The Teachers Union's Fumbled Play

I believe it was Gaylord Nelson, then governor of Wisconsin, who first recognized the right of public employees to collectively bargain, and it was another governor of Wisconsin, Scott Walker, who decades later under state law virtually eliminated it with wonderful results for teachers, local governments, and pupils.

Our reforms in Wisconsin -- known as Act 10 -- changed that by all but eliminating collective bargaining for government employees. This puts the taxpayers and the officials they elect back in charge of their state and local governments, instead of unelected union bureaucrats. 

I have no doubt that local, state, and federal governments, including school boards, are under the control of teachers unions which contribute significant amounts of time, campaign workers, and money to left-wing politicians.

Teachers unions have steadily amped up their political involvement: From 2004 to 2016, their donations grew from $4.3 million to more than $32 million -- an all-time high. Even more than most labor unions, they have little use for Republicans, giving Democrats at least 94 percent of the funds they contributed to candidates and parties since as far back as 1990, where our data begins.

Two organizations account for practically all of the contributions made by teachers unions: The National Education Association (about $20 million in 2016) and the American Federation of Teachers (almost $12 million). Both groups -- which compete for members, but also collaborate with each other through the NEA-AFT Partnership -- are consistently among the organizations that contribute the most money to candidates and political groups. 

In turn, collective bargaining with the unions is carried out by persons selected by those same politicians whom the unions support to give the unions what they ask for. The true employers -- the parents and taxpayers -- are not at the table. This has allowed these unions extraordinary power to be free of any meaningful parental control of teaching materials and school operational policies. Any school board member who dares to disagree can expect a well-funded targeting by the unions in an atmosphere where too many parents lack enough interest to defend the member’s actions and work to retain him.

The outrageous directive by Attorney General Merrick Garland that ordered the FBI to investigate as “domestic terrorists” parents who objected to the public-school boards’ policies had only highlighted the overweening power of the unionized teachers. As I explained last week, operatives in the White House colluded with left-wing officers of the National School Boards Association to draft a letter to Garland seeking such federal chilling of the growing parental dissatisfaction with curricula (particularly sex education and Critical Race Theory), failed disciplinary procedures, library offerings of clearly pornographic materials, and transgender restroom policies. Garland admitted in congressional hearings this week that his sole basis for targeting parents as “domestic terrorists” for demonstrating their concerns about what their kids were being taught was the very letter from the NSBA which the White House had had a big hand in instigating.

Friday, a day after Garland’s testimony, the Association apologized for that letter. The apology was addressed to the members of the association and not to the parents or the general public.

It’s rather mealy mouthed, saying that the process involved was faulty and they will try to do better in the future, but the apology means more than just protecting the Association from further criticism and withdrawals from the Association by local and state school boards around the country. It seems to me they just pulled the rug out from under the attorney general and his ill-considered directive to the FBI. His was a policy that has infuriated parents, including suburban housewives who so often blindly vote Democrat without fully appreciating the effect Democrats' policies have on their families and lives. (I think it infuriated some DoJ attorneys, too. Where do you think the reports that they’d objected to this directive came from?)

What do you think is the backstory? I think Terry McAuliffe’s surprisingly tight battle -- in which he sided with the unions, saying parents had no right to decide on school library offerings and curricula and the outrageous lies and the conduct of the Loudoun County, Virginia school board and superintendent -- has scared the dickens out of the Democrat-Teachers Unions cabal, and they’re trying to tamp down the flames they self-destructively set.

Until now, as the great Thomas Sowell writes, no one has paid much attention to the disaster in Virginia’s public schools. 

Although Virginia has been a politically blue state for years, this year's election has the Democrats' governor facing a serious challenge.

One of the reasons is that many Virginia parents are outraged by the "woke" propaganda their children are being subjected to in the public schools -- and the governor has sided with the education bureaucrats and the teachers union.

Very few politicians in any state dare to go against the teachers unions, which have millions of votes and millions of dollars in campaign contributions.

This is one battle in a much bigger war, and the stakes are far higher than the governorship of Virginia or the Democrats and Republicans. The stakes are the future of this nation. 

As Sowell observes, the CRT propaganda which “teaches black kids to hate white people, is a danger to all Americans of every race.” It will tear this country apart, and it does no favor to children of any race.

As pernicious as this warped propaganda is, the lack of discipline in schools also hurts every child. In part it began with Obama’s ill-considered policies on “disparate outcomes,” where discrimination was held to be the reason why more Black kids than others were being disciplined. (In every case I can think of, “disparate outcomes” is an irrational measure of discrimination. Are there more Blacks than Whites in the NBA, more Asians in the top ranks of mathematicians, because of discrimination or varying talents, interests, and behaviors?) Administrators had the choice of being unduly harsh on non-Black students to even out the record, to ignore all students’ disciplinary problems, or to simply transfer the offending student to another school as was done in Loudoun County where the alleged rapist went elsewhere and repeated his offending behavior there.

I am heartened to learn of Dads on Duty:

After a violent week of fighting in school that saw 23 students arrested in three days, Southwood High School parents knew something had to change.

Some dads decided to take matters into their own hands. They formed Dads on Duty -- a group of about 40 dads who take shifts spending time at the school in Shreveport, Louisiana, greeting students in the morning and helping maintain a positive environment for learning, rather than fighting. 

The students say it's working -- and the numbers prove it. There hasn't been a single incident on campus since the dads showed up.

I hope that in other places where school disciplinary procedures prove inadequate to the task, parents would step up like this. But it’s not the best solution. Sowell is right -- we have to allow more charter schools where, free of union interference, children, including those who parents lack the time and ability to step up to the plate by volunteering their efforts or holding school boards and administrators accountable for bad acts, have an option to obtain valuable learning skills in a safe environment.  Until that happens, enact laws prohibiting or sharply limiting the scope of collective bargaining with public teachers unions.

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