I am one member of a five person board. The opinions I express on this forum are mine only, and do not necessarily reflect the views or opinions of the Escambia County Staff, Administrators, Employees, or anyone else associated with Escambia County Florida. I am interested in establishing this blog as a means of additional transparency to the public, outreach to the community, and information dissemination to all who choose to look. Feedback is welcome, but because public participation is equally encouraged, appropriate language and decorum is mandatory.

Thursday, July 30, 2009

Escambia County School Board Votes for Tentative Increase in Millage Rate for 2009-2010

As was expected, the Escambia County School Board voted tonight at a special budget meeting to tentatively increase the total millage rate for Escambia County property owners to 7.86 dollars per $1,000.00 in taxable value from 7.72 dollars per $1,000.00 in taxable value last year.

The rationale for the increase is that the State has tinkered with the funding formula, requiring Escambia County to raise a greater portion of our budget locally. This is a true statement, as Tallahassee increased our Required Local Effort (RLE) portion of the millage substantially this year over last.

Also, our Public Education Capital Outlay (PECO) budget has been slashed 87% since 2006.

The need for money to operate the district is real--as our overall budget has shrunk nearly $42 Million in one year--from $638 Million last year to $595 Million this year.

But Taxpayers, property owners, small businesses, and all others that contribute taxes to our budget are hurting now, too.

I'm proud of the way the Board has slashed the budget in response to the economic downturn last year. We cut the budget, closed schools, and increased student achievement. I'm convinced we can do it again this year and we will--I'd just like to look after our boss's (taxpayers) interest at the same time where possible, that's all.

I felt that we needed to hold the line and not increase tax rates-but I was obviously alone in that opinion.

My issue at tonight's meeting was that I wanted to present ideas to my fellow board members about how to maintain our service to students (as we have been) while holding property owning Escambia County taxpayers harmless in this budget mess by keeping their millage rates steady at last year's rate of 7.72 mills.

The plan I presented is sound-but I was unable to convince my fellow board members that it could be done. So, the tentative budget passed by a 4-1 vote--with me voting no.

The final budget meeting will be at 5:30 PM on Tuesday, September 15th 2009. At that time, these proposed tentative millage rates will be finalized. I will vote as I did tonight, to not raise tax rates during this recession--however I feel that I will once again be at the bottom of a 4-1 vote.

Saturday, July 25, 2009

Finishing the Race Strong for Taxpayers!

The guy in this picture is finishing the race, and he is finishing strong. Finishing a race strong is good.

During our budget meeting the other day I used the analogy of "breaking down before the finish of a marathon" to describe how I felt about all of the hard work we had done over the last year to cut and cut and cut our school district's budget as our state revenues were slashed--only to "break down" at the finish line. Breaking down at the finish line to me means raising the millage tax rate on property owners locally instead of finding the last $2.1 million somewhere else in our budget thereby allowing us to keep the millage rate steady at last years level.

The analogy I used centered around this video from Youtube, that was used in a gatorade commercial about 6 years ago. These folks run 25.99 miles toward the end of a marathon then break down at the finish line. The analogy to me is simple. Looking at all of our tremendous budget ups and downs over the last 12 months--and how we have handled them is the race. the "finish line" in my analogy is the setting of our millage rate for Escambia County Taxpaying property owners. finishing our proposed millage rate and keeping the rate steady at last year's level of 7.72 mills equals finishing the race strong (like the guy in the picture above). We have, as a district acted boldly to balance student needs with budgetary and fiscal austerity. We've gone "364" days, or "26.99 miles"--we are almost at the finish line--but to raise the millage tax rate, after all of the other struggles and sacrifices we have made as a district equals finishing the race like this,

or maybe like this, or perhaps this.

Let's finish this race strong for our taxpayers and cross the finish line strong!

Alantown, PA Mayor Has the Right Idea on how to Balance a Budget Without Increasing Taxes

I read an interesting story this morning online about the mayor of Allentown Pennsylvania. Like most small government entities nationwide, Allentown is facing a significant budgetary shortfall. As I read the article, I realize that Allentown Mayor Ed Pawlowski is addressing his budget issue the right way--by holding the line on tax rate increases and balancing the city's needs with the taxpayer's needs on an equal footing.

from the Lehigh Acres, PA "Morning Call"

"Allentown Mayor Ed Pawlowski's highly anticipated financial recovery plan includes a heavy dose of one-shot revenue boosts along with previously announced cuts in wages and personnel. Pawlowski said the plan, which he unveiled Friday, provides a ''realistic'' and ''conservative'' blueprint that will help the city avoid a projected $9.5 million deficit by year's end. The recovery plan identifies $3.7 million in unanticipated revenues and more than $1.7 million in cost savings, slashing the projected deficit by $5.4 million. The recovery plan relies heavily on more than $3.5 million worth of one-shot revenue boosts, such as selling city property and sewage capacity.''I don't like to do it this way, but these are extraordinary times,'' Pawlowski said.Despite the reliance on one-shot revenues, Pawlowski said a tax increase in 2010 is ''off the table'' because the city's large poor and senior population can't afford the burden. ''That would lead to more foreclosures and less revenue for the city, so it doesn't help,'' Pawlowski said. After Pawlowski failed to reach a concession agreement with the 420-member Service Employees International Union, the city's largest union, he fired 39 employees last week."

I like the fiscal conservatism I see in Mayor Pawlowski's approach to declining revenues. He's got it right.

Florida Property Tax Policy--Rewarding Local Government Coffers in Up AND Down Housing Markets

A recent article in Time Magazine illustrated the dysfunctionality of Florida's property tax system. from the article:

“Welcome to Florida, the land of no income taxes — and killer property taxes. Whether it's a nightmare for someone who just purchased a Florida foreclosure or a tax hike that proves the last straw for some struggling homeowner, it's bad news for the individual, and increasingly for the state. It's also a painful reminder of the halcyon days when Florida's economy could lazily rely on soaring real estate prices — and related taxes — to pour ever more money into government coffers. Now local governments say they're broke, thanks to the housing bust, and many are trying to maintain the lofty property-tax rates levied during the housing boom or even increase them — even though that could exacerbate the housing bust….because of arcane provisions in the homestead law, government appraisers can tell a homeowner that although his house's current market value may be as depressed as a Florida sinkhole, its taxable value is still high or rising. More important, many of the state's county and local governments are raising their millage rate (the rate per $1,000 of assessed value that determines the property-tax bill) to make up for budget shortfalls.”

I know, I know, we're told that raising the millage rate is not a tax increase, (tell that to a new Escambia County homeowner or new commercial property purchaser or someone who's assessed value remained flat over last year) but I still believe it is disingenuous to raise a taxation rate and not call that an increase. I'm sorry, I just don't buy that.

My opinion is that local government coffers (all levels, even school districts) need to be responsible in growing their budgets during booms--but they also owe it to taxpayers to decrease their budgets during "once in a lifetime severity" type recessions. Most normal households, small businesses, and taxpayers have to suck it up when the economy turns bad. When times are tough, everything gets cut, cut, cut. Local governments should be no different! The idea that raising tax rates such that a government's locally raised budget remains at the same level as a previous year's level--even during historic financial turmoil-- is irrational; and no matter what TRIM law verbage or other explanation one uses--increasing a tax rate is a tax increase. Doing it amid the backdrop of 11% unemployment, record foreclosure rates and bankruptcy filings is unconscionable.

Friday, July 24, 2009

A Millage (Tax) "Rate" Increase is Not a Tax Increase?

A Millage Rate Increase is Not a Tax Increase, A Millage Rate Increase is Not a Tax Increase, A Millage Rate Increase is Not a Tax Increase, A Millage Rate Increase is Not a Tax Increase….. If I keep telling myself this, maybe I’ll believe it. I have my doubts, though….

But I was very relieved (sarcasm) to find out that if the Escambia County School Board raises the millage rate (as seems to be the plan) for property owners in Escambia County this upcoming year, this will not be a tax increase. Nope, according to the Truth in Millage Law (TRIM)-it is not a tax increase—unless the amount of money generated from the millage increases. So, the plan is to raise the total millage from 7.72 mills last year, to 7.86 this year. This amounts to a .14 mill increase, but this is not a tax increase I’m told (repeatedly) because the tax roll in Escambia has, for only the second time in 22 years, shrunk. The tax roll shrunk 3.59% from where it was in 2008. So, it will be recommended that we increase the millage rate so that we get essentially the same amount of money from taxpaying property owners that we got last year. And our millage rate will subsequently be the second highest in the State of Florida, the second highest of 67 counties. (There is an extremely meticulous explanation for this, but trying to comprehend it is tougher than Chinese arithmetic!) No wonder our local Economic Development efforts are struggling! People like low taxes on property—not high taxes!

While I understand why the finance department and the superintendent want to raise the millage rate, I still feel uneasy about doing so. Most of the employees that control the budget process are long-term employees of the district. I believe, to a certain extent, that these long-term employees are somewhat removed from the economic realities faced by average non-government employees, taxpayers, and business and property owners of Escambia County. I say this not to denigrate these people, but only to illustrate why it seems so rational to these individuals to strongly advocate for increasing tax rates during this recession, the worst one we’ve faced as a nation in generations. The average small business owner in Escambia County has seen his costs increase, and his revenues decrease. Many taxpayers in Escambia County are seeing their hours cut, their jobs eliminated, their businesses go bankrupt, and many are struggling to keep up. People are losing their homes, and unemployment nears 11% locally. Driving through parts of town, the number of shuttered businesses and abandoned commercial properties is alarming, and the problems seem to be getting worse. For every business that closes, for every home foreclosed upon/abandoned-- that equals less taxpayers and tax revenue coming into the coffers of local government and schools. The solution? Increase the “rate” of taxation (millage) to get as much or nearly as much as you did the previous year from the remaining (surviving) businesses and property owners?? I have serious concerns about the sustainability of that mentality and taxation model long-term. People feel overburdened now, and absent an economic recovery for the next couple of years, things will get worse.

I do not intend to support raising the millage rate on responsible Escambia County property owners. If the property rolls have contracted modestly, then the taxpayers should realize a similar leveling off or decrease in their taxes. I will probably be on the bottom of a 4-1 or 3-2 vote, but I just do not feel that raising the millage rate right now, when everyone is stretched to the breaking point, is sound financial practice. Governments cannot tax their way out of a recession or tax their way back to recoup budget shortfalls—it simply does not work long term. I realize that our budget from last year at this time to now has been slashed by over 30 million dollars, and I think as a district we have done an outstanding job of managing these steep revenue declines. I believe we need to continue to cut, and to hold our millage rate steady at last year’s level of 7.72 total mills. The difference between keeping the millage rate at last year’s level and raising it now comes to just a hair over $2 million dollars. We have come so far, we have cut so much, we have closed schools, we have streamlined transportation, we have adjusted school start times, we have been excellent stewards of the taxpayer’s money—and I want us to continue this work. We can find the $2 million dollars in this budget, hold steady, and leave the “rate” of taxation flat.

In yesterday’s budget meeting, I proposed three potential solutions for finding this $2 million dollars.

Option 1. We can use the $2 million dollars is state compression funding (not yet budgeted) we receive from the .250 mills tax swap to make up this amount.

Option 2. We can do an expedited re-allocation of the 2003-2007 ½ Cent Sales tax fund carryover (Projected to be more than $23 Million), to identify qualifying projects that will alleviate a minimum of $2 million dollars from the Capital Budget.

Option 3. We have recently closed sales on three excess school properties: Wedgewood Middle, Brownsville Middle, and the Molino School. The sales proceeds of these three properties exceed $4.6 Million dollars. We can pull $2Million from this $4.6Million.

There are options to raising the millage rate. I will thoroughly explore all of them and advocate for them rather than asking weary taxpayers for this amount. It’s the right thing to do, and represents us as a body of government sharing the acute economic pain and not taking the path of least resistance by raising tax rates.

Wednesday, July 22, 2009

Minutes of Board Meeting 7-21-2009

Minutes of Board Meeting7-21-09
I am posting these minutes to expedite information dissemination. Much more complete and detailed minutes will be posted in 4-6 weeks on the school district’s website. In the mean time, these minutes are what I feel were the big “takeaways”, a macro look at my impression of the meeting. These are condensed, abbreviated, shortened, and to the point.

Meeting convened at 5:31 PM

All Board Members and Superintendent Malcolm Thomas present.

Pledge of Allegiance led by rising 5th Grade Scenic Heights Elementary School Student Jake Majorie

4 Speakers addressed the board during Public Forum

1 Speaker said the district should make the employee salaries the main priority
1 Speaker said the district should find a way to raise employee pay—she was insistent that employee pay raises are/should be the #1 priority

PTA Presentation—given by Kathy Lasky

½ cent sales tax watchdog committee reported, Ted Kircharr gave the presentation, (Also present were Pete Booth and Ashley Bodmer)

Rule adoptions

1. The School Board by Resolution on July 21, 2009, named Booker T. Washington High School’s auditorium the “Theodore B.D. Bennett Auditorium” as approved by the Booker T. Washington High School Advisory Council Selection Committee at Its May 7, 2009 meeting.----- Approved 5-0

(Members of the Bennett family thanked the district for the honor of naming the auditorium after their late father)

2. Adopt Amendments to Chapter 5, Business Services, Rules and Procedures of the District School Board Approved----- 5-o

3. Adopt Amendments to Chapter 3, School Operating Procedures, Rules and Procedures of the District School Board Passed—(discussed at length, then tabled initially by the board, ultimately pulled for consideration by the superintendent)

4. Adopt Amendments to School District Rule 6Gx177.02,
Code of Conduct: Elementary Student Rights and Responsibilities Handbook Revisions 20092010 -----Approved 5-0

5. Adopt Amendments to School District Rule 6Gx177.02,
Code of Conduct: Secondary Student Rights and Responsibilities Handbook Revisions 20092010----Approved 5-0

6. Adopt Revisions and Amendments to the District School Board Student Progression Plan, 6Gx177.09---- Approved 5-0

Permission to advertise: none

Administrative Appointments, all approved by unanimous 5-0 vote:

1) Roxanne Baker from Teacher on Special Assignment/Staff Development to Specialist/PE, Health, Wellness, effective 7/1/09, 12 month position

2) Terri Fina from Asst. Principal/West Pensacola to Principal/Pine Meadow, effective 7/1/09, 12 month position

3) Connie Farish from Coordinator/CIM to Principal/Weis effective 7/1/09, 12 month position

4) Linda Maletsidis from Principal/Pleasant Grove to Director, Elementary Education effective 7/1/09, 12 month position

5) Pam Mullen from Asst. Principal/Cordova Park to Principal/Pleasant Grove, effective 7/1/09, 12 month position

6) Stephen Brooks from Dean/Bailey Middle to Asst. Principal/Escambia HS, effective 7/13/09, 12 month position

7) Susan Cole from Education Specialist to Subject Area Specialist/SL, effective 7/13/09, 12 month position

3 sets of May/June Board Meeting Minutes Approved, 5-0

Entire Consent Agenda Approved.

All Curriculum items approved

All Finance items approved

All Human Resources items Approved (Item C. 3. a. Risk Management, purchase of Student Accidental Insurance Policy, discussed and debated at length. The superintendent offered only two options for the payment of the premium, option 1) called for the district to subsidize the purchase of the premium for 2009-2010. Option 2) called for the premium to be purchased and the fee to be collected from all athletes, even athletes who already carried insurance. Board approved option 1) by a 3-2 margin. Bergosh, Slayton and Moultrie voted for option 1) Hightower and Boone voted no.

Amended 2008-2009 Annual Equity Report approved 5-0

All Purchasing items approved

All Operations items approved

(Entire Consent Agenda was meticulously covered and discussed at length during a thorough, 4 hour school board workshop held during the early afternoon and evening of 7-15-2009)
Board voted unanimously, 5-0, to accept the superintendent’s recommendation regarding the following:

Recommendations for Foundation for Excellence Board of Directors

Student recommendations:

1 Student Expelled
1 Student to have their expulsion rescinded
1 Student to have the decision of the formal hearing officer adopted, resulting in suspension.

Student infractions included:
1 for criminal incident outside of school
2 for possession of drugs on school property

3 Employee Recommendations by Superintendent approved unanimously by board, to include:

3 employees suspended without pay

Meeting adjourned at 6:48 PM.

Tuesday, July 14, 2009

Raising Millage (Taxes)=Path of Least Resistance

Path of Least Resistance

As the Escambia County School Board contemplates next year’s property tax levy, I get the uneasy sense that we will be adjusting the millage rate upward, thereby taking the path of least resistance. That’s right, the easy way out. Why would I say that??—Here’s why.

It would be much more difficult to keep the millage rate right where it is-- at 7.72 --and find an alternate way to save the $2.8 Million dollars (the estimated amount of money that raising the millage to 7.883 would generate) somewhere else in the budget. I don’t want to take the path of least resistance; I am a fiscal conservative and I want to find a different solution. Before I vote to take another nearly three million dollars out of the local economy by raising the millage rate for responsible Escambia County property owners, I’d like to exhaust every other possibility first. I do not think we as a district have looked at every other possible way to hold the millage tax rate steady at 7.72 for 2009-2010.

To the contrary, we as board members have been given the talking points, the graphs, the charts, the facts, the figures, even the thirty year Escambia County Millage Levy History (here). We have been told that we MUST raise the millage rate to 7.883. We MUST do it, no other alternative is possible. We have been told that it is all the fault of [those evil] lawmakers in Tallahassee. Those irresponsible, diabolical, no-good state representatives and senators, it’s all their fault!

But is it really that simplistic? Of course not. The Governor and lawmakers did not set out to cut education, corrections, medical care for the poor, fire, police, and safety. We have a balanced budget amendment in our state, and, uh, surprise--- revenues are down! Revenues are way down. Remember, we are in a horrible recession and the worst economic shape since the Carter Administration. So the legislature had to make some incredibly difficult decisions—and everyone took a cut. I do not envy the state legislators; they have a tough and oftentimes thankless job and I will not swallow the bitter Kool-Aid being passed around education circles statewide and demonize our Governor and state lawmakers. To do so is unfair and childish. They made tough choices, they did their job, and now it is our turn to do the best we can locally.

The Facts

State Lawmakers have foisted on district boards a much larger responsibility for generating school revenue locally (Raising the Required Local Effort portion of the funding formula).

State Lawmakers have dramatically decreased state level funding for Public Education Capital Outlay, or PECO. (maintenance and new construction budgets). Astonishingly, we in Escambia County have seen a cut in PECO funding for 2009-2010 of 75% over last year’s funding level, and an amazing 87% decrease from the 2007-2008 funding level.

State Lawmakers have further tied the hands of local districts by capping the millage rate of the discretionary basic portion of the funding formula.

In short, State Lawmakers have made the choices for local districts very narrow. But, in fairness, the legislature has given district school boards some flexibility by allowing for additional discretionary levies at the local level, and also the utilization of capital improvement funds for property insurance purchases. This has helped.


The average millage rate for Escambia County over the last 30 years has been 8.422 per thousand dollars of assessed property value. So, at 7.72 mills, we are currently well below that average figure. I look at this as a positive and I believe we should hold the line here and weather this current financial storm by resisting the urge to take the easy way out and raise the millage rate. Taxes are going up everywhere, automobile license fees are doubling, tobacco users are being hammered with huge tax increases, energy costs are going up, gas prices are unstable, and people are struggling to hold on. People are falling behind on their mortgages and in some instances losing their homes to foreclosure in Escambia County. We need to be careful about rationalizing tax increases by saying things like “It’s only an average of $XX.XX dollars for the average homeowner” Statements like that are flippant, and come off as insensitive at best—arrogant at worst.

And, if it is such a small, miniscule tax increase--as everyone at the workshop argued--then we should leave it there in the pockets of taxpayers rather than taking it from them and saying, "it's not that much." Taxpayers are weary, and everyone is telling them, "its not that much" and meanwhile they are being eaten alive by rising taxes from every direction. We do not have to be a part of that.

We have some flexibility-we can utilize revenues from the beach property taxes we are now collecting, we can utilize proceeds of the sale of excess properties (Molino School $400K, Wedgewood $2.8Million, Brownsville Middle School $1.4Million), we can find a way to utilize ½ cent sales tax money to the maximum extent possible, we can find a way to balance the budget without doing it by raising taxes in the midst of this current economic mess. That is my sense of this situation.

We as board members have an understanding of the complexities of the Public School Funding Model that the average citizen in our community simply does not possess. It is a complex, mind numbingly intricate formula that is constantly changing and being modified and tampered with. We can attempt to explain it, we can point the finger of blame at state legislators, but at the end of the day most will not understand it.

What the average taxpaying property owner in Escambia County simply wants to know is this—are you going to raise my taxes during this, the worst economic downturn in a generation? While some may argue the answer to that one simple question is not easy, I believe it is. We either continue working on this budget and make keeping taxes low a priority—or we raise the tax and take the path of least resistance.

With a budget of over $600,000,000.00—we can find a way to keep the millage at 7.72 if we have the will to do so.

Inequity in Addressing Inequity? It looks that Way to Me

Florida Educational Equity Report

Escambia County School District

2008-2009 Update

This lengthy document is on the agenda for approval by the Board at the July 21, 2009 regular meeting. As I read the document in the board’s agenda back-up, several issues catch my attention. One thing that I’m concerned about is the apparent inequity between girls and boys sports, with fewer girls participating. On a positive note, where inequity currently exists, a school by school plan is included in the report to address the inequity going forward.

Another interesting issue that the report highlights is that our staffing from the classroom teaching levels through the administrative levels seems to be out of balance with the demographic makeup of the district. Example, Whites make up 53% of the student population but 87% of district level administrative positions. Blacks make up 36% of the student population but only 13% of the district level administrative positions. Hispanics appear to be severely under-represented, comprising 3% of the student population, but with 0% Hispanic administrators (district and school level).

I have included the demographic make-up portion of the document here.

I believe that a diverse workplace is good, and I feel we need to do a better job of recruiting applicants of various ethnicities to apply for employment within our district. However, once a qualified pool of applicants has been identified, and once this pool has applied and been interviewed for positions with our district—at this point the very best candidate for the position needs to be hired. If the best candidate is an under represented minority, fantastic-but if not, the process does not need to be tinkered with further at this stage, in my opinion. We should be “colorblind” at the final hiring stage—picking the best qualified candidate regardless of ethnicity. Recent court decisions from around the nation and the Supreme Court's recent decision in Ricci v De Stephano illustrate this. I intend to discuss this topic in depth at the workshop tomorrow because I believe this to be a very important issue that needs to be addressed properly.

I have significant concerns about the proposed remedy regarding bringing our employee demographics more in line with our student demographics. In particular, this phrase from the report

“The district will implement a new procedure for the 2009-2010 academic year concerning annual contract non-renewal of un [under] represented classifications (minority) of instructional personnel. Principals will contact the Assistant Superintendent of Human Resource Services and the EEOC Coordinator to review all requests when minority instructional personnel are recommended for non-renewal”

This phrase is problematic for several reasons-chiefly in that it calls for unequal treatment of teachers ( annual contract teachers) who are not to be recommended for renewal. When a principal is considering non-renewing an annual contract teacher, this is a very important decision and I do not believe that the district ought to be making it more cumbersome for principals. Also, the step of having to call the Assistant Superintendent for Human Resources and the EEOC rep is tantamount to saying to a principal “if you want to let this person go, it’s going to be second guessed”. This same step will not be necessary if the same principal wants to let a non-minority go and therein lies the problem. Everyone needs to be treated EQUALLY.

Once an annual contract teacher completes the third year, that teacher then becomes a professional contract teacher, and termination for ineffectiveness becomes all but impossible. The state laws, union and district policies, collective bargaining agreements, etc. etc. essentially make terminating a tenured teacher impossible. For this reason, we need to let principals make good sound decisions when it comes time to renew or non-renew annual contract teachers—we do not need to add an additional hurdle for these principals to jump over to do what is so important and necessary—otherwise ineffective teachers may inadvertently get through this very important filter point, and the children will be the ones short-changed by this whole arrangement.

This proposed policy is dangerous, and invites potential litigation and I will advocate against it.

Friday, July 3, 2009

Arne Duncan to NEA Convention "You Must be Willing to Change"

U.S. Secretary of Education Arne Duncan addressed the general assembly of the NEA convention in San Diego yesterday, touching on some issues that silenced the room and drew boos from the crowd.

From the San Diego Union Tribune:

"You must be willing to change,” Duncan told the crowd of 6,500 at the San Diego Convention Center. “When an ineffective teacher gets a chance to improve and doesn't and when the tenure system keeps that teacher in the classroom anyway, then the system is protecting jobs rather than children,” he said. “That's not a good thing. We need to work together to change that.” ..“Test scores alone should never drive evaluation, compensation or tenure decisions,” Duncan said. “That would never make sense. But to remove student achievement entirely from evaluation is illogical and indefensible...Duncan was booed after describing the performance pay program he negotiated while he was CEO of Chicago's public schools, where teachers are members of the nation's alternate union, the 1.4-million-member American Federation of Teachers. "

I agree with a lot of what Duncan is pushing, and he is right on Merit Pay, but he will never get traction with the union on that issue. Read the entire article here