Teachers Union Hit with Labor Strife — Obama’s Commencement Shift — Caring about School Counselors — Rethinking Remediation Reporting

July 2, 2014

By Caitlin Emma at Politico

TEACHERS UNION HIT WITH LABOR STRIFE: The demonstrators marching outside the National Education Association’s annual convention in Denver on Tuesday held up signs demanding “No union busting!” and “Bargain a fair contract!” The target of their wrath: The NEA itself. The protesters were field organizers for the NEA — the men and women who hit the road as many as 200 days a year to rally educators to the union cause. They have their own union, the Association of Field Service Employees. And they’ve been working without a contract since their last three-year deal expired June 3.

The AFSE’s acting president, Nas I. Afi, and bargaining chairman, Jorge Rivera, told Morning Education that they’re bitterly disappointed with NEA management. The two sides differ on some issues of compensation, but Afi and Rivera said they were most upset that NEA management has refused to put language in the new contract to protect field organizers from bullying and harassment by their NEA supervisors. They also complain that the NEA has been unwilling to grant the AFSE’s bargaining team leave from their day-to-day responsibilities to work on the negotiations.

“We have a long history of believing in this union,” Afi said, gesturing at the streams of NEA delegates entering the Colorado Convention Center. “We want to get back to the work we love. Let’s bargain a fair contract. That’s all we’re asking.”

Ramona Oliver, a spokeswoman for the NEA, said the union respects AFSE’s right to picket. Oliver said she couldn’t discuss details, but said the NEA “is committed to bargaining a fair contract that recognizes the financial challenges faced by NEA in light of recent membership losses and one that is in line with contracts negotiated with two other staff unions.”

PUTTING CLASS SIZE ON THE BALLOT: Educators in Washington state plan to submit more than 340,000 signatures today to qualify a class-size reduction initiative for the fall ballot. The measure would cut class sizes across all grades over the next several years. By 2019, early elementary classes would have no more than 17 students and classes would be capped at 25 for fourth through 12th graders. Maximum sizes would be even smaller in low-income schools where more than half the students qualify for subsidized lunches. The initiative would also support the hiring of more school counselors, nurses and teacher’s aides.

Backers of initiative 1351 say funding to cut class sizes should be available if the legislature abides by a state Supreme Court order to come up with billions more funding for public schools over the next few years. The legislature has struggled to meet that mandate — but the court has said it must appropriate more money to fulfill its “paramount duty,” spelled out in the state constitution, to provide an “ample” public education for all children. Teachers say an “ample” education includes class sizes small enough to allow for individual attention. More about the ballot initiative, which has strong union backing: http://bit.ly/1vu8g8h.

IT’S WEDNESDAY, JULY 2. And now for some comedic relief — Please take five minutes out of your day to watch this video about how animals eat their food [http://bit.ly/1po9B37]. You will thank me later [http://bit.ly/1pUN75y]. Send YouTube distractions, tips and amusing GIFs to cemma@politico.com or @caitlinzemma. Events: educalendar@politicopro.com. And follow us on Twitter: @Morning_Edu and @POLITICOPro.

MISSED DEADLINE: Corinthian Colleges, Inc. and the Education Department failed to agree on a path forward for the for-profit company by last night’s midnight deadline. The goal was an operating agreement designed to wind down campuses and avoid an abrupt closure that would disrupt the education of about 72,000 students, who together receive $1.4 billion in federal financial aid each year.

— “While we did not reach an agreement yet with Corinthian officials, we are optimistic that further conversations with the company will produce an acceptable plan in the next few days that protects the interests of students and taxpayers,” Education Undersecretary Ted Mitchell said in a statement. Corinthian said in its own statement that the company “continues to work cooperatively” with the department.

OBAMA’S COMMENCEMENT SHIFT: A POLITICO analysis of 19 commencement addresses by President Barack Obama since 2009 shows a noticeable shift in his annual words of wisdom to the nation’s graduates. Obama’s speeches have become more steeped in policy, more personal and, on occasion, more partisan. The change “shows him as being tired with Washington and frustrated with the inability to achieve his old bipartisan hopes,” said Julian Zelizer, a professor of history and public affairs at Princeton University. “It reflects him moving away from the bipartisan origins that characterized him early on, and moving toward a platform where he’s using these speeches to go after Republicans.” More from Seth Zweifler:http://politico.pro/1qOhZGk.

Other presidents that turned commencement addresses into policy platforms: John F. Kennedy announced in June 1963 at American University that he and Soviet Premier Nikita Khrushchev agreed to hold discussions on a comprehensive nuclear ban treaty. A year later at the University of Michigan’s graduation, Lyndon Johnson introduced students to his vision for a Great Society.

CARING ABOUT COUNSELORS: The Obama administration is encouraging states and districts to use the summer months and every resource available to support the hiring, development and retention of effective school counselors. Education Secretary Arne Duncan sent state chiefs a letter [http://politico.pro/1mRjbbJ] Monday with an attached list of federal programs schools can use to their advantage. “Yet, as the Civil Rights Data Collection [http://1.usa.gov/OSCRyk] recently found, one in five American high schools operates without any school counselors on staff,” Duncan writes. “This is an untenable situation for millions of students who need the support of site-based school counselors, whose job it is to ensure their students’ success.”

First lady Michelle Obama lauded that letter when she spoke to the American School Counselor Association’s annual conference in Orlando on Tuesday. She also announced that the White House is partnering with the Harvard Graduate School of Education, ASCA and other organizations “to host a special event on college counseling at the end of July. And together, we’ll be coming up with ambitious new agenda items to improve training, professional development and support for school counselors.” Next school year, the White House plans to celebrate the School Counselor of the Year for the first time ever.

RETHINKING REMEDIATION REPORTING: A new Education Commission of the States report says states need a common framework for consistent calculation and reporting of remediation rates. The report offers a model framework [http://politico.pro/1olFVjF] for evaluating states’ performance by focusing on students’ progress and success. Calculation and reporting varies a lot by state, the report says. For example, 30 states issue remedial reports annually, but just seven report student success in remediation courses, and 13 states send information back to high schools on their graduates’ need for remediation in college. ECS will release the report at the commission’s 2014 national forum during a panel discussion at 10:15 a.m. Eastern. Read more here: http://politico.pro/1sVhe2w

E-RATE ENMITY: Education groups panned a report from the FCC on Tuesday showing a breakdown of how states stand to gain from Chairman Tom Wheeler’s proposal for overhauling the E-Rate program. The report [http://politico.pro/1o4mlGE] says 44 million students would get a Wi-Fi upgrade by 2019. But AASA: The School Superintendents Association says the FCC’s numbers overlook the plan’s detrimental effect on rural schools. “As with any of these plans, the devil will be in the details,” writes [http://bit.ly/1re7a2F] Noelle Ellerson, associate executive director policy and advocacy at AASA. “These numbers, at the state level, look sizeable and impressive, but especially for rurals, it is a situation of ‘you get what you get’, regardless of actual need, access to previous funding, access to basic school broadband, concentration of poverty or other unique characteristics.”

National Association of Federally Impacted Schools’ John Forkenbrock said, “We are frustrated that the FCC’s proposal focuses too much on cost-savings and efficiencies and not enough on program equitability and sustainability. The shift to a per-pupil allocation is not the right way to go because it fails to recognize the variance in costs and purchasing power that exist in our rural schools and communities.”

In other FCC news, four companies offering online education filed comments on the FCC’s proposal for net neutrality. Wheeler’s plan would allow providers to charge companies for faster delivery of their content. General Assembly, Codeacademy, CodeCombat and OpenCurriculum said such a “fast lane” would allow higher education and K-12 for-profits to “squelch competition and stifle innovation from up-and-comers providing affordable, quality education and job-training to millions,” the groups said in a statement. The filings for General Assembly [http://bit.ly/VDDy26], Codeacademy [http://bit.ly/1lxqRe5], CodeCombat [http://bit.ly/1iSRWxT] and OpenCurriculum [http://bit.ly/1sVBWPE].

NEW CHARTER COALITION: There’s a new charter group on the block: The National Coalition of Diverse Charter Schools announced its formation on Tuesday. “By forming a network to share resources, providing technical assistance, and highlighting exemplars, the coalition supports the creation and success of socioeconomically and racially integrated charter schools,” the 14 founding groups said in a statement. “In addition, the coalition hopes to promote research on the benefits and best practices of integrated schools.”

SPEECH CODES TAKEN TO COURT: The Foundation for Individual Rights in Education plans to coordinate legal action against public campuses with the most restrictive speech policies. FIRE is targeting Iowa State University, among others, but the school says it “has the right and obligation to manage the use of our university trademarks.”

This and last year, Iowa State enforced new regulations specifically designed to restrict the actions of a campus marijuana legalization group, FIRE says, and misapplied existing policies. “Student organizations at Iowa State University have the right to express their views,” Iowa State spokesman John McCarroll said, “but they can’t attribute those views to the university.” More on FIRE’s plan: http://politico.pro/TN2lPG.


— Five big takeaways from the latest treasure trove of NYC school data. Chalkbeat New York:http://bit.ly/1jGpk5P

— New York cyberbullying law violates free speech, top court rules. Reuters:http://huff.to/1lwmFv6

— Colleges keep increasing discounts to keep students coming. The Hechinger Report:http://bit.ly/1mILyE3

— Wyoming Board Of Education votes to suspend science standards review. Wyoming Public Media: http://bit.ly/1z6Yttm

— Under pressure, D.C. school system gets more aggressive about selling itself. The Washington Post: http://wapo.st/1lymNdy

— Back from war, veterans enter education fight at home. U.S. News & World Report:http://bit.ly/1z6ZUIt

— Tennessee governor and state chief: TCAP gains show state is on the right track. Chalkbeat Tennessee: http://bit.ly/1lS12uc

— D.C. considers special education overhaul. The Washington Post: http://wapo.st/1xfpskG

— Michigan superintendents demand reallocation of funding in next school year’s K-12 budget. WILX: http://bit.ly/VEsh1t

— College Board apologizes for T-shirt at AP grading event. Inside Higher Ed:http://bit.ly/1qjOddr

Schools: Iowa State University Cases: Iowa State University – Stand Up For Speech Lawsuit