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12-9-13 National Teachers’ Unions - NEA and AFT - in the News…Cyber-bullying Bill has Momentum in Lame Duck...School Violence Decrease Overall
Politico.com - Teachers unions face moment of truth…The unions still control huge resources, but there are signs of financial strain... "...It’s designed to be an impressive show of force: Thousands of unionized teachers plan to rally Monday in cities from New York to San Francisco to “reclaim the promise of public education.Behind the scenes, however, teachers unions are facing tumultuous times..."

NJ Spotlight - Bill Would Ratchet Up Repercussions for Cyber-Bullies in Schools…Legislation seeks to criminalize online harassment, require kids and their parents to attend counseling "...The bill sponsored by state Sens. Donald Norcross (D-Camden) and Nicholas Sacco (D-Hudson) would essentially criminalize online harassment and other intimidation, whether by adults or minors, adding the new crime of “cyber-harassment” to the books..."

Star Ledger - The Auditor: Christie, education leader go from friendly to foes again… “Just 13 months ago, Gov. Chris Christie and Randi Weingarten, national president of the American Federation of Teachers, were all smiles, appearing together on MSNBC’s "Morning Joe…"

Philadelphia Inquirer - Report: Violence down in N.J. public schools

Politico.com - Teachers unions face moment of truth…The unions still control huge resources, but there are signs of financial strain

By STEPHANIE SIMON | 12/8/13 6:59 AM EST

It’s designed to be an impressive show of force: Thousands of unionized teachers plan to rally Monday in cities from New York to San Francisco to “reclaim the promise of public education.”

Behind the scenes, however, teachers unions are facing tumultuous times. Long among the wealthiest and most powerful interest groups in American politics, the unions are grappling with financial, legal and public-relations challenges as they fight to retain their clout and build alliances with a public increasingly skeptical of big labor.

 “I do think it’s a moment of truth,” said Lance Alldrin, a veteran high-school teacher in Corning, Calif., who has split from his longtime union after serving for a decade as the local president.

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The National Education Association has lost 230,000 members, or 7 percent, since 2009, and it’s projecting another decline this year, which will likely drop it below 3 million members. Among the culprits: teacher layoffs, the rise of non-unionized charter schools and new laws in states such as Wisconsin and Michigan freeing teachers to opt out of the union.

The American Federation of Teachers has been able to grow slightly and now represents 1.5 million workers — but because many new members are retirees or part-timers who pay lower dues, union revenue actually fell last year, by nearly $6 million, federal records show.

Moreover, the membership of the NEA and AFT overlaps considerably; some 663,000 workers show up on both rolls because their locals maintain dual affiliations. That double counting inflates perceptions of the teacher lobby’s combined strength. Total union membership isn’t 4.5 million — it’s 3.8 million.

The unions and their affiliates still control huge resources. They collectively bring in more than $2 billion a year, most of it from member dues. Yet there are signs of financial strain. The NEA has cut spending by 12 percent in the last two years, in part by reducing its staff. And after years of posting surpluses, the AFT has been running deficits. It wrapped up the most recent fiscal year owing $3.7 million on its line of credit, up from $916,000 the previous year, according to records filed with the U.S. Department of Labor. (AFT officials point out that’s still just a fraction of the union’s $155 million general fund budget.)

The unions also face threats to their public image.

Former U.S. Solicitor General Theodore Olson expects to go to trial in California next month with an audacious lawsuit that aims to overturn teacher job protections, such as tenure, that unions helped muscle into state law.

His work in the courtroom will be paired with a broad PR campaign painting the teachers unions as obstructionists who protect their members at all costs.

Olson has gathered hair-raising stories about a small number of teachers who sexually harassed students, refused to plan lessons, appeared on campus under the influence, yet held onto their jobs for years because of union-backed job protections. Exhibit A: The Los Angeles Unified School District, which spent a decade and $3.5 million trying to dismiss seven teachers for poor performance — and only succeeded in ousting four. Rather than attempting to fire Mark Berndt, a veteran teacher who pleaded guilty last month to lewd acts with his students, the district paid him $40,000 to resign.

Union leaders say that Olson is distorting the picture by focusing on a few bad apples. “Parents will see through that,” NEA President Dennis Van Roekel said.

But Olson says he intends to use tactics borrowed from his successful fight to overturn California’s ban on same-sex marriage – plus funding from Silicon Valley entrepreneur David Welch – to make sure he wins not just in the legal arena, but “in the court of public opinion.”

More bad press for unions looms on the East Coast, where former CNN anchor Campbell Brown has financed TV ads and a relentless social media campaign accusing the unions of protecting New York City teachers who sexually harass students. She’s got some vivid, cringe-inducing examples – and she’s planning to kick the campaign into high gear this winter.

Union leaders say they don’t protect bad teachers, just seek to ensure due process. And they brush off the negative publicity as a political ploy that won’t gain traction. The American public, they say, is much more interested in talking about scrapping high-stakes testing, broadening the curriculum, reducing class sizes and spreading resources equitably — all issues that unions have championed.

In the struggle for “hearts and minds,” unions are winning, AFT President Randi Weingarten said.

It’s not clear, however, that those alliances are deep or durable: Support for labor unions in general has fallen steadily, dipping below 50 percent for the first time in 2012 before rebounding slightly this year, Gallup polls find. Only 32 percent of Americans expressed a positive view of teachers unions (and another 25 percent were neutral) in a poll last year by the journal Education Next.

To be sure, unions still have the funding and the foot soldiers to be power players. The NEA and AFT spent more than $40 million last year on federal lobbying and electoral politics, according to the Center for Responsive Politics, plus tens of millions more in the states. And they can still splurge when it’s important to them: The AFT bought $1.2 million worth of TV, radio and print advertising this weekend to promote the National Day of Action.

But labor analysts say it’s clearly a new environment for teachers unions. “They’re much more on the defensive now,” said Katharine Strunk, an education professor who studies labor at the University of Southern California.

“This is a very, very challenging time for unions,” said John Logan, a professor of labor history at San Francisco State University.

Among the challenges: Dissent from within.

There’s a small but noisy rebellion, flaring mostly in social media, from teachers furious that both the NEA and the AFT have endorsed the Common Core academic standards.

More significant is the demographic shift. Waves of Baby Boomer teachers have retired in recent years and been replaced by hundreds of thousands of rookies. Half of all teachers in classrooms today have been on the job for 10 or fewer years. And those newcomers have very different views from the veterans and retirees who typically dominate union politics.

More than 70 percent of teachers on the job less than a decade are interested in changing the traditional salary scale, which rewards educators for longevity rather than performance. Just 41 percent of more veteran teachers back such reforms, according to a national survey last year by the organization Teach Plus. The poll documented similar gulfs in opinion about revamping teacher evaluations and pensions.

That leaves union leaders to perform a tricky balancing act. They have, for instance, embraced local contracts that require evaluating teachers in part based on their students’ test scores. Yet Weingarten has also called for an end to “hyper-testing” students and then “sanctioning teachers and closing schools” based on those test scores.

Both Weingarten and Van Roekel say their unions’ policies will continue to evolve to reflect member views.

But change isn’t coming fast enough for many young teachers, who often see no reason to join their unions – or, if they’re required to join, see no reason to become active, said Susan Moore Johnson, an education professor at Harvard University who has studied the generational split.

The national Education Next poll, co-sponsored by Harvard’s Program on Education Policy and Governance, found a startling 31 percent of teachers held negative views of their own unions — up from 17 percent in 2011.

“It really does raise questions about what role unions will play in the future,” Johnson said.

The disillusionment is palpable. In recent months, five small local affiliates – three in California and two in Kansas – have broken away from the NEA, voting to handle collective bargaining on their own.

Rafael Ruano, the lawyer who helped the California locals, says he’s working on similar efforts with several dozen other NEA affiliates. “We’re at the beginning of what I think is potentially a major, major trend,” he said.

The National Right to Work Committee, meanwhile, plans to campaign for an end to compulsory union membership in Missouri, Pennsylvania and Kentucky in the coming months. If successful, that could have big effect. Both unions have seen moderate declines in some states that adopted opt-out provisions — and huge drops in others. In Wisconsin, for instance, the AFT has lost 65 percent of its statewide membership and the NEA is down 19 percent.

As if these threats were not enough, the political landscape is shifting under the unions.

In recent years, wealthy donors have organized networks to fund candidates willing to buck the teachers unions on issues such as charter schools and merit pay. That has eroded unions’ traditional alliances with Democrats and left them at odds with mayors in big cities such as Philadelphia, Chicago and Denver. Even longtime allies are now crossing them: California Gov. Jerry Brown, a Democrat, recently vetoed a bill about layoff protocols that the unions had strongly promoted.

The unions also face potential cuts to teacher pensions, even in heavily Democratic states like Illinois.

In response, unions have sought out allies in unlikely places, stepping up donations to Republican candidates, including some sharply conservative state legislators. The AFT has also sought strength in numbers, growing in part by absorbing locals that have nothing to do with education. The American Federation of Teachers now represents, among others, public defenders, dental hygienists, police officers, maintenance workers, nurses and even lifeguards.

The chief response, however, has been to go on the offensive.

Both the NEA and AFT have poured money into efforts meant to demonstrate that unions aren’t the problem, but a key part of the solution in public education.

The AFT is leading a novel public-private partnership to revitalize schools in impoverished McDowell County, W. Va.

NEA members voted this year to hike their own dues to raise $6 million a year for a Great Public Schools Fund, which seeks innovative ways to improve student achievement.

Both unions have teamed up with their frequent antagonist, Teach for America, on a national initiative to recruit elite college students into teaching. And both are pushing for new training and licensing requirements aimed at raising standards for the profession.

Monday’s National Day of Action gives the unions perhaps their biggest stage yet. They are circulating a statement of principles that rejects education reforms based on high-stakes testing and free-market competition and champions the neighborhood public school as the anchor of democracy.

“I believe the future for this union, and for other unions, is great,” Van Roekel said. “Yes, there are challenges, but that also brings opportunities. We’re going to find a way.”

Read more: http://www.politico.com/story/2013/12/education-teachers-unions-moment-of-truth-national-education-association-american-federation-of-teachers-100813_Page2.html#ixzz2mzLa0CE8


NJ Spotlight - Bill Would Ratchet Up Repercussions for Cyber-Bullies in Schools…Legislation seeks to criminalize online harassment, require kids and their parents to attend counseling  "...The bill sponsored by state Sens. Donald Norcross (D-Camden) and Nicholas Sacco (D-Hudson) would essentially criminalize online harassment and other intimidation, whether by adults or minors, adding the new crime of “cyber-harassment” to the books..."

John Mooney | December 9, 2013


Attempts to address the already high-profile problem of cyber-bullying in New Jersey’s schools could intensify dramatically under a bill making its way through the state Senate.

The bill sponsored by state Sens. Donald Norcross (D-Camden) and Nicholas Sacco (D-Hudson) would essentially criminalize online harassment and other intimidation, whether by adults or minors, adding the new crime of “cyber-harassment” to the books.

The bill was endorsed unanimously by the Senate budget committee last week. An Assembly bill has yet to be heard in committee.

Much of the attention of the bill has been on actions by adults and proposed penalties of as much as five years in prison. The law would apply not only to harassment online, but also to the transmission of lewd or obscene materials.

But the stakes would be high for minors, too, with rules that are only slightly different, although the sanctions for minors call as much for counseling as incarceration.

The bill would also hold parents accountable to some extent for the first time, requiring them to attend counseling, as well, or face their own penalties.

Either way, the bill would significantly ramp up attention to the issue, say its sponsors, and help close a loophole in current law.

“We’re taking into account that kids will be kids,” said Norcross in an interview. “But when it crosses the line to the where the intention is to commit harm, it’s not a matter anymore of kids just arguing online anymore.”

“We’ve heard the stories nationwide, and the fact of the matter, as the technology has grown, we have not kept up with it,” he said.

A key amendment made to the Senate bill last week added that the person knowingly intended to cause harm to the victim or create a fear of harm, either physically or emotionally.

The extent of cyber-bullying among children is hard to gauge, authorities say, because while some of it is reported, much of it is not.

The latest statistics released this week by the state Department of Education in its annual school violence report said that New Jersey schools reported 1,093 incidents of harassment either online or through other electronic means in 2012-13.

The number represents a slight drop from the 1,392 online incidents reported the year before, the first year of the state’s new Anti-Bullying Bill of Rights, which placed new procedures and timelines in place for all incidents of bullying and harassment in schools.

Overall, the online incidents last year represented 14 percent of the total number of bullying and harassment incidents reported in schools.

But that may only hint at the extent of the problem. Various advocacy groups have said many incidents are not reported at all. According to Internet Safe Child, a Camden County organization involved in crafting the bill, half of all teenagers face some form of harassment online and only one in 10 teens tells his or her parents about it.

“There is a wild west out there,” said Russell Depersia, a Camden attorney involved with the organization, who testified before the Senate budget committee. “If you put something on Facebook or Twitter, it doesn’t go away. You have to be held accountable for that.”

He and others said that New Jersey does not have a specific statute addressing online harassment, and that even if the new statute means a juvenile offender ends up with a light punishment, the impact would be lasting.

“Even if it’s a first offender and an appearance in juvenile court, that’s not a small thing,” Depersia said. “All of a sudden, you are before a judge.”

And then there’s the provision that would have an impact on parents. For children under 16, the minimum sentencing would require juveniles to attend a training program or counseling to address the behavior – accompanied by their parents. If a parent did not attend, they could face a disorderly persons charge.

Some have argued that parents should be held more accountable for the actions of their children. Depersia said this was a start in that regard.

“ I think that's enough to be a bite on the parents," he said.


Star Ledger - The Auditor: Christie, education leader go from friendly to foes again...Just 13 months ago, Gov. Chris Christie and Randi Weingarten, national president of the American Federation of Teachers, were all smiles, appearing together on MSNBC’s "Morning Joe."

By The Auditor/The Star-Ledger The Star-Ledger on December 08, 2013 at 8:15 AM, updated December 08, 2013 at 8:17 AM

Just 13 months ago, Gov. Chris Christie and Randi Weingarten, national president of the American Federation of Teachers, were all smiles, appearing together on MSNBC’s "Morning Joe."

The one-time foes praised each other for the bipartisan compromise that led to a landmark Newark teachers’ contract — the first in the state and one of the first in the nation to base teacher pay on classroom performance, including student progress.

"Every time we had a problem at the table, it was about what is going to work for the kids of Newark," Weingarten said of the merit pay deal. The governor even invoked his "boulevard of compromise" line.

But those good vibes are gone.

On Monday, Weingarten will travel to Newark to lead a march and rally in protest of what a coalition of advocacy groups called "Christie’s failed leadership on education in Newark."

"I think it’s fair to say there are areas of agreement and disagreement," AFT spokesman Marcus Mrowka told The Auditor, pointing to the fair funding formula, local control and school closings. "Those three things the governor does have some control over."

The day after Christie cruised to re-election, Weingarten chastised him for choosing to "publicly demean and vilify" a teacher with whom he had an argument on the campaign trail in Somers Point.

At one time, Christie’s relationship with the AFT, which represents about 4,000 Newark teachers, looked like a welcome departure from his contentious battles with the New Jersey Education Association.

Philadelphia Inquirer - Report: Violence down in N.J. public schools   by Rita Giordano and Dylan Purcell


TRENTON Incidents of violence, vandalism, weapons possession, and substance abuse in New Jersey's public schools saw an overall decrease in 2012-13 from the previous school year, according to an annual report released Thursday by state education officials.

In addition, the number of incidents of harassment, intimidation, and bullying reported by districts decreased last school year by nearly 4,300, or 36 percent.

While some of that decline may be due to bullying-prevention programs, state officials said part of the drop is the result of the Department of Education's working with local districts over the last two years to get a better understanding of the criteria for reporting bullying.

"We are pleased to see positive trends this year," state Education Commissioner Chris Cerf said. "Safe and secure learning environments are a crucial part of preparing kids for college and career, and we have invested significant time to provide support and coaching to districts to reduce incidents of bullying and other forms of violence."

The data come from the Violence, Vandalism and Substance Abuse in the School Report, which depends on districts self-reporting incidents.  In the state as a whole, reported school violence saw a one-year drop of 4 percent. Vandalism was down 9 percent; weapons, 7 percent; and substance abuse, 4 percent.

Locally, the picture varied.

The overall violent-incident rate in Camden County went from .83 incidents per 100 students to .79. Gloucester County improved to .67 incidents per 100 from .88 the year before. Burlington County saw an overall increase of .94 incidents per 100 students versus .85 per 100 the year before.

Some South Jersey districts, such as Cherry Hill, reflected the state's overall incident decline.

Cherry Hill's total reported incidents in all categories combined dropped from 235 in 2011-12 to 99 in the last school year. During the period, reported violent incidents fell from 41 to 35, substance abuse went from 26 incidents to 17, and reported bullying dropped from 144 to 23.

Michael Nuzzo, district security director, attributed the big change in the bullying number in part to training of bullying specialists by the district and the state, as well parents and students realizing bullying is being taken seriously by the district.

In addition, he said that in 2011-12, the first year the state's anti-bullying law took effect, many districts were struggling to make sure they did not underreport incidents.

In Camden City, on the other hand, every category but weapons offenses went up. Violent incidents, for example, jumped from 138 in 2011-12 to 163, after the district reporting 10 incidents in 2009-10, and 22 in 2010-11. For 2012-13, the district reported 109 harassment, intimidation, and bullying incidents, compared to 35 the year before.

Tony Bland, head of the state Department of Education's Office of School Preparedness and Emergency Planning, has been working with district. He attributed the higher numbers to more correct reporting by district leadership in the last year, which has included interim leaders and state-appointed Superintendent Paymon Rouhanifard.  "Those three people have consistently said, 'We are going to report more accurately,' " Bland said.

With more accurate numbers, he said, the district can better target resources were they are needed.

Other South Jersey districts, including some of the smaller ones, saw their violence rates go up. Beverly City, a Burlington County district with 307 students, saw the largest rate increase: 10.42 violent incidents per 100 students in 2012-13 compared to 2.93 per 100 the year before.

The next highest was Hainesport Township, also in Burlington County, with 695 students. For the last school year, the district reported 3.88 violent incidents per 100 students, as opposed to .87 per 100 the year before.







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