-By Larry Sand
Fearful of taking a financial hit, California Teachers Association will be taking to the streets and declaring a “state of emergency.” But I have some questions for them when the demagoguery begins.
With California in a world of fiscal trouble and many people sick and tired of the unrealistic perks and benefits gained by collective bargaining, the California Teachers Association figured they had to take action. Their first idea was to go on a rampage the week of May 9.
The original plan included such disruptive strategies as…
- Closing major arteries into the city.
- Having students and parents picket school sites and camp there overnight.
- Picketing legislators’ homes and businesses.
After teacher union watchdog Mike Antonucci broke the story on April 11, many bloggers picked up on it. The cat now out of the bag, CTA decided to tone down their tantrum. So they have gone from being seriously disruptive to just very annoying.
The plan, now a bit more moderate, still includes
At the very top of CTA’s angst is that absent a turnaround in Sacramento, many teachers may be laid off in Sepetember. And when that happens, the union loses dues and that is one thing the union can’t tolerate. CTA takes in about $200,000,000 from teachers every year in California where public school teachers have no choice but to pay money to the union if they want a job.
While we don’t know exactly what to expect the week of the 9th, one thing we know for sure is that the smell of demagoguery will be polluting the air from Klamath to Calexico. You will hear tales of horror about overcrowded classrooms, unemployed teachers and stories of the evil rich who just won’t pay their fair share of taxes.
Emotional pleas are powerful, but (at least in the case of the teachers unions) they can be easily countered with inconvenient things called facts. Here are some questions you can ask if besieged by a hysterical unionista trying to convince you that we can’t make cuts to education spending because it will “destroy our schools.” (All the following suggestions are good for children or will save the taxpayer money or both.)
- Why are you staging this protest during a week when many school districts are holding their standardized testing? Isn’t this type of action a serious distraction to teachers and students?
- Why, when economic times are good, do you lobby districts to over-hire when you know that many of the new hires will have to be let go when the economic cycle goes south? (Economies go through periods where they wax and wane; why don’t you ever plan for the inevitable downturn?)
- You constantly bang the “small class size” drum. Why are there no major studies that link small class size to educational achievement?
- Why do you insist on an archaic seniority system that disregards teaching quality when staffing decisions are made? If we must lose some teachers, why not let the stinkers go instead of the ones who have been on the job the least amount of time?
- Why do you insist on a salary step pay scale where less competent teachers make as much as good ones for the same amount of years on the job? Why should the only requirement for a teacher to get a raise in September is to not die over the summer?
- Why do you believe that a teacher who doesn’t do anything short of committing a felony in their first two years of teaching should be granted permanence – essentially a job for life?
- School choice will give poor children a chance to get out of failing schools and save the taxpayer money at the same time. Why do you fight to kill school choice whenever pro-choice legislation is on the table?
- You hated charter schools at first but then became resigned to their existence. Now you tolerate them because you think you can unionize them. This of course will kill their special status. But that’s what you want, isn’t it?
- You say studies show that charters do no better than traditional public schools. Yes, a few studies do, but others contend that charters indeed do better… some a lot better. But even if there is no difference, charters are funded at about 60 cents on the dollar compared to traditional public schools, thus saving the taxpayers large sums of money.
- Why not work on developing a fair system for evaluating teacher performance? Is it possible that you really don’t care about the quality of teachers as long as you collect dues from them? And is it possible that once you acknowledge that some teachers are better than others, your insistence on one-size-fits-all collective bargaining falls flat?
- Why do you pretend that every one of your actions is done for the children? Isn’t it true that students who don’t pay your inflated dues are just a prop for you to hide your real agenda, which is raw political power?
- And talking about your real agenda – CTA is by far the biggest political spender in California, spending almost $212,000,000 on candidates and causes between 2000-2009. Why are you constantly trying to extract more and more money from taxpayers as you did in 2009 by spending over $2 million to Prop. 1A, which would have resulted in a tax increase to Californians of $16 billion? Why do you spend money on issues that have little to do with education, as in 2008 when you gave $1,250,000 to the campaign to legalize same-sex marriage?
- Why don’t you believe in a 401k type plan for retirement? This would put the responsibility for teachers’ retirement on the individual teacher, not the taxpayer.
- If you are so beneficial for teachers, why do you force them to pay you as a condition of employment? Don’t you think teachers are smart enough to recognize all the wonderful work that you do and will happily turn over $1,000 a year to you as a way of saying thanks? And why does the school district have to collect teachers’ union dues? Why don’t you collect your own dues and save the taxpayers some money?
But maybe the above scenario won’t happen. Remember the “We Are One” rally on April 4th? You don’t? Well that’s because there was nothing memorable about it. It was supposed to be a nationwide day of union solidarity for the teachers in Wisconsin who lost their collective bargaining “rights,” but there was just a smattering of demonstrators in a few cities across the country.
As I wrote in a blog entry on April 5,
Is it possible that private sector union members are waking up to the fact that maybe “We are not all one”? Maybe they realize that those in the NEA and other public employee unions are better paid and have more perks than they do – and that these extravagances are being paid for by taxpayers, which include those union members in the private sector.
Is it possible that many Americans realize that the NEA wouldn’t hold anything for MLK? This is the union that by being virulently anti-school choice is doing everything within its mighty power to keep African-American children stuck in failing schools across America. Even the union’s former allies in the mainstream media are now in increasing numbers coming down on the side of choice.
Is it possible that the NEA and other public employee unions have exposed themselves as bullies who are detrimental to the country at large?
Is it possible that fewer people are being fooled by their hollow and abusive rhetoric?
It’s just three weeks till the CTA desperate “State of Emergency” plan is rolled out. Are you ready for it, California?
Larry Sand began his teaching career in New York in 1971. Since 1984, he has taught elementary school as well as English, math, history and ESL in the Los Angeles Unified School District, where he also served as a Title 1 Coordinator. Retired in 2009, he is the president of the non-profit California Teachers Empowerment Network – a non-partisan, non-political group dedicated to providing teachers with reliable and balanced information about professional affiliations and positions on educational issues – information teachers will often not get from their school districts or unions.
CTEN was formed in 2006 because a wide range of information from the more global concerns of education policy, education leadership, and education reform, to information having a more personal application, such as professional liability insurance, options of relationships to teachers’ unions, and the effect of unionism on teacher pay, comes to teachers from entities that have a specific agenda. Sand’s comments and op-eds have appeared in City Journal, Associated Press, Newsweek, Townhall Magazine, Los Angeles Times, San Diego Union Tribune, Los Angeles Daily News, San Jose Mercury News, Orange County Register and other publications. He has appeared on numerous broadcast news programs in Southern California and nationally.
Sand has participated in panel discussions and events focusing on education reform efforts and the impact of teachers’ unions on public education. In March 2010, Sand participated in a debate hosted by the non-profit Intelligence Squared, an organization that regularly hosts Oxford-style debates, which was nationally broadcast on Bloomberg TV and NPR, as well as covered by Newsweek. Sand and his teammates – Terry Moe of the Hoover Institution and former U.S. Secretary of Education Rod Paige, opposed the proposition – Don’t Blame Teachers Unions For Our Failing Schools. The pro-union team included Randi Weingarten, president of the American Federation of Teachers. In August 2010, he was on a panel at the Where’s the Outrage? Conference in San Francisco, where he spoke about how charter school operators can best deal with teachers’ unions. This past January he was on panels in Los Angeles, San Diego and San Mateo in support of National School Choice week.
Sand has also worked with other organizations to present accurate information about the relationship between teachers and their unions, most recently assisting in the production of a video for the Center for Union Facts in which a group of teachers speak truthfully about the teachers’ unions.
CTEN maintains an active and strong new media presence, reaching out to teachers and those interested in education reform across the USA, and around the world, with its popular Facebook page, whose members include teachers, writers, think tankers, and political activists. Since 2006, CTEN has experienced dramatic growth.
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