The Dog Days of summer are making teachers unions sweat as they get caught being, well, teachers unions.
August has been a bad month for teachers unions. And looking at things objectively, it would appear that every one of their hot flashes has been well deserved. In no particular order:
The SOS March was a dud. It was supposed to be a teacher-led event, but the unions were really behind it. The small turnout had its share of angry, mostly leftist teachers whining and shouting about this and that. No one paid much attention. The speakers were just what you’d expect. Jonathan Kozol, forty years later, is still railing about poverty causing ignorance. (No, actually ignorance causes poverty.) Then the marchers were treated to former reformer and current union mouthpiece Diane Ravitch who chirped about how wonderful they all were. And then the big gun, Matt Damon, who if nothing else showed what a great actor he is. The guy who played a convincing genius in Good Will Hunting demonstrates that without a good script he’s about as sharp as a marble.
The Wisconsin recall didn’t work. Those testy teachers in the cheesehead state who were furious at Governor Scott Walker and the Republicans in the state legislature for curtailing collective bargaining and keeping the state from insolvency, failed in their bid to recall the offending legislators. Actually they did manage to recall two of the six Republicans but they needed three to gain a Democrat majority. Hence, Wisconsin will continue its economic recovery. (Memo to those teachers: your tantrums and sense of entitlement really turn off the common folk who, by the way, pay your salaries. Maybe a little less victimology next time. Also, do your homework – nowhere does it say that collective bargaining is a “human right.”)
American Federation of Teachers posts arrogant PowerPoint on its website. The AFT bragged about eviscerating a Parent Trigger law in Connecticut and posted its strategy on their website. The 19 slide presentation unabashedly and cynically describes the process by which the union disempowered parents. After writer RiShawn Biddle blogged about the offending web page, AFT removed it. Too late – the story got out. AFT President Randi Weingarten tried to do damage control but her lukewarm, faux semi-apology fooled no one.
AFT gets caught again – this time sliming Michelle Rhee. Rheefirst.com is a malicious website dedicated to excoriating education reformer Michelle Rhee. The site is nasty, vindictive, very personal AND, according to POLITICO, registered to the AFT offices in D.C. The site is so full of hatred that they refer to Ms. Rhee, a liberal Democrat, as “the Sarah Palin of education.” Comparing a Democrat to the former Reublican governor of Alaska is like comparing a Jew to Hitler. Can’t get any nastier than that. Thus far, the union has not come forth with any explanation or apology. Long time Rhee foe, Randi Weingarten, probably just can’t come up with anything that would pass the smell test. But then again, that never stopped her before.
United Federation of Teachers in NY fails to stop release of test scores. According to the Wall Street Journal, “A state court on Thursday ordered New York City to release data that ranks thousands of school teachers based on student test scores, saying the public interest in disclosure overrides privacy concerns.” Very simply, this means that not only parents but taxpayers have a right to know how well the teachers, whose salaries they pay, are performing. But accountability is wolfbane for teachers unions. With accountability, some teachers will be judged better than others. And when that happens, the better teachers might demand higher salaries than their less effective coworkers. Also, the seniority system will be exposed as the dinosaur that it is, meaningful school reform just might begin to take hold and the union will become much less powerful, and perhaps even irrelevant.
And then, there’s Richard “Rhetorical Overreach” Iannuzzi. The New York State United Teachers boss said, “It’s a conservative, right-wing agenda that is using a sort of hostage-terrorist approach to public service. We haven’t learned much from history: When you appease terrorists, you get more terrorism. That’s what we’re seeing.” He was referring to the fact that teachers in New York will now be judged in part by student performance, and there will be some cuts to certain useless programs in an attempt to save the financially troubled state a few bucks. Apparently, one of the right-wing-agenda-loving-terrorists Mr. Iannuzzi is alluding to is Liberal Democrat New York Governor Andrew Cuomo, who is very supportive of the changes.
All this goes to show that it’s very tough work trying to control the growing dissatisfaction over the disintegration of America’s public schools. Just think of all the things that a union boss has to be concerned with – denying parents more power in choosing what kind of school their kid goes to, attempting to personally destroy reformers, petitioning the courts in an attempt to keep parents and taxpayers in the dark about how effective teachers are, etc. So it’s understandable after a particularly bruising month they need some R&R to lick their wounds and regroup for the next round of battles.
The United Teachers of Los Angeles thought they could quietly do just that. Unfortunately the union ticked off writer Ann-Marie Murrell who wanted to spend an extra night with her husband at the La Quinta Resort and Spa, a luxury hotel in Palm Springs. They were told they had to check out because UTLA had booked every available room. You see, every year, the LA teachers union elites go to a ritzy hotel in Palm Springs to plan their dirty work. For the past few years, their destination has been La Quinta, part of the Waldorf Astoria chain, which has nine golf courses, posh clothing stores, 41 swimming pools and 53 Jacuzzis. Of course they could have saved a bundle by staying at a cheaper hotel, but when you’re flush with cash that you have successfully extorted from your rank-and-file, why skimp? (Think Animal Farm – and realize that in teachers unions, just like in communism, all animals are equal but some animals are more equal than others.)
Not surprisingly, a recent Gallup poll found that 47 percent of Americans think that teachers unions hurt education while only 26 percent think they help. And if August 2011 is a sign of things to come, the only people left who think the teachers unions benefit the children of America will be hot and sweaty union bosses.
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.