Thursday, January 05, 2006

Shudup already

A note from the President of the NEA Alaska.

Governor’s $90 mill proposal = status quo budget

By Bill Bjork, NEA-Alaska President November 2005 NEA-AKtivist

All of us are 100% engaged in the 2005-06 school year. We know exactly what additional resources we need in our schools and job sites to meet student needs.

This fall I have had the opportunity to visit many schools across Alaska. Here are the resources our members say our schools need the most.

Smaller class sizes – Too many school districts have balanced their budgets for too long by increasing class size. This is wrong. Alaska must do better.

Competitive pay – Nearly every district is experiencing critical shortages while trying to recruit teachers in several specialty areas. Education support professional pay schedules have become so low that in several districts it is nearly impossible to attract and retain the high quality ESPs needed to ensure our schools run smoothly. Alaska schools must compete in the market place for quality teachers and ESPs offering competitive pay. Alaska must do better.

Materials – Schools are feeling the crunch of the high cost of textbooks. Many are delaying adopting texts, thereby delaying getting new texts into students’ hands. Our members, too often, personally provide school supplies because supplies are not available in their schools. Alaska must do better.

The price of a barrel of oil for the first four (4) months of the state’s fiscal year has averaged $60.82 per barrel (July 1 to November 1, 2005). If oil remains at this price through the end of the fiscal year, June 30, 2006, the State of Alaska will receive $1.333 billion in unanticipated revenue. Unanticipated revenue means the state will receive enough revenue from oil to pay for the entire FY 2007 budget and have $1.333 billion left over. The Alaska Legislature has an historic opportunity this year to address adequate school funding. Alaska can afford to do a better job funding schools.

Let’s say the price of oil drops a bit and the state “only” has $1 billion of unanticipated revenue. $1 billion is still a lot of money and our schools are an excellent place to invest some of it. Governor Murkowski started the conversation with his proposal of a $90 million increase for K-12 schools, which increases the Base Student Allocation from $4,919 to $5,346. Increased employer contributions to PERS and TRS next year mean that school districts will pay an additional $40 million to the state retirement systems. Inflation has reduced the purchasing power of schools by approximately 3% or $25 million. The governor’s proposal leaves only $25 million available for the entire state to address the needs of all Alaskan schools ($90 million -$40 million retirement increase -$25 million for inflation = $25 million remains). $25 million sounds like a lot of money, but it is spread too thin to meet the needs of all our schools. Alaska can do better.

Alaska K-12 schools need and deserve a substantial increase in funding. NEA-Alaska proposes that the Alaska Legislature increase K-12 school funding by $145 million. That increase would move the base student allocation from $4,919 to $5,611 (rather than the governor’s $5,346). The increase of $145 million would be a historic event for Alaska schools, and the State of Alaska can afford it. An increase of $145 million would put Alaska schools on the path to adequate school funding! Alaska must do better.

Every responsible Alaska adult needs to contact legislators BEFORE the legislative session begins in Juneau. Tell them Alaska schools need at least a $145 million increase in school funding. Alaska will do better.

Every responsible Alaska adult needs to tell the NEA "SHUDUP ALREADY" and put your money where your mouth is and help pay health insurance costs with the gazillions they get in union dues.

Instead, what does the NEA do with the dues they get from hard working teachers?

Here is what they do with the dues.

For starters.

Educators, school districts, parents file landmark lawsuit against the state

Charge that inadequate and inequitable school funding violates Alaska Constitution

The lawsuit filed today charges that the state’s funding of kindergarten through high school (K-12) education violates the Alaska Constitution for two reasons:

1) because the state does not invest enough money in its schools to provide an adequate education for all students; and

2) because the state’s funding formula treats children of differing circumstances differently.

“Adequacy and equity in school funding is THE civil rights issue of our day,” said NEA-Alaska President Bill Bjork.

Over the past two decades, while Alaska has enjoyed unparalleled wealth, we have systematically reduced our investment in our schools. Inflation alone has eroded the value of each education dollar to just 52.7 cents.

Moore vs. State of Alaska is a natural extension of the Brown vs. Board of Education case that struck down segregated schools 50 years ago. The litigation is also the latest in a series of school finance lawsuits filed in states around the country over the past half century.

“The overwhelming majority of these lawsuits have been successful,” said Bjork. “And I’m confident that we’ll prevail in ours.”

Bjork also noted that the suit is about resource development. “Alaska’s greatest resource is our children, and all of us know the important connection between a well educated work force and economic prosperity. Every Alaskan has a real stake in making sure our children get the best possible education.”

Kim Langton, superintendent of Kuspuk Schools and chair of Citizens for the Educational Advancement of Alaska’s Children (CEAAC), puts the legal action into context in Alaska: “Moore vs. State of Alaska is the necessary and logical next step from the landmark case, Kasayulie vs. State of Alaska.” That case, brought by CEAAC, successfully challenged the disparity between large and small districts in terms of funding school facilities.

The new lawsuit charges that all education funding is discriminatory—that the state is violating the Alaska Constitution by treating poor, minority and special needs children different from majority children. The state does this by arbitrarily and irrationally restricting funding for districts where children are overwhelmingly minority and economically disadvantaged.

“Here we are, 50 years after Brown struck down school segregation, and huge numbers of children in Alaska still don’t have access to an equal education,” noted Langton.

Plaintiffs in the lawsuit are: Kristine & Gregory Moore of Wasilla; Mike and Maggie Williams from Akiak; Melvin and Rosemary Otton from Koyuk; Wayne and Martha Morgan from Aniak; Yupiit School District; Bering Strait School District; NEA-Alaska; and Citizens for the Educational Advancement of Alaska’s Children, or CEAAC.

Plaintiffs ask that the court order a cost analysis for providing a constitutionally adequate education, and then fund that education accordingly. ##

There is more, from the Wall Street Journal:

Teachers' Pets

The NEA gave $65 million in its members' dues to left-liberal groups last year.

Tuesday, January 3, 2006 12:01 a.m. EST

If we told you that an organization gave away more than $65 million last year to Jesse Jackson's Rainbow PUSH Coalition, the Gay and Lesbian Alliance Against Defamation, Amnesty International, AIDS Walk Washington and dozens of other such advocacy groups, you'd probably assume we were describing a liberal philanthropy. In fact, those expenditures have all turned up on the financial disclosure report of the National Education Association, the country's largest teachers union.

Under new federal rules pushed through by Secretary of Labor Elaine Chao, large unions must now disclose in much more detail how they spend members' dues money. Big Labor fought hard (if unsuccessfully) against the new accountability standards, and even a cursory glance at the NEA's recent filings--the first under the new rules--helps explain why. They expose the union as a honey pot for left-wing political causes that have nothing to do with teachers, much less students.

We already knew that the NEA's top brass lives large. Reg Weaver, the union's president, makes $439,000 a year. The NEA has a $58 million payroll for just over 600 employees, more than half of whom draw six-figure salaries. Last year the average teacher made only $48,000, so it seems you're better off working as a union rep than in the classroom.

Many of the organization's disbursements--$30,000 to the Central Intercollegiate Athletic Association, $122,000 to the Center for Teaching Quality--at least target groups that ostensibly have a direct educational mission. But many others are a stretch, to say the least. The NEA gave $15,000 to the Human Rights Campaign, which lobbies for "lesbian, gay, bisexual and transgender equal rights." The National Women's Law Center, whose Web site currently features a "pocket guide" to opposing Supreme Court nominee Sam Alito, received $5,000. And something called the Fund to Protect Social Security got $400,000, presumably to defeat personal investment accounts.

The new disclosure rules mark the first revisions since 1959 and took effect this year. "What wasn't clear before is how much of a part the teachers unions play in the wider liberal movement and the Democratic Party," says Mike Antonucci of the Education Intelligence Agency, a California-based watchdog group. "They're like some philanthropic organization that passes out grant money to interest groups."

There's been a lot in the news recently about published opinion that parallels donor politics. Well, last year the NEA gave $45,000 to the Economic Policy Institute, which regularly issues reports that claim education is underfunded and teachers are underpaid. The partisans at People for the American Way got a $51,000 NEA contribution; PFAW happens to be vehemently anti-voucher.

The extent to which the NEA sends money to states for political agitation is also revealing. For example, Protect Our Public Schools, an anti-charter-school group backed by the NEA's Washington state affiliate, received $500,000 toward its efforts to block school choice for underprivileged children. (Never mind that charter schools are public schools.) And the Floridians for All Committee, which focuses on "the construction of a permanent progressive infrastructure that will help redirect Florida politics in a more progressive, Democratic direction," received a $249,000 donation from NEA headquarters.

When George Soros does this sort of thing, at least he's spending his own money. The NEA is spending the mandatory dues paid by members who are told their money will be used to gain better wages, benefits and working conditions. According to the latest filing, member dues accounted for $295 million of the NEA's $341 million in total receipts last year. But the union spent $25 million of that on "political activities and lobbying" and another $65.5 million on "contributions, gifts and grants" that seemed designed to further those hyper-liberal political goals.

The good news is that for the first time members can find out how their union chieftains did their political thinking for them, by going to, where the Labor Department has posted the details.

Union officials claim that they favored such transparency all along, but the truth is they fought the new rules hard in both Congress and the courts. Originally, the AFL-CIO said detailed disclosures were too expensive, citing compliance costs in excess of $1 billion. The final bill turned out to be $54,000, or half of what the unions spent on litigation fighting the new requirements. When Secretary Chao refused to back down, the unions took her to court, and lost.

It's well understood that the NEA is an arm of the Democratic National Committee. (Or is it the other way around?) But we wonder if the union's rank-and-file stand in unity behind this laundry list of left-to-liberal recipients of money that comes out of their pockets.

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