That’s the headline above Paul Peterson’s better-than-nifty essay on the Ed Next blog.
Peterson, director of the Program on Education Policy and Governance at Harvard and Executive Editor of Education Next (of which I am a contributing editor), uses the Mac the Knife reference to suggest that loyalties can be bought “for a pittance.” In this case, it’s the National Education Association (NEA), which can, Peterson argues,
…collect multi-millions of dollars through a check-off system that generates revenues directly from teacher paychecks (unless a teacher specifically objects),” and, a la the villain of Mac the Knife, “invest in the work of less-advantaged non-profits that ostensibly have entirely different agendas. Even a little bit of money can produce a valuable ally somewhere down the line.
It’s a short essay, but is packed with evidence (from the Education Intelligence Agency) of NEA’s multi-tentacled reach, from a $250,000 grant to the Great Lakes Center for Education Research and Practice (“which has migrated to the University of Colorado at Boulder, which received another quarter million in direct funding,” says Peterson) to $100,000 for Media Matters, “a group that attacks conservative groups and commentators” and $35,000 for “the anti-accountability group,” FairTest.
“The list goes on and on,” says Peterson, who suggests keeping it handy “if one wants to understand the interstices of the debate over school reform.”
What is also problematic about all this is that the list doesn’t even include the millions given directly to legislators and other policymakers. And therein is an existential problem that, despite the lull in the fighting in Wisconsin and Ohio,
While everyone is following New Jersey's public union bombshell vote, my friend E.J. McMahon of the Empire Center in Albany reports on a new maneuver by the New York State United Teachers to end run? the property tax cap being promoted by new Governor Andrew Cuomo.? ?As McMahon says, the cap is not even through the state legislature yet and NYSUT is trying to circumvent it:
An egregious fiscal abuse on its own terms, the bill (S.4067-A) would allow school districts across the state (except for New York City) to issue 15-year bonds to cover a portion of their rising teacher pension costs over the next several years ? at least $1 billion in all, by one estimate.? The measure was introduced two months ago at the behest of the New York State United Teachers (NYSUT) as a way of reducing pressure on teachers to make contract concessions.
The drama in Albany continues.
--Peter Meyer, Bernard Lee Schwartz Policy Fellow
Teachers rallied at the State Capitol in Albany last night, in a last-ditch effort to get the legislature and governor to restore funds to New York Governor Andrew Cuomo's?deficit slashing budget proposal. It doesn't seem to have worked.? The legislature worked into the night and passed ?the $132.5 billion proposal, closing a $10 billion deficit without raising taxes (the much ridiculed Empire State solons held firm on not imposing a ?millionaires tax?) and cutting state aid to education by a whopping $1.2 billion.
These are certainly tough times, but E.J. McMahon at the Empire Center takes off the gloves with a post this morning that offers a different perspective on the ?It's about the kids? argument made by many of the protesters who crowded into the Capitol. ??Not,? says McMahon in his short post. ?And he takes out after one teacher from a nearby school district who was at the rally and was quoted ?quoted in the Albany Times?as?saying "It's about the kids." ?
Actually, it's about teacher pay increases. It seems that nearly half those threatened jobs in Rotterdam-Mohonasen could be saved if the district's unions would accept a wage freeze recently requested by district officials.
McMahon then uses the considerable database his organization (a subsidiary of the Manhattan Institute) has amassed on public service employee salaries and their union contracts to reveal that the teacher was paid $92,522 in 2010, ?a nice increase from her $85,042 salary
At last night's school board budget ?workshop? I felt the sinking sensation that passengers on the Titanic must have felt:??it's too late for life boats. The trouble is, I felt that way last year as well.??The big difference between the Titanic and my school district is this: our ship doesn't really sink and we don't change directions.? What happened between last year's iceberg strike and this year's?? Nothing.? We threw a bunch of people overboard and kept on sailing ? and we'll do the same this year.?? No offense to Mike and my Stretching the School Dollar colleagues at Fordham, but out here in the trenches, it's budgeting as usual, which means politics as usual, which means balancing layoffs and tax increases, which means: the education equivalent of fighting over the deck chairs.
Last night, for instance,?with the administration suggesting that we lay off 10% of our teaching staff (but only 3% of the aides and no one from Central Administration), we heard impassioned speeches from two nurses, who knew their positions are not ?mandated? and thus vulnerable.? Individual teachers have lobbied me to save their jobs or their program, but no teachers spoke last night because we are in the middle of contract negotiations -- and I can't talk about that.? (I once suggested these public union contracts?be negotiated in public, an idea that was greeted with as much enthusiasm as if I'd suggested a class field trip to
- Stretching the School Dollar
- Common Core Watch
- Ohio Gadfly Daily
- Board's Eye View
- Choice Words
About the Editor
Peter Meyer is an adjunct fellow with the Thomas B. Fordham Institute. Since 1991, Meyer has focused his attentions on education reform in the United States, an interest joined while writing a profile of education reformer E.D. Hirsch for Life. Meyer subsequently helped found a charter school, served on his local Board of Education (twice) and, for the last eight years, has been an editor at Education Next.
June 13, 2013
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