They were marching in Madison. And they’ll be on a street in a state capitol near you in the coming weeks and months. The teachers’ unions are on the ropes, and they know it. They know that public opinion has shifted, and the public mood has shifted with it. And they know why.
The people now know all about the racket the teachers’ unions and other public employee unions have been running for the past twenty years. The public now knows that it is a bad idea to have union representatives and the politicians they elect sitting at a table negotiating pensions and health care benefits. Because there is no one at that table representing them. There is no one representing the taxpayer.
All of this started in New Jersey, of all places. Millions of residents started watching Governor Chris Christie challenge the teachers’ union on YouTube last year. Christie was armed with facts, figures and arguments the mainstream media never saw fit to report, and the union bosses he challenged had no real answers.
It was real news to the residents of New Jersey, how the teachers’ unions had rigged the system. Because for decades, the story went untold by the Newark Star Ledger and Bergen Record, the state’s two largest dailies. The editors either didn’t think the corrupt collective bargaining process was an issue worthy of a series, or didn’t have a problem with the process. I suspect that many of the editors liked being for what their ideological opponents were against. Because both of those papers are liberal by any objective standard, and those that challenged the teachers’ unions tended to be Republicans.
In the past, politicians who dared to challenge union power were portrayed by the unions and their supporters as the bad guys. As being against the children. As being against education. And the future.
Those days are over.
It ain’t easy being a Middle East dictator these days. Or a union boss. Or a newspaper editor or TV news producer.
But there is much more at stake than collective bargaining in this fight. The teachers unions themselves are on the ropes, as more Americans start to ask hard questions about how we spend our money educating our children. As we start to ask hard questions about tenure, about the hiring and firing of teachers, about merit pay, about charter schools, and about online learning.
The teachers’ unions are scurrying to protect their power, and are engaging in defensive maneuvers to protect their power. Because that has been the reality of public education for the last 30 years – the unions have been calling the shots on public education, while “We the People” paid the bills.
A New York Times headline on Thursday is Exhibit A of just how scared the unions are: “Leader of Teachers’ Union Urges Dismissal Overhaul.” Here is how that story began:
Responding to criticism that tenure gives even poor teachers a job for life, Randi Weingarten, the president of the American Federation of Teachers, announced a plan Thursday to overhaul how teachers are evaluated and dismissed. It would give tenured teachers who are rated unsatisfactory by their principals a maximum of one school year to improve. If they did not, they could be fired within 100 days.
You heard it right. The union boss admitted that tenure is a bad idea. That giving a person a lifetime job after only 3 years of work is a really, really bad idea. But this admission is 30 years too late. The unions want to continue to control the education system, but they will lose this battle. Because it doesn’t make any sense to have the tecahers’unions in control of hiring and firing teachers. Any more than it makes sense to have inmates running parole hearings.
In an op-ed in the Wall Street Journal last year, Joel Klein, New York City’s Superintendent of Schools for the past 8 years, wrote an editorial that eviscerated the unions. After chronicling some of the innovations he spearheaded, he wrote this about entrenched union power.
“Changing the system wasn't easy. The people with the loudest and best-funded voices are committed to maintaining a status quo that protects their needs even if it doesn't work for children. They want to keep their jobs by preserving a guaranteed customer base (a fixed number of students), regardless of performance. We have to rid the system of this self-serving approach.”
The teachers’ unions are on the ropes. Thanks to a nearly three decade rule over how we run our schools, and how we choose and reward our nation’s teachers, their power is being successfully challenged by politicians who have the truth on their side. And the interests of the tax payers. And the children.
Sadly for the union bosses, there is not much they can do about it.