American Conservative Party: Why Wisconsin is Ground Zero for Education Reform

Lee Anderson at American Conservative Party

Highlights from the 2007 study by Randall Eberts: Teachers Unions and Student Performance: Help or Hindrance reveal the following about the impact of collective bargaining on public education system:

1. Teachers unions can, and have, come out strongly against state referendum to allow charter schools and voucher systems, which they believe could divert students away from traditional public schools and thus reduce public school resources, their union ranks, and their bargaining and political power.
2. The number of contract provisions positively affects the negotiation of teacher salaries. A 2007 study found that teachers in districts with fifty contract provisions (of a possible fifty-three predetermined categories) received $1,900 more, on average, than those in districts with the minimum number of items. Budget allocations are also affected by the inclusion or removal of specific contract provisions through the negotiating process, providing further evidence of the link between education expenses and contract provisions
3. The costs of operating unionized high schools are about 8 – 15 percent higher than non-union schools.
4. Teachers covered by collective bargaining tend to earn 5 to 12 percent more than those who are not covered. This is consistent with the typical range found for union vs. non-union pay premiums in other sectors.
5. In national data for fourth-grade students, it also finds that union schools are less likely to rely on specialized, less standard instructional methods in mathematics. Students in union schools spend 42 percent less time with a specialist, 62 percent less time with a specialized aide, 26 percent less time with a tutor, and 68 percent less time in independent, programmed study.
6. By their very nature, contracts restrict the discretion of administrators. Unions can dictate class size and teacher assignments, impose restrictions on teacher dismissal and reduction in force, and determine the extent to which teachers participate in key decisions. Codifying strict rules into a contract, which may be in place for up to three years, could be problematic for administrators seeking to adapt to change.
7. Teachers unions can raise average student achievement based on studies of standardized exams, yet unionized schools also increase high school dropout rates (see #5 above).
8. Low-achieving, at-risk students and high-achieving students tend to do better in nonunion schools; unionized schools play to the middle tier of achievers.

Bottom line is that the taxpayer pays more for middle tiered services, and students requiring more specialized eduction and high performers suffer advancement. Yet, the unions are opposed to parent choice and charter schools to address these specific needs? Is it really about eduction? No. Here is what Bob Chanin, General Counsel of the NEA, said at the NEA’s annual meeting in July, 2009:

“Despite what some among us would like to believe it is not because of our creative ideas. It is not because of the merit of our positions. It is not because we care about children and it is not because we have a vision of a great public school for every child. NEA and its affiliates are effective advocates because we have power…. And we have power because there are more than 3.2 million people who are willing to pay us hundreds of millions of dollars in dues each year, because they believe that we are the unions that can most effectively represent them, the unions that can protect their rights and advance their interests as education employees…. This is not to say that the concern of NEA and its affiliates with closing achievement gaps, reducing dropout rates, improving teacher quality and the like are unimportant or inappropriate. To the contrary. These are the goals that guide the work we do. But they need not and must not be achieved at the expense of due process, employee rights and collective bargaining. That simply is too high a price to pay.”

So let me summarize: for the teachers’ unions it’s about power, money, and benefits first – and education second. This is what the unions want and are willing to “get bloody” over in Wisconsin. Gov. Scott Walker and the Republicans in the state want eduction to be the priority; meanwhile the Democrats are hiding out in Illinois in support the unions. The battle lines are drawn. The stakes are high. The children throughout this country deserve better. Mohandas Gandhi once said, “All compromise is based on give and take, but there can be no give and take on fundamentals. Any compromise on mere fundamentals is a surrender. For it is all give and no take.” Let’s hope quality education is a fundamental that conservative Scott Walker will not compromise on for the children of Wisconsin.

One thought on “American Conservative Party: Why Wisconsin is Ground Zero for Education Reform

  1. FKC

    “meanwhile the Democrats are hiding out in Illinois in support the unions. ”

    What if Wisconsin stripped them of their state citizenship and declared them to be illegal aliens? LOL

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