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  • When It Comes to Education Unions, It's Power, Not People

    After days of lost class time for Wisconsin students, teachers have returned to school. Yet Governor Scott Walker (R) is still faced with the demands of teachers unions who are pushing against reforms that would restructure teacher pension and benefit plans and reform unions’ collective bargaining power.

    While unions announced over the weekend that they would concede the pension and health benefits piece of the proposal, they continue to demand that their collective bargaining authority remain intact. Some may see this as a good start, yet such action only manifests more clearly that for unions, this battle isn’t about supposed claims to protect teachers; what this battle is really about for unions is power. And unions affirm this truth themselves, stating that “it’s not about money” but rather their collective bargaining power.

    In reality, however, for education unions, power means money, as public school teachers in Wisconsin and in over 20 other states are required to fork over union dues every payday. Walker’s proposal would allow teachers to opt out of joining a union and paying dues.

    As Steve Malanga reminds us in his recent Wall Street Journal piece: “Unions use that money not only to run their daily operations but to wage political campaigns in state capitals and city halls.” Unfortunately for the education system and the nation’s children, such power and political sway has meant the blocking of much-needed education reforms, such as teacher tenure reform and school choice programs.

    Just this month, actions of teachers unions clearly demonstrate that they are willing to protect bad teachers. As the result of a recent lawsuit filed by the District of Columbia teachers union, D.C. is being made to rehire—and provide $7.5 million in back wages to—75 teachers who were deemed ineffective. (Principals reported such acts as frequent unexcused absences, tardiness, swearing at students, etc.)

    Education unions are also quick to oppose school choice, even when it means helping those children most in need. The successful D.C. Opportunity Scholarship Program, which has significantly boosted graduation rates and allowed children to leave failing and unsafe schools, has and continues to be vehemently opposed by education unions.

    However, the unions’ prioritization of power over people shouldn’t come as a shock, as the late General Bob Chanin of the NEA unabashedly said it:

    Despite what some among us would like to believe, it is not because of our creative ideas; it is not because of the merit of our positions; it is not because we care about children; and it is not because we have a vision of a great public school for every child.

    The NEA and its affiliates are effective advocates because we have power. And we have power because there are more than 3.2 million people who are willing to pay us hundreds of million of dollars in dues each year because they believe that we are the unions that can most effectively represent them.

    Education in our nation should not be determined by self-serving power plays of collective bargaining that impede the best interests of students. Instead, teachers and parents should be empowered to give students the best education possible.

    Posted in Education [slideshow_deploy]

    5 Responses to When It Comes to Education Unions, It's Power, Not People

    1. jrv, madison, wi says:

      I have seen so many opinion pieces in the last 2 weeks, like this one. I cannot tell whether they intentionally misinform or are just ignorant of the facts. The issue of making sacrifices (concessions, as you call them) was never really an issue and public employees in the state (including those such as me, who are not unionized) have had 8 days of unpaid leave the last 2 years, and have made many other financial sacrifices (for example, I have not had even a cost-of-living adjustment for at least 5 years). You don't know about this, because we did it cheerfully, understanding the budgetary crisis on hand (which anyone with any knowledge knows was caused primarily by Bush deregulation and militarism, Republican politicians literally LIE about this). You also misconstrue things by saying that unions make "demands" that they not lose their collective bargaining privileges. Walker unilaterally made legislation that essentially ELIMINATES collective bargaining, and we complain and you call our complaint a "demand"? It is Walker who is making such demands, and because you approve of them, you cast us as the villains. You should carefully read your essay and look for "weasel" words, words chosen for their connotative effect rather than their semantic substance. They tell the real story of where your heart is. It's NOT with the people. I don't know where it is.

    2. Bob, WIsconsin says:

      I think it is about time the teachers in the union, that do not support the union leadership activities, are heard without fear of repercussions.


    3. Sunny says:

      If you are a teacher and you good ones know who you are, this should be about rights. Your right to choose to be or not to be in a union, your right to choose to vote for your representatives. There was a time when unions spoke for the little guy and we were proud to stand together, but today it's all about using their members to collect dues that pay for the ads to elect their chosen puppets to push their agenda so that they can "collectively bargain" for

      more power so the vicious cycle continues. Stop being used by these bullies to fight for bad teachers that only look out for themselves. They too are being used. Keep working hard for our children who desperately need you to lead them and let the american taxpayer put their hard working dollars toward real reform. The unions don't care about our children!! They want collective bargaining so they can own them and use them too! And if you are a parent? You should be calling your child's superintendent of schools and scream for the rights of your child!!

    4. Bobbie says:

      It's dictatorship. Look at the union heads and union employees speaking with hatred and fearing others, distorting facts to fit their agenda. I'd like to believe people in unions have minds of their own but it certainly doesn't sound that way!

      Most good people have been coerced into this behavior by the dictatorship of their union leaders. There is only corrupt and derelict reasons to have unions in government. They don''t do anything (but corrupt and cost money) PRODUCTIVE the government employees can't do for themselves. Because of the actions of protectors and union vocalists, scared the democrats out of town! Unions work against the unknowing tax payers with irrational, unreasonable, undeserving union demands where the tax payers are left to deal with the consequences unfairly and dishonestly put on them. NO GOVERNMENT UNIONS! Come to the private sector where accountability is held and an honest living is made.

      You're not being honest with yourself if you need the corruption of "union strong."

    5. Mike Handelsman, Bro says:

      jrv of Madison covered several points that hit the mark very well on the column's attempt to pose this issue in a "good guy vs. bad guy" light! If the governor considered the measure to be so reasonable, why did he explain the exemption of the police and fire unions in terms of the need to protect the public from the dangers of possible job actions? A reasonable bill should not precipitate such extreme reaction – least of all from police! Unless, of course, he knew how provocative this legislation would be.

      All Gov. Walker had to do to retrieve the "fleeing" senators was to accept the concessions made by the unions on his monetary demands, while deferring his union-destruction demand (abolishing collective bargaining). And that's all this is, since anything less extreme he would have been openly presented for all the voters to evaluate BEFORE Nov. 2, 2010!

      I implore an organization as intellectually grounded as Heritage to resist the popular call to jump on the bandwagon of demonizing the 6 million-strong group of Americans who dedicate their lives to teaching our children. (And in the very presence of those kids, no less!) It's unseemly, and it wages a form of reverse "class warfare". It also fails in intellectual honesty by identifying teachers inseparably with their union leaders. President Reagan displayed to the nation his love of the American educator when, in Aug. 1984, he announced that his selection of the first civilian astronaut will be one of "America's finest, a teacher". The next year, Christa McAuliffe was introduced to the nation as that teacher chosen for the Jan. '86 Challenger mission.

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