to end automatic state collection of all union dues. Scott Walker’s experience in Wisconsin in this regard is highly instructive. Walker’s position was that the state would continue collecting all dues until the end of the contract. After that, dues would only be collected with the consent of the public worker. What actually happened was that two-thirds of workers enrolled in AFSCME, the state’s largest public union apart from the teachers’ NEA, refused to give their consent. As in Indiana, the political power of the union took a major hit. As Jim Geraghty commented in the National Review: “Apply this across the country . . . and you’re talking about . . . a game-changer in so many states.”

Ironically, a federal court ruled in 1966 that a union did not have the right to use member dues for political purposes if a member objects. But few union members know about the right to opt out or, if they do, may feel intimidated in pursuing what are called their “Beck rights.” Moreover the unions make it very difficult by stalling on Beck rights requests, smothering them in endless red tape, and refusing to calculate what portion of the dues apply. If, however, the public employer refuses to collect full dues for the union automatically and instead asks the member whether dues should be used for political purposes, it is much easier for the worker to express a preference.

As we have noted, the rules governing state and local public unions differ from those governing federal workers. The former can usually engage in collective bargaining and go on strike; the latter seem to serve little purpose other than to collect dues and put a share of it at the disposal of the Democratic Party. Despite these differences, federal wages and benefits have also risen, so that taken together they now exceed what can be earned in the private sector for the same job. This is a remarkable reversal: fifty years ago, it was generally understood that federal workers would earn less in exchange for more days off, slightly better benefits, and almost total job security.

Studies purporting to compare federal with private work levels do not agree with one another, but the Congressional Budget Office has found that, comparing employees of comparable educational level, federal wages are higher at lower pay scales, similar at middle, and somewhat lower at the high end, with benefits much higher across the board. Taken together, the federal employee advantage is 16%. In addition, federal employees work three hours less per week on average and one month less per year. An earlier Labor Department study found that state and local workers make 46% more, so federal workers were not doing as well. Other studies, however, suggest all categories of government pay are more like twice as high as private, when the net present value of soaring retirement awards, often equal to final year pay, is taken into account.

The number of very highly paid federal employees has also increased, even during the years following the Crash of 2008. For example, in early 2008, the Labor Department had only one employee earning $170,000 or more. Eighteen months later, there were 1,690 such employees. Over the same period, all federal employees making more than $100,000 rose from 14% to 19%. One federal employee, working in a government green energy lab in Colorado, was reported in 2012 to be making just under $1 million, with two deputies making over $500,000 each, and nine others making over $350,000. The number of all jobs during the economic recession of 2008–2009 also rose in the federal government, unlike in the private sector, where over eight million disappeared. It is not at all surprising that by the end of 2010, seven of the ten richest counties in the US surrounded Washington, DC.

Having come into office on a wave of union support and money, the Obama administration literally opened its doors to union leaders. Andy Stern, the head of the powerful SEIU, visited the White House more often than any other political figure during the first six months. What he seemed to want most was “Card Check” legislation that would end the secret ballot in union organizing. President Obama and Democratic leaders strongly endorsed the bill, but it must have lacked some Democratic votes in the Senate, because it was never put forward for a vote, despite overwhelming Democratic majorities in Congress.

President Obama found other ways to reward labor. During his first weeks in office, he signed executive order 13502, which made union membership a requirement of anyone working on federal construction projects. He also opposed Senator Jim DeMint’s (R-South Carolina) National Right to Work bill, which would have ended compulsory union membership as a job condition in all states (23 states have their own versions of this law).

The President backed a decision by the Democrat controlled National Labor Relations Board (NLRB) intended to block Boeing’s plan to move 787 Dreamliner plane construction from unionized Washington to union-free South Carolina. He backed another highly controversial decision to force companies to turn over their employees’ private email addresses and telephone numbers without employee consent to union organizers. He also tried unsuccessfully to force companies doing business with the government to reveal all political activity or donations, a rule that would not have applied to unions. By early 2012, he had granted waivers from his Obamacare legislation to unions representing 543,812 employees (also to administration friendly companies with 69,813 employees).

Meanwhile the president kept subsidies flowing to the Post Office which, despite massive losses, reliably collects union dues from workers, which are then made available to Democratic campaigns ($3.6 million in the 2010 election cycle). Other countries have successfully privatized their mail delivery. The obstacle to doing this in the US is that postal workers, like other government employees, are deemed to be, for the most part, reliable Democratic voters, and their union is regarded as an indispensable political cash cow.


About the Author: Hunter Lewis is co-founder of He is co-founder and former CEO of global investment firm Cambridge Associates, LLC and author of 8 books on moral philosophy, psychology, and economics, including the widely acclaimed Are the Rich Necessary? (“Highly provocative and highly pleasurable.”—New York Times) He has contributed to the New York Times, the Times of London, the Washing­ton Post, and the Atlantic Monthly, as well as numerous websites such as and This post is an excerpt from Chapter 20 of his most recent book, Crony Capitalism in America: 2008–2012.

Union Controlled Classrooms – What Happened to Public Education in the U.S.

The United States spends more per pupil on public education than any other country in the world, about one trillion dollars annually, but it is at the bottom of the class. In 2009, 15-year old American students ranked 17th in reading, 23rd in science and 32nd in mathematics in the PISA international assessment of academic achievement. In 2000, they ranked 18th in math and 14th in science. 500,000 students from 34 OECD nations participated in each assessment.

A glance at the final exams given in 1895 and 1912 to 8th grade students is a striking example of how far we have fallen as a nation. [1, 2] 12-year old students in Salina, Kansas in 1895 had to pass the five-hour exam to qualify for admission to high school. Sample questions include:

–  Name the parts of speech and define those that have no modifications.
–  If a load of wheat weights 3942 lbs., what is it worth at 50 cents per bushel, deducting 1050 pounds for tare?
–  Relate the causes and results of the Revolutionary War.
–  Write 10 words frequently mispronounced and indicate correct pronunciation by use of diacritical marks and by syllabication.

How many adults in 2013 could pass this test?

The decline in scholarship of America’s students parallels the unionization of public education. Teachers unions did not exist in the 17th, 18th and 19th centuries when student achievement in the Unites States was the envy of the world. They are a fairly recent development.

Founded in 1857 by 43 teachers as a professional association, the National Education Association became a labor union in the social chaos of the 1960’s. Their metamorphosis into a union has negatively impacted the course of public education and the character of educators.

At its 50th anniversary, the NEA had a membership of 5,000. By 1960, the number had increased to 700,000. At its 150th anniversary in 2007, membership had ballooned to 3.2 million. The annual costs for public education during this period also ballooned, from $13 billion to $900 billion. [3]

Annual per student spending in constant 2011-2012 dollars rose from $3,648 in 1960 to $9,941 in 1995. In 2000, the average cost was $8,854. [4]  Today, it exceeds $10,000. In New York and the District of Colombia, the cost is $20,000, yet DC students have the lowest scores in this country as well as in all 34 of the countries in the OECD. [5]

There is an inherent structural flaw in the motives and priorities of a labor union being entrusted with the academic health and welfare of the nation’s young citizenry. In the transformation from a professional association to a union, its primary focus has shifted to the needs and welfare of the 3,500,000 teacher members, not the 55,000,000 young students placed in their care. [6]

The change in identity from a professional association to a labor union has had profound political, sociological and psychological consequences. These effects are linked to the decline in public education and academic scholarship and on the quality and performance of teachers. In their wake, America has become a global embarrassment. It is important to distinguish between teachers and teachers’ unions. Americans respect and trust teachers. They do not view unions in the same light. The difficulty lies in the lack of awareness of the union’s control over teachers and schools by the American public.

The NEA is dedicated, first and foremost, to the extent of its own power and political influence. Although unions claim to exist for the good of their members, they exist mainly for their own self-interests. The interests of the teachers are secondary. Those of the fifty-five million public school students are dead last.

With more than $1.5 billion in annual revenue from the mandatory dues of its 3.5 million members, the NEA has become a major player on the national political landscape. It is the largest contributor to the Democrat Party. [7]  The NEA can muster vast sums of money and numbers of votes for candidates in local, state and national elections or to defeat ballot initiatives that threaten its monopoly in public education.

To protect their interests, teachers unions have bludgeoned the citizens of California time and again at the ballot box. In 1993, the CTA spent $17 million to defeat Proposition 174 for school choice and $26 million in 2002 to defeat Proposition 38, a similar school voucher initiative.

They mortgaged their own headquarters in 2005 to raise the $56 Million that was needed to defeat the school reforms proposed by Governor Schwarzenegger. Had the CTA needed even more funds, its parent organization would have covered the shortfall with the staggering war chest the NEA has made available to any of its state affiliates. [8]

The continual increase in federal investment in public education and corresponding decrease in class size has not produced an increase in student performance. Quite the opposite has happened. The rate of literacy in our armed forces has steadily declined throughout the 20th century from 96% in WWII, to 81% in the Korean War to 73% in Viet Nam. [9] Thirty percent of current Navy recruits can’t read at a 9th grade level, the minimum required as a precaution in order to comprehend equipment instructions and operate them safely. [10]

Among high school graduates, the statistics are far worse. 75% of freshmen in 2-year colleges and 40% in 4-year colleges require remediation in reading and math. The US itself ranks 49th among the nations of the UN in its literacy levels. After 12 years of education in the nation’s public schools at a cost of $120,000 per student, America has an embarrassingly small return on its investment.

The 1895 and 1912 8th grade exams are a troubling reflection of the corrosive effects unionization has had on educators, students, the curriculum and the nation itself. Most teachers of that early era in our history had only a basic education. A high school education in the 1890’s provided a more solid understanding of mathematics, geography and literature than does most college degrees today.

Classes were large and often shared by students from several different grade levels. The curriculum was rigorous and every student was expected to master the Three R’s. The Bible, world atlas, US Constitution and the McGuffey Readers were often the only textbooks available. Strict rules promoted learning and kept disruptiveness to a minimum.
Public education in America was once among the nation’s greatest achievements. Its schools produced many of the world’s greatest minds (Thomas Edison, Alexander Graham Bell and Henry Ford) until the sixties. That remarkable achievement appears to have been lost since the intrusion of the powerful teachers’ unions, a footnote in our national history.

The NEA also changed the character of educators. Images in newspapers and on TV of angry teachers in the streets of Chicago and New York with placards demanding higher wages while their students are locked out of their schoolrooms for days stand in stark contrast to the well-dressed, soft-spoken teachers of our childhood.

Mob thuggery has inserted itself into public education. The educators who march and chant in favor of unions are often very emboldened and brutish. Although many teachers disagree with this unseemly and unprofessional behavior and would never voluntarily abandon their students, they are voiceless within the union.

The NEA has co-opted the teaching profession. Teachers have become members of a union, not of a highly esteemed profession. In its wake, the NEA damaged our schools, our students and our educators. There has been a dumbing down of our teachers, 41% of math teachers and 51% of those in chemistry and physics lack even a minor in their area of specialization and a correspondent dumbing down of our students, 23rd in science and 32nd in math on international assessment of academic competence.

Public education in America is literally on its deathbed. The only treatment to save its life is radical reform. There are no other options. Absolute control must be wrested from the teachers union.

Solutions to Revitalize Public Education in the United States:

(1) The Right to Work policy should be implemented in all states as should the right to opt out of mandatory dues and agency fees.

(2) Seniority, step increases in salary and automatic tenure after two or three years are rules that should be revoked.

(3) Assessment of teacher performance, disciplinary matters and design of the curriculum should be under district control with continual input from the community as should hiring and firing of teachers.

(4) Charter schools, single-sex schools and parental choice should all be made widely available.

It is time America took back control of the education of its future citizens. The purpose of this series will be to examine the effects of unionism on U.S. public education and academic achievement, quality of the teachers and the curriculum being taught by them and of the massive fraud of the federal monopoly in education.

It is our hope that exposure of the malignant effects of the unions on public education and the threat for the nation’s future will provide some direction for a much-needed public discussion about an issue that may be among the most critical for our continued survival as a world leader.

R. Claire Friend, MD, is a retired psychiatrist and frequent commentator on the psychological dimensions of education and social welfare policies.





4. in constant 1995 dollars

4. in constant 2011-2012 dollars

5. Eric Hanushek, Paul Peterson and Ludger Woessman, Endangering Prosperity, p. 50






Additional Notes:

Annual cost per student by state:

Annual cost per student in constant dollars:
Eric A. Hanushek, “Deconstructing RAND,” Education Next 1, no. 1 (2001), online edition:

Getting Criminals Out of Schools

A new bill would keep pedophiles and violent criminals out of our schools; teachers unions balk. California law firm decides to try an end run.

A couple of weeks ago in Washington, D.C., the House of Representatives passed a bill by a simple voice vote, which stipulated that public schools would be barred from employing teachers and other school employees who have been convicted of sexual offenses or violent crimes against children.

“Keeping children safe is not a partisan issue,” said the chief sponsor, Rep. George Miller, D-Calif. “It’s a moral obligation.”

“Every school employee, from the cafeteria workers to the administrators, to janitors to the teachers, principals and librarians, that everyone” is subject to background checks including the FBI fingerprint identification system to the national sex offender registry, said Rep. Todd Rokita, R-Ind.

Now just whom do you suspect might take issue with such a law?  

Go to the head of the class if you responded “teachers unions.” Both the National Education Association and the American Federation of Teachers sent letters to Congress complaining about the proposed legislation. The NEA missive starts off with,

On behalf of the more than three million members of the National Education Association and the students they serve, we would like to offer the following views on H.R. 2083 to require criminal background checks for school employees, which will be voted on tomorrow. (Emphasis added.)

On behalf of students? Did I miss something here? Has NEA forced students – as they do teachers in 26 states – to become beholden to the union? The rest of the letter is no better, and includes one truly bizarre comment. “…criminal background checks often have a huge, racially disparate impact.”

They do? Which race should get a pass? Would NEA be more in favor of the bill if it had a racially proportionate number of pedophiles? (Note to teachers: ya think maybe it’s time to stop supporting the loopy antics of NEA?)

Over at AFT command central, wily lawyer and union president Randi Weingarten submitted a longer and more nuanced letter to Congress, which includes the usual talking points, but does raise one issue that, at first glance, seems sensible.

We suggest that states with background check laws that are at least as demanding and thorough as those proposed in H.R. 2083 be granted the flexibility and authority to use their own state laws and procedures in place of the new federal rules laid out in the bill.

As a firm believer in the 10th Amendment, I think this is reasonable … on the surface. However, the reality is that the teachers unions, with their vast war chest and political clout, have managed to influence legislation that favors all teachers “rights” over the best interests of children in many states. One needs to look no further than California for a glaring example.

In 2012, California state senator Alex Padilla wrote SB 1530, which would have streamlined the labyrinthine “dismissal statutes” that require districts to navigate a seemingly endless maze of hearings and appeals that all teachers are currently entitled to. In fact, Padilla’s bill, narrow in scope, dealt only with credible claims that a teacher has abused a child with sex, drugs, or violence. But this sensible legislation was quashed in the Assembly Education Committee where the teachers unions’ hairy not-so-hidden hand rules supreme.

Then earlier this year, the teachers unions got behind AB 375, a watered-down, poorly written dismissal bill that, though it would have made some things even worse, was nevertheless passed by both houses of the California legislature. Fortunately, Governor Jerry Brown vetoed it.

So the question becomes how to pass legislation in the many states where the teachers unions are all powerful. Bell, McAndrews & Hiltachk, a law firm in the Golden State, has come up with a solution: bypass the legislature and let the voters decide directly. Last week, the legal team submitted a proposed ballot measure which they are calling the “Stop Child Molesters, Sexual Abusers and Drug Dealers from Working in California Schools Act.”

Should the initiative become law, the California Education code would be amended. The essence of the proposal:

Current law includes loopholes for school employees perpetrating egregious misconduct to remain on the public payroll and earn continuing retirement credit for excessive time after having been charged in writing with committing egregious misconduct and being notified of a decision to terminate employment thereby increasing the dismissal costs to school districts and draining resources from schools and the children they serve.

School employees perpetrating egregious misconduct in California have exploited loopholes to delay and conceal dismissal proceedings manipulating school districts to pay-off, reassign, enter into agreements to expunge evidence of egregious misconduct from district personnel files, and approve secret settlement agreements enabling the school employee to continue to perpetrate offenses in other schools and school districts, thereby infringing on the inalienable right of students and staff to attend public primary, elementary, junior high, and senior high school campuses which are safe, secure and peaceful as guaranteed by the Constitution of the State of California.

Accordingly, the People of the State of California declare that to secure the constitutional guarantee of students and staff to be safe and secure in their persons at public primary, elementary, junior high and senior high school campuses, school districts must have the appropriate statutory authority to expeditiously remove and permanently dismiss perpetrators of egregious misconduct without facing lengthy and costly litigation or creating incentives to transfer the school employee to another assignment, school or school district.

According to LA School Report’s Vanessa Romo, the Attorney General’s office has until Dec. 23rd to title and summarize the initiative. After that, proponents have 150 days to circulate a petition throughout the state and collect 504,760 signatures.

The teachers unions have yet to comment on the proposed initiative, but when they do, rest assured it won’t be favorable. Presumably they’ll rail about the rights of teachers and trot out their usual warnings about the bill’s negative effect on “the children.” Maybe they’ll blather on about how the initiative might disparately affect some unnamed minority. In other words they will do everything possible to convince the public that the initiative is wrong for California. Exactly how low the union will go is anyone’s guess, but as Lily Tomlin once quipped, “No matter how cynical I get, I just can’t keep up.”

How will the voters of California respond to the unions’ barrage of distortions and red herrings that will undoubtedly pollute the public airwaves? If the initiative gets on the ballot, we will find out a year from now. Stay tuned.

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.

California Lawsuit Challenges Mandatory Agency Fees

If the California Teachers Association and its parent, the National Education Association, represent Goliath, then ten teachers and a small union alternative called the Christian Educators Association International are fitting stand-ins for David. They’re taking on the CTA with a lawsuit aimed squarely at California’s “agency-shop” law, which they claim violates public school teachers’ First Amendment rights by forcing them to pay annual union fees, even when they’re not union members. The Washington, D.C.–based Center for Individual Rights is representing the teachers, with help from Jones Day, an international law firm. Needless to say, the CTA isn’t happy. Spokesman Frank Wells denounced the suit as a “baseless challenge intended to dilute worker rights,” insisting that “the concept of agency fees is sound.”

But is it? California law does allow for “mandatory monopoly bargaining,” which means, where public education is concerned, that teachers must pay dues or “fees” to a labor union in order to work at a public school. Teachers may “resign” from the union, which frees them from paying the portion of their dues that would be spent for politics. They’re still required, though, to pay an “agency fee” for other union services, such as collective bargaining—whether they want those services or not. And even if a teacher does resign from the union, he must send a letter every year by a specified date to receive a rebate for the political portion of his dues. In short, the onus is on the teacher if he wants the union to respect his independence.

The rationale for collective-bargaining fees is that even nonmembers benefit from collective bargaining; there should be no “free riders.” But the line between what counts as a “chargeable” fee and what constitutes outright political activity has become blurrier over the years. As the plaintiffs’ lawyers argue, unions use their power “to extract compulsory fees as a convenient method of forcing teachers to pay for activities that have little to do with collective bargaining.” They point to The California Educator, CTA’s highly political magazine, which the union claims as a chargeable collective-bargaining expense. They also note how union leaders deemed a recent Gay-Lesbian-Bisexual-Transgender (GLBT) conference to be “predominantly chargeable.” The plaintiffs also maintain that the NEA, which receives a portion of fees from every CTA member, classifies expenditures that have little to do with collective bargaining—such as expensive staff junkets—as chargeable.

Thus, the teacher-plaintiffs want the court to “declare that California’s practice of forcing non-union members to contribute funds to unions, including funds to support their collective-bargaining activities, violates the First Amendment, and enjoin Defendants [the union] from enforcing this unconstitutional arrangement.” The legal terrain for such an argument is more favorable than it has ever been, thanks to recent Supreme Court rulings.

Some background: in 1977, in Abood v. Detroit Board of Education, the Court ruled that compulsory dues are unconstitutional and that unions could collect only those fees necessary for collective bargaining and sundry other representational activities. (The justices extended their ruling to private unions 11 years later, in Communication Workers of America v. Beck.) In 1986, in Teachers v. Hudson, the Court set out specific requirements that unions must meet to collect fees from nonmembers without violating their First Amendment rights. But nonmembers blanched as unions took a more expansive interpretation of the Court’s decisions. And so the justices last year issued a somewhat sterner rebuke in Knox v. Service Employees International Union,Local 1000. In that case, brought by the National Right to Work Foundation, the justices ruled 7–2 that the SEIU could not force its nonmembers to pay the portion of union dues spent on political activities—even if the union believed it was for the workers’ own good. In 2005 and 2006, as part of its campaign to defeat Governor Arnold Schwarzenegger and a pair of ballot initiatives that would reduce union power and reform pensions, the SEIU imposed a temporary, 25 percent across-the-board dues hike on its dues-paying members and some 28,000 fee-paying nonmembers alike. The union argued that campaigning against the initiatives would benefit all workers. Had this view prevailed, it would have eradicated the legal distinction between politics and collective bargaining. But even liberal justices Sonia Sotomayor and Ruth Bader Ginsburg saw through it and voted with the majority.

Further, Justice Samuel Alito’s majority opinion in Knox raised two crucial points that may bode ill for future forced political activity by public-sector unions, especially as it pertains to nonmembers. Alito said that the unions’ existing “opt-out” rules aren’t sufficient to protect individuals. “An opt-out system creates a risk that the fees paid by nonmembers will be used to further political and ideological ends with which they do not agree,” he wrote. Instead, unions should afford nonmembers the chance to “opt in” to special fees if they want to contribute to organized political campaigns. At the same time, Alito questioned whether public employees who want no part of the union should have to pay fees at all. “[B]y allowing unions to collect any fees from nonmembers and by permitting unions to use opt-out rather than opt-in schemes when annual dues are billed, our cases have substantially impinged upon the First Amendment rights of nonmembers,” Alito wrote. “In the new situation presented here, we see no justification for any further impingement. The general rule—individuals should not be compelled to subsidize private groups or private speech—should prevail.”

The Center for Individual Rights cites Knox in the opening paragraph of its suit. How things will play out in district court in California isn’t clear yet. But it’s worth noting that right now, workers in 26 states and the District of Columbia must pay union dues as a condition of employment. The other 24 states are “right-to-work” states, where workers can choose whether or not to join. If the California case winds up before the Supreme Court, the justices will get an opportunity to extend their Knox reasoning to its logical conclusion and give all workers a real choice.

Larry Sand, a retired teacher, is president of the California Teachers Empowerment Network. This article originally appeared in City Journal on July 11th, entitled “Opportunity Knox,” and is republished here with permission from the author and the publisher.