Around the Horn*

     MICHIGAN: A tea party group in Michigan’s Livingston County is attempting to recruit candidates to run for area school boards. The group wants to prevent the states largest teachers union – the Michigan Education Association – from electing union-friendly candidates who use their positions to push the MEA’s agenda.
     “For a number of years, the (MEA) has had a strategy of taking over local school boards,” Wes Nakagiri told the Daily Press and Argus. “Rather than improving student education, their primary focus has been increasing (the) compensation of their union members. We are looking for citizens whose first priority is student academic performance.”
     That should be music to the ears of Livingston County’s parents and taxpayers.
    CALIFORNIA: The California Teachers Association is “giving $1.5 million … to Gov. Jerry Brown’s effort to raise taxes,” reports the Capitol Alert.
    While that’s a large chunk of money, the union understands that if Brown’s tax increase passes in November, it will generate a lot of new revenue for California’s public schools. More teachers and more school employees means more dues dollars flowing into the CTA’s coffers.
     The union is operating on the principle that sometimes you’ve got to spend money to make money.
     ILLINOIS: A two-day teachers strike accomplished what months of contract negotiations couldn’t for the Rockford Education Association. The union went on strike last Thursday and secured a new contract offer a day later.
     By rewarding the union’s bad behavior, the district has not only emboldened the REA to strike again during future contract disputes, but Illinois’ other teacher unions will see that a teachers’ strike is the quickest way of getting what they want. The Rockford school district has done taxpayers a tremendous disservice.

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Milwaukee teachers unions makes truly awful attempt to improve public relations

     Talk about a public relations stunt gone awry. 
     The Milwaukee Teachers Education Association (MTEA) is sponsoring a “Children’s Week” from April 22 through 29 in hopes of strengthening the bond between the community and the schools.
     To kick things off on a positive note, the union asked members to donate a week’s pay to the school system in order to “help reduce burgeoning class sizes,” reports the Journal Sentinel. Union leaders hoped MTEA’s generosity would inspire civic leaders and citizens to follow suit.
     But those plans came crashing down this week after MTEA members rejected the idea “by nearly a 3-to-2 margin,” the news site reports.
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Sweet reforms, Alabama

    Next Monday, an Alabama school board will decide the fate of Drew Faircloth and Alicia Brown, two elementary teachers who allegedly ridiculed a 10-year-old student who suffers from cerebral palsy.
    Melisha Salinas claims the two teachers not only mocked her son for drooling (something he has no control over), but barely spent any time trying to educate him.
     Acting on a tip from one of her son’s classmates, Salinas placed an audio recorder in her son’s wheelchair for three days. The 16 hours of recordings allegedly reveal multiple instances of the teachers verbally abusing her son, and only about 20 minutes of actual instruction time.
     The student “spent almost the entire day sitting in silence with no one speaking to him,” reports ABC News.
     Should the school board decide to fire Faircloth and Brown, the teachers would be able to appeal the decision.
     Now for the good part of the story: Due to recent reforms, the appeals process has been streamlined to two months. The previous system allowed appeals to drag on for two years or more, according to Craig Pouncey, chief of staff of the state Department of Education.
     Under Alabama’s new Students First Act, an appeal is determined by a retired judge, instead by an arbitrator, and limits the process to 60 days. This means means it’s easier and less expensive for Alabama schools to get rid of abusive teachers.
     This sad story might have a happy ending after all.
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Detroit students protest inadequate education

Excessive teacher absences, lack of homework is jeopardizing their futures
By Ben Velderman
EAG Communications
     DETROIT – According to students at Detroit Public Schools’ Frederick Douglass Academy, it’s become commonplace for large numbers of teachers to be absent at the same time, resulting in a teacher shortage. When that occurs, students are forced to spend their days lazing around the school gym or library instead of studying in the classroom.
     And when students do have class, they say homework is seldom assigned. One student claims he received an A in geometry, even though he ordered his dissertation online.
     “It was by default, just for showing up. It wasn’t because he earned an A,” the boy’s mother told
     While most kids might think it’s fun not having class or nightly homework, a group of Frederick Douglass Academy seniors knows the lack of a quality education is putting their futures in serious jeopardy.
     Last week, nearly 50 high school seniors staged a public protest outside the school.  
     “We’ve been wronged and disrespected and lied to and cheated,” senior Tevin Hill said.
     Hill explained he recently took a college math placement exam, only to realize how little he’s learned.
     “I literally couldn’t answer a question on there,” Hill told the Detroit News. “Right now, I’m not going to be as successful as I should be because I haven’t been properly taught.”
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Milwaukee teachers’ decision to put their own interests ahead of student needs proves EAG wrong

We thought union obstruction was the product of overbearing union bosses 

     MILWAUKEE – We’ve said it a thousand times: It is not teachers themselves who refuse to accept concessions to help their students, it’s the union bosses who run the show that are so stubborn.
     This week, 2,296 members of the Milwaukee Teachers Education Association proved us wrong when they selfishly rejected a proposal that would have saved teaching positions by essentially canceling most of their negotiated raise for the 2012-13 school year.
     Of the MTEA’s 3,931 members, only 1,635 were willing to sacrifice for their students, according to the Milwaukee Journal-Sentinel.
     “We had hoped to jump-start the bigger campaign with this collective bargaining contribution,” MTEA President Bob Peterson told the newspaper.
     The vote puts in jeopardy financial contributions school and union officials had hoped to secure from community leaders as part of the MPS Children’s Week campaign to maintain teaching positions amid continuing budget problems. The greedy teachers who voted against the proposal also complicated their district’s efforts to fulfill an unexpected $10 million payment to the city for employee pensions.
     We believe the vote total is a clear sign that most MPS educators are uninterested in helping to resolve the district’s financial troubles. It sends the message that teachers in Milwaukee subscribe to a me-first mentality, despite a $62,800 average annual salary – which is nearly twice the median household income in Milwaukee.
     MTEA members owe their community an explanation. The city’s residents deserve to know how the district is currently spending their tax dollars.
     That’s why EAG is compiling a report on the cost of collective bargaining in Milwaukee Public Schools. We’ve reviewed the MTEA contract in detail and will soon release a no-nonsense report on the amount district officials are forced to spend on various union perks contained in the document.
     We found automatic raises, unused sick day bonuses, payments for bus duty, and numerous other provisions that are both expensive and unnecessary, especially considering MTEA members’ uncooperative attitude.
     In June 2013, the MTEA contract will expire, and district officials will be free to use the tools provided by Gov. Scott Walker’s Act 10 reforms to cut the fat. They will finally be able to put the interests of students ahead of the district’s self-serving teachers.
     And we suspect that the public will stand behind them, even when their teachers don’t.
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Did Connecticut school fire parent union president due to her education reform activism?

By Ben Velderman
EAG Communications

     NEW HAVEN, Conn. – A day after hosting a pro-education reform rally at the state capitol, the president of the Connecticut Parents Union was fired from her job as a workshop presenter with New Haven Public Schools’ Head Start Program.
     CTPU President Gwen Samuel believes the local teachers union – the New Haven Federation of Teachers – is directly responsible for her firing, and says it is retaliation for bringing former D.C. Schools Chancellor Michelle Rhee to speak at the March 14 rally.
     Rhee gained national attention two years ago for firing hundreds of D.C. teachers for poor performance, and quickly became public enemy number one with the nation’s teacher unions – particularly NFT’s parent union, the American Federation of Teachers
     One day after the rally, Samuel received a letter from her employer – the Gesell Institute of Child Development – telling her she no longer had a job in New Haven schools’ Parent-Teacher Connection Program, which is funded by a Head Start Link grant.
     “We have been informed by New Haven Public Schools that your involvement with Head Start parents on a personal advocacy level is considered a conflict of interest and have been asked
to remove you from the Parent Teacher Connection Program, the March 15 termination letter reads.
     Samuel has been president of the Connecticut Parents Union since January 2011, long before she was hired as a parent educator last October. Samuel says the only thing that’s changed about her advocacy work is that it now has the endorsement of Rhee, which makes her firing appear politically motivated.

     The timing “is just too convenient,” Samuel tells EAG.
     “This was meant to intimidate parents from going against ‘the school agenda,’” Samuel says. “It was sent as a message to parents that, ‘If you try to help yourself and each other, we will get you.’”

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Illinois looks to Wisconsin Gov. Scott Walker for reforms

     Wisconsin Gov. Scott Walker’s willingness to address his state’s problems head-on is not only drawing the attention of education reformers, it’s attracting leaders from other states struggling with many of the same problems he inherited as Wisconsin’s 45th governor.
     The Illinois Chamber of Commerce invited Walker to speak at its annual Springfield lobby day in an effort to push state lawmakers to address Illinois’ $85 billion pension problem. 
     “We did pick him in part because he was controversial,” Chamber president Doug Whitley told The State Journal-Register. “When he was elected governor, he inherited a multibillion-dollar budget problem, and he fixed it. (Illinois) Governor (Pat) Quinn inherited a multibillion-dollar problem, and we’ve still got it.
     “The message we’re trying to get across is that Illinois elected officials need to be open-minded about the best practices that have been pursued in other states,” he said.

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Reformers: Gov. Scott Walker is a Rock Star of Ed Reform

     Gov. Scott Walker’s move to curb the power of teachers unions and his reliably pro-student agenda is earning the applause of education reformers across the country, and last week he was officially dubbed a “Rock Star of Education Reform” by the Wisconsin Coalition of Virtual Charter School Families.
     “WEAC even tried to shut us down by taking us to court, and they won … at first,” Jane Krummer-Meyer, Coalition president, said in a MacIver video of a press conference honoring the governor last Wednesday. “At that point we needed emergency legislation to keep our school doors open. In order to secure that, we had to agree to an immoral and unjustifiable (enrollment) cap. It was an awful choice.”
     As part of Walker’s first state budget, he eliminated the enrollment cap and other restrictions, earning him the “rock star of education reform” label from virtual school proponents.
     “We understand that the best way to help our kids and to help families in our state is to give families as many different options as possible,” Walker told the crowd. “Overall, we want to make sure that every kid in the state, no matter what zip code you come from, no matter what your background, no matter what your parents do … that every kid in this state has access to a great education.”
     We certainly wish that union officials and others fighting to roll back Walker’s reforms had the same perspective.

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Education reformers send Wisconsin teachers union a message

     Education reformers with the group READER-WI (Reforming Education And Demanding Excellent Results) sent a message to taxpayers and union officials by way of a billboard on the Beltline near WEAC headquarters in Madison.  
     The humongous sign depicts a bummed-out school girl with a famous quote from former American Federation of teachers President Albert Shanker: “When schoolchildren start paying union dues … I’ll start representing schoolchildren.”
     We believe the me-first mentality of the quote perfectly sums up WEAC’s history of obstruction to education and school spending reform in Wisconsin. 
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Who are these people?

     We recently documented the type of folks who are involved in the effort to recall Wisconsin Gov. Scott Walker. Video of a protest outside an Americans for Prosperity conference in Milwaukee revealed the participation of a very radical segment of society.
     But a series of other recent videos show that the union-sponsored protesters and their allies may be a lot farther out there than we initially thought. 
     The radical left was out in force to express its displeasure with Chicago Mayor Rahm Emanuel, who recently spoke at an event in Milwaukee. Some of the protesters attended the event to complain about Emanuel’s efforts to remake his city’s schools by lengthening the school day and implementing other important education reforms. Others toted “Reclaim Wisconsin” signs to promote the Walker recall, while others seemed focused on simply harassing people. 
     Milwaukee police eventually dispersed the crowd when it got too aggressive, but the video is a perfect reminder of the types of radicals who are fighting against education reform in Chicago and Wisconsin. 
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