Tag Archives: Wall Street Journal

If unions do so much for their members, then why bully?

larrysand1

Cross-posted from EAGNews.

by Larry Sand from UnionWatch

LOS ANGELES – The Michigan Education Association had its apple cart turned upside down when the Wolverine State went “right-to-work” in December.

This means that, unlike California and 25 other states, a worker doesn’t have to pay union dues as a condition of employment.

My introduction to union coercion came in 2005, when, as a middle school teacher in Los Angeles, I joined the Prop. 75 campaign. That initiative would have prohibited public employee labor organizations from collecting the part of union dues which goes for politics without prior consent of the employee. Sensing a disruption in their forced dues gravy train, the California Teachers Association went into overdrive. It raised union dues on its members for a three-year period and mortgaged their offices in Sacramento, then used the millions they accumulated to scare teachers and the public – ominously warning them of imaginary horrors that would be visited on them if the proposition passed.

Teachers unions are forever telling its members how much the union does for them in the way of wages, job benefits, etc. You would think that an organization that does so much for its members wouldn’t have to resort to bullying to keep them in the fold. But the unions know that without forcing the issue, many teachers would just say, “No.” For instance, in Wisconsin, after Act 10 came into law allowing teachers to quit their union, about 30 percent have already quit with more to follow this June when their contracts expire.

Also, typically unspoken in the unions’ talking points is the fact that while union members in forced union states may make more than their counterparts in RTW states, the costs of goods and services are far lower in these states, the result being a net gain for the employee. The unions also don’t tell you that workers are flocking to RTW states, which have a lower unemployment rate than in states that are dominated by unions.

In Michigan, a skittish MEA is doing what it can to intimidate teachers. First, they are scrambling to get new contracts for teachers all over the state before March when the new RTW law takes effect. Also, MEA boss Steve Cook issued a threat that any teacher who decides to bail in March will be sued. According to a Wall Street Journal editorial,

“Members who indicate they wish to resign membership in March, or whenever, will be told they can only do so in August,” Mr. Cook writes in the three-page memo obtained by the West Michigan Policy Forum. “We will use any legal means at our disposal to collect the dues owed under signed membership forms from any members who withhold dues prior to terminating their membership in August for the following fiscal year.”

Got that, comrade?

If nothing else, recent events have shown without a shred of doubt, the union is about maintaining its power and collecting every last penny they claim is owed to them. All the lofty talk about the children is just so much camouflage for their real agenda – accumulating money and power.

Another expression bandied about by the unions is the term “free rider.” They try to gain sympathy by suggesting that those in RTW states who don’t voluntarily join are getting something valuable for free. This specious argument really needs to be countered. Many teachers would happily say, “I don’t want any part of the union and the perks it may get me. I think I have a valuable service to offer and want to negotiate my own contract.” Seems reasonable, right? Well, that decision is not up to the teacher. As Heritage Foundation’s James Sherk points out,

Unions object that right-to-work is actually “right-to-freeload.” The AFL-CIO argues “unions are forced by law to protect all workers, even those who don’t contribute financially toward the expenses incurred by providing those protections.” They contend they should not have to represent workers who do not pay their “fair share.”

It is a compelling argument, but untrue. The National Labor Relations Act does not mandate unions exclusively represent all employees, but permits them to electively do so. Under the Act, unions can also negotiate “members-only” contracts that only cover dues-paying members. They do not have to represent other employees.

Teacher union watchdog Mike Antonucci adds,

The very first thing any new union wants is exclusivity. No other unions are allowed to negotiate on behalf of people in the bargaining unit. Unit members cannot hire their own agent, nor can they represent themselves.

So those deemed free riders by the unions are really forced riders.

Having seen the union’s lies and intimidating ways up close and personal, I am hardly surprised at MEA’s hardball tactics. But it seems that the voters in states like Michigan and Wisconsin have awakened, perhaps signaling that worker freedom just may be the wave of the future.

Larry Sand, a retired teacher who taught in Los Angeles and NYC public schools for 28 years, is the president of the California Teachers Empowerment Network. This post originally appeared as a guest column in the Orange County Register and is republished here with permission from the author.

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Are School Vouchers (and Charters) Really the Free Market at Work? Does the Free Market Include Government Funding/Regulations?

by Gretchen Logue of Missouri Education Watchdog

Andrew Coulson from CATO writes about the idea of “choice” and why many “choice” proponents who espouse “free market” are actually promoting unconstitutional ideas.  We at MEW have some rather spirited discussions the last several days with “choicers” about our recent articles on “choice” questioning whether this “choice” actually is free market or markets propped up by tax dollars.

Education is free market when the government doesn’t fund it and regulate its operation.  Coulson wonders how government funded vouchers can be considered free market by the choice movement.  How can does a government funded “choice” in education containing the same mandates as traditional public school be classified as free market?  Coulson explains why vouchers are not really choice at all in Obama, Romney, Teachers, and Choice:

Jay Greene has an excellent piece in the Wall Street Journal this week revealing that the teacher workforce has grown dramatically over the past forty years—and at enormous cost—without improving student achievement by the end of high school. And he rightly disparages President Obama for arguing that even more teachers would somehow do the trick. Even better, Greene notes that American education will not reverse its productivity collapse and become efficient until we allow it to benefit from the freedoms and incentives of the marketplace.

But then Jay cites Governor Romney’s goal of “voucherizing federal education funds so that parents can take those resources and use them to send their children to schools of their choice,” and he does so with apparent approbation. Even ignoring the fact that the Constitution does not empower Congress to run education programs, this is a very dangerous idea.

There has been no civilization in the history of humanity in which governments have paid for private schooling without ultimately controlling what was taught and who could teach, erecting barriers to entry and thereby crippling market forces.

For that reason, I recommended against a federal voucher program under the Bush administration. Since then, additional evidence has come to light. When I studied the regulatory impact of U.S. private school choice programs last year I found that even the small existing U.S. voucher programs do indeed impose a heavy and very statistically significant additional burden of regulation on participating private schools.

Perhaps a way will be found to enact and maintain minimally regulated voucher programs in the coming years. Until that time comes, it would be the height of folly to introduce a federal voucher program whose regulations would suffocate educational freedom from coast to coast.

In my statistical study of choice program regulation, I found that K-12 tax credit programs do not impose a statistically significant extra burden of regulation on private schools. But even a national K-12 tax credit program would be far too dangerous. By leaving education policy to the states and the people, we can see which programs flourish and which become sclerotic. We must encourage and learn from that policy diversity, not squelch it with federal programs or mandates.

Coulson has the correct idea about educational delivery and the only solution that is constitutional:  leave education to the states and the people.    Don’t try to sell the federally funded voucher idea as a viable alternative to traditional public schools when the private schools will have to conform to the same mandates and regulations of the traditional public schools.

He doesn’t mention charter schools in this CATO article, but I wonder if he would make the same argument when scrutinizing the free market argument made in favor of charter schools.  In this 2001 article from thefreemanonline.com critiquing a book on charters, he raises concerns about taxpayer funding of charters and understanding that once the government funds these schools, they lose their autonomy:

The risks and shortcomings of charter schools are several. For one thing, whenever the state rather than the consumer pays for a service, we have the breeding grounds for fraud and corruption. Parents cannot be duped into paying for children they do not have, but the same can’t be said of government agencies. The authors describe several fraudulent abuses, but fail to acknowledge that the problem is intrinsic to the separation of payment from consumption.

Allowing the government to hold the educational purse strings also draws the attention of charter schools away from families and toward the state. In a market, producers increase their income either by cutting costs or demonstrating improved services for which consumers are willing to pay more. Charter schools will only be able to raise revenues by lobbying the state. The 14-fold increase in inflation-adjusted per-pupil spending that has occurred in government schools over the past 75 years is a sobering harbinger of what to expect under charter schooling. The authors provide evidence of this lobbying already occurring among the country’s nascent charter schools, but seem not to understand its importance or inevitability.

Finally, charter schools preclude the direct financial responsibility of parents that history shows to be crucial for the maintenance of parental involvement in, and control over, their children’s education.

Based on historical and contemporary precedents, charter schools are likely to be re-regulated to the point where they are indistinguishable from traditional government-run schools. The authors are aware of this “ominous threat,” but can offer no solution.

The downside of charter schooling would be of negligible importance if their impact were limited to charter schools themselves. Charter schools would still constitute some improvement over traditional public schools. The real concern is that previously independent private schools are being lured into the charter fold. If large numbers of private schools adopt charter status, the eventual re-regulation of charter schools will expand the government education monopoly. The authors make no mention of this Damoclean sword hanging over the charter movement.

Don’t try to pass charters off as free market when they are taxpayer funded.  Don’t privatize education via charters where taxpayers and parents have no decision making abilities and mandates (not laws) dictate how and what standards/assessments will be taught to students and pre-determined vendors cash in on supplying the curricula and systems needed because of the mandates.

If your state legislators espouse “choice” as conservative and free market ideas, send them a copy of Coulson’s article.  These “choices” as they are currently constructed are neither. 

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Common Core Standards and the Federalization of Education

By Karen Schroeder, President of Advocates for Academic Freedom

Common Core Standards are a federal program in which the federal government will define the curricula and the academic standards for each subject taught in the every school setting. These Federal Standards will basically eliminate local control of schools and provide unfettered access to curricula by the Federal Government and by the United Nations eventually. To date, 46 states have adopted Common Core Standards. The cost for implementing these standards may require a new method of taxation that is more accommodating for federal control of the educational system.

President Obama’s federal program Race to the Top provides bonus points to states that institute common learning goals. Common Core Standards represent about $16 billion in new unfunded mandates. It imposes mediocre standards upon the states which must be accepted or the states are threatened with loss of present funding. Federal mandating of these standards bypasses any congressional scrutiny and the state legislative process as well as violating the public trust by preventing any school board, parental, or teacher approval of these programs.

The federal government has been encouraged to implement these standards by educational policy experts because, as A New Civic Literacy: American Education and Global Interdependence provided by the Aspen Institute explains, “decentralization” of education (local control) makes educational change difficult to introduce.” Therefore, policy experts recommend that the federal government be given the responsibility to assure the implementation of global interdependence. Advancing global interdependence has replaced the original educational goal and that is why our schools are failing academically, but schools are succeeding to advance our population’s acceptance of surrendering our border, our right to secure elections, and respect for our founding documents.

Common Core Standards have been written for math and English and are currently being written for social studies curricula. The standards for this subject are key to the successful advancement of the social and political policy of global interdependence which these standards are intended to help implement. According to A New Civic Literacy the “students in our public schools constitute the nation’s greatest and most attractive sucker list. Everybody with anything to sell—a global perspective—would naturally like to get at this market of future American adults, and get them as early in life as possible.” The document identifies teachers of social studies and the publishers of text books as key points of leverage. Because of the importance of this access to the American public, these policy experts defined education as “the most important subject we as a people are engaged in.”

Teachers, parents, and some legislators have been discouraging the implementation of Common Core Standards because the standards are weak. They eliminate oversight by school boards, teachers, and parents and any control parents and educators would have over academics in the classroom. The Wall Street Journal reported on May 8, 2012, in “School-Standards Pushback” that South Carolina Governor Nikki Haley is concerned that these standards will “relinquish control of education to the federal government” and that Emmett McGroarty, executive director of American Principles in Action, called the standards “mediocre and costly to implement.”

Many are concerned that the Common Core Standards, once successfully implemented, will provide unfettered access of our educational system by the United Nations. Some textbooks and curricula for our public schools have already been written by UNESCO and the International Baccalaureate program that is currently in many school districts across the United States. Grabbing additional access is a natural next step. Once they write the curricula, they must have authority to develop all testing tools. They will decide who becomes a teacher and what preparation will be provided for that teacher. The International Baccalaureate curriculum upsets parents and teachers because the focus includes sustainable development, abortion rights, gay marriage, universal disarmament and social justice curricula.

The UN involvement in the American educational system has already been facilitated by treaties signed by American presidents from both parties. Those documents include but are not limited to: Universal Declaration of Human Rights, Treaty on the Rights of the Child, Civic Education: Classroom Connections, and Agenda 21.

EdWatch.org published “Marc Tucker’s New Education Initiative” written by Professor Allen Quist in 2007 in which the professor explains that experts representing the National Center for Education and the Economy (NCEE) seem to believe that it will be easier for the public to accept a new method of funding education once schools are burdened under these unfunded mandates. According to professor Quist, the NCEE suggests that regional development authorities be created and given power to tax removing all remaining local control of schools. Once the federal government has total control of education, what will happen to school choice?

For effective educational reform, citizens must unite around a single mission: eliminate federal mandates and federal funding of education and reallocate those funds to the states.

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Karen Schroeder is the President of Advocates for Academic Freedom (AAF) which is a proponent for a return to fact-based curricula, accountability, and academic excellent in public education. Karen was appointed to the Governor’s Educational Communications Board on May 1, 2012.  She provides seminars designed to inform and motivate citizens to reclaim their responsibility to become involved in the decisions made at the local and state levels of the educational system. Karen is regularly interviewed by Wisconsin radio personalities. 

With a BA degree in education and a Master’s Degree in Special Education, Ms. Schroeder has taught in suburban public schools for thirty-six years. During her teaching career, she became a free-lance writer to provide citizens with information revealing the impact of social and political policies on the educational system. Her works are published in the Eau Claire Journal and numerous other newspapers across Wisconsin.

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Filed under Education Reform, Federal Department of Education, National Standards (Common Core)