“When School Children Start Paying Union Dues . . ”


“. . . That’s when I’ll start representing children.” Al Shanker, President, American Federation of Teachers.  The quote has been a model of teacher union goals since the 1960’s. In 2011 Professor Terry Moe’s Earthquake book, “Special Interest” Teacher Unions and America’s Public Schools,” explained how teacher unions do not represent the interests of children.  (Professor Moe is an expert on teacher unions, serving as the William Bennet Munro professor of political Science at Stanford University, a senior fellow at the Hoover Institution, and a member for the Hoover Institution’s Koret Task Force on K-12 Education.)

In California’s Santa Ana Unified School District teacher union officials throw their power around. Steven Greenhut has the story in the Orange County Register.

For starters, we see from the board vote how willing unions are to throw their younger, more energetic and lower-paid members under the bus. Because of the “Last in, first out” system that teachers unions ardently defend, the potential layoffs are based on seniority.

In Santa Ana, the school board gave teachers a raise that boosted pay by $32 million. School Board member Cecilia “Ceci” Iglesias, the dissenting vote on the layoffs, argues that the board caved in to demands of union leadership — and ignored the obvious declining enrolments that ultimately led to the pink slips. Older teachers will keep their raises, while young ones get laid off first. It’s no secret that unions put the interests of longtime workers above newbies.

To understand why teachers’ unions are so afraid of charter schools, one need only look at the situation in Santa Ana and other poorer districts. enrolments are falling at Los Angeles Unified School District, also. The schools there often are so troubled that parents will camp out overnight waiting to get their kids into a better school. About half of that district’s falling enrollment can be attributed to charters — or, more specifically, to parents so fed up with their schools that they chose a better alternative.

LAUSD’s approach has been to try to crush these alternatives. I saw this link on the Santa Ana Educators’ Association website: “Learn about for-profit charters and their negative impact on our students and schools!” Unions across the state view healthy competition as a threat, especially in poor districts where there are many iffy schools.

Remember, the priority in these public-school systems is not kids. It is to protect the prerogatives of the bureaucracy. The best way to do that is to whine about crumbling buildings and layoffs until the state sends more cash, or voters agree to raise their property taxes for yet another facilities bond.

If these schools were about the kids, there would be no “rubber rooms,” where teachers do nothing and collect their paychecks as they go through the long process of appealing their firing. Districts would be allowed to pay great teachers more than mediocre ones and move them around as needed. There would be fewer bureaucrats and more focus on educational attainment.