Damage Done by Teachers' Unions
Quote:Awakening to the damage done by teachers' unions
By Washington Examiner | January 28, 2015 | 5:00 am

When conservatives think of education reform, they tend to regard it as their own fight. They bring up the charter and voucher programs promoted by Republicans such as Louisiana Gov. Bobby Jindal. They mention Wisconsin Gov. Scott Walker, whose 2011 public-sector union reforms have already saved his state's school districts at least $3 billion dollars and averted the need to fire teachers in the aftermath of the Great Recession.

But Democrats also want their children to get a good education, and as a result something new and bipartisan is happening in the world of education policy. There appears to be a great awakening across the ideological spectrum to the fact that primary and secondary education is failing badly and that the entrenched enemies of reform — the teachers' unions — are much too powerful. The unions are a key impediment to much-needed education reforms. Everyone knows it and now more people are willing to say it out loud.

For all of his faults, one pleasant surprise of President Obama's administration has been his display of independence from the teachers' unions that oppose anything that might create standards, competition, or accountability for the often deplorable quality of their members' work. Even Obama's promotion of Common Core, which many conservatives oppose for different reasons, has rankled the unions because it would subject teachers to clear standards and measurements of success.

New York's Democratic governor, Andrew Cuomo, also deserves bipartisan recognition for what he is doing in this vital policy area. The recent corruption indictment of anti-reform state Assembly Speaker Sheldon Silver, a Democrat, makes it more likely that much or all of the governor's education agenda will pass.

Cuomo has complained that the standards intended to evaluate teachers in his state are “baloney” — only one percent of teachers have been found to be ineffective even though two-thirds of students cannot read or do math at grade level. Thus, the governor has conditioned a $1.1 billion increase in education spending this year on reforms that would toughen standards and make only the best teachers get tenure.

The deal making method that Cuomo has employed is part of a broader pattern that shows he is serious about reform. In the face of opposition from his fellow Democrats, he has shrewdly packaged measures they don't like (such as tax credits for donors to private school scholarships) into bills that include measures they want (such as extending in-state tuition to illegal immigrants).

Cuomo has also signed a law that Bill de Blasio, New York City's anti-reform mayor, opposed, making it easier for charter schools to use empty space in public school buildings. The governor is trying to raise the cap on the number of charter schools in the state from 460 to 560.

Cuomo is not anti-union — in fact, the New York Times notes that several labor unions back his private scholarship bill, hoping it will benefit their members' children. The teachers' unions, however, withheld their endorsement from Cuomo in his 2014 re-election. This frees his hand to pursue true reform, for he is not beholden to them.

It could hurt his national aspirations, about which he has not been shy. But still, he is doing what he was elected to do — making decisions that better the lives of people in his state. Cuomo may be spotting a trend sooner than some of his colleagues. An understanding that schools needs to be prized from the sclerotic grip of the teachers' unions is an admirable departure from the reflexive defense of the status quo (with pleas for more money) that have long passed for education policy in the Democratic Party.

I'm glad to see that you are still around and active here at DLT. Let me briefly offer my take on the teachers' unions nationwide and the ills that trouble our educational system. I think that the single biggest problem with the educational system is the inability of teachers(unionized) to effectively initiate, with the follow-up of administrators (management), the  to remove the problem students from the local public school system. I have cousins who are career educators (he is a science teacher/coach and she is an Asst. Principal in suburbs of NYC). During the course of their respective careers, their biggest gripe has been the difficulty in getting rid of disruptive students. Those students are a cancer to the learning environment. Sure, there are lousy teachers, even teachers who shouldn't be permitted to step foot in a classroom. I understand and accept this; there should be some mechanism for getting rid of the truly sub-par teachers before they irrevocably damage even more kids. Yet when you talk to good teachers about what is wrong with the public school system, the problem of disruptive students ranks far higher than problems stemming from under-performing teachers. Sure there my be some bias due to teacher affinity, but it is not so strong as to distort the far larger problem of the disruptive student.

An Asst. Principal at a suburban middle school who formerly worked at a "special high school" for problem ("disruptive/criminal") students, said that the only reason that the kids in question even show up for school is not to impact the benefits their family receives from the government. The failure to show up at school every day puts their family's benefits in danger of being revoked.

Little Arminius
(02-02-2015, 03:27 PM)Little Arminius Wrote: ...Yet when you talk to good teachers about what is wrong with the public school system, the problem of disruptive students ranks far higher than problems stemming from under-performing teachers.

This is what happens when you have a monopoly.  In a free market if the buyer doesn't like the product he can shop elsewhere.  If the seller isn't selling product he has to improve the product or go out of business.  None of that happens when the government and government union goons control school choice.

Quote:Hard work of fixing the Deadbeat State begins with confronting unions
By Washington Examiner | February 11, 2015 | 5:00 am 
The 2014 midterm election was considered a great Republican victory, but it did not turn up all roses for the GOP. Consider, for example, Republican businessman Bruce Rauner, who was condemned to govern Illinois for at least four years.

Naturally, we say this in jest. But there are several reasons to pity Rauner as the victim of cruel and unusual punishment. Thanks to years of poor and corrupt rule and an equally corrupt judicial branch, Illinois has become nearly ungovernable. Its revenues are now insufficient to cover its operating expenses, and so the state was forced last year to pay $7 billion in IOUs instead of cash to its vendors. Yet Illinois tax rates — ratcheted up in 2011 in a futile effort to end the state's status as a deadbeat — are already so high that businesses are fleeing to neighboring Indiana and Wisconsin.

If the Prairie State's short-term finances sound bad, its long-term situation is far worse. Thanks to years of over-generous concessions to the state's public employee unions, Illinois' pension and healthcare obligations have ballooned to $167 billion. Every landowner and business operator unfortunate enough to reside within Illinois stands to inherit a piece of this crushing debt — as Gerald Skoning recently noted in the Wall Street Journal, they are lucky this obligation does not show up on their credit reports. At this point, a state default — the first in more than 170 years — is very much on the cards. To make matters worse, the state's extremely liberal supreme court has repeatedly struck down even modest legislative efforts by Democrats to ease the burden. And the state's obligation to its own retirees threatens its ability to provide basic, vital services that even the most hardened libertarian expects from a state government.

Yet hope springs eternal in Springfield — and perhaps it springs just a bit higher now that Gov. Rauner is in charge. He has started off on the right foot with an executive order to spare unwilling government employees from paying dues to the public employee unions if they do not wish to join or be represented by them. It is a very small step, but a sensible one that shows the governor knows where the problem is and that he isn't afraid to confront it. Rauner's order, for which he is preemptively seeking approval in federal court, is much like the action of the oncologist who tries to cut off nourishment to a tumor ravaging his patient's body from the inside. The unions' intransigent opposition to reform portends disaster for the state's remaining middle class residents, rendering Obama's talk of “middle class economics” moot.

Rauner has far bigger hills to climb after this one. If he is to be a successful governor, he must succeed where his Democratic predecessor failed — in finding ways to reform the system for the long haul. But anything he can do in the short run to weaken the unions' grip on Illinois' politics represents a good start.

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