Posts Tagged ‘Political organization’

Another “Demonstration” That Union Bosses Don’t Care About Kids

September 12, 2012

Chicago’s Teaching Moment

Can Mayor Rahm hold out against the union? Calling Mr. Obama.

Has Chicago Mayor Rahm Emanuel met Wisconsin Governor Scott Walker? If he hasn’t, we’d be glad to mediate a call. Chicago teachers went on strike Monday for the first time in 25 years, and Mr. Emanuel can help the cause of education reform nationwide if he shows some Walker-like gumption.

On Sunday night, Chicago Teachers Union President Karen Lewis promised that her 25,000 members would walk the picket line until they have a “fair contract,” and she called the battle an “education justice fight.” Nice to know they’re thinking of the kids at the start of the school year.

Related Video

Senior editorial writer Collin Levy on the Chicago on the Chicago teachers’ strike. Photo Credit: Associate Press.

Middle-class parents and two-earner households scrambling for child care may not sympathize. According to the union’s own figures, the average Chicago public school teacher makes $71,000 a year in salary, and that’s before pensions and benefits generally worth $15,000 or more a year. Senior teachers make much more. That’s not a bad deal compared to the median household income of $47,000 for a Chicago worker in the private economy.

Ditto working conditions. Union leaders have bellyached mightily about Mr. Emanuel’s decision last year to extend the Chicago school day to seven hours from five hours and 45 minutes (the shortest among the country’s 10 biggest cities). The longer hours are one reason the union says teachers need a 29% pay raise over two years. The average Chicago teacher works 1,039 instructional hours per year—roughly half the time logged by the average 40-hour-a-week working Joe.

When Mr. Emanuel came to office last year, the Chicago Public Schools were already facing a $700 million deficit. Over the next three fiscal years amid mounting salaries and pensions, the Chicago system will be $3 billion in the red. Mr. Emanuel’s negotiators still offered a 16% pay raise over four years, but the union walked away.
There’s a case for no raise considering that Chicago’s schools are among the worst in the country, with a graduation rate around 55%. A 2006 study by the Consortium on Chicago School Research found that for every 100 Chicago public high school freshmen, only six get four-year college degrees. Among African-American and Hispanic boys, the number is three of 100.
Another issue is accountability, with Mr. Emanuel seeking a new teacher evaluation program that includes student test scores as a significant factor. The union wants student scores to play a minor role. The union also wants laid-off teachers to be hired back first if school principals have new job openings. Chicago may close up to 100 failing schools in coming years, and if principals have to dip into that layoff pool to hire even lousy teachers, students will suffer.

Under state law, teachers can strike over wages but not over policies set by the Chicago Board of Education. So the strike is also illegal.

The Chicago brawl is notable because it shows the rift between teachers unions and some Democrats. Unions have long had Democrats in their hip pocket, but more office holders are figuring out that this threatens taxpayers and is immoral to boot.

Perhaps Mr. Emanuel should ask his former boss, President Obama, for a good public word. Recall how eager Mr. Obama was to speak against Mr. Walker’s collective-bargaining reforms, at least until the Republican looked like he’d win his recall election.

The Chicago stakes are nearly as high. The chance for major school reform comes rarely, and if Mr. Emanuel gets rolled in his first big union showdown, he’ll hurt 350,000 Chicago students and the reputation he’s hoping to build as a reformer.

A version of this article appeared September 11, 2012, on page A12 in the U.S. edition of The Wall Street Journal, with the headline: Chicago’s Teaching Moment.

 Copyright 2012 Dow Jones & Company, Inc. All Rights Reserved

Romney on DC Vouchers

May 30, 2012

The Republican endorses the D.C. scholarship program.

President Obama has done better on education than on any other domestic issue, especially in supporting charter schools. But campaigns are about contrasts, and on Wednesday Mitt Romney drew a welcome one by supporting school vouchers.

Speaking in Washington, D.C., the GOP candidate endorsed the district’s voucher program that the Obama Administration has tried to kill despite its clear success: “In the Opportunity Scholarships, the Democrats finally found the one federal program they are willing to cut. Why? Because success anywhere in our public schools is a rebuke to failure everywhere else. That’s why the unions oppose even the most common-sense improvements.”

Right on all counts. With their voucher lifeline, D.C. students began outperforming public-school peers in reading and graduating at rates above 90%, as opposed to 55% in public schools. The program is hugely popular among parents and attracts more than four applicants for every spot. It even saves money, as each voucher is worth about half the $18,000 that D.C. generally spends per student.

With White House support, Democrats killed the program in 2009, and the Administration even rescinded scholarships already promised to 216 families. Last year House Speaker John Boehner and Senator Joe Lieberman revived the vouchers, but Mr. Obama’s 2013 budget zeroes out funding again.

Mr. Romney’s voucher embrace marks progress from his days in Massachusetts, when his support for school choice ended at charters. It also reveals how much the education reform debate has advanced, as the choice movement expands and more parents demand better options for their children. New York City charter schools, we learned this week, received 133,000 applications for the 14,600 seats they have available next year.

In any other business or service in America, entrepreneurs would be able to meet that demand. Only in public education are they stymied by union politics. Mr. Romney has the moral and political high ground on vouchers, and we hope he keeps it up.

A version of this article appeared May 24, 2012, on page A16 in the U.S. edition of The Wall Street Journal, with the headline: Romney on Vouchers.

HB 3339 HAS BEEN FILED!!!

March 11, 2011
Be of good cheer! The “Parent Trigger” bill, HB 3339 has been filed.
Important highlights of the bill:
1. School must be graded “Unacceptable” (Failed) two consecutive years.  Currently, 188 Texas schools qualify.
2. There is only one choice, Charter Conversion, (no voucher option).
3. The parents can avoid stalemate by appealing to the Commissioner of Education, Robert Scott.  This position is appointed by Governor Rick Perry (Republican).
Filer is Rep. James White.  White is a freshman, African American, Republican, rural, representative from House District 12 in East Texas.  Largest town in the district is Lufkin, TX, 60 miles from the Louisiana border.
Hurray!  PTL!

Strategy: Short-term Goals vs. Long-term Goals

February 2, 2011

These are the long-term goals of Texans for Parental Choice in Education.

Long-term Goal 1

Every family in Texas, who pays taxes for public education and pays for any product or service to further the learning of their school-aged child, would be compensated for that expense with a dollar for dollar credit against their personal public-education-tax, up to some generous ceiling.

Long-term Goal 2

There would be a network of private, charitable, scholarship organizations that gave scholarships to needy students to attend the private school of their parents’ choice, and any public-education-taxpayer, including corporations, could donate to one of these scholarship organizations and be compensated with a dollar for dollar tax credit.

Long-term Goal 3

Finally, the attempts by the enemies of educational liberty to obstruct those liberties would be defeated.

☺ ☺ ☺ ☺ ☺ ☺ ☺ ☺ ☺ ☺ ☺ ☺ ☺ ☺ ☺ ☺ ☺ ☺ ☺ ☺ ☺ ☺ ☺ ☺ ☺ ☺

But now back to the unfortunate reality. ☹ ☹ ☹ How do we get from here to that wonderful vision?

This report is about strategy. What are the logical steps and short-term goals that will lead to the long-term goal described above?

Option 1: All-out Frontal Assault

This strategy would say that, with our conservative legislature, an all-out assault on the unions with a universal property tax-credit bill is the obvious strategy. Unfortunately there are three problems with this strategy.

Problem 1: The ISD Property Tax

During the legislative session of 2009, Rep. Paxton agreed to submit a property tax-credit bill for educational expenses to Legislative Counsel.  To my amazement and frustration, Legislative Counsel never returned a draft.  Not during that session, not during the rest of 2009, and not before October 2010 did I hear from them.  Finally in October of 2010, one of the attorney’s at Legislative Counsel called me directly and told me that because the ISD property tax was complicated by the addition of robin-hood’s complex and perverse formulas for tax-fund flows from district to district and from the state comptroller to districts, it had become so complex that they, the team of lawyers, could not write a ISD property tax-credit law!  That’s right, the law had become so complex and perverse, a law to give a credit off of this tax could not be written.

Short-term Goal 1 for Problem 1: Replace the ISD property tax with a Simple State Tax

The first project is to abolish the ISD property tax and replace it with a simple statewide tax. There aren’t many choices.  A state income tax and a state property tax are both unconstitutional in Texas.  The only two taxes left are a Value-added Tax, which is a hidden tax, or an expansion of the state sales tax.  The expansion of the state sales tax is the obvious choice.  It is simple, visible, voluntary, and flat.

We currently have a state sales tax, but it does not raise enough funds to replace the ISD property tax.  Rather than replacing the ISD property tax by dramatically raising the sales tax rate from its current 6.25%, it is better to broaden the tax.  Texas has many services that do not charge sales tax. By broadening the sales tax to include these un-taxed services, more tax funds can be raised without dramatically raising the tax rate.

Texas does have a state corporate-franchise tax, this tax can be used for a scholarship organization tax-credit, but not a family tax-credit (since corporations don’t have children. :)

Problem 2: The TSTA’s & AFT’s Grassroots Network

The Texas State Teachers Association (TSTA) and the Texas chapter of the American Federation of Teachers (AFT) are the two major ISD employee associations.  In Texas, these associations (unions) cannot call a strike and they cannot make membership a requirement for employment or advancement.  So these unions are not as strong as they are in northern states where they can do these things.  In spite of that these unions are still very powerful in Texas.

The unions oppose charter schools, voucher programs, and tax-credit programs for a very simple reason.  All these innovations represent a direct threat to their income stream of member dues, because teachers in charter and private schools are not members of the TSTA or AFT.  The priority of the unions is not effective learning or even good teachers.  It is member dues.

The main political power of the TSTA & AFT is not money.  Since a majority of ISD employees are members of these organizations, they have a huge grassroots network in every county in Texas and they keep that network politically organized.  Although the elections of 2010 saw a great resurgence of conservatives in Texas, this network of ISD employees is powerful and tenacious.  They have not given up and will not go away easily.  I am sure that they are regrouping and preparing for a counter-attack.

In order to have any long-term success against the unions, we must match their network with our own network of passionate parents, teachers, and citizens who can clearly identify the enemy and are willing to invest time and resources to fight the war for the sake of the kids and the future of Texas.  I believe our grassroots organization has to be bipartisan and much bigger in order to have long-term victory.  How do we build such a network?

Problem 3: The Unions’ Strategic “Con Game”

In addition to their extensive grassroots organization, the unions’ successful strategy for the last 20 years has also included a huge “con game.”  They siphon the public school budget for themselves by adding unnecessary administrators and staff, which increases their member dues, but claim that they are focused on educating the kids and helping the neighborhood.  This lie only works because most low-income parents are suffering in silence, and this silence doesn’t contradict the union lies.

This lie is what the unions effectively hide behind.  If we propose an all out assault with a universal tax-credit program, the unions will complain that, “You right-wing bigots are trying to take the money away from the schools that are helping the poor inner-city kids.”  This lie has worked in the past, and it will work again, as long as the inner-city parents are silent.  How do we give inner-city parents a voice?

Short-term Goal 2 for Problems 2 & 3: Energizing Inner-city Parents with the “Parent Trigger”

If we can energize the sleeping giant of the inner-city parents, we can solve problems 2 & 3 at the same time.  So how do we energize them?

Inner-city parents have only one “education reform” goal.  They want their public school down the block where their child goes to school to improve.  Any goal bigger than that seems irrelevant and overwhelming.  We have to give them a way to change their public school down the block, one school at a time.

The “parent trigger” bill would give inner-city parents a way to organize to improve their public school down the block.  The bill would allow parents whose kids attend one particular public school to collect signatures on a petition to change the school’s management to a private management company free of union ties.  Then the school would be run effectively and efficiently outside of union control.  The name for this privately managed school is a charter school.  Collecting a majority of parent signatures would “trigger” or force the school district to make the conversion.  A small voucher program for the kids that don’t prefer the new charter school could be added.

If the parent-trigger becomes law, then the real job of Short-term Goal 2 begins.  This job is passing petitions in inner-city neighborhoods to energize and organize parents to improve their neighborhood school.  This will take time, but it should be productive because it engages parents at the level that they understand and care about.  This is the process of building the large bipartisan grassroots network required in Problem 2.

When some of the petitions “trigger”, the unions will try to block the charter conversions.  The unions will surely resist this reform because more charter schools mean less union dues.  But they will be opposing the very inner-city parents that they claim to be helping.  This will expose their lie, which gives them no place to hide.  Now the right-wing tea-partiers AND the inner-city parents will be united in their opposition to the unions.  Then we will have a grassroots army large enough to fight for universal tax-credits.

In summary, even though our long-term goal is universal family and scholarship tax-credits, there are two short-term goals that must be accomplished first.

Short-term goal 1 is to abolish the ISD property tax and substitute a broad-based state sales tax.

Short-term goal 2 is to pass the parent-trigger bill and start organizing parents to convert their local school to charter schools.

Both short-term goals can be worked on simultaneously.  When both are accomplished, the groundwork will be completed to move on the universal tax-credits.

Join the National Education Reform Movement!

January 6, 2011

Michelle Rhee, former Chancellor of Washington DC Public Schools, has started a national education reform grassroots movement called StudentsFirst.org.

Please join her organization as well as the Texas subgroup called “Texas for Education Reform.”  That way we can stay in touch with what the group is doing in Texas and on the national level.

Also while you are at it, please “like” my FaceBook “fan page” named “Texans for Parental Choice in Education.”

Thank you in advance.  I’m so excited about the education reform policies that could become law during the Texas legislative session this spring!

Celebrate National School Choice Week!

January 5, 2011

The week of January 23-29 has been designated National School Choice Week.  The website www.SchoolChoiceWeek.com has a list of events around the nation to get together, rally, and network about Parental Choice in Education.

Right now there is only one event in Texas, at the State Capitol in Austin at 6 PM Monday, Jan. 24.

Texas Education Reformers!   We need more events put together all over Texas for that week!

You can make your own event and post it on the School Choice Week website. We need to draw more education reformers into the movement.

It looks great for major education reform bills this session.  If you want Bob Schoolfield as a speaker that week, give me a Facebook message, email (bob@ceoaustin.org), or call (512-461-3126), and I’ll try to arrange it.

Let’s spread the word about school choice!

Michelle Rhee Starts Grassroots Group!

December 11, 2010

A WSJ article by Stephanie Banchero describes StudentsFirst, an education-reform grassroots organization, started by ex-chancellor of DC schools, Michelle Rhee.   Highlights:

Former Washington, D.C., schools Chancellor Michelle Rhee launched a national advocacy group Monday to support political candidates and school districts that embrace substantial changes in public education.

Through the group, StudentsFirst, Ms. Rhee hopes to raise $1 billion to dole out to political candidates who support her policies and to local school districts that adopt the group’s prescriptions, such as linking teacher tenure to student test scores.

“We are trying to shift the balance of power in the education landscape away from the powerful groups who want to keep the status quo,” Ms. Rhee said….  “We are going to be the group that is advocating on behalf of kids.”

She wants the bulk of contributions to come via her website, studentsfirst.org.

Ms. Rhee stepped down from the Washington job in October after Mayor Adrian Fenty, who appointed her, was defeated in the Democratic primary by Vincent Gray. In her three years in Washington, Ms. Rhee became the most vocal proponent of a controversial national movement for transforming K-12 schools.

Ms. Rhee hopes to attract more than one million supporters nationwide who will embrace her policies and push them locally…

“This will not be for the faint of heart,” she said.

StudentsFirst will donate to political candidates who support legislation in line with its agenda.

Superman Scares Teacher Unions!

October 7, 2010

Great WSJ Editorial about union reaction to “Waiting for ‘Superman'”.  Highlights:

The new film “Waiting for ‘Superman'” is getting good reviews, and to judge by the film’s opponents it is having an impact.  Witness the scene on a recent Friday night in front of a [cinema] in New York City, where some 50 protestors blasted the film as propaganda for charter schools.

Teachers unions and the public school monopoly have long benefitted from wielding a moral trump card. They claimed to care for children, and caring was defined solely by how much taxpayers spent on schools.

That moral claim is being turned on its head as more Americans come to understand that teachers unions and the public bureaucracy are the main obstacles to reform.

The waiting list in Harlem to attend a charter is more than 11,000 and nationwide it is an estimated 420,000. The teachers unions continue to wield enough power to deny choices to these students, but their days as political supermen are numbered.

Vouchers Go Bipartisan in Pennsylvania

September 8, 2010

The WSJ reports good news from Pennsylvania. Both the Republican AND Democratic candidates are supporting school vouchers. Highlights:

Last month, and to widespread surprise, Democratic gubernatorial candidate Dan Onorato came out in support of school vouchers for underprivileged kids.

[In] November Pennsylvania voters will get to choose between two candidates who are on record in support of a statewide school voucher program.

The Obama Administration … refuses to acknowledge that vouchers can play a role in reforming K-12 education. But states and cities are the real engines of reform, and the Pennsylvania developments are another sign that the school choice movement is alive and well.

Broke—and Building the Most Expensive School in U.S. History

September 7, 2010

What a juicy story!  Free (taxpayer) Money! Highlights:

At $578 million—or about $140,000 per student—the 24-acre Robert F. Kennedy Community Schools complex in mid-Wilshire [CA] is the most expensive school ever constructed in U.S. history. To put the price in context, this city’s Staples sports and entertainment center cost $375 million. To put it in a more important context, the school district is currently running a $640 million deficit and has had to lay off 3,000 teachers in the last two years. It also has one of the lowest graduation rates in the country and some of the worst test scores.

The K-12 complex is a jarring reminder that money doesn’t guarantee success—though it certainly beautifies failure.

[T]he school boasts an auditorium whose starry ceiling and garish entrance are modeled after the old Cocoanut Grove nightclub…  Talking benches—$54,000—play a three-hour audio of the site’s history.

[Thomas] Rubin, [a consultant for the district’s bond oversight committee, was asked] whether some of the school’s grandiose features … were worth the cost. “Did we have to do that? Hell no. But there’s no accounting for taste,” he responded.

The district’s building spree has sparked outrage from charter schools, not least because they are getting only a tiny piece of the bond pie. California Charter School Association President Jed Wallace says a charter school can be built at a seventh of the cost of the Kennedy complex…. For example, the nonprofit Green Dot built seven charters in the area—to serve about 4,300 mainly low-income students—for less than $85 million in total. These schools also have a collective graduation rate that’s nearly twice as high as that of the Los Angeles Unified School District, which Education Week magazine pegs at 40%.

Mr. Rubin says it’s unfair to compare charters with traditional public schools because charters aren’t saddled with onerous government regulations regarding labor and environmental standards. What he doesn’t say is that charter schools don’t have taxpayers as a backstop. Traditional public schools “have no accountability or restraints,” Mr. Wallace bristles. “They don’t have to make the tough choices when costs run over.”