On 02/05/2008, I authored a post “Benevolent Dictators Make Good Government”. Examples are King David – Israel – (1010 BC –970 B.C.) in ancient times and General Douglas McArthur – Japan – (1945 –1947) in modern times. I started musing about what I would do if I were absolute dictator of the United States to fast track our country back to a position of greatness and prosperity. Therefore I am submitting a series of posts to PA Pundits (many controversial) about how I would provide solutions to the major issues facing our nation.
I would issue an order that all teacher unions will be abolished. As noted in a post on the Executive Branch, the Federal Department of Education will also be gone, removing a plethora of regulations and unfunded mandates. Also, I will institute a universal system of vouchers, where the money is given to the parents, not to school boards or politicians at the local, county, state, or national level. I will also issue an order that tenure will be eliminated for all school systems, including Universities. Finally, I will mandate sensible dress codes and/or uniforms for all students K through 12 to help erase economic differences and promote school safety.
Led by the American Federation of Teachers and the National Education Association, teachers unions contributed about $5.4 million to federal candidates, parties and committees during the 2008 election cycle. As is true with unions in general, most of the money coming from this category goes to Democrats. Teachers unions contribute 95 percent of their funds to Democrats — a rate that’s above average among labor unions across the board. The AFT contributed $2.8 million during the 2008 cycle, with 99 percent going to Democrats. For its part, the NEA contributed $2.5 million, with 91 percent going to Democrats. Teachers unions’ primary goals include decreasing class sizes, defeating proposals to offer public school students vouchers for private schools and improving student/teacher interaction. The unions also focus on issues of pay, tenure and the availability of classroom resources. During 2008, teachers unions spent about $2.7 million on federal lobbying. This is down from a record $10.2 million in 2007.The NEA leads these groups in lobbying spending, doling out $1.5 million in 2008. The AFT also invests significantly on lobbying, spending about $960,000 in 2008.
Not since the late Albert Shanker has a teachers union official been so candid about the true priorities of the National Education Association. Shanker, president of the American Federation of Teachers famously said:
When school children start paying union dues, that ‘s when I’ll start representing the interests of school children.
Now NEA general counsel Bob Chanin, speaking to the teachers union convention, goes even further:
Despite what some among us would like to believe it is not because of our creative ideas; it is not because of the merit of our positions; it is not because we care about children; and it is not because we have a vision of a great public school for every child. The NEA and its affiliates are effective advocates because we have power. And we have power because there are more than 3.2 million people who are willing to pay us hundreds of million of dollars in dues each year because they believe that we are the unions that can most effectively represent them; the union that can protect their rights and advance their interests as education employees.
The education documentary Waiting for Superman makes one thing crystal clear, that the main problem with our public school education system is the teachers unions. It is self-evident that throwing more and more money into the Department of Education over the years has not. solved the issues in relation to our educational system. Our educational system is broken.
For decades the unions have been creating generations of children who will be dependent on the government because of the teachers having no clear incentive to teach well. This is because the Democrats’ are in the teachers union’s pockets and they believe in Big Government and want to create an atmosphere where multitudes of adults are dependent on the government they put on a pedestal. One of the main problems with the teachers unions is that the teachers have a total lack of accountability. It doesn’t matter to the unions if there are teachers who are incompetent and not meeting certain standards because as the head of the NTA stated they are “against proposals that divide people” There are no incentives for being a good teacher. One would think that all teachers are duty bound to teach their kids properly. But both the lackadaisical attitude and this I-am-owed-something attitude has spread so rampantly among all Democrat controlled sectors of employment.
Democrats are a study in contradictions. They want a woman to have a choice in having or aborting a baby, but if she decides to have the child, that’s where the choice should end. First, they and the teachers unions want the youngster put in government funded day care so he or she can be indoctrinated with liberal philosophy. Then, at five or six years old, they want the child to enroll in the only true monopoly in our country – the public school system. They know that if given a choice, with vouchers, parents will abandon the failing public schools in droves. This would force school systems to examine their bloated bureaucracies and realize that more money isn’t the answer. On November 9, 1998, the United States Supreme Court voted to let stand the decision to allow $5,000.00 vouchers for about five thousand students of poor families in Milwaukee, Wisconsin. Hopefully, this will open the floodgates for choice.
An analysis of the Milwaukee publicly run voucher program by shows the parents of “choice” kids are virtually unanimous in their opinion of the program; they love it. Parents are not only far more satisfied with their freely chosen private schools than they were with their former public schools, they participate more actively in their children’s education now that they’ve made the move. A reanalysis of the raw data by statisticians and educational researchers from Harvard and the University of Houston found that choice students do indeed benefit academically from the program, showing significant gains in both reading and mathematics by their fourth year of participation. Privately funded and operated voucher programs are perhaps the most effective way to help low-income families become active consumers in the educational marketplace, helping them to gain control over their children’s education and encouraging them to become more involved. More than two-dozen private voucher programs exist in cities across the United States, and Terry Moe has collected some of the most interesting and compelling studies of these programs in Private Vouchers. The attitudes and motivations of participating parents are explored, as are the academic effects of programs from Texas to Wisconsin. Truly an important source of empirical evidence for anyone interested in the impact of competition and choice on the ability of schools to serve the needs of families.
A group called Students First has a mission to build a national movement that will defend the interests of children in public education and pursue reform so America will have the best education system in the world. They have put together some statistics that are quite alarming. The literacy rates among fourth grade students In the U.S. are sobering. In a recent report by the Annie E. Casey Foundation, one out of three students scored below “basic” on the 2009 National Assessment of Education Progress (NAEP) Reading Test. Among these low performing students, 49% come from low income families. Even more alarming is the fact that more than 67% of all U.S. fourth graders scored “below proficient”, meaning they are not reading at grade level. Reading proficiency among middle and high school students isn’t much better. On the test, about 26% of eighth graders and 27% of twelfth graders scored below the “basic” level and only 32% of eighth graders and 38% of twelfth graders are at or above grade level. It is going to be hard for our students to compete in the global market for jobs such as engineers, scientists, physicians, and creative entrepreneurs when according to an assessment by the Organization for Economic Cooperation and Development found that 15-year-olds in the U.S. placed 25th out of 30 countries in math performance and 21st in science. Test scores have not improved in decades. In April 2009, Education Week reported that average math and reading scores for 17-year-olds in the NAEP tests have remained stagnant since the 1970s. And according to The Journal, fourth and eighth grade reading scores “have barely budged” since 1992, despite policy and investment focused on improving student achievement. This problem cannot be postponed because of union demands. Our public education priority is supposed to be about the students, not about the adults. If the teachers are not held accountable, the United States will no longer be a global leader in innovation or understand the meanng of hard work and responsibility.
Several states now have laws advancing through the legislatures that would change tenure for schoolteachers. Ohio Senate Bill 5 has many controversial provisions including the elimination of tenure. Proponents say this will prevent teachers who can’t make the grade from keeping their jobs year after year. As passed by the state Senate, the bill would eliminate certain collective bargaining abilities for public employees, as well as the right to strike. It would also remove tenure for teachers who have not already earned it or would not earn it under their current contracts. Instead, they would be limited to a maximum five-year contract. Under a recent law passed during former Gov. Ted Strickland’s administration, teachers must work in a district for 7 years before becoming eligible for tenure. Senate Bill 5 is being touted as a way to help address a looming $8 Billion deficit in the upcoming biennial budget. The law was enacted on March 11, 20011.
Wisconsin’s new governor’s attempts to overhaul its public employee collective bargaining rights received much attention early in 2011. In 2011, citing a large budget deficit, Governor Scott Walker proposed a new budget bill that would eliminate most collective bargaining rights for public employees and require workers to pay half of their pension costs and at least 12% of state health insurance premiums. The state’s Democratic state senators left the state hoping to prevent a quorum and passage of the bill. Despite numerous protests and the absence of the state’s Democratic senators, Wisconsin Act 10 was passed and Governor Walker signed it on March 11, 2011. The law takes away all collective bargaining rights for state employees except for wages. Any raises beyond the rate of inflation would require voter referendum and approval. The law requires public employees to pay more for pensions and health insurance and prohibits state and municipal governments from collecting union dues. The Dane County District Attorney filed suit for violations of Wisconsin’s open meeting laws and the Dane County, WI Circuit Court issued a permanent injunction against the Act, ruling that the joint Assembly-Senate conference committee violated the open meeting laws when it considered and passed Wisconsin Act 10. The Wisconsin Supreme Court held oral argument on June 6, 2011 on whether it should accept jurisdiction over an appeal. On June 14, 2011, the Wisconsin Supreme Court in a 4-3 decision vacated the lower court’s injunction, stating the lower court “usurped the legislative power that the Wisconsin Constitution grants exclusively to the legislature” by enjoining publication of the law and further held that in enacting Wisconsin Act 10, the legislature did not violate the open meetings provisions of Wisconsin’s Constitution. This was a major blow to unions nationwide.
In recent years, schools across the country have experienced violence, gang activity, and thefts of clothing and accessories. Many school boards, mindful of their responsibility to provide safe school environments for students, have implemented policies specifying dress codes or the wearing of uniforms. As many as 25 percent of the nation’s public elementary, middle, and junior high schools were expected to implement dress-related policies during the 1997-98 school year, according to the California School News (March 31, 1997). Ten states allow school districts to mandate school uniforms. One of the chief benefits of school uniforms is that they make schools safer. Uniforms are said to reduce gang influence, minimize violence by reducing some sources of conflict, and help to identify trespassers. Parents benefit because they are no longer pressured to buy the latest fashions, and they spend less on their children’s clothing. Uniforms help erase cultural and economic differences among students, set a tone for serious study, facilitate school pride, and improve attendance. Uniforms also enhance students’ self-concepts, classroom behavior, and academic performance.
Credits – Michelle Rhee