Last year, Milwaukee public school teacher Daniel Buck wrote the article, “7 Reasons to say goodbye to teacher unions.” A year later, with an election coming up in November, that brave effort deserves a report card.
According to Buck, teacher unions are “advocacy groups as much as unions.” He finds teacher union cadres handing out worshipful pamphlets on Hillary Clinton, supporting Black Lives Matter and such. Much of union energy is spent “advocating for various, non-educational political initiatives,” and in the past 28 years, teachers unions have given 96 percent of their funding to Democrats. That is important because teacher unions “have more money in politics than just about everyone.”
Back in 2014, the National Education Association was “the second largest contributor to political campaigns of any individual, corporation or union.” The NEA and the American Federation of Teachers (AFT) “gave $64 million in political contributions compared to only $11 million and $28 million by the Koch brothers and George Soros, respectively.” Even so, according to Buck, “their policy ideals won’t cut it.”
He finds that spending does not always correlate with improvement and “until structural reforms are put in place to apply market pressure to the schools, any funding increase will be little more than waste.” Buck cites examples of waste from his own experience and finds that teacher unions “block meaningful reform.”
They oppose school choice, merit-based pay, standardized tests and entrance exams for teachers. For their part, Republicans have advanced merit pay, charter schools and more stringent teacher evaluations, but Buck is concerned that, “after a blue wave, many fear that the growth it has enacted may be at an end.” In the meantime, teacher unions “breed a culture of entitlement.”
In Buck’s experience, teacher unions “denigrate any test that shows stagnant scores or an administrator who questions their efficacy.” The union tells teachers they deserve their jobs and better pay, “regardless of the success of our students.” For Buck, “we deserve more money and respect only if we do our job well. To suggest anything else is a disservice to the profession.”
For all their efforts on collective bargaining, Buck finds, teacher unions “bargain for mediocre benefits.” Part of the problem is government debt, which by Buck’s calculation claims 12 percent of each teacher’s salary. Without the debt, salaries would be higher and employees “could choose to be frugal and invest more.”
Factory workers during Industrial Revolution had no specialized skills they could use to bargain. On the other hand, Buck finds, “teachers are a highly-skilled and educated workforce in a market where they are in short supply.” Based on that reality, the Milwaukee teacher explains, “we can bargain for ourselves,” but that won’t happen as long as teacher unions call the shots. So Buck deserves an A grade, with a comment or two on his report card.
The Milwaukee teacher is far too kind to the NEA and AFT, both goose-stepping sturmptruppen of the left. He also goes easy on the government education system, a collective farm of ignorance, mediocrity and failure. In government monopoly education, taxpayer dollars must trickle down through multiple layers of bureaucratic sediment. Buck seems unaware of the 1983 A Nation at Risk, which portrayed the government system, dominated by leftist teacher unions, as an enemy of the people.
For Buck, “school choice, while not a panacea, is one reform that has tremendous potential for improving schools.” He knows teacher unions oppose choice but could have shown that obstruction in action.
The DC Opportunity Scholarships Program gives low-income students, most of them African American, an alternative to dysfunctional and dangerous government schools. Obama Education Secretary Arne Duncan not only opposed the voucher program but as the Washington Post noted, he rescinded scholarships for 216 families. Like Arkansas governor Orval Faubus in 1957, Duncan and his boss stood in the schoolhouse door, only facing inward and blocking students’ escape.
Under the GI Bill, the government funded the student, not any bureaucracy or institution.
Students could take their money and go to Brigham Young, Notre Dame, or UCLA. There is no educational, practical or legal reason this cannot be extended to K-12 students and their families. All students should be able to attend the school of their choice as a matter of basic civil rights.
Without that basic reform, there can be little hope for change, and in 2020, parents, students and politicians should heed Daniel Buck’s warning. With a “blue wave,” the few reforms conservatives have been able to enact “may be at an end,” and the nation more at risk than it was in 1983.
The National Education Association made its first presidential endorsement in 1976 and Democrat Jimmy Carter rewarded the union by establishing the federal Department of Education. In his second term, President Trump should deploy that same federal department to promote school choice nationwide.
As Daniel Buck has doubtless noted, Democrats are still trying to impeach the president and remove him from office, lest he win again in 2020. The vote in the Senate “trial” takes place Wednesday, and the election takes place on November 3. As President Trump says, we’ll have to wait and see what happens.