Real motivation over APS hiring OSD policy creator

Real motivation over APS hiring OSD policy creator

This year legislation passed narrowly to put a constitutional amendment to the voters regarding the state being able to take over what they are labeling failing schools and run them with tax payer monies. AJC gives a quick review:

The proposed change to the constitution would allow the state to take over “failing” schools and close them, run them or convert them to independent charter schools. The schools would be part of a new statewide district for up to a decade. This new superintendent, selected by the governor and confirmed by the state Senate, would have authority to take local property tax revenue to fund both the schools and the opportunity district administration.

Other posts about the Opportunity School District:

Opposition to Gov Deal’s Opportunity School District wasn’t strong enough to prevent passage

GA follows LA & TN to an Opportunity School District

Stop vilifying pro-ed reform Democrats

GA AFT affiliate opposes OSD – big surprise!

The AJC reports that Atlanta Superintendent Meria Carstaphen has hired Governor Deal’s policy advisor who crafted the Opportunity School District legislation for the purpose of not allowing her 26 APS schools currently with CCPRI scores lower than 60 to become part of the OSD.

APS logoGlenn Delk, an Atlanta lawyer and long-time advocate for parental choice in education responds to Carstaphen’s attempt to avoid the OSD with education savings accounts. (He has written about these before). He writes:

She concluded her explanation with these telling comments…”Through all of these efforts and community engagement, we can find a path that ensures that all of our schools remain APS schools.  But that path can only be defined by child-centric agendas and not adult-focused ones…”If she and the Board of Education truly put the interests of children ahead of adults, instead of hiring high-priced consultants to “…help us navigate the system to avoid the OSD…”,they would vote to allow APS students to use education savings accounts to choose the school which best fit their needs. The time has come for the Board of Education and its superintendent to stop trying to avoid a state takeover, and instead fulfill what Gov. Deal has called a moral duty to help students trapped in failing schools.

Education savings account sounds like the word “voucher” if you ask me. Also sounds like privatizing social security into personal accounts. Just making an observation that it appears school voucher advocates have re-branded away from the negative connotation of the word “voucher.”

He continues to make the point that APS has had the opportunity to educate these children and haven’t been successful especially for children in poverty or low socioeconomic status.

It’s been five years since the cheating scandal first surfaced.  In those five years, the Atlanta Board of Education has spent more than $3.5 billion in taxpayers’ funds to pay for a school system which has, according to the state’s 2014 CCRPI rankings, 31 elementary, 12 middle and 13 high schools, or over 50 percent ranked D or F.

However, those results don’t begin to show the depth of the problem, given Georgia’s low academic standards compared to the national NAEP results.  Keep in mind that Georgia ranks either dead last, or next to last, when comparing our standards to other states, using the National Assessment of Educational Progress results as the benchmark.

According to the 2013 NAEP results, 88 percent of black 8th grade students in APS are not proficient in math, and 84 percent are not proficient in reading.

Another indicator of the lack of acceptable academic achievement by both APS students, as well as statewide, is the recent report by the ACT that only 11 percent of Georgia high school graduates who qualify for free and reduced lunch met college readiness benchmarks on the four major subjects.

Since over 76 percent of APS students are low-income, APS is clearly not meeting Gov. Deal’s goal of having at least 60 percent of entering 9th grade students ultimately receive a two or four-year college degree.

Delk sees Carstaphen’s action as trying to circumvent the PSD process for the protection of her district, image, and to protect teacher’s jobs – but NOT with the primary objective being student’s education. I mean really – they have had all this time and why now? Because the state has threaten to take some of your schools away? You shouldn’t have needed the Governor to tell you that these schools needed help.

Delk makes the claim that all over the country students are being  segregating students by wealth, income or zip code, which is unconstitutional. Parents deserve school choice and those who can’t afford choices should be able to use the money allocated for their child for a school of their choice that fits their needs.

Atlanta is a microcosm of the state and the country when it comes to the issue of giving low-income minority families the same rights and financial means as wealthier families, to choose the best school for their child.  Those residents with the money to do so have bought a house in the right zip codes where their children can attend Buckhead or Midtown schools such as Jackson or Morris Brandon, where less than 10 percent of the students qualify for free and reduced lunch, or pay $25,000 or more in after-tax income to attend Lovett, Westminster, etc.

While these parents can exercise school choice, the low-income families, who are overwhelmingly black, whose children attend one of the 68 APS schools where the free and reduced lunch percentage is 98 percent or more, have no such choice.

Does Carstaphen really have the best interests of students at heart? or is it district image, her own success, pride and jobs for adults?

“Everyone’s voice matters” unless you don’t want to be a union member

“Everyone’s voice matters” unless you don’t want to be a union member

©Depositphotos.com/Margaret Paynich

©Depositphotos.com/Margaret Paynich

Well, well, well…here is an email Randi sent out today to supporters….and some of my comments.

Randi:

Make no mistake: This case is not about individual liberty or the First Amendment. It is an outright attack against unions to prevent us from representing our members and using our voices to fight for our families, our schools, our colleges, our healthcare facilities and our communities.

First of all this case is about staff who do not want to be members. But since you point it out, I think you would be serving your members BETTER with voluntary dues because you would need to actually listen to them ALL and not just the policy wonks in DC to craft your policy. And the fact that in CA you have to pay the whole amount up front and then go through a cumbersome process to get a refund? I want to keep all my money for myself. I shouldn’t have to pay ahead and get my money back. The Government does that but unions ARE NOT THE GOVERNMENT. Though they certainly act like the are.

Randi:

This case would undermine our unions and challenge nearly 40 years of precedent—and the court agreed to hear it barely a year after it dealt a blow to workers with its decision in Harris v. Quinn. In fact, the conservative justices on the court used the Harris v.Quinn ruling to invite cases like this one, showing just how political they really are.

40 year old precedent means times have changed and we don’t need that 40 year old law anymore. Unions had a role, but it’s getting outdated and they don’t want to give up their enormous power over the government. Well they don’t have control of the Supreme Court and I would say the “blow” from Harris vs Quinn is a further indication that you’re going to keep losing. How many times have teachers unions sneakily support candidates and campaigns? And you are calling the lawyers “political”? Better look in the mirror.

Randi:

In the end, this case comes down to a fundamental question: Do unions have a right to collect a fair share from the people we represent, to ensure that we’re able to speak for all workers?

Define “fair share”. I don’t think 60-70% of the total dues is fair. I haven’t seen an accounting of how all those funds are spent. Maybe if you didn’t spend years on end stonewalling negotiations it wouldn’t cost so much to collectively bargain. Maybe you just need to spend 60-70% unnecessarily so you can justify continuing to collect it. Also, you’ve done such a good job of enacting terrible laws like salary scales and tenure that all those benefits are already there. If you want to say that teachers are benefiting from your negotiation for the whole, why can’t that member just negotiate for his/her self instead? 

Randi:

The attack on labor by those who don’t want working families to have a voice has intensified. It has moved from the statehouse to the courthouse. But our affiliates understand that engaging our communities and our members, and organizing new members, are the key to repelling those attacks and growing a strong middle class.

These people DO want these teachers to have a voice. You are smothering them with your forced dues. These lawyers are the only ones standing up for teachers who don’t want to be in the union. You are not standing for those teachers. You are literally standing on a wad of bills smothering them. Get off of them. Collect your money voluntarily. And actually listen to ALL of the teachers, not just the ones who help you make your case. Plenty of teachers aren’t being heard by YOU. 

Randi:

I’m proud that, at times like these, the AFT is still growing. We passed the 1.6 million mark last summer

Um, that’s because teachers are leaving you and you have to make up your cash with other disciplines…..

Randi:

and like AFT Michigan, which has held strong despite the so-called right-to-work law in place there.

I’m amazed even mentioned Michigan, while your cohort MEA is literally ruining the credit of teachers who don’t want to be part of the union as retribution for a law that PROTECTS workers by letting them choose to be part of the union or not to be.

“Everyone’s voice matters” unless you don’t want to be a union member.

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.

We all have a stake in education and deserve a voice

We all have a stake in education and deserve a voice

My first thought when I read this article by Education Post was to come out guns a-blazzing for the public to have input in education issues. When I read one of the first supporting links, I’ve come to a slightly different feeling.

In this The Educator’s Room post, the teacher is simply stating that teachers want to see more of themselves in leadership positions. I would argue that the opportunities aren’t readily accessible or teachers don’t try hard enough to get those opportunities. I had an idea of starting an institute that would coach and train teachers to run for office. I think effective teachers carry many of the qualities of a great public official, but so few end up going in that direction. And honestly, unions have not been helping to make these opportunities possible or maybe there would be fewer complaints about how there is never a teacher to provide input.

It could be that teachers are just tired, and don’t have the energy to pursue something different. Their teacher salaries don’t allow for a huge savings that you could campaign without working and still pay your bills. Teachers are more generically also women who traditionally carry multiple roles in their household in addition to teacher, wife, mother, care giver…etc. I want to make those opportunities more available to teachers.

However, to follow the author of the Education Post piece, yes I think that non-teachers are often criticized and left out of important discussions about education.

The first is that we, tax payers are paying for the schools, and we should have say in whether we are satisfied with the results or not.

©Depositphotos.com/Margaret Paynich

©Depositphotos.com/Margaret Paynich

As parents,  we have a right to make sure our child is in the best possible school for him or her. We want and deserve to have choices. We see how school affects our kids and that feedback is valuable. How parents feel about the school and the staff is valuable.

Student have a tremendous amount of feedback that we rarely, if ever listen to. This is their education. They need to have a say in what works for them and what can be done differently. That doesn’t mean you give in to silly things, but talking with students to get that one or two tidbit that you didn’t know that would really make a difference for them.

Other people with related skills should be able to consult on those skills – such as finance, human resources, health, counseling, management – many items that teachers often may not.

I’m not over here telling you what should be in the English curriculum. But I can tell you that the high school graduates we need should be able to do x,y, and z. I know from my own personal experience that I didn’t learn how to write anything but a simple research paper in all of high school. And I never understood why I didn’t get a high grade in 12th grade English. By the time I got to college I realized I lack certain writing skills and worked to build them.

But I can tell you that many students are not engaging with traditional curriculum and I think they would perform better and be more engaged with all electives based classes with intentional ways of developing English skills. Model UN doesn’t have to be an after school program, or just an elective. It could be regular class where you learn history, writing skills, public speaking skills, strategy, team work, and responsibility. And it’s a real entity of the World that brings real world experience right to students. Why can’t you have gardening classes where you can learn science, math and incorporate a reading and writing element. I learned more in my “elective” history classes than I ever did in my required classes.

These are common observances that all people have and they all have a right to express them and others should listen and take that into account. When the public has questions about the school department budget, they have as much responsibility as a tax payer as the person who wrote the budget to ensure it’s spent well.

Personally, I have a Master’s in school counseling. I interned at an at-risk middle school in Worcester to specifically have that experience to learn from. You know a good teacher when you see one and who know those who are just biding their time. The biggest revelation I had was that no matter if I spent 30 minutes counseling a student, he/she was just going to have to return to 7 hours of subpar teaching. my work would probably be erased in the first 30 minutes. These kids need to be rescued from their own school. I felt like they were just required by law to be there and everyone is just going through the motions. These are experiences that are worth while that deserve to be heard.

I try to stay in my “camp” if you will when I make suggestions, but my 60-credit masters in school counseling gave me much greater knowledge of psychology and how students and adults learn than many teachers received training in. I may not be qualified to contribute in a curriculum way, but the implementation and how students learn is something that I know about. Differentiated learning is very important. Looking at a student and working to discover what emotionally, academically or physically is holding him back, before you discipline, assume that the student “doesn’t want to learn”, send to the principal’s office…and the rest of the menu of discipline. If you treat kids like animals, they will most certainly act like animals.

Career and college guidance. That is a whole other story. Schools are doing very little if any college and career guidance. Not in middle school where it needs to be and not with every child in high school. Schools need to admit they are not accomplishing these goals and make sure that utilize community resources to do so. And you HAVE to start in middle school if you have any hope of the student starting 9th grade on the right foot. All the resources being poured into high schools are completing missing the beginning of the pipeline.

 

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:

ARTICLE 7

PAYMENT OF DUES AND COPE

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.

ARTICLE 8

PAYROLL DEDUCTIONS FOR AGENCY SERVICE FEE

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.

 

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

©Depositphotos.com/Margaret Paynich

©Depositphotos.com/Margaret Paynich

And the truth comes out! The remainder of this article talks about the potential money lost to unions if union dues were voluntary:

If the Supreme Court overturns Abood, it would change the political landscape drastically. When Wisconsin’s Act 10 made teacher union membership voluntary, the unions in that state lost about one-third of their membership and a substantial amount of clout. If the same percentage of teachers quit the California Teachers Association, the union would lose approximately $62 million a year in dues. Considering the teachers’ union spent more than $290 million on candidates, ballot measures, and lobbying between 2000 and 2013—by far the most of any political player in the Golden State—such a loss would be crushing. And it’s no secret that CTA spending moves almost exclusively in a leftward direction. Between 2003 and 2012, the union gave $15.7 million to Democratic candidates and just $92,700 to Republicans—a ratio of roughly 99 to one. CTA has also spent millions promoting controversial causes such as same-sex marriage and single-payer healthcare, while opposing voter ID laws and limitations of the government’s power of eminent domain.

With such potential losses at stake, it makes sense that union would go to extreme measures such as in MI where teachers have a window of 30 days in August to officially opt out of union membership. And if you opt-out too early or too late there is nothing you can do but pay the dues. Or MI union will send your dues to collections. How is THAT protecting teachers?

And the “fourth co-equal branch of government” wouldn’t be the only teachers’ union to learn what it’s like to live on voluntary contributions. The National Education Association, which hauled in nearly $363 millionin forced dues in 2013–2014 and spent about $132 million of it on issue advocacy, would have to curtail its political largess considerably. Like the CTA, the NEA spends almost exclusively on progressive groups and causes. Over the years, the union has lavished gifts on People for the American Way, Media Matters, ACORN, Jesse Jackson’s Rainbow PUSH, and the Center for American Progress. Not surprisingly, the union’s political spending by party is lopsided, too. Between 1989 and 2014, the union directed just 4 percent of its campaign contributions to Republicans, usually backing the least conservative candidate in a primary election fight.

With all of these political contributions its easy to see how plaintiffs in CA have filed a lawsuit against the loss of their union privileges due to opting of of paying the political dues percentage. They are paying the other ~ 65% in agency fees – that doesn’t cover their extra maternity, life insurance and other benefits? How is THAT protecting teachers?

Like most union leaders, recently termed-out NEA president Dennis Van Roekel insists that all teachers should be required to pay the union. “Fair share simply makes sure that all educators share the cost of negotiations for benefits that all educators enjoy, regardless of whether they are association members,” he said in June. Sounds reasonable. But what Van Roekel doesn’t mention is that the unions demand exclusive bargaining rights for all teachers. Teachers in monopoly bargaining states have no choice but to toe the union line. There is nothing “fair” about forcing a worker to pay dues to a union they wouldn’t otherwise join. If Friedrichsis successful and Abood is overturned, it would be a great victory for true freedom of association.

Of course an NEA president says everyone needs to pay their fair share of union dues. But as the article says there is no alternative. Teachers aren’t allowed to negotiate their own salaries. Why not? Why can’t they just negotiate them at the their interview like other professionals? Because of the law is not an acceptable answer. I want the theory based answer. Do unions think teachers are ill-equipped to negotiate their own salaries? That does not sound like the way you respect professionals.