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?

Agency fee paying employees across public sector unions

Agency fee paying employees across public sector unions

John Thompson challenged me to look at other public sector unions, after accusing me of singling out teachers unions for political purposes.

In this watchdog.org article, the author demonstrates that over 250,000 public sector workers had their agency fee dues forcibly taken from their paychecks.

Public-sector unions took forced dues from more than 250,000 public employees in 2013, some, but not all, of the labor unions that take mandatory “agency fees” from public employees must report the number of agency fee payers to the U.S. Department of Labor each year.

American Federation of State, County and Municipal Employees had 130,920 agency fee payers in 2013 while National Education Association had 88,378. Service Employees International Union reported 243,799 agency fee payers. Many of the employees represented by SEIU work in the private sector.

DOL defines agency fee payers as “those who make payments in lieu of dues to the reporting labor organization as a condition of employment under a union security provision in a collective bargaining agreement.” Public-sector unions can impose agency fees in 23 states.

The writer goes on to say what too many folks are hesitant to admit these days:

“Unions were first developed years ago to protect workers but too often, in today’s world, they exist solely for one thing and one thing only — raw, crass political power,” Brett Healy, president of the Wisconsin-based MacIver Institute, told Watchdog.org via email. “Big Labor bosses are more worried about supplying politicians with donations than the wellbeing of the rank-n-file or what is best for the rest of us — the taxpayers.

Remember, Unions first constituent is the employee, not students, or patients, or tax payers – but to the employee. It’s about self preservation – even if the unions agreed that they were outdated and perhaps unnecessary, who is going to give up a position of power (with taxpayer money) or the 600 employees with 6 figure salaries?

I just wrote about the language in the Lawrence teacher’s contract and how I didn’t like how the funds were transferred from district to union. Here is another reason why:

Determining the total number of agency fee payers nationwide is difficult because certain public-sector unions — including those with less than $250,000 in revenue — are exempt from many DOL reporting requirements.

Additionally, American Federation of Teachers and other large unions representing government workers do not report a total number of agency fee payers because of the way workers’ money flows to each union’s headquarters through state and local chapters.

Hmmm, might this have anything to do with the fact that the agency fee is the same for members and non members? Bet it gets more confusing when the lump sum is transferred from school district to union – the accounting must get lost in translation. And is NEA can report agency fee payers, AFT can’t figure it out.

Bain v CTA is addressing the issue of having to contribute to a political organization you may not agree with:

“Why should one be forced to hand over their hard-earned money to a political organization they may not agree with? We live in the land of the free not the land of forced association,” Healy said.

“Luckily in Wisconsin, Act 10 has put rank-n-file government workers and the taxpayers back in charge. Government unions are not allowed to forcibly remove any dues or fees from a worker’s paycheck,” Healy added. “If an employee wants to be in a union, they can write the check themselves.”

Yes, just let them write the check themselves in a voluntary manner. Then unions can demonstrate their value and listen to more of their public employees when making policy decisions. With auto-deduction of member and agency fee payers – there is little incentive to work harder to listen to employees.

The article also has an extensive list of various states public unions and their number of agency fee payers for 2013.

 

Will someone please explain these “agency fees” numbers?

©Depositphotos.com/Margaret Paynich

©Depositphotos.com/Margaret Paynich

 

I have been asking this question for some time, with no answers. How is the percentage for “agency fees” calculated? How much money do they “need” for collective bargaining activities? I am very much doubt that the only monies used for political activities is the 30-40% paid in union dues for that purpose.

Lets look at some numbers. Below, this article tells me that CA union dues are ~ $1,000/teacher/year. This fact sheet tells me that the CTA that it represents ~ 325,000 educators. Let split the difference here: “they may not opt out of the sixty to seventy percent of their dues the union determines is devoted to collective bargaining” and just say 35 % political and 65% agency fees for “collective bargaining.”

$1,000 x 325,000 = $325,000,000!! so many zeros I was blinded by the computer trying to read them! OK so lets split that into political (35%) and agency fees (65%)

Political =  $113,750,000; Agency fees= $211,250,000

So we all know what they spent the political money on….but where does the $211,250,000 Million go to? Does it REALLY cost that much to pay staff to negotiate contracts and answer phones or whatever they are doing. Maybe it does when unions drag out negotiations (they have to allocate for the funds somehow!)

Do we not believe that $325 Million isn’t better spent by our teachers?

And lets not forget in this post I encountered numbers that state that “By contrast, nearly 600 staffers at the NEA and AFT are raking in six-figure salaries, according to Association of American Educators (AAE) Executive Director Gary Beckner.”

600 staffers between NEA and AFT making 6 figures. How many teachers are making 6 figures? How many teachers are making 6 figures and shouldn’t be and how many should be and are not?

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.

MEMBERSHIP:

CTA is California’s largest professional employee organization, representing more than 325,000 public school teachers, counselors, psychologists, librarians, other non-supervisory certificated personnel, and Education Support Professionals. It is affiliated with the 3.2 million-member National Education Association.

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

©Depositphotos.com/Margaret Paynich

©Depositphotos.com/Margaret Paynich

I’ve been deeply engaged in the issues around teacher’s unions dues. I recently discovered a variety of disturbing tactics in MI:

Union in Taylor, MI tried to circumvent right-to-work law and lost
http://bestinterestofkids.com/2015/02/28/union-in-taylor-mi-tried-to-circumvent-right-to-work-law-and-lost/

MEA attempts to ruin credit of 8,000 teachers
http://bestinterestofkids.com/2015/02/28/mea-attempts-to-ruin-credit-of-8000-teachers/

Teachers Union puts up smoke screen while they deny workers their rights
http://bestinterestofkids.com/2015/02/28/teachers-union-puts-up-smoke-screen-while-they-deny-workers-their-rights/

Here is what has been playing out in CA:

Vergara v. California ruled in June that some of the teachers’ work rules—including tenure, seniority, and dismissal laws—violated the state and federal constitutions.

That same month, the U.S. Supreme Court ruled in favor of the National Right to Work Legal Defense Foundation in Harris v. Quinn, holding that home healthcare workers could not be forced to pay agency shop fees to the Service Employees International Union (SEIU).

Here’s commentary from the article:

Treu’s ruling in Vergara v. California inflicted a flesh wound on the teachers’ unions, but Harris sent them reeling. The only way that the Supreme Court’s five-to-four decision could have been worse for the unions is if the justices had decided to broaden it to cover all public employees, not just a subset of them. Instead, Justice Samuel Alito drew a distinction between the home workers and “full-fledged” public employees, who currently must pay dues as delineated in the court’s 1977 Abood v. Detroit Board of Education decision.

Note to John Thompson – Now I see exactly why union dues are compulsory – But just because it is law does not make it true! And here we have a case that may very well overturn Abood and then what will you say?

Friedrichs et al v. CTA pits ten teachers and a union alternative called the Christian Educators Association International against the powerful California Teachers Association. The lawsuit, filed in 2013 by attorneys working with the Center for Individual Rights, takes aim at California’s “agency shop” law, which forces teachers to pay dues for collective bargaining activities, though (per Abood) paying for the unions’ political agenda is not mandatory. The plaintiffs’ lawyers challenging the statute echo Alito’s point out that collective bargaining is inherently political, and therefore all union dues should be voluntary. The Ninth U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals in November issued an order that clears the way for the plaintiffs to petition the Supreme Court. If the justices grant certiorari, a decision could come in 2016.

And John Thompson, here is why all collective bargaining is inherently political – a much cleaner way to describe it than I did. Care to respond?

Alito’s opinion left the door open for a more expansive court ruling later. He noted that Abood (which holds that the state may force public-sector workers to pay union dues while carving out an exception for the funds that unions spend on political activity) is questionable on several grounds, and went so far as to suggest that collective bargaining issues are inherently political in the public sector. Alito explained, “In the private sector, the line is easier to see. Collective bargaining concerns the union’s dealings with the employer; political advocacy and lobbying are directed at the government. But in the public sector, both collective bargaining and political advocacy and lobbying are directed at the government.” Taking Alito’s reasoning to its logical next step, paying fees to a public-employee union would become voluntary in the 26 states, including California, where it’s now compulsory.

I’m excited to see if the Supreme Court accepts this case. I will be watching and maybe will even make a trip to DC for the case!

Union in Taylor, MI tried to circumvent right-to-work law and lost

Labor Laws

©Depositphotos.com/Margaret Paynich

In this post I mentioned that teachers in the City of Taylor, MI were suing to release the security clause which was the union’s attempt the force automatic dues payments for 10 years, regardless of what the law states.

The Michigan Employment Relations Commission ruled Friday that teachers in the Taylor Public School District are not bound by their contract to pay union dues for the next 10 years, saying the provision violates the state’s right-to-work law.

Michigan’s law, which took effect in 2013, makes it illegal to require employees to join a union or pay fees comparable to union dues as a condition of employment. A number of teachers unions negotiated new contracts shortly before the law took effect to avoid falling under the measure, which makes financially supporting a union voluntary.

The Employment Relations Commission ruled that the security clause violated the states right-to-work law provision of forcing dues payments. 

“For Taylor teachers, the ruling is clear that the extraordinary 10-year union security agreement should not bind the teachers,” Wilcox said. “They should be free to withdraw their financial support from the union. The commission held that Taylor Federation of Teachers’ and the Taylor School District’s action was intended to delay the application of PA 349 for 10 years beyond its legislatively mandated effective date.”

Wilcox said that other districts with similar contracts “should be very concerned about this decision, as it could easily be applied to them.”

The ruling reinstates the teacher’s ability and freedom to withdraw financial support of the union. The commission agreed that the provision was intended to circumvent the law that was likely to pass at the time.

I hope that other districts with similar contract provisions such as the security clause do follow in their footsteps and protect the worker’s right to withdraw financial support.

You believe every lie your union tells you, don’t you?

©Depositphotos.com/Margaret Paynich

©Depositphotos.com/Margaret Paynich

I’ve been talking about the new right to work law in Michigan and the fall out from it in these two posts:

Teachers Union puts up smoke screen while they deny workers their rights

MEA attempts to ruin credit of 8,000 teachers

I just can’t believe the lies every time I read an article on this issue.

With the teachers given a 31-day window in August to decide, representatives for the state’s largest public-sector union are imploring them to stay or risk losing their clout in how schools are operated.

“If I don’t stand up and stay in my union, then we don’t have a voice,” said Chandra Madafferi, a high school health teacher and president of a 400-member local in the Detroit suburb of Novi.

Hmmm, OK. Lets read these two posts again:

WHY TEACHERS HAVE NO VOICE

Unions do what they want, without majority of teacher input

And, how about this one?

MEA attempts to ruin credit of 8,000 teachers

And tell me again what “voice” teachers are giving up by cancelling their union membership and keeping an extra $1,000 for themselves? They didn’t even have a voice to begin with, so how can they give it up?

A significant number of dropouts would deliver a financial blow to labor in a state where it has been historically dominant. Previously, employees in union-covered jobs were required to pay fees for bargaining and other services even if they didn’t want to belong.

“There is a lot at stake,” said Lee Adler, a lawyer who teaches labor issues at Cornell University and represents firefighters’ unions in New York. Public-sector unions, he said, “don’t have a history of being able to do massive recruitment of members who will voluntarily pay dues.”

Ah yes. It’s not actually about giving teachers a voice, it’s about….union dues! What I love the most about the this law is that it doesn’t allow the “collective bargaining fee” that non union members were required to pay previously, which was suspiciously similar to the actual amount of dues for a member.

Bingo – the reason I want teachers to pay the dues independently. If recruitment is much harder with voluntary dues, then maybe the union will actually have to change in ways that will attract teachers for the right reasons. Unions have been spending taxpayer dollars at will for too long!

With contracts covering roughly three-quarters of the 1,100 school workers’ bargaining units expiring, the Koch brothers-backed Americans for Prosperity bought a full-page ad in the Detroit Free Press with a form that teachers could send to their union to drop out. A free-market think tank has mailed reminder postcards about the Aug. 31 deadline.

“We are making sure that every eligible member who wants out of the union has the ability to do so,” said Vincent Vernuccio, director of labor policy for the Mackinac Center, which has worked in the Legislature to limit collective bargaining and promote charter schools.

Union officials charge that the group’s “desperate” campaign is aimed at union busting, not worker freedom.

“This is an organization bent on the destruction of not just this union but frankly of the public education system we all believe in,” said Doug Pratt, the state education association’s director of member and political engagement.

So while some groups are helping to provide information to help union members make their own decision (because remember the union was not educating their members adequately about the 31 day exit period) which actually does equate to worker freedom – MEA says the group is destroying public education as we see it.

I’m sorry first of all, they are simply informing teachers of their rights (something the union fails to do, but claims to protect teachers) which has nothing to do with destroying public education.

You know what is destroying public education? The MEA disenfranchising 8,000 teachers for forcing them to pay dues that the state already decided aren’t required. What has MEA done lately to improve public education. Alot of Nothing!

In Novi, Madafferi, 40, said she’s worried that some younger teachers won’t see the value of union membership. She said she has worked to explain the problem with “freeloading,” or benefiting from union negotiations without paying dues. Members pay up to $640 annually to the state union and $182 to the National Education Association, along with local dues.

As I said in this post, “A free-rider problem? Because workers benefit from the union’s contract negotiations and don’t have to pay. Someone PLEASE enlighten me about how the “collective bargaining fee” is calculated. If you are negotiating on behalf of 100 or 10,000 teachers do you really do more work? Free-rider problem, what a bunch of absolute baloney!”

Novi special education teacher Susan Bank, 60, said she plans to save the money, having gone several years without a raise.

“What am I getting for the over $1,000 in union dues I’m paying?” Bank said. “Now that we have the new law, the rules of the game have changed.”

Labor experts say Michigan unions will have to find other ways to demonstrate their value even though they still have collective bargaining power. In neighboring Wisconsin, more than one-third of teachers dropped their union membership after a 2011 law effectively ended collective bargaining for most public employees. But in right-to-work Alabama, nearly 80 percent of teachers voluntarily belong to the union and pay dues, said Adler.

Exactly. Unions in Michigan will have to demonstrate their value, just like any other benefit. The article notes that in right-to-work state Alabama, nearly 80% of teachers voluntarily pay their dues. Maybe MI needs to visit AL. I would say union presence is better in right-to-work states where the organizers actually have to work to get members voluntarily, instead of tax payers handing over cash directly to the union for doing very little work.

MEA attempts to ruin credit of 8,000 teachers

©Depositphotos.com/Margaret Paynich

©Depositphotos.com/Margaret Paynich

In my last post, I discussed the new Michigan right to work law.

By March of 2014, a year after the law went into effect, we have some news. Remember the teachers who filed lawsuits over the timing of their request to leave the union?

As a result, the Mackinac Center, a free market think tank in Michigan, filed a lawsuit against the MEA for attempting to force teachers to stay in the union and to continue to pay dues against their will.

Shortly after the lawsuit was filed the union informed the teachers named in the lawsuit that they were no longer members and back dues were no longer being sought.

Those suits were settled in the plaintiff’s favor, but in the words of the article:

“There is nothing unique about the situations of Ms. Chanski and Mr. Arthur, yet the MEA insists on treating some 8,000 other teachers differently by threatening to ruin their credit by turning them over to a collections agency,” Wright said. “We think the MEA should comply fully with Michigan law and realize that teachers are able to make up their own minds about whether or not they see a benefit to being in the union.”

The MEA admitted last Wednesday during a hearing at MERC that it has created a policy to go after about 8,000 teachers who so far have refused to pay dues in cash or give the union credit card or bank account information as part of its “e-dues” scheme. A federal appeals court rejected the MEA’s attempts last year to block a state law prohibiting school districts from deducting union dues as a payroll function.

“What public school employees who are still under a union contract have to ask themselves is what is different here,” Wright said. “They should ask themselves why the MEA was willing to let these two people go, but appear perfectly willing to stick it to anyone else who attempts to exercise their worker freedom rights.”

MEA admitted that 1,500 teachers correctly followed the process of declining union membership and dues in the 31 day window in August. However, another 8,000 have refused to pay cash or give over credit or debit card info to have the union enforce dues payment that was just made legal to refuse to pay. They have devised a plan to to “go after” 8,000 teachers – I’m sorry, this is supposed to be a teachers union, that protects teachers? And they are attempting to impact 8,000 credit scores for what? To forcibly collect dues that the state has declared teachers don’t have to pay?

Do you see what I mean now when I tell you that unions say one thing and mean yet another? This proves yet again that unions are only in this business to collect dues (they have to pay their national talking heads 500K a year after all) and not about protecting teachers and definitely not about kids.