The Anchorage Education Association is one of 22 teachers unions nationwide that have drawn the ire of an anti-union think tank. Full story aired March 11th, 2008 on KTUU Channel 2 in Anchorage. Here's the full national list of 22 districts, rated by the Center for Union Facts (click the desired link to get their report on the district of interest):
Newark, NJ: Newark Teachers Union
Anchorage, AK: Anchorage Education Association
Fremont, CA: Fremont Unified District Teachers Association
Long Beach, CA: Teachers Association of Long Beach
Sacramento, CA: Sacramento City Teachers Association
Colorado Springs, CO: Colorado Springs Education Association
Louisville, KY: Jefferson County Teachers Association
Shreveport, LA: Caddo Federation of Teachers and the Caddo Association of Educators
Boston, MA: Boston Teachers Union
Detroit, MI: Detroit Federation of Teachers
Minneapolis, MN: Minneapolis Federation of Teachers
Kansas City, MO: Kansas City Federation of Teachers
Raleigh, NC: Wake NCAE
Columbus, OH: Columbus Education Association
Tulsa, OK: Tulsa Classroom Teachers Association
Corpus Christi, TX: Corpus Christi AFT
Houston, TX: Houston Federation of Teachers
Laredo, TX: Laredo TSTA/NEA
Lubbock, TX: Lubbock Educators Association
San Antonio, TX: San Antonio Alliance of Teachers
Norfolk, VA: Education Association of Norfolk and the Norfolk Federation of Teachers
Virginia Beach, VA: Virginia Beach Education Association
The Center for Union Facts counts Anchorage among its list because, center officials say, the firing rate of tenured teachers in Anchorage is so low that it shows bad teachers are being protected from firing by their union. Using data supplied by the school district under a Freedom of Information Act request, the center says Anchorage only terminates .06 percent of its tenured instructors per year. Center officials say the rate is so low that it shows the local union is protecting bad teachers.
However, AEA officials say the center's list is misleading. Anchorage School District officials say they worked with the AEA to create programs that help keep pre-tenure teachers on track and ultimately curbs termination.
Ron Fuhrer, AEA president, says he views the inclusion of his union on the center's list as a good thing. "I think it's a list of honor. It says that the Anchorage School District, with all of the procedures and strategies and techniques that we have, is that we are doing an excellent job of hiring quality teachers and keeping quality teachers," he said.
But Center for Union Facts officials say the numbers indicate something else. "The fact that they are so low compared to the statewide firing rates means either the kids aren't learning or the teachers aren't teaching properly, with such bad test scores and such dismal graduation rates, we know that something is wrong," said center spokeswoman Sarah Longwell.
Longwell says the group filed a public information request with 100 school districts, asking for firing rates of tenured teachers. However, here's the kicker; all 22 that replied to the Freedom of Information Act request, including Anchorage, were put on the center's bad list.
The Center for Union Facts links to an intriguing website, the National Council of Teacher Quality, which, among its many functions, provides a detailed summary on the status of education for each of the 50 states. Click HERE for the links page to all 50 states. The 132-page summary for Alaska is available HERE. Here's the executive summary of significant findings on Alaska from page six of the summary, and NCTQ gives us below par or failing grades:
Area 1 – Meeting NCLB Teacher Quality Objectives (Letter Grade D): Alaska’s current data policies, which can help it ameliorate inequities in teacher assignments, are
sorely lacking. The state’s subject matter preparation policies for future elementary and secondary teachers are highly inadequate as well. The state does meet the industry standard of a subject matter major and minor, and is phasing out its HOUSSE (High Objective Uniform State Standard of Evaluation) route. However, this graphic indicates that in the sub-category of Standardizing Credentials, Alaska's among the best.
Area 2 – Teacher Licensure (Letter Grade D): Alaska’s professional standards lack specificity in virtually all areas and do not have a measurable set of criteria that teachers must master before entry into the profession. Alaska does not require elementary candidates to know the science of reading instruction. The state’s policies regarding reciprocity for teachers from other states are good, although the state’s testing policies render them less effective. Alaska does not recognize distinct levels of academic caliber among newly certified teachers.
Area 3 – Teacher Evaluation and Compensation (Letter Grade D): By not explicitly calling for objective evidence of teacher effectiveness, Alaska’s minimal teacher evaluation guidelines fail to hold teachers accountable. While the state requires annual evaluations, it also allows a one-year waiver for teachers rated satisfactory. The state’s teacher evaluation policies are further undermined by the lack of value-added data and by granting tenure after only three years. Teacher
compensation in Alaska shows some promise, as the state is piloting a new performance pay program.
Area 4 – State Approval of Teacher Preparation Programs (Letter Grade F): Alaska does not require aspiring teachers to demonstrate basic skills before entering a teacher preparation program or hold its programs sufficiently accountable for the quality of their preparation. In addition, Alaska has failed to address the tendency of programs to require excessive amounts of professional coursework. The state also inappropriately requires its programs to attain national accreditation.
Area 5 – Alternate Routes to Certification (Letter Grade F): Alaska does not provide a genuine alternate route to certification. The state does not currently classify
any route to certification as an alternate route. Alaska, however, has a fairly flexible policy regarding licensure reciprocity for teachers coming from out of state who were prepared in an alternate route program.
Area 6 – Preparation of Special Education Teachers (Letter Grade F): Alaska’s standards for special education teachers do not ensure that teachers will be well prepared to teach students with disabilities. The state places no limit on the amount of professional education coursework that its teacher preparation programs can require of special education candidates, resulting in program excesses. Furthermore, the state does not ensure that special education candidates receive subject matter preparation relevant to elementary or secondary teaching. Alaska not only falls short in ensuring programs prepare highly qualified teachers, it has not developed a streamlined HOUSSE route to help new secondary special education teachers meet additional subject matter requirements once they are in the classroom.
Commentary: While the Center for Union Facts performs a valuable service in identifying and exposing union abuse, the fact that all 22 school districts responding to their FOIA ended up on their "bad" list implies that they go beyond wanting to reform unions and nurture an inherent bias against the concept of unions. Although the Center links to the non-partisan NCTQ, they do so because the NCTQ's findings support their views.
In addition, the Center seems to automatically assume that because the Anchorage School District fires fewer teachers than the average, ASD is automatically protecting bad teachers. This indicates the Center might be suffering from what I call "Homeland Security Syndrome"; that is, if you don't fit the norms, you're not merely different, but also wrong.
But the unions are far from guiltless. The National Education Association (NEA) at the national level has been nothing short of scandalous. Their leadership are not only incurable social engineers, but are literally infatuated with the homosexual agenda. The NEA Convention in 2006 was a veritable homosexual political lovefest. Here's how I described it at the time:
On June 6th  the National Education Association wrapped up its annual meeting having approved its most aggressive measures to date in support of the homosexual agenda. The union overwhelmingly passed a resolution endorsing homosexual "marriages" and adoptions in states where they are already legal. The resolution was a watered-down version of an earlier one that would have endorsed same-sex "marriages" everywhere. However, the clear-cut intent is to mainstream homosexuality.
One of the recommendations is for "gay," lesbian, bisexual, and transgender issues be required content for teacher credentialing. Teachers would be forced to undergo sensitivity training concerning homosexuality before they could be certified to teach. The resolution recommends that "NEA advocate for the inclusion of Gay, Lesbian, Bisexual, and Transgender issues in the National Council for the Accreditation of Teacher Education (NCATE) teacher education program review process." The NEA has already contacted NCATE about this.
NEA also voted to replace the word "tolerance" toward homosexuality with "acceptance and respect" in union policies. The rationale for the change was given by the resolution's author, Phil Rumore. His reasoning is classic political correctness: "Words not only describe reality and behavior, they shape it. 'Tolerance' implies 'putting up with' (a disapproval of others) and is wrong when used in relation to how we should relate to others. We should teach acceptance and respect not tolerance of those who are different from us wherever appropriate."
The Anchorage Education Association clearly has not behaved in such an egregious fashion. However, they cannot depart too far from the agenda of the national headquarters without the risk of losing their national affiliation.
And the Anchorage School District has not hesitated to terminate staffers who blatantly misbehave. Recently they terminated former Eagle River Assistant Principal Mario Toro for snorting coke on ASD property, even before Toro was scheduled for trial. So they've shown a reduced tolerance for staff misbehavior.
The timing of this announcement by the Center for Union Facts, less than one month before the Anchorage Municipal Election, is a bit auspicious. What effect will it have on approval of the two school bonds on the ballot? I still say the mark of maximum political maturity is to avoid factoring this information into one's voting decision and judge the school bonds on absolute merit alone.