Union refused to accept concessions to help save jobs of younger members
Pay raises for some teachers, pink slips for others. That’s the final ruling from the arbitrator charged with resolving a year-long contract dispute between Nevada’s Clark County School District and its teachers union, the Clark County Education Association.
Superintendent Dwight Jones had asked Clark County’s 18,000 educators to forego pay raises for two years to help the financially beleaguered district fill a $63 million budget hole without any teacher layoffs.
Union leaders refused, demanding the district make good on its contractually obligated pay raises, even though the slightly larger paychecks will cost an estimated 1,350 teachers their jobs.
“About 300,000 students are the losers” from yesterday’s “absurd” decision, concludes a reviewjournal.Com editorial.
Adding to the unjust nature of the arbitrator’s decision is the fact that young, less-experienced teachers will be the ones to lose their jobs, despite recent legislation requiring districts and unions to develop new policies that consider a variety of factors beyond seniority when determining layoffs.
Those policies haven’t been developed, which means the forthcoming layoffs will be based on the district’s current contract that only considers a teacher’s length of service, reports a ReviewJournal.com story.
So goodbye to you, young elementary teacher, whose patience and encouraging spirit helped many struggling students learn how to read.
Goodbye to you, young middle school teacher, whose compassion and empathy made a real difference to the at-risk students who exist on society’s margins.
And goodbye to you, young high school math teacher, whose enthusiasm and innovative teaching methods helped students grasp those complicated but essential concepts they’ll need to succeed in college.
You were making a difference in your students’ lives … but your union needs your salary in order to give the older teachers a little bit more in their paychecks every week. They hope you’ll understand.
Sure, it will be tough to find another teaching job in this economy, and you’re probably going to suffer severe financial hardships. But your union will work hard to elect politicians who will ensure you get the 99 weeks of unemployment you qualify for. Maybe they’ll even pressure Congress into passing another, $10 billion* temporary ”
The CCEA’s got your back. Solidarity forever.
ST. LOUIS KIDS MUST STAY IN FAILING SCHOOLS
In another doozy of a legal ruling, a St. Louis County Circuit Court judge ruled Tuesday that a Missouri law that (theoretically) allowed students to leave an unaccredited school district for a better one – and take their state tax dollars with them – was “unconstitutional and unenforceable,” reports StLToday.com.
The St. Louis school district is one of three Missouri districts that are currently unaccredited by the state, which is a nice way of saying the schools don’t meet basic standards.
The Circuit Court judge sided with the education establishment, which argued the transfer law would cost unaccredited districts so many students – and so much money – that they wouldn’t be able to adequately serve the students who remained behind. They also argued that the “receiving” districts could not feasibly absorb the new students.
But State Sen. Jane Cunningham says the overruled law would have given ample resources to the “receiving” districts to cover the additional costs.
“So even if (the receiving schools) have to buy things, build on, it covers all their costs,” Cunningham told StLToday.com.
If Sen. Cunningham is correct, then it appears that officials from the “good” and “bad” districts might be conspiring to protect the status quo – including untold numbers of unionized teaching and administrative jobs. Missouri taxpayers should demand a better explanation.
Lawmakers could pass legislation that places clear limits on the number of students “receiving” schools must take in, thus removing a central complaint against the transfer law. But “such a remedy has been held hostage in other controversial legislation,” reports StLToday.com. “The latest court action and probable appeal could weaken the leverage of school choice advocates in the Missouri Legislature.”
That means the judge’s ruling is a double loss for the 72,000 students who would have qualified for a transfer, but now have little hope of escaping their subpar schools.
And concerned parents – those who can’t afford private school tuition – are left to worry about the negative, lifelong effects that attending a failing school might have on their children’s lives.
PENSION PROBLEMS HERE, THERE AND EVERYWHERE
You know things are out of whack when a school district can’t afford to pay some of its current teachers because it’s spending more and more of its budget paying pensions to retired teachers.
That dilemma exists all across the nation, a pair of Midwestern states – Ohio and Illinois – are exemplifying two vastly different approaches to solving the pension problem.
Ohio’s teacher retirement system is $13.3 billion in the red. Recently, state officials and teacher union leaders seemed to agree on a reform plan that would gradually require educators to work longer and contribute more to the system before qualifying for a full pension. State lawmakers still need to sign off on the plan, but the fact that union leaders are willing to make some concessions is commendable.
Two states over, Illinois teacher union leaders are taking a much different approach.
A coalition of unions – including the *Illinois Federation of Teachers *and the Illinois Education Association* – are denouncing Democratic Gov. Pat Quinn’s *proposals for shoring up Illinois’ teacher pension plan, which is $44 billion short, reports Galesburg.com.
The crux of Quinn’s proposal is to raise the retirement age, as well as teachers’ pension contribution by 3 percent. Illinois’ teacher union leaders say the proposal is “illegal” and violates the state constitution’s guarantee that pension benefits “shall not be diminished or impaired,” reports McDonoughVoice.com.
One local union president blamed lawmakers for failing to fund the pension plan properly over the past several decades.
“That’s why we’re in this mess,” said Galesburg Education Association President Russ Ullrich.
He might be right, but there’s little to be gained in finger pointing. That ship set sail on the *Sea of Red Ink* long ago – and it’s not coming back.
The Illinois unions should learn from their brethren in the *Buckeye State*, and look reality square in the face. The longer they delay, the worse the pain will be – for teachers, students and taxpayers.
IOWA DISTRICT CONSIDERS GPA REQUIREMENT FOR NEW TEACHERS
What makes a good teacher?
Is it someone who is so well-versed in her subject area that she is able to make complex ideas easily understandable for students?
Or is it someone who can manage a classroom effectively, but is more of a “facilitator” instead of an expert? Many parents would opt for Teacher #1, but, too often, “schools of education” screen prospective students for their personality attributes rather than academic abilities.
That might be one explanation as to why a 2010 *McKinsey & Group study found that 47 percent of the nation’s K-12 teachers come from the bottom-third of their college classes.
And that might explain why members of *Iowa’s Sioux City School Board *are considering a rule that would require all future teacher applicants to have a minimum college grade point average of 3.0 in order to be considered for employment by the district.
“I think this shows we are dedicated to providing the best education possible,” board *Vice President Walt Johnson *said at Monday’s meeting, according to *SiouxCityJournal.com*. Sounds reasonable to us.
The board will conduct “a study of applicants and those who have been hired, to see if the GPA requirement is even necessary,” the paper reports.
We’re eager to hear what they discover, but the head of the local teachers union seems disinterested.
Bruce Lear, executive director of the *Sioux City Education Association, said teacher effectiveness was more dependent on class size and support from parents and administrators than GPA.
Ideally, teachers would be whizzes in both scholastics and classroom management techniques. But that’s not the reality. If school districts are forced to choose, we favor going for the academic expert.
It seems obvious that classroom management skills are a lot easier to acquire than advanced levels of knowledge.
NEW YORK BILLBOARD CAUSES UNION ANGST
It took a New York billboard from the clothier Kenneth Cole to expose a truth about the nation’s teacher unions. Recently, teacher union supporters took to the “Twitterverse” and blogosphere to denounce one of the company’s billboards, which featured a woman wearing a red pants suit, next to the caption: “Shouldn’t everyone be well red?”
What made this particular billboard so scandalous, according to the teacher union community, is that it dared pose another question: “Teachers’ Rights vs. Students’ Rights … WhereDoYou Stand.com.”
Savvy readers will notice that the billboard wasn’t taking a position on the issue; it simply posed a question. But apparently the mere suggestion that students have rights that might take priority over union demands caused labor bosses to flip their lids.
“Don’t pit teachers against students, and take down your hurtful ad, Kenneth Cole!” tweeted American Federation of Teachers President Randi Weingarten, according to GothamSchools.org.
New York’s *United Federation of Teachers issued a statement, taking a swipe at the company’s unsophisticated approach to “complicated educational and political issues.” A New York teacher wrote that the ad was an attempt to “trash” the teaching profession, the news site reports.
The pressure proved too much for the Kenneth Cole company, and it folded faster than one of its stylish pant suits.
“We misrepresented the issue – one too complex for a billboard – and are taking it down,” the company tweeted.
“Misrepresented the issue”? Maybe the company is suggesting that students don’t have rights, after all? Oh well, there’s nothing new about corporate cowardice.
But this little billboard kerfuffle is instructive, because it illustrates what really causes outrage among the nation’s teacher union leaders.
It’s not the alarming number of students trapped inside failing schools, or the potentially dangerous or predatory teachers who use tenure laws to remain in the classroom.
And it’s certainly not the many young teachers who get pink slips so their veteran colleagues can keep their automatic “step” raises.
It’s the mere suggestion that students have rights, and their needs might be more important than union salary and benefit demands. Very instructive indeed.
POLL FINDS MICHIGAN VOTERS LIKE EDUCATION REFORM
State lawmakers who want to pass serious education reforms, but are skittish about blowback from the teacher unions, can take heart.
A new poll finds that a significant majority of Michigan residents support newly passed reforms to tenure and teacher evaluations. A new Marketing Research Group survey finds that 79 percent of state residents support tenure reform; 72 percent support annual evaluations of teachers, using multiple measures; and 53 percent approve of ending “last in, first out” layoff practices for teachers.
Those are encouraging numbers, especially considering that Michigan is a Big Labor “blue state” that is home to the (once-powerful) United Auto Workers.
Even more remarkable, the poll results come after the Michigan Education Association – the state’s largest teachers union – waged a lengthy campaign against Gov. Rick Snyder, in vain hopes of removing him from office. But Gov. Snyder’s not going anywhere, and neither are the reforms.
If Michigan is capable of passing groundbreaking education reforms with the support of a large majority of voters, then reform can occur nearly anywhere. Stay strong, education reformers. Teacher unions make a lot noise, but they are no match for an idea whose time has come.