A few days ago, I published an article about a Project Veritas sting with a New Jersey Education Association local leader. Part of my article was an email sent to local Delaware presidents about how to deal with potential sting operations. That email did not include a public whipping of the NJ local president and I called them out for it.
Today, Project Veritas picked up on my post on their own website. First and foremost, I am not a former teacher as Veritas suggested in the video their leader put up today. At one point, I was a paraprofessional for a few months and I substituted for a couple of years. Yes, I was very disgusted by the Veritas video and the email from DSEA which had another email from NEA as part of it. With that being said, I want to point out a few things about Mike Matthews, the President of DSEA.
Mike is a good guy. He truly wants the best for Delaware students. He went from a shock blogger to teaching to becoming involved in his local union. After he was President of the Red Clay EA he was elected to DSEA President last year. I am friends with Mike. From the moment he told me he was going to run for DSEA President he was very clear that he knew at times I would write about DSEA and himself. I also know Mike would be the very first to say “this guy in NJ acted horrible and he should have been fired”. That’s just who he is.
I don’t tend to give a heads up to folks who are the subjects of my posts. Maybe I should, but I don’t. The reasons for that are two-fold. First, they may tell me NOT to do so. Or worse, they may try to sugarcoat the purpose of the article and attempt to water it down or whitewash it. This blog has always been about getting information out. And yes, that comes with my opinions more often than not. It is up to the reader to agree or disagree with those opinions. Either way, I will keep blogging truth in education even if it is ugly at times. With that being said, if information comes out after an article that may explain things, I will post that as well. There are gray areas in situations and I recognize that. Or I may have information but it isn’t the entire picture. Folks are always welcome to come to me before I post stuff and give me a heads up. Chances are pretty good I have some basic knowledge of a situation already so some proactive work on their end is a good thing.
I do not think the teacher unions are bad. I believe they serve a necessary purpose for teachers. We have all seen in Delaware what can happen when teachers are not unionized. Charter school teachers have zero protection when it comes to terminations. I have suggested many times charter school teachers should unionize. The majority of their membership are just ordinary teachers, doing their jobs.
Where I take issue with the teacher unions are the public persona they give off. And that usually comes from leadership. All day on Friday I was blasted on Facebook threads about how unreliable Project Veritas can be in their investigations. But I do not believe this video of the NJ union leader was doctored. Could Veritas have cut out some stuff? I have no idea. But the guy said what he said, multiple times. Unless Veritas paid him to torpedo his career and face the possibility of investigations from his district, I would say the guy was telling the (horrible) truth.
I made no secret a few years ago about my frustration with DSEA over the opt out bill in Delaware, House Bill 50. I wanted them to support it the same way so many of our Delaware teachers did. They could have had a huge influence with our General Assembly overriding Governor Markell’s veto but they sat on the fence. As well, when Democrat Senator Sokola and Democrat State Rep. Jaques introduced the testing inventory resolution, DSEA backed it publicly to the hilt. Even though I told them it was a smokescreen and it was an anti-opt out measure. In time, I was proven right as the Assessment Inventory Committee was so much smoke and mirrors and absolutely nothing came of it aside from a fancy report with information everyone already knew. When the same Senator Sokola was up for re-election in 2016, DSEA endorsed him through their PAC and I called them out for it. This was the same Senator who killed a teacher evaluation bill with horrible amendments and did an extreme disservice to public education teachers in Delaware. The reason for endorsing him? They didn’t want the Delaware Senate to flip to Republican and have Delaware become a Right To Work state. Even though there was zero danger of that because the Democrat Governor and the Democrat House had no danger of losing their power. Sokola wound up winning that election by a couple of percentage points.
I have publicly saluted DSEA many times. Their support of the diploma bill this year amazed me. I know they have been pushing for funding for basic special education students in Kindergarten to 3rd grade as long as I have. They are always present at Legislative Hall and lobbying for common sense education legislation. I could write a lot about the good DSEA does for our schools, students, and teachers. But that means I also have to write about the bad.
I wish DSEA and the NEA, instead of worrying about infiltrations, recognized the legitimacy of the Veritas investigation and publicly slammed the NJ leader. We can argue all day long about Veritas but the facts are real: this guy would have done anything to protect a teacher. And I don’t believe that is one teacher union leader operating in a silo. Instead of trying to play duck and cover, the teacher unions should be rooting out people like Perry and doing thorough investigations into these practices. When ANY student is subject to abuse of any sort by an adult, it is incumbent upon those who know to expose it. I believe NEA, DSEA, and Mike Matthews know this. But yes, that email did want to make me vomit. I do recognize it was an internal email meant for local Delaware education association leaders and as such, an omission of what the NJ guy did was not the purpose of the email.
Mike was one of the first I met on this blogging journey four years ago. We share many of the same ideologies and thoughts on corporate education reform policy. But he is also the leader of the Delaware State Education Association. Which puts him in a position where, given what I write about, that organization gets on my radar. I still believe Mike Matthews is the best President for DSEA right now. I just want to see more of the spitfire Mike we used to see. When I say spitfire, I don’t mean the anti-Trump stuff but the railing against horrible education policy. That was what elevated him to where he is now. When everything becomes anti-Trump, it becomes complicated. Because many of the horrible education policies our country faces were created by President Obama and Arne Duncan, both Democrats. The party doesn’t matter. It is the corporate machine that keeps those wheels greased. Throwing grenades at Trump does NOTHING to change the very dangerous course public education is on. We need the teacher unions standing up to bad policy. They are silent on the overwhelming amount of digital technology in our classrooms. Student privacy is going the way of the dinosaur and we all know it. Where is DSEA and the NEA on that? The problem is when NEA leadership creates NEA foundations that support the work of Bill Gates and the corporate education reformers in privatizing public education. They are helping to buy the rope that is putting their own organization in a noose.
Someone once told me the teacher unions are about the teachers first. Everything else is secondary. And I get that. But because teachers are a part of education, which is primarily about educating students, the students should be just as important to the teacher unions as the teachers. If that were the case, we would NEVER hear about any situation where a teacher who commits a wrong gets to keep their job. Until they do that, teacher unions are signing their own death warrant. It is not indicative of all teacher unions, but it is a very ugly truth and instead of hiding from it, NEA and AFT need to root out the evils within their associations.
**UPDATED, 1:15pm: I do not have “access” to either DSEA or NEA emails. This email came to me. I have absolutely no ability to get into any DSEA or NEA servers nor would I want to.