Wednesday, August 21, 2019

Dear Colleague,

Mike Antonucci wrote an article last month that should be heeded by any teacher who is planning to quit their union. He writes,

If a member decides to resign and revoke her dues authorization, and it is within the time window, she must send a written notice via U.S. Mail to CTA Member Services at the union’s headquarters in Burlingame, according to the application form.

But wait. According to a CTA handbook distributed to local affiliates throughout the state, a resigning member must make a drop request in writing and deliver it by U.S. Mail or in person to the local’s headquarters. The letter must contain a formal request to drop membership and an original signature.

Until this bit of union trickery is resolved, we are suggesting that, should you decide you want out, use the form we have linked on the CTEN home page and send copies by certified mail, return receipt requested to:
·         your local union
·         CTA Member Services at 1705 Murchison Drive, Burlingame, CA 94010
·         your school district

There are other bits of union chicanery that Antonucci includes in his piece. To read it, go here.

In other union news, the Pacific Legal Foundation in partnership with the Liberty Justice Center has filed a lawsuit which has several components. It primarily concerns itself with SB 866 – a California state law signed the same day that the Janus decision was made. The law specifies that public employers cannot “deter or discourage public employees, or applicants, from becoming or remaining members of employee organizations.” The bill also prohibits employers from disclosing the date/time/place of the new employee orientation “to anyone other than employees, the exclusive bargaining representative, and a vendor who is contracted to provide a service at the new employee orientation.”
It forbids the university from talking to them about their union membership, dues, or even the Janus decision. Enter UC San Diego employees Mike Jackson and Tory Smith who, after the Janus ruling was handed down, tried to exercise their rights by resigning from the Teamsters Union.

The union denied their demand, saying they were locked into membership until the collective bargaining agreement expires in 2022. And when Mike and Tory asked the university’s human resources department how to resign, they were told a California state law—a Gag Rule statute—expressly prohibits the university from talking to them about their constitutional rights related to union membership and dues.

To read more about the case, go here

In other union news, CTA took a huge loss when the California Faculty Association, which represents some 19,000 employees of the California State University system, ended its affiliation with both CTA and NEA after a 38-year relationship. Mike Antonucci writes,

There have been tensions between the two organizations in recent years concerning higher education representation on the state union’s governing bodies. CFA shared a single seat on CTA’s board of directors with the state union’s other higher education affiliate, the Community College Association. CFA is CTA’s second-largest affiliate, behind only United Teachers Los Angeles.

To read more about the CFA defection, go here.

PDK released the results of its yearly poll recently, and it seems that teachers are not collectively happy. From the summary of the report:

• 60% of teachers say they’re unfairly paid, and 55% say they’d vote to go on strike for higher pay.
• Pay isn’t the only concern. Seventy-five percent of teachers say the schools in their community are underfunded. Fifty-eight percent say they’d vote to strike for higher funding for school programs, and 52% say they’d vote to strike for greater teacher say in academic policies on standards, testing, and the curriculum. 
• Parents and the public overall stand with them; 74% of parents and 71% of all adults say they would support a strike by teachers in their community for higher pay. Even more — 83% of parents and 79% of all adults — say they’d support teachers striking for a greater voice in academic policies. Similarly high percentages of teachers say they would support teachers in their own communities if they went on strike for any of these reasons. 

However, the problem with this – and many surveys – is that they assume those questioned have enough information to give an informed response. For example, how many of those polled know that for the 2016–17 school year, the average salary of full-time public school teachers was $58,950 in the U.S. But this figure excludes hefty benefits like health insurance, paid leave, and pensions. According to the Department of Labor, such perks comprise an average of 33 percent of total compensation for public school teachers. When they are added in, teachers’ average annual compensation jumps to $87,854. And even that amount does not include unfunded pension liabilities and certain post-employment benefits like health insurance, which are not measured by the Department of Labor.

Additionally, how many of those polled know how much K-12 educators actually work compared to other professionals? According to the U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics, teachers work 1,398 hours per year on average, whereas lawyers put in 2,036 hours per annum, almost 50 percent more time on the job than teachers. Dentists (1,998 hours/year) and accountants (2,074 hours/year) also work many more hours than teachers.

To see the results of the PDK poll, go here. To get another take, go here.

Bill Evers, research fellow at Stanford University’s Hoover Institution, has written an alarming piece for The Wall Street Journal concerning California’s proposed “Ethnic Studies Model Curriculum.” The “guide,” written by an advisory board of teachers, academics and bureaucrats, is for teachers to use as a resource. A few examples:

…Capitalism is described as a “form of power and oppression,” alongside “patriarchy,” “racism,” “white supremacy” and “ableism.” Capitalism and capitalists appear as villains several times in the document.

Teachers are encouraged to cite the biographies of “potentially significant figures” such as Angela Davis, Frantz Fanon and Bobby Seale. Convicted cop-killers Mumia Abu-Jamal and Assata Shakur are also on the list.

Also, many Jewish groups were outraged that the curriculum supported the BDS (boycott, divestment and sanctions) movement, never mentioned that anti-Semitism has been a problem, and gave scant mention to the Holocaust.

Well, the good news is that enough sensible people were outraged, and deluged the state board of education with complaints. The leaders then admitted the curriculum “falls short and needs to be substantially redesigned.”

To read Evers’ WSJ piece, go here. On the decision to reevaluate, the Jewish Journal weighed in here and the Los Angeles Times here.

Kerry McDonald, senior education fellow at the Foundation for Economic Education, is a big proponent of “unschooling,” which opposes the traditional public school model. Her preferred method of school choice is to home school, which is how she and her husband educate their four children. In a recent interview with The Epoch Times, she talks about the first time she walked into a homeschooling situation and found it enchanting.

This was in stark contrast to a student-teaching practicum I was doing that same semester. There I experienced a local public elementary school with its forced socialization, command-and-control environment, age-segregated classrooms with a static handful of teachers, and disconnection from the larger world. I never realized this contrast, of course, because my childhood had been spent in public schools; but witnessing these two entirely different learning environments for the first time triggered my fascination with alternatives to mass schooling and education choice more broadly, and is what prompted me to attend graduate school in education policy at Harvard University.

To read more, go here

The new school year is a very busy time for teachers, and CTEN will do its best to keep up with post-Janus doings in addition to any other issues pertinent to education and teachers, and keep you informed as things happen. If you have any questions, or have experienced any problems because of your decision to leave your union, please let us know and we will do our best to help you in a timely manner. We will also be able to share your concerns with other teachers across the state. And talking about sharing, please pass this email along to your colleagues and encourage them to join us.

Also, anyone wishing to donate to CTEN can do so very simply through check, money order or PayPal -  As a non-profit, we exist only through the generosity of others. Thanks, as always. And happy new (school) year!

Larry Sand
CTEN President

Wednesday, July 17, 2019

Dear Colleague,

Released in late June, an important poll commissioned by the Teacher Freedom Project revealed that 77 percent of teachers have never even heard of the Janus decision, now a year old, and 52 percent don’t know that they are no longer required to pay a union to keep their teaching job. The survey also shows that a sizable number of teachers are uninformed about the source of many of their professional benefits. Almost a third think that they would not be covered by their union’s collective bargaining unit contract should they quit. Almost a quarter think they’d lose their tenure protections, and 18 percent think they’d lose their health insurance – all untrue.

All in all, the teachers unions are in pretty good shape one year out. While the fee payers – those teachers who had quit the union but were still forced to pay dues – are gone, few others have left the union fold. According to Mike Antonucci, the National Education Association has actually had a one percent increase in membership in calendar 2018. Part of the reason for this is that, suspecting the Supreme Court would decide for worker freedom, the unions made a concerted effort to hang on to members by trying to get them to “recommit” prior to the Janus decision.

But the unions shouldn’t get too cocky, as Janus is just a year old. While Michigan became a right-to-work state in 2012, the law didn’t go into effect until the end of 2013; there was no rush to the exits there either, but rather a steady membership loss over time. In fact, in the ensuing years, the Michigan Education Association has experienced a 28 percent decline in membership.

In California, to make sure that all teachers are aware of their options, the California Policy Center, the Mackinac Center for Public Policy, the Freedom Foundation,, For Kids and Country,, the California Teachers Empowerment Network, et al. are working diligently to get the facts to teachers about union membership.

As Colin Sharkey, executive director of the Association of American Educators, notes, “Until every educator in the country knows their rights and options, we cannot know the full impact of Janus v. AFSCME. For now, we must keep working to provide as many educators as possible with clear and straightforward information about their newly restored rights.”

To see all the results of the Teacher Freedom Project poll, go here.

The yearly NEA Representative Assembly gathering wrapped up a week and a half ago, and it was the typical rah-rah affair, with all the usual suspects lined up for union vitriol. NEA president Lily Eskelsen GarcĂ­a went off on Trump, DeVos, the Kochs, the Waltons, billionaires, privatization, etc.

The Koch Brothers will never take their case to the public because the public’s not stupid. They have to hide their agenda. Because their agenda is profoundly un-democratic; and un-American.

They want a permanent and institutionalized system where mega-wealth and mega-corporations rule. Donald Trump was not their favorite candidate four years ago, but he is now. He’s delivered their tax cuts; he’s accepted their preferred list of corporate-friendly judges; and he’s placed their cronies in key government positions expressly to sabotage agencies that were set up to protect consumers, the environment, health care, workers, and, of course, education.

(In reality, Trump is anything but the libertarian Kochs’ “favorite candidate.” They have said that they will give the president no support in 2020. More here.)

To read all of the NEA president’s comments, go here.

Additionally, many of the Democratic presidential candidates were on hand, competing to get the union’s endorsement. The Q&A, all available online, went on for over two hours.

To watch the candidates’ forum, go here. To read a synopsis by Chalkbeat’s Matt Barnum, go here.

And speaking of the NEA RA, it has been just 10 years since Bob Chanin, 41-year general counsel for the National Education Association, gave a legendary talk announcing his retirement. For the first part of his 25-minute speech, Chanin was pleasant enough, recalling with fondness his time as NEA’s top lawyer. But at 15:30 “Uncle Bob” switched gears and started lobbing grenades at perceived NEA enemies, referring to them as “conservative and right-wing bastards.” 

To watch the video, go here.

On the school choice front, there has been some positive movement. After a bloody battle with the state’s teachers unions, the West Virginia legislature finally agreed to allow charter schools in the Mountain State, albeit slowly and carefully. The law, signed by Governor Jim Justice in late June, allows for three charter schools initially, then three more in 2023, then three more every three years.

Not surprisingly, even the very moderate nature of the bill was too much for both the American Federation of Teachers-West Virginia and the West Virginia Education Association. Both unions sent letters to Justice, asking him to veto the bill. AFT-WV President Fred Albert claims,

While this legislation contains some provisions that educators and parents would support, those positive elements were needlessly lumped together with a measure to create charter schools in a politically-motivated and cynical attempt to force lawmakers to vote against the will of their constituents.

To learn more about the West Virginia legislation, go here.

Also concerning school choice, the Supreme Court has announced it will take up the Espinoza vs. Montana Department of Revenue case which centers on educational choice tax credits in Montana. The case could establish that religious schools cannot be excluded from school choice programs per anti-Catholic “Blaine Amendments,” which were established in 37 states beginning in the 19th century.

The case is being litigated by the Institute for Justice which states,

Blaine Amendments are controversial state constitutional provisions rooted in 19th century anti-Catholic bigotry. Their purpose was to prevent the government from funding Catholic schools. Today, opponents of educational choice employ Blaine Amendments—found in 37 state constitutions—as blunt weapons with which they attempt to block modern educational choice programs. However, IJ is pursuing a legal strategy to eliminate these obstacles to educational freedom. This opportunity arises from the U.S. Supreme Court’s decision last summer in Trinity Lutheran Church of Columbia, Inc. v. Comer. In that case, the Court stated that excluding qualified institutions—like schools—from public benefit programs solely because of their religious affiliation is “odious to our Constitution . . . and cannot stand.” IJ believes this opinion is a death sentence to Blaine Amendments, which have been invoked by teachers’ unions and their allies for decades to try and prevent choice programs from spreading and generating widespread reform. IJ’s cases in Montana, Maine, and Washington State are designed to drive our arguments up to the U.S. Supreme Court and to vindicate the right of all parents to access meaningful educational options.

To learn more about the case, go here.

A new study shows that school choice programs reduce crime. In the Washington Examiner, the Reason Foundation’s Corey DeAngelis writes, “Researchers found that entering a charter school in North Carolina in 9th grade reduced the rate at which students were convicted of felonies by 36% and the rate at which they were convicted of misdemeanors as adults by 38%, compared to their peers in traditional public schools.”

As DeAngelis notes, the results of the study are similar to five other studies on the subject and reasons,

Traditional public schools hold significant monopoly power because of residential assignment and funding through property taxes. Families upset with the quality of their public school only have three limited options: They can purchase an expensive new house that is assigned to a better public school, pay for a private school out of pocket while still paying for the public school through property taxes, or complain to the school leaders and hope things change.

Because these options are expensive and inefficient, there is not a lot of pressure for residentially-assigned public schools to provide the best character education possible. In contrast, private and charter schools must cater to the needs of families if they wish to remain open.

School choice puts power into the hands of families. And families usually know what’s best for their own kids.

To read more, go here.

To be fully informed about the new Sex Education Framework in California, a great one-stop-shop is a set of five very brief videos made by southern California school teacher and school board member Brenda Lebsack. Among other things, one video includes curricular samples and another explains what parents and community members must do to fight back if they are not happy with how their local schools are dealing with the subject.

To view these very informative videos, go here.

And finally, as you well know, data and solid information are very useful in scoring political points and making cases for various causes. To that end, CTEN has a fact sheet on our website which has been updated – all with original sources. To see it, go here.

If you have information that counters what’s there or would like to see something added, please let us know.

As always, thanks for your continuing interest and support.

Larry Sand
CTEN President

Wednesday, June 19, 2019

Dear Colleague,

As Democratic contenders vie to secure the teacher union endorsement, they constantly try to outdo each other. In April, we reported that Kamala Harris wants to give every teacher in the country a $13,500 raise. Now Bernie Sanders is attempting to one-up her. As CNN reports, he has “a comprehensive 10-point agenda that calls for the end of for-profit charter schools, creates a salary floor for public school teachers, guarantees free school meals for all students and expands after school and summer school programs.” He also thinks that funding inequities need to be addressed.

However Just Facts’ James Agresti has many issues with the Sanders plan. For example,

Sanders also claims that “in America today, most school districts are funded out of local property tax revenue, resulting in unconscionable inequalities.” In reality, data from the U.S. Department of Education shows that only 36.4% of all public school revenues come from local property taxes.

Sanders’ statement was true more than half a century ago, but since then, state governments have paid a growing share of the education expenses of low-income school districts in order to equalize their funding with higher-income districts.

Consequently, school districts with high portions of non-white students have spent about the same amount per student as districts with mostly white students since the early 1970s. This is confirmed through studies conducted by the left-leaning Urban Institute, the U.S. Department of Education, Ph.D. economist Derek Neal from the University of Chicago, and the conservative Heritage Foundation.

To read the CNN piece, go here. To get Agresti’s take, go here.

Teachers carrying guns in school? It’s a very controversial subject. In Florida last month, more than a year after the deadly shooting in Parkland, Florida’s governor signed a bill that allows teachers to pack heat at school. There are stipulations: School districts must approve and it is voluntary. Participants are required to undergo a background check, a psychiatric evaluation, and attend a gun-safety training course with a sheriff’s office.

While many think this is a terrible idea, John Lott, president of the Crime Prevention Research Center, thinks teacher carry is important. Citing a new study which looked at all the school shootings of any type in the United States from 2000 through 2018, he found,

During these years, Utah, New Hampshire, Rhode Island, and parts of Oregon allowed all permitted teachers and staff to carry, without any additional training requirements.   Other states leave it to the discretion of the local superintendent or school board. As of December 2018, more than 30 percent of Texas school districts let teachers/staff have guns. And in September 2018, Ohio teachers were carrying in over 200 school districts.

Carrying in a school is no different than in a grocery store, movie theater, or restaurant.   Seventeen million Americans have concealed handgun permits — which is 8.5 percent of the adult population outside of permit-unfriendly California and New York. Nobody knows whether the person next to them might have a gun, unless it happens to be needed.

We found 306 cases of gunshots on school property, 48 of which were suicides. Not counting suicides, 193 people died and 267 were injured in these incidents. Four cases were simply instances of accidental gunshots by police officers.

The rate of shootings and people killed by them has increased significantly since 2000. The yearly average number of people who died between 2001 and 2008 versus 2009 and 2018 has doubled (regardless of whether one excludes gang fights and suicides).

This increase has occurred entirely among schools that don’t let teachers carry guns.

To read more about the Florida law, go here. To learn more about Lott’s study, go here.

Mike Antonucci has written an informative piece on education spending. Using Census Bureau figures, he explains that in fiscal 2017,

The United States spent $610 billion on K-12 public education and an additional $84 billion of debt and capital outlay, for a total of $694 billion. California spent $76.5 billion and had $70.5 billion in outstanding debt. Los Angeles Unified spent $8.7 billion and had $10.5 billion in outstanding debt.

To make those numbers a little more manageable: The average spent per pupil in the U.S. was $12,201, in California, $12,143, and in Los Angeles, $13,549.

On average, the U.S. spent $7,053 per pupil on employee salaries and $2,972 on benefits, for a total of $10,025 in compensation. That amounts to 82.2 percent of every dollar spent.

To learn more, go here.

Also on education spending, all of California had its eyes on Los Angeles a couple of weeks ago, where voters went to the polls to vote on a parcel tax measure put on the ballot by the Los Angeles Unified School District. LAUSD and the United Teachers of Los Angeles were fairly confident of Measure EE’s passage, primarily because people generally sympathized with teachers during their six-day strike in January, and a recent poll showed that 82 percent of Angelinos think we need to invest more in education. Additionally, while the final numbers will not be released till next month, the measure’s proponents outspent the naysayers by a wide margin, with unions spending very heavily. UTLA alone donated $500,000 to the cause.

But the measure, which needed a two-thirds majority to pass, didn’t even come close. In fact, it only received 46.2 percent approval.

To learn more, go here.

On a similar note, Mike Antonucci wades through “31 years of California school funding claims.” His conclusion: “If we have learned anything in the past 31 years, it is that the “crisis in school funding” is an eternal one — and completely unaffected by how much money we spend.”

To read Antonucci’s piece, go here.

Some good news on the school choice front. Charter schools can breathe a little easier for now as two bills that were poised to become law were deep-sixed in the California legislature. AB 1506 would have frozen the number of charter schools, allowing only those in existence at the end of this year. A new school could open only if another closed. Additionally, the more draconian SB 756 would have placed a moratorium on any new schools whatsoever until Jan. 1, 2022.

But, two other bills, AB 1505 and AB 1507, are still very much alive. AB 1505 would knock out the appeals process. As things stand now, if a charter is turned down by a local school district, it can appeal to the county and then the state. AB 1507 would make it difficult for a charter that is having trouble finding a facility to locate in a neighboring district. These bills both passed in the State Assembly and now continue on to the Senate. The recently released report from California’s Charter Task Force, made up of charter, district and union leaders, was mixed on these issues – it recommended preserving the appeals process, but asserted that districts should be prohibited from authorizing charter schools located outside district boundaries.

To read more, go here.

The Janus case was decided almost a year ago, freeing teachers and other public employees from having to pay money to a union as a condition of employment. But the lawsuits haven’t stopped. In addition to some teachers challenging the brief window period many unions have set up for them to quit, other teachers are suing for “retroactive relief.”

A class-action lawsuit filed on the behalf of nine government worker plaintiffs and a class of more than 2,700 workers seeks to force unions to refund hundreds of millions of dollars in agency fees paid by thousands of workers nationwide prior to the Janus ruling.

"We're putting the band back together," Liberty Justice Center President Patrick Hughes told Fox News. "The argument is once something is deemed to be unconstitutional [in the civil context] -- agency fees -- then they're deemed to be retroactively unconstitutional. ... We're taking the position that those fees should be refunded to those nonmembers."

To read more, go here.

If you are still using a school email to receive these newsletters, please consider sending us your personal email address. More and more school districts are blocking CTEN. In any event, if you enjoy these letters and find them to be informative, please pass them along to your colleagues and encourage them to join us.

Also, anyone wishing to donate to CTEN can do so very simply through check, money order or PayPal -  As a non-profit, we exist only through the generosity of others. Thanks, as always. Enjoy your summer!

Larry Sand
CTEN President