GA Teacher associations rank 45 of 50 for power & influence

GA Teacher associations rank 45 of 50 for power & influence

Thanks to Maureen Downey for posting this blog about GA’s teacher’s associations and their power in GA last year. Quite a few things to note.

The Fordham Institute & Education Reform Now collaborated on a study called How Strong Are U.S. Teacher’s Unions? A State-by-State Comparison from October 2012.

Interesting notes from the report:

Here are a few highlights:

• Teacher strikes, like the one recently concluded in Chicago, are legal in fourteen states and illegal in thirty-seven.

• Thirty-two states require local school boards to bargain collectively with their teachers, fourteen states permit local boards to do this, and five states prohibit collective bargaining altogether (Georgia, North Carolina, South Carolina, Texas, and Virginia).

• Twenty-three states are “right to work” states, which prohibit unions from collecting agency fees from nonmembers.* Twenty-eight jurisdictions allow agency fees.

My guess is that the states that allow teacher strikes also are the ones that require collective bargaining. Just to be clear, by “require” it means that someone got the legislature to make it law that districts collectively bargain. You can actually run a district without such requirement. This is where the impression of self preservation is deeply ingrained for me. The unions have helped make it required that LEA’s collectively bargain – and that they will be paid by every employee on their union rolls and and the 28 states that allow for agency fees.

Georgia is one of the few hold outs in allowing unions to form. I’m actually surprised that AL, MS, and LA next door aren’t also in that camp.

GA union power in chart

This study also clarifies for me “right to work.” I thought it meant that there couldn’t be any unions there, but it apparently means that you don’t have to pay agency fees if you are not part of the union. The agency fee is the 60-70% of the union dues that unions collect simply for you benefiting from the bargaining process even if you are not a member. I have spoken at length about these issues, see here. 

As you can see GA teacher associations are listed 45 of 50 in terms of influence in power. Their best rating is of state policies that align with union policies, which seems odd for a state that has seemingly little power. Or it just means that in GA we really don’t need unions to reach policies we can all agree with.

Love this graphic!

teacher union power across US

Taken from Downey’s summary here are the notes on GA:

“Georgia’s teacher associations are weak across the board, not surprising in a state in which collective bargaining is prohibited — and whose politics are fairly conservative. They have few resources and a weak reputation. While teacher employment policies are somewhat union-favorable, charter laws are not, and the associations stayed out of the way when lawmakers enacted reforms en route to receiving Race to the Top award.

Georgia’s two state-level teacher associations (one affiliated with the NEA, the other with the AFT) have limited financial and membership resources. Collective bargaining is prohibited in the state, and just 54.8 percent of its teachers belong to teacher associations (41st of 51 jurisdictions). They bring in $87 per Georgia teacher annually (49th, ahead of just Texas and South Carolina).

On the other hand, Georgia spends a relatively large portion of its state budget on K-12 education (24.4 percent, placing it 9th). Total per-pupil spending is on the low side of the middle ($9,827 per year; 38th), but a relatively high proportion of those dollars goes to teacher salaries and benefits (57.5 percent; 7th)

Compared to teacher unions in other states, Georgia’s associations are not particularly involved in state politics. In the past decade, just 0.33 percent of contributions to candidates for state office came from them (34th); these donations made up only 2.9 percent of the funds contributed by the ten highest-giving sectors in the state (37th). In addition, the associations gave only 0.34 percent of the contributions to state political parties (42nd). Finally, 13.4 percent of Georgia’s delegates to the Democratic and Republication national conventions identified as teacher union members (25th).

Georgia is one of only five states that explicitly prohibit collective bargaining. Although teachers can opt to join local and/or state professional associations those entities may not automatically collect agency fees from non-members who work in districts they represent (a limitation that contributes to the low association revenues.) The state also prohibits teacher strikes.

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Cost of the status quo is way more expensive

Cost of the status quo is way more expensive

Just read this great article by a parent who works in a public charter school. Charter schools are not immune to the problems of traditional public schools – But you also can’t

©Depositphotos.com/Margaret Paynich

©Depositphotos.com/Margaret Paynich

read this article and proclaim traditional charters are superior. Please focus on the content of the article, about parents making choices for their own kids.

These are two former blogs about this very topic – what parents decide for their own kids:

When the only option is a failing school & Sounds good in theory, but not in practice

This article is written by a parent working in the same school her own child attended.

My 8-year-old daughter’s class was chaotic after her first-year teacher got married in Chicago and then relocated to Texas after Christmas break. It was hard enough to bring on a new teacher in the middle of the year, but the situation was only exacerbated when the replacement teacher was also brand new to the profession. (In fairness, my daughter’s class of 28 students was difficult to manage even for more experienced teachers. Teachers had to tap into their inner guru each and every day.)

My administration was trying to work with the replacement teacher, but it was painful for me to watch professional development attempts being made for a novice teacher who was in full crisis mode. Assurances from my school leaders that, with more instructional coaching, the class would gradually get better in time, fell flat with me. It was now February—how much more time could my child afford?

The complacency that the administration goes through in keeping this teacher, or hiring her in the first place. I talked a little bit about how teacher education needs to be improved in this blog but I am tired of administrations doing what they can to help (even if it’s ineffective) and settling for that being the best they can do. We need all of our kids to have an excellent education and large part of that is a great teacher.

My kid wasn’t ambivalent; she knew what she wanted. In fact, she begged me to transfer her out of the school that she had once loved. Even at 8, she was willing to say goodbye to all her friends to gain a sense of emotional safety and sanity.

I love my school and count many of my colleagues as my friends. The teachers (including my daughter’s former teachers) work extremely hard, and it’s obvious that they care about the students. And since it’s a charter school, parents like me feel fortunate that our kids’ names were pulled from the lottery and granted admission. I’ve often lamented that all kids and parents don’t have access to good schools like this one, district or charter.

But now I found myself contemplating the unthinkable—transferring my little girl out.

Parents are dealing with these struggles every day. Charter or traditional public school we need to make sure that every child has an effective teacher. I keep saying that our kids aren’t going to get those days of lost education back. We need to care right now about getting the best kids in the classroom.

The mom continues…

Last week, a colleague passed on a powerful article about the author Doug Lemov, who wrote “Teach Like a Champion,” to my principal, who then passed it on to me. These bits from the article gave me peace about the decision I made:

The evidence suggests that a child at a bad school taught by a good teacher is better off than one with a bad teacher at a good school. The benefits of having been in the class of a good teacher cascade down the years; the same is true of the penalty for having had a bad teacher.

In 1992, an economist called Eric Hanushek reached a remarkable conclusion by analyzing decades of data on teacher effectiveness: a student in the class of a very ineffective teacher—one ranked in the bottom 5 percent—will learn, on average, half a year’s worth of material in one school year, whereas if she was in the class of a very effective teacher—in the top 5 percent—she would learn a year and a half’s worth of material. In other words, the difference between a good and a bad teacher is worth a whole year.

Here you go. Evidence that our kids are literally loosing out by not having a great teacher. Parents are left with very few options if they feel their child is not getting an adequate education. And sometimes they choose another school, yet they shouldn’t have to. While education theorists and unions and the media are criticizing themselves daily, our nation’s kids are sitting in classrooms with ineffective teachers. We need to spend more time “on the ground” with kids and teachers and less time in the ivory towers of “theory” and “rhetoric.”

The mom ends:

It means that if any one of my students’ parents were to have insight into the day-to-day happenings in the school or classroom the way I am privy to it as a staff member, would they trust that their child was getting the absolute best education possible?

In other words, it means that educators need to approach our practice with the same diligence we would have if our own biological child sat in every single class.

My household operates on a tight budget, so the $700 a month private school tuition bill I now have to pay really hurts. But now that my little girl is excited about learning again and is able to focus in class, I realize that the cost of the status quo was way more expensive.

“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.

Seniority has zero to do with educational quality

Seniority has zero to do with educational quality

Appeal

Appeal

I’ve discussed some of the points of the Vergara case in this post: Education Fallacies: Correlation does not equal causation. This month, The California Teachers Association & California Federation of Teachers formally filed their appeal to the ruling in Vergara v.California, which ruled that teacher tenure was unconstitutional in terms of protecting teachers who were not providing quality instruction to students.

SFGate.com writes:

The state and teachers unions have launched a frontal attack on the June 2014 ruling, arguing that neither the judge nor the nine student plaintiffs in the well-funded suit presented any evidence that the laws have harmed students or violated their constitutional rights.

In written arguments filed this month with the Second District Court of Appeal in Los Angeles, the California Teachers Association and the California Federation of Teachers said the laws are based on sound policies — tenure protects experienced teachers from arbitrary or politically motivated dismissals, and basing layoffs on seniority is an objective process that promotes educational quality.

But the unions said those policy questions are legally irrelevant, because the students who filed the suit never showed that the laws affected their education. They showed no evidence that they were taught by an incompetent teacher who would have been fired or laid off had it not been for tenure or seniority protections, the unions said.

“Tenure protects experienced teachers from arbitrary or politically motivated dismissals and basing layoffs on seniority is an objective process that promotes educational quality”? There are labor laws in place to protect from arbitrary or politically motivated dismissals. But how can you explain to me that lay offs by seniority “promotes educational quality?” Seniority has zero to do with educational quality. Length of time in a job does not ensure that you are performing at a high level. Evaluations do that.

The ruling in June by Los Angeles County Superior Court Judge Rolf Treu was the first to strike down a teacher tenure law in any state. The appellate court will hear the case late this year or early next year. If its ruling is appealed further, the case could reach the state Supreme Court by the end of 2016.

Treu’s ruling followed an eight-week trial that included testimony by four students, one parent and competing groups of experts. He found that the laws violate the right of students to educational equality and “impose a disproportionate burden on poor and minority students.” The latter finding was based on a 2007 state report that found that students at “high-poverty, low-performing schools” were more likely than others to be taught by inexperienced and unqualified teachers.

We’ll see what the appellate review says of this case.

 

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.

 

PA could start laying off teachers through evals, not seniority

http://c.brightcove.com/services/viewer/federated_f9?isVid=1&isUI=1

Rep. Steve Bloom Discusses His Bill That Eliminates Seniority-based Furlough Decisions

The Pennsylvania legislature is primed to vote and pass a bill that would allow schools to initiate layoffs (as needed) through teacher evaluations instead of seniority, which is currently the case. Rep Steve Bloom discusses his bill in the video above.

Pennlive.com reports:

Gov. Tom Wolf spokesman Jeff Sheridan said the administration is reviewing Bloom’s bill but said the governor believes issues relating to seniority should be part of collective bargaining.

Hmm, I wonder if that means the governor may not sign the bill. We’ll if it comes down to contract negotiations, the Lawrence Public Schools contract has some great language they can borrow! From this post:

“The Superintendent has the right to lay off teachers and other district staff due to reductions in force or reorganizations resulting from declining enrollment or other budgetary or operational reasons. The Superintendent will establish the selection criteria for layoffs of teachers and other district staff. Such selection criteria may include, but are not limited to qualifications, licensure, work history (including elements such as discipline, attendance, evaluations, etc.), multiple measures of student learning, operational need and the best interests of the students. Where all other factors are equal, seniority may be used as the deciding factor.”

The bill would also allow the district to perform layoffs due to economic circumstances and not just declining enrollment or consolidating schools.

Other Republicans spoke in support of allowing economic reasons as a permitted justification for laying off staff. Current law only allows districts to furlough professional staff if there is a reduction in enrollment, if a program is curtailed or eliminated, or if schools are consolidated or reorganized.

Rep. Kristin Hill, R-Jacobus, said her district had to close its entire home economics program because it didn’t have the flexibility to lay off just some teachers to deal with a budgetary shortfall.

As a former school board member, Hill said she sees Bloom’s bill as giving school boards and administrators the tools necessary to ensure students receive the best education.

The majority of a schools budget is personnel and when you can’t make adjustments (and unions have helped make it so), teachers are keeping their jobs at the expense of kids education. Of course the PA state education union opposes the bill……but not on any really good reasons:

Pennsylvania State Education Association President Mike Crossey was strongly opposed.

He called it “a solution in search of a problem” at a time when the focus should be on getting more teachers into the classroom, “not throw more out.”

Furthermore, he faulted the committee for timing its consideration of the bill during Teacher Appreciation Week.

“I can’t think of a worse way to honor teachers for the great work they do than to vote on a bill like this one,” he said. “Bills like this are a distraction from real issues and just a way to punish teachers for years of hard work and well-earned experience in the classroom.”

Talk about a “distraction from real issues!” So what if the bill if being discussed and voted on during Teacher Appreciation Week. It’s more important that Rep Hill’s district have home economics program than caring what week of the year a bill is being discussed. I swear unions oppose things because it’s touting the union line and no one ever deviates even when it’s in the best interests of kids to do so. Their primary focus is on teachers, not kids.

Of course there are the usual objections about evaluations and funding, but this objection is really not realistic:

Among other concerns, Rep. Mark Longietti, D- Mercer, worried that also extending the probationary period for new teachers from three years to five years before they would be eligible for tenure might discourage people from entering the teaching profession.

But Rep. Seth Grove, R-Dover, said the young people he has spoken with say it will have the opposite effect. They want this kind of job protection and not face having to be let go because of an arbitrary, archaic law that protects teachers with more seniority.

Hopefully the bill will pass and the governor will sign it.