For the life of me, I can’t seem to figure out why and how unions get into the business of educating our children. They always seem to do more harm than good; and those who suffer the most seem to be the ones unions profess to protect – the rank-and-file teachers.
To hear educators and pundits talk you’d think we are at the dawn of a change in public school education that will herald a new commitment to providing students and parents an education worthy of the tax dollars spent. Yet, until such time that teachers’ unions stop being impediments to success, our education system will not deliver the results we need to prepare today’s students for tomorrow’s challenges.
To see this play out in real time and to understand why parents deserve the ability to choose where their children go to school, one only needs to look at Howard County, Maryland, to see how union leadership can - with the tacit approval of the County Executive - stand in the way of efforts to enhance education.
Currently, teachers in Howard County have the third highest starting salary in the state and the second highest overall salary, according to the state Department of Education. To build on this, the Howard County school board is offering a guaranteed three percent raise for teachers who meet certain criteria such as years of service, advanced education and other training certificates.
The school board estimates that more than half of all teachers will receive a raise of between six and nine percent. Yet the union - known officially as the Howard County Education Association (HCEA) and led by Paul Lemle - has done everything in its power to distract its members from the offer. Apparently, they want to play a game of brinksmanship, force a crisis, and hopefully enable teachers to demand more.
After first agreeing to keep the negotiations open, Lemle, who has spoken openly about “wielding power,” sued to have the negotiations closed. Why? All the better to misinform and distract his members.
For the longest time, Lemle stated the raise was only one percent. Most recently, in an interview with WBAL radio, Lemle refused to acknowledge the offer even represents a raise. You see, Lemle believes the teachers are owed a minimum of a three percent cost of living increase. Only if the offer is above that amount are teachers actually getting a raise, he argues. Please. How many in Maryland have suffered from the Great Recession? Federal employees would rejoice if offered a similar proposition, yet this isn’t good enough for the Howard County union?