Exposing the real "Right to Work" supporters agenda

Efforts to pass "Right to Work" laws go back decades (a measure was defeated in Ohio in 1958, by the massive margin of 63.3% No to 36.7% yes), and have always been pursued by monied interests looking to put a dent in the power of workers ability to stand up for themselves and each other through collective action.

It should not be lost on anyone that the major backers of this latest anti-union push are billionaires and big business, none of whom actually belong to a union. Having seen previous "right to work" efforts defeated, the extreme right, and their big business backers have had to send their latest effort through a rebranding exercise and they have come up with a new catchy title "work place freedom".

Who doesn't love freedom? Well apparently the very people promoting the effort. reported on a meeting of Tea Party members discussing "work place freedom" and why they were pursuing it

Speakers at an Allen County Patriots meeting Thursday made the case that the National Education Association abuses teacher dues to support a liberal agenda that disrespects Christian values.
According to Boyatt, NEA gave close to $15 million to advocacy groups in the 2011-12 school year and $18 million in 2010-11. The advocacy groups, she said, included the Gay, Lesbian and Straight Education Network, Human Rights Campaign, Women’s Campaign Forum and Rainbow Push Coalition.

From there, it got uglier, much uglier

Harvey said the NEA has supported an “immoral, deviant and destructive” gay agenda for at least 25 years, citing its gay and lesbian caucus started in 1987. Harvey criticized the union for supporting a gay and lesbian history month, diversity training that included homosexuality, and pro-homosexual school counseling. She said the NEA has asked schools to protect students and staff from sexual orientation harassment and discrimination and has replaced the word “tolerance” with acceptance and respect.

“Kids are being trained as activists now,” she said.

Harvey said the NEA has voted to lobby for same-sex unions and said petitions are currently circulating to overturn the 2004 Ohio marriage amendment, which stated that that only a union between a man and woman would be recognized as a valid marriage. The OEA opposed the amendment.

This is why the Tea Party in Ohio wants to pursue "right to work" legislation, not to create any kid of "freedom", but to enable their ongoing bigotry by attacking organizations that have a long history of standing up for equality and fairness. Public opinion polls show strong majorities now supporting marriage equalityand how out of the mainstream these Tea Party "Patriots" truly are.

The NEA and its members should be rightly proud of their support for equality, even when it was unpopular to do so.

Big business backers of this effort ought to take a closer look at who some of their allies are. The world has moved on from 1958, but voters are likely to deliver an equally stinging defeat to the purveyors of this ugly bigoted agenda.

What's in your portfolio?

A reader pointed out this exchange and segment on CNBC, a business channel. There can be no doubt that the financiers that brought us the great recession see education as the next area ripe for looting

Anchor: Charter schools have become very popular... But are charter schools a wise addition to your investment portfolio? Well let’s ask David Brain, President and CEO of Entertainment Properties Trust. David, why would I want to add charter schools into my portfolio?

DB: Well I think it’s a very stable business, very recession-resistant. It’s a high-demand product. There’s 400,000 kids on waiting lists for charter schools, the industry’s growing about 12-14% a year. So it’s a high-growth, very stable, recession-resistant business. It’s a public payer, the state is the payer on this category, and if you do business with states with solid treasuries then it’s a very solid business.

Anchor: Well let me ask you about potential risks, here, to your charter school portfolio, because I understand that three of your nine “Imagine” schools are scheduled to actually lose their charters for the next school year. Does this pose a risk to investors?

DB: Well, occasionally—our Imagine arrangement’s on a master lease, so there’s no loss of rents to the company, although occasionally there are losses of charters...In this case it’s a combination of relationship with the supervisory authorities and educational quality; sometimes the educational quality is very difficult to change in one, two, or three years. It’s a long-term proposition, so there are some of these that occur, but we’ve structured our affairs so this is not going to impact our rent-roll and in fact you see this is maybe even a good experience as the industry thins out some of the less-performing schools...

I don’t—there’s not a lost of risk...the fact is this has bipartisan support. It’s part of the Republican platform and Arne Duncan, Secretary of Education in the Obama Administration, has been very high on it throughout their work in public education. So we have both political parties are solidly behind it, you have high demand, high growth, you have performance across the’s our highest growth and most appealing sector right now of the portfolio. It’s the most high in demand, it’s the most recession-resistant. And a great opportunity set with 500 schools starting every year. It’s a two and a half billion dollar opportunity set annually.

The Big e-school rip off

The evidence is becoming clearer and clearer. E-School charters are a tax payer rip-off that delivers awful results.

At Join the Future we have focused most of our attention on the poor quality Ohio's e-schools have delivered. Providing the highest quality education is, after all, the most important aspect to schools. In article after article, we have highlighted the packed virtual classrooms, and the poor graduation rates they produce.

But now comes news that not only do they produce awful results in terms of educational quality, they are also a huge pay payer rip off. First for some context as to the scope of e-schools in Ohio

Enrollment in online schools in Ohio has passed 30,000, more than 12 times the number in 2000 when the first "virtual" school opened in the state.

Only Arizona had more students enrolled full time in online schools in 2010-11, according to an annual report by the Evergreen Education Group.
Although scattered around the state, the online students combined would make up the third-largest district in Ohio — about the size of the Cincinnati schools. The online schools are charters, independently operated but publicly funded.
Ohio's online schools have become a big business. The state paid online charter schools $209 million in 2010-11 to educate students, or an average of $6,337 per student.

Results are mixed at both for-profit and district-run schools. Online students have lower graduation rates than those at traditional schools. They attend college at a lower rate. At the same time, other measures have shown online students learning as much as, or more than, students in many districts.

It's a growth business. And reporting from StateImpact Ohio and the Plain Dealer indicate why

Robert Mengerink didn’t know how much an online school really costs to operate — until he started one.

When he learned this summer that the agency he heads, the Educational Service Center of Cuyahoga County, could offer a basic online program for less than half of what the state pays online schools per student, he was taken aback.
The cost? About $2,980 per student for a full course load all year.

That's more than 50% cheaper than the for-profit charter operations such as ECOT, and it's not an isolated example.

TRECA Digital Academy, another publicly operated provider of online K-12 education, says it can do it for about $3,600 per student.

That potential savings highlights questions that critics of online schools have been asking for years: What really happens to that taxpayer-provided money? Is most of it going to educate students? Or are schools pocketing a large profit while cutting corners for students?

That's a really good question. For a Governor and legislature that talks about reducing government spending so much, we are left wondering why they continue to allow such a laissez faire attitude to these terrible schools.

We recommend you read the full State Impact report, it really should open some eyes.

We Educate America

Over 8,000 teachers and eduction support professionals, elected by their peers to represent them, gathered in Washington D.C at the beginning of a hot July, to attend the 150th National Education Association (NEA) meeting, the 91st Representative Assembly (RA). This makes the gathering the world's largest democratic deliberative assembly.

We Educate America, wasn't just the theme, but the reality, emphasized throughout the almost week long event.

NEA RA 2012

On the first day, and with one of the first pieces of business, delegates reiterated their priorities, and affirmed their commitment to leading the profession by:

  • Support Association and member led school transformation efforts and pursue state and district policies that help create great public schools for all students;
  • Offer intensive support to struggling schools (including NEA Priority Schools) and share lessons learned at the local and state levels;
  • Work in partnership with parents, community organizations, and allied coalitions with the goal of improving student outcomes;
  • Lead efforts to fund and establish a coalition of teachers’ professional organizations, higher education professional associations and faculty, education support professional organizations, specialized instructional support personnel organizations (e.g. school social workers, psychologists etc.), and other organizations promoting standards of professional practice with the goal of identifying a universally accepted body of standards for all of the education professions;
  • Advocate for including educators and association leaders in all school and district decision-making bodies, including the areas of policy, personnel, and budgets. Use collective bargaining and other multi-party processes to help accomplish this goal;
  • Create a network of organizational advocates at the local, state, and national level to convey the over-arching goals and strategies as well as the actions, the desired outcomes, and the value propositions of leading the professions.

The second from last point being one we have repeatedly called for here at JTF. Their second order of business was to overwhelmingly reject the misuse of standardized tests

  • Call on governors, state legislatures, state education boards, administrators, and assessment system consortia or developers, to reexamine public school accountability systems in the state, and work with educators to improve them based on fair testing standards promulgated by experts in testing practice;
  • Call on states and districts to develop systems based on multiple forms of evidence of student learning that do not require extensive standardized testing, are used to support all students and improve schools; and are not used for purposes for which they have not been validated;
  • Share the NEA Policy Statement on Teacher Evaluation and Accountability with relevant stakeholders in order to inform conversations about the appropriate use of assessments in evaluation systems to support instruction and student learning.
  • Disseminate criteria regarding the validity of assessments and promote the productive use of high quality, valid, and reliable standardized assessments as part of robust, authentic accountability systems that include multiple forms of evidence of student learning and school quality designed:
  • to improve learning by identifying students’ strengths and challenges,
  • to identify successful practices in schools,
  • to support struggling schools, and
  • to inform educators’ practice.
  • Uphold our belief as stated in Resolution B-66 and shall support parents’/guardians’ rights to opt out of standardized testing.

The second day's business was dominated by the Vice President addressing the RA

Jill Biden also an educator, introducing her husband, the Vice President, captured the essence of the RA, “I know that you all understand. Being a teacher is not what I do, it’s who I am.”

The Vice-President then went on to capture the essence of the Presidential race, and more, “My Dad used to say ‘Don’t tell me what you value, show me your budget,’” Biden told delegates, that obviously resonated with the Ohio delegation who are suffering from the worst budget assault Ohio public schools have ever seen, due to Governor Kasich and his legislature's budget.

Speaking of Ohio, educators at the RA had not forgotten about SB5

NEA Ohio SB5

The third day of the RA was set aside for association business, but the highlight turned out to be a speech by teacher of the year, Rebecca Mieliwocki.

“If we want real change, lasting change, if we want back the power, the pride, the soaring achievement that is an exceptional public education, then the revolution begins with us.”

The Final day of the RA, saw, or rather heard from President Obama, who made a surprise call while on a campaign trip through Ohio.

NEA Obama

He told the more than 8,000 cheering educators gathered, “You can’t help the American people without helping education,” he went on to comment that Mitt Romney’s vision of education is a system that only benefits the richest Americans. “Michelle and I wouldn’t be where we are today if it weren’t for great parents, great grandparents, and a great education.”

After the call, the huge convention center erupted into chants of "4 more year, 4 more years".

This opening article graf sums up the 2012 NEA RA very well

If public education is to remain a basic right for every child, rather than a privilege for only the wealthy, educators will have to lead their profession not just in their schools but in their communities and in political campaigns. That was the recurring message from President Barack Obama, Vice President Joe Biden, Teacher of the Year Rebecca Mieliwocki, and the more than 8,000 educators at the 2012 National Education Association (NEA) Representative Assembly


Education News for 06-18-2012

Statewide Stories of the Day

  • State joins school-attendance probe (Dispatch)
  • Columbus schools officials sought state help yesterday in a probe of possible record-tampering, saying the scope of the issue was larger than previously thought. Superintendent Gene Harris asked the state auditor’s office to conduct a special audit of the district’s enrollment data. Also, the Ohio Department of Education said that because of concerns raised yesterday in a story in The Dispatch and after a request for help from the district, it plans to review the accuracy of Columbus’ attendance figures. Read more...

  • More grads not ready for college (Enquirer)
  • Rayjean Ranford graduated from Woodward High School over a year ago in the top 10 percent of her class. She planned to attend Cincinnati State Technical and Community College for two years, then transfer to the University of Cincinnati for two more. But the 18-year-old single mother fell behind before she took her first college class. Scores on her college placement tests were so low that Cincinnati State assigned her to “developmental” classes in math and English, designed to get her ready for college, but which yield no college credit. She took four. Read more...

  • Early interaction helps children learn (News-Journal)
  • MANSFIELD - If you want your children to succeed in life, read to them, talk to them, play with them, especially in the first three years of their lives. Lisa Cook, early childhood consultant for Succeed and Prosper through Education Ashland, Richland, Crawford (SPARC), and a former teacher and head of school at Discovery School, wants to see parents become their child's first teacher. Cook played some humorous video clips of TV show host Art Linkletter interviewing children about their hopes and ambitions when they grow up. Read more...

  • Failed SB 5 still a boon for some schools (Dispatch)
  • Fallout from the state’s failed attempt to scale back collective-bargaining rights has helped some school districts stretch levies longer than planned, officials say. When the Bexley schools treasurer put the district’s finances into focus recently, he found that the district likely can stay off the ballot until 2014, a year longer than expected. The Westerville district, too, plans to wait a year longer than officials had said. Olentangy is stretching the life of a 2011 property tax by two years. Read more...

Local Issues

  • Columbus school district’s attendance data ‘not logical’ (Dispatch)
  • Columbus fifth-graders come to school nearly every day. But roughly half of them can’t pass their math, reading and science exams. Linden-McKinley STEM Academy has had near-perfect attendance for the past three school years. But only 54 percent of Linden-McKinley students graduate, and fewer than 2 in 5 can pass the state science exam on the first try. If showing up is half the battle in helping students succeed, why aren’t more Columbus schools winning? Read more...

  • Scioto Valley schools not betting on set amount from casinos (Chillicothe Gazette)
  • CHILLICOTHE - School treasurers in Ross County aren't betting on much of a boost from casino tax revenues, which should begin paying out this year. Still, they said any additional funding, no matter the amount, is a good thing at a time when most districts are tightening their belts. Exactly how much money will be doled out to the schools depends entirely on the success of the casinos. In 2009, when voters approved a statewide referendum allowing casinos in Cincinnati, Cleveland, Columbus and Toledo. Read more...

  • Lake Erie College camp all business for area high school students (News-Herald)
  • Beginning Sunday, high school students from the area will have the opportunity to hear from local business leaders during a weeklong, hands-on program. The Learning About Business program at Lake Erie College in Painesville brings 60 students from high schools in Lake, Geauga and Cuyahoga counties to live on campus for one week and work together on a business project. While there, students will hear from area professionals who will teach them various aspects of how to run a business, Executive Director Michael Jablonski said. Read more...

  • Demand for vouchers declines in TPS district, reversing trend (Blade)
  • Demand for vouchers to attend private Toledo schools waned for next school year, abruptly ending a trend of rapid growth. The Ohio Department of Education received 2,023 applications from Toledo students for the 2012-2013 school year in the EdChoice program, which provides scholarships for students to attend private schools if their public school performs poorly on state standards. That's down from 2,068 the year prior, in contrast to two straight years of 200-plus growth in applications. Read more...


  • Cleveland schools' diversion of bond funds causes taxpayers to get less for their money (Plain Dealer)
  • Just because it's legal to use Cleveland school construction bond money to repair aging schools doesn't make it right -- or smart. Cleveland voters approved the $335 million Issue 14 in 2001 to deal with aging schools. Since then, 32 of the district's 86 buildings have been renovated or replaced. The projects qualified for a two-for-one match that has brought in more than $422 million from the state, according to district spokeswoman Roseann Canfora. That's a huge jackpot for the city's children. Read more...

  • Another win for kids (Dispatch)
  • It was a good week for Ohio schools at the Statehouse: A day after lawmakers came together to approve a revolutionary plan for Cleveland schools, the General Assembly on Wednesday at long last approved a measure that promises to hold all Ohio schools accountable in some critical areas. Experience shows that, in failing schools, accountability is a necessary first step toward improvement. Senate Bill 316 was subject to months’ worth of contention and horse-trading, and the final product isn’t perfect. Read more...

  • School plan not right for all districts (Tribune Chronicle)
  • A federal program intended to help students who are doing poorly in school turned into a fiasco in Ohio. Now the state is doing what should have been done all along - in effect, telling local school districts they can get the kinds of help they want for such students. As so often is the case with the federal government, the program adopted a one-size-fits-all, strictly controlled approach. It provided federal money to pay for tutors for struggling students, but only by individuals, organizations and companies approved by the state of Ohio. Read more...

Like shoving a pig through a snake

Greg, over at has an interesting piece discussing the many, many "top priorities" attempting to be implemented in Ohio K-12 education right now. He lists common core, new state tests, PARCC assessments moving online only, teacher and principal evaluations, teacher retesting and the new report card grading system, 3rd grade reading retention, voucher expansion, to name just a handful.

Having so many "top priorities" with imminent implementation dates, makes their individual success less likely, Greg smartly argues, using business management guru, Patrick Lencioni's writing

Most organizations I’ve worked with have too many top priorities to achieve the level of focus they need to succeed. Wanting to cover all their bases, they establish a long list of disparate objectives and spread their scarce time, energy, and resources across them all. The result is almost always a lot of initiatives being done in a mediocre way and a failure to accomplish what matters most.

When a CEO announces that her company’s top priorities for the year are to grow revenue, improve customer service, introduce more innovative products, cut expenses, and improve market share, she is almost guaranteeing that none of those objectives is going to get the attention it deserves.

Right after reading this, we read this article in the Plain Dealer, titled "Ohio schools prepare for another budget hit"

For the past year, many school districts across Ohio have been asked to do more with less after the state budget suddenly reimbursed them far less for lost business taxes -- called tangible personal property taxes -- than they had been getting. While keeping basic state aid flowing to schools, Gov. John Kasich made the change to help avoid a multibillion-dollar deficit.
The state had set up the reimbursement plan years before when it replaced tangible personal property taxes with a different business tax -- the commercial activities tax. Revenue from that new tax goes to the state instead of directly to districts.

The result will be a fiscal crunch for schools for the second year in a row.

Northeast Ohio's 97 districts will take a harder hit than some other parts of the state.

They'll see an increase of more than $9 million in basic state aid next school year -- about 15 percent of the statewide increase. But they will receive almost $74 million less in business tax reimbursements -- about a third of the loss statewide.

It's challenging enough to continue to provide a quality education in an environment of deep, widespread, funding cuts, but when coupled with a huge list of "top priorities" it is a recipe for disaster.

What is missing from the list of "top priorities", and missing from the legislatures mid biennium review (MBR) is a constitutional school funding mechanism that will prove to be fair, equitable and adequate to implement not only a quality education for all, but fund all these other pet project "priorities".

The Governor and his legislature have placed an incredible burden on school districts and their administrative and teaching staff, and simultaneously failed to provide the requisite support. That needs to change.