Corrupt, Parasitical Teacher Unions

The reining-in of public sector unions by U.S. State governors was long overdue. Labor unions in the private sector are automatically restrained from overreaching: If employers take excessive advantage of their workers, unionized workers, by striking or deliberately slowing down production, minimize their employers’ profits and thereby compel the employers to treat them fairly. On the other hand, if the workers demand too much from their employers, the employers can close shop and take their business elsewhere. So both sides keep each other in check by adversarial self-interest.

With the public sector no such restraints on unions exist. Because the employer here is government and government cannot take its business elsewhere, unionized workers can demand, and get, all they want with near impunity, the only constrain being the money exacted from taxpayers, which public labor unions tend to regard as limitless. Not surprisingly, it is the cost of meeting the ever-rising demands of public sector unions that is bankrupting state and municipal governments in the U.S. and, for that matter, entire nations like Greece, Ireland and Portugal.

Then, too, there is the issue of the quality of the work provided by unionized public sector workers. Occasional instances of featherbedding and corruption aside, firefighters, police officers, paramedics, refuse collectors, and most other public sectors workers in America provide vital services to their community. But such is not always the case with K-12 public school teachers, as clearly evident by the inferior, not say dismal, performance of American public school vis à vis those in other developed countries, and even in some developing countries. On average, your typical union-protected classroom teachers in American public schools, especially those at the crucial elementary school level--not to mention the host of featherbedded teaching assistants, administrators, bureaucrats, counselors, clinicians specialists and such--are not educators in the full sense of the word. (See my blog “Uneducated Educators.”) Professional baby-sitters would be a more apt name for them. In Singapore new public school teachers are recruited from the top 30% of their graduating class. In the United States they come from the bottom 23%. Not surprisingly, 15-year-olds in Singapore ranked second in recent international academic tests, while the American counterparts ranked 31st.

Budget slashing U.S. governors might consider easing up a bit on crucial public unions, like those representing police and firefighters, but as regard the mammoth, mediocrity-promoting teacher unions, they would be doing their constituents a huge favor by drastically curtailing their power, or eliminating it altogether.

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