Monday, January 21, 2008

Administration costs, the class size reduction audit, and denial of reality

I have seen a lot of comments floating around lately about the “black hole” of school district administrations and how they can’t account for the money the legislature so generously “gives” them. I even saw a comment claiming that district administration soaks up 25% of the education budget. I can’t remember if it was just a random comment board or someone supposedly credible. Last Tuesday, I did hear Senators Bramble and Dayton claim various times how the UEA and the school districts (the same thing in their minds…) “can’t tell us where they spent the money we allocated.” They used this for general public ed. bashing and as justification for the way they’re giving the teacher raises. (I support giving the larger percentage raises to newer teachers, although I’ll discuss on another post the reasonable arguments a 25-yr. teacher gave me for doing it by equal percentage rather than by equal amount. What makes me mad is the accusing tone about the supposed mismanaging and misappropriating of district funds coming from legislators who receive automatic pay raises each year without a public vote, receive lifetime insurance benefits, accept lobbyist gifts and money regularly and then rail against the press for maligning their integrity, defend laws allowing them to legally divert campaign funds for personal use, and vote for school vouchers and private stadium funding.)

These claims strike me as self-serving and suspicious. Most of us are not accountants or professional fiscal analysts, so reading long government budget documents (or even finding them in the first place…) can be a difficult task. Like when the voucher supporters used this study to claim over a BILLION dollars in savings. Once I read it, the study turned out to be inaccurate to the point of ridiculousness. (Just read the Executive Summary at the beginning and see what it claims.) The one legislator I asked had not read it, and I’m sure that was common among both the legislature and the public.

School District Administration Costs

I read the Alpine School District’s budget, all 82 pages of it, and now present some information using the final numbers from the 2006-2007 school year:

Pg. 11
Total Alpine General Fund Expenditures 2006-2007

General Fund Expenditures on General District Administration

General Fund Expenditures on School Administration

This is a total of $18,611,266 spent on all levels of administration which is 6.7% of the money spent from the General Fund, less than that if you count the total district budget like the Utah Taxpayer’s Association does. The $1,188,391 spent on district administration equals .4% or less than half of 1% of general fund money spent.

I can agree with arguments that the superintendent and other administrators are overpaid. Let’s knock a chunk off of their salaries and invest back into reducing classrooms. We still have to allow for the fact that they do a difficult, thankless job that requires extensive training and entails great responsibility for public funds and so pay them a good wage, but let’s make it a $100,000 cap for administrators. Superintendent Henshaw’s salary decrease would pay for two new teachers or one more experienced teacher. Other salary decreases would return less than that. If we can cobble together money for a dozen or so teachers, how much of a dent is that going to make in our crowded public schools? I totally support this and would vote for such a proposal, but the real funding problems preventing smaller class sizes come from higher up than the school district level.

Case study—Is this waste?
As a new teacher, I brought unique talents to the classroom, learned, improved….and still to a large degree stank at teaching. Each year since then, I have improved, but I had many miserable moments my first couple years and seriously considered quitting. My mentor teacher had to teach also and my administrators have a lot of responsibilities while also putting out frequent fires during the day, so I was observed barely more than the minimum required by law and often felt alone. Experiences like mine are almost universal among new teachers. The district recently hired a new employee, a former teacher, to be a part-time coach for new teachers. A new teacher in my department at school was telling me of a day the coach came to observe while he struggled through a new lesson. She observed only one period and was off to another school because she’s responsible for the whole district, but she gave him some helpful feedback before she left. He told me how much better the same lesson went the next day with other classes because of some suggestions she had given him. He felt supported and was having success. That could be one of the make-or-break moments determining whether a new teacher sticks with education, but the coach’s salary and benefits also contribute to the “top heavy” district budget and take away money that could be used on an additional classroom teacher. I can see both sides, but every district position that I’m aware of helps teachers and lightens their workloads.

The Articles on the Class Size Reduction Budget

Here are links to four articles on the audit findings:

AP via KSL

SL Trib
I copied the entire text into my previous post since the Tribune only keeps the articles up for a couple of weeks.


AP via the Daily Herald

The articles unanimously show the school districts used the money for teachers. The districts that were censured could account for every dollar spent, they just didn’t all track which dollar came from which source beyond what was required by law. That will be a good change to make in their accounting, but again, will cost more of the general fund money. All four links clearly state that the districts that specifically tracked the incoming funds used the money appropriately. The lack of classroom size reduction came from the insufficient funding of growth, not mismanagement.

From the Deseret News article:
That's partly because the money isn't rising at the same rate as enrollment in Utah's public schools, states a performance audit of class-size reduction money, presented to legislative leaders on the Audit Subcommittee of the Legislative Management Committee today. That's even though the law says it should.
"Essentially, for the last six years, (class size reduction) funds functioned as maintenance funding rather than providing for new class-size reduction efforts," auditors wrote.
The audit came after lawmakers last winter questioned districts' use of class size reduction money.

The huge increase in healthcare costs hits schools hard as well since their number one expenditure and asset is teachers.

Sen. Howard Stephenson, R-Draper, wants to see school districts chip in more local money to reduce class sizes. He hopes to push for changes to the law that would only offer the money as an incentive to districts that can prove they're keeping sizes down. Now, all school districts and charter schools get the money automatically based on enrollment.
"It's not our job to fund every component of achieving class size reduction," Stephenson told members of the Legislature's Public Education Appropriations Subcommittee.

It's anyone's job but yours huh? Your own audit says that the "additional" money already provided was barely enough to keep pace with growth, and now you're going to take that money away if districts don't accomplish the impossible? Sounds like a sneaky way to try and make yourself look like a good guy for not raising taxes by making someone else do it.

So stop blaming the districts for having a lot of kids to teach with limited funds. I totally see the unique funding problems we have in Utah with large numbers of students per tax payer and a small industrial base to tax. I don’t begrudge legislators not increasing funding some years. I think legislators should carefully watch the incoming budget numbers before increasing school funding too much this year. But I do resent great teachers being made scapegoats for those who actually have control of tax money distribution and the circumstances of the society in the state.

Tribune article texts for my posts of 1-15 and 1-21

The Tribune only leaves the text of its articles online for a couple weeks, so this is the text of four articles I've referenced recently. You can still click on the links and see the comments posted, even when the article is gone.

From the 1-21 post--
This is the Tribune's editorial on the legislature's audit of class room size reduction money expenditures:

Uphill battle: Cost of cutting classroom size is huge
Tribune Editorial
Article Last Updated: 12/19/2007 05:47:57 PM MST

Utah's top educators are like Sisyphus, forced to push the same rock up a hill for eternity, when it comes to reducing class sizes in the state's public schools.
The Legislature, since 1993, has appropriated more than $700 million specifically for a class-size-reduction program. Early on, the school districts got their share of the money and mostly used it to hire and pay teachers. Theoretically, that should reduce class sizes, since more teachers should equal more, smaller classes.
But, in Utah, the state with the highest birth rate in the nation and an increasingly robust influx of new residents, enrollment increases have more than offset the appropriation during the past three years. Those years are the subject of an audit by the Utah Legislative Auditor General's Office.
Only 18 of the state's 40 districts track where class-size-reduction money is spent, since they are not required to do so. The audit shows most of the money in those districts where the funds are kept separate has been spent on compensating teachers, some of whom were hired in earlier years with class-size-reduction money.
There is no mystery about missing or misspent money, the auditors emphasize. Legislators who seem suspicious about where the money has gone should read that part of the report carefully. The Legislature has simply appropriated less than the amount needed to keep up with enrollment growth and
add teachers and classroom space. In some years, there has not been enough to continue supporting teachers previously hired with program funds.
The audit shows teacher salary and benefit increases have been "reasonable." In fact, teacher pay in Utah is low compared to most Western states. But the auditors did find some problems with the program. They recommend that districts be required to track how program money is spent. They also say schools with small class sizes - mostly charter schools - should not automatically receive the funds, as they do now. We agree.
If they make those changes, legislators will be able to see clearly that this education program, like so many others, is underfunded, and that Utah's large families and burgeoning population, not misspent funds, are the root causes of crowded classrooms.

This is the legislature's claim that the districts aren't using the class room size reduction money as intended:

Lawmakers demand accountability on money to reduce class size
By Lisa Schencker
The Salt Lake Tribune
Article Last Updated: 01/16/2008 09:15:52 PM MST

Posted: 8:45 PM- Schools need to be more accountable for how they spend money meant to reduce class sizes, lawmakers said Wednesday, reacting to a December audit that showed $460 million meant to make classes smaller over the past seven years hasn't led to any change.
Sen. Howard Stephenson, R-Draper, wants to see school districts chip in more local money to reduce class sizes. He hopes to push for changes to the law that would only offer the money as an incentive to districts that can prove they're keeping sizes down. Now, all school districts and charter schools get the money automatically based on enrollment.
"It's not our job to fund every component of achieving class size reduction," Stephenson told members of the Legislature's Public Education Appropriations Subcommittee.
The audit looked at several districts that did track how they spent the money and found those districts were spending the money appropriately. The problem was that the money was only enough to fund reasonable salary and benefit increases for teachers hired in past years to help reduce class sizes, not hire new teachers, according to the audit.
The state spent $74 million to reduce class sizes in fiscal year 2007. Utah has 22.6 students per teacher compared with an average of 15.8 students per teacher nationally, according to State Schools Superintendent Patti Harrington.
Rep. Karen Morgan, D-Cottonwood Heights, said she's also working on legislation to help reduce class sizes, especially in kindergarten through third grade. She declined to offer specifics but said she'd like to see significantly more money put toward class size reduction and schools held more accountable. Many schools don't track how they spend the class-size reduction money because lawmakers took certain reporting requirements out of the law several years ago in an attempt to streamline the process, according to the audit.
Morgan also has concerns about the money going to schools that don't necessarily need it.
"Class size reduction money should go to those schools with large class sizes," Morgan said. "There are some schools that don't have a problem."
One of the auditors' suggestions was to re-examine how the money is distributed to charter schools which, unlike traditional public schools, have enrollment caps. Auditors said the intention of the recommendation is not to harm charter schools but instead to make sure the money is being spent most efficiently.
Several charter school officials, however, bristled at the idea Wednesday.
Salt Lake Arts Academy Principal Amy Wadsworth said her school shouldn't be penalized for achieving smaller classes through creativity and an entrepreneurial spirit, which are what set the school apart.
"If you take away my money, I will start to look like other schools," Wadsworth said.

Sizing it up

What the audit found:
-- $460 million in state funds meant to reduce class sizes over the past seven years has merely maintained a certain number of teachers hired to reduce class sizes in the past but hasn't resulted in new class size reduction.
-- Many districts don't specifically track how they spend the class size reduction money.
-- Funding to reduce class sizes has not kept up with K-8 enrollment growth as it supposed to by law.

From the 1-15 post--
Tribune editorial on Legislators and lobbyist gifts

Pride of Utah: The best Legislature money can buy
Tribune Editorial
Article Last Updated: 01/14/2008 06:41:44 PM MST

Lobbyists who woo Utah lawmakers can tell you that state Sen. Mike Dmitrich, D-Price, is not a cheap date.
Jazz tickets: $2,586. Meals: $1,871. Travel and lodging: $1,431. Golf: $350. Miscellaneous swag: $672.
When it comes to accepting freebies from legislative lobbyists, Dmitrich, who received $6,910 worth of gifts in 2007, is the undisputed King of Bling.
And Sen. Gene Davis, D-Salt Lake City ($4,999); Sen. Curt Bramble, R-Provo ($4,197); Rep. David Clark, R-Santa Clara ($2,704); Rep. Greg Curtis, R-Sandy ($2,182); and Rep. Jim Dunnigan, R-Taylorsville, ($2,035) make up his court.
Those aren't the only lawmakers who create the appearance of impropriety and sully the reputation of the Legislature by accepting gifts. They're just the worst offenders.
We'd love to tell you about each and every lawmaker who waddled up to the trough, and document each and every concert ticket, greens fee and free meal, but that's not possible. Lobbyists spent $279,000 on state legislators and executive branch officials last year. We simply don't have the space.
Plus, most of the gifts listed on lobbyist disclosure forms come with no names attached due to Utah laws that help lobbyists hide lawmakers who accept handouts. Lobbyists are only required to report the names of of recipients of tickets to events, tangible gifts valued at $10 or more, or food and beverage purchases greater than $50.
To be fair, our lawmakers are not panhandlers. The lobbyists, who are paid to persuade, come to them.
Nor can you call it payola. Officially - wink, wink - the gifts come with no strings attached.
But make no mistake, the lobbyists are buying. They're buying access, face time, phone time. And our legislators are selling.
Folks, if you want your government back - if you want your lawmakers to do your bidding instead of catering to the companies and organizations that hire lobbyists - you'd better start lobbying for a law that makes it illegal for legislators to accept gifts of any kind.
Call your legislators. Tell them to buy their own lunch, and pay for their own rounds of golf. Tell them to call the box office like the rest of us if they want to go to a Jazz game or a rock concert. Tell them that the office they hold entitles them to represent you in the Legislature, and nothing more.

Another Tribune editorial on legislators and lobbyist gifts

Lawmakers for sale: Utah desperately needs campaign finance reform
Tribune Editorial
Article Last Updated: 01/12/2008 03:30:00 PM MST

Forget pornography. If you want to see something really obscene on the Internet, go to, click on campaign "financial disclosure reports," and look up Utah House Speaker Greg Curtis, R-Sandy. Then settle back and prepare to be appalled.
A brewery. A tobacco company. A beer wholesalers association. Looks like Curtis will cash any check.
Cruise that 24-page list of campaign contributors - Anheuser-Busch, Bayer, Chevron, Delta. Curtis's corporate benefactors start with every letter of the alphabet except "X." (He'll have to give XMission a call.)
And look at those amounts - EnergySolutions, $15,100; Reagan Outdoor Advertising, $7,500; ATK Aerospace, $5,000. It reads like a who's who of Utah businesses: 1-800 Contacts, Kennecott,
Then check out Curtis's campaign expenditures - plane tickets, phone bills, parking, gasoline. Thank-you cards, Christmas cards and the stamps to send them. Flowers and books, billboards and maps. Breakfasts, lunches, dinners, snacks, all in the name of getting elected?
Apparently, if the lobbyists weren't buying, Curtis and his campaign fund picked up the tab. Ah, it's good to be king.
Now look at that bottom line. Curtis reported a balance of $228,058 on Jan. 5, a full 10 months before the general election. No doubt he'll collect a lot more as the Day of Decision draws near. Of course, he could also take the money and run. Curtis reclaimed his seat by only 20 votes in 2006, so, who knows? He might decide to call it quits and spend the money on a vacation home, or a yacht, or a trip around the world.
Amazingly, Utah lawmakers, upon their retirement, can spend leftover campaign cash however they please.
The speaker's report is not the only one that will raise your eyebrows, but he's the reigning King of Cash. He also helps set the agenda on the Hill. He can make campaign finance reform - reasonable limits on what candidates can accept and how they can spend it - a priority. But he won't.
Curtis and the rest of our legislators who refuse to pass meaningful ethics and campaign finance reform will tell you that real reform is not necessary. With voices steeped in righteous indignation, they'll say that their constituents come first, that they can never be bought. Don't believe it.
But the one thing that money can't buy, if you take the time to weed out the candidates with objectionable campaign receipts and expenditures, is your vote.
The speaker's report is not the only one that will raise your eyebrows, but he's the reigning King of Cash.

Wednesday, January 16, 2008

Public meeting with Senators Bramble and Dayton and Representative Grover--I was there and took 4 pages of notes

However, this will be the very short version for now. I need to go to bed.

Embarrassing gaffe alert: Due to writing this after midnight and two busy days, I completely messed up a name in my original post. Representative Morley was not there. Where did that come from? I have no idea...

Senators Bramble and Dayton and Representative Grover met with people from the neighborhood at Cherry Hills Elementary in Orem on Tuesday, Jan. 15th. The senators and representative spoke to us for about 30 minutes and then took a lot of questions. In the spirit of my previous encounter with Senator Dayton, I want to be constructive in my interactions with legislators, but still honest.

The 3 presenters talked about a wide range of things in response to questions, but touched upon the following two themes at least 10 times each:

1. The UEA, and to a lesser extent the State School Board, are obstructionists who are opposing needed reforms.

2. We are not beholden to special interests and the current articles attacking legislators for receiving gifts are insulting. (I was asked if I was a media member because I was taking a lot of notes. =D There was just one reporter from the Daily Herald actually in attendance.) They specifically referenced this article:

and I'm sure this one was on their mind as well:
(I've got the full text of the articles saved because the Trib doesn't make them accessible after a couple weeks. I'll make another post of just the articles I guess...)

They also addressed energy concerns with oil shale and nuclear power, nuclear storage, pollution, public transportation, Frontrunner and the I-15 rebuild in Utah County, referendums, merit pay, incentive pay for certain teachers, property taxes, and partisan school boards. But they constantly returned to the first two topics.

I would call their tone defensive. But to be fair, I probably have been defensive on this blog when teachers' integrity and abilities have been questioned. The differing perceptions I wrote about after talking with Senator Dayton were definitely present. I think it is hard for people with completely different day-to-day realities to overcome their differences and assumptions.

They mentioned the agenda of the media and how things are distorted multiple times. Senator Dayton said the new website which allows you to watch committee meetings and actual legislative session allows the public to see for themselves without the media filter. Fair enough--I think it's awesome that we can watch session. I realistically am not going to take a pay dock to take a personal day to drive up to SLC to watch a session, especially when the schedule of debate is so fluid and it's so hard to plan for a sub. But I would love to watch some education committee meetings via the internet.

Senator Dayton mentioned a couple negative personal attacks that were indeed irrelevant to policy and over the line of decency. Senator Bramble, jokingly admitting that he was the 3rd highest gift receiver on the list in the article, outlined a couple situations where he felt accepting travel expenses to discuss an issue was actually a responsible way to get informed. He and Stan Lockheart have been friends for 25 years and he goes to Jazz games with him. I tend to agree on the propriety of a couple of his actions, but the problem is that they of course only discussed highly defensible actions rather than the full spectrum of gifts received and conflicts of interest of legislators such as Greg Curtis or Aaron Tilton. Can they at least see the appearance of impropriety from the Jazz games and golf rounds? Do they really believe that the legislators aren't influenced by the money? Also, Senator Dayton made a valid point that the vast majority of the public, even active voters, don't make campaign contributions. I'll buy that because all the money I spent on voucher flyers and cookies was the first money I'd used politically. And I'm not sure I'm for public financing of campaigns either. Do we concede that the "inevitable" expenses of campaigns must be filled by the willing donations of business interests? I don't know.

(And they only used Democratic Senator Dmitrich as their example of honorable men who aren't influenced by the large amount of gifts they received. Damning by faint praise... They brought him up multiple times as well as a Democratic senator that supposedly has a $15,000 "tab" from the UEA, while conveniently not mentioning Republican gift receivers.)

As for the UEA stuff, I felt it was often misleading. There is true personal animosity between the senators and the UEA (though I'm not sure who exactly in the faceless UEA they hold responsible for what they dislike). I've already written a lot about the UEA and I want to address a long post to merit pay soon. A few other education items of interest:

1. I personally asked if they intended on making it harder to hold a referendum on a bill passed by the legislature. They held forth a little bit on how special interests dominate public votes more than legislative votes, how governing by excessive initiatives and referendums has ruined California, and that the Constitution wisely establishes a representative government rather that a true democracy...but Senator Bramble finally clearly stated that he thought the bar to petition for a referendum was high enough and didn't need to be raised. He specifically said they will not try that this session. They may try and raise the bar for citizen initiatives to be as high as referendums.
This page has links to both initiative and referendum requirements.

2. Another lady asked if they were going to push the bill to make the State School Board elections partisan. Senator Bramble explained all of the reasons that he thought it was a good idea, but said they will not run that bill this year. He did specifically say they would next year if the legislature thinks the governor doesn't follow the process correctly.

3. Various merit pay proposals and incentives will be on the docket this year, as well as another $2500 raise directly to teachers.

Tuesday, January 15, 2008

The UEA: The Legislature's All-Purpose Excuse

OK, I know I don’t have tons of people reading and commenting on this, but I don’t see a reasonable basis for all the hatred. The UEA advocates for many educational improvements such as smaller class sizes, along with higher teacher salaries, and most Utahns support that cause. Jesse
thinks the UEA are scammers
because they haven’t achieved higher salaries:

My biggest problem with all teachers' unions is that they are ineffective at their core mission and thus are a corrupt drag on teacher salaries. Despite more than doubling inflation-adjusted education spending over the last four decades, teacher salaries have been flat during the same period. That's a pretty crappy job negotiating compensation for the rather large budgets that unions work with.

I just can't see how a group powerful enough to stare down the legislature can tuck tail and run when confronting district superintendents, you know? I wonder how long it'll take before teachers figure out they're being scammed.
December 31, 2007 1:17 PM

Both the NEA and AFT (page 3, PDF) show flat teacher salaries in separate surveys.

...(and some other stuff)…
December 31, 2007 3:42 PM

I can't agree. I discussed this with a bunch of old-timers and no one felt there was some unrealized windfall we’d been swindled out of. What grand pot of money were we supposed to take drastically higher salaries from? Construction costs and growth alone account for most of the increase in spending. We also know we need computer labs, copy machines, test sheet scanners, software, training, etc. These costs differ GREATLY from the paper, pencil, chalk, and dittos of the past. The legislature hasn’t increased spending with that in mind. The needs have increased and funding has just barely kept pace with the growth. I think teachers in general sympathize with the difficulties in funding the large number of students in Utah from a smaller tax base. We can almost feel guilty when we see firsthand many of the families that struggle with taxes, but we also need some way to plan for the future if you want anyone teaching as a primary career. I was surprised to learn how many teachers’ salaries qualified their kids for reduced lunches in past years. I would have qualified for WIC if my wife hadn’t been doing extra babysitting while pregnant or if our second had come a year earlier.

Whoa. Just checked and I’m fairly certain we qualify now. I even had kids a little later than the average BYU guy. The point is, teachers are not just being whiny when they qualify for federally subsidized food. You’re not supposed to spend above something like 28% of your gross income on housing to be financially stable. Say you have a $1000 monthly payment for a $12000 yearly commitment to your mortgage. (At that price, you’re either getting a great deal on your interest rate or living in a very modest home. If you want your family to grow, good luck.) That translates to a yearly salary of $42,857 if you want to live at the threshold of fiscal responsibility. Here’s the salary schedule for Alpine School District:

Even tossing in savings from our admittedly good health insurance obtained from the large state-employee pool discount rates, how long until you can buy a home without moving to Genola? Surprised a lot of teachers quit in the first 5 years? And as salary increases, a lot of you know more than I do about the increasing costs of your growing family as well. (A 25-year teacher just told me he’s paying $150 more a month in insurance now that his 16-year-old son is driving. Ouch! I need to call my parents and retroactively thank them profusely.)

But with all this, teachers see firsthand at school that there are financial needs all over, and that is precisely why they DON’T go nuts and strike constantly. AND, while I believe Jesse is sincere, honestly tell me that UEA critics wouldn’t go nuts if we HAD gotten high percentage salary increases at the expense of the technology and extra classrooms that the funding went to. It’s a rock and a hard place for teachers. The same rock and a hard place hold true for the legislature, but the UEA gets demonized while having almost no real power.

I vaguely remember a strike from elementary/middle school years, and I was out of the country during the last strike in the late 90's. My school AEA rep says those two strikes made him disassociate from the union for awhile, and I would tend to agree with him. I want to be in the classroom even when I'm annoyed at the legislature. I only know only one teacher at my school, a California transplant who thinks the teachers should fight much harder for higher salaries like in his home state, who would support something like that. But that illustrates the true lack of power of the UEA. They make a lot of noise and get news coverage...and what? Senator Dayton mentioned how mad she felt over the UEA's "paving over the backs of students" ad campaign a couple years ago. (The legislature assigned tons of surplus to transportation in '06 when polls and the UEA wanted more for education. I feel we direly need both and it's a tough call, but I definitely believe that many legislators have a personal grudge against education.) The legislature was pilloried in editorials and in polls, but….the money still got assigned to roads, none of the Republicans got ousted (well, PCE picked off a few anti-voucher Republicans, but with other Republicans), and business went on as usual. Polls support better funding for education all the time, but legislators know that doesn't translate to the ballot box. How many teachers are there compared with habitual Republicans? The UEA has some token influence and gets some publicity, but the public only got really mad and acted with the rich money grab of vouchers.

Here’s two great posts from the Edu Blah Blah Blahg that sum it up well:

The Utah Education Association- we are not evil
I read a post on the Utah Amicus quoting a letter which stated,

"Why have we entrusted the education of our children to the faceless names of the Utah Education Association?"

In other words, "Why have we entrusted the education of our children to teachers?"

Well, I'm pleased to inform the general letter-writing public that UEA members (aka teachers) have names and faces (as both help when teaching).

This leads to one of the things that consistently bothers me about anti-union rhetoric. Many people who speak against the UEA regard it as an automaton with no heart. It doesn't take much effort to learn that the UEA is all teachers, through and through. Even the VP, Ellen Thompson, is still expected to be a classroom teacher while meeting all the obligations of her office. In fact, the only officer who is not a current classroom teacher is the president, Kim Campbell (understandably, as being UEA president must be a large time commitment).

I am a teacher. I love teaching. I believe in public education. If you've met me, you've met the UEA, and for that matter the NEA. Would you want to entrust your child's education to me? I would hope so.
Posted by andbrooke at Sunday, September 23, 2007

Yep, that's my union
I'm the union rep at my school- a job I've come to enjoy. I've made it a point to learn as much as I can about the union and almost all of what I've learned has been positive. I have yet to learn something about my teacher's union that would make me want to cancel my membership (and I even read Mike Antonucci's blog).

Talking to other teachers, I've heard a lot of different reasons for why they are not members. Some understandable, some absurd. The voucher referendum, though, makes me want to shake them all and ask, "Can't you see what they do for you? This referendum would not have gotten off the ground without the UEA!"

Now the NEA is throwing their weight behind the referendum. This is teachers' money from across the nation (including mine), and they're spending over a million on us. For me, this makes every dues payment worth it. By Nov 6, every penny I've sent them will have come right back to my state, for a cause I believe in.
Posted by andbrooke at Saturday, September 22, 2007