Friday, June 03, 2011

Behind Grass-Roots School Advocacy, Bill Gates

My last email about the front-page NYT story, Behind Grass-Roots School Advocacy, Bill Gates ( triggered this perfect response from a friend:


It seems like it has become fashionable recently to publish pieces "exposing" the shady underworld of funding for education reform (  As a fundraiser now, and a formerly unionized NYC teacher, I have to say I find this one-sided take a bit perplexing.  From what I remember of my time in the classroom about 12 years ago, each paycheck there was a deduction taken out that went straight to union dues whether I wanted to participate or not.  And a large amount of those dues then presumably went towards the teachers union's massive lobbying effort to ensure things like: 1) teachers in NYC are basically impossible to fire no matter how badly they perform; 2) last in, first out; 3) no performance measures using any real metrics…etc.


According to a piece earlier this year in the WSJ, in NYC alone the union recorded $125.6 million in dues in 2010.  And these dues were made permanently mandatory for public union employees.  So teachers have no choice but to contribute.  There are over 80,000 teachers in NYC.  So they each paid around $157 in 2010 on average.  If you assume (just some very rough back of the envelope math here) that the average teacher around the country pays in even a third of this, it means that national union dues would be around $1.5 billion for 2010.  Given the amount the unions spend on protecting their interests – which from my experience in NYC public schools included a lot of work to protect completely incompetent, negligent and even abusive teachers – it would take decades of philanthropic spending from the nation's wealthiest foundations and individuals to even begin to level the playing field and turn the tides in our nation's world-lagging, dysfunctional urban school systems. 


So a big thank you to these brilliant muckraking journalists who are sharing just how crooked Bill Gates' philanthropy is.  Maybe now they can balance that out with a quick look at just how massive an uphill fight it is just to begin to counter the mandatory dues that unions have spent for decades to make sure even a no-show teacher cannot be fired.


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