Connect with us

NOLA

Is AFT Trying To Influence NOLA’s School Board Races? Ethics Board Filing Reveals Formation of New AFT PAC

Published

on

A recent filing with the Louisiana Board of Ethics suggests that the American Federation of Teachers (AFT) is seeking to influence the upcoming Orleans Parish School Board (OPSB) elections.

On September 16th, an AFT-affiliated political action committee called Orleans Future PAC filed a statement of organization with the state ethics board. Meladie Munch, former president of the Jefferson Federation of Teachers, is listed as both chairperson and treasurer of the new PAC, although the filing was prepared by an out-of-state campaign finance consultant and the committee’s funds are held in a Montana bank account.

Strangely enough, the North Rocheblave Street address given for Orleans Future PAC is the home of this guy…

That’s Keith Hee Chung, Jr., although you may know him by his rap name, “Mr. Boss Villain” (my guess is you probably don’t). How/why Chung is connected to this endeavor is unclear, since it appears his prior political experience is limited to a few turns as an election day worker for some local campaigns.

PAC Is Part Of A Broader AFT Push

In any case, the creation of Orleans Future PAC is the latest development in a well-funded and increasingly aggressive campaign by AFT to reestablish itself in the Crescent City. AFT’s annual reports to the Department of Labor reveal that the union spent nearly $730,000 over the past two years to support organizing efforts in New Orleans charter schools.

Earlier this spring, AFT and its local affiliate, the United Teachers of New Orleans, launched surprise organizing drives at two local charters. In the past week, I’ve also learned that union organizers may be trying to initiate similar campaigns at two additional schools in the city.

Pro-union teachers talk to reporters after losing an organizing fight in May.

Pro-union teachers talk to reporters after losing an organizing fight at Lusher Charter School in May.

That being said, with only three OPSB seats up for grabs and four weeks to go until Election Day, it’s unlikely that AFT will be able to make much of an impact on the outcome of the races. Still, the union’s foray into school board politics shows that AFT is as committed as ever to rolling back the progress New Orleans has made in education over the past decade. We need to remain vigilant to ensure that doesn’t happen.


Orleans Future PAC Statement of Organization


Explore AFT’s Spending in New Orleans in F.Y. 2015 & 2016

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.

11 Comments
avatar
9 Comment threads
2 Thread replies
0 Followers
 
Most reacted comment
Hottest comment thread
2 Comment authors
AFT Is Now A Major Player In The Upcoming OPSB Races – PE + CODanielle DreilingerBrigitte NielandBrooke DuncanKeith Leger Recent comment authors
newest oldest most voted
AFT Is Now A Major Player In The Upcoming OPSB Races – PE + CO

This Article was mentioned on peterccook.com

Danielle Dreilinger

FWIW, you probably know the La. Assoc. of Public Charter Schools has also created a new PAC.

Danielle Dreilinger

Thanks! I gave up on following new PAC filings b/c the site doesn’t differentiate btn new and renewed. Watching $ papers only.

Brigitte Nieland

tag:facebook.com,2013:1777070522573903_liked_by_1013673191993733

Brigitte Nieland

https://www.facebook.com/100008129177637/posts/1777070522573903#liked-by-1013673191993733

Brooke Duncan

Endgame is control of OPSB to then jam unions down the throats of the charters the board controls.

Keith Leger

tag:facebook.com,2013:1777070522573903_liked_by_1003376223010049

Keith Leger

https://www.facebook.com/100008129177637/posts/1777070522573903#liked-by-1003376223010049

Lee Barrios

Do your research better PC. Respectable Chung family might object bit.ly/2dvnduZ

Lee Barrios

Lame attempt to discredit Chung family who also contribute to Brossett’s campaign. bit.ly/2dvnduZ

Lee Barrios

I look forward to your further analysis of all contributors to these campaigns. For instance, is there money from Stand for Children or their otherwise named PACs? http://www.tennessean.com/story/news/education/2016/09/28/stand-children-charter-candidates-face-massive-fines/91239098/

NOLA

Peeking Behind The Curtain… Thirteen years after Katrina, UTNO is still a shadow of its former self

Published

on

The United Teachers of New Orleans (UTNO) was once the largest union local in Louisiana and a powerful force in local politics. That changed thirteen years ago, when Hurricane Katrina flooded New Orleans, killed nearly 1,000 residents, and displaced hundreds of thousands more.

In the immediate aftermath of the storm, the city’s perennially-failing public school system was in complete disarray. After decades of corruption and mismanagement, the Orleans Parish School Board (OPSB) was essentially bankrupt and board members were unable to set aside their differences to effectively respond to the crisis. The state soon moved to takeover nearly all of the city’s public schools and put them under the oversight of the Recovery School District (RSD). As a result, the school board had little choice but to layoff nearly 7,600 of its employees in September 2005.

Within months, UTNO’s membership had plummeted more than 90 percent, from approximately 4,700 members before Katrina to only 300 in the spring of 2006. It was a blow from which the union has never recovered.

UTNO had approximately 4,700 members before Katrina; by May 2006, the union had only 300 members left.

As the city embarked on a radical transformation of the school system, there was little interest among educators in reviving UTNO, an organization which many viewed as part of the problem before the storm. Lacking support, UTNO largely faded from public view, while relying on its parent union, the American Federation of Teachers (AFT), to subsidize its operations.

However, over the past five years, UTNO’s fortunes have gotten a shot in the arm, as AFT has taken an aggressive stance against charter schools and has sought to discredit and undermine the success of New Orleans’ charter-driven school reforms,

According to its annual reports to the U.S. Department of Labor, AFT steered more than $2.3 million to UTNO between F.Y. 2012 and F.Y. 2017 to underwrite organizing efforts in New Orleans charter schools. Yet in spite of this infusion of cash, the results of these efforts have been mixed.

Since 2015, UTNO has launched organizing drives at five local charters, but only two of those schools – Ben Franklin High School and Morris Jeff Community School – have voluntarily recognized the union. Meanwhile, a contentious push to organize Lusher Charter School was ultimately voted down by teachers, while UTNO’s attempts to organize International High School and Mary D. Coghill have stalled due to legal challenges.

UTNO’s effort to organize teachers at Lusher was ultimately voted down.

Where do things stand with UTNO today?

To get some idea about UTNO’s current strength, I recently took a look at campaign finance reports from UTNO’s Committee on Political Education (COPE), which is a fancy name for its political action committee. Most AFT affiliates, like UTNO, have associated COPE PACs, which are funded through voluntary contributions made by members. As opposed to super PACs, which can engage in unlimited independent spending, COPEs can only make direct contributions to candidates of up to $2,500.

UTNO COPE’s 2017 annual Committee Report, which the union submitted to the Louisiana Board of Ethics in February of this year, is of particular interest. First of all, it reveals that UTNO has been rather sloppy when it comes to managing its members’ COPE contributions. According to a note included in the report, the union accidentally deposited over $740 of COPE funds in the wrong bank account and didn’t realize the mistake until a year later.

The filing also reveals that UTNO can’t seem to follow basic reporting guidelines, which require PACs to identify the names of each contributor, the amount of their contribution, and the date on which those contributions were made. Instead, the union attached what appears to be a membership list to the report, which nevertheless still doesn’t indicate who contributed to UTNO COPE, nor how much they contributed.

The list itself, which I’ve reproduced below, contains the names of 592 members, many of whom are retired. Even if incomplete, the list corroborates indirect estimates of UTNO’s membership gleaned from its tax filings with the IRS, which indicate the union could have no more than 650 members.

In sum, while UTNO’s membership has rebounded somewhat since its low point immediately after Katrina, the union is still a shadow of its former self. Although AFT has poured money into organizing charter schools in the city, they clearly haven’t gotten a return on their investment. For those of us who want to see the school system move forward and build upon its successes over the past thirteen years, that isn’t necessarily a bad thing.


Read UTNO COPE’s Annual Committee Report:


Continue Reading

NOLA

The Great NOLA Train Wreck Disappointing School Performance Scores Point To Need For Changes

Published

on

This story has been updated with additional information below.

The Louisiana Department of Education (LDOE) released 2016-17 School and District Performance Scores and letter grades on Tuesday, and while the summative performance of the state’s public schools rose from a “C” to a “B” this past year, the results from New Orleans’ schools can only be described as a train wreck. Three-fifths of the city’s public schools saw their performance scores decline in 2016-17 and the district’s overall grade dropped from a “B” to a “C”.

Every fall, LDOE issues updated letter grades and School Performance Scores (or SPS, which are akin to number grades) for every public school in the state. Scores for elementary schools are based entirely on standardized test results. For middle schools, 95% of SPS is based on testing and 5% is based on credits earned through the end of their students’ freshman year in high school. The SPS formula for high schools takes into account ACT and end-of-course test scores, a “graduation index” that measures factors like Advanced Placement participation, and the cohort graduation rate. All schools can receive bonus points if they make significant academic gains with struggling students.

Graphic from the Louisiana Department of Education.

These annual letter grades and performance scores not only provide families and policymakers with a clear picture of how schools are progressing, but they play an integral role in the state’s accountability system by identifying failing schools that require intervention and determining whether charters should be renewed.

The recent slump in performance in New Orleans couldn’t come at a worse time. More than a dozen charters are up for renewal before the end of the year and the Recovery School District (RSD) is scheduled to hand over control of its schools to the Orleans Parish School Board (OPSB) in July. That means RSD and OPSB officials will face difficult decisions over the fate of several schools in the coming months that will test their commitment to holding the city’s charters accountable. It also means that the city’s education leaders need to step back and identify the root causes of the drop in performance, as well as recommit themselves to focusing on academic achievement as their primary goal.

Now let’s take a closer examination of how schools fared in New Orleans…

The 15 worst performing schools in 2016-17

These 15 schools saw the biggest SPS declines between 2015-16 and 2016-17.

A number of things stand out when looking at the schools that saw the biggest SPS declines in 2016-17, but the most striking is that ReNEW Schools clearly had a terrible year. Four of the charter network’s schools – Schaumburg, Sci Tech, Dolores T. Aaron, and Cultural Arts Academy at Live Oak – ended up among fifteen worst-performing schools in the city.

While a case can certainly be made that Schaumburg’s dismal performance is attributable to the fact that it was struck by a tornado in February, it is much harder to make excuses for the other three ReNEW schools on the list. These results, coming on the heels of several scandals at ReNEW in recent years (including all sorts of malfeasance at ReNew SciTech), should raise serious questions about the future of the network.

It’s also interesting to note that Einstein finds itself among the worst-performing schools in the city. Not only has Einstein rapidly expanded its network of schools (and just got approval to open a new school in Little Rock), but OPSB recently cited Einstein for failing to provide bus transportation to many of its elementary students.

Einstein is currently gearing up for a legal fight over the district’s transportation mandate – a policy that every other school in the city has to follow – that they are unlikely to win. Perhaps if Einstein spent more time focused on academics and less on trying to skirt the rules, they wouldn’t find themselves near the bottom of the pile.

The 15 worst performing schools over the past four years

These 15 schools have had the biggest SPS declines over the past four years.

Looking at the fifteen worst performing schools over the past four years, two names in particular stand out: Capdau and Nelson. These two schools were the first taken over by the RSD in 2004 and the fact that they’re still struggling thirteen years later is inexcusable. (The same could be said of Fischer, which was notoriously bad long before Katrina.)

There are also a few surprises on the list, such as the fact that Dr. Martin Luther King Charter School now finds itself among the lowest of the low. King, which was the first school to reopen in the Lower Ninth Ward after Hurricane Katrina, was once celebrated as one of the highest-performing schools in the city. That luster has worn off over time (MLK’s leaders have, at different times, faced nepotism charges and been accused of turning away special needs students) and apparently the school’s academic performance has gone with it.

The 15 best performing schools in 2016-17

These 15 schools saw the biggest SPS gains between 2015-16 and 2016-17.

Turning to the brighter side of things, it’s interesting to note that many of the most-improved schools in the city last year also happen to be those that are rarely highlighted in discussions of New Orleans’ reforms. Although not listed above, Ben Franklin High School once again was recognized as the highest-performing public school in the state with a SPS of 141.3 (on a scale of 150).

The highest performing RSD school this year was Livingston Collegiate, an open-enrollment high school launched by the Collegiate Academies network last fall, which received an SPS of 115.9.

The 15 best performing schools over the past four years

These 15 schools have had the biggest SPS gains over the past four years.

Taking a longer view of school improvement over the past four years, KIPP schools – KIPP Renaissance and KIPP N.O. Leadership – clinched two of the most-improved spots on the list. New Orleans Maritime and Military Academy, which employs what could be considered the ultimate “no-excuses” charter model, has also made significant progress, with its SPS rising nearly 26 points since 2014.

Sophie B. Wright and Paul Habans – along with Andrew Wilson, which was taken over by InspireNOLA in 2015 – have also seen double-digit jumps in their performance scores in the past few years.


Update: 11/10/17

I wanted to add two responses from readers regarding the data above. The first comes from Kathy Padian, who formerly oversaw charter schools for the Orleans Parish School Board:

The second comment comes from Rhonda Dale, principal of Abramson Sci Academy, a open-enrollment high school in New Orleans East:


Explore the SPS trends of NOLA schools:


Explore NOLA’s School Performance Scores:

Continue Reading

Twitter

Subscribe

RSS Feed

Subscribe to my RSS feed to get updates in your news reader. Follow

Twitter

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
  • 28948 Tweets
  • 3250 Followers
  • 2984 Following

Facebook

Trending

Send this to a friend