Last week was a bad one for children due to some of our more lupine unions. The first blow to the kiddos came from the Service Employees International Union. A powerful local, 1199 SEIU United Healthcare Workers East, cut insurance for its members’ children. It seems that the powerful local and even more powerful parent — prime supporters of Obamacare — came to realize that it couldn’t afford to handle the costly financial consequences of the recent healthcare legislation. So the most expedient thing way for them to cut costs was to drop healthcare coverage for children.
Then, across the country in Petaluma, CA, the local school district, like so many others in cash-strapped states, has been cutting millions from its budget over the last few years. According to Pete Peterson, writing in City Journal,
The cuts have meant layoffs for district employees at all levels, from teachers to playground supervisors. In response, parents and concerned Petalumans have stepped forward to try to fill the non-teaching gaps, volunteering their time to maintain school services. The volunteers have worked in new roles identified by the school administration, but they’ve also stepped in to perform jobs eliminated by budget cuts. But those positions are unionized by the California School Employees’ Association (CSEA)—and that’s where the problems started.
When volunteers began to help answer phones in the office and support the school librarian at Petaluma Junior High School, CSEA Local 212 president Loretta Kruusmagi immediately objected. Representing 350 clerical and janitorial staff in the Petaluma school district, Kruusmagi betrays not the least concern for the kids her union supposedly serves when she glowers: “As far as I’m concerned, they never should have started this thing. Noon-duty people [lunchtime and playground assistants]—those are instructional assistants. We had all those positions. We don’t have them anymore, but those are our positions. Our stand is you can’t have volunteers, they can’t do our work.” Notice the possessiveness with which Kruusmagi regards these “public servants.”
So here is a union that represents school employees telling the district and its parents that they rather see children suffer than accept some timely and probably temporary volunteer help. The next time you hear one of these arrogant, self-important and heavy-handed unionistas talk about how they “care about the children,” please remember that it is a fairy tale, with the union playing the role of the big bad wolf.
Just two days ago, the Los Angeles Times published its second blockbuster education story in four months. In August, the Times set the education world atwitter when they published teacher “value added” rankings, much to the consternation of the local teachers’ union, the United Teachers of Los Angeles. The current story delves into the unfairness of a system where performance doesn’t matter when staffing decisions are made. If teachers need to be let go – a common occurrence in fiscally tight times – the layoffs are done strictly by seniority and some of the great younger teachers are given pink slips.
Only a union leader hiding in sheep’s clothing would have us believe that quality should take a back seat to sheer numbers of years on the job when a child’s education – and future — is at stake. Cue UTLA President A.J. Duffy. At a talk to some young teachers at John H. Liechty Middle School in an impoverished part of LA, he was heard to say,
“Saving your jobs would mean that more experienced teachers would lose theirs…. Seniority is the only fair way to do it… and any exception would be ‘an act of disloyalty.’”
An act of disloyalty? To whom? The children who lost some terrific young teachers, who got bumped out of a job by someone who had seniority? No, Duffy’s priority is not children; it is the teacher who has been on the job the longest that is Duffy’s focus. Never mind that studies have shown that after the first few years, teacher time on the job does not translate into better student learning.
There are many good young teachers who have lost jobs to older, less effective ones, and the teachers’ unions will fight tooth and nail to ensure that this policy stays in place. If Duffy was honest, he’d say, “Kids, too bad, but we really don’t care about what’s best for you.”
Children of union employees losing their health insurance, parent volunteers trying to help their local school wind up with a union decrying their efforts and a union insisting on keeping an archaic seniority system in place – parents, it’s advisable to keep your children away from these people as best you can. Leaving your children exposed and vulnerable to big bad wolves is hardly a road to happily ever after.
About the author: Larry Sand 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.