As the nation marks the first anniversary of the massacre at Sandy Hook Elementary School in Newtown, Conn., that took the lives of 26 children, teachers, and school leaders, there remains plenty of debate about addressing gun violence. But it is important to keep in mind that mass murders such as this are rare, especially in light of the dangers our children face each day, both physically and educationally. More importantly, there are plenty that we can do for our kids to keep them on the path to lifelong success.
In this Best of Dropout Nation from last year, Editor RiShawn Biddle explains what we should do for our children and our communities. Read, consider, and take action for better lives for all children.
As your editor, I’m loathe to comment more than necessary about last week’s massacre of 26 lives — all but six children under the age of seven — in Sandy Hook Elementary School in Newtown, Conn. From where I sit, rare incidents of mass carnage tend to bring as much of the worst out of people as they inspire the good. So far, I haven’t been proven wrong. From simplistic calls for gun control laws, to senseless proclamations about the propensity for violence among the mentally ill, to the scapegoating of any bogeyman available for the picking, far too many people have allowed their righteous indignation at the slaughters of these innocents to overwhelm their thoughtfulness.
Yet any close look at the Newtown massacres shows that this, like so many incidents, avail no one of a simple solution. For one: Mass murders are incredibly rare, with 100 incidents in the past three decades, or less than one percent of the 13,913 homicides reported to the Federal Bureau of Investigation last year alone. The fact that mass murders are rare — along with the fact that the mother (and victim) of Adam Lanza, who committed the heinous murders — was a law-abiding gun owner, makes it is hard for any thoughtful person to use mass murders such as what happened in Newtown as either a strong case for enacting new gun control laws or for crafting laws allowing teachers to carry concealed weapons in classrooms. One would even dare say that both sides of the gun control debate appear to be craven opportunists instead of being compassionate caregivers to the families of the victims in their time of suffering. The fact that less than two percent of homicides involving youth happen on school grounds, according to the U.S. Centers on Disease Control, and, even with questionably-reported statistics, that school violence has been in decline for the past three decades, also makes the Newtown massacres even less-useful for any solid discussion about preventing crime against our children or about the use of school discipline in schools. Such overreaction over the massacre in Columbine High School in 1999 was one reason for the overuse of suspensions and expulsions (as well as passage of zero-tolerance laws) that are a major culprit in the nation’s education crisis, and why 150 children drop out each hour into poverty and prison.
Anyone using Newtown as a fulcrum for a discussion about the role of mental illness and mental health treatment must also keep a few things in mind. The first? That few of the mentally ill ever commit a violent crime. This includes those diagnosed with schizophrenia — a disease often associated with violent crime in the public imagination — who are less likely to commit a violent crime than someone with bipolar disorder or major depression. If anything, as Heather Stuart of Queens University in Canada has pointed out, the mentally ill are more-likely to be subjected to violence than those of us in (arguably) good mental health, and are especially prone to abuse by relatives and significant others taking evil advantage of their vulnerabilities. A drug addict or alcoholic is three times more likely to commit a violent crime than anyone with a mental illness, according to medical sociologist Jeffrey Swanson of Duke University based on data from the National Institute of Mental Health’s Epidemiologic Catchment Area. Certainly a real discussion needs to be had about overhauling the other super-cluster of failure that is the mental health treatment system, a matter about which I have become well-versed on a personal level as a relative of someone with a mental illness. This is especially clear from the horrific fact that prisons and jails have now replaced the barbaric institutions known as insane asylums as the mental health centers of first and last resort for young men and women who are both homeless and mentally ill. But as with any incident of mass murder, Newtown will prove far less useful in advancing such discussions one way or another.
Meanwhile we all need to be sensitive about the conversations we have and how we have them. Behind every incident such as the Newtown massacre are people. Mothers and fathers who are grieving. Sisters and brothers who are in sorrow. Communities where the victims are known and beloved by even the most-distant of neighbors. It is important to have honest conversations about the ills that plague society. But we must also take care to remember that times of tragedy are not about our own concerns. We should spend our time praying for the families, and supporting organizations that are helping them during their moments of sorrow. One way to do this is to support the Connecticut Parents Union’s effort this week to provide counseling and teddy bears to Newtown’s families. Another is the effort being undertaken by the United Way there. And, most importantly, pray for the families; they need that more than any sloganeering and punditry.
This isn’t to say that there aren’t some lessons that can be learned from the Newtown massacre — or that they cannot be applied starting now. Certainly there are. The most important of them is that we must build nurturing cultures so that our children know their own names and weather the storms and tragedies that come as part of being alive.
This starts with our families providing love, moral fiber and undying faith. As Proverbs 22:6 makes clear, a child who is taught well by their parents and caregivers will stay on the path to being a healthy, confident person of character. It also includes our schools — and not just about academics. We serve our children well when we transform education in order to ensure that they are taught by high-quality teachers and school leaders who care for them, and attend schools whose cultures build up them up. Finally, each and every one of us should take a child who is not our own under our tutelage. This was a point Howard-John Wesley, the pastor at Alfred Street Baptist Church in Alexandria, Va., made clear in a sermon he gave yesterday. As the old African proverb made clear, it truly does take villages to help our children become men and women of strong character.
Most importantly of all, we must keep in mind our obligation, both to our children and to our fellow men and women, the role we each must play in improving the world in which we live. This extends beyond the systemic reform of American public education or overhauling any of the social systems that feed into our communities. As Americans, we have an obligation to live up to what John Winthrop, and later, Ronald Reagan, would call our status as the shining city on a hill upon which the eyes of the world shall rest. We cannot fail to meet our obligations at the hill’s summit, especially when it comes to the futures of our children. When we volunteer at a soup kitchen, launch a ministry within our churches, or simply donate to a worthy cause, we are doing our part to make our nation and our world better places in which to live.
Let’s take this time to pray for the families. Let’s put the energy unleashed by this tragedy to thoughtful and productive use. And let’s teach all of our children well.
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.
Within the past decade, a few things have become clear about the effectiveness of university schools of education in recruiting and training aspiring teachers. None of the facts are pretty. The first? That most ed schools do a shoddy job of recruiting aspiring teachers for the subject-matter competency, entrepreneurial leadership abilities, and empathy for all children regardless of background needed for success in helping students achieve lifelong success. The second: Even fewer provide the high-quality training — especially in reading and math instruction — aspiring teachers to be successful in classrooms; just 11 of 71 ed schools surveyed by the National Council on Teacher Quality in 2006 taught teachers all that they needed to provide adequate reading instruction, evidence that has been since proven over and over again by other studies. And three: That most ed schools fail to provide their aspiring teachers with high-quality experiences in actual classrooms in order to help them get ready for succeed in classrooms once they are hired.
So it isn’t shocking that NCTQ’s latest report reveals another weakness of traditional ed schools on the preparation front: Training teachers in managing the classroom, one of the four keys to providing children cultures of genius in which they can thrive educationally, economically, and socially, as well as reduce the overuse of out-of-school suspensions and expulsions that lead to kids dropping out of school and into despair. Once again, NCTQ’s report is another reminder of the need to develop and expand alternative models of teacher training.
The good news is that 97 percent of the 79 ed schools and other teacher training programs surveyed by NCTQ provided aspiring teachers with some form of classroom management training. The bad news? Few provided this training in a comprehensive or systematic way that helped aspiring teachers be successful in schools. On average, the ed school programs surveyed provided just eight classes — or a mere 40 percent of the classes for a single course — devoted to classroom management regardless of whether aspiring teachers were working with elementary school students or at the middle- and high school levels. A mere 16 percent of ed school programs surveyed devoted most of a single course to any one of the five aspects of classroom management.
Only ten percent of ed programs specifically require aspiring teachers to put the approaches to management they learned to use in real live classrooms with children, while another 24 percent presumably require such activities. Considering that nearly all teachers are solo practitioners with few opportunities for collaboration with colleagues, the lack of practice that makes perfect means that aspiring instructors will end up forgetting whatever they learned once they enter classrooms. Of the ed schools that do require real-world practice, few of them provide observations and feedback aspiring teachers need to improve their work.
Meanwhile the curricula on classroom managed provided to aspiring teachers was mostly subpar. Few covered all five of the key aspects of managing classrooms — establishing rules for classroom behavior, developing daily routines, providing students with specific praise, disciplining kids when needed, and fostering student engagement in learning — needed to build cultures of genius. Just 16 percent of ed schools focused on all five aspects of classroom management. Most focused on what can be the more-punitive aspects of maintaining orderly classrooms than on those that are more-nurturing. Seventy-four percent of schools surveyed failed to address how teachers can praise children for their successful work while 46 percent failed to work with aspiring teachers on how to keep children engaged in learning; most ed schools did focus on establishing rules, routines, and misbehavior.
This overemphasis in ed schools on establishing order instead of nurturing children is particularly problematic because far poor classroom management by teachers is often the first step in the overuse of suspensions and expulsions that send children — especially those from poor and minority backgrounds as well as those condemned to the nation’s special ed ghettos — onto the path to dropping out of school and dropping into despair. Seventeen percent of black children were suspended once in 2009-2010, according to an analysis of U.S. Department of Education data by the Civil Rights Project at UCLA, while 13 percent of kids in special ed ghettos and others considered to be disabled were excluded from school days at least once in the year.
Certainly low quality of instruction and curricula, especially in addressing the needs of kids struggling with literacy is one culprit. So are perceptions among many teachers that black and minority kids. But the lack of comprehensive classroom management training is also a problem. A teacher who doesn’t know how to manage a classroom of children — a group not known for always be well-disciplined in the first place — will struggle mightily in helping them master their subjects; they will use harshest discipline to do (a poor job) to deal with misbehaving children when better approaches that helps tame them and keeps them on the path to graduation. And when that teacher is also a laggard in other aspects of their instruction, the lack of strong classroom management skills exacerbates the damage their already doing to the achievement of the kids in their care.
NCTQ’s suggestions for improving how ed schools provide classroom management training are worth considering. Ed schools should immediately develop comprehensive coursework on keeping nurturing, orderly classrooms that is coordinated throughout their teacher training programs. Ed schools should also gather feedback from alumni and the school operators that hire them. Even providing video and live streams of high-quality teachers managing classrooms would be smart to do. But to be honest, these recommendations are no different from ones NCTQ and other teacher quality reform advocates have pushed ed schools and the organizations that represent them (including the American Association of Colleges of Teacher Education) for most of the last decade. And they will fall on deaf ears.
Save for a few notable exceptions including University of Virginia and St. Mary’s College (both of which have been cited by NCTQ in this report), traditional ed schools will not do anything to change their reputations as being the places where collegians go to get easy As (and inflated grade point averages). After all, the schools and the universities that operate them, benefit greatly from the $7 billion spent annually by aspiring teachers and taxpayers to sustain their operations. Ed schools will not sack ed school professors more-interested in filling the heads of aspiring teachers with unproven theories on how to teach children — or in some cases, on the claptrap of Paulo Freire, whose pedagogy has almost nothing to do with education — than on training them how to help kids memorize, retain and build upon knowledge. Such moves would require ed school deans to finally acknowledge that what truly matters most in teacher training are the lessons gleaned from high-quality teachers working in classrooms. And as seen over the past two years as ed schools and AACTE battled fiercely with NCTQ over its review of teacher prep programs it put together with U.S. News & World Report, ed schools won’t willingly accept any recommendations for overhauling their operations — especially when other players in American public education, including state teacher certification agencies and teachers’ union affiliates, willingly give the schools cover.
School reformers have begun realizing the need to abandon ed schools as sources of high-quality talents for their classrooms. It is why a group of charter school operators, including Uncommon Schools, have launched Relay GSE, and why MATCH has launched its own ed school division. It is also why Teach For America, Urban Teacher Residency United, and Teach Plus, who stand outside of the ed school world, have become the teacher training programs of choice for talented collegians who want to work in classrooms. Expanding the array of alternative teacher training programs makes far better sense than continuing to hope that traditional ed schools will get their acts together.
NCTQ’s latest report on teacher classroom management is one that reformers aspiring to launch their own teacher training programs should read; they should take its recommendations to heart. And ed school deans should do so as well — or else go out of business.
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.
As you keep out of the snow and sleet, listen to this week’s Dropout Nation Podcast. RiShawn Biddle takes a look at the reaction from traditionalists and reformers to the 2012 PISA, and explains why their respective silver bullets for the nation’s education crisis won’t work. It will take multiple solutions to help all children gain the knowledge they need to write their own stories — and help America remain competitive in an increasingly global economy.
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.
Our fight is against real, and not imaginary, hardships or, to use the language of the state prosecutor, “so-called hardships”. Basically, we fight against two features which are the hallmarks of African life in South Africa and which are entrenched by legislation. These features are poverty and lack of human dignity, and we do not need communists or so-called “agitators” to teach us about these things… The whites enjoy what may be the highest standard of living in the world, whilst Africans live in poverty and misery… The complaint of Africans, however, is not only that they are poor and the whites are rich, but that the laws which are made by the whites are designed to preserve this situation. There are two ways to break out of poverty. The first is by formal education, and the second is by the worker acquiring a greater skill at his work and thus higher wages. As far as Africans are concerned, both these avenues of advancement are deliberately curtailed by legislation… Approximately 40 percent of African children in the age group seven to 14 do not attend school. For those who do, the standards are vastly different from those afforded to white children. Only 5,660 African children in the whole of South Africa passed their junior certificate in 1962, and only 362 passed matric.
The lack of human dignity experienced by Africans is the direct result of the policy of white supremacy. White supremacy implies black inferiority. Legislation designed to preserve white supremacy entrenches this notion… When anything has to be carried or cleaned the white man will look around for an African to do it for him, whether the African is employed by him or not. Because of this sort of attitude, whites tend to regard Africans as a separate breed. They do not look upon them as people with families of their own; they do not realise that they have emotions – that they fall in love like white people do; that they want to be with their wives and children like white people want to be with theirs; that they want to earn enough money to support their families properly, to feed and clothe them and send them to school…
Children wander the streets because they have no schools to go to, or no money to enable them to go, or no parents at home to see that they go, because both parents (if there be two) have to work to keep the family alive. This leads to a breakdown in moral standards, to an alarming rise in illegitimacy, and to violence, which erupts not only politically, but everywhere. Life in the townships is dangerous. Not a day goes by without somebody being stabbed or assaulted. And violence is carried out of the townships [into] the white living areas…
Africans want a just share in the whole of South Africa; they want security and a stake in society. Above all, we want equal political rights, because without them our disabilities will be permanent… Political division, based on colour, is entirely artificial and, when it disappears, so will the domination of one colour group by another. The ANC has spent half a century fighting against racialism. When it triumphs it will not change that policy.
This then is what the ANC is fighting. Their struggle is a truly national one. It is a struggle of the African people, inspired by their own suffering and their own experience. It is a struggle for the right to live. During my lifetime I have dedicated myself to this struggle of the African people. I have fought against white domination, and I have fought against black domination. I have cherished the ideal of a democratic and free society in which all persons live together in harmony and with equal opportunities. It is an ideal which I hope to live for and to achieve. But if needs be, it is an ideal for which I am prepared to die.
Former South Africa President Nelson Mandela, in a speech during his 1964 trial for attempting to bring freedom and liberty to Africans living under the nation’s apartheid racial segregation regime. The words spoken by the freedom fighter, who died today at age 95, are ones that school reformers should embrace in their efforts to build brighter futures for all of our children no matter the color of their skin or content of character.