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Election 2015: BESE District 1 – Garvey vs. Barrios A Look At The Choice Facing Voters in Jefferson, Orleans & St. Tammany

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BESE’s District 1 race is a no-brainer.

The contest is a rematch of the 2011 election, once again pitting incumbent Jim Garvey, an attorney from Metairie first elected to the board in 2007, against Lee Barrios, a former St. Tammany Parish middle school teacher. Four years ago, Garvey easily won reelection in the first round with 58% of the vote; Barrios mustered only 12%.

Garvey trounced two opponents in 2011.

Garvey trounced two opponents in 2011.

Garvey, a Republican, has been a steadfast supporter of the reforms that have resulted in the academic gains Louisiana has witnessed over the past decade. Barrios, on the other hand, has railed against virtually every education policy embraced by BESE in the past four years. She opposes Common Core, accountability, standardized testing, and charter schools. Thus, it should come as no surprise that Barrios is strongly backed by the state’s teachers unions, as well as Diane Ravitch.

BESE District 1 covers St. Tammany and parts of Jefferson and Orleans.

BESE District 1 covers St. Tammany and parts of Jefferson and Orleans.

Although Barrios ran as an independent in 2011, she is now running as a Republican (after briefly declaring herself a Democrat back in February). However, her shifting party allegiance hasn’t translated into a noticeable increase in support. As of September 25th, Garvey had almost $220,000 in his campaign account, while Barrios had raised just under $3000.

It’s just as well. Louisiana needs to continue on the path forward in public education and that’s why District 1 voters should cast their ballots for Jim Garvey.

Pete became involved in education reform as a 2002 Teach For America corps member in New Orleans Public Schools and has worked in various capacities at Teach For America, KIPP, TNTP, and the Recovery School District. As a consultant, he developed teacher evaluation systems and served as a strategic advisor to school district leaders in Cleveland, Nashville, Chattanooga, and Jefferson Parish, Louisiana. He now writes about education policy and politics and lives in New Orleans.

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Quick Take: Why Are We Still Talking About Common Core? | PE + CO

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Mike Fogarty

likes this.

Allison N Sean Nelson

Garvey has NEVER done anything for STPSB. In fact when he was asked any questions by the board, he never had an answer. Oh yeah he did, it was UHHHH, I’m not aware of that or I’ll have to get back to you.

Chris Binnings

You sir, are an idiot–
The grassroots has grown since last election, while Garvey continued doing a lot, but nothing good.
Support has grown immensely, and thats why Garvey is running scared.
Because truth is….all the big ugly signs with his geeky mug in the world cannot beat teachers, their friends and families, school boards and their connections, the unions that have huge influence, and most of all–THE PARENTS THAT ARE TIRED OF THE CRAP IN THE SCHOOLS going on with their children. Do you get kickbacks from Charter CEO’s, too, sir?
Its going to be a great Oct 24th!. Now quit talking immature crap about people, and go out and get some votes for your boy…….he’s really going to need them this time.

Lee P. Barrios

likes this.

Lee Barrios
Lee Barrios

I was endorsed by St. Tammany Republican Executive Executive Committee, GatorPAC/Rob Maness, St. Tammany Parish School Board Members, Yes – LFT, LAE, Given a “Please Consider” by Jefferson Parish DPEC . . . Peter when you all play the union card you fail to mention that Garvey sought and received the endorsement of SEIU in 2011. It’s not about teachers. It’s about contracts for services provided to charters. Don’t know this year. Then of course while Garvey claims to be a Republican he supports the same failed reforms of Obama, Mary Landrieu and all White’s Dem critic friends from NYC like the big BESE funder Michael Bloomberg. How about we talk about the issues, not the politics.

Kira Orange Jones

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Keith Leger

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Nancy Landry

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Kevin Guitterrez

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Louisiana

The Red River Ripoff Shreveport's AFT Affiliate Uses Bureaucratic Obstacles To Keep Dues Coming in

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Red River United (RRU), the American Federation of Teachers-affiliated union representing educators in Caddo, Bossier, and Red River Parishes, is using bureaucratic hurdles and subterfuge in an attempt to prevent members from leaving the organization.

A reader forwarded me a series of emails regarding three of the union’s current members who submitted a union drop request to Red River officials in October, indicating that they wished to end their affiliation with RRU and stop the monthly deduction of dues from their bank accounts.

The sign outside Red River United’s offices in Shreveport.

The receipt of those forms was acknowledged by the union. Nevertheless, when the three teachers checked with their banks at the end of the month, Red River United had once again deducted dues payments from their accounts. On November 1st, an email was sent to RRU officials notifying them of their mistake and requesting that the union refund those dues to the three individuals.

An emailed response from RRU’s in-house counsel, Elizabeth Gibson, flatly refused to refund those payments, explaining that the three teachers “executed a confidential agreement with Red River United (Membership Form), wherein the individuals authorized Red River United, or its designee, to draft their bank account each month for the amount indicated in the agreement for each billing period.”

She continued:

“Further, they acknowledged that they must give at least 30 days written notice to Red River United to cancel future automated debits. Red River United did not receive written notice at least 30 days in advance personally from the individuals indicating they had chosen to cancel their automated debits/membership. They must physically come to the offices of Red River United to cancel the bank draft due to the confidential nature of the information contained therein. These individuals have not done so. Accordingly, they are not entitled to a refund of the monies they authorized to be withdrawn from their bank accounts.”

Gibson added that the teachers needed to physically go to the union’s offices to provide a so-called “wet signature” in the presence of a Red River United employee in order to officially withdraw from the union and stop the monthly bank withdrawals.

Gibson’s emailed response in which she refused to refund dues to the three teachers.

A ridiculous (and dishonest?) response

Gibson’s response is not only ridiculous, but possibly dishonest. It’s also clearly an attempt by Red River United to make it as difficult as possible for current members to dropout of the union.

To start, the union’s “confidential agreement” – i.e., RRU’s membership form – isn’t all that confidential (in fact, I’ve included a copy of it at the bottom of this post). Nowhere on the membership form does it say anything about the requirement to provide a “wet signature” in the presence of an RRU employee to leave the union and stop monthly payments.

The small print from Red River United’s membership form.

Moreover, Gibson’s contention that the three teachers needed to physically go to RRU’s offices to cancel the bank drafts “due to the confidential nature of the information contained therein” is laughable. Anyone who has ever had a subscription to a newspaper or magazine can tell you that you don’t need to go to their offices to cancel it. Plus, there’s nothing “confidential” about the process. All Red River United needs to do is notify their bank to stop the monthly automatic withdrawals for those three individuals. End of story.

So why is Red River United trying to make these three teachers jump through bureaucratic hoops when they clearly don’t want to be part of their organization anymore? I suspect the union is trying to force them to come to their offices so they can pressure them to remain members, which is the kind of behavior you might expect from a dodgy timeshare broker, not a teachers union.

Nevertheless, teachers unions in other states have increasingly employed similar tactics to stem the departure of their members. For example, after Michigan became a right-to-work state in 2012, the Michigan Education Association (MEA) changed their opt-out policy to mandate that teachers withdrawal in August and force them to send their resignation requests to an obscure P.O. box address hidden on their website. The union subsequently refused to honor opt-out requests that were sent directly to MEA headquarters or were received outside of the month of August.

The United States Supreme Court is set to decide Janus v. AFSCME this spring.

I expect that we’ll see even more of these sort of schemes in the coming months. In September, the U.S. Supreme Court agreed to hear Janus v. AFSCME, a case which argues that requiring public employees to pay agency fees to unions (including teachers unions) is unconstitutional. It is widely expected that the Court will end up striking down the laws in the 22 states that currently mandate agency fees, meaning that teachers unions across the country will soon be scrambling to come up with ways to keep their members from dropping out.

Because Louisiana has long been a right-to-work state, the Janus case should have little direct impact here. At the same time, that’s exactly why Red River United’s efforts to make it as difficult as possible for members to leave their organization needs to be called out. Louisiana’s public school teachers have the right to join a union or not. Therefore, they should be able to leave a union just as easily as they signed up. If Red River United wants to salvage some of its integrity, it should immediately accept the resignation of the three educators in question and refund their dues as soon as possible.


Read Red River United’s membership form:

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Louisiana

AFT On The Bayou Union Spends Less In Louisiana, But More On Charter Organizing in New Orleans

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The American Federation of Teachers (AFT) spent less overall in Louisiana in the past fiscal year than it did in F.Y. 2016, but the union boosted its funding for charter school organizing efforts in New Orleans by more than forty percent.

An analysis of expenditure data from AFT’s 2017 annual report to U.S. Department of Labor shows that the union spent $2,326,573 in Louisiana during the fiscal year that ended June 30th, a slight decrease from the from $2.49 million it spent in the state in 2016.

About a quarter of AFT’s spending went to political activities, which included nearly $125,000 in payments to the political action committee of the Louisiana Federation of Teachers, as well as a $15,000 contribution to Defend Louisiana, a super PAC behind Foster Campbell’s unsuccessful bid for the U.S. Senate last fall. In addition, AFT spent nearly $370,000 to influence last year’s Orleans Parish School Board elections, as I exposed in a previous blog post in January.

A diagram showing the distribution of AFT’s F.Y. 2017 spending in Louisiana.

AFT also invested heavily in organizing activities across the Bayou State. It gave nearly $192,000 to Red River United to support recruitment in Bossier, Caddo, and Red River Parishes. AFT spent another $184,000 on organizing in Monroe and $147,000 in Jefferson Parish.

Furthermore, AFT’s most recent annual report suggests that the union is stepping up its efforts to organize charter schools in the Big Easy. In F.Y 2017, AFT national poured $412,926 into its New Orleans Charter Organizing Project, a significant increase from the $292,000 it allocated in 2016. In all, AFT spent more than $850,000 on its New Orleans-based activities in the past year.

Although their recruitment efforts in the city have had mixed success, AFT’s willingness to spend substantial sums of money in New Orleans makes clear they still pose a serious threat. Over the past four years, AFT has steered more than $1.6 million to organize New Orleans charter schools and roll back the city’s reforms.

We need to remain vigilant to ensure that never happens.


Explore the data:


Read AFT’s 2017 annual report:

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Peter C. Cook
Peter C. Cook @petercook
New Orleans, Louisiana peterccook.com
Education Reformer • New Orleanian • Progressive • Democrat • Proud TFA alum • Check out my new side project: @retortonline
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