Unsupported comments on OSD

Unsupported comments on OSD

This week I attended a launch meeting of the Delta Teacher Efficacy Campaign, a collaboration aimed at enhancing student academic achievement by focusing on helping educators. I ended up arriving half way through, but made it in time for the Q & A session. The panelists were Valarie Wilson, head of GA School Board Association; Tyler Barr – head of GA PTA, and Dr. Beasley who is a DeKalb Schools administrator.

Interestingly, the Opportunity School District legislation was a hot topic. It was the first question asked of the panelists.

©Depositphotos.com/Margaret Paynich

©Depositphotos.com/Margaret Paynich

Valarie Wilson stated on behalf of the GA School Board Association that they oppose OSD in part because it doesn’t state how they are going to help the schools get better and its all about money and procedure.

They asked how many people knew about OSD and only a few hands raised. They kept encouraging folks to read the legislation.

She spoke about how they were working to get schools of the OSD eligibility list. I keep asking “Why did we need to have this proposed legislation to start working on things those schools needed to be done?” and now I am thinking, are we going to stop helping those schools get better after they “get off the list”?

She said that the schools aren’t really failing and its just a scare tactic for shock value to push the legislation. Hmm, that’s a first one I’ve heard. What would you consider failing Ms. Wilson? I think the district clearly has enough problems that failing might be the right way to characterize. Besides, when you don’t admit to what’s wrong with the schools, we also aren’t fixing them.

At the end of the forum I asked two questions: Why now, to help those schools “get off the list,” and if you are such an advocate of equity of school funding – why are you against OSD?

Valarie claims that the work was being done already and that this is just a formal way of recognizing it. She didn’t answer my equity question but did go on to talk about how more affluent communities should be more accepting of funds flowing from their communities to the more at risk communities. However, using school funds to give to state determined failing schools to make them better isn’t the exact same thing???

Beasley said that the Governor doesn’t have any interest in helping our schools and they we, the community and school department have the ability to help our schools. So….WHY haven’t you been doing it??

I have yet to find a legitimate reason not to go forward with the OSD.

GA may overhaul teacher pay

GA may overhaul teacher pay

I’ve always wondered how teacher pay scales started and were implemented. I understood that with a teacher’s union contract it is all laid out in the contract. But in states where there is no official union and it is a right to work state, I’ve often wondered how teacher pay scales got involved.

©Depositphotos.com/Margaret Paynich

©Depositphotos.com/Margaret Paynich

As it turns out, these teacher pay scales have usually been entered as a law through the state legislature and the contract process is somewhat unnecessary. Here in GA teachers are paid by number of years on the job and educational level of attainment. That’s all. This generally creates an uneven balance where veteran teachers are making a lot of money while newer teachers are making much less. Quality of teaching has nothing to do with the pay.

Under the current system, in place for decades, teachers are paid based on their years on the job and their education level. Their salaries rise according to a fixed state schedule that specifies minimum pay, though some districts pay above that.

Deal wants to free up money so teachers can be paid more if they perform better or if they are teaching subjects — science, math — in which there is high demand for their talents.

But Deal also doesn’t want a formula that costs more, and the money for high performers would have to come from somewhere, like lower-performing teachers.

It sounds like the process will be a slow one IF implemented at all, because the new salaries are only effective to new teachers and those who opt into this system.

Some suggest that it may not help with recruitment and retention, if the teachers feel the system isn’t working on their behalf. But the Governor wants us to be able to take some of the money from an ineffective tenured teacher and provide it to a newer teacher who is performing at the proficient and exemplary stage.

This new proposal is only in the incubation stage and far from being enacted into policy. It would have to win approval of the General Assembly, and before that it would have to emerge as a formal recommendation from Deal’s Education Reform Commission.

Charles Knapp, who chairs both the full commission and the funding subcommittee, was careful to describe the subcommittee’s support for this proposal as only a “preliminary consensus.”

Next, officials will calculate the effect on each district, which could alter the debate. Also important is the reaction of teachers, whom Georgia is working to recruit and retain. (One of the commission’s other subcommittee’s is tasked with figuring out how to do that better.) Hames and other officials have said current teachers will be grandfathered under the current pay structure if they choose, but they acknowledge the state can’t make an ironclad promise.

While this is not perfect, and is nowhere near ready to be implemented, I think it is a good conversation to have. We need to have more incentives and opportunities for newer teachers who may be as good or better than some of our veteran teachers. I have seen plenty of veteran teachers who aren’t effective in today’s environment and we need the tools to make appropriate adjustments.

This shouldn’t be seen as an “attack” on teachers – it’s about making sure ALL of our kids have an effective teacher. Our public schools are not an employment agency, we need to make sure our kids receive a high quality education. They need to be able to grow into productive members of society, because right now too many are not.

Supreme Court to hear Friedrichs v. CTA in next session!

Supreme Court to hear Friedrichs v. CTA in next session!

©Depositphotos.com/Margaret Paynich

©Depositphotos.com/Margaret Paynich

I’ve written extensively about the fact that union dues should be voluntary, not mandatory, and not automatically deducted from bank accounts.

CA case against union dues pursues U.S. Supreme Court

Will someone please explain these “agency fees” numbers?

Is your union looking out for teachers or for its own pocket?

Auto-deduction of dues contract language adds to perception issue

Agency fee paying employees across public sector unions

Today, the Supreme Court announced it will hear the case Friedrichs v. CTA this fall and potentially overturn the “Abood” ruling allowing unions to collect “agency fees” for collective bargaining support. Still no one can explain to me why and where the 60-70% of the fee goes to specifically support collective bargaining and nothing else.

Center for Individual Rights reports:

The suit claims state “agency shop” laws, which require public employees to pay union dues as a condition of employment, violate well-settled principles of freedom of speech and association. While many teachers support the union, others do not and the state cannot constitutionally compel an individual to join and financially support an organization with which he or she disagrees.

The other problem with the forced dues is that the opt-out system is sooo cumbersome it discourages teachers opting out. In CA you can only be refunded the extra political portion, you can’t opt out of paying it in the first place. In Michigan, there is a small window to withdraw and when you miss it, they were sending teachers to collection agencies. MEA attempts to ruin credit of 8,000 teachers

Center for Individual Rights reports:


To opt out of the thirty percent of their dues that even the union concedes is used for overtly political activities, teachers must must file for a refund each year according to a precise procedure that effectively discourages its use. As a result, many teachers contribute hundreds of dollars in dues each year to support political positions in a variety of areas having nothing to do with education and with which many of them disagree.

Lastly, all of collective bargaining is political, everything the union asks for from work hours, to pay, to evaluations….and all of those issues can conflict with a teacher’s personal political views. I have not seen a budget that breaks down how the collective bargaining monies are spent vs the mammoth amount of political spending.

Center for Individual Rights reports:

Typically, California teacher union dues cost upwards of a $1,000 per year. Although California law allows teachers to opt-out of the thirty percent or so of their dues devoted to overt political lobbying, they may not opt out of the sixty to seventy percent of their dues the union determines is devoted to collective bargaining. Requiring teachers to pay these “agency fees” assumes that collective bargaining is non-political.  But bargaining with local governments is inherently political.  Whether the union is negotiating for specific class sizes or pressing a local government to spend tax dollars on teacher pensions rather than on building parks, the union’s negotiating positions embody political choices that are often controversial.

GA 40th in nation for state investment in per pupil spending

GA 40th in nation for state investment in per pupil spending

©Depositphotos.com/Margaret Paynich

©Depositphotos.com/Margaret Paynich

As an organizer for Stand for Children MA, I was keenly aware of the how the state funds its schools. Basically there is a school funding formula that says each district needs x to run its schools. Well the state figures out how much the district or city/town has to meet that amount and the state fills in the rest. So a district like Worcester is something like 70% state funded and 30% locally funded. Municipalities with more money to spend overspend their share allowing for more resources in schools.

When I moved to Atlanta, I asked how DeKalb County was funded. I assumed it was more like MA, because its all I knew. Well DeKalb county is more like 70% county and 30% state. Almost a total flip. No wonder they have no money for their schools, the legislature won’t fund them. The proof is in the numbers.

The AJC reported 

The report ranks states according to state and local dollars spent on education in 2011-2012. Not surprisingly, the top 10 states are largely in the Northeast and outperform Georgia academically.

Georgia ranked 34th in state and local dollars going to schools, investing $9,402 per pupil on average. New York invested the most in education, spending $20,812 per pupil.

However, when you subtract the local dollars flowing to schools and consider only what the state provides, Georgia falls to 40th on the ranking, spending $4,446 per pupil. (The 50-state average is $6,189.)

And spending wouldn’t be as big of an issue if the corruption at the district level didn’t exist. Teacher moral is not good. Some principals reign over their schools, allowing little progress. Everything contributes to poor performance. It’s still not good to be 40th on a list of 50, that’s for sure

Auto-deduction of dues contract language adds to perception issue

Auto-deduction of dues contract language adds to perception issue

©Depositphotos.com/Margaret Paynich

©Depositphotos.com/Margaret Paynich

I wrote in this previous post that I feel teacher union membership and dues should be voluntary and that the auto-deduction of union dues from teacher salaries gives me the perception that the district is paying the union to negotiate contracts.

I also find it unfair that even when teachers opt out of union membership, they still are forced to pay through auto-deduction the near equivalent of union dues 60-70% of the whole dues as an “agency fee” for the collective bargaining services.

John Thompson references me in one of this TWIE posts and claims that I don’t know contract law and claims that I am only targeting teachers unions over political issues.

Paynich is unaware of both contract law and the ways that police, firefighters, and others negotiate common sense arrangements for collecting dues for unions and professional organizations. She incorrectly claims that, “Every other entity on the planet has to collect monies on their own, and unions should not get the unfair advantage of ease of payment.”

Paynich inexplicably writes, “I see it as taxpayer dollars going directly into the hands of unions with little or no say or control from the teachers unions are supposed to be protecting.” According to her reality-free appraisal of these contracts, “This seems like the LEA is paying the union to negotiate the contract with the LEA.”

Thompson claims that I’m singling out teachers unions. Maybe right now, but only because I haven’t had reason yet to analyze the others. Here is the beginnings of evaluation of fire services in RI, my home state, where there appears to be gross overages of equipment and personnel along with up side down pension liabilities.

And while I was looking at the Lawrence teachers contract for this post, I found this language:



The Union may secure authorization of payroll deductions for Union dues. Such authorization may be receivable as provided by law. The Union may also secure authorization of payroll deductions for a union COPE (Committee on Political Education) fund. In both instances, the Committee will request the Treasurer of the City of Lawrence to submit such sums in total to the Union Treasurer.



As a condition of employment, members of the bargaining unit who are not members in good standing of the Lawrence Teachers’ Union, shall pay to the Lawrence Teachers’ Union an agency service fee equal to the amount required to become a member and remain a member in good standing in the Union. Such fee shall be considered commensurate with the cost of collective bargaining and contract administration. This provision is subject to any rules and regulations of the Massachusetts Department of Labor Relations.

The Committee will request the Treasurer of the City of Lawrence to submit such sums in total to the union treasurer? Sure, there is accounting going on to count it towards each teacher, but it just looks so much like tax payers are quite literally paying the union to negotiate for the teachers. From the perspective of perception, teacher’s aren’t paying these dues. But they should be – voluntarily.


This rhetoric is taking us in the wrong direction

This rhetoric is taking us in the wrong direction

A few months ago John Thompson wrote a tweet to me that was really offensive.

hatred of unionsContrary to what some think, especially, John Thompson I do not hate unions.

First, all I said was that I quit a job at a grocery store because I didn’t want to be in the union. And Thompson twists that into a “deeply rooted hatred” of unions. I simply did not want to pay the union fee, didn’t see the benefit. I already have and pay for a safety net, it’s called taxes and the city/state/federal government.

Did he fail to read this post where I talked about how I used to be blindly in support of teachers unions? Until I took a public policy class and realized often times teachers unions get in the way of teacher progress?

How does that read as a “deeply rooted hatred” of unions?

I don’t hate unions – I just don’t think they are helping advance education when they stand in the way of reform our kids desperately need. Or when they:

– Have 600 staffers nationally making 6 figure salaries on the backs of teachers

Secretly influence elections in the millions of dollars on the backs of teachers

– Do whatever their political agenda is without regard for teacher’s real interests

– Michigan Education Association pulling all sorts of antics to keep union members even if it means ruining teachers in the process

Teachers Union puts up smoke screen while they deny workers their rightsMEA attempts to ruin credit of 8,000 teachersYou believe every lie your union tells you, don’t you?Union in Taylor, MI tried to circumvent right-to-work law and lost

Tout the union line, even when they KNOW it’s hurting kids

– Advertise that they are working for great public schools for all students when the reality is that teachers are their client, not students

Withhold union member benefits when teachers disagree with union political strategy and choose not to make the political contribution in their union dues

Force teachers to pay union dues through payroll deductions making it almost impossible to opt out

Charge non-union members pretty much the exact same fee as voluntary union members and call it an agency fee for contract and negotiations work

Thompson – you know what I DO hate?

People who abuse people and animals, people who think not all kids can learn, people who participate in the child sex trade……must I go on?

This type of rhetoric is what is stalling progress – just like how anti-reformers harass pro-reformers at levels that are really unnecessary as noted in this post.

I think unions had a place and a time, but especially with teachers, the time has come to evolve or move on. Many of the protections unions offer are now part of employment law that every other citizen benefits from.

I am in complete support of district union collaboration – when it leads to a better education for all students – such as this post: School take over plan that is working – Lawrence, MA

School take over plan that is working – Lawrence, MA

School take over plan that is working – Lawrence, MA

Thanks to Peter Cunningham for sharing this Education Week article with me about progress in Lawrence, MA, especially since I remember hearing about the beginning of the state take over when I worked with STAND MA and it’s hard to keep up with news all over the country these days.

He points out that it’s a good example of district administration and unions working together so I had to take a look.

The state take over or “turnaround plan” has several key points that matter to both unions and the pro-reform community:

  • Strong district leader – Mr. Jeffrey Riley, a former principal and former chief innovation officer in the Boston public schools, as Lawrence district’s receiver. A very important ingredient is that the turnaround team approached the takeover with a “strong dose” of respect for the adults in the system.

“We did not start with the assumption that the adults were the problem,” Mr. Chester said. “We started with the assumption that the system as a whole was broken and needed to be restructured.”

[Principal Lennon] “He knows that [teachers] are the people doing the work every day, and they are the ones solving the problems,” she said of Mr. Riley. “And the fact that he could gather information from them, and say to them, ‘What are some ideas that you have at the school level that’s going to impact students?’ That’s a positive shift.”

  • Expanded learning time – Schools added between 200-300 hours annually, allowing time for enrichment programs and interventions. Teachers got collaborative planning and professional-development time.

“Mr. Riley said the opportunities that children now have to engage in enrichment activities have been a critically important piece of the turnaround effort. Through partnerships with the Boys & Girls Club, the Merrimack Valley YMCA, and the district’s teachers, students are able to take classes in cooking, karate, theater, swimming, squash, and a host of other extracurricular activities they might not otherwise be exposed to.”

“Principal Colleen M. Lennon proudly watched over some of her young charges at the Emily G. Wetherbee School on a recent afternoon in this struggling city of 77,000, seeing students engage in activities that are a given in most middle- to upper-income communities. They were taking drumming lessons. Fingerknitting. Practicing cheerleading stands. Illustrating a short story. And making fruit salad in a class on healthy eating.”

“Ms. Lennon also credits professional development for teachers, giving them latitude to collaborate with their peers on classroom strategies, and creating leadership teams that rely on their expertise.”

“At UP Academy Leonard Middle School, Principal Komal Bhasin says the dedicated planning time that teachers get each Friday has been powerful. Working in cohorts, teachers spend 2½ hours on Fridays reviewing student data, revising curriculum, sharing successful teaching strategies, and setting goals for the school on a range of issues such as school climate or support for special education students.”

  • Partnerships – The district partnered with charter-management organizations and the Lawrence teachers’ union to run schools. It worked with Boston-based Match Education to provide math tutoring to high school students.

 “The district’s non-dogmatic view of who is best suited to run schools targeted for turnaround—charter-management organizations, the local teachers’ union, and the district itself are all operating schools in Lawrence—has also been a strength.”

“Mr. Riley has championed a governance model he calls “open architecture,” in which the district consists of a combination of charter-run schools and regular district schools. There is expanded autonomy at the school level and the central office’s role is curtailed.

“The problems in urban education are far too big for the civil war that’s going on out there today,” Mr. Riley said about the debate over charter versus district-run schools.

“We’ve created a small community where people have been willing to put aside their differences, work under this unified umbrella, and get results for kids,” he said.

An example of that “open architecture” system is evident in the district’s approach to turning around the low-performing Henry K. Oliver School. The Lawrence Teachers’ Union took over grades 1-5 and launched the Oliver Partnership School in August 2013, while the Boston-based UP Academy, a charter-management organization, took over grade 6. That new school is the UP Academy Oliver Middle School.”

  • Data – Boston-based Achievement Network (ANet) has trained teachers and principals to analyze data to measure student progress and improve instruction.

“[Lawrence is] looking deeply at performance and data, and they are targeting interventions at the problems,” Ms. Yatsko said. “They are unleashing their professional staff in the buildings by providing them with autonomy and coupling it with supports.”

Under Mr. Riley, principals and teachers are expected to know the proficiency levels of every student in their schools, Ms. Lennon said. Students are also keenly aware of their scores on the Massachusetts Comprehensive Assessment System, or MCAS, what they need to do to reach proficiency, and how much their schools are expected to grow annually, Ms. Lennon said.

  • School autonomy and accountability – Successful principals got more authority over calendars, interim assessments, and staffing. Includes the charters, union run and traditional public schools.

An emphasis on creating and supporting strong school leaders; attracting and developing effective teachers; aligning resources to student and teacher needs; and providing both the funding and flexibility to school leaders to design programs that meet their school’s unique needs.

  • Staffing – A new contract with the teachers’ union created career ladders for teachers and provided opportunities to earn more money based on proficiency, performance, and leadership roles. About 50 percent of principals, 20 percent of assistant principals, and 10 percent of teachers were replaced.

The contract approved a year later created career ladders for teachers and gave them opportunities to earn more money based on their performance and the leadership roles they embraced in their schools. And Mr. Riley insisted that all teachers, including those in charter-run schools, be members of the local union, an affiliate of the American Federation of Teachers.

  • Increasing parental engagement—the district recently opened a resource center at one of the city’s old mills, where parents can get help finding jobs and housing—is also part of the turnaround strategy.

Funding might really be the interesting area or question for the future.

The district receives about 95 percent of its annual $190 million budget from the state, and that contribution level has not changed under the takeover.

In a report by Education Resource Systems they make a point that while cutting administrative costs, state funding has remained the same and many of the new reforms were funded by grants that will end. The question is will the district be able to maintain these new programs once the grants end? Will the state realize the importance of these programs and provide more funding?

LPS received substantial transition funding during the first three years of receivership. The highest level of funding was received in SY 2013–14, including more than $3 million in School Redesign Grants and more than $2 million in Massachusetts Race to the Top funds. Also in 2013–14, the district reduced central office expenses by $1.6 million and provided that funding directly to schools to finance reforms. Although the district has been able to reduce central office non-staff spending in the 2014–15 budget by an additional $5 million to help offset School Redesign Grants and Race to the Top funding as it expires, it is not enough to replace all of the transitional spending. Lawrence has a growing enrollment, which should provide for some increases in state funding over time. However, it will be critical to watch expenses closely to ensure that the funding needed to continue the reforms is available.

ERS also notes that while Lawrence is a relatively small school district, the concepts are scalable across districts:

Reform is scalable. While LPS is a relatively small urban district (only 28 schools) and had the advantage of transitional funding from the state and private funders, even the largest districts can likely make the same kind of changes in a subset of schools. Creating the conditions for rapid change—including the flexibilities, supports, and human capital changes that Lawrence made— in the worst-performing schools in a district build momentum by improving outcomes in those schools. The key is to use that success to pave the way for broadening those changes to other schools by working to change the structures and policies that will enable lasting improvement.

This story encourages me as GA is about to look at state take over of certain schools throughout GA, if the bill is ratified by voters in 2016. Look for my next post analyzing the district/union relationship throughout the state take over in Lawrence.