Monday, September 27, 2010

Teachers' Unions Becoming Isolated

This morning on the 'Today' show on NBC we had another President Obama infomercial, this one about education policy. I actually agree with much of the President's rhetoric when the subject switches to education in this country. Unfortunately the actions have not backed up the words, so I'm not completely convinced. BUT he and Secretary Arne Duncan may be the only Democrats in my recent memory to actually believe that school choice is a good thing. The teachers unions, namely the UFT (the largest branch of the AFT) and the NEA, have weilded the hammer of union influence over the Democratic Party...could that be waning? Not at the speed people who favor school choice and charter schools would prefer. But there are signs that the teachers unions are increasingly falling out of touch with the policy directives of some high profile Democrats, namely Mayor Cory Booker in Newark New Jersey, the President and Sec. Duncan. The recent documentary Waiting For Superman has exposed the unions, shined a light on our failing schools and how the decades old liberal argument of throwing wads of money after the problem has solved nothing and if anything has made it worse. Making the movie more effective is the fact that it has been produced and directed by the people who brought you An Inconvenient Truth, blunting any criticism that the movie is some right-wing hatchet job on unions. If you have been following what the Republican governor from NJ has been going through with the teachers unions you would be well versed in their tactics when the criticism comes from the Right.

While the preference is for the Federal Government to detach itself altogether from the business of educating our children, that ship has sailed and now would like their involvement minimal but at least responsible (i.e. no national standards and NO increased spending). What we have been getting over the years has been the opposite, more largesse to line the pockets of the teachers unions who then turn around and take your tax money to donate to the Democratic Party in Washington and other leftists. The unions then protect bad teachers, with the system setting up permanent job security on your tax dime. How is it your tax dime? Well the trail is quite simple, you pay property taxes to pay your public school teachers, your teachers are forced (they can opt out but it actually costs them to do so) to pay dues, and voila their dues fund the great Democratic Party machine. Look if private trade unions want to feed that animal, that's their prerogative and their memberships', but when public service unions are doing it with your tax dollars...wake up!

Which brings me to my point, as the truth about these practices, the truth about our public school system and how they fail our children come to light...the more these unions are going to find themselves politically isolated. Governor Christie (R-NJ) stated the obvious this morning, they can hop on board with reform or they can come kicking and screaming but it will get done. It is sad that it has taken Democrats and some liberals to finally see the light on the subject of school choice, but better late than never. We need more courageous politicians of either stripe to continue the fight of reform in our public schools. The hope is that gifts like the one Mark Zuckerberg made to benefit Newark schools goes to an actual paradigm change and does not continue to reward bad behavior and bad policy. I do believe it will work with the leadership of Christie and Booker, and color me cautiously optimistic that union political influence will decline with the latest public developments. That will be good for everyone involved in education, well except the heads of the UFT and NEA.

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