Lawsuit attacks teachers’ union dues

A California lawsuit against teachers’ unions could have national implications, reports HechingerEd.

Ten non-union teachers and the Christian Educators Association are suing their local, state and national unions, alleging that the organizations are forcing them to pay to support political activities they do not agree with in violation of their first amendment rights.

The plaintiff’s lawyers are attempting to fast-track the case in the California courts by essentially eliminating the discovery phase and then appealing almost immediately to the U.S. Supreme Court. A decision in their favor could turn every state in the country into a right-to-work state, where public employees can opt out of joining a union.

Since 2010, three states – Indiana, Michigan and Wisconsin – have passed laws restricting labor rights.

In 24 states, including California, teachers and other public workers can opt out of unions but must pay “agency fees” to cover the union’s collective bargaining efforts. That eliminates “free riders” who could benefit from the union-negotiated contract without contributing to the cost.

Unions can’t charge non-members for political activity. But what’s political?

In the 2012-2013 school year, for instance, the California Teachers Association reported that a $27,860 “Ethnic Minority Early Identification Development program” and $18,079 “special publications” were related to collective bargaining. Also that year, the union hosted a Gay, Lesbian, Bisexual and Transgender (GLBT) Conference to “address issues involving GLBT educators, students and community” and found that nearly 87 percent of its cost – or $65,099 – was eligible to be paid for by agency fees.

. . . “Whatever you think about these programs, they are not related to collective bargaining,” said Terry Pell, president of the Center for Individual Rights, the right-leaning organization that filed the lawsuit on behalf of the plaintiffs.

Collective bargaining itself is a political activity, the complaint charges. For example, many teachers unions have opposed merit pay in contract negotiations, while individual teachers may support it.

A 2012 opinion by Justice Samuel Alito in Knox vs. Service Employees International Union, Local 1000 questioned agency fees. “Because a public sector union takes many positions during collective bargaining that have powerful political and civic consequences, the compulsory fees constitute a form of compelled speech and association that imposes a significant impingement on First Amendment rights,” Alito wrote for the majority.

 

Chicago mayor asks court to end ‘illegal’ teachers strike

Calling the Chicago teachers’ strike “illegal,” Mayor Rahm Emanuel asked for a court order to force teachers back to work, but a Cook County Circuit Court judge refused to hear the case till Wednesday, reports the Chicago Tribune. Union delegates will meet Tuesday to discuss the proposed deal.

“State law expressly prohibits the CTU from striking over non-economic issues, such as layoff and recall policies, teacher evaluations, class sizes and the length of the school day and year,” the Chicago Public Schools motion states. “The CTU’s repeated statements and recent advertising campaign have made clear that these are exactly the subjects over which the CTU is striking.”

In addition, the strike is “a clear and present danger to public health and safety,” the motion states.

Rick Hess analyzes the politics of the strike in week two. Chicago Teachers Union leader Karen Lewis “is becoming the anti-Michelle Rhee for teachers who’ve yearned for a fire-breathing anti-evaluation, pro-LIFO champion,” he writes. While she looks strong, Emanuel is “losing traction.”

In the fight against Wisconsin Gov. Scott Walker, Democratic reformers had argued “you could get dramatic reforms without changing the rules around collective bargaining.”

If even Rahmbo can’t follow through on tough-minded school reforms, while offering more pay in a tough economy, it’ll raise questions about the seriousness of less combative Dems.

In the long run, it’s bad for the unions if Democrats “decide they have to choose between teacher quality and working with unions,” Hess concludes.

 

Benefits vs. jobs

Wisconsin’s controversial law limiting public employees’ bargaining power will enable a district to hire more teachers to cut class sizes, reports the Appleton Post Crescent.

As changes to collective bargaining powers for public workers take effect today, the Kaukauna Area School District is poised to swing from a projected $400,000 budget shortfall next year to a $1.5 million surplus due to health care and retirement savings.

The Kaukauna School Board approved changes Monday to its employee handbook that require staff to cover 12.6 percent of their health insurance and to contribute 5.8 percent of their wages to the state’s pension system, in accordance with the new collective bargaining law, commonly known as Act 10.

Increased staffing also will make it possible to “identify and support students needing individual assistance through individual and small group experiences,” said the school board president.

Teachers will have less take-home pay, but more teachers will have jobs.

Via Ann Althouse.

Milwaukee Public Schools is laying off 354 teachers. In all, 519 staffers will be laid off and 500 vacancies will not be filled. Class sizes will increase and old textbooks won’t be replaced. If the union agrees to contribute 5.8 percent of wages to retirement benefits, the district can save 198 teachers’ jobs.

States roll back teachers’ bargaining rights

Wisconsin’s new law restricting public employees’ collective bargaining rights is on hold to give Dane County Judge Maryann Sumi time to consider a lawsuit charging Republican lawmakers failed to give 24-hour notice of the vote. However, if the judge overturns the law, Republicans could pass it again.

Idaho Gov. Butch Otter has signed a law phasing out tenure for new teachers and restricting collective bargaining. The Republican governor also signed legislation to introduce teacher merit pay.

Collective-bargaining limits are moving forward in Ohio and Indiana.

In Tennessee, Republicans are debating whether to limit collective bargaining for teachers or ban it entirely. Again, Republicans control the legislature and the statehouse.

Florida will end tenure for new teachers, offer merit pay and limit bargaining rights.

Without bargaining, teachers earn more

Without collective bargaining, teachers earn more money but also pay more for health benefits, writes Mike Petrilli on Flypaper. He crunched data collected by the National Council on Teacher Quality for more than 100 of the largest districts in each of the 50 states.

Maximum pay for a teacher with a bachelor’s degree averages $64,500 in districts without collective bargaining compared to $57,500 for a similar teacher with bargaining rights, Petrilli concluded. (Georgia, North Carolina, South Carolina, Texas, and Virginia don’t allow collective bargaining.) However, “non-collective bargaining districts drive a harder bargain when it comes to health care: Just one-third of those districts offer free insurance to employees, versus one-half of those with bargaining rights.”

Teacher bashing

Pay teachers more is the headline of Nicholas Kristof’s latest New York Times column, but the “to be sure” graph “swallows the rest of the piece,” writes Mickey Kaus in the Daily Caller, mock-accusing Kristof of  “teacher bashing.”

 According to Kristof:

(Teachers’ unions) used their clout to gain job security more than pay, thus making the field safe for low achievers. Teaching work rules are often inflexible, benefits are generous relative to salaries, and it is difficult or impossible to dismiss teachers who are ineffective

. . . 47 percent of America’s kindergarten through 12th-grade teachers come from the bottom one-third of their college classes (as measured by SAT scores).

If unions do all those bad things, Kaus wonders, why does Kristof object to Wisconsin Republicans’ move to  “emasculate” them? Does he secretly admire Gov. Walker?

Kristof denies he wants to throw money at the “low achievers” who are now teaching ineffectively. He claims the ”pay should be for performance, with more rigorous evaluation.”  Good idea! But the teachers’ unions are the people who will fight that idea tooth and nail, and probably win.  Again, it seems as if Kristof should back Gov. Walker.

BTW, Kristof is off base on the SAT issue.  High school seniors who say they want to major in education earn below-average SAT scores, but that includes many who won’t earn a degree.  Elementary teaching  attracts some who love children but aren’t into academics.  (Of course, not all elementary teachers fit the sweet-but-dim model.) Would-be secondary teachers who plan to major in English, history, science or math tend to have above-average SAT scores.

Study: Seniority rights widen achievement gap

Is collective bargaining good for students, asks Tom Jacobs on Miller-McCune Online

When New Mexico teachers regained collective bargaining rights after four years without them, SAT scores rose while graduation rates fell, according to a study published in the Yale Law Journal.

Disadvantaged students lost ground, concluded author Benjamin Lindy, a Yale law student and a former middle-school teacher.

“Between 1993 and 1999, New Mexico required collective bargaining with teachers’ unions. The law expired in 1999 and wasn’t renewed till 2003, creating a window in which districts could refuse to bargain with unions.

He found no impact on spending per student.  But student achievement patterns did change.

That’s because teachers lost transfer rights in the no-bargaining interim, Lindy theorizes. Before 1999 and after 2003, senior teachers could  ”concentrate themselves in a district’s higher-income, higher-performing schools,” which are easier places to teach.  The least-experienced teachers were concentrated in high-poverty schools.

“This change in transfer rights is especially significant, because it helps explain not only why low-performing students began to improve (when the teachers lost collective bargaining rights), but also why the achievement of high-performing students began to fall,” Lindy writes. “If districts were able to shift high-quality teachers away from concentrated areas of high performance to areas of high-need, one would expect to see the performance of high-achieving students fall.”

So when contracts are negotiated that give teachers with seniority a major say in where they’ll teach, the result is already-advantaged students get yet another advantage: more experienced instructors. This helps them raise their test scores even higher. Meanwhile, the poorer kids get less-experienced teachers, leaving them still further behind and more likely to drop out.

Not all union contracts give senior teachers the right to choose their school, but it’s very common.

Note that Lindy’s analysis suggests that experienced teachers are more effective teachers.

Longhorns 17, Badgers 1

In “low-tax, low-spending Texas, graduation rates are low, writes New York Times columnist Paul Krugman. SAT scores are low in the five states without collective bargaining for teachers, reports The Economist. Texas ranks 47th, while Wisconsin is second.

“The point being, I suppose, is that unionized teachers stand as a thin chalk-stained line keeping Wisconsin from descending into the dystopian non-union educational hellscape of Texas,” writes Iowahawk. Actually, Texas is out-educating Wisconsin, according to the National Assessment of Education Progress, which breaks down test scores by grade, state, subject and ethnicity.

“A state’s ‘average ACT/SAT’ is, for all intents and purposes, a proxy for the percent of white people who live there,” writes Iowahawk, who attributes the test gap to differences in socioeconomic status, racism and family structure. Wisconsin (4% black, 4% Hispanic) will have higher average scores than Texas (12% black, 30% Hispanic). When scores are disaggregated by race and ethnicity, “brokeass, dumbass, redneck Texas” does better than “progressive unionized Wisconsin” for whites and blacks and Hispanics.

2009 4th Grade Math

White students: Texas 254, Wisconsin 250 (national average 248)

Black students: Texas 231, Wisconsin 217 (national 222)

Hispanic students: Texas 233, Wisconsin 228 (national 227)

2009 8th Grade Math

White students: Texas 301, Wisconsin 294 (national 294)

Black students: Texas 272, Wisconsin 254 (national 260)

Hispanic students: Texas 277, Wisconsin 268 (national 260)

2009 4th Grade Reading

White students: Texas 232, Wisconsin 227 (national 229)

Black students: Texas 213, Wisconsin 192 (national 204)

Hispanic students: Texas 210, Wisconsin 202 (national 204)

2009 8th Grade Reading

White students: Texas 273, Wisconsin 271 (national 271)

Black students: Texas 249, Wisconsin 238 (national 245)

Hispanic students: Texas 251, Wisconsin 250 (national 248)

2009 4th Grade Science

White students: Texas 168, Wisconsin 164 (national 162)

Black students: Texas 139, Wisconsin 121 (national 127)

Hispanic students: Wisconsin 138, Texas 136 (national 130)

2009 8th Grade Science

White students: Texas 167, Wisconsin 165 (national 161)

Black students: Texas 133, Wisconsin 120 (national 125)

Hispanic students: Texas 141, Wisconsin 134 (national 131)

Whites, blacks and Hispanics do better in Texas than in Wisconsin in 17 comparisons; Hispanics score insignificantly higher in science in Wisconsin in fourth grade.

Texas students exceeded the national average for their ethnic cohort in all 18 comparisons; Wisconsinites were below the national average in 8, above average in 8.

In addition, the racial achievement gap is much wider in Wisconsin than in Texas.

Non-union Georgia also does well in comparison to Wisconsin, though not as well as Texas, writes Kyle Wingfield.

The Economist’s SAT scores are both out of date and meaningless, writes Angus Johnston. Using current data, Wisconsin ties for 17th on the ACT. Very few Wisconsin students take the SAT. Texas ranks “45th on the SAT with 53% participation, 33rd on the ACT with 33% participation.”

In a follow-up post that serves as a statistics primer, Iowahawk breaks out ACT scores by race and ethnicity for Wisconsin and Texas and explains Simpson’s Paradox.

He also links to Michael Pollard’s NAEP analysis: “After controlling for ethnicity, compared to the running-dog Gang of Five non-collective bargaining states (TX, VA, SC, NC, GA), Wisconsin is a (1) middling performer for white students; (2) below middling for Hispanic students, and (3) an absolute disaster for black students.”

Not waiting for Superpol

Not willing to wait for Superpol, “heartless” Rick Hess is backing Wisconsin Gov. Scott Walker’s attempt to curtail collective bargaining rights.

Just as I reject school reform built on the pursuit of millions of “superman” teachers, so I don’t trust the notion that everything will be fine if we just elect leaders with spines of steel, hearts of gold, and a deft negotiating hand.

The problem with collective bargaining by public employees is that these unions are unchecked by competition and wield massive influence as they help to elect their bosses. I get why Wisconsin public employees view Walker’s proposal as an assault, but I see a sensible measure to rein in the tendency of pols to serve narrow interests at the expense of the commonweal.

Exhorting politicians to “do the right thing” won’t give them the strength to rein in “exorbitant benefits and undisciplined budgets,” Hess argues. The unions are too strong.

National Journal’s Education Experts are discussing what Wisconsin means for the future of labor-management relations in school districts.

Gov. Walker is out to “destroy public education as we know it,” charges Bob Peterson, a Milwaukee teacher who predicts catastrophe to schools as well as teachers.

Collective bargaining gives teachers a voice, writes Dennis van Roekel, president of the National Education Association.

Chickens come home to roost, writes Sandy Kress, a former Bush education adviser.

The standoff continues in Madison. Police did not enforce a Sunday 4 pm deadline to clear the Capitol building of protesters.

If absent Democratic senators don’t return in 24 hours to vote on the budget, Wisconsin will miss a chance to save $165 million in debt refinancing costs, the governor said today. That will lead to more layoffs of state workers, he said. Walker will propose a new budget tomorrow that cuts $1 billion in state aid to schools and local governments, reorganizes the University of Wisconsin system and makes other changes to deal with a $3.6 billion deficit.

AFT: Reform teacher evaluation, firing

It’s time to change how teachers are evaluated and dismissed, says Randi Weingarten, the president of the American Federation of Teachers. The union chief’s plan would give    tenured teachers who are rated unsatisfactory by their principals a maximum of one school year to improve, reports the New York Times.

Weingarten proposed evaluating teachers based on classroom visits, appraisal of lesson plans and student improvement on tests.

Teachers rated unsatisfactory would be given a detailed “improvement plan” jointly devised by school administrators and experienced master teachers.

Some improvement plans — like maintaining better classroom order — could last a month. Others would take a full school year. The results would be considered separately by administrators and the peer experts, whose judgments would be sent to a neutral arbitrator.

The arbitrator would be required to decide within 100 days whether to keep or fire the teacher.

Compared to the current system, this is lightning fast, though Fordham’s Michael Petrilli isn’t impressed. “In any other field, this would be considered completely nuts that a manager would not have rights and responsibilities to evaluate their employees and take action,”  he told the Times.

Reform doesn’t require dumping collective bargaining, writes Andrew Rotherham in Time. But some things have to change, including: restrictions on teacher evaluations; “last in, first out” lay-offs; forced transfers and “bumping” by senior teachers; tenure and due-process rules, and inflexible salary schedules that reward teachers only for length of service and academic credits.