Tuesday, February 16, 2010

In Montgomery County, scare tactics by teachers union are the norm

Another incredibly blunt and spot-on editorial by the Washington Post editorial page, (correctly) calling the Montgomery County teacher union's behavior "thuggery":

MONTGOMERY COUNTY schools are among the best in the nation, a point of pride for the community and a springboard for their students. The system's teachers -- well qualified, professional and highly committed -- are its driving engine. That's why the heavy-handed tactics and occasional political thuggery of the union that represents them do a disservice not only to the county and its much-admired school system but to the teachers themselves.

As we noted on this page last week, the union, known as the Montgomery County Education Association, which represents 11,000 teachers, has increasingly played the part of kingmaker in races for local state legislative seats. Starting in 2006, it embarked on a policy of soliciting "contributions" from the candidates it endorsed on its influential "Apple Ballot." These contributions, often up to the state limit of $6,000, are said to be voluntary, and are meant to defray the cost of the union's mailings and other campaign materials.

Some candidates told us the mailings were worth it. Others said they felt compelled to pay, for fear of incurring the union's wrath, and a few who ran, or thought about running, said the union sought to intimidate them in various ways. A number of officials, including some who paid the union and some who did not, told us they saw the "contributions" as shakedowns, pure and simple. "I felt it was creepy then, and I still feel that way now," said one person subjected to the union's aggressive bid for funds.

Of 47 candidates endorsed by the union in 2006, only a handful declined to pay. One of them was Heather Mizeur, a Democrat who ran successfully for the state House of Delegates. In response, the union's chief political strategist, Jon Gerson, expressed his intense displeasure with her -- despite her solid support for teachers.

Something is seriously amiss when a union acts in this way even as it represents a group of public employees as highly regarded as Montgomery's teachers. And when elected officials, who in principle are responsible for overseeing county and school finances, including employee pay and benefits, feel intimidated by the tactics of the union representing teachers, that's a sign that democratic processes have been turned upside down. In no other county in Maryland -- including others with top-flight schools, every bit the equal of Montgomery's -- does the teachers union exercise such lopsided power, let alone compel candidates, once endorsed, to pay for its political support. This is an instance of a single special-interest group running amok.


In Montgomery County, scare tactics by teachers union are the norm

Washington Post editorial, Thursday, February 11, 2010


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