Tuesday, October 23, 2007

Associated Press series on teacher sex abuse

Hidden Violations

Before being swamped by the Associated Press series on teacher sex abuse (click the related stories links for other episodes in the series), Scott Reeder of Small Newspaper Group had his own devastating series on teacher misconduct.

Although parents will find the numbers alarming, I think they are relatively small considering the incredible number of people working in public education. I suspect there are far fewer criminals working in our public schools than in most other professions. The real outrage lies in the cursory investigations, cover-ups, and failures to punish and decertify admitted offenders that often accompany these cases.

The fear of false accusations would be less of a problem if educators had confidence that the system would conduct a fair and thorough investigation and uncover the truth. Too often, both administration and union are more concerned with their own reputations and liability than with the facts of the case.

It would be unfortunate if these series left the impression that sexual predators are running rampant through our nation's schools. That is clearly not the case. But parents need assurance that the few existing predators are not being shuffled off to another district in the name of legal and public relations expediency. |

Utah Anti-Voucher Phone Calls May Be from Out-of-State.

Communiqué for the Week of October 22, 2007:
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1) Utah Anti-Voucher Phone Calls May Be from Out-of-State. The Associated Press ran a story on Friday noting that the Arizona Education Association will be providing volunteers to help fight the Utah Education Association's battle against Referendum 1, which would establish school vouchers in the state. The AP quaintly calls the effort "a telephone tree" but in fact it is only part of a large-scale NEA effort to involve its members all over the country to answer automatically dialed calls to Utah voters.

Using standard telemarketing techniques, a computer will dial the phone numbers of Utah voters on Tuesdays and Thursdays between 7 and 10 p.m. and Saturdays from 3 to 6 p.m. If a voter answers the phone, the call is routed to the NEA volunteer in Arizona, North Carolina, or any other state, because the call information and campaign script is available to anyone registered with the union as a volunteer and logged in to its password-protected account at http://www.myactivate.com.

So if you get an anti-voucher campaign call in the next few weeks, you might want to ask the caller for the quickest way to get from Provo to Ogden.

2) Utah's $3 Million Question. On August 20, EIA published an exclusive report that the NEA Board of Directors had held an emergency telephone conference call to discuss and vote on the Utah Education Association's request for $3 million to defeat the ballot referendum on school vouchers. The board approved the request, though because I didn't have the vote totals, I used some qualifying language in the original report.

People who trust EIA's content, including the Wall Street Journal, picked up the story, and the $3 million figure has been widely disseminated. For two months, however, I have been baffled by the reluctance of the teachers' union and its allies to acknowledge the total. A sum of $1.5 million had already been sent (and mostly spent) by September 17, a full seven weeks before the election. Still, the UEA executive director called the $3 million figure "speculative," and NEA President Reg Weaver refused to even address the question, despite repeated prodding by Education Week.

I have since confirmed from other sources that my original reporting was accurate and correct, that UEA's request was for $3 million, that the money has and will come from the union's national ballot initiative fund, and I now have the additional information that the request was approved by the NEA board of directors via an Internet voting system by a count of 126 to 1. Given time and a break from other tasks, I'm sure I could eventually learn who the lone "nay" vote was.

I certainly understand, and encourage, caution before believing news from unidentified sources. But this secrecy over NEA's contribution to the Utah anti-voucher campaign (not to mention the union's connection to Communities for Quality Education) illustrates why those sources cannot be identified, and why the union's claims cannot be trusted to include the whole truth.

3) CTA Dealing With Some Internal Unrest. The California Teachers Association is devoting itself wholeheartedly to the No Child Left Behind Act reauthorization battle, but it has a couple of fights at home as well.

The bitter and embarrassing feuds within the Teachers Association of Long Beach finally prompted CTA to take drastic action. Last Thursday, the state union established a trusteeship over the local, placing former CTA President Barbara Kerr in charge.

Kerr told the Long Beach Press Telegram it was the first time CTA had taken such an action in 25 years.

Meanwhile, the faculty at Pasadena City College voted by a resounding 2-to-1 margin to disaffiliate from CTA and form an independent union, perhaps as a prelude to affiliating with the California Federation of Teachers.

Agency fee was a big issue in the disaffiliation vote, though there was also general discontent over the use of dues. "It felt like I was throwing money in the Mirror Pools," said one faculty member.

4) Three Quick Questions. A) If "The Simpsons Movie" had been rated G, instead of PG-13, would it be appropriate to show to at least four different sets of elementary school students in class?

B) Can your school district afford to hire a food critic?

C) Why is it pro-teacher to cite the tendency of female teachers to interrupt their careers for parenting in the context of pension benefits, but anti-teacher to cite it in the context of attrition claims (see Item #2 here)?

5) Another Blast from the Past. Remember Wayne Kruse (see Item #6 here)? The former president of the Lawrence Education Association in Kansas was convicted of embezzling more than $95,000 from the union and ordered to pay restitution. He's back in the news because now, two years later, he has only paid back $6,000.

6) NCLB May Leave You Limp. Eduwonk.com received a letter last week from an author that I can't even begin to describe. Here is the direct link to the letter. The book itself is listed on iUniverse. But I can't find any mention anywhere of the "California Research and Policy Institute," or its slogan "Working for Progressive Change Since 1980." There's the Research and Policy Institute of California, but I doesn't look like they have anything to do with Mr. Teasdale, who is also an Internet cipher except for his authorship of this tome.

7) Last Week's Intercepts. EIA's blog, Intercepts, covered these topics from October 15-22:

* Sorry, I Can't Join the Party. New York City's new performance pay program mistakes means for ends.

* Maine Learns a Lesson About District Consolidation. So much for economies of scale. And here's why.

* Hidden Violations. Teacher misconduct is rare. Cover-ups, however, are disproportionately high.

8) Quote of the Week #1. "Has anyone been fired because of this fiasco?" – United Teachers Los Angeles President A.J. Duffy, referring not to the district's poor academic performance, but its ongoing payroll problems. (October 12 United Teacher)

Quote of the Week #2. "Nobody would want the government to run 90 percent of the nation's entertainment industry. Nobody thinks that 90 percent of all housing should be owned by the state. Yet the government's control of 90 percent of the nation's schools leaves most Americans strangely unconcerned." – Boston Globe columnist Jeff Jacoby. (October 17 Boston Globe)