Monthly Archives: September 2012

Dear Supporters,

Tonight, Karen Lewis, president of the Chicago Teachers Union (CTU) made it official: “In the morning, no CTU members will be inside our schools.” This is the first time in 25 years that Chicago teachers are going on strike.
There are many ways to support the CTU as they go forward with this strike.Your support is crucial to winning. The city of Chicago needs to see that the people of the city will NOT accept anything less than the schools our students deserve. Please show your support in whatever capacity you can. There will be events happening throughout the city and throughout the day:
  • Walk the picket lines with the teachers! Every school will have a picket from 6:30-10:30am. We encourage people to join pickets at the school nearest them, to connect with other parents and community members in their neighborhoods. Those coming in from out of town or who otherwise would like to picket at one of the schools that Chicago Public Schools (CPS) will attempt to keep open during the strike, usethis map.
  • Picket outside of CPS Headquarters! The CTU wants to maintain a presence outside of Chicago Public Schools (CPS) headquarters throughout the day. Beginning at 5am, head over to 125 S. Clark St. and join the picket!
  • Join the afternoon rally! At 3:30pm, the CTU will hold a rally, march, and speak-out, also in front of CPS Headquarters,125 S. Clark St. WEAR RED! RSVP on the Facebook event page and invite your friends and family!
  • Join the CTSC organizing meeting! If you want to be directly involved with our organizing work as the Chicago Teachers Solidarity Campaign, we will be meeting directly after the rally at 7pm, at 1642 W. Van Buren, Teamsters Local 705. This will be CTU Strike Headquarters for the duration of the strike.
  • Follow & Share! We have a websiteFacebookTwitter, and Tumblr. Follow us and share our updates with all your friends and family!
  • WEAR RED! Wherever you are, whatever you are doing, wear RED on Monday, to show that you stand in solidarity with the CTU.
  • Call the mayor and the school board! Tell them that you stand with the CTU and you want them to negotiate a fair contract that gives our students the quality schools that ALL students deserve! Mayor Rahm Emanuel: 312-744-3300; CPS CEO Jean-Claude Brizard: 773-553-1500
  • Get on our Text Alert System! Text “@ctsc2012” to 23559 to be added and get updates on negotiations, pickets, rallies, and other events.

Remember, this is OUR fight, the fight of working class people for the soul of public education. The Chicago Teachers Union is bravely leading us in this battle, but it will take all of us to win. Education should be a right, not a privilege. We must all stand together and demand a quality public education for ALL students.

In Solidarity,
Chicago Teachers Solidarity Campaign

The Coalition Against Corporate Higher Education (CACHE) recognizes education is the strongest force of upward mobility in our society of increasing socioeconomic disparity. In a democratic environment, all students deserve equal access to the same high-quality, college-preparatory education, regardless of what district they live or who their parents are. We recognize that the US academic society is a community and decidedly not a market, Chicago teachers should not be repurposed to be ‘test administrators’ and awarded ‘merit pay’ based upon their students’ test scores. Our schools need teachers with fairly negotiated wages who do not have to worry about debt. These living wages facilitate their instruction and improves broad and diverse programs our students need such as world language, computer literacy, art, physical education, and music. These skills are inherent for creative problem solving abilities needed in their lives and in higher education. Such coursework necessarily should be in small class sizes. Furthermore, since education should occur beyond the class room, students deserve funded extracurriculars, healthy meals, fully-staffed libraries, access to social workers, school nurses, therapists and psychologists. The funding for the above activities can be obtained with i) decrease of administerial pay, ii) reallocation of funds that go toward charter school expansion, and iii) reallocation of Tax Increment Financing districts.

Therefore CACHE (the Coalition Against Corporate Higher Education) resolves to support the CTU (Chicago’s Teacher’s Union) to negotiate a contract that addresses all of the above issues with the Chicago Board of Education.

CACHE additionally endorses local solidarity events in support of the CTU requests that this support of the CTU be communicated to CACHE members and supporters.

By Craig Smith

Several weeks ago the Senate Health, Education, Labor and Pensions Committee focused the spotlight on the for-profit higher education company Bridgepoint Education as part of its on-going series of hearings examining the career-college sector. This hearing looked specifically at how Bridgepoint purchased a small private non-profit college in Iowa and transformed it into Ashford University, a giant for-profit school that enrolls tens of thousands of students mostly online. Sen. Tom Harkin, the Iowa Democrat who chairs the committee, identified a significant set of problemsat Ashford including high withdrawal rates, the lack of any career placement services, and a growing percentage of student loan defaults.

But the data that caught my attention was what has happened to the school’s investment in instruction since Bridgepoint took over. In 2004, when the company bought Mount Saint Clare College, the institution was spending over $5,000 on instruction per student, according to data Bridgepoint provided the HELP Committee. Just five years later, with enrollment soaring at the-now Ashford University to nearly 54,000 students, the amount the company spent per student dropped to just  $700. Someone might suggest this is just another great example of a for-profit college figuring out how to “deliver education” more efficiently. However, when nearly 64 percent of your students pursuing a bachelor’s degree and 85 percent of your students pursuing an associate’s degree are withdrawing while you are capturing 30 percent of your (taxpayer-funded) revenue for profit, perhaps there is a problem with institutional priorities.

So what did Ashford’s accreditor — the Higher Learning Commission of the North Central Association of Colleges and Schools — think of this dramatic disinvestment in instruction costs? Apparently not much. Asked at the hearing whether she saw a connection between academic quality and what an institution paid its faculty, Sylvia Manning, the commission’s president, said,  “If an institution can find equally qualified faculty members who are willing to work for less, we don’t have a problem with that.” Thanks for making what we already knew as plain as day.

I was thinking about all this as I read through a recent series of articles and commentary in theChronicle of Higher Education on the Pell grant program. As part of that series, various policy experts discussed the challenges the government  is facing funding the program and provided recommendations for making it work as effectively as possible for students — particularly the most financially needy students whom the program was primarily designed to help. Education Sector’s Kevin Carey focused in on accountability, as he often does, suggesting that if colleges are going to take in large sums of federal dollars they should be held more accountable for  helping students succeed. Ironically this point was echoed by Jorge Klor de Alva, the former University of Phoenix president who now heads the astroturfy Nexus Research and Policy Center. He suggested that “Pell Grants should be structured to encourage students to complete their postsecondary objectives.” Indeed. Perhaps schools like UoP and their recruiters should focus on doing that as well.

But if we were to take those calls seriously, how would we make Pell grants help more students succeed? One answer might come from the new health-care reform law of all places. The Affordable Care Act included a policy known as a “medical loss ratio” which basically requires insurance companies “to spend 80 to 85 percent of premium dollars on medical care and health care quality improvement, rather than on administrative costs.” In short, Congress required insurers to spend the money on what the consumer is paying them for.

Perhaps we ought to have an “instructional loss ratio” whereby institutions that receive federal student aid are required to devote a certain percentage of their budget to instructional services and support, including full-time faculty, counselors, advisors, and other key academic staff. After all, as the Delta Cost Project has repeatedly shown in its reports on higher education:

The share of spending going to pay for instruction has consistently declined when revenues decline, relative to growth in spending in academic and student support and administration. This erosion persists even when revenues rebound, meaning that over time there has been a gradual shift of resources away from instruction and towards general administrative and academic infrastructure.

And as the Delta Project’s Jane Wellman suggested at a recent American Federation of Teachers’ conference: “the one arguably documented way to increase student success is to invest in the instructional staff, and it appears to be the one option policymakers do not wish to pursue.”

Perhaps it is time for the federal government to use its considerable financial leverage to ensure that its money goes where most students and parents assume it does — to education. We could argue about what the right ratio of instructional investment vs. other expenditures should be but at Bridgepoint, it would surely force a change of priorities to the benefit of its students. In 2009, Bridgepoint, according to data presented in the HELP Committee hearing, took in $336 million in federal aid, which constituted 86 percent of the company’s total revenue. An analysis of the company’s spending in 2010 shows that thirty percent of those revenues go to profit, 30 percent to marketing, and only 40 percent goes to cover everything else including executive compensation. It’s no wonder the company has so little left for instruction.

Now I can already hear the cries that the focus shouldn’t be just on for-profit institutions. Fair enough. It would seem perfectly reasonable to apply such a rule for federal aid to all institutions of higher education. If this country is serious about improving student performance in higher education, then it is going to have to get serious about investing in educators. Continuing the current discussions about innovations and developing better measures to assess quality will amount to little more than bureaucratic policies if we don’t figure out how to focus on the actual educational process itself.

States and institutions have demonstrated over and over again that they are content to stay the course while our core academic services erode. Perhaps it is time for the federal government to incentivize investment in instruction.

Craig Smith is the Deputy Director of Higher Education for the American Federation of Teacherswhere his primary responsibilities are field services and communications with an emphasis on political and legislative action. Prior to joining the AFT’s national staff, he was a full-time faculty member and local union president at Salt Lake Community College. Craig blogs regularly on AFT’s Faculty and College Excellence website. His views are his own and do not necessarily reflect those of the New America Foundation.

Investigative journalist Seth Rosenfeld’s new book, “Subversives: The FBI’s War on Student Radicals, and Reagan’s Rise to Power,” is based on more than 300,000 pages of records Rosenfeld received over three decades through five Freedom of Information lawsuits against the FBI. The book tracks how then-FBI director J. Edgar Hoover ordered his agents to investigate and then disrupt the Free Speech Movement that began in 1964 on the Berkeley campus of the University of California. In part two of our interview, Rosenfeld discusses how Ronald Reagan collaborated with the FBI to target California’s student movement and strengthen Reagan’s own rise to power.

NLRB asks for briefs in Point Park University’s long dispute with teachers

By Marcus Schwarz / Pittsburgh Post-Gazette

Are Point Park University professors labor or management?

That question is at the heart of a long-running dispute between the school and its faculty that could change the status of higher education employees nationwide.

In recent months, big-name higher education groups have entered the debate — arguing both for and against a union that officials at the Downtown university have resisted since faculty tried to organize in 2004.

Advocacy groups entered the fray after the National Labor Relations Board asked for amicus briefs on whether private university faculty are eligible to join unions.

The request could mean the board is considering developing new guidelines on how to distinguish whether faculty are managers or employees. Such guidelines could affect private university faculty across the country.

A gray legal precedent

In 1980, the U.S. Supreme Court decided that faculty members at Yeshiva University were managers not entitled to union representation because they shared governance over the university with administrators.

Since then, for the NLRB to find that a faculty is eligible to organize, the board must establish differences between the administrative power of the university faculty in question and that of the Yeshiva faculty, according to Stanford labor law professor William Gould IV, the NLRB chairman from 1994 to 1998.

Of the board’s request for briefs in the Point Park case, he said, “They might be looking for a case that would permit them to make findings that are different from the facts of Yeshiva.”

The Yeshiva case is not a blanket precedent against faculty unions but instead requires a case-by-case review of the powers of faculty, said Ellen Dannin, a labor law professor at Penn State University.

A long struggle

The conflict between Point Park University and its faculty is far from new. Faculty voted 49-14 in 2004 to join the Newspaper Guild of Pittsburgh. (Post-Gazette reporters are also members of this union.)

Point Park’s attempt to introduce a new faculty handbook without faculty input sparked professors to organize, said history professor Edward Meena, who is president of Point Park’s faculty assembly and active in the push for a union.

The old faculty handbook was frozen when the NLRB took up the case, but the turnover of administrators has made working without a collective bargaining agreement difficult, Mr. Meena said.

The old handbook, for example, was written before Point Park switched from having one provost to four deans, Mr. Meena said. It includes nothing about the powers of the new deans, who control the university’s four schools, Mr. Meena said. The administrative change was part of Point Park’s transition in 2004 from a college to a university.

In his role as faculty assembly president, Mr. Meena said he has often been involved in disputes between deans and faculty.

“The one thing I would always hear [from deans] was, well, it’s not in the handbook so I should be allowed to do this,” he said. “It’s all in the interpretation in the language of the old handbook.”

The NLRB ordered the university to bargain with the union, but Point Park sued the labor board–setting up a 2006 face-off in the U.S. Court of Appeals for the District of Columbia Circuit.

That case ended with the court sending the conflict back to the NLRB, demanding that it specify why Point Park faculty is allowed to organize under the National Labor Relations Act, which describes which types of employees can form unions.

“Every academic institution is different, and in determining whether a particular institution’s faculty are ‘managerial employees’ excluded from the act or ‘professional employees’ included in the act, the board must perform an exacting analysis of the particular institution and faculty,” the D.C. Circuit Court decision stated.

The regional NLRB director issued a new decision in compliance with the court, but in 2007 Point Park asked the board to review it.

Since then, a long delay occurred, in part because the board conducted almost no business from 2008 to 2010 when a deadlocked Congress failed to confirm presidential nominees.

Recently, President Barack Obama has used recess appointments to keep the board functioning, despite objections to their legality.

Board members also disagree with how to proceed with the Point Park case. Two Republican members of the five-member board dissented from the May request for briefs, arguing the board already had enough information. One of the dissenters, Terence Flynn, resigned at the end of May, after an investigation found he had leaked board documents.

Still, a majority rules on the NLRB, so, starting with the request for amicus briefs, the board is now getting back to the case.

What exactly the board is planning remains unclear. Members do not speak to the press about ongoing cases. But the questions in their request provide a view to their intentions. Respondents were to write about what information would be useful in determining whether professors are management or labor. One question also asked whether the structure of higher education governance has changed since the 1980 Yeshiva decision.

“They like to get briefs from a lot of parties on issues that are far reaching,” Mr. Gould said. “The fact that they have asked for briefs on this indicates that they want to do something.”

National groups weigh in

The briefs responding to the request fit largely into two categories: Those siding with Point Park argued that administrators at that and other schools consider and act on faculty advice, while those siding with the union argued that faculty are often ignored when it comes to making decisions about hiring, program structures, course offerings and other university governance issues.

The Point Park University brief argued that the “faculty effectively controls numerous academic areas as well as some nonacademic areas.”

Areas include curriculum, admissions standards, hiring and grading systems, according to the brief. Faculty committees approve changes within these areas, the brief argued.

In a statement to the Post-Gazette, the university wrote, “Integral to our policy of shared governance, the university regards its faculty as critical decision makers to achieve academic excellence.”

But the union brief, which was co-filed with the AFL-CIO, disputed the claim that shared governance exists at Point Park, arguing that professors’ advice is ignored routinely.

“The president [then Katherine Henderson] informed faculty members that she was under no obligation to follow or implement their suggestions with regard to academic policy,” the union brief states. “She responded to the professors’ protests over this approach by bluntly stating, ‘This is not a democracy.’ ”

Mr. Meena said that the current president, Paul Hennigan, works with the faculty more than his predecessor, but that the faculty still needs a collective bargaining agreement to establish its powers in relation to those of the deans, who Mr. Meena said are often replaced.

The union’s lawyer, Joseph Pass, said in an interview that faculty members want a union “so that they have some voice in their working conditions and terms and salaries.”

Among the higher education advocacy groups weighing in is the American Association of University Professors. Its brief argued that the way private universities are managed has changed since the Yeshiva decision.

“Rather than relying on faculty expertise and recommendations, universities have increasingly relied on expanded administrations to make unilateral decisions, often influenced by considerations of revenue generation,” the brief stated.

Universities have increasingly adopted a “corporate model of management,” according to the AAUP. This model means that university presidents and other leaders often ignore professors in decision-making processes, the AAUP wrote.

Its brief also pointed out that in 1999 the NLRB had found the faculty of Manhattan College to be eligible for a union because they played a “fundamentally advisory” role with respect to making university decisions.

In another brief, the National Education Association advised the board to consider differences in organizational structures when determining whether faculty have the right to organize.

Point Park places “multiple layers of administration” between the faculty and those with real authority to make decisions, the NEA wrote.

But others argue that shared governance is alive and well at private universities.

“Shared governance is still the general rule at institutions today,” stated a brief filed by the American Council on Education, the National Association of Independent Colleges and Universities and other advocacy groups.

“Approximately 90 percent of four-year institutions currently have faculty governing boards that participate in institutional governance.”

The council’s brief also raises questions about the role of the board in the case, criticizing the NLRB’s request for amicus briefs as outside the bounds of the court’s order to identify the factors that made the Point Park faculty eligible to join a union.

Point Park University echoes that line of reasoning in its own brief. “There is simply no justification for this board to use this case as a vehicle for reversing or reinterpreting decades of settled and established precedent,” the university wrote.

An unclear future

It remains unclear when the board will decide the case. The NLRB does not release timelines for its cases, conduct hearings or operate in sessions that cover a specified period of time.

The case could be further delayed if Mr. Obama is not re-elected in November. If that happens, the board again will be thrown into limbo because a new president could appoint a new board chair and replace recess appointments, which expire late next year. The recess appointments also are being challenged in court.

Should the board again find Point Park faculty eligible to join a union, and should the university appeal that decision, the case could end up back in federal court — potentially setting up a reconsideration of Yeshiva. Mr. Pass, the union lawyer, said he expects both sides would appeal a decision in the opponent’s favor.

Although Mr. Gould, the Stanford scholar and former NLRB chairman, said he believed that the Yeshiva court had “exaggerated this idea of self-governance” within private universities, he said it was unlikely that the present U.S. Supreme Court would change the precedent.

“This Supreme Court doesn’t like unions, and they don’t like the National Labor Relations Act,” he said.

Marcus Schwarz:
First Published August 26, 2012 12:00 am

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