Thursday, November 11, 2010

"Democracy" Teacher Union Style

LA-based blogger Anthony Krinsky with a rant about how the UTLA effectively hijacks school board elections, which is reflective of a HUGE but little discussed national problem: the school board elections are typically held off-cycle so turnout is usually super-low (10% range).  Given the unions' organizing and turn-out-the-vote capabilities, they can effectively elect the very people who they then negotiate from.  If this sounds insane…well, it is!


Against this back-drop, remember that school board elections are held off-cycle and fewer than one in five Los Angeleans will cast a ballot (historically, 11% turn-out is typical). Most of those who do will be school employees, family members of school employees, and union friends commanded to get to the polls. They will come with their lists. For the rest of us, there will be no easy way to distinguish union backed candidates from those truly interested in helping children.

To the slaughter-house our candidates will go. I'm guessing that Yolie knew this would happen. She ain't dignifying the charade. Do you blame her?

As I noted in a prior post (, Rod Paige's book The War Against Hope describes how the unions utterly destroyed Mayor Riordan's reform candidates, Caprice Young and Genethia Hayes, in their 2003 re-election campaigns. Did their board perform poorly? Shockingly no. Grade-school math and reading scores had doubled in the preceding four years. Have scores gone up or down under the aegis of the current LAUSD school board? Mmmm....

You would think that a school district's performance would have something to do with whether school board members can win re-election. This is union-style democracy and that message will never be heard. We cannot compete with their megaphone and if you add up the money they have access to at the local, state, and national level - and I'm not just talking about what they have in the bank but their lines of credit (the same ones tapped to kill the 7x propositions a few years ago) reformers cannot possibly be expected to beat them. Has this system changed recently? Are these new capabilities for evil and domination? No, it's always been this way. The real question is why does this system exist. It's not personal, it's structural. Jesus Christ himself would lose a school board election against the coordinated efforts of the UTLA, CTA, CFT, NEA, and AFT.

…It's simply a fact that you will not last long on any school board in America without a pro-union agenda. How do I know? Name a district where the union contract has shrunk? Where hiring and firing is competitive. Where children and parents needs come first. It does not exist. Terry Moe at Stanford studied school board elections and lays bare this central plank in union political strategy: unions elect the school boards with whom they negotiate contracts -- controlling both sides of the bargaining table

This is ladies and gentleman, the Democracy that makes Diane Ravitch's heart race. A contest that appears fair but is purpose built for one very undemocratic purpose: to ensure that anyone who challenges the status quo is defeated with authority. The better the candidate, the worse the pummelling. This is democracy: teacher union style.

…We're on the edge of cliff here in Los Angeles. The unions own the governor, the legislature, the state superintendent of public education. They're going to gut the state school board ("needs a teacher's perspective" they mock). And now, they'll control the LAUSD school board, lock-stock-and-barrel. Why does it matter? Putting aside the $30 billion chunk of the LA economy, it really matters now because the district will soon be firing lots of teachers because of state budget short-falls. Will these teachers be the young unenthusiastic ones or the ones committing educational malpractice on our children, every day? In short, will tenure be enforced in the LAUSD or ushered out of existence as large city mayors like Blumberg have committed to do? The ACLU suit merely scratches the surface and the implications for children could not be more fundamental. See Waiting for Superman if you want to learn more.

If you think that a school board contest financed by state and national unions with literally hundreds of millions of dollars on-tap is not fair, speak up! What is so sacred about "public governance" when it can be bought, whenever the unions feel moved?

We legitimize school board elections every time we have one. And the institution hasn't worked in a long time. It just wasn't designed to survive an era of exclusive bargaining and mandatory dues deduction. The odds against children changed dramatically around 49 years ago when Albert Shanker blew up the balance of power in education politics by uniting 100 New York City professional teachers associations into one industrial-style, AFL-CIO affiliated union. NEA affiliates followed quickly to prevent the AFT from raiding their locals and adopted the AFT's militant stance. Look at the data. Spending up. Class size down. Teacher quality down. Student achievement flat-lined. Union influence on the Democratic party: unprecedented. They own us and every school board in America serves at their pleasure. Why do we continue to sacrifice children at the altar of the teacher unions? Why do we allow these injustices to occur?

It's no wonder why our most rapidly improving urban districts are controlled by their mayors (NYC), who aren't subject to being tossed around by union elected school boards. But even mayoral control eventually breaks down -- for these same reasons. Just look east to Washington, DC. The unions got their man and now Michelle Rhee's reforms will be unwound.

…When will sensible politicians raise their hands and leave this teacher union casino? The kids deserve certain success not our wild-eyed dream that this roll of the dice will lead to anything but the loss of another generation of poor kids.


Friday, November 5, 2010

"Democracy" Teacher Union Style


A few weeks ago, the LA Times ran an article breaking news of the ACLU settlement that at the margin affected seniority in certain schools. The Times noted that the UTLA had left the bargaining table and the school board reciprocated by going dark. The UTLA was apparently caught off-guard because they were deeply busy interviewing school board candidates to insure that their Banana Republic is this time, more fully compliant. No more pesky 5-4 votes for expanding school choice and no more independent minded board members willing call failing schools "drop out factories" on camera.

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