Director of Policy & Innovation

POSITION TITLE: Director of Policy & Innovation
POSITION STATUS: Full-Time
REPORTS TO: Vice President of Policy and Communications

POSITION PURPOSE
The Director of Policy & Innovation will be the in-house expert on all policy and research matters of interest for the Center for Educational Reform, a leading national reform group with over 23 years of success. The Director of Policy & Innovation will be a trusted team member who will play an important role in the operation and growth of our organization.

RESPONSIBILITIES
➢  Research all major reform issues
➢  Read incoming documents and resources
➢  Notify and alert staff and leadership to critical issues
➢  Analyze information and articulate key issues in plain language
➢  Develop documents for use by communications team
➢  Development documents for legislative uses
➢  Attend events in area of policy
➢  Develop and refine CER’s voice, specifically on choice and charters issues

DESIRED CHARACTER STRENGTHS
➢  Highly organized
➢  Proactive
➢  Analytical (including strengths with numbers)
➢  Commitment to accuracy and excellence
➢  Strong communication skills (spoken, written)
➢  Hard-working & production oriented
➢  Ability to multi-task
➢  Deadline oriented

REQUIRED
➢  Results driven self-starter, organized project manager, problem solver, professional and genuine communicator, flexible and adaptive but persistent achiever.
➢  Background in education policy.
➢  Commitment to school choice.
➢  Love for data.
➢  Bachelor’s degree required.
➢  Excellent communication skills (written, verbal, and presenting).
➢  Excellent interpersonal skills.
➢  Strong knowledge of MS Office, particularly Word, PowerPoint, and Excel.

PHYSICAL REQUIREMENTS AND WORK ENVIRONMENT
➢  Must be able to deal with a wide variety of challenges, deadlines, and diverse array of contacts.
➢  May work at a desk and computer for extended periods of time.
➢  Must be able to occasionally lift up to 30 lbs.
➢  Must be able to work primarily in a traditional climate-controlled office environment.
➢  Must be able to work evenings and weekends as needed.

APPLICATION PROCEDURE
Interested candidates, please e-mail a cover letter, resume, and contact information for three references to apply@edreform.com. In the subject line, please put “Application: Policy: YOUR NAME”. Before any text, please put your full name and contact number.

Operations Manager

POSITION TITLE: Operations Manager
POSITION STATUS: Full-Time Onsite
REPORTS TO: Executive Vice President

POSITION PURPOSE
The Operations Manager will own a wide variety of business critical functions for the Center for Education Reform, a leading national reform group with over 23 years of success. The Operations Manager will be a team member of central importance who will contribute in many ways to the success and growth of the organization. Specifically, this position will support senior leadership in the areas of constituent relations, research, partner development and administration to ensure a smoothly functioning office.

RESPONSIBILITIES
➢  Office management
➢  Customer service and correspondence
➢  Database maintenance
➢  General administrative support
➢  Mailing planning and fulfillment
➢  Participate in all office activities
➢  Scheduling and meeting planning

DESIRED CHARACTER STRENGTHS
➢  Hard working
➢  Motivated
➢  Team and support oriented
➢  Proactive
➢  Strong follow through
➢  Highly organized
➢  Ambitious

REQUIRED
➢  Highly proficient with all technology
➢  Results driven self-starter, organized project manager, problem solver, professional and genuine communicator, flexible and adaptive but persistent achiever
➢  Highly attentive to details
➢  Background in office management
➢  Passion for education
➢  Bachelor’s degree preferred
➢  Excellent communication skills (written, verbal, and presenting)
➢  Excellent interpersonal skills
➢  Strong knowledge of MS Office, particularly Word, PowerPoint, and Excel
➢  Able to work long hours and available after hours on occasion

PHYSICAL REQUIREMENTS AND WORK ENVIRONMENT
➢  Must be able to deal with a wide variety of challenges, deadlines, and diverse array of contacts.
➢  May work at a desk and computer for extended periods of time.
➢  Must be able to occasionally lift up to 30 lbs.
➢  Must be able to work primarily in a traditional climate-controlled office environment.
➢  Must be able to work evenings and weekends as needed.

APPLICATION PROCEDURE
Interested candidates, please e-mail a cover letter, resume, and contact information for three references to apply@edreform.com. In the subject line, please put “Application: Operations Mgr: YOUR NAME”. Before any text, please put your full name and contact number

Why Democrats should root against unions in major Supreme Court case

by Jason Russell
Washington Examiner

January 12, 2016

Public employee unions could lose a crucial source of revenue if schoolteacher Rebecca Friedrichs wins her case at the Supreme Court. The ripple effects could damage unions for decades to come.

Or it might help workers, while maybe even helping unions, depending on who you listen to.

“This is not an anti-union case, this is a pro-teacher [case],” Gerard Robinson, a resident fellow in education policy at the conservative American Enterprise Institute, told the Washington Examiner. He said a Friedrichs victory would give teachers the right to decide how to use their money and make choices about their profession. “[A Friedrichs win is] good for workers who happen to be teachers. They have the right to be able to choose again: I like to have more money at home, where do I want to use that money? If I want to use it for political speech, guess what? I can make the decision on where I send that money.” Robinson grew up in a union household and was a union member early in his career.

Jeanne Allen, founder of the pro-school choice group Center for Education Reform, says a victory for Friedrichs would come with a silver-lining for labor unions. “If Rebecca Friedrichs wins, she will likely have an impact on improving the ability of unions to voluntarily work together,” Allen told the Examiner. “This may help unions evolve as a far more better institution than they ever were.”

Schoolteacher Rebecca Friedrichs sued the California Teachers Association for being forced to pay agency fees that cover the cost of collective bargaining. Friedrichs and her lawyers argue that the fees compel her to support political speech she doesn’t agree with, like unions negotiating against merit pay for teachers or negotiating certain pension agreements.

Allen also predicted that more teachers would leave traditional public schools and open alternative schools, such as public charter schools, if union lawyers won the Friedrichs case. “Ironically enough, if [Friedrichs] fails at the Supreme Court, more schools of choice will be born. And so the unions who don’t support school choice should think about that, because if teachers can’t make a choice in traditional public education, they’ll go somewhere else.”

Read the rest of the article here.

NEWSWIRE: January 12, 2016

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Vol. 18, No. 2

RANDI’S RANTS. AFT President Randi Weingarten is having a rough few days. After grumbling over how the feds are handling opt outs under the new ESSA, she now has to read headlines about how the Supreme Court Justices could be siding with veteran teacher Rebecca Friedrichs, who believes it’s against her First Amendment right to be forced to pay dues to an organization she chooses not to belong to. Yesterday, we stood in the crowd among Friedrichs supporters alongside paid protestors who didn’t really know why they were there, other than they were just told to “show up.” Once we started mingling with the Union ralliers, it was clear that some of them actually stood for some of the very issues that were at the core of Team #Friedrichs!

#ISTANDWITHREBECCA. We continue to stand with Rebecca and her brave colleagues until the Court reaches a decision expected late June 2016. A few of MANY highlights from those who publicly spoke in support of the cause for teachers’ rights:

“If we trust our teachers to educate our children, we should trust them to choose about their union” – Julie Collier, Founder, Executive Director, Parents Advocate League and CER Grassroots Advisory Board MemberScreen Shot 2016-01-12 at 6.15.23 PM“Great education is about great educators, and great educators need freedom. You cannot drown out the rights of teachers in this country!”” – Jeanne Allen, CER Founder and President EmeritusScreen Shot 2016-01-12 at 4.32.10 PM

 

Thanks to the State Policy Network for their great work on organizing support for Rebecca and teachers nationwide, and to organizations like AAE who offer alternatives to educators. Watch the Live Google Hangout following yesterday’s oral arguments, and check out pics from the event. Regardless of the outcome, the High Court taking on the issue of teacher freedom is already a win because it exposes the public to the power of collective bargaining.

QUALITY COUNTS. While still big on inputs and spending to rank states (giving New York inflated scores over Florida despite achievement gains of the latter over the former) Education Week’s Quality Counts is a welcome and informative tool in the area of student achievement. If you break out the results from the inputs, the story of American education progress is clear — states that are innovators and have created and sustained structures that challenge the status quo do better with students who are behind and improve schooling for all as a result. A few key takeaways for reformers here.

#SOTU. Tonight, President Obama will establish what his legacy will mean in the State of the Union address, and no doubt present the case for work that remains outstanding. With the Race to the Top initiative and Student Success Act behind us, we suspect that our President will largely ignore the importance of the real unfinished business of education. And so we offer a wish list to reflect the philosophies of those who work on the ground daily to advance innovation, freedom, and flexibility in American education, complete with suggested guest appearances for the First Lady’s box.

NEW JUSTICE IN TOWN. Great news in Arizona, where edreform-minded Gov. Doug Ducey has appointed school choice champion Clint Bolick to the state’s highest court. Bolick is co-founder of the Institute for Justice, an institution that’s become a mainstay in helping school choice programs fight court battles brought on by the BLOB. He was a lawyer in one of the most important U.S. Supreme Court decisions in education since Brown v. Board, the famous Zelman v. Simmons-Harris case, which ruled Ohio’s voucher program constitutional.

EDU GOES SOUTH. Not really, (well, that is, unless our leaders choose to ignore mandates for change and principles surrounding innovation and opportunity that provide bold agendas for what it truly takes to improve education in this country), but just in a matter of speech, thanks to the Jack Kemp Foundation’s Kemp Forum on Expanding Opportunity in South Carolina this weekend. Many of the presidential hopefuls and leaders in attendance talked about the link between poverty and education, and how expanding opportunity by way of #edreform is key. A quick social media recap here.

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It’s Back! EdReform.com’s State of the Union Wish List

The State of the Union is a President’s wish list, a manifesto, and an opportunity to lay the gauntlet down for upcoming policy and budget negotiations. The President must outline how he plans to achieve unfinished business, and establish what his legacy will mean to our nation. When President Obama takes the podium on Tuesday, he will no doubt boast of his accomplishments, and present his case for the work that remains outstanding. With the Race to the Top initiative and Student Success Act behind us, we suspect that our President will largely ignore the importance of the real unfinished business of education.

And so we offer this platform. The recommendations on this year’s wish list reflect the philosophies of those who work on the ground daily to advance innovation, freedom, and flexibility in American education:

Education is not about space, a place, or time. Education is not a brick and mortar building; it is not about one person, concentrated on one methodology, or about one option. Innovative education transcends such confines to ensure that our students are prepared to be the future of our country.

In his first State of the Union address in 2009, President Obama stated, “that is why it will be the goal of this administration to ensure that every child has access to a complete and competitive education, from the day they are born to the day they begin a career. That is a promise we have to make to the children of America.”

We’ll give the Obama Administration credit for keeping education in the public eye, for drawing more Democrats into discussing reforms such as charter schools, and by elevating the debate. There is a long way to go to remedy the top-down approach to education reform that has occurred over the last 7 years, especially the Obama Administration turning a blind eye toward school choice for the poor, but thanks are in order for giving progressive Democrats numerous reasons to become more actively involved.

Unfortunately, this activity does not produce the results needed to help our students succeed. Despite national graduation rates touted at 82%, our students still lack proficiency in the basic necessities of life such as reading and mathematics; and do not possess the knowledge necessary to preserve our freedom and ensure America’s national and international success.

America needs educational opportunity for every child, regardless of zip code, time, and place. From Pre-K through post-secondary education, President Obama could consider informing the American people that ‘one size fits all’ education is an archaic vision that negatively impacts our children, specifically those who lack opportunity. Students of all ages should have the opportunity to access classes, programs, and schools both online and on site; and be rewarded for their unique contributions and accomplishments.

“Let’s think big and bold”, he might consider telling us… and erase artificial boundaries that lock kids into seats at the expense of progress.

Opportunity isn’t something that the President can or should define…this definition should be left to American citizens. To accomplish this goal, citizens need the freedom to spend their tax dollars where they choose, and the ability to support the concept that parents should be recognized and empowered as the first and most important teacher that children have.

Each state has tackled innovation and reform in different ways. Charter school laws differ state to state, and scholarship and voucher programs vary in scope and substance. Many states employed rigorous, high-stakes standards of learning prior to the national debate over Common Core. Equally, there are still states that have their heads buried in the sand, in desperate need of a jolt to get on board with innovation, equality, and opportunity.

There is no education issue that has not already been debated, discussed, or dueled over…

Similarly, there is not one issue that has not been studied, researched, validated and also dismissed. The states have been and continue to be laboratories of innovation. The states are where the status quo in education was first challenged, and where a new paradigm for schooling will continue to evolve.

We know now, and have always known what works. We need the courage to say so – at all levels. Without a President willing to exercise his bully pulpit to shine the light on success, to ensure that federal policy follows state policy, and to call attention to that which we have failed to achieve, we will not succeed.

To remind President Obama about the unique research we created to shape his agenda, he (and you) may consider reading (or rereading?) Mandate for Change, a compilation of diverse voices on every issue from teacher quality to transparency.

We also suggest guest appearances! NO state of the Union would be complete without a few special guests in the First Lady’s box. An opportunity minded president would invite:

REBECCA FRIEDRICHS – A veteran educator who, along with nine other California teachers, fearlessly spoke up for teacher freedom by bringing a case against the state requirement that they must fund their teacher’s union (even if they aren’t members) all the way to the Supreme Court.

CLINT BOLICK – Arizona’s newest Supreme Court Justice who has fought for School Choice since the beginning! In 2003, American Lawyer recognized Bolick as one of three lawyers of the year for his successful defense of school choice programs, culminating in Zelman v. Simmons-Harris in the U.S. Supreme Court.

MICHAEL CROW – President of Arizona State University who’s school topped U.S. News & World Report’s list of the most innovative schools in the 2016 college rankings. During Crow’s time at ASU, the university has significantly expanded online programs to reach thousands more and put its education school in the schools! ASU increased the number of National Merit Scholars by 61%, and helped improve access with the number of low-income Arizona freshmen enrolling each year has grown nearly ninefold and the population of minority students has jumped 62%.

HOWARD FULLER – He remains the Godfather of Educational Opportunity and his path-breaking book No Struggle No Progress said “Make no mistake about it: Education reform is one of the most crucial social justice issues of our time, and I will spend the rest of my days fighting for my people, most especially those without power themselves.”

We wish you luck this evening, Mr. President!

 

 

 

The High Court Takes On Teacher Freedom

by Jeanne Allen
National Review
January 11, 2016

In the past 40 years, labor unions have taken their place among the biggest power brokers on all social-policy issues concerning the education of our youth. While the unions’ involvement was once intricately linked to teacher professionalism and school success, today they are focused almost entirely on protecting collective-bargaining rights and ensuring that tenure, seniority, and uniform pay scales remain inviolate.

Indeed, these issues were at the heart of today’s oral arguments at the U.S. Supreme Court. In Friedrichs v. California Teachers Association et al., ten public-school teachers are asking the Court to strike down Abood v. Detroit Board of Education, a 1977 case that sanctioned agency-shop rules permitting unions to dock a teacher’s pay regardless of whether the teacher wants to be a member of a union. Laws in 23 states require workers who decline to join a union to pay certain fees anyway. Today’s plaintiffs and other teachers around the country believe that this legal structure is anathema to teacher freedom and a violation of First Amendment rights.

Because the evidence demonstrates that issues covered by collective bargaining have nothing to do with the quality of teaching, it is mind-boggling to consider the unions’ intransigence on this and other issues regarding educational productivity and educational success. According to researchers, next to the family, the most important factor in whether students succeed is their teacher. As Harvard scholar Thomas J. Kane puts it, “A teacher’s track record of producing student achievement gains does one thing better than any other measure (even if it does so imperfectly): it signals whether a teacher is likely to achieve similar success with another group of students.” Citing Raj Chetty, John Friedman, and Jonah Rockoff, he also shares evidence about the impact of great teaching, arguing, “Being assigned to a teacher with a track record of student achievement gains is associated with higher earnings and rates of college going.”

With so much evidence, it’s difficult to understand why this case had to go to the U.S. Supreme Court for the public to recognize that labor unions, which create and defend laws that treat all teachers the same, are at odds with sound social science and what it takes to effectively teach kids. One reason is because policymakers in many states will not consider changes to collective-bargaining laws, largely because teachers’ unions are their largest contributors. Just consider how much political clout the American Federation of Teachers alone, the smaller of the two national teachers’ unions, has committed to elections in this cycle alone — $20 million.

But this case itself, while the unions are fighting it, has little to do with the union. It really is about whether teachers have the right to opt in or out, because even those states that allow teachers to opt out of unions still require teachers to pay “agency fees” to unions — supposedly to cover the costs of collective bargaining, from which all teachers supposedly benefit. The problem with this is that collective bargaining is inherently political — government unions devote more resources to their political agenda than just the small portion of dues that goes directly to support their political causes.

What’s worse is that many teachers have experienced the frustration of unclear, hidden, or moving deadlines of when to file paperwork for opting out, and have even felt intimidated and coerced by their very own union.

“We’re asking that teachers be able to decide for ourselves, without fear or coercion, whether or not to join or fund a union,” says Rebecca Friedrichs, a veteran public-school teacher in Buena Park, Calif. “It’s that simple.”

Between 2008 and 2012, the teaching profession grew by 48 percent, while student enrollment saw only 19 percent growth. Despite little evidence that class size correlates with better education, fully 21 percent of the growth of the teaching profession is a result of various class-size mandates. The rest may be related to the rise in special education and specialty teachers. Regardless of the reason, teacher quality is directly correlated with student outcomes, and for that reason and that reason alone, teachers and schools should be free not only to make employment agreements, but also to earn rewards for work well done.

Performance-pay programs, which provide hope that individuals could enter teaching and increase their pay at much higher scales correlated to their outcomes, have the potential to recapture some of the higher-quality women who otherwise find more personal and intellectual satisfaction in other fields. Men would also probably be more likely to enter the profession, given the improved status and pay potential that would result. Yet despite growing acceptance of such efforts and the prominence of these issues in the public eye today, as well as the evidence that performance pay as a policy option has worked, there is still much confusion and misinformation, and enormous political pressure to maintain fixed pay scales based on experience, seniority, and other input-related factors.

I have witnessed firsthand the impact of hiring and rewarding teachers based substantially (though not entirely) on outcomes. From districts such as Washington, D.C., to most charter schools, human-capital management based on the quality of the individual’s capabilities, knowledge, and aptitude for the profession does result in better objective measures of school success.

There are many indicators of this. First, there are comparisons of schools in Washington, D.C., before and after teacher-quality reforms employing performance-pay measures. Second, there is the comparison of teacher competency in traditional and charter-sector schools (which are more than 91 percent non-union and have operational autonomy). According to Stanford University economist Caroline Hoxby, “Charter school teachers have higher aptitude, took more math and science courses, work longer hours, and take on more extra duties.”

Regardless of the data, however, this week’s chapter in the evolution of teachers’ unions’ collective-bargaining power may expose more of the public to these issues, and that is a good thing. More than 50 percent of the general public do not know how teachers are paid, how they are hired and retained, or that unions are even part of influencing mandates about all aspects of education’s human-capital supply.

Whether or not one agrees with the premise at the heart of the Friedrichs case, education is central to our personal productivity and our global success. For that reason, we should welcome the controversy and the debate as a pathway to progress.

— Jeanne Allen is founder and president emeritus of the Center for Education Reform.

Teachers Rally As Supreme Court Hears Teacher Freedom Case Today

January 11, 2016
Washington, D.C.

Teachers and parents from around the nation today at 9:00 am will gather outside of the U.S. Supreme Court in support of 10 California teachers as oral arguments are heard in their challenge, Friedrichs v. California Teachers Association et al., against the state requirement that they must fund their teacher’s union, even if they aren’t members.

“Paying fees to a union should not be a prerequisite for teaching,” said Jeanne Allen, Founder and President Emeritus of The Center for Education Reform. “Teachers – like all other Americans – should be permitted the freedom to join and choose to pay for the option of joining any organization, union or not.”

The plaintiffs in Friedrichs are asking the High Court to strike down Abood v. Detroit Board of Education, a 1977 case that permitted hundreds of dollars per teacher of “agency fees” to be deducted automatically from teacher paychecks regardless of whether or not they have chosen to be a union member. The 10 teachers in the California Friedrichs case, along with countless of their colleagues nationwide, believe they do not benefit from collective bargaining agreements because not only is it inherently political, but it actually hurts the potential to improve schools.

“Research indicates that next to parents and family, a teacher is the most important influence in a child’s life,” said Allen. “Laws that ensure teachers are rewarded, retained and advanced based on how they perform in adding value to the students who they teach, along with skills and responsibilities, have the potential to recapture and retain our high quality educators who want to be treated as professionals. The political clout behind unions however – with the smaller of the two teacher’s unions, The American Federation of Teachers, contributing $20 million this year’s election cycle – has sadly prevented real change from happening to policies like collective bargaining and agency fees at the state level.”

“This year, workplace freedom may become reality for teachers,” Allen continued, “but the first victory has already been achieved. These courageous teachers have exposed the public to the issue of education union collective bargaining power, something known only outside of education to all but the elite.”

More than fifty percent of the general public do not know how teachers are paid, how they are hired and retained, or that unions are even part of influencing mandates about all aspects of education’s human capital supply.

“Whether one agrees or not with the premise at the heart of the Friedrichs case, with education central to our personal productivity and our global success, we should welcome the controversy and the debate as a pathway to progress,” noted Allen.

The Supreme Court is expected to make a decision at the end of June 2016.

School voucher programs need to tread lightly on private schools

by Jason Russell
Washington Examiner
January 4, 2016

Louisiana’s school voucher program is actually harming students academically, according to a new working paper published by the National Bureau of Economic Research. While the paper will surely be used by school choice opponents to call for an end to the program, a detailed look shows that school choice advocates should instead use it to call for program reforms.

The paper showed that attending a private school participating in the Louisiana Scholarship Program would increase the likelihood of a failing math score by 50 percent. “Voucher effects for reading, science and social studies are also negative and large,” researchers wrote. “The negative impacts of vouchers are consistent across income groups, geographic areas, and private school characteristics, and are larger for younger children.”

The paper was authored by Atila Abdulkadiroglu with Duke University, Parag Pathak with MIT and Christopher Walters with the University of California at Berkeley.

The trio explained that students were learning less because the private schools participating in the voucher program were so bad, while high-quality private schools wouldn’t participate. Researchers found that private schools entering the program were quickly losing students, seemingly showing that schools enter the program in a last-ditch effort to maintain falling enrollment numbers.

If that’s the case, Louisiana needs to improve the program to ensure high-quality private schools are interested in participating. “These results suggest caution in the design of voucher systems aimed at expanding school choice for disadvantaged students,” researchers wrote.

School choice advocates have long urged school choice programs to regulate private schools only lightly or else high-quality schools would keep their distance. The Louisiana Scholarship Program has “significant regulatory intrusion on private school autonomy,” according to the Center for Education Reform. The problems include “required open enrollment for voucher students, mandatory state testing, and exclusion of new private schools from participating.” If a high-quality private school is doing fine without voucher students or those burdensome regulations, it has little reason to join the program. Overall, the group gives Louisiana’s voucher law a C grade, behind five other states and Washington, D.C.

Read the rest of the article here.

NEWSWIRE: JANUARY 5, 2016

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Vol. 18, No. 1

ALL EYES ON THE SUPREME COURT. Next Monday, January 11, 2016, the Supreme Court will hear oral arguments in the Friedrichs v. California Teachers Association et al. case, which will give teachers the right to decide for themselves whether they want to belong and financially support a union.

WHY I’M FIGHTING MY TEACHERS UNION. Mr. Elrich, a math teacher in the Sanger Unified School District in California, writes in the Wall Street Journal that 82% of the public agrees that “no American should be required to join any private organization, like a labor union, against his will. “That’s all we’re asking,” he says regarding the Friedrichs case.

TEACHER FREEDOM. Research, data, and personal anecdotes on teacher freedom show teachers are interested in initiatives that advance their careers and explore innovative pay raises.

A TEACHER’S LEGACY. A fitting first public event by Acting Ed Sec John King was his visit today to a school recently re-named in honor of an amazing teacher and school leader. JoAnn “Jody” Leleck helped transform her Title 1 school into a place that not only attracted national attention because of its achievement and turnaround, but also had a lasting effect on the students and community at large. Those who knew her before she lost her battle to cancer know she put kids and education first before any consideration for adults.

OPPORTUNITY LEGACY. The fight for opportunity for those most disenfranchised from society lives on, thanks to the activities of the Jack Kemp Foundation and the Kemp Forum on Expanding Opportunity being held this weekend in South Carolina. A true pioneer of school choice, the Late Jack Kemp, former Congressman, US Housing Secretary, Champion of Civil Rights and Football star was revered by people on both sides of the political aisle for his service and impact on empowering the poor, fighting poverty and reducing injustice in housing, education, and in work. The forum in Columbia on January 9 includes a majority of presidential candidates who will join House Speaker Paul Ryan, Senator Tim Scott and the Morning Joe anchors in discussing how they might address the opportunity gap. “The Kemp Foundation is honored to provide this Forum for candidates to address issues that have too often been relegated to the ‘back of the bus,” said Foundation president Jimmy Kemp.

JOIN US! We’ll be rallying at the Supreme Court steps, 1 First Street NE Washington DC beginning 9:00am Monday Jan. 11 to show support for Rebecca Friedrichs and teachers across the nation who just want the right to choose. RSVP or for more info contact 202-750-0016 or cer@edreform.com.

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NEBRASKA’S TURN. A state that ranks near the bottom on Parent Power has a new statewide effort – Educate Nebraska – to create new opportunities for kids. Get involved here.

MILWAUKEE VOUCHERS PREVAIL. DOJ quits its investigation into the nation’s oldest voucher program. Kevin P. Chavous, executive counsel to the American Federation for Children and CER board member said, “this is another example of the U.S. Department of Justice trying to interfere with the parents’ right to choose the best school for their son or daughter, and similar to the outcome in Louisiana – parental choice prevailed.”

Why I’m Fighting My Teachers Union

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I don’t want to be forced to pay for a political agenda I don’t support. Now the Supreme Court will rule.

By Harlan Elrich
Wall Street JournalOpinion
January 3, 2016

I am one of 10 California teachers suing to end compulsory union dues in Friedrichs v. California Teachers Association, which will be heard by the Supreme Court Jan. 11. Our request is simple: Strike down laws in 23 states that require workers who decline to join a union to pay fees anyway. In our view, paying fees to a union should not be a prerequisite for teaching in a public school. No one in the U.S. should be forced to give money to a private organization he or she disagrees with fundamentally. Teachers deserve a choice.

I have taught in public schools for nearly 30 years, mostly in California. I grew up in the Central Valley, and though I’m the son of two teachers and related to eight more, I didn’t think I’d choose a career in education. But when I went off to college, I started tutoring other students in math and realized that I was good at teaching and I really enjoyed it.

I’ve never regretted my decision. Sunday nights are joyous because I know I’ll be going to work in my classroom, with my students, on Monday morning.

I was a member of the union for years and even served as a union representative. But the union never played an important role in my school. When most teachers sought guidance, they wanted help in the classroom and on how to excel at teaching. The union never offered this pedagogic aid.

Instead, the union focused on politics. I remember a phone call I received before a major election from someone in the union. It was a “survey,” asking teachers whether they would vote for so-and-so if the election were held tomorrow. I disagreed with every issue and candidate the union was promoting. After that conversation, I thought about what the union represents. Eventually, I realized that my dues—about $1,000 a year—went toward ideas and issues that ran counter to my beliefs.Screen Shot 2016-01-04 at 6.03.29 PM

So I opted out of paying the portion of union dues that is put toward political activities. The Supreme Court requires unions to provide this option, but I was surprised by how difficult this is. To opt out you have to resign from the union and relinquish all benefits—insurance, legal representation, maternity leave. Although you are prohibited from voting on any new contract, you are still forced to pay for the union’s collective bargaining, on the theory that the union negotiates for everyone.

But over time I’ve learned that the union’s collective bargaining is every bit as political. The union is bargaining for things I’d never support. For example, in my community, the union spends resources pushing for ever-higher teacher salaries. I’m in favor of a decent salary for teachers, but I think we are already well paid compared with everyone else in the Central Valley.

The area has endured hard times in the past few years. Parents of my students have been laid off, and many are still unemployed. Some have moved in with grandparents or other family members to stay afloat financially. Families struggle to make ends meet. That the union would presume to push, allegedly on my behalf, for higher salaries at the expense of smaller class sizes and avoiding teacher layoffs is preposterous.

The union also negotiates policies on discipline, grievances and seniority that make it difficult—if not impossible—to remove bad teachers. Over three decades I’ve seen my share of educators who should be doing something else. One example that sticks with me involved a colleague whom everyone, students and faculty, knew was incompetent. All on campus knew that he was biding his time until retirement.

These situations are sad. Students were relying on this teacher for an education, and he did not deliver. Yet he could do exactly as he pleased because the union had negotiated protections based on seniority. Sometimes the very teachers who shouldn’t be in the classroom are protected from layoffs thanks to seniority rules, while slightly younger but more competent colleagues are given the ax—again, thanks to collective bargaining.

The teachers in my family disagree about the union. Some support it and others don’t. But everyone agrees that each of us should have the right to decide whether to join. So I’m not against the union; I’m against the state forcing me to pay union fees against my will.

Most Americans agree. Harvard’s Kennedy School of Government recently released its ninth annual “Education Next” opinion poll. A majority of teachers who had an opinion, 50% of those surveyed, favored ending mandatory agency fees. Most Americans, regardless of political persuasion, are also on our side. A Gallup poll last year found that 82% of the public agrees that “no American should be required to join any private organization, like a labor union, against his will.” That’s all we’re asking.

Mr. Elrich is a math teacher in the Sanger Unified School District.