Saturday, August 16, 2008

Questions not Answered

A Croydon resident sent a letter to the SAU office requesting tuition records. Why hasn't this resident received the requested information? It should be retrievable with a few strokes of a computer keyboard. This resident was first told she could get this information right away and she has yet to receive it. A number of questions and thoughts come to mind.

1. What is in this list that the school board and SAU might be hiding?

2. If they're not hiding anything why hasn't this person received the information?

3. If something is not right may I suggest that admitting a mistake and suggesting a corrective course of action is the best policy. This action would improve the current image of the board, and the SAU in many taxpayers and parents eyes.

4. If there is really nothing to hide, there is a serious question of competence. A "changing of the guard" might therefore be in order.

The SAU appears to believe they exist to be served by the people. The schools exist to serve the people. The employees of the SAU provide no direct educational benefit to our children. The majority of those employees represent bureaucratic bloat, precious educational tax dollars wasted.

The schools and even more so SAU's don't exist to provide jobs but it appears that is exactly why SAU's were created. The entitlement mentality in schools is outrageous. The entitlement that should exist is the entitlement to the best education possible for our children provided as efficiently and effectively as possible.

Croydon has been paying for students who do not live in district. The board and the SAU seem to think this is not a big deal. But if you take food off of people's table, clothes off of people's back, fuel from people's cars and homes, retirement funds from people and money from children's college accounts, then it IS a big deal!

If school choice exists it should exist for all Croydon residents with tuition dollars following the dollars from the district where the student resides to the district that is educating said student.

Cathy Peschke

Thursday, August 14, 2008

School board meeting notes and commentary for August 13, 2008

Jim presented the results of the Croydon Survey at the August school board meeting. Out of 269 surveys sent out 70 were returned. This is an outstanding response rate of 26%. Typically you can expect a 2% return rate on surveys. If anyone would like a copy of the results we can attempt to email them. Contact us at, fax them or call us 863-7613. The high percentage of return means two things; people are very passionate about the results, and they hold faith that the school board will listen and follow through. A discussion of the results produced some interesting suggestions. Parents sending their children to Newport could use the Croydon bus. Parents sending their children elsewhere would have to provide transportation themselves. Newport would serve as a costing baseline. If a parent sent their children to a school other than Newport they would have to pay the difference out of pocket. It was also suggested that no contract with a single district would be made and that parents would be responsible to follow through and register their children at the district of choice. This is done in a number of other districts and there is no reason why it can not be done in Croydon as well. Again this was only a discussion no final plans have been made I personally hope that the board will see fit to follow through with the wishes of Croydon residents.

Second was a discussion of ACT results and college readiness. The results showed that only 25% of the test takers were college ready in all four subjects tested. Those subjects were English composition, algebra, social science and biology. Why isn't everybody ready for college? Okay everybody may not be a possibility, but 25% was considered "failing" when I went to school. We would like to see 90%+ of students college ready. Newport school board, teachers and administrators should not be happy with a measly 25% rate especially in light of the fact that we are paying well over $10,000 per year to educate our children.

Newport "Goals" were passed at the school board meeting. Goal one is to have warrant articles that have no tax impact. Bravo to the Newport School Board for being fiscally responsible.

Bad news is they are proposing full-day kindergarten. Prior posts explain why kindergarten is not necessary and is an unnecessary educational expense.

It was also reported that Newport was looking for a Calculus teacher. Why on earth is any high school math teacher teaching and not able to teach Calculus? Any math teacher who can not teach calculus should be fired and replaced with a teacher who can teach Calculus. Since it is a difficult position to fill a bonus should be paid to hire said teacher. Unfortunately teachers are in unions and unions exist for teachers and to protect bad teachers not to do what is best for the students.

Cathy Peschke

Wednesday, August 13, 2008

Teacher says no to the union

With permission of the this teacher I have posted his letter to the school board. Our public schools would be much better places if we had more teachers like the man below.


Dear Board Members:

As all of you know, this year the teacher contract expires and is up for renegotiation. I am communicating with you directly because the teacher’s union, though permitted by law to act as my representative, in no way represents me. Shortly after accepting employment with the district in 1990, I resigned my membership in the union, and I have remained nonunion ever since. Prior to 1995, union membership and paying dues to the union were completely voluntary. The union stood or fell based on the willingness of each teacher to join and contribute to it. In 1995, however, the union leadership convinced the school board to agree to a contract provision mandating either union membership or the payment by nonmembers of an “agency fee” - a fee the union set at 100% of union dues (making the absurd claim that all union dues are spent solely on collective bargaining). The union calls this kick back arrangement “fair share.”

There is nothing fair about “fair share,” however, and in twenty-two states such coercive kick back schemes are illegal. While the union might argue that it negotiates for all so all should be forced to pay, this is a “catch-22” argument since no one is allowed to negotiate for themselves. By law, a simple majority of the teachers can compel the rest to accept union representation. This is unfair enough, but now with “fair share,“ they can also force all teachers to pay the union whatever it demands. If the union truly resents having to negotiate for nonmembers, they should surrender their power to act as the exclusive bargaining agent and allow nonmembers to make their own agreements with the board. The union is not about to do this, however, since that would shatter their monopoly power (over both the board and the teachers) and open the door to freedom of contract and to market competition.

The fact is fair share is an attack upon the rights of all who work in the district - not just nonunion employees. Since the imposition of coerced payment, the NEA and IEA have repeatedly raised annual dues. The national and state organizations have then used much of this new money to both pad their payrolls and to engage in rather dubious political activity having nothing to do with collective bargaining. They can do this with relative impunity because they know with “fair share” in place in many districts, they now have a captive membership and a guaranteed cash flow to fund more power grabs and to further promote their political agendas. Individual union members (but notably not nonmembers) can make a feeble protest by voting in union elections, of course, but thanks to the efforts of a union negotiating team in the 1990’s (probably acting at the behest of the state and national organizations), District *** teachers lost the ultimate leverage - the right to leave the union and take their financial contribution with them. Of course, individual members are still nominally free to leave the union and pay an agency fee, and they even have the right to challenge that agency fee before the Illinois Educational Labor Relations Board (as I have done), but facing the legal and bureaucratic obstacles “fair share” places in their path, most teachers have simply given in. When “fair share” was first put in place, there were, as I recall, some two dozen teachers who were not members of the union. Now, as far as I can tell, that number is down to one (me).

With a new (and perhaps more militant) union leadership taking over this year and tighter budgets in prospect, the possibility of a teacher strike looms. Should a strike occur, I will not support it and will stand ready to report for duty. I will have that freedom because I am not a union member. (Illinois law permits the union to impose legally enforceable fines on members who defy a strike.) I believe it is in the board’s interest and in the interests of the district’s taxpayers to insist on the removal of the “fair share” provision from the next contract. This would empower individual teachers who are so inclined to move against the union and break the back of any strike. Even in the absence of a strike, the presence of a substantial number of nonunion teachers will put pressure on the union to be more flexible in its demands. In short, there is no benefit to the district for the board to empower the union to coerce teachers it allegedly represents and every reason for the board to insist on the restoration of individual teacher rights to freedom of association.

I knew a member of the negotiating team that first got the board to give in on “fair share.” (Previous boards had always upheld teacher rights and said “no.”) She told me that the team was surprised the board gave in and that it was certainly not a priority or something at the time they were willing to strike over or even hold up an agreement over. According to my colleague, the board placed it on the table, and the union took it. No doubt this year’s union negotiators will squawk should the board now insist on removing “fair share.” They will make the same fallacious arguments that everyone should be made to pay for their “services.“ Fair share is not about payment for services, however, but about control and power. Unable in the past to get all teachers to knuckle under and pay up voluntarily, the union coerced the board into forcing teachers to pay and thereby the board greatly enhanced the union’s power.

I am hopeful that this year’s negotiations provide an opportunity to remedy this past injustice and produce a contract that respects the rights of all teachers. Perhaps it is only me that feels so strongly about this, and if that be true, the union has nothing to worry about in giving up its coerced dues. (They already lost my dues after I went to the trouble of enlisting the help of a lawyer and filing an objection with the IELRB - something I must do every school year.) If, on the other hand, the union knows that many teachers, if given the opportunity, would opt out and withdraw support for the union’s political agenda, then the union has every reason to fight the end of “fair share.” It would be interesting to see how confident the union is in the depth of its rank and file support, and whether the union reps really want to try and make the argument that the teachers they represent want to be forced to pay.

Thank you for your time.

Quote of the Day - “When school children start paying union dues, that 's when I'll start representing the interests of school children.” Albert Shanker

Tuesday, August 12, 2008

Grading Teachers’ Unions

Grading Teachers’ Unions

Grading Teachers’ Unions
by: Peter Seabrook, August 02, 2004

Helping or hindering the education of America’s youth? Linda Chavez (pictured) gives a damning indictment of teachers’ unions in her new book, Betrayal: How Union Bosses Shake Down Their Members and Corrupt American Politics.

“In the past four decades the teachers’ unions have been very successful in persuading Americans that schools need more money,” she notes, mainly to pay teachers “higher salaries,” “give teachers more say in [curriculum] development,” and to decrease class size. Despite this, “reading scores have barely increased in the past three decades . . . and math hasn’t gone up much faster.”

Chavez cites an “excellent book on teachers’ unions” by Peter Brimelow “showing that ‘in any given year, unionization raised inflation-adjusted per-pupil spending by 12.3 percent compared with nonunion districts’ . . . the only thing taxpayers have gotten for the extra billions we’ve poured into education is more unionized employees.” This is hardly surprising, she later adds, considering that “the unions’ dues or agency fees, by the way, are taken directly out of teachers’ paychecks by most school districts.”

Chavez notes that both the National Education Association (NEA) and the American Federation of Teachers (AFT) made hundreds of millions of dollars in the 2001-2 fiscal year. “So where does this money go? A good chunk of it goes to pay union officials’ fat salaries”—in one case, “more than $1.1 million for just three employees,” Chavez writes. “Hundreds of other employees [earn] six-figure incomes in addition to their extremely generous benefits.”

Besides giving themselves opulent salaries, union officials spend much of their members’ money on politics, Chavez maintains. “As far back as the 1970s, a top NEA official, then-executive director Terry Herndon, bluntly stated the teachers’ unions’ true priority: ‘The ultimate goal of the NEA is to tap the legal, political, and economic powers of the U.S. Congress . . . [to] collect votes to re-order the priorities of the United States of America.’”

And what might these “priorities” be? Chavez quotes from the NEA’s current policies, which include supporting: “bilingual education programs,” “a single-payer health care plan for all residents of the United States,” and “family planning, including the right to reproductive freedom;” and opposing: “efforts to legislate English as the official language” and “governmental intrusion or monitoring of library materials and bookstore records,” to name a few of the issues on which the NEA has taken sides. Its “resolutions cover everything from abortion to world hunger,” Chavez writes, “though the ideological range is decidedly more narrow: from left to farther left.”

Chavez points out, however, that while “98 percent of [the AFT’s and NEA’s total $40 million in] contributions have gone to Democratic candidates,” the average teaching members of these unions form a political cross section far closer to that of the general voting public. “Only 40 percent of NEA members characterize themselves as Democrats, according to the union’s own polling.”

She describes one failed amendment sponsored by infuriated educators within the union “that would have allowed NEA members to designate how the political portion of their dues was spent,” which, “with NEA leaders opposing. . . was defeated in the Representative Assembly by a vote of 6,369 to 2,113,” with voters “who function more or less as employees of the union” in a body which “decides 90 percent of motions by simple voice vote.”

Chavez also mentions Proposition 226, a California ballot initiative “which would have required unions to get annual written approval from their members before using union dues for political purposes.” This proposal was also defeated after the California Teachers Association (CTA), whose “660-member state council voted unanimously to oppose [it],” “funded a major initiative to gain support for its position.”

The issue of school vouchers is another area where the opinions of union leadership and members diverge, Chavez contends. “According to the NEA’s own budget, in 2000 the organization spent a remarkable $218 million to defeat school voucher initiatives in Michigan, Arizona, and California. At the very same time, however, an NEA internal poll showed that 61 percent of NEA members believed that it was ‘not very important’ or ‘not at all important’ for the union to take a stand on the school choice issue.”

Even so, Chavez observes, 13.1 percent of all American parents (and 12.1 percent of those who teach) “choose private schools for their children. . . But in urban areas, where poor children would most benefit from voucher programs, a substantial percentage of public school teachers choose to send their children to private schools—for example, Boston, 44.6 percent; Cleveland, 39.7 percent; San Francisco, 36.7 percent; Chicago, 36.3 percent.”

This is where the unions’ political contributions pay off. Chavez recounts the fate of a voucher initiative originally proposed for Washington, D.C. in 1995—a city whose per-student spending is “70 percent higher than the national average—[while] their dropout rate is a whopping 42 percent and their average SAT score is more than 220 points below the national average.”

“Union leaders fought it from the beginning,” as did “a reliable ally, Senator Ted Kennedy” and although “the unions’ lobbying worked [in the Senate]. . . the D.C. voucher proposals would not go away.” The next attempt, in 1997, passed Congress only to fall under a veto. Chavez adds that a Washington Post “poll of D.C. residents show[ed] that 56 percent of District residents wanted school choice. Those who stood to benefit most from vouchers—that is, poor parents who could not afford to get their children out of the failing public schools—supported school choice even more strongly. . . 65 percent of African-Americans with incomes under $50,000 favored the plan.”

Eventually vouchers finally won out, “nearly a decade after the first D.C. voucher program was introduced. . . But the teachers’ unions and their Democratic partners did not give up. . . ‘Even after this vote, don’t bank on vouchers coming to D.C.,’ [Senator Kennedy] said.”

“Though the teachers’ unions make no secret” of the immense power they wield, Chavez maintains, “‘they also have a positive public image from representing teachers that much of labor lacks,’” quoting Larry J. Sabato, director of the Center for Governmental Studies at the University of Virginia. Chavez adds that teachers’ unions “capitalize on the image of their members: the humble, hardworking American teacher.”

At one time, the National Education Association, the major American teachers’ union, was indeed “not a union but rather an innocuous professional association, controlled by and made up mostly of school administrators.” That all changed in the tumultuous 1960s, Chavez writes: “by the 1970s, the NEA had kicked out its administrator-members and adopted policies sanctioning strikes, and the Internal Revenue Service (IRS) had officially designated it as a union.”

She quotes U.S. News & World Report’s observation that “the AFT and the NEA have given teaching the feel of classic blue-collar work, where winning workers big checks for the shortest possible hours has been the aim and the quality of the product is considered to be management’s worry.”

A rising sophomore at Kenyon College, Peter Seabrook is an intern at Accuracy in Academia.

Quote of the Day ". . . the only thing taxpayers have gotten for the extra billions we’ve poured into education is more unionized employees.” Peter Brimelow

Monday, August 11, 2008

Property taxes to go up in 2009 for Croydon's Residents

If you do not subscribe to the Eagle Times you may not know that your property taxes in Croydon will increase 66 dollars per 100,000 dollars of assessment in 2009. This is a 25% increase in taxes. Has anyone's salary increased 25%? The story is not on-line so you will have to view the story at the library if you do not subscribe to the Eagle Times. The story is titled "Sullivan County releases estimated 2009 tax rates" by Ben Bulkeley.

With heating fuels expected to soar this winter I hope our school board members and selectmen take this into consideration when planning next years budget. During the Town Meeting next March I hope the residents of Croydon do not forget about this tax increase when voting on other tax warrants.

Sunday, August 10, 2008


Why does anyone ever support an educational tax increase when those tax dollars are going to go to unions that will just fight for more taxes and fight against school choice and vouchers.

Hat tip to Labor for referring me to this Wall Street Journal article.

Extracurricular Politics
August 5, 2008
Teachers' unions are expert at presenting the interests of their members and of public school students as one and the same. Which is why it's always illuminating to see how the nation's largest teachers' union, the National Education Association, spends its political money.

Each year, NEA members pay into a "Ballot Measure/Legislative Crises Fund" that allows the union to spend tens of millions of dollars on all manner of state and national political issues. Mike Antonucci of the Education Intelligence Agency, a longtime union watchdog, has tracked this fund's spending. In the 2007-08 fiscal year, not surprisingly, the NEA spent $2.3 million -- on top of $1 million spent the previous fiscal year -- fighting a school voucher referendum in Utah.

But other expenditures reveal this national NEA cash -- which is separate from PAC contributions that must adhere to federal campaign-finance laws -- as a fund for various and sundry left-wing political causes. Mr. Antonucci reports that during the current fiscal year the NEA sent the Hawaii State Teachers Association $20,000 to conduct polling on a state constitutional convention. It sent the Massachusetts Teachers Association $60,000 to oppose a state income-tax repeal. And it sent the Florida Education Association $200,000 to oppose property-tax cuts in the Sunshine State.

Expect more of the same going forward in a state near you. "Unlike most previous years," writes Mr. Antonucci, "NEA finished 2007-08 with a surplus of nearly $5.9 million, which means the union will enter the 2008-09 school year with almost $20 million available to spend." It's a shame the NEA doesn't spend as much money and effort trying to improve lousy schools as it does trying to keep taxes high.

Quote of the Day "“It’s a shame the NEA doesn’t spend as much money and effort trying to improve lousy schools as it does trying to keep taxes high.”

Union Free America

Someone recently referred me to the website Union Free America.
It looks like a fun site for stocking stuffers. The ideal of an union free America reminded me of a quote "All great ideas go through three stages. In the first stage they are ridiculed. In the second stage, they are strongly opposed. And in the third stage they are considered to be self-evident" this quote is attributed to Schopenhauer. It should be noted I have seen several versions of the quote.