Friday, February 25, 2011

What's Behind The War on Teacher Unions

Remember A Nation at Risk, that Reagan-inspired denunciation of America's public schools. It charged that they were so bad they undermined our international competitiveness and endangering the entire nation.

This international competitiveness angle conceals another agenda. These overblown charges set the ground work for making hitherto public school money available to private interests and castrating teacher unions in the process.

The charter school movement is a second step in this process. Research reveals that, on average, charter schools are not any better than traditional public schools. But they do open the public purse to private business interests. Plus charter schools are notoriously hard to unionize.

Voucher plans are a third step in spreading public school money around and gutting teacher unions. Vouchers rip the public purse wide open for the fingers of private interests. Unrestricted by the modest government oversight visited on charter schools, privateer's ability to mine the public treasury is limited only by their imagination. With respect to gutting teacher unions, private schools are even harder than charters for unions to organize. This means the more vouchers the less unionized teaching will be.

Now to a fourth step of this process — killing off teacher's collective bargaining rights. Seizing on the sea of red ink created by the great recession, Republican politicians in numerous states, most notoriously Wisconsin, are trying to administer what they hope will be a death blow to teacher unions by eliminating their input into the terms of their contracts. If teacher unions have no input in this process, what's the point of joining?

These unions are a major source of support for public schooling. So weakening teacher unions furthers the disestablishment of public schools. Once that is accomplished more than five hundred billion dollars will be available for private exploitation each and every year. No wonder the foes of public education have been busy.

Sadly, both the unions and public school leadership set themselves up for these attacks. Faced with dehumanizing, top-down, factory style public school administration, union leadership gave in to the temptation of reacting like any other industrial union and forgot all about the kids. This short-sighted, if understandable, response has exacted an enormous cost in public sympathy and support that teacher union enemies are exploiting.

For their part, most public school administrators have yet to figure out that their actions provoked the union's folly to begin with. Far too often they still treat teachers with the sort of contempt and condescension that characterize labor/management relations in badly managed coal mines.

Meanwhile Republican attacks on teacher unions and public schooling amp up while businessmen and private school interests kick in campaign money and lick their chops in anticipation of ever bigger wads of tax payer dollars.

What about educating the kids? That's just a side show.

For more on this and related subjects visit http:///www.newfoundations.com

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