School shows ‘I Pledge’ (to serve Obama) video

In a 2009 video called “I Pledge,” celebrities promise to do good works, “be the change” and support President Obama. A little more than three minutes in, Demi Moore says: “I pledge to be a servant to our president.” Hudson, Wisconsin parents complained when the video was shown to middle-school students on ”Peace One Day.”

Middle School Principal Dan Koch apologized to students the next day.

“The ‘I Pledge’ video we viewed yesterday included some messages about serving President Barack Obama. . . . The video conveyed a message that people serve the presidency when in fact our elected officials serve the people.”

Peace One Day – Sept. 21 — is “an annual day of global unity, a day of intercultural cooperation on a scale that humanity has never known.”

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 teachers’ union targets mayor

Angry about school closings, the Chicago Teachers Union will seek to unseat Mayor Rahm Emanuel and other officials, reports the Chicago Tribune.

Asked at a news conference if she would consider a run for mayor, CTU President Karen Lewis quickly and loudly said, “No. Thank you.” But then she added, “Not yet.”

Union officials plan to register voters and recruit candidates for the city council and state legislature.

The Board of Education is expected to vote May 22 on the plan to close 53 elementary schools and one high school program.

“There is no democracy here,” Lewis said on Monday. “So, if the mayor and his hand-picked corporate school board will not listen to us, we must find those who will.”

Professor may lose job for Obama vote pledge

A math professor who told students to sign pledges to vote for President Obama’s re-election should be fired, President James Richey advised the Brevard Community College Board of Trustees.

Sharon Sweet, an associate professor of mathematics with tenure at the Florida college, is “guilty of electioneering, harassment, and incompetence,” concluded a report based on a three-month investigation.

Talking ’bout education — or not

ED in ’08, which tried to get presidential candidates to discuss education issues was a “successful failure,” argues Alexander Russo. (Most people consider it a plain old failure.) Advocates learned what works — and doesn’t work — in the political arena, Russo writes.

I don’t think K-12 education will be a key issue in this campaign. Obama is focusing on subsidized college loans to appeal to middle-class voters. Romney’s going to focus on jobs, jobs, jobs.

Obama’s willingness to fund vouchers in Washington, D.C. — a deal has been struck with the Republicans — is interesting. Urban blacks, who are less enthusiastic about Obama this time around, support school choice.

The Education Department denied Iowa’s request for a No Child Left Behind waiver because the state hasn’t approved a statewide system for evaluating teachers.  Iowa is a battleground state. That’s politically gutsy, writes Mike Petrilli. Or foolish.

Los Angeles shortens school year again

As Chicago lengthens the school day, Los Angeles keeps shortening the school year. A deal with the teachers union would cancel up to five instruction days in the coming school year and reduce teacher pay by 5 percent. “This would bring to 18 the number of school days cut over four years,” reports the Los Angeles Times.

There is, in fact, a strategic advantage for unions in taking furlough days and shortening the school year. The salary cuts that result are temporary; they expire after one year and must be renegotiated every year.

In the process, teachers avoid making permanent concessions on pension or health benefits. L.A. Unified employees still pay no monthly premiums for health insurance for themselves or family members. And teachers still receive raises based on experience or additional education.

Shortening the school year also “could generate the outrage needed to build public support for boosting state funding,” political analysts say.  ”You’re not going to mobilize nearly as many people by warning them about the need to renegotiate pension and health benefits,” said Dan Schnur, director of the Jesse Unruh Institute of Politics at USC.

“Democratic lawmakers in Sacramento recommended legislation this week that would allow districts to cut up to three weeks off the next two school years — on top of the five days already approved, if voters fail to approve a tax initiative on the November ballot,” reports the Times. They’re going to kill puppies and kittens too.

Teacher assigns ‘oppo’ research for Obama

Eighth graders at a Virginia public school were told to research the weaknesses of Republican presidential candidates, write a paper on how to exploit the weaknesses and identify who to send the paper to in the Obama campaign.

“This assignment was just creepy beyond belief — like something out of East Germany during the Cold War,” one frustrated father, who asked for his family to remain anonymous, told The Daily Caller.

Michael Denman divided his honors civics class into four groups, all assigned to do “oppo” research on Republicans. After parents complained, the principal told the teacher he should have let students research a candidate from either party, a Fairfax County Public Schools spokesman said.

Duh.

Allegedly, the teacher never told students to send their research to the Obama campaign, but why assign two students in each group to figure out the name of the right “oppo” person?

 

Hess: Top 10 edu-stories of 2012

Why wait for 2012, when Rick Hess has the top Ten Edu-Stories We’ll Be Reading in the new year?

Among his headlines of the future: “GOP presidential nominee abandons primary season attacks on Department of Education; talks up education reform in push for moderates.” Meanwhile, Republicans will feud over Common Core standards, he predicts.

Despite doubts about Race to the Top’s implementation, ”Obama campaign makes Race to the Top, push on college affordability a centerpiece in effort to woo suburban swing voters.”

Hess also foresees a backlash against aggressive anti-bullying campaigns after elementary school boys are suspended for tussling and name-calling. (Think zero tolerance.)

Rewriting No Child Left Behind will be left till 2013, he predicts.

Finally: “Mixed results for the Khan Academy‘s ‘flipped’ classroom lead some educators and policymakers to worry that the model doesn’t work for kids who don’t do the requisite work at home. One expert notes, ‘The kids who didn’t do their reading or homework before are the same kids who aren’t viewing their lessons and lectures now.’”

Occupy in the classroom

Occupy Oakland wants teachers to teach about the movement, plus “the role of strikes in movement history,” “the systems and issues this movement is protesting against,” “the possibilities for change this movement is part of envisioning” and “what students need to know about how to stay safe during protests.”

For (very sketchy) lesson plans, teachers can turn to Occupy’s site or the New York Times Learning Blog.

Kristen Burzynski, who teaches eighth-grade science at Community Day School, spent a day on Occupy’s message, reports KQED’s Mind/Shift.

. . . she began her lesson by asking students to think about three slogans of the movement: “We are the 99 percent,” “Human need not corporate greed,” and “Save the American dream.”

Her students had heard these phrases before and recognized the images of the Occupy Oakland camp. Burzynski asked her students, “What do the protesters want?” Responses included money, fairness, and jobs. She answered, “You know, Occupy Wall Street has been criticized for NOT having a distinct goal – a lot of people are saying, What are they asking for? I think it’s cool that you guys are able to hit a lot of things they’re asking for without being told about it.”

To explain the 99 percent wealth disparity, Burzynski asked all her students to try a math problem. She told students to imagine that there were one hundred people and one hundred dollars. One person has 40 dollars. The other 99 people have to split the other 60 dollars. How much would each of the 99 people get? Students mulled over this long division problem, before throwing out guesses, “A penny!” “A quarter!”

Perhaps they need more time on math. Or, since it’s a science class, they could study science: What are the health risks of living without running water or toilets?

Teachers who joined Occupy’s strike cost Oakland Unified about $60,000 to cover the cost of substitute teachers, according to the Bay Citizen. That’s tough on the district, which is laying off staff and closing schools.

Inside angle on K-12 politics

What do the insiders think about education politics in the next two years?

Ed Week’s Politics K-12 has the juicy stuff from a subscription-only report by Andrew Rotherham (Bellwether Education Partners and Eduwonk) and John Bailey, a Bush education aide.

Nearly 70 percent think the Republican surge will slow President Obama’s education agenda. Two thirds think the federal role in education will be scaled back.

One person surveyed said: “Next Congress is going to be about cutting spending, repealing Obamacare, and setting the stage for 2012. Noises will be made about how wonderfully bipartisan education can be and Congress will even attempt to make progress, but Harkin [Sen. Tom Harkin, D-Iowa, the chairman of the Senate education committee] is incapable of making the right deals to get the Senate Republicans on board, and the House won’t move forward on anything other than piecemeal bills.”

Eighty-three percent expect bipartisan consensus favoring charter schools and 61 percent predict agreement on teacher effectiveness.

. . .  just 9 percent see the possibility of agreement around extending the Race to the Top (a key Obama priority), and absolutely no one expects agreement on increasing K-12 funding or regulation of for-profit colleges (a higher education issue that many in the GOP say has poisoned the bipartisan well for agreement on K-12).

Insiders predict Republicans will revive debate over the end of vouchers in Washington, D.C.  Some think the Republican wave could slow the push for Common Core Standards. Most think states that made reforms to get Race to the Top money will stay the course, even with Republican governors.