Archive for February, 2018

A Conundrum Schools Face: Why Advocate Spending on SROs and Protection When 5% of Mass Shooters are Under 20?

February 28, 2018 Comments off

After reading an excellent editorial by Andrew Rosenthal in today’s NYTimes, I was compelled to respond with a comment that the newspaper “picked”:

“Everytown found that only 5 percent of the mass shooters it studied (over the past decade) were under 20.”

This makes me wonder why we are emphasizing the need for us to protect kids from each other by encouraging “if you see something say something” policies. It also makes me wonder if the emphasis on spending money on physical intervention (i.e SROs) and “protection” (i.e. door locks, surveillance cameras, and lockdowns) is as important as spending money on personal intervention (i.e social workers, psychologists, counselors, smaller pupil-teacher ratios, etc). Politicians seem to be willing to support money for police personnel and “things” to prevent violence in schools that would, presumably, be committed by students despite the fact that only 5 percent of the mass shooters were under 20… but those same politicians seem unwilling to support spending for personal interventions that might address the problems that ultimately manifest in the form of gun violence later. Mr. Rosenthal is correct: banning weapons designed to kill enemy troops is the best and most cost effective means of addressing school shootings.

This comment is particularly germane in my home state where the governor intends to spend $18,000,000 on “protection” while advocating passage of an Education Savings Account bill (SB 193) that will diminish the funding available for public schools making it increasingly difficult for them to fund the personal interventions that could really make a difference.

Time for Unity Among Organizations Representing School Boards, Teachers, Administrators, and Parents

February 28, 2018 Comments off

Over the past several days President Trump has received massive publicity on his irrational response to the mass killings in schools: namely, his proposal to arm and train teachers. But as one who opposes virtually every idea advanced by Mr. Trump and the GOP, I must give the devil his due: the AFT and NEA and countless student and parent organizations had to use bandwidth to push back against his preposterous idea… And as post by Diane Ravitch indicates Mr. Trump’s idea spurred legislative action in FL…

As one who believes that military grade weapons should not be available to citizens (and I’ll leave it to legislators to debate what constitutes “military grade”), I find it maddening that every time a mass murder occurs the NRA makes deeper inroads!

The NYTimes had an insightful article this weekend on how the NRA makes this happen. As the article notes, the NRA doesn’t buy legislators, it buys influence. Here’s a quote from the article:

To many of its opponents, that decades-long string of victories is proof that the N.R.A. has bought its political support. But the numbers tell a more complicated story: The organization’s political action committee over the last decade has not made a single direct contribution to any current member of the Florida House or Senate, according to campaign finance records.

In Florida and other states across the country, as well as on Capitol Hill, the N.R.A. derives its political influence instead from a muscular electioneering machine, fueled by tens of millions of dollars’ worth of campaign ads and voter-guide mailings, that scrutinizes candidates for their views on guns and propels members to the polls.

“It’s really not the contributions,” said Cleta Mitchell, a former N.R.A. board member. “It’s the ability of the N.R.A. to tell its members: Here’s who’s good on the Second Amendment.”

If those of us who seek sane legislation on guns could get behind one organization who turned out voters whose rabidity matched that of the NRA voters we MIGHT be able to turn the tide… And the recent spate of school shooting MIGHT make it possible for NSBA. NEA, AFT, AASA, and national PTA leaders to coalesce to get parents, teachers, and community members to vote out legislators who are proposing irrational bills like those just enacted in FL. If those groups banded together to form a “Safe Schools Alliance”, they might be able to form a muscular electioneering machine,  fueled by tens of millions of dollars’ worth of campaign ads and voter-guide mailings that would “scrutinize candidates for their views on guns and propel members to the polls”. If those who seek sane legislation in the name of providing a safe place for students to attend school, for dancers to attend night clubs, for concert goers to see performers, for cineasts to see movies, or for worshippers to attend churches, synagogues or mosques, we need to get together a group who will identify who’s SANE on the Second Amendment.

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Janus Case Pit Individual Rights Against Collective Bargaining

February 27, 2018 Comments off

Yesterday the Supreme Court heard arguments in the Janus vs. Illinois case, which pits the first amendment rights of an individual employee who receives union benefits against the ability of a union to engage in collective bargaining. As a school superintendent who sat across the table from the NEA in five different states, I felt that the most effective middle ground on this issue was to have the union differentiate their costs for political action from their costs for representing employees and to also differentiate their dues accordingly. This kind of differentiation was deemed acceptable by the US Supreme Court in the 1977 Abood vs. Detroit case, which is summarized in the Encyclopedia Brittanica below:

Abood v. Detroit Board of Education, legal case in which the U.S. Supreme Court on May 23, 1977, ruled unanimously (9–0) that agency-shop (or union-shop) clauses in the collective-bargaining agreements of public-sector unions cannot be used to compel nonunion employees to fund political or ideological activities of the union to which they object. The court nevertheless held, by a 6–3 majority, that nonunion employees in the public sector may be required to fund union activities related to “collective bargaining, contract administration, and grievance adjustment purposes.”

Through the years since 1977, school districts began to bargain for the kind of differentiation described in Abood as states passed enabling legislation that made agency shop a permissive part of bargaining.

Through the years since 1977, the libertarian wing of the GOP has sought to overturn the second half of this ruling by asserting that the First Amendment rights of individual employees should preclude any compulsion to pay any dues. Presumably, the individuals who are filing these cases are indifferent to the collective efforts of their colleagues to raise wages or improve working conditions. In effect, they want their individual perspectives on collectivism to overturn any of the bargaining agreements achieved though bargaining.

According to many articles I’ve read in the past few days, including this one in Education Week, It now appears that the Supreme Court will overturn the requirement that nonunion employees pay anything for union activities, a decision that is likely to undercut the union’s ability to represent their colleagues and, potentially, undermine existing collective bargaining agreements. Here’s the union argument in a nutshell:

David L. Franklin, the solicitor general of Illinois, who was defending Abood along with Frederick, said that the state has an interest “at the end of the day in being able to work with a stable, responsible, independent counterparty” in the unions who will “be a partner with us” in contract negotiations.

But here’s where public sector unionization will ultimately lead, based on Justice Kennedy’s analysis:

Kennedy suggested that also meant that the unions “can be a partner with you in advocating for a greater size workforce, against privatization, against merit promotion, for teacher tenure, for higher wages, for massive government, for increasing bonded indebtedness, [and] for increasing taxes.”

Based on headlines I’ve read, it seems that the rights of the individual have prevailed. When the case is characterized as pitting unions forcing individuals to pay-to-play as opposed to unions being forced to represent individuals in grievances who fail to support their representatives, the framing favors the libertarian perspective over the collective perspective… and communitarianism loses out to atomization. The irony in all of this is that conservatives who tend to oppose unions simultaneously lament the loss of communitarianism. But at the same time, conservatives tend to favor the marketplace over any form of collective employee rights. In short, it appears that conservatives support collective efforts so long as they do not require increased cost to taxpayers or diminishment of the shareholders profits…. and the economic divide we experience now is the result.