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Teachers Union Endorses Foster Campbell Well duh, of course they did.

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Given the myriad challenges facing Louisiana these days, it’s clear we need a bold, forward-looking leader fighting for us in the United States Senate. Apparently, LFT believes that no one embodies bold, forward-looking leadership like a 69 year-old white man who has held elected office longer than I’ve been alive.

That’s right, ladies and gentlemen: After weeks of speculation (OK, not so much), the Louisiana Federation of Teachers (LFT) formally endorsed Public Service Commissioner Foster Campbell in his bid for the U.S. Senate on Wednesday.

Last fall, Senator David Vitter announced he would not seek reelection after losing the Governor’s race to John Bel Edwards. In the interim, Campbell and two dozen other candidates have jumped into the race to claim Vitter’s seat.

Foster Campbell was once voted, "Most Likely to Play Dennis Hastert in a Made-for-TV Movie"

In addition to serving on the Public Service Commission, Foster Campbell has won several Dennis Hastert look-alike contests.

Still, LFT’s endorsement of Campbell ranks among the least surprising announcements of the 2016 election cycle. As political scientist Joshua Stockley told the Southern Political Report, Campbell “is from the old guard of the Louisiana Democratic Party.” Thus, he’s a natural fit for an old school constituency like the teachers unions.

Moreover, as I revealed earlier this spring, the state’s two teachers unions have given Campbell more campaign cash (about $18,500 as of April) than any other politician in office. Plus, Campbell received an early endorsement from Governor Edwards, a long-time ally of both LFT and the Louisiana Association of Educators.

Whether expected or not, Campbell’s campaign seemed genuinely excited to have LFT’s backing – so much so, in fact, that they repeatedly exaggerated the union’s membership numbers when announcing the endorsement. For example, although a campaign press release claimed that Campbell had “earned the support of the 20,000 member Louisiana Federation of Teachers,” an LFT report filed with the Louisiana Board of Ethics in February stated that the union had only 12,000 members.1

In February, LFT told the Louisiana Board of Ethics they only had 12,000 members.

In February, LFT told the Louisiana Board of Ethics they only had 12,000 members.

Competing Endorsements Point to Divide

In any case, LFT’s support for Campbell highlights a growing divide among Louisiana Democrats over education policy. Just two weeks ago, Democrats For Education Reform Louisiana (DFER) officially backed one of Foster Campbell’s opponents, fellow Democrat Caroline Fayard.

In a press release, Senator Landrieu, who serves on the DFER’s advisory board,2 applauded Fayard’s support for charter schools, an issue that Campbell has so far avoided:

“I am confident that Caroline Fayard will support high quality public school options, including charter schools. Caroline recognizes the impact these options have on our most vulnerable children and it’s essential that Louisiana’s next Senator fights for education excellence as a top priority.”

It was one of several endorsements that Fayard has received thus far in the campaign. In addition to DFER, the 37-year old New Orleans attorney has been backed by the Alliance for Good Government, the Independent Women’s Organization of New Orleans, and legendary Democratic strategist, James Carville.

Foster Campbell and Caroline Fayard.

Foster Campbell and Caroline Fayard.

Nevertheless, Mary Patricia Wray, communications director for Campbell’s Senate campaign, responded to the news by attacking DFER and Senator Landrieu on The Jim Engster Show last week.

When asked about the endorsement, Wray described DFER as “an AstroTurf education group that proposes unaccountable vouchers and charter schools that make profits off our kids.” She also insinuated that Senator Landrieu, who represented Louisiana in the U.S. Senate for 18 years, lacked influence, stating: “I would never say that the Senator’s work and her opinion don’t matter, but what I would say that it’s not going to be enough to make Ms. Fayard competitive enough to get to a runoff.”

Not only did Wray insult Senator Landrieu, but she distorted DFER’s positions. The organization has never taken a position supporting vouchers. Instead, DFER works to ensure that all children in Louisiana have access to high-quality public schools – both charter and traditional – by supporting common sense education reform policies.

Wray with LFT's former president, Steve Monaghan.

Wray with LFT’s former president, Steve Monaghan.

Ironically, Wray previously served as LFT’s legislative director, spearheading the union’s failed attempts to block charter school expansion and water-down accountability standards in Baton Rouge. Therefore, it comes as no surprise that her comments on DFER come straight from teachers unions’ talking points, which characterize those who disagree with them on education as profit-seeking privatizers.

Unfortunately for Wray and her friends at LFT, their rhetoric hasn’t worked. This past fall, nearly every union-backed candidate for the Board of Elementary and Secondary Education (BESE) went down in defeat. Instead, reformers won seven out of the eight elected seats on the board, including two Democrats – Jada Lewis and Kira Orange Jones – who were supported by DFER.

BESE members Jada Lewis and Kira Orange Jones.

BESE members Jada Lewis and Kira Orange Jones.

Furthermore, the election of long-time reform opponent John Bel Edwards as Governor has done little to turn the tide in their favor. While LFT and LAE strongly backed Edwards’ gubernatorial campaign, they currently have little to show for it. When Edwards sought to repay the favor by pushing the unions’ agenda in the Legislature this spring, most of his education proposals died in committee. As the Times-Picayune noted, “Edwards hasn’t been able to get much of his agenda through the Republican-dominated Legislature…and nowhere is this more apparent than with K-12 education issues.”

The Choice For LaDemos: Forward or Backward?

In a sense, Campbell and Fayard represent two competing visions for LaDemos: One that clings desperately to old ideas and alliances with interest groups like the teachers unions vs. one that embraces a new path while staying true to the core values of the Democratic Party.

If Louisiana Democrats hope to build upon Governor Edwards’ victory going forward, they need to jettison their old ways and support a new generation of leaders like Caroline Fayard who can lead the party into a brighter (and bluer) future.


Caroline Fayard

Caroline Fayard is running for the United States Senate because career politicians have failed us and only a new generation of leadership can help move Louisiana forward. Find out more about her campaign.


  1. Even this number is misleading. About half of LFT’s members are actually support personnel, not classroom teachers. 

  2. Full disclosure: I also serve on the advisory board of DFER Louisiana, although the thoughts expressed here are my own. 

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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Timothy Bovard

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Timothy Bovard

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Jennifer Greene

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Jennifer Greene

https://twitter.com/petercook/status/796087503446937601#favorited-by-2551725480

Jennifer Greene

Why I voted for @FayardforSenate over the teachers unions’ pick, @CampbellforLa: pcook.me/sdFm #edreform #NOLAed #LaEd #LaSen http

Mallory Padgett

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Mallory Padgett

https://twitter.com/petercook/status/774092307071053828#favorited-by-94590558

Quick Take: New U.S. Senate Poll & Endorsement – PE + CO

This Article was mentioned on peterccook.com

Amy Connolly

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Amy Connolly

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Don Shaw

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Don Shaw

https://twitter.com/petercook/status/773913947464359937#favorited-by-4315926860

Dom B.

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Dom B.

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Dom B.

RT @petercook: I’m With Her (by “her” I mean @FayardforSenate): pcook.me/17g6o #LaSen #LaGov #LaEd #edreform

DFER Louisiana

DFER Advisory Board Member @petercook offers some insight into #lasen race: pcook.me/1is19


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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