06/2003 The Friedman Report: An Eye on the Opposition

Published June 1, 2003

Those who work in school choice advocacy are undoubtedly familiar with the cleverly written and impeccably researched insider’s knowledge on teacher unions that hits their email in-boxes every week from the Education Intelligence Agency.

The man who pens these digests, Mike Antonucci, knew a thing or two about strategy before tackling the unions. He began his writing career as a military historian for such publications as History Today, Military History, Civil War Times Illustrated, and Command. Before that he served in the U.S. Air Force as an instructor navigator.

By 1993, Antonucci was converting his experience in deciphering intelligence data to studying the inner sanctum of the California Teachers Association–an affiliate of the National Education Association–for a California state legislature newsletter.

“It soon became apparent that the union’s influence in California was replicated in many other states,” says Antonucci. “By 1997, the list was growing, interest was high, and my material began appearing in mainstream news and political publications.”

At this point, Antonucci created the Education Intelligence Agency and began publishing the EIA Communiqué, which now counts its readership in the tens of thousands. He monitors what the unions say and do, attends their national conferences, and reports on any activities that affect teachers and teaching–such as the recently uncovered alleged corruption in the DC teacher union ranks.

“I think of the Communiqué as the Consumer Reports on the NEA and AFT,” says Antonucci. “Teachers’ unions are selling a product: job security. For that product, they exact a price, not only in dues, but in freedom.

“The walls the unions build to protect public school teachers from the penalties of the marketplace also prevent teachers from participating in its benefits.”

While mediocre and low-quality teachers benefit from the stability the union provides, Antonucci notes, good and exceptional teachers languish in a murky sea of bureaucracy, their creative freedom and chance to become true professionals stifled. In short, he believes, “The unions’ entire reason for existing is to tell us what we can’t do in public education,” rather than what we can do to improve public education for teachers and students.

Antonucci does not espouse any one form of education reform. He simply feels the atmosphere of public education must change so “people are free to create the best possible school.” He thinks higher education in America provides a perfect model.

“Having one Harvard is wonderful,” he says. “But even if we could turn every school into Harvard, it wouldn’t be desirable because we wouldn’t have MIT, or the University of Chicago, or the California Institute of the Arts.”

He does consider himself the recipient of a “voucher, albeit a plan that has been in place for over 100 years.” In the 1970s, when he was attending high school at the prestigious Regis High School in New York City, his tuition was paid entirely by private donations.

Those interested in receiving the EIA Communiqué may sign up for it at http://www.eiaonline.com or by sending an email request to [email protected].