From the Desk of Stephen Cabot: Following the lead of Wisconsin and Ohio, Governor David Heineman of Nebraska and Republican lawmakers have decided to rein in the ever-growing power of public sector unions. They have introduced legislation that would curtail the power of the state’s Commission of Industrial Relations, which adjudicates labor disputes. The proposed legislation would not only curtail the power of the Commission (which many view as pro-labor) to set wages and work conditions, but it would also remove its jurisdiction over retirement and healthcare benefits, especially for teachers. Not only are lawmakers dissatisfied with the Commission, but they are worried about the state’s budget deficit which is projected to be $943 million over the next two years. The Commission was created in 1947 as a result of a debilitating utility workers strike, and Nebraska became one of 31 states with commissions that adjudicate labor disputes. Governor Heineman has declared that if the reform of the Commission does not take place, he will work to generate a ballot initiative that would call for the elimination of the Commission. The ongoing efforts to increase productivity and reduce the power of public-sector unions are fast becoming one of the most important labor relations trends of the year; and if those efforts are successful, all Americans will benefit from reduced taxes and higher levels of employment.
From the desk of Stephen Cabot: If one wants to reform education in our country, one must do battle with the unions that represent teachers. One need only look at the departure of school reformer, Michelle Rhee, in Washington DC. Her boss lost an election bid to Vince Gray in the Democratic mayoral primary. Gray, as one might have expected, was elected with enormous help form the American Federation of Teachers and the Washington Teachers’ Association.
For years now, the media has reported that America’s educational system does not meet the needs of an increasingly complex, technological age. America’s students are rapidly falling behind in science and math when compared to students in such countries as China and India.
If teachers are not held accountable for the failures of their students, then our educational goals will turn to mist as we become a country as second rate as our educational system.
And who is to blame for this sorry state of affairs? The teachers unions. The American Federation of Teachers and the National Education Association exert enormous pressure on politicians to maintain the status quo. It doesn’t matter that students are not getting the educations they deserve and that the country requires in order for us to be competitive with other nations. What matters to the teachers unions is that teachers’ jobs are eternally preserved and that tenure remains sacrosanct, regardless of the pedagogic competence of instructors who view their employment as protected sinecures.
If America is to remain an economic powerhouse, its students must be prepared to take leadership positions in the coming decades. If, however, they are ignorant of math and science as their ever-falling test scores sorrowfully indicate, we will be dependent on the scientific advancements made by students in what were once called third-world countries. The time is long past for the teachers’ unions to become superfluous; they are obstacles to our economic growth. They provide a scandalous disservice to our country’s youth and to the future of our country.
From the desk of Stephen Cabot:
The Los Angeles Times recently published a data base that evaluated 6,000 teachers. The evaluation is based upon how well students scored on standardized tests. Parents, as one might have expected, were grateful to read the results, but were also extremely disappointed, for only 40.6% of high school students in LA graduate from high school. That’s the second worst rate in the country. California now spends 40% of its budget on education, which translates to $30,000 per student, per year. Such a bad return on investment at any American corporation would result in the firing of its CFO, CEO, and president. In California, however, no more than 2% of teachers are denied tenure.
So, it’s not surprising that the American Federation of Teachers (AFT), and the local union, The United Teachers of Los Angeles, are angry about the publication of deplorable results by the Times. Randi Weingarten, president of the AFT, went on ABC News to decry the report and voice her union’s support of teachers. The local union is planning a protest at the offices of The Los Angeles Times.
The unions representing teachers do not appreciate the publication of embarrassing facts, but that does not give them the right to assail the freedom of the Times to publish. Instead of being blindly devoted to maintaining full employment for teachers, the unions should be devoted to the successful education of students. But, as one might have suspected, teacher evaluations are not based on how much students learn.