One of the problems for opponents of the Common Core reading and math standards, especially movement conservatives and some conservative reformers such as Stanford’s Williamson Evers and Jim Stergios of the Pioneer Institute, is that they have debased their arguments with so much in the way of what can best be called conspiracy-theorizing. From the attempts by Joy Pullman of the Heartland Institute to embrace Susan Ohanian-like arguments that Common Core is an effort by the Bill and Melinda Gates Foundation to usurp democracy, to arguments by the Eagle Forum that the standards are somehow an effort by progressives to indoctrinate children in schools, the conspiracy-theorizing (and the unwillingness of more-sensible, if still wrongheaded, Common Core foes such as Evers, Stergios, and Neal McCluskey of the Cato Institute, to distance themselves from such statements) effectively taken away attention from whatever legitimate concerns they may have.
So Common Core foes were clearly pleased when Washington Post columnist and movement conservative icon George Will jumped into the battle over the standards last week with a piece supporting their side. They were even more happy when a Common Core skeptic, Andy Smarick of Bellwether Education Partners, validated their perspective by declaring that Will’s piece epitomizes the”principled opposition” to the standards that supporters of them supposedly ignore and caricature.
But most of Will’s arguments against Common Core fail to stand up upon close scrutiny of the facts; in fact, Will engages in some of the same conspiracy-theorizing that has made it difficult for even the most-objective observer to take the arguments of opponents of the standards seriously. As for Smarick? In ignoring the flaws in Will’s arguments — and in failing to admit that many Common Core foes have only themselves to blame for their most-serious arguments being taken seriously by supporters of the standards — Smarick fails to do the proper job of holding his allies responsible for making smart arguments that advance their cause.
Arguing that Common Core is “designed to advance… the general progressive agenda of centralization and uniformity”, Will contends that supporters of the standards — including conservative reformers such as the Thomas B. Fordham Institute and your editor — are doing all they can to keep the “nature and purpose” as “cloudy as possible for as long as possible”. How? By supposedly slyly arguing that the standards are voluntary and warily talking about the Obama Administration’s role in supporting implementation of them by 45 states and the District of Columbia. From where Will sits, Common Core’s effort to push what he calls “conformity”, along with the tests aligned with them, will do little more than “take a toll on parental empowerment”, lead to “the politicization of learning”, and “extinguish federalism’s creativity” by supposedly restricting “innovative governors” from undertaking their own systemic reform efforts.
Smarick cheers on Will’s piece, declaring that Common Core supporters cannot call his arguments “black-helicopter” thinking, both because “his conservatism is rooted in time-tested principles” and because of Will’s “deeply learned” background. From where Smarick sits, Will is speaking for those politicians and suburban families whose opposition to the standards spring in part from how the Obama Administration has bungle implementation of ObamaCare and has continued the growth of domestic surveillance that began with predecessor George W. Bush after the massacres at the World Trade Center and the Pentagon 12 years ago. Smarick then complains that Common Core supporters, especially centrist and liberal Democrats, are often too dismissive of the arguments offered up by Common Core foes, engaging in the same kind of “superciliousness” that liberal intellectuals would reserve for discussing the policies of Dwight David Eisenhower and Ronald Reagan.
As a once-avid reader of Will’s columns and the proud owner of six of Will’s most-famous books, including Suddenly: The American Idea Abroad and at Home (all of them read when I was in high school and college), your editor is likely far-more familiar with Will’s thinking than Smarick can ever proclaim. But I while I respect Will’s thinking, I don’t do so without reservation. And particularly, when it comes to Common Core, Will’s arguments against the standards just don’t hold up.
Will’s complaint that Common Core is some form of effort to advance “progressive education” is pure conspiracy-theorizing. More importantly, Will’s statement ignores what is actually required in the standards themselves. Asking children to read and analyze the great works of fiction and nonfiction, including Ovid’s The Metamorphosis, Alexis de Tocqueville’s Democracy in America, Mary Shelley’s Frankenstein; or the Modern Prometheus, and Winston Churchill’s Blood, Tears, Soil, and Sweat speech, is by no means some “progressive” plot.
The fact that Common Core also requires children to build up their numeracy from the moment they enter kindergarten — which both mathematicians and researchers as David Geary at the University of Missouri point out is key to mastering algebra and other forms of math needed in adulthood — also makes Will’s contention rather suspect. The fact that Common Core itself is opposed by many hard-core progressives such as the aforementioned Ohanian, Education Week columnist Anthony Cody, and once-respectable education historian (and former conservative) Diane Ravitch also belies Will’s contention.
If anything, what Common Core does is nothing more than what all high-quality curricula and standards do: provide all kids with the well-rounded education (based on a common and, yes, uniform, set of knowledge) needed to choose their own paths (and succeed) once they reach adulthood. This includes understanding the ideas, philosophies and abstractions that are the building blocks of the world in which they live. An adult with strong literacy and math skills (including algebra), for example, can understand why the Laffer Curve matters in discussions about fiscal policy. A plumber who has read The Canterbury Tales can also move up socially, converse with executives, play his part as a leader in his community, and even pave a path for his children to continue along into the middle class.
Meanwhile, in arguing that Common Core supporters are being dishonest about the voluntary nature of the standards, Will conveniently ignores the history of how the standards originated in the first place. Starting in 2004, Achieve Inc. started working with a group of innovative states through its American Diploma Project to help them develop curricula requirements for obtaining high school diplomas. That work would become more extensive when state governments through their two policymaking groups — the National Governors Association and Council of Chief State School Officers — began developing what are now Common Core reading and math standards. Common Core was well on its way to becoming a reality by the time the Obama Administration supported the implementation of Common Core through its Race to the Top initiative and its less-sensible gambit to eviscerate the No Child Left Behind Act. Considering that NGA and CCSSO developed the standards, states hardly needed the Obama Administration to purchase their “obedience”.
Will also fails to admit that Common Core essentially builds upon the innovations on the curricula standards front undertaken by states such as Massachusetts and Indiana (the latter of which was a key player in the American Diploma Project). Common Core, in turn, builds upon the lessons gleaned from earlier efforts by reform-minded governors and standards and accountability activists within the school reform movement to craft curricula standards at the state level. One of the lessons learned was that it is difficult for reform-minded governors to develop college preparatory standards in part because it meant facing opposition from traditionalists opposed to being accountable for providing kids with high-quality education.This fact is one reason why just two states had eighth-grade math standards that match that of the top seven nations in mathematics, according to the American Institutes for Research. Another lesson: That it makes little sense for states to craft curricula standards on their own when it is pretty clear what children need to know in order to succeed in an increasingly knowledge-based economy.
Meanwhile Will’s argument that Common Core interferes with systemic reform efforts at the state level doesn’t square with what has been actually happening on the ground in the five years since states began developing and implementing the standards. From the launch and expansion of school choice programs in more than 13 states, to the development of online learning efforts (including the launch of virtual charter schools in states such as Pennsylvania), to the passage of Parent Trigger laws in seven states, reform-minded governors and school leaders have been doing plenty of work. And save for dealing with opposition to Common Core from their respective political bases, those politicians haven’t found the standards to be an interference to their efforts.
[The fact that some of these reform efforts, including the elimination of caps on the growth of charter schools, took place thanks to the encouragement of the Obama Administration through Race to the Top and other initiatives, is also a reminder that the federal government can play a powerful and much-needed role, both in building upon efforts undertaken by reform-minded governors and school leaders who have managed to overcome opposition to their efforts, as well as in providing cover to those state leaders who face even fiercer opposition on the ground. This role is neither new nor improper. And as seen with the Reagan Administration's publication of A Nation at Risk three decades ago, and welfare reform in the 1990s, it is one that movement conservatives have embraced.]
As learned as Will may be, his arguments against Common Core shows that he doesn’t know much about the nation’s education crisis, the low-quality curricula and standards that are at the heart of it, or the consequences of low-quality education for both the children of conservatives who read his columns as well as for those from poor and minority backgrounds. Even worse, Will merely trots out the same tired arguments offered up by other Common Core foes over the past few years. None of this is shocking. As with most public intellectuals among movement conservatives, Will is focused more on foreign policy and the expansive role of the federal government in civil society than on education.
Smarick, on the other hand, is a movement conservative and a school reformer. In fact, he does a far better job than Will in articulating why many movement conservatives oppose Common Core. But in unquestioningly championing Will’s column and the arguments in it, Smarick fails to actually defend the kind of principled and factual arguments he proclaims Common Core foes are offering. Smarick should have used his piece as an opportunity to both support Will’s more-defensible arguments against the standards — sparse as they are — and call him out for trotting out arguments that don’t match up to the facts. If Common Core foes want to be taken seriously, then they need to continuously offer serious arguments and distance themselves from conspiracy-theorizing.
Meanwhile Smarick’s insinuation that many Common Core supporters do little more than caricature foes and skeptics of the standards is pure excuse-making. So long as Common Core foes and skeptics continue to tolerate conspiracy theories as well as fail to offer solutions that address how to deal with the low-quality curricula standards and other underlying causes of the nation’s education crisis, they will always find themselves on the rhetorical defensive. This isn’t to say that Common Core supporters should belittle the arguments of opponents and skeptics. But opponents of the standards need to do what William F. Buckley, Jr., did in 1950s when he began advancing the conservative movement: Get the rhetorical house in order by clearing out those arguments that shouldn’t be made.
As an admirer of both Will and Smarick, I wish they could have done a better job by Common Core foes and skeptics, even if I oppose their arguments. Neither have done so.
I favor integration on buses and in all areas of public accommodation and travel,. I am for equality. However, I think integration in our public schools is different. In that setting, you are dealing with one of the most important assets of an individual — the mind. White people view black people as inferior. A large percentage of them have a very low opinion of our race. People with such a low view of the black race cannot be given free rein and put in charge of the intellectual care and development of our boys and girls.
Martin Luther King, in 1959, presciently understanding why integration as school reform doesn’t work. This is why reformers must focus on providing all kids in every neighborhood with high-quality school options, not on integration.
It is obvious today that America has defaulted on this promissory note insofar as her citizens of color are concerned. Instead of honoring this sacred obligation, America has given the Negro people a bad check, a check that has come back marked ‘insufficient funds.’ But we refuse to believe that the bank of justice is bankrupt. We refuse to believe that there are insufficient funds in the great vaults of opportunity of this nation.
And so we’ve come to cash this check, a check that will give us upon demand the riches of freedom and security of justice. We have also come to his hallowed spot to remind America of the fierce urgency of now. This is no time to engage in the luxury of cooling off or to take the tranquilizing drug of gradualism.
Now is the time to make real the promises of democracy. Now is the time to rise from the dark and desolate valley of segregation to the sunlit path of racial justice. Now is the time to lift our nation from the quicksands of racial injustice to the solid rock of brotherhood. Now is the time to make justice a reality for all of God’s children.
King, in his I Have a Dream speech, issuing a challenge to every reformer to be antagonists for our children and transform American public education for them. This is the subject of this week’s Dropout Nation Podcast.
On this week’s Dropout Nation Podcast, RiShawn Biddle explains why there should be no controversy — and in fact, reformers should support — the Obama Administration’s effort to reduce the overuse of suspensions and expulsions. Decades of data and research has shown that the harshest school discipline doesn’t work for kids, fails to address the literacy and other academic issues behind student misbehavior, or aid in building cultures of genius in which they can learn.
You can listen to the Podcast at RiShawn Biddle Radio or download directly to your mobile or desktop device. Also, subscribe to the podcast series, and embed this podcast on your site. It is also available on iTunes, Blubrry, Stitcher, and PodBean.
From the Dropout Nation family to all our readers, enjoy Christmas! Enjoy the Christmas card — and scenes of transforming American public education — below. And God Bless!
Even with fractious battles over implementing Common Core reading and math standards or expanding school choice, the biggest battle of all in the war over reforming American public education lies over traditional teacher compensation deals struck by states, districts and affiliates of the National Education Association and American Federation of Teachers. Defined-benefit pensions, in particular, are becoming too costly for states and districts to maintain, especially as they must deal with increasing Medicaid costs driven by the passage of the Affordable Care Act, and other structural deficits resulting from similar deals with other public-sector unions. The high costs of these pensions, along with the longstanding , evidence that pensions are ineffective in attracting and rewarding high-quality teachers for their work, and data showing that they do little to spur improvements in student achievement, have led to alliances of sorts between cost-cutting governors and reformers. And thanks to efforts over the past year by Moody’s Investors Service and the Government Accounting Standards Board, states and districts are now being forced to fully reveal the extent of pension insolvencies.
But the next steps in overhauling traditional teacher compensation will come in the next year in the aftermath of a ruling in the nation’s largest municipal bankruptcy and efforts in California to overhaul pensions. These moves may prove to play even bigger roles in advancing systemic reform than efforts on the standards and accountability front.
The most-recent shock came last week when U.S. Bankruptcy Court for Eastern District of Michigan Judge Stephen Rhodes ruled last week that Detroit’s city government can proceed with its Chapter 9 bankruptcy filing, it did more than just allow for the largest municipal bankruptcy in American history. Because Judge Rhodes ruled that Motown’s defined-benefit pensions were little more than contractual obligations guaranteed under the Wolverine State’s constitution — and not an absolute constitutional right that cannot be modified in any way — municipalities can use bankruptcy as a strategic tool for reducing its pension deficits and unfunded retiree healthcare costs. The ruling effectively now allows Detroit’s emergency financial manager, Kevyn Orr, to cut the contributions it owes to the pensions from $3.5 billion to $583 million, or a mere 16 cents for every dollar owed. The deal, which is opposed by both the boards operating the pensions and affiliates of public-sector unions such as the American Federation of State County and Municipal Employees, could end up becoming a reality if Orr moves to seize operational control of the pensions in the next few weeks.
Thanks to Judge Rhodes’ ruling, other virtually-insolvent municipalities, like their counterparts in the private sector, can use bankruptcy strategically to significantly restructure their pension and other compensation deals with union affiliates and the rank-and-file workers they represent. Particularly for busted school districts, especially those with pensions that are controlled at the local level instead of being state-operated, the bankruptcy may prove to be useful in restructuring their balance sheets.
One can expect Detroit Public Schools, which like the main city government, is under state receivership, to head into bankruptcy within the next year just to deal with its pension woes. After all, the district is on the hook for part of the Michigan Public School Employees Retirement System’s official pension deficit of $22.4 billion (and more like $30.4 billion, or 36 percent more than officially reported, according to a Dropout Nation analysis of the pension using a calculation developed by Moody’s) as well as $26 billion in unfunded retired teacher healthcare liabilities. If Michigan adopted more-realistic accounting for the teachers’ pension than it does now, Detroit Public Schools would have to pay $138 million, or 35.6 percent more than it contributed to the pension in 2011-2012, the latest year reported, just to make up its share of the underfunding. One can also expect other districts, including Chicago — which is faces an officially-reported pension shortfall of $8 billion (and, more likely, $11 billion based on DN‘s analysis) to talk about the possibility of bankruptcy in order to force reductions in pension contributions as well as move more teachers into less-costly defined-contribution plans.
But the Detroit bankruptcy ruling isn’t the only shock with long-term implications for efforts to ditch pensions and overhaul traditional teacher compensation. Last year, voters in the Silicon Valley hub of San Jose surprised the Golden State when they approved Measure B, which now requires city employees to contribute more to their pensions (which are managed under the umbrella of CALPERS) and pay more for their retiree health plans, as well as eliminated lucrative annuity bonus payments. The measure, crafted by the city’s mayor, Chuck Reed, in response to a three-fold increase in pension liabilities within the past decade (from $72 million to $271 million), will allow taxpayers to save $32 million a year in payments that were no longer sustainable. More importantly, the success of the San Jose measure, along with a pension reform effort approved by voters in San Diego, has led Reed and other pension reform advocates across California to put a pension overhaul plan on next year’s ballot. If passed next year over the objections of public sector unions, the Pension Reform Act of 2014 would amend the state constitution by allowing municipalities to modify annuity benefits and undertake other actions that would lead to full funding of the pensions within 15 years.
The Pension Reform Act would have particular impact on traditional districts, which must deal with their unfunded retired teacher healthcare costs and, along with the state government, must address the virtual insolvency of the California State Teachers Retirement System. [The pension has already announced its opposition to the initiative.] If passed, districts would have to immediately develop plans to fully fund their healthcare costs within 15 years; this would likely mean requiring retired teachers and others to pay at least 20 percent of their healthcare costs (as opposed to the nearly-free deals many of them get now), as well as cutting bak on coverage. The state government would finally be forced to deal with CalSTRS’ officially-reported pension deficit of $64 billion for 2012 (and more-likely to be $87 billion based on Dropout Nation‘s analysis). Given that Golden State Gov. Jerry Brown, Supt. Tom Torlakson and others have already used their political capital to get voters to approve $50 billion in new taxes to finance education as part of the passage of Prop. 39 last year, it is unlikely that they will want to go back to the well for more. So the state and districts will end up drastically reducing annuities, especially for Baby Boomers who are just a few years away from retirement.
Even if the Pension Reform Act doen’t pass, the success of San Jose and San Diego in passing pension reform referendums only encourages districts and other municipalities to undertake similar measures. Cities such as Vallejo and San Bernardino are already in bankruptcy court; districts with equally busted balance sheets such as Los Angeles Unified (which faces $4 billion in unfunded retiree healthcare costs along with its share of CalSTRS’ shortfall) could end up filing for bankruptcy as well. The strains of the increasing costs, especially with no rescue from the federal government in the near-future, offers more incentive to reduce retirement liabilities than the desire for peace with NEA and AFT locals. Expect school reformers and pension reform advocates in other states to undertake similar efforts in the coming years. In fact, combining pension reform measures with other teacher quality reform efforts (including
None of this bodes well for NEA and AFT affiliates for the long haul. After all, they derive their influence and their revenue (through forced dues payments) from the bargains they struck decades ago with rank-and-file teachers to ensure that teaching is the most-lucrative public sector profession. Ensuring the existence of defined-benefit pensions as part of traditional teacher compensation packages, and making sure the annuities are generous, are two parts of that arrangement. But with states and districts no longer able to pay annuities at those levels (as well as less willing to offer across-the-board salary increases as they did when cash was flush), NEA and AFT affiliates increasingly find themselves unable to meet their end of the bargain. More-radical traditionalists, most of which are Baby Boomers, are already dismayed with teachers’ union affiliates over their inability to beat back the expansion of school choice and the implementation of teacher quality reforms such as replacing subjective observation-based teacher evaluations with performance measurement systems based on objective student test score growth data. They will be even angrier with NEA and AFT leaders when it turns out that they can’t force states and districts to honor their pension promises.
For these problems, NEA and AFT affiliates will have only themselves to blame. For the past three decades, both in their negotiating roles at the bargaining table and through their control of seats on pension boards, NEA and AFT affiliates have allowed districts and states promise generous benefits without fully funding them. The unions also allowed pensions and states to exacerbate matters by using inflated inflated rates of returns on their investments (often around eight percent, even as actual rates of return of stocks on the Standard & Poor’s 500 index was only around four percent during the last decade) that have also hidden the true levels of insolvencies. And by agreeing to modest pension fixes that did little to address insolvencies while shortchanging younger teachers in the rank-and-file by providing less-generous payouts than Baby Boomers in classrooms, NEA and AFT affiliates have effectively betrayed the myth of solidarity that they use in defending traditional compensation practices that also don’t favor younger teachers.
With pensions and other aspects of traditional teacher compensation no longer sustainable, NEA and AFT affiliates will find their influence further weakened — and their existential crises continue unabated. The old-school industrial model they defend never worked for the teaching profession in the first place. But it could at least be hidden by the promise of generous pension payouts. No longer. For reformers, the need to address pension insolvencies offer new opportunities to advance systemic reforms that help teachers, taxpayers, and ultimately, children.
One of the reasons why the American Federation of Teachers and the National Education Association have put so much time into their so-called “Reclaiming the Promise” campaign is because it is good for keeping business — especially since their finances aren’t nearly as robust as they once were. Wisconsin Gov. Scott Walker’s successful move to abolish state laws forcing teachers to become members or pay into coffers, along with similar efforts in Tennessee and elsewhere, have helped reduce the flow of revenues into NEA and AFT coffers. But the bigger culprit lies with the defined-benefit pensions and generous retirement benefits the two unions provide (along with six-figure paychecks) to their own staffers. The very lucrative retirement deals AFT and NEA affiliates they give to their staffers, which are similar to those with states and districts that they defend are doing damage to their own balance sheets. The AFT’s post-retirement obligations increased by 20 percent between 2011-2012 and 2012-2013, according to its disclosure to the U.S. Department of Labor; the NEA paid out $41 million in retirement costs in 2012-2013, a 13 percent increase over the previous year, and must pay off $376 million in retirement obligations (as of 2012, the latest year available).
The high cost of traditional pensions and other benefits is particularly apparent when one looks at the 2012-2013 fiscal year financial disclosure filed last month with the U.S. Department of Labor by New York State United Teachers, the AFT’s flagship state affiliate. The unit reports that it has accrued $305 million in pension and retired staff liabilities as of this past fiscal year; this includes $188 million in accrued pension liabilities, along with another $117 million in retired staff healthcare expenses that the union must pay down over time. While the retirement obligations are 23 percent lower than they were in the previous fiscal year (more on that later), the union’s pension obligations are 61 percent greater than the $190 million in retirement liabilities reported by the union in 2008-2009. These costs explain why NYSUT paid out $42 million in employee benefits in 2012-2013, 52 percent more than it spent in 2008-2009 (though 10 percent less than the $46 million shelled out by the union in 2011-2012).
It isn’t as if the New York State AFT is gaining enough rank-and-file members to fund those burdens. The union added a mere 9,660 teachers to its forced membership between 2008-2009 and 2012-2013, increasing the size of its rank-and-file by a mere 1.6 percent (from 587,297 to 596,957) in that period; most of that growth came within the last year, as the AFT unit added 3,085 teachers to its group of dues payers. Nor can NYSUT liquidate enough assets to cover those costs if required to today. The AFT unit has merely $102 million in assets against $336 million in liabilities (including retirement costs). With the New York State AFT owing $224 million more than it can ever pay back, the affiliate is virtually insolvent.
Again, the good news for the New York State AFT is that the retirement shortfalls are 23 percent lower than the $376 million reported by NYSUT in the previous fiscal year. How the union managed that trick? Good question. There is nothing in NYSUT’s disclosure that much has changed financially. While NYSUT did sell off $4.3 million in investments and reduced the number of staffers making six-figures by nine (from 294 in 2011-2012 to 285 in 2012-2013), the union didn’t undertake any obviously cost-reduction measures. The union still spent $57 million on payroll in 2012-2013 (versus $59 million during the previous fiscal year). Dropout Nation will look further into how the New York State AFT managed to significantly reduce its retirement obligations.
Certainly these issues would be more manageable if NYSUT, along with other AFT and NEA affiliates, embraced a professional association model that focused less on traditional districts adding new bodies than on advancing teacher quality reforms that would elevate the profession. The affiliate could then charge teachers a membership fee, as well as provide the kind of professional development activities that have helped organizations outside of education such as the Public Relations Society of America thrive during tough economic times. Even with those changes, NYSUT would still bear the consequences of decades of bad decision-making on the financial front. For NYSUT and for teachers’ unions in general, Reclaiming the Promise is a distraction from problems of their own making, especially in defending traditional teacher compensation practices that frustrate younger, more reform-minded teachers within the rank-and-file.
While NYSUT’s Rome burns, its Nero, union president Richard Iannuzzi, was paid $308,817 in 2012-2013, a slight increase over the $305,255. Former Executive Director Pauline Kinsella was paid $240,126 this past fiscal year, a slight drop from the $241,362 handed over to her by the union during the previous year. Guess it was good to be Agrippina. [Thomas Anapolis, who succeeded Kinsella as executive director, earned $204,374 in 2012-2013 as the affiliate's head of program services, less than the $211,452 he had earned in the previous year.]
But even with such reductions, it isn’t as if NYSUT can survive on its own. That’s where the AFT, along with the National Education Association (with whom the New York AFT is also affiliated) come in. The national AFT subsidized NYSUT to the tune of $12.1 million in 2012-2013, a five percent increase over the previous fiscal year; NEA added another $1.8 million to the union’s coffers last fiscal year, a 10 percent decline over the previous period. The New York State AFT also earned $6.4 million from its member benefits affiliate, which like the national AFT’s controversial operation, peddles annuities and insurance plans to its members, an 18 percent decrease over previous year. NYSUT also earned revenue from its so-called Education & Learning Trust; the affiliate provided the union with $1.9 million in revenue in 2012-2013, a 17 percent increase over the previous period.
As for overall revenue? The New York AFT generated $236 million in 2012-2013, a three percent increase over the previous year. Thanks to the reductions in benefits costs, the union generated a $3.2 million surplus this past fiscal year (versus an $11 million loss in 2011-2012).
Political spending? The New York State AFT spent $95 million on lobbying and other influence-buying activities in 2012-2013; this includes spending for so-called representational activities, which often include political lobbying and contributions to like-minded nonprofit groups. This included pouring $404,749 into the AFT Northeast Organizing Project, which is geared toward generating more unionizing activity; $50,000 to the Education Law Center, the outfit known for leveling equity and adequacy school funding lawsuits; $54,740 to New Yorkers for Fiscal Fairness; and $62,100 to Alliance for Quality Education. Education Law Center and Alliance for Quality Education, by the way, are among the many beneficiaries of NEA and AFT largesse (including that of their affiliates) who are signatories of the Reclaiming the Promise public relations drive. NYSUT also gave $104,000 to Citizen Action of New York, which picked up a $104,000 check, and $50,000 to the Fiscal Policy Institute. The New York State AFT also made sure to support its Big Apple counterpart, the United Federation of Teachers; the nation’s largest teachers’ union local received $14.5 million from the state affiliate during 2012-2013.