Study: Teachers bargain, students lose

Teachers’ collective bargaining rights correlate with lower employment and earnings for students later in adult life, concludes a study by Michael F. Lovenheim and Alexander Willén in Education Next.
They compared student outcomes in states that enacted a duty-to-bargain law to outcomes in states that did not change their collective-bargaining policies.

There was no effect on the amount of schooling students completed.

However, “students who spent all 12 years of grade school in a state with a duty-to-bargain law earned an average of $795 less per year and worked half an hour less per week as adults than students who were not exposed to collective-bargaining laws.” Those educated in duty-to-bargain states were less likely to be employed and those with jobs were more likely to work in low-skilled occupations.

Why? They’re not sure.

Perhaps collective bargaining has made it more difficult for school districts to dismiss ineffective teachers or to allocate teachers among schools. Or perhaps the political influence of teachers unions at the state level has interfered with efforts to improve school quality.

More than 60 percent of U.S. teachers work under a union contract, but some states, such as Wisconsin, Michigan,  Indiana and Tennessee, have moved to restrict teachers’ bargaining rights.

If unions lose agency fees, what next?

Teachers’ unions could lose money, members and political clout, if the U.S. Supreme Court rules against “agency fees,” writes Michael Antonucci in Education Next.

Friedrichs v. California Teachers Association challenges the California law requiring teachers who haven’t joined the union to pay fees meant to cover collective bargaining, but not political activity.

Friedrichs plaintiffs assert that the agency-fee system infringes their rights to free speech and free association, he writes. “They maintain that collective bargaining in the public sector is itself inherently political.”

Wisconsin eliminated agency fees (and weakened unions’ bargaining power) in 2011, notes Antonucci. Union member has fallen by more than half.

Minnesota is an agency-fee state with about 111,000 K-12 employees, of which about 75,000 are teachers union members. Arizona, with no agency-fee law, has about 103,000 K-12 employees and only 16,000 teachers union members.

“In 2014, NEA membership in agency fee states grew by 5,300. In states without agency fees, it fell by more than 47,000.”

A typical California teacher pays $1,000 in dues asa union member, $650 in fees as a non-member. If non-members saved $1,000 a year, membership could go down sharply, Antonucci suggests.

The American Federation of Teachers pays heavily to play politics, reports RiShawn Biddle on Dropout Nation.

According to its 2014-2015 financial disclosure, the “second-largest teachers’ union spent $42 million on political lobbying activities and contributions,” a 45 percent increase over influence-spending levels in 2013-2014.

AFT gave $250,000 to the Bill, Hillary, and Chelsea Clinton Foundation and another $250,000 to the Clinton Global Initiative, “the other non-explicitly political wing of the Clinton family’s always-political efforts,” writes Biddle. The union has endorsed Hillary Clinton’s presidential bid.

UW will ID schools with unprepared grads

The University of Wisconsin will report on high schools whose graduates require remedial courses, under a new state law, reports the Courier.

“I’ve heard from many parents who were stunned to learn that despite getting good enough grades to get into a UW system school, their kids aren’t prepared to start their college career,”said Rep. John Jagler, the bill’s author.

Remedial math classes are packed at University of Wisconsin-Lacrosse.

Remedial math classes are packed at UW-Lacrosse.

“My hope is that by shining a light on what schools these students attended, discussions can begin at the local and state level on finding solutions to better prepare students for higher education.”

Math is the largest barrier. Systemwide, one in five first-year UW students require remedial math, reported the Milwaukee Journal-Sentinel last year.

UW is trying to “boost the percentage of freshmen who complete remedial courses in their first year of college by changing the way those courses are taught, including providing more hands-on tutoring, doing more problem-solving in class and using special computer software.”

ACT is phasing out its college placement test, reports Inside Higher EdCompass and Accuplacer, a similar test from the College Board, place some students in remedial courses who might pass college-level courses, according to a 2012 study.

An interesting defense

Hereis the charge: some people claim that Wisconsin’s ed-bureaucracy, which we will call “DPI”, because that’s it’s name, seems to have endorsed throwing students into concentration camps. Well, that’s not really what is going on at all, but you might not know that from reading the defense. What is actually being claimed is that there seems to have been a recommendation made by someone, somewhere, that certain white people working under the auspices of a federal program in Wisconsin, through the DPI, might consider engaging in a program of psychological self-flagellation and submission to public criticism, all in the name of making them conscious of their “white privilege” (and unless you are completely out to lunch, you will notice that this is also an exercise in doing everything possible to keep them from exercising said privilege, assuming it exists in the first place).

Te crux of the criticisms is that it seems to have been recommended that the white people in question wear white wristbands, and submit themselves to uninvited discussions about what those white wristbands represent. Things go obviously (but not I think, unjustifiably) Godwin from there.

Here is the defense against the charge: No DPI official, or any VISTA volunteer, has used, requested, or encouraged, anyone in any school to use the wristbands as ‘reported’ and shared by external groups that thrive on spreading rumors and misinformation. The defense, and it is a defense, also notes that the wristband materials were provided to VISTA (that appears to be the federal program) volunteers after their training, as they left, as part of a supplemental packet. That packet was also posted to the DPI website where you can now find this defence, though the document itself has been removed.

I am not writing this post to preach about the merits of the white-privilege-awareness industry. They’re a group of people with strange ideas that, like most ideas, probably have some grain of truth to them. No, the reason I’m writing this post is to point out that, as far as defenses go, this one is an absolute disaster. On the one hand, it is a great defense because it creates a straw man charge and refutes it… With a sneering scare-quoted dollop of ad hominem on top. That’s good stuff.

But it also admits the very thing it wishes to deny. Compare:

No DPI official has… encouraged anyone in any school to use the wristbands as ‘reported’


Subsequently, that entire resource packet was posted to the VISTA website

Rule 1: admit nothing!!! Do they not know this?

The “VISTA” website of which they speak is actually the DPI’s VISTA website. It’s where you find this defense, written by DPI officials. But how did these materials get on the DPI website if not by the acts of a DPI official? And isn’t this obviously encouragement?

But now we see that I am wrong, and that this is actually a stunningly adept defense. There is phrase used… “Encouraged anyone in any school”. You might think that this means that no one associated with any school was encouraged to use the white privilege packet. But that is clearly not what it means at all, because as noted above, the posting of the materials to the website seems to qualify as “encouragement” on any account. What it actually means is that no encouragement took place in any school. The website is not a school.


Michigan teachers protest right-to-work bill

Michigan teachers walked out to protest a right-to-work law that will end automatic deductions to pay union dues. The bill passed the legislature and will be signed by Gov. Rick Snyder. Several districts that couldn’t find enough substitutes declared a “snow day.” An estimated 26,000 students missed class.

After Wisconsin’s teachers’ unions lost the right to collect dues from all teachers — and to negotiate for non-monetary issues — union membership fell by 30 percent.

Teacher Nancy Flanagan explains why she’s “stickin’ to the union.

No Child Left Behind waived away

Wisconsin and Washington received No Child Left Behind waivers today. That means Education Secretary Arne Duncan has waived federal education law for 26 states, reports the New York Times.

In just five months, the Obama administration has freed schools in more than half the nation from central provisions of the No Child Left Behind education law, raising the question of whether the decade-old federal program has been essentially nullified.

To qualify for waivers, states must adopt policies favored by the Education Department, such as evaluating teachers and schools on student achievement and other factors.

Virginia was the first state approved for a waiver that refused to adopt Common Core Standards.

For reform — and for teachers

Education reformers need to reach out to teachers, writes Fordham’s Mike Petrilli.

How can we continue to make the case for reform without alienating teachers, without turning them into the enemy, the problem, the object of our disdain?

“One way is to put teachers in charge of their own schools,” he writes. Let teachers become school leaders.

I don’t think this will appeal to many teachers. They want to teach, not deal with management hassles.

When Petrilli asked for input, I suggested that teachers need to know that reformers understand the challenges they face in the classroom and are proposing ways to help them do their jobs well. He writes:

Another way is to champion reforms that teachers do support. For instance, make it easier for educators to discipline unruly students, or to use “ability grouping” in their classrooms instead of mandating the nearly-impossible strategy of “differentiating instruction.”  In other words, remove the obstacles (often ideological in nature) that are getting in the way of teachers achieving success in their classrooms. . . . And get their backs when they are faced with ridiculous demands from parents or others.

Petrilli also sees non-union groups such as Teach Plus, the Association of American Educators, and Educators for Excellence as a way to give teachers an independent “voice” and ensure “they aren’t learning about reform solely through the filter of union rhetoric.”

I think education reformers need to listen to teachers about what they think would improve their schools and help more students learn.

Update: Self-pitying Tantrums Are a Poor Way for Educators To Win Friends, Influence People, writes Rick Hess. He quotes “venomous” comments in response to his column on Gov. Scott Walker’s recall victory in Wisconsin. “Which words or phrases showed a profound hatred for educators or public education?” he asks. “Because, honestly, when I went back and re-read it, I didn’t see ’em.”

Both sides of the ed reform debate need to “ease back from the self-righteousness,” urges Matthew DiCarlo on the Shanker Blog.

Men dominate the education reform debate, writes Nancy Flanagan. “Men are making the policy arguments and pronouncements, hosting the virtual communities and producing the media. Women are carrying out the policy orders, teaching kids to read using scripted programs and facing 36 students in their algebra classes.”  True?

Survey: Teachers’ unions lose support

Teachers unions are losing support, according to an annual survey by Harvard’s Program on Education Policy and Governance and Education Next. Only 22 percent of the public has a positive view of unions in 2012, down from 29 percent in 2011.  More striking, only 43 percent of teachers have a positive view, down from 58 percent the year before. Teachers holding a negative view nearly doubled to 32 percent from 17 percent in 2011.

Researchers ask:

“Some people say that teacher unions are a stumbling block to school reform. Others say that unions fight for better schools and better teachers. What do you think? Do you think teacher unions have a generally positive effect on schools, or do you think they have a generally negative effect?”

Respondents have five options: very positive, somewhat positive, neither positive nor negative, somewhat negative, and very negative. Many people choose the neutral option.

When people have just two choices on their assessment of union impact, 71 percent of teachers said unions had a positive impact. However, the public split down the middle on the either/or option: 51 percent said unions had a negative impact, while 49 percent said their effect was positive.

Gov. Scott Walker’s victory in the Wisconsin recall election is good news for schooling and a big loss for the state’s teachers’ unions, writes Rick Hess.

Public-sector unions also lost pension reform votes in San Jose and San Diego.

NEA spent $133 million to lobby, aid allies

The National Education Association spent $133 million on lobbying and supporting allies, reports Dropout Nation.

Barnett Berry’s Center for Teaching Quality collected $318,848 from the union; the progressive Economic Policy Institute got $255,000 and Al Sharpton’s National Action Network (“a leading advocate for the charter schools the NEA opposes so virulently,” notes DN) received $40,000.

The usual suspects are also on the list: Communities for Quality Education, which has long been subsidized by the NEA, collected $1 million in 2010-2011. Anti-testing group FairTest picked up $35,000 this time around. . . .  Meanwhile the NEA directly poured $43,000 into the Save Our Schools rally held this past July; this doesn’t include dollars poured in by state and local affiliates.

NEA President Dennis Van Roekel made $460,060, a 16 percent increase over the previous year; Lily Eskelson, was paid $371,904, a 14 percent increase.

The NEA collected $399 million in dues and other revenues in 2010-2011, nearly the same as the previous year, despite a 4 percent decline in membership.

Teachers’ unions are likely to lose members and dues in states that have passed anti-union measures. In Tennessee, which limited the union’s bargaining power, teachers are leaving the union.  Wisconsin’s teachers’ union was forced to lay off 40 percent of its staff.

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.