Thursday, March 03, 2011

Turning to Wisconsin

Turning to Wisconsin, last week I met a city councilor of a major city (top 20, but not in NY) who told me about the thuggish tactics the local teachers union employed against him (out of the spotlight, of course) because he dared to support charter schools.  When we got talking about what's going on in Wisconsin, he told me that while he's a Democrat and believes in collective bargaining and unionization, he actually hopes that Gov. Walker succeeds in crushing the public sector unions there because it might change public sector union behavior in his city (and elsewhere).  It's a powerful argument…


I think Gov. Walker trying to end collective bargaining for everything but wages is going too far – there are often negotiated trade-offs between current compensation vs. long-term health and pension benefits, so why shouldn't all be negotiated at once, but I'm so fed up with unions abusing their power when it comes to work rules (especially getting rid of poor performers) that I have no problem with this power being stripped.  Yes, I know many of these iron-clad job protections came about because of widespread patronage, corruption, and abuses of teachers (especially women) and other public sector workers, but the pendulum has swung too far the other way – plus there are now FAR greater protections for women and against arbitrary terminations. 


At the end of the day, principals need wide latitude to build the teaching corps in their building, which means the ability to hire and fire with few restrictions.  If they abuse this power and, say, fire a great teacher and hire their incompetent nephew, then the performance of the school will suffer and they will (hopefully) lose their jobs (and a great teacher shouldn't have any trouble finding another job).

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