A step back for CEA customer service

by Ben DeGrow (Originally posted on Ed News Colorado blog)

If you pay attention to this sort of thing, you may have noticed that the state’s largest teachers union has overhauled its online digs. Kudos for a new web design that’s both attractive and functional. (It can’t be said that I never write anything nice about CEA.) But customer service has taken a step backward.

I’ve written here before about the Colorado Education Association (CEA)’s opt-out political contribution scheme, known as the Every Member Option (EMO), so I won’t rehash the details. In fact, I once noted that CEA did a somewhat better job of notification than did their building-mates at the Denver Classroom Teachers Association (DCTA). CEA at least put up a webpage explaining the EMO and an online form for members who wanted to exercise the right to opt out.

Somewhere along CEA’s bridge to Web 2.0, however, both the page and the form vanished. Presumably, some sort of oversight occurred. The deadline for asking back the 2010-11 school year’s automatic $39 political contribution passed in December. Any teacher or other member who doesn’t want their funds collected along with dues to influence elections will have to ask all over again in 2011-12.

So maybe union officials just are waiting for August or September to roll around to put up the EMO information and refund request form. Even better if CEA were planning to implement an opt-in political system, but there’s no evidence to give that notion a second thought. Whatever the case, I’d like to think the disappearance did not occur because the EMO refund has become too popular and too convenient for union members.

Because posting the political refund info online is just one small part of needed union transparency — a topic I wrote about in depth a couple years ago. Take my advice for what it’s worth: Transparency is a cornerstone of good 21st century customer service. Especially for organizations with roughly 35,000 member employees, growing competition, and a deck that’s grown slightly less stacked in its favor.

A blog, a Facebook page and a Twitter account are nice features. Yet if CEA uses neither these tools nor its new and improved website to make known basic important information, they less resemble customer service than corporate-style PR. While that approach may be more functional for union leaders, it’s not more attractive to the broader base of potential members.


A Good Value?: National Education Association Spends $13 Million on Assorted Advocacy Groups

Member of a local teachers union in Colorado? Then most likely (unless you belong to the AFT) $166 of your dues this year is going straight to National Education Association headquarters in Washington, D.C. What is some of your money used for — when not funding negative political ads during election season, that is?

As he faithfully does every year, the Education Intelligence Agency’s Mike Antonucci hones in on NEA’s reported contributions, noting that in fiscal year 2009-10 it represents “more than $13 million to a wide variety of advocacy groups and charities to advocacy groups.” While Antonucci offers up the full list of 130 organizations, here’s a small alphabetically-sorted sample: Read the rest of this entry »


Little Girl Tells Ms. Johnson, Colorado Teachers About Dec. 15 Refund Deadline

It’s not often I get to tell you about a kid cuter than little ol’ me. But credit goes to Lynn Bartels at the Denver Post for noting the real star of this great video — a video which explains how the Colorado Education Association automatically collects funds from members “to help influence elections” and how they can get the money back if they ask:

You go, little girl! Tell Ms. Johnson about the Every Member Option refund. If she doesn’t like 99.9% of those dollars going to fund one political party or if she just doesn’t want her money spent on Colorado political campaigns, Ms. Johnson (and any other teacher in Colorado who belongs to the CEA) can:

But don’t delay. After December 15, it’s too late.

Yes, I’m still thankful Colorado teachers at least can request political refunds. But can’t it be done more politely by, you know, by asking first?

Re-posted from Ed Is Watching blog


December 15 Deadline for CEA Member Political Refund Requests: New Animated Video!

Go directly here for more information about Colorado teachers union political refunds.

Here is a two-minute video explanation of CEA’s Every Member Option political refund, from a veteran Jefferson County teacher, produced in 2008:

Go here to see a summary breakdown of how Colorado teachers unions reported spending member dues on political activities during the most recent election.

Re-posted from the Independent Teachers website


Member Dues for Political Contributions: Colorado Teacher Unions Give 99.9% to Democrats in 2009-10

Back in September we noted that Colorado teachers unions (the Colorado Education Association and American Federation of Teachers) had reported giving a combined 99.8 percent of their political contributions from member dues to the Democratic Party and its candidates, as well as pro-Democrat organizations, in the 2009-2010 election cycle. These contributions only cover state and local political races.

Well, at least through October 28 of this election cycle (all but the last five days of the campaign), the final figure for the share of CEA and AFT political giving going to Democrats is 99.9 percent of more than $1.5 million total — including more than a quarter million to the 527 group Accountability for Colorado called out by journalists and by candidates in both parties for maliciously distorting the truth in attacking political candidates.

See the breakdown of numbers below (click “Fullscreen” for clearest view):

2009-2010 Union Summary http://d1.scribdassets.com/ScribdViewer.swf?document_id=40651820&access_key=key-29jw9vn19jdxff94z8uw&page=1&viewMode=list

Click here to see more on Colorado teachers union political contributions, including comparisons with 2006 and 2008.

Re-posted from Independent Teachers website


Colorado Teacher Unions’ Top 20 Backed Candidates Finished .500 on Election Day

Education News Colorado has posted an interesting story today about the success rate of candidates backed by various education groups, including the teachers unions:

Five organizations – the Colorado Education Association, American Federation of Teachers-Colorado, the Colorado Association of School Executives, Stand for Children and Democrats for Education Reform – backed legislative candidates. (The school executives only endorsed; political committees affiliated with the other groups gave financial contributions. Stand didn’t give money to every candidate it endorsed.)

Here’s the scorecard by organization:

* CEA – Contributed to 41 candidates; 31 of those won. 75.6 percent.
* AFT – Contributed to 42 candidates; 31 of those won. 73.8 percent.
* CASE – Endorsed 32 candidates; 27 of those won. 84.3 percent.
* Stand – Endorsed or contributed to 18 candidates; 15 of those won. 83.3 percent.
* DFER – Contributed to only two Democratic Senate candidates; both won. 100 percent.

While the unions won about 75 percent of their endorsed candidate races, more telling is the close and high-profile races where they invested the most money. Below is a more detailed scorecard that shows the top 20 state candidates supported by Colorado teachers union contributions in 2010.

In their biggest 20 financial outlays of member dues to support Democrats running for office (99.9% of CEA and AFT political funds backed Colorado Democrats), the unions finished an even .500 — winning 10 and losing 10. Those who were successfully elected are marked in green, while those who were defeated are marked in red. Click “Fullscreen” for the best view of the list:

Colorado Teachers Union Top 20 Candidates 2010 http://d1.scribdassets.com/ScribdViewer.swf?document_id=43788944&access_key=key-1x1fro90je2wg6txc2ce&page=1&viewMode=list

Click here to see more on Colorado teachers union political contributions, including comparisons with 2006 and 2008.

Re-posted from the Independent Teachers website


Do Teachers Like Their Hard-Earned Money Being Spent on Political Lies?

Have I mentioned how glad — how really, really glad — I am that the elections are almost over? Just when little old me thinks I’m done writing about topics related to the election, I find a story like this one at Face The State about a highly deceitful group’s campaign flier:

Accountability for Colorado, which paid for the glossy mailer sent to District 50 households, quotes McGee as telling Boswell, “You weren’t good for jobs in Greeley.” Boswell, who until recently owned a Western Sizzlin’ restaurant franchise near the Greeley Mall, was a guest on McGee’s September 28 show.

Problem is, that quote is a paraphrase of an allegedly biased report in the Greeley Tribune, which McGee moments earlier in the broadcast slams as the “Greeley Pravda.”

“You weren’t handled very favorably when the restaurant closed,” McGee said, setting up his question. Listen to a clip of the broadcast using the player above. [link added] Read the rest of this entry »


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