WEAC: $1.57 million for Four Wisconsin Senators

Steven Walters

ow much do election-year firewalls cost to build? For the state’s largest teachers union, $1.57 million.
That’s how much the Wisconsin Education Association Council said last week it will spend trying to make sure four Democratic state senators are re-elected – enough, WEAC hopes, to keep a Democratic majority in the 33-member state body.
Although there are 15 Democratic candidates running for the state Senate, and 80 Democrats running for the state Assembly, the latest WEAC report shows that the teachers union is placing what amounts to an “all in” bet on saving just four Democratic senators who are finishing their first terms.
In an Oct. 25 report to the Government Accountability Board, the 98,000-member union reported that it will independently:
• Spend the most – $440,044 – to try to re-elect Democratic Sen. Jim Sullivan of Wauwatosa in the 5th district. WEAC’s pro-Sullivan spending will total $327,939; the remaining $112,105 will be used against Sullivan’s Republican challenger, Republican Rep. Leah Vukmir, also from Wauwatosa.

Amazing and something to consider when school spending is discussed.

Financial Status of NEA Affiliates, WEAC Membership Declines

Mike Antonucci: Financial Status of All NEA State Affiliates. In-depth analysis will follow in the weeks to come, but for now here is the table containing total membership, total revenues, surplus or deficit status and net assets for all 52 National Education Association “state” affiliates for 2012-13 Related: $1.57M for four State Senators.

Local boards key to WEAC’s fate

Wisconsin State Journal:

Good teachers are more important than good teachers unions.
That’s worth noting as the Wisconsin Education Association Council loses membership and explores a possible merger.
WEAC has been hurt by Act 10, Gov. Scott Walker’s strict limits on collective bargaining for most public workers. Act 10 means most teachers across Wisconsin are no longer required to pay dues to a union. The legislation also prompted many aging teachers to retire sooner than planned.
WEAC membership has fallen from nearly 100,000 two years ago to around 70,000, with further decline expected as contract extensions in cities such as Madison, Janesville and Milwaukee expire.

Related: WEAC: $1.57 million for Four Wisconsin Senators.

After Act 10, WEAC sees hope in local teacher advocacy

Erin Richards:

Unions actively reorienting themselves – even in states without Act 10-like legislation in place – are mobilizing teachers around curriculum and instruction issues. That could mean organizing teachers to champion what’s working best in the classroom by bringing new ideas to the school board, or working to get the community to support specific practices.
It means working more collaboratively, and offering solutions.
But collaboration can break down over ideological differences regarding what’s best for kids. Or teachers.
For example, while WEAC has supported a statewide evaluation system for educators in recent years, it has resisted emphasizing test scores in such evaluations. Others argue that robust data on test-score performance can say a lot about a teacher’s quality and should be used to make more aggressive decisions in termination or promotion.
Asking teachers to take a more active role in their union could also become an additional stress.

Related: WEAC: $1.57 million for Four Wisconsin Senators.

Weaker WEAC meets new reality

Wisconsin State Journal:

The conversation covered much ground, but mostly we talked about WEAC’s new reality, and the daunting task facing a union that just lost a huge political battle in a decisive way.
Some highlights:

  • Did WEAC make a mistake in endorsing Kathleen Falk so early in the process? “She was a strong and viable candidate,” Bell said. “And we needed to make sure there was another voice in the arena.”
  • What does the future hold for WEAC? “Every election has lessons,” she said. “Scott Walker is going to be in office for at least two more years, and we have to figure out how we can work with that.”
  • Can WEAC sustain its membership in a post-Act 10 world? Burkhalter said membership was about 90,000 before Walker’s strict limits on collective bargaining for most public workers kicked in. Once all the current teacher union contracts expire and individual teachers are free to choose whether to pay dues or not, WEAC hopes to retain 60,000 to 70,000 of that base, he said.

WEAC: $1.57 million for Four Wisconsin Senators. Much more on WEAC.

WEAC has no regrets about failed Walker recall

Meg Jones:

Since the collective bargaining measure was enacted last year, WEAC’s membership has dropped from around 90,000 to 70,000, but the remaining membership became energized by the recall. Union leaders are hopeful that passion will continue as the union rallies around issues such as public school funding. The union is working on membership drives this summer.
“I think we will be smaller but stronger,” Bell said.
Burkhalter estimated 25% to 30% of WEAC members voted for Walker in 2010 while on Tuesday about 5% voted for the governor.
“He really united our membership,” said Burkhalter.
Bell said Walker prevailed in the recall partly because many voters don’t like recall elections and some believed recalls should only be used in cases of malfeasance. She admitted public employees were easy targets for the governor and Republican lawmakers because of generous pensions and benefits, which Bell noted were mostly a result of former Republican Gov. Tommy Thompson’s qualified economic offer law that gave better benefits in return for salary concessions to public school employees several years ago.

Related: WEAC: $1.57 million for Four Wisconsin Senators.

Recall WEAC “When School Children Start Paying Union Dues, I’ll Start Representing Schoolchildren” – Al Shanker

the Recall WEAC website is live, via a kind reader’s email:

Reforming Education And Demanding Exceptional Results in Wisconsin (READER-WI) is a non-partisan organization devoted to reforming and improving the education system in Wisconsin.
We are facing a critical time here in Wisconsin. Where is education going in the 21st century? Will we have an educational system designed to improve educational outcomes for all children in all income brackets and of all ethnicities? Or will we have an educational system designed to maximize Big Labor revenues, and designed to protect the worst teachers while driving out the best?
Click on the tabs at the top of this page to learn more about the crisis we are in. Then, join us in our fight to reform education. Children can no longer be used as political pawns. Let’s make a real, positive difference.

More, here, including the beltline billboard due tomorrow.
Al Shanker: Blekko or Clusty.
Related: WEAC: $1.57 million for Four Wisconsin Senators, Sparks fly over Wisconsin budget’s labor-related provisions and Teachers Union & (Madison) School Board Elections.
Joe Tarr:

The quote has been repeated many times, often by conservatives attacking unions as the bane of public education. Joe Klein used it in a June 2011 article in The Atlantic.
However, the Albert Shanker Institute made an extensive effort to find the source of the quote but failed. In a blog post, the Institute concluded: “It is very difficult — sometimes impossible — to prove a negative, especially when it is something like a verbal quotation…. So, we cannot demonstrate conclusively that Albert Shanker never made this particular statement. He was a forthright guy who was known for saying all manner of interesting and provocative things, both on and off the record. But we believe the quote is fiction.”
The Institute speculates that the quote might be a distortion of a speech Shanker gave in the 1970s at Oberlin College, where he said, “I don’t represent children. I represent teachers… But, generally, what’s in the interest of teachers is also in the interest of students.”
The Wikipedia entry lists other quotations from Shanker that are not disputed, including some that would fit perfectly with the stated goals of READER-WI.
Such as this one: “A lot of people who have been hired as teachers are basically not competent.”
And this one: “It is as much the duty of the union to preserve public education as it is to negotiate a good contract.”

School choice advocates spend freely on politics, WEAC Spending

Susan Troller

A rural legislator who received tens of thousands of dollars in campaign contributions from out-of-state school choice advocates took flak back home for supporting expansion of a Milwaukee voucher program when his own school district is struggling financially.
According to a story in the Sauk Prairie Eagle last week, an aide to Rep. Howard Marklein, R-Spring Green, had to use a gavel to bring order back to a budget listening session at Sauk Prairie Memorial Hospital on May 6.
Marklein, a freshman Republican legislator, was asked if campaign contributions were influencing his support for two pieces of recent school choice legislation which provide public tax dollars for families to spend in private schools in Milwaukee. This, at the same time that the River Valley School District, which Marklein represents, has been forced to cut programs and staff and is facing more cuts in Gov. Scott Walker’s budget.

Related: WEAC: $1.57 million for Four Wisconsin Senators by Steven Walters:

How much do election-year firewalls cost to build? For the state’s largest teachers union, $1.57 million.
That’s how much the Wisconsin Education Association Council said last week it will spend trying to make sure four Democratic state senators are re-elected – enough, WEAC hopes, to keep a Democratic majority in the 33-member state body.
Although there are 15 Democratic candidates running for the state Senate, and 80 Democrats running for the state Assembly, the latest WEAC report shows that the teachers union is placing what amounts to an “all in” bet on saving just four Democratic senators who are finishing their first terms.

Wisconsin Teachers Union Tops Lobbying Expenditures in 2009, more than Double #2

Missing Wisconsin senators rely heavily on union campaign dollars

Daniel Bice and Ben Poston:

The 14 Wisconsin Democratic senators who fled to Illinois share more than just political sympathy with the public employees and unions targeted by Gov. Scott Walker’s budget-repair bill.
The Senate Democrats count on those in the public sector as a key funding source for their campaigns.
In fact, nearly one out of every five dollars raised by those Democratic senators in the past two election cycles came from public employees, such as teachers and firefighters, and their unions, a Journal Sentinel analysis of campaign records shows.
“It’s very simple,” said Richard Abelson, executive director of District Council 48 of the American Federation of State, County and Municipal Employees. “We have interests, and because of that, we attempt to support candidates who support our interests. It’s pretty hard to find Republicans who support our interests these days.”
Critics of Walker’s budget-repair bill say it would mean less union money for Democrats. That’s because the legislation would end automatic payroll deductions for dues and would allow public employees to opt out of belonging to a union.

Related: WEAC: $1.57 million for Four Wisconsin Senators.

NJEA Made $2.5M Donation to Pro-Murphy Dark Money Group

Observer: A week after Gov. Phil Murphy vetoed a bill strengthening disclosure requirements for contributions to “dark money” political groups, it was revealed that the state’s powerful teachers’ union contributed $2.5 million to a group pushing the pro-labor governor’s agenda. New Directions New Jersey had refused to reveal who helped fund their work supporting the … Continue reading NJEA Made $2.5M Donation to Pro-Murphy Dark Money Group

The Union Fight That Defined Beto O’Rourke’s City Council Days

Walker Bragman: At the height of the conflict, O’Rourke publicly mused about disbanding the police union, calling it “out of control” and lamenting his colleagues’ unwillingness to stand up to the powerful political force. A year later, he was calling for “better checks on collective bargaining in the public sector.” The fight came at one … Continue reading The Union Fight That Defined Beto O’Rourke’s City Council Days

NEA and Its State Affiliates Are a $1.62 Billion Enterprise. Here’s a Breakdown of Their Membership and Finances

Mike Antonucci: What if I told you there was a corporation with franchises in every state — and one overseas — that collected $1.62 billion in revenues annually and paid virtually no federal, state, or local income taxes? That corporation is the National Education Association, whose 3 million members send contributions every paycheck. The one … Continue reading NEA and Its State Affiliates Are a $1.62 Billion Enterprise. Here’s a Breakdown of Their Membership and Finances

K-12 Influence Peddling: 2016 Election

Peter Cook: After spending eight long years at odds with the Obama Administration, the American Federation of Teachers (AFT) and National Education Association (NEA) viewed the 2016 elections as an opportunity to reassert themselves within the Democratic Party and to regain a measure of influence over federal education policy. As a result, the two unions … Continue reading K-12 Influence Peddling: 2016 Election

Money, Politics, K-12 Governance and Teacher Unions

Kevin Williamson: During the 2008 Democratic primary, Obama gave an off-the-record speech to a group of Wall Street financial executives in which he shared his frustration with the sclerotic and bureaucratic state of American education, and declared that he was close to publicly endorsing a nationwide school-choice program. (This is according to one of those … Continue reading Money, Politics, K-12 Governance and Teacher Unions

Teacher Union Lobbying And Governance

Bill McMorris: The two Republicans who broke ranks with their party and announced they would vote against education secretary nominee Betsy DeVos have received thousands of dollars from the nation’s largest teachers union. Sens. Lisa Murkowski (R., Alaska) and Susan Collins (R., Maine) have each benefited from contributions from the National Education Association. Collins received … Continue reading Teacher Union Lobbying And Governance

Wisconsin Act 10, Outcomes, Spending And Rhetoric

Molly Beck: A spokeswoman for Senate Majority Leader Scott Fitzgerald, R-Juneau, said Act 10 has been an “undisputed victory for Wisconsin taxpayers.” “Wisconsin’s declining union membership since the passage of right-to-work legislation only reflects that workers now have the ability to make their own decision about the costs and benefits of union membership,” said spokeswoman … Continue reading Wisconsin Act 10, Outcomes, Spending And Rhetoric

For unions in Wisconsin, a fast and hard fall since Act 10

Dave Umhoefer: Dave Weiland, an Oconomowoc school district teacher and local union leader, thinks the state union was stuck in a 1920s mentality. “The gravy train was running, and they didn’t see the curve,” he said. Indeed, two years prior to Walker’s election, the path appeared to be moving in a different direction. Bolstered by … Continue reading For unions in Wisconsin, a fast and hard fall since Act 10

NJ teachers union to Dems: No campaign cash for you until pension amendment vote

Samantha Marcus and Susan Livio: The constitutional amendment would require the state increase payments into the government worker pension fund. It must be approved by the voters in a public referendum. But Senate President Stephen Sweeney (D-Gloucester) has so far declined to hold a vote on the referendum until lawmakers resolve a transportation funding impasse. … Continue reading NJ teachers union to Dems: No campaign cash for you until pension amendment vote

California State teachers union has given more than $13 million to extend income taxes on wealthy Californians

Liam Dillon: California’s largest teachers union has given more than $13 million to the effort to extend income tax hikes on California’s highest earners, according to newly released state campaign finance reports. The report shows the California Teachers Assn. gave $3 million between April and June this year, in addition to the $10 million the … Continue reading California State teachers union has given more than $13 million to extend income taxes on wealthy Californians

WikiLeaks reveals DNC holds unions in contempt

Jeremy Lott: Yet the emails that have been released highlight the rather one-way relationship between the Democratic Party and labor unions. DNC staffers see the unions as good soldiers in skirmishes with Republicans, as a pain when it comes to getting things done and, ultimately, as pushovers. When brainstorming what to do about last week’s … Continue reading WikiLeaks reveals DNC holds unions in contempt

$10.6M MTA spending to defeat charter expansion

Mike Antonucci: An initiative on the November ballot in Massachusetts would lift the state’s cap on charter schools just enough to allow 12 new charters or expansions of existing charters each year. That seems relatively innocuous as political issues go, but the Massachusetts Teachers Association (MTA) has made the referendum its line in the sand. … Continue reading $10.6M MTA spending to defeat charter expansion

Madison’s Schwerpunkt: Government School District Power Play: The New Handbook Process is worth a look

Wisconsin’s stürm and drang over “Act 10” is somewhat manifested in Madison. Madison’s government schools are the only Wisconsin District, via extensive litigation, to still have a collective bargaining agreement with a teacher union, in this case, Madison Teachers, Inc. The Madison School Board and Administration are working with the local teachers union on a … Continue reading Madison’s Schwerpunkt: Government School District Power Play: The New Handbook Process is worth a look

How education lobbyists are schooling D.C. lawmakers

:

Among the biggest spenders on lobbying are the National Education Association and American Federation of Teachers, the two teachers’ unions.

The NEA spent $1.2 million during the first six months of 2015, second only among public employee unions to the $1.3 million lobbying bill paid by the American Federation of State, County and Municipal Employees, according to the Center for Responsive Politics, a Washington-based research group. AFT ranked fourth with $668,068.

Related: WEAC: $1,570,000 for four senators.

Washington State Supreme Court: Charter schools are unconstitutional…

John Higgins: After nearly a year of deliberation, the state Supreme Court ruled 6-3 late Friday afternoon that charter schools are unconstitutional, creating chaos for hundreds of families whose children have already started classes. The ruling — believed to be one of the first of its kind in the country — overturns the law voters … Continue reading Washington State Supreme Court: Charter schools are unconstitutional…

Justices receive political contributions from lead party in charter school lawsuit

Washington policy center : New research finds that some justices on the state supreme court have received political contributions from a lead party in a key lawsuit now before the court. Parties in the case, League of Women Voters, Washington Education Association, et al vs State of Washington, are asking the court to strike down … Continue reading Justices receive political contributions from lead party in charter school lawsuit

Teacher Union Lobbying: “We’re saying, ‘OK. We used to have sway top down and the only way we get back there again is to educate people at the local level.’”

Molly Beck: Either way, membership is down more than 50 percent from the union’s 98,000-member levels before Gov. Scott Walker signed his signature legislation in 2011 that significantly diminished collective bargaining rights for most public employees. WEAC’s lobbying dollars have dropped dramatically, too. A decade ago, WEAC spent $1.5 million on lobbying during the 2005-2006 … Continue reading Teacher Union Lobbying: “We’re saying, ‘OK. We used to have sway top down and the only way we get back there again is to educate people at the local level.’”

School unions vital defenders of public education

Madison’s Capital Times This fall, 305 local union organizations representing public school teachers, support staff, and custodial workers held recertification elections in school districts across the state. Despite everything that Walker has done to undermine them, more than 90 percent of the local unions were recertified. Indeed, according to the Wisconsin Education Association Council, 97 … Continue reading School unions vital defenders of public education

Commentary on Elections, School Choice & Lobbying Expenditures

Bill Lueders: School choice proponents, many from out of state, funneled $64,000 directly into candidates’ coffers in 2014, through AFC and another group. (The AFC-affiliated funder, Wisconsin Federation for Children Political Fund, filed its last report Nov. 26, a month late, risking a penalty of up to $500. Its Washington, D.C.-based administrator did not respond … Continue reading Commentary on Elections, School Choice & Lobbying Expenditures

New Jersey Teachers Union Spent $60m over the past 15 years on Campaigns & Lobbying

John Mooney: The political spending by the New Jersey Education Association is no secret anymore, with the latest numbers — in the tens of millions — continuing to astound. A new report by the state’s election finance commission tallied more than $57 million spent by the teachers union on political campaigns and lobbying in the … Continue reading New Jersey Teachers Union Spent $60m over the past 15 years on Campaigns & Lobbying

Election Grist: Madison Teachers Inc. has been a bad corporate citizen for too long

David Blaska: Teachers are some of our most dedicated public servants. Many inspiring educators have changed lives for the better in Madison’s public schools. But their union is a horror. Madison Teachers Inc. has been a bad corporate citizen for decades. Selfish, arrogant, and bullying, it has fostered an angry, us-versus-them hostility toward parents, taxpayers, … Continue reading Election Grist: Madison Teachers Inc. has been a bad corporate citizen for too long

Madison’s Lengthy K-12 Challenges Become Election Grist; Spends 22% more per student than Milwaukee

Madison 2005 (reflecting 1998): When all third graders read at grade level or beyond by the end of the year, the achievement gap will be closed…and not before On November 7, Superintendent Art Rainwater made his annual report to the Board of Education on progress toward meeting the district’s student achievement goal in reading. As … Continue reading Madison’s Lengthy K-12 Challenges Become Election Grist; Spends 22% more per student than Milwaukee

Before contract, New York teachers gave to de Blasio charity

Chris Bragg: Less than a month before Mayor Bill de Blasio struck a major contract agreement with the United Federation of Teachers, its parent union, the American Federation of Teachers, gave $350,000 to a nonprofit run by de Blasio advisers, which lobbies on behalf of the mayor’s priorities, newly released records show.  The AFT’s donation, on … Continue reading Before contract, New York teachers gave to de Blasio charity

Wisconsin public-sector unions report big drops in revenue

Jack Craver:

Total revenue for the Wisconsin Education Association Council, the largest union in the state, dropped from $26 million in 2011 to $20 million in 2012. WEAC, which represents 80,000 teachers across the state, has for years been a great force for the Democratic Party, providing millions of dollars on attack ads against Republicans on top of legions of volunteers.
The next largest public sector union, American Federation of State, County and Municipal Employees, has also taken a financial hit. AFSCME Council 40, which represents county and municipal workers outside of Milwaukee County, reported its gross revenue dropping from $6.7 million in 2011 to $4.5 million in 2012. Reports for some of the other large AFSCME Councils, including Council 24, which represents state employees, are not yet available online.
Revenue for the American Federation of Teachers, which in Wisconsin largely represents academic staff at the state’s universities as well as a number of white-collar state employees, dropped from just under $4 million in 2011 to $2.6 million in 2012.
The Service Employees International Union (SEIU) Local 150 — which represents many public sector healthcare professionals — saw its revenue drop from $937,000 to $783,000. Fortunately for that union, many of its members, including nurses at Meriter Hospital, are in the private sector, and are thus unaffected by Act 10.
The decrease in union money could spell serious trouble for Democrats as they try to recapture the governorship and gain seats in the state Legislature next year. Third-party ads in favor of Democrats are largely funded by labor, whether from individual unions or union-funded groups such as the Greater Wisconsin Committee or We Are Wisconsin.
With the largest unions bleeding dues, it will be hard for Democratic forces to compete with corporate-funded players on the right, such as Wisconsin Manufacturers & Commerce, which has already dumped $1 million into an ad buy celebrating Walker’s record as governor.

Related: WEAC: $1.57 million for Four Wisconsin Senators.

Spending by Wisconsin unions on lobbyists plummets, records show

Jason Stein:

In just two years, spending by the state’s public employee unions on lobbyists has plummeted from the summit of Wisconsin politics, leaving business interests uncontested at the pinnacle of Capitol lobbying, a new report shows.
The figures show the Wisconsin Education Association Council, the state’s largest teacher union, spent nearly $2.1 million in the first six months of 2011 and $1 million in the first half of 2009, but a mere $84,000 in the first six months of this year. The union is spending less than one-tenth of what it once did.
The preliminary lobbying figures from the Government Accountability Board released this week are just the latest sign of the deep impact of Act 10, Gov. Scott Walker’s 2011 law repealing most collective bargaining for most public employees. The new figures on who’s lobbying state lawmakers follow a recent Milwaukee Journal Sentinel report showing that this same law had crushed the membership and finances of government labor unions as well as eliminating most of their former duties.
The Wisconsin Education Association Council was first or second in spending on lobbying in legislative sessions over the past four years and reached the height of its lobbying efforts in the first six months of 2011, as labor leaders tried feverishly but unsuccessfully to block Walker’s legislation.
But for the first six months of 2013, a critical period in which Republicans sharply expanded taxpayer-financed private voucher schools, WEAC’s lobbying spending was nothing special when compared with the other groups that have filed their lobbying reports with state officials. The once heavyweight contender now ranks 40th in the total spending at the Capitol, with its lobbying so far this year almost exactly matching the spending by two other middleweight interests: Marquette University and a conservation group.

Related:
WEAC: $1.57 million for Four Wisconsin Senators
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New Jersey’s largest teacher’s union has formed a Super PAC

Jarrett Renshaw:

The state’s largest teacher’s union has formed a new political advocacy group that can raise unlimited amounts of money from donors during the upcoming campaign season, according to federal and state filings.
The move by the New Jersey Education Association underscores a growing trend in the state as donors and interest groups turn to the federal tax code to avoid the state limits on campaign contributions.
The New Jersey Education Association formed Garden State Forward in March of this year, according to filings with the Internal Revenue Service. The NJEA already has a state political action committee, but a spokesman said the new group will allow the union to focus more on issues, less on specific elections.
“We established it so, if we wish, we can express issue advocacy with our members,” NJEA spokesman Steve Wollmer said.

Related: WEAC: $1.57 million for Four Wisconsin Senators.

The Voucher Lobby: Lobbying for school choice provides big money for Republicans

Bruce Murphy:

The word was out last year that Republican Assembly Speaker Jeff Fitzgerald intended to retire and make the big money working as a lobbyist. Two days after his term was up, he signed up as a lobbyist for School Choice Wisconsin.
Fitzgerald’s decision underlined the ironic facts of life in Wisconsin. Choice Schools may be badly underfunded, getting just $6,442 per pupil in public funding (about half of what public schools get), and may often pay lousy salaries to teachers. But those who lobby for school choice are doing just fine, thank you. Indeed, the pay is so good that three former Republican Assembly Speakers now do lobbying and advocacy for school choice.
The first to jump aboard the gravy train was former Speaker (and key figure in the legislative caucus scandal) Scott Jensen, who works for two Washington D.C.-based groups that work to increase School Choice funding: the American Federation for Children and the Alliance for School Choice, two sister organizations located at the same address, 1660 L Street NW, Suite 1000. Both groups have a key consultant, Chartwell Strategic Advisors, the one-man consulting company run by Jensen from his Brookfield home. In 2011, the most recent for which these groups filed federal income tax forms, Jensen earned $202,972, including $102,7346 from the American Federation for Children and $100, 236 from the Alliance for School Choice.
These groups have often worked to influence issues and elections in Wisconsin. A report by the American Federation for Children bragged that “With expenditures of $2,392,000, [AFC] engaged in hard-fought, successful battles to ensure educational choice majorities in both chambers of the Legislature” in Wisconsin, as the the Badger Herald reported.

Related: WEAC: $1.57 million for Four Wisconsin Senators.

K-12 Influence Spending in Wisconsin Political Races

Daniel Bice:

Rarely has the political payoff for a special interest group been as quick or blatant.
The American Federation for Children, one of the leading advocates for school choice in the country, brags in a recent brochure that it spent more than $325,000 – far more than the group has previously made public – to help elect state Sen. Rick Gudex in a closely contested Wisconsin race last fall.
Gudex won his seat by less than 600 votes.
Then, last week, the freshman lawmaker joined two other Senate Republicans in saying they were drawing a line in the sand by vowing to oppose a state budget bill if it doesn’t include an expansion of the state’s school voucher program.
“The American Federation of Children got exactly what they wanted,” said Mike McCabe, head of the left-leaning election watchdog group Wisconsin Democracy Campaign. “They want legislators who will go to the mat and make expanding the voucher program the bottom line.”
Just as interesting, McCabe said, is that the school choice organization is saying in its own material that it spent twice as much helping Gudex as it reported to state regulators. McCabe said his group is looking into filing an election complaint.
A source familiar with the American Federation’s political spending in Wisconsin called such a complaint “frivolous.” The organization, the source said, had abided by Wisconsin election laws.

Related: WEAC: $1.57 million for Four Wisconsin Senators.

Lobbying and Wisconsin $chools

Bill Lueders:

In 2011-12, GAB numbers show, Wisconsin contract lobbyists (hired guns) were reportedly paid $30.8 million. Meanwhile, in-house lobbyists (lobby group employees) reported their lobbying-related compensation at $24.3 million. Other lobby costs came to $7.8 million.
The session’s highest rollers, spending a total of $6.3 million, were public employee unions — Wisconsin State AFL-CIO, Wisconsin Education Association Council and AFSCME Council 11. Tellingly, 94% of this flowed forth in 2011, when the unions were fighting changes that would weaken their power; just 6% came in 2012, after these changes were made.
Other big spenders in 2011-12 include Wisconsin Manufacturers & Commerce, Wisconsin Hospital Association, AT&T Wisconsin, Wisconsin Medical Society, Wisconsin Property Taxpayers Inc. and Wisconsin Counties Association. All came in between $750,000 and $1 million. They were among more than 50 groups to top the $250,000 mark.
In terms of time spent, Wisconsin Property Taxpayers, a “property tax relief and reform” group, led the pack with 13,267 hours. A quarter of this, the largest share, went toward backing new state rules on metallic mining. Those efforts failed in 2011-12 but sailed through this year.
Other big players, time-wise, were the three aforementioned unions and AFSCME International, Wisconsin Independent Businesses, Wisconsin Association of School Boards, Wisconsin Manufacturers & Commerce, and the Wisconsin Hospital Association. All racked up more than 7,500 lobby hours.
In all, state groups reported 432,255 hours of lobbying — the equivalent of 100 people working full time over these two years.

A remarkable amount of money is spent on education lobbying. In 2010, WEAC spent $1,570,000 in an effort to re-elect four state senators. That is quite a statement and illustrates how things roll in the education world. Richard Zimman’s 2009 Madison Rotary Club speech is well worth reading.

Teachers union chief explains new reality for Wisconsin labor

Jack Craver:

CT: How has the method changed?
Bell: Literally it is member to member. It’s every member of the union talking to other people in those positions, reinforcing to them that collective action and collective advocacy is more than a collective bargaining agreement. Don’t get me wrong — I believe in collective bargaining and believe it’s a right our members ought to have, but shy of restoring it at the state level, collective advocacy is what the union is all about.
CT: And how has the “collective advocacy” changed?
Bell: We’re working more with organizing our members to engage their communities.
CT: Could you give me an example?

Related: WEAC: $1.57 million for Four Wisconsin Senators.

Ongoing Language Deformation Battles: Past Wisconsin school Spending surveys shed new light on ’11-12 results


Notes: Fund Balance is a District’s reserve cash/assets. The Madison School District’s fund balance, or equity declined significantly during the mid-2000’s, but has grown in recent years.

*The most recent survey was conducted by the Wisconsin Association of School District Administrators and used a different format. The other surveys were conducted by the Wisconsin Education Association Council. WEAC didn’t respond to questions about whether it had results for the 2008-09, 2009-10 or 2010-11.

SOURCE: WASDA/WEAC surveys with comments from local newspaper reporter Matthew DeFour & Clay Barbour:
Matthew DeFour & Clay Barbour:

Wisconsin superintendents survey last fall found state budget cuts prompted school districts to eliminate thousands of staff positions, increase class sizes, raise student fees and reduce extracurricular offerings this school year.
But this week, Gov. Scott Walker’s office said those results don’t tell the full story and that similar surveys from past years show school districts fared better after his education changes went into effect.
Further, the governor’s office contends the organizations that conducted those surveys — the Wisconsin Association of School District Administrators and the Wisconsin Education Association Council — were unhelpful, and in WEAC’s case actually worked against the administration as staff tried to compare recent results to past surveys.
“It’s unfortunate that WEAC stands in the way of survey data that they have released in the past, which shows the governor’s changes are working and are good for their members and the state’s schoolchildren,” said Cullen Werwie, Walker’s spokesman.
The older surveys show more school districts increased class sizes, reduced extracurricular programs, raised student fees and tapped reserves to balance their budgets in each year between 2002 and 2008 than they did in 2011-12.
In past years, about two-thirds to three-quarters of districts reported increasing student fees each year. This year, 22 percent of districts reported doing so.

Related: WEAC: $1.57 million for Four Wisconsin Senators, Sparks fly over Wisconsin budget’s labor-related provisions and Teachers Union & (Madison) School Board Elections.
Describing the evil effects of revolution, Thucydides writes, “Words had to change their ordinary meaning and to take that which was now given them.” (P. 199 of the Landmark edition)
Politics and the English Language by George Orwell (1946).

Teachers Union & (Madison) School Board Elections

Matthew DeFour:

A Madison Teachers Inc. endorsement hasn’t always guaranteed victory for Madison School Board candidates.
But this year, with union members mobilized by Gov. Scott Walker’s collective bargaining changes, the upcoming recall elections, a divisive debate over a charter school proposal the union opposed and a looming rewrite of employee work rules, the endorsement could be influential.
“It will be very hard for someone not endorsed by the teachers union to win,” said former School Board member Ruth Robarts, who won re-election in 2004 despite MTI labeling her “Public Enemy No. 1.”
Robarts is one of four candidates in 13 contested races over the past decade who defeated MTI-backed candidates.
This year the union endorsed incumbent Arlene Silveira over Nichelle Nichols, an executive at the Urban League of Greater Madison, which proposed the charter school plan.
The union also endorsed Michael Flores, who gained attention during Capitol protests last year, over Mary Burke for an open seat being vacated by Lucy Mathiak.

Teacher union influence can extend far beyond local school board elections. The influence process can be quite sophisticated and encompasses local and state elections along with the legal system. Teachers are certainly not the only groups to pull different levers, but a complete understanding of the K-12 governance model requires an awareness of the players (it is also useful to consider the “schw­er­punkt“, that is “creating a result around a central theme”). The following links are well worth reading:

  • WEAC: $1.57 million for Four Wisconsin Senators
  • Arbitrator Rules in Favor of MTI vs WEAC over legal fees
  • Sparks fly over Wisconsin budget’s labor-related provisions:

    To make matters more dire, the long-term legislative proposal specifically exempts school district arbitrations from the requirement that arbitrators consider and give the greatest weight to revenue limits and local economic conditions. While arbitrators would continue to give these two factors paramount consideration when deciding cases for all other local governments, the importance of fiscal limits and local economic conditions would be specifically diminished for school district arbitration.

  • Ripon Superintendent Richard Zimman in a 2009 speech to the Madison Rotary Club:

    “Beware of legacy practices (most of what we do every day is the maintenance of the status quo), @12:40 minutes into the talk – the very public institutions intended for student learning has become focused instead on adult employment. I say that as an employee. Adult practices and attitudes have become embedded in organizational culture governed by strict regulations and union contracts that dictate most of what occurs inside schools today. Any impetus to change direction or structure is met with swift and stiff resistance. It’s as if we are stuck in a time warp keeping a 19th century school model on life support in an attempt to meet 21st century demands.” Zimman went on to discuss the Wisconsin DPI’s vigorous enforcement of teacher licensing practices and provided some unfortunate math & science teacher examples (including the “impossibility” of meeting the demand for such teachers (about 14 minutes)). He further cited exploding teacher salary, benefit and retiree costs eating instructional dollars (“Similar to GM”; “worry” about the children given this situation).

Matt DeFour’s article failed to include a critical quote: “The school district election is just one piece in the larger chess match”.

More Election Tea Leaves: UW-Madison Ed School Dean on K-12 Tax & Spending: Defunding and privatization threaten public schools

UW-Madison Ed School Dean Julie Underwood:

Public education currently stands under twin towers of threat — de-funding and privatization. This is consistent with a conservative agenda to eliminate many public programs — including public education.
In Wisconsin, school districts have been under strict limits on their revenues and spending since 1993. These limits have not kept pace with the natural increases in the costs of everyday things like supplies, energy and fuel. So every year, local school board members and administrators have had to cut their budgets to comply with spending limits. Throughout these years, school boards and administrators have done an admirable job of managing these annual cuts, but taken together, reductions in programs and staff have had a significant and very negative impact on our schools and the education they can provide to children.
Unfortunately this year, these same districts have received the largest single budget cut in Wisconsin history. For example, high poverty aid was cut by 10 percent during a time when poverty in children has increased in Wisconsin. As a result, schools are cutting programs and staff. According to the Wisconsin Department of Public Instruction data, the cuts in 2012 are greater than the two previous years combined. These cuts will be compounded when next year’s cuts come due.

Related:

UW profs shed light on ALEC’s threat to public education

Todd Finkelmeyer:

University of Wisconsin-Madison professors Julie Underwood and Julie Mead are expressing concern over the growing corporate influence on public education in an article published Monday.
In particular, they are highly critical of the American Legislative Exchange Council (ALEC), which connects conservative state legislators with like-minded think tanks, corporations and foundations to develop “model legislation” that can be enacted at the state level.
Underwood is the dean of UW-Madison’s School of Education, while Mead chairs the ed school’s department of educational leadership and policy analysis. The two make their opinions known in an article they co-authored for the March issue of Phi Delta Kappan magazine, which serves members of the PDK professional organization for educators.
Underwood says much of the information in the article is an outgrowth of research she conducted while helping get the ALECexposed.org website up and running last summer.

Related:

Selling out public schools: Millions of dollars are changing face of education

Bill Lueders:

“School choice” is a broad term that refers to a wide range of alternatives, including themed charter schools that are entirely under the control of their home school districts. Forty states and the District of Columbia have those in place, according to the American Federation for Children, a national school choice advocacy group.
But it is the voucher programs, in which public funds are used to send children to private schools, that are the focus of much of the energy around the choice movement. Seven states and the District of Columbia have those, and Milwaukee’s voucher program is the first and largest of its kind in the country. That makes Wisconsin a key national battleground.
“Wisconsin has a high level of value to the movement as a whole,” says Robert Enlow, president of the Indianapolis-based Friedman Foundation for Educational Choice, a nonprofit group that advocates for school choice. The state, he says, is notable for “the high level of scholarship amounts that families can get.”
Milwaukee’s voucher program had 20,300 full-time equivalent voucher students at 102 private schools in 2010-11, compared to about 80,000 students at Milwaukee’s public K-12 schools. The total cost, at $6,442 per voucher student, was $130.8 million, of which about $90 million came from the state and the rest from the Milwaukee Public Schools.
Critics see the school choice program as part of a larger strategy — driven into high gear in Wisconsin by the fall election of Gov. Scott Walker and other Republicans — to eviscerate, for ideological and religious reasons, public schools and the unions that represent teachers.

It would be interesting to compare special interest spending in support of the status quo, vs groups advocating change, as outlined in Bill Lueders’ article. A few links:

  • WEAC: $1.57 million for Four Wisconsin Senators

    How much do election-year firewalls cost to build? For the state’s largest teachers union, $1.57 million.
    That’s how much the Wisconsin Education Association Council said last week it will spend trying to make sure four Democratic state senators are re-elected – enough, WEAC hopes, to keep a Democratic majority in the 33-member state body.
    Although there are 15 Democratic candidates running for the state Senate, and 80 Democrats running for the state Assembly, the latest WEAC report shows that the teachers union is placing what amounts to an “all in” bet on saving just four Democratic senators who are finishing their first terms.
    In an Oct. 25 report to the Government Accountability Board, the 98,000-member union reported that it will independently:

  • Wisconsin teachers union tops list of biggest lobbying groups for 2009-10, report shows

    The statewide teachers union led in spending on lobbying state lawmakers even before this year’s fight over collective bargaining rights.
    The Wisconsin Education Association Council spent $2.5 million on lobbying in 2009 and 2010, years when Democrats were in control of all of state government, a report released Thursday by the Government Accountability Board showed.
    WEAC is always one of the top spending lobbyists in the Capitol and they took a central role this year fighting Gov. Scott Walker’s plan curbing public employee union rights, including teachers.
    Back in 2009, when Democrat Jim Doyle was governor and Democrats controlled the Senate and Assembly, WEAC wasn’t helping to organize massive protests but it was a regular presence in the Capitol.

  • Spending in summer recall elections reaches nearly $44 million

    Spending in the summer’s recall elections by special interest groups, candidates and political action committees shattered spending records set in previous elections, with $43.9 million doled out on nine elections, according to a study released Tuesday by the Wisconsin Democracy Campaign.
    Spending by six political action committees or special interest groups topped the $1 million mark. We Are Wisconsin was the top spender.
    The union-backed group spent roughly $10.75 million, followed by the conservative-leaning Club for Growth at $9 million and $4 million in spending from the Greater Wisconsin Committee.

  • Kansas City School District Loses its Accreditation

Wisconsin Teachers Union plan too late to help schools

Chris Rickert:

Under its “performance pay” proposal, teachers would get more for staffing hard-to-staff schools and filling hard-to-fill positions. Pay would also be related to regular employee evaluations — if in some as-yet-undefined, possibly very weak way. WEAC president Mary Bell declined to specify how closely student test scores should track with evaluations and thus pay hikes, for instance.
Protecting pay is, of course, the most important of the union’s objectives in its reform plan. But pay is a function of how much money is available, and while WEAC is advocating paying better teachers better salaries, it’s not in favor of cutting pay for teachers who aren’t so good. This is about a bigger education pie, in other words, not about the same pie cut into different-sized pieces.
Pay is also a function of who’s handing out the raises, and WEAC is doing what it can to ensure those partly or mostly responsible for handing out the raises are as sympathetic as possible.
To wit, it would like to see the majority of the members on a teacher’s evaluation panel be teachers themselves — thus paving the way, it seems to me, for a lot of good reviews.
“It’s an extremely difficult task,” Bell said of evaluating one of your peers, but one that can work because “people care so deeply about the quality of the profession.”

Related: 2010 Fall Election – WEAC: $1.57 million for Four Wisconsin Senators in a Losing Cause.

Joint Finance Committee Republicans Bail on Funding Education

School-funding update JFC budget for public schools even worse than expected Contact your legislators about anti-public education budget Opportunities to fight against Finance Committee’s budget Help WAES spread the school-finance reform message School-funding reform calendar The Wisconsin Alliance for Excellent Schools (WAES) is a statewide network of educators, school board members, parents, community leaders, and … Continue reading Joint Finance Committee Republicans Bail on Funding Education