Category Archives: NEA

WHEN #EDUCATION #UNIONS BETRAY MEMBERS

This is a guest post by Karen Schroeder of Advocates for Academic Freedom.

Embracing corporate influence and policies of greed, the National Education Association and the American Federation of Teachers betray teachers and their students. Unions and their affiliates overcharged teachers for health insurance and accepted corporate money to wield political influence. Now they accept money to support the unpopular Common Core Standards.

Governor Walker’s ACT 10 exposed the Wisconsin Education Association Council for negotiating contracts which made Wisconsin Education Association Trust the sole provider of health care for many Wisconsin school districts.

Once given protected access to health care premiums, WEA Trust gained tax dollars by overcharging for those health benefits. Those districts which enacted ACT 10 could reinstate free-market principles to balance their budgets, hire additional teachers, and decrease class sizes while providing quality health insurance for teachers.

Unions once had value when they improved working conditions for teachers and set professional standards. When their focus changed, making them complicit in the destruction of America’s educational system, it was time to leave the union.

Teachers of the Kenosha Education Association did just that. They voted against re-certifying the union as a bargaining entity. Yet, 37% of the Kenosha teachers voted to remain with the union. Did pressure from the Gates Foundation influence these teachers?

AFT President Randi Weingarten admits to the Huffington Post that pressure from having accepted Gates’ dollars may soon force rejection of additional dollars.

NEA and AFT’s acceptance of millions of dollars from the Bill and Melinda Gates Foundation to support implementation of Common Core Standards and to support the controversial teacher assessment programs is proving detrimental to the integrity of the profession.

NEA members indicate that many had NOT been surveyed, that many did NOT like Common Core Standards, and that many believe their union is NOT representing teachers or the best practices for their profession. Yet, an NEA Today article titled “10 Things You Should Know about the Common Core claimed that 75% of NEA members supported Common Core.   Gates sure bought a lot of influence for his seven-million-dollar donation while creating a chasm between union leaders and their members.

A National Public Radio article quotes AFT President Weingarten as supporting Common Core but calling for a pause in using the results of the testing because “teachers have not had enough time or help understanding the new standards and how to change how they teach.” Could this tacit support occur because AFT received more than eleven million dollars from the Bill and Melinda Gates Foundation?

As a teacher, I am appalled that a union leader would blame teachers for the shortcomings of Common Core Standards. What retraining is needed? My teacher-preparation education made me competent in my subject(s). The substance of math, science, and the English language has not changed significantly for centuries.

Basically, teaching methods available today were used by Plato and Socrates. Yes, technology has made those methods easier and often more fun, but little additional training should be necessary.

Apparently, teachers can no longer rely on their unions to place the best interests of children, teachers, and the profession above an appetite for greed, power, and influence. Preserving the integrity of the educational profession rests with teachers who must continue resisting obligations to those unions which fail to serve their members.

http://www.eauclairejournal.com/news/story.phtml/5B88F64C/news/walker_exposes_misuse_of_education_funds/archive/

http://www.weac.org/member_benefits/WEA_Trust.aspx

https://www.nationalreview.com/sites/default/files/nrdpdf/20131014%20_0.pdf

http://www.greenbaypressgazette.com/article/20110216/GPG0101/110216041/

http://www.wiseye.org/videoplayer/vp.html?sid=10781 hearing testimony at 29:48-30:44

http://blogs.edweek.org/teachers/living-in-dialogue/2013/03/this_week_aft_president_randi.html

http://www.huffingtonpost.com/mercedes-schneider/nea-aft-common-core-and-v_b_4252679.html?utm_hp_ref=politics&ir=Politics

http://www.gatesfoundation.org/How-We-Work/Quick-Links/Grants-Database#q/k=NEA grant amounts

http://stateimpact.npr.org/ohio/2013/05/13/aft-president-randi-weingarten-explains-how-she-would-teach-the-common-core/

http://www.gatesfoundation.org/How-We-Work/Quick-Links/Grants-Database#q/k=AFT AFT grant amounts

http://schools.nyc.gov/documents/d75/math/Workshop%20model.pdf

http://www.knewton.com/flipped-classroom/

Karen Schroeder is President of Advocates for Academic Freedom, a member of the Wisconsin Educational Communications Board, an experienced public school teacher, and an educational consultant. Karen can be reached at kpfschroeder@centurylink.net or by calling715-234-5072.

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Republican teacher-turned-lawmaker sues Missouri school district after being fired over unpaid leave dispute

We reported on this story back in January. It appears there has been an update. This is cross-posted from EAGNews.

By Ben Velderman
EAGnews.org

ST. CHARLES, Mo. – High school teacher-turned-lawmaker Bryan Spencer was officially fired by Missouri’s Francis Howell School District earlier this week.

But that doesn’t mean the long-running dispute between Spencer and his former employer over his unpaid leave rights is settled.

Spencer spent 22 years with the district as a high school teacher, before getting elected to the Missouri House of Representatives the last November.

School leaders have consistently denied the veteran teacher’s request for unpaid leave from his job while he serves in the state legislature.

The school board took things a step further on Monday night and voted 5-2 to officially fire Spencer.

The board determined Spencer had violated his teaching contract with the district “by refusing to perform his duties” since early January, which is when his legislative term began, STLToday.com reports.

On Thursday, Spencer responded by filing a lawsuit against the school district in St. Charles County Circuit Court. In his complaint, Spencer describes the school board’s decision as “arbitrary and capricious,” and a violation of his constitutional rights to free speech and to seek and hold elective office, reports STLToday.com.

The crux of Spencer’s argument is that the district is discriminating against him because he is a Republican. Spencer notes that the district has routinely granted unpaid leave to officials of the local teachers union to tend to union business, which often benefits the Democratic Party.

“The board president has said the union officials are different because they work full time on education and interact often with the district,” the news site reports.

If the district had granted Spencer an unpaid leave of absence, he would not have received any of his salary, and he would have had to shoulder the costs for any job-related benefits he received.

An unpaid leave would have allowed Spencer to rejoin the district at a higher “step” on the salary schedule than when he left, the news site notes.

Mostly, the unpaid leave would have simply allowed Spencer to resume his teaching career with the district after his legislative career ends.

It was a minor issue that’s quickly becoming a major legal expense for the district, as the controversy is sorted out by the courts.

As one Facebook commentator notes, “Granting the leave would have cost the district nothing. Now, no matter which side prevails, this will cost the district a bunch of money. Being a resident and taxpayer in the Howell district, I believe that the board members who voted ‘no leave’ should pay the legal fees out of their own pocket. I pay taxes to help educate the kids, not to waste money.”

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Missouri Teacher Turned Republican State Representative Locked in Battle With His School District

Bryan Spencer was elected to represent the people of West St. Charles County and Eastern Warren County last November.  Instead of being able to focus on legislative priorities in Jefferson City, the Missouri state capitol, he has to fight a battle with the Francis Howell School District.

Spencer decided to run for office after redistricting from the 2010 census due to request from parents, former student, colleagues, and members of community service/political/religious organizations encouraged him to run.  Before filing, he filled out a personal day form to take a day away from school to file for office.  He then consulted with his principal at Francis Howell North High School.  The principal explained that there had been other teachers that have filed for political offices and were not successful.  Spencer was wished the best of luck and told that it would be a great learning experience for him.

After winning the primary election, Spencer thought it would be good to ask for an unpaid leave of absence in case he won the general election. The Francis Howell School Board denied the request simply stating that they had reviewed the request and the request was denied.  There was no specific reasoning given for their denial. Spencer went on to win the November general election. Once again, he went to his school board and asked for an unpaid leave of absence.  This time Spencer listed precedent when other teachers have been granted leaves of absences for a variety of reasons.  The school board once again denied his request.

One might ask why should the district accommodate Spencer? The school district has granted numerous unpaid leaves for various reasons in the past. Most interestingly, the Missouri State NEA President is Chris Guinther. According to her biography on the MNEA website, Guinther is from the Francis Howell School District, and according to Spencer, she is currently on an unpaid leave of absence.  She has been on a leave of absence since 2001.  Spencer also claims that the current NEA President of the district’s local chapter, Anita Miller, is on an unpaid leave of absence. One would assume what is fair for the NEA is surely fair for an elected representative of the people.  There have been many teachers on leave for a variety of reasons.

On January 17 the Francis Howell School District had a closed door meeting to discuss the future of Spencer’s employment with the school district. Shortly after the meeting, Spencer received a letter from the district stating that he was in breach of his contract for excessive absenteeism. The district is currently pursuing a due process hearing for tenured termination. There is also a risk that the school district may pursue filing charges against Spencer with the Missouri Department of Elementary and Secondary Education (DESE). Depending on DESE’s response, Spencer risks losing his teaching certification with the state of Missouri.

To further complicate matters, Spencer could be in violation of the law. Missouri law states that a person cannot collect two paychecks from the government. Because he is fighting for the unpaid leave, Spencer has not voluntarily terminated his contract with the district. He has stopped any direct deposit of his salary, and he is not collecting his paycheck in any form.

Probably the saddest part of all of this is that Spencer was inducted into the Francis Howell Hall of Fame in the spring of 2011. Spencer has taught for twenty two years, all of which have been spent with the Francis Howell School District.

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The NEA Donates $15 Million to Partisan Politics

The Association of American Educators,  the national non-union professional educators organization recommended by Conservative Teachers of America, recently published a list of the donations of the NEA to partisan political organizations. How many of your colleagues that join the NEA because they “need insurance” do not know this? Take a minute and share this list with them. Oh, and by the way, the AAE does not donate any money to partisan groups. It’s probably one of the reasons they are able to offer twice the liability insurance the NEA offers.

AFL-CIO – $1.15 million

Alliance for Justice – $5,000

America Votes – $376,100

America Works – $250,000

American Bridge 21st Century – $200,000

American Constitution Society – $10,000

American Sustainable Business Council Action Fund – $15,000

Asian American Justice Center – $10,000

Asian Pacific American Labor Alliance – $5,000

Be the Change – $100,000

Board of Hispanic Caucus Chairs – $10,000

California Community Foundation – $6,000

Campaign for America’s Future – $20,000

Center for American Progress – $35,000

Center for Economic Organizing – $12,800

Center for Teacher Leadership – $63,178

Center for Teaching Quality – $120,767

Central Intercollegiate Athletic Association – $50,000

Citizens Helping Heroes – $10,000

Citizens for Tax Justice – $15,000

Committee for Charlotte 2012 – $250,000

Committee for Education Funding – $17,713

Committee on States – $25,000

Congressional Black Caucus Foundation, Inc. – $70,000

Congressional Hispanic Caucus Institute – $55,000

Council of State Governments – $6,000

Daily Kos – $30,000

Democracy Alliance – $235,000

Democratic GAIN – $10,000

Economic Policy Institute – $250,000

Educating Maryland Kids – $200,000

Education Writers Association – $10,500

Edward M. Kennedy Institute for the United States Senate – $200,000

Excelencia in Education – $10,000

Fair Districts Now – $478,000

Fair Elections Legal Network – $50,000

Gay Lesbian and Straight Education Network – $7,500

Good Jobs First – $15,000

Great Lakes Center for Education Research and Practice – $250,000

Health Care for America Now! – $125,000

HEROS, Inc. – $100,000

Hip Hop Caucus Education Fund – $25,000

Idahoans for Responsible Education Reform – $1,042,000

Initiative for Responsible Investment – $5,000

Japanese American Citizens League – $5,000

Jump$tart Coalition for Personal Financial Literacy – $9,300

Kansas Values Institute – $49,950

Keep It Local North Dakota – $135,000

Lawyers Committee for Civil Rights Under Law – $25,000

Leadership Conference on Civil Rights – $5,000

Learning First Alliance – $91,200

Learning Forward – $25,000

Marylanders for Marriage Equality – $50,000

MediaMatters – $100,000

Mexican American Legal Defense and Educational Fund – $10,000

Montanans for Fiscal Accountability – $25,555

Moving South Dakota Forward – $225,000

NAACP – $11,000

National Action Network – $25,000

National Association of Latino Elected and Appointed Officials Education Fund – $5,000

National Black Justice Coalition – $20,000

National Coalition on Black Civic Participation – $5,000

National Conference of State Legislatures – $31,385

National Council for Accreditation of Teacher Education – $202,646

National Hispanic Leadership Institute – $25,000

National Public Pension Coalition – $135,000

National Women’s Law Center – $10,000

Netroots Nation – $15,000

New Hampshire Unity Table Fund – $50,000

Ohio Democratic Party – $150,000

Organizations Concerned About Rural Education – $5,000

Opportunity to Learn Action Fund – $300,000

Parent Teacher Home Visit Project – $58,353

Partnership for 21st Century Skills – $35,000

Patriot Majority PAC – $100,000

People for the American Way – $135,000

Progressive Majority – $50,284

Project Love Remember the Children Foundation – $250,000

Project New West – $140,000

Protect Maine Votes – $81,500

Public Education Defense Fund – $1 million

Quality Education and Jobs – $50,000

Republican Main Street Partnership – $25,000

Ripon Society – $10,000

Robert Russa Moton Museum – $50,000

SEIU – $15,333

Taxpayers in Support of Public Education – $30,000

TIDES Foundation – $100,000

University of Colorado Boulder Sponsored Project – $250,000

U.S. Hispanic Leadership Institute – $100,000

Voces de la Frontera – $23,515

Washington, DC Martin Luther King, Jr. National Memorial Project Foundation – $166,666

We Are Ohio – $4,568,000

Wellstone Action – $30,586

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2012 NEA Convention: Membership Declines & Hyper-Partisanship

We wanted to cross-post this piece from the Association of American Educator’s (AAE) blog. For those that are not familiar with the AAE, they are a non-partisan, non-union alternative to the National Education Association. It is our opinion that the AAE is the organization for education professionals. The AAE offers dues that are $15 a month, no donations to any political cause, and liability insurance that surpasses that provided by the NEA.

While most Americans were enjoying a festive Independence Day last week, the National Education Association was holding their annual conference in Washington, D.C. Beaten down after another solid year of negative press, declining membership, and legislative and legal battles, the NEA convention took on a somber and partisan tone in 2012.

The convention was meant to be a rallying cry for union members as the NEA tried to create an atmosphere resembling a political party convention complete with theme music and intense cheering. Despite best efforts, the conference was noticeably lacking delegates and talk immediately turned to harsh budget realities.

NEA Secretary-Treasurer Becky Pringle predicted an even more challenging time in the years ahead calling budget numbers “devastating.” Projected losses total 287,000 active teachers and 21,000 additional personnel over the 2010-14 school years. The numbers amount to a $65 million budget reduction over that same time period, undoubtedly leading to staff reductions and declining political power.

In light of the upcoming election and the union-crippling legislation in states across the country, the speeches at the convention were meant to rally the members in attendance to stay strong despite the obvious setbacks. One of the more partisan speeches came from NEA Executive Director John Stocks who called NEA members “Social Justice Patriots,” according to the union-watchdog Education Intelligence Agency. Stocks said union members’ roles should be to fight “opponents of the DREAM Act and voter ID laws, CEOs who make too much, and big corporations.”

The NEA’s most high-profile guest was Vice President Joe Biden, who was sent in place of President Obama. Vice President Biden mainly stuck to the union staples, including expressing support for their collective bargaining plight and accusing Governor Mitt Romney of not supporting public education. After some grumblings from delegates about his no-show status, President Obama did call in to thunderous applause stating, “The folks on the other side, they want to take us back to the policies that didn’t work in the last decade, they want us to go back to a policy that just does big tax cuts for the wealthiest, [to] cut education spending, cut investments in all the things that help us grow.”

Following the President’s call, NEA President Dennis Van Roekel promised that the union would put its full support behind the president’s re-election: “We believe in you, Mr. President, and we’re behind you all the way.”

Despite the mass applause for candidates and partisan speakers, news broke that Republican and independent teachers among the delegation were expressing frustration with the hyper-partisan tone of the convention. In interviews with The Associated Press, dozens of teachers said they felt pressure from union leaders to support Obama’s re-election — and felt marginalized when they wouldn’t. Some teachers said they were so worried about retribution from their colleagues that they wouldn’t provide their names for publication in newspapers.

Delegate teacher Maureen van Wagner expressed her concern to the media. “What I don’t like is the harassment going on for people to be an ‘EFO’ — an educator for Obama.” Other teachers were offended that NEA leaders had been urging members to hold house parties to educate their friends about why President Obama deserves a second term.

In conjunction with their commitment to another Obama endorsement, the NEA approved a series of controversial measures. Among their many policy recommendations, NEA delegates considered resolutions opposing any policy of U.S. military action against Iran, an initiative to gather information on groups that “discourage NEA membership,” and a failed effort to recommend the ousting of reform-minded Secretary of Education Arne Duncan.

Information from the convention continues to surface following an eventful week. Be sure to read the AAE blog this week for the latest developments. As NEA Vice President Lily Eskelsen stated, “Times have been bad before, but they’ve never been this bad.”

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