Education Week - January 20, 2016 - (Page 17)

GOVERNMENT & POLITICS Unions on Defensive As High Court Hears Dispute Involving Fees Teachers' unions were on the defensive in the U.S. Supreme Court last week as conservative justices appeared open to overruling a key precedent that authorizes public-employee unions to collect fees from nonmembers for collective bargaining. "The union basically is making these teachers compelled riders for issues on which they strongly disagree," said Justice Anthony M. Kennedy, putting a twist on the idea that non-union members are "free riders" unless they are required to pay for the union's representation efforts. "Many teachers think that they are devoted to the future of America, to the future of our young people, and that the union is equally devoted to that, but that the union is absolutely wrong in some of its positions," Kennedy added during the Jan. 11 oral arguments in Friedrichs v. California Teachers Association (Case No. 14-915). "And agency fees ... require that employees and teachers who disagree with those positions must nevertheless subsidize the union on those very points." Justice Antonin Scalia, who has expressed concerns about free riders and thus was perhaps the unions' best hope for the crucial fifth vote to join the court's four liberals to preserve the 1977 precedent, Abood v. Detroit Board of Education, did not give the unions much reason for optimism. "The problem is that everything that is collectively bargained with the government is within the political sphere, almost by definition," Scalia said. "Should the government pay higher wages or lesser wages? Should it promote teachers on the basis of seniority or [some other] basis? All of those questions are necessarily political questions." AP Photo/Jacquelyn Martin By Mark Walsh Dueling Rallies and Arguments Ten California teachers who refuse to join the teachers' union are asking the Supreme Court to overrule Abood and hold that states may not allow unions to exact such agency fees. The teachers contend their First Amendment speech rights are offended by such compelled fees. Abood held that state interests in maintaining labor peace and eliminating free riders justified requiring nonmembers to pay such fees, which are also known as service fees or "fair share" fees. The case is a high-stakes battle between non-union groups and public-employee unions. Although the proportion of feepayers in the 23 states that authorize such fees is relatively small, a Lesa Curtis of Westchester, N.Y., right, a former president of her union, rallies outside the U.S. Supreme Court, which heard arguments Jan. 11 in Friedrichs v. California Teachers Association. decision against the unions would lead some full members to quit, since they would no longer face the alternative of having to pay the agency fee. That would hurt the unions' treasuries, and potentially their political clout (even though agency-fee payers have never been required to support unions' outright political activities). On a cold Monday in Washington, hundreds of teachers' union members rallied outside the Supreme Court building for their side, while nearly as many union opponents gathered as well. Inside the courtroom, Michael A. Carvin, the lawyer representing Rebecca Friedrichs and the nine other teachers challenging the fees, told the justices that each year, the non-union teachers "are required to provide significant support to a group that advocates an ideological viewpoint which they oppose and do not wish to subsidize." Carvin was challenged aggressively by members of the court's liberal bloc-Justices Ruth Bader Ginsburg, Stephen G. Breyer, Sonia Sotomayor, and Elena Kagan. They had dissented two years ago when the court ruled that a group of Medicaid home-health workers were rePAGE 19 > In Home Stretch, Obama Vows to Push On Education Priorities By Alyson Klein President Barack Obama may be in the home stretch of his presidency, but says he'll continue to press Congress and his successor on unfinished pieces of his education agenda, including universal pre-K and offering two years of free community college to most students. And, in his final State of the Union address last week, Obama made it clear he will fight to expand access to high-quality science, technology, engineering, and math courses, and the training and recruitment of good teachers. Victory Lap The president also took a victory lap on a couple of his big K-12 priorities-including a record-high graduation rate and the passage of a long-stalled rewrite of the Elementary and Secondary Education Act. The recently approved Every Student Succeeds Act, a rewrite of the ESEA, made inroads on some of Obama's most cherished priorities, including on early-childhood programs and mathematics and science education. "The bipartisan reform of No Child Left Behind was an important start, and together, we've increased early-childhood education, lifted high school graduation rates to new highs, and boosted graduates in fields like engineering," the president said in his Jan. 12 speech to Congress. "In the coming years, we should build on that progress, by providing pre-K for all, offering every student the hands-on computer science and math classes that make them implementation of ESSA. The new law fails to embrace a host of other administration priorities, including teacherevaluation through student outcomes and dramatic school turnarounds. But it enshrines a couple of programs that borrow ideas from the administration's past State of the Union proposals, including the Pre- " The bipartisan reform of No Child Left Behind was an important start. .... We should build on that progress." PRESIDENT BARACK OBAMA job-ready on day one, and we should recruit and support more great teachers for our kids." It will likely be up to the next administration to move ahead on those initiatives. And some of those policies have been embraced by Democratic presidential contenders, particularly when it comes to early-childhood education and higher education. For its part, the Obama administration will likely spend the next year setting the stage, in part through school Development grant program (a $250 million down payment on Obama's $75 billion proposal for near-universal prekindergarten) and resources to train teachers in STEM subjects. Graduation Rates In his speech, Obama also touted the national graduation rate, which has ticked up every year of his presidency to an all-time high of 82 percent for the 2013-14 school year. What's more, achievement gaps between historically disadvantaged groups of students and their peers have gotten smaller since the 2010-11 school year. Experts say, though, that it's tough to tell exactly why graduation rates are up and whether Obama's policies played a role. And some are concerned that the rising graduation rate on its own doesn't show whether an increasing share of students are exiting high school truly ready for higher education or the workforce. Obama did not mention that scores on the National Assessment of Educational Progress or NAEP, known as "the nation's report card," have fallen for the first time in two decades. STEM Shoutout Obama hit computer science education a couple times in his speech, kicking it off by saying he wants students to learn how to "write computer code." This wasn't STEM education's first appearance in the State of the Union. The president has been championing STEM for several years, most recently with an eye toPAGE 19 > EDUCATION WEEK | January 20, 2016 | | 17

Table of Contents for the Digital Edition of Education Week - January 20, 2016

Education Week - January 20, 2016
ESSA Challenges Ahead for States
25 Years In, TFA Faces Tensions, Courts Change
Flint, Mich., Reels From Water Crisis
Opt-Out Activists Eye Fresh Battlefronts
DIGITAL DIRECTIONS: Open Ed. Resources Get Boost From ESSA
News in Brief
Report Roundup
Book Highlights Practical Guidance For Teaching Reading
College Testing Season Marred By Score Delays, Snafus
Blogs of the Week
Unions on Defensive as High Court Hears Dispute Involving Fees
In Home Stretch, Obama Vows to Push On Education Priorities
Ed. Dept. Gets Advocates’ Views On Preparing ESSA Regulations
DONALD M. FEUERSTEIN: The ‘Inconvenient Truth’ of Student Debt
JAMES LYTLE: The NCAA’s Chokehold On Secondary Schooling
FLORINA RODOV: Your College Essay Isn’t a Selfie
TopSchoolJobs Recruitment Marketplace
RICHARD WEISSBOURD: College Admission 2.0: Service Over Self

Education Week - January 20, 2016