Chicago Teachers Strike

It’s All About the Teachers, Not the Kids

The Chicago Teachers Union says it’s ‘striking for better schools’ as it puts almost 400,000 students out of the classroom and sends parents scrambling to find somewhere safe for their children to stay while they work.  But what are the teachers really striking for?  More goodies!  What else!  After all, that’s the only purpose left for unions in the 21st century.  And how do they get those goodies?  By sending union dues to the Democrats and promising to vote for them.  Even though Obama’s own City of Chicago has a staggering budget deficit, Mayor Rahm Emanuel, not wanting to bite the hand that feeds him, offered to settle with the teachers by giving them a 16% pay raise.  But, no, that wasn’t nearly enough for the teachers who are already the second highest paid in the nation with an average median salary greater than $76,000.  Instead, they are insisting on a 30% pay raise, no change in benefits, no teacher evaluations based on student test scores and no lengthening of school days to match most other schools in the nation.  Gosh, with a graduation rate of only 55% maybe the city should take advantage of this opportunity to just let them all go.

Union Members Forfeit Status as Professionals

There once was a time when teachers were considered professionals like ‘doctors and lawyers and such’ or nurses and engineers, all highly trained individuals who provide a specialized service and are required to put the interests of the client above their own interests.  It goes without saying, then, that union members of any kind cannot be considered professionals, because in order to live up to the high standards implied by the term ‘professional’ a nurse could not walk out on her patients and a teacher could not walk out on his students.  All this notwithstanding, the Chicago Teachers Strike could not have come at a better time for the Republicans.  Just two months before the most important election of our lifetime, the union bosses have put their greed and thuggery back in the national spotlight, reminding voters of the sickening, symbiotic relationship between the Democrat Party and the unions.

Union Bosses are Losers in Wisconsin

Squashed Like Bugs

Big union bosses suffered an ignominious defeat Tuesday in their ill-conceived attempt to recall Wisconsin Governor Scott Walker.  Squashed like the pesty bugs that they are, labor fat-cats were spurned at the polls even by their own dues paying members.  Taken as a sign that this victory for fiscal conservatives is part of a national trend, presaging (see WOW) a major change in November, Wall Street responded on Wednesday with a gain of 286 points, its best day yet of 2012.  And no, it wasn’t because of the proposed rescue of Spain’s banks by the European Central Bank.

A National Trend

Election results in other states provide ample evidence that anti-union sentiment is not limited to one region of the country.  In San Jose, California, for example, almost 70% of the electorate voted for pension reform which will affect pension payouts for city workers as well as requiring new negotiating parameters with public employee unions.  The results of Tuesday’s election are all the more impressive when you consider that the State of Wisconsin and the City of San Jose, California are not exactly bastions of conservative thinking.  Considering that unions poured millions of dollars into Wisconsin to defeat Governor Walker it appears that organized labor has been hit between the eyes with a two-by-four!

Unions are Obsolete

Labor unions are now seen as obsolete dinosaurs left over from the early part of the last century.  No one would deny that in the beginning they served the purpose of defining and securing healthy, safe and fair working conditions for American workers.  For many years now those conditions have been guaranteed by state and federal labor laws, leaving the unions with no real purpose other than to serve as Democrat political action committees and to otherwise stir up trouble (called rabble rousing) in order to continue collecting dues.  As a consequence, less than 7% of private sector workers in the United States now belong to unions and many government employees only join because they are required to.  Governor Scott Walker’s outstanding leadership and gentlemanly approach, along with his stunning success in turning around the Wisconsin economy have provided a dramatic contrast to the strident, greedy and desperate labor union bosses.  We are delighted to see that the people of Wisconsin have abandoned the dinosaurs and joined Governor Walker’s team.

California’s Failing Public School System

Failing Schools

Everyone knows that the California public school system is failing.  Many of us also know that it had a long way to fall from its heyday back in the 1950s and 60s when it was the envy of the world.  Under the leadership of Max Rafferty (California Superintendent of Public Instruction, 1963-1971) and other conservative educators, the system flourished, producing some of the top students in the country, indeed in the world.  Competition for entry into the college system was fierce among the many highly qualified students who were prepared well by the ‘professional’ teachers of that time.  Sadly, the school system is now run by the California Teachers Association and the National Education Association, the state and national teacher’s unions respectively, and these two entities must be held accountable for the dismal situation the public school system now finds itself in.

Other Contributing Factors

To be sure, there are other factors that have contributed to the failure of public schools and the dissolution of the family is certainly one of them.  As we saw in our last article, ‘Where Did California’s Education Money Go?’, another reason for the demise of California’s once outstanding schools has been the squandering of public funds by the Democrat and union controlled California legislature.  Finally, the expenses and accommodations required to assimilate the non-English speaking students who have overwhelmed so many schools have provided the coup de grace or finishing blow.

Public School Students Have Been Cheated

Under the tutelage (see WOW) of ‘union shop’ teachers, today’s students waste valuable class time on liberal indoctrination and many graduate from high school without even the basic skills required for success in the real world, let alone college. With college admission standards lowered and curriculum requirements adjusted to accommodate students who really are not equipped to succeed in college, the marketability of a college degree is now in question.  As a result, the final indignity that students have had to bear is the outrageous and continually rising college tuition fees that they must now pay in return for little value received.

Get the Unions out of the Classroom!

There are some very obvious ‘fixes’ that could greatly improve the California public school system.  First and foremost, the unions must be removed from the classroom.  The negative impact that the CTA and the NEA have had on the quality of public school education across the nation cannot be underestimated.  They are largely responsible for the time wasted on liberal indoctrination, the protection of poor teachers through tenure and the outrageous benefits granted to public employees.  Imagine if instead we rewarded the many wonderful teachers who, against all odds, provide inspiring instruction and serve as excellent role models for today’s students!

School Vouchers are the Way to Go

Next, a school voucher program must be established so that parents who opt out of public school education for their children do not have to pay twice, once for private school and again for the public schools that they choose not to use.  Many more students would be able to transfer out of failing schools and take advantage of private and charter schools under a voucher system.  Public schools would have to compete and would be forced to improve.  This will not be an easy task, because a union’s worst enemy is competition.  The CTA and the NEA will tenaciously cling to their empire at the expense of both students and teachers, rather than submit to competition.  Why?  Because unions know they would lose not only the battle for control, but also the mandatory union dues from their members…the cash that keeps the fat-cat union bosses in clover.

We Must All Get Involved

Finally, parents must get involved at the local level in their children’s schools.  They must visit the classroom and attend school board meetings regularly to demand quality education, a return to teaching the basics and accountability in the spending of public funds.  Even concerned citizens who do not have children in school can make their voices heard.  School board elections and bond measure initiatives are just one example of how we can all influence the quality of a public school education.  After all, as taxpayers we own the schools and the teachers and administrators who manage them work for us.  It is up to us how our tax money will be spent in teaching the next generation of doctors, mechanics, teachers, engineers and small business owners.  If we can do these things, California schools could once again be at the top.

Where Did California’s Education Money Go?

Outrageous Benefits 

          Simply stated, California is bankrupt and can no longer fund higher education at the level it had previously.  The state’s financial crisis has been caused by the typical liberal scenario of overtaxing its citizens and then spending the state’s treasure on everything but that for which it was meant, in this case higher education.  How did Sacramento squander the funds meant for the California State College and University system, you ask?  Let me count the ways!  Public employee unions have managed to secure outrageous benefits for their members, including early retirement with pensions that put many in the ‘100K Club’, as well as disability and medical benefits that us ordinary working folks would literally die for. 

          As just one example of the abuse, the spiking of retirement pensions with disability claims is so common that it became known as ‘Chief’s Disease’ in the California Highway Patrol.  It is estimated that 4 out of 5 CHP senior managers become disabled in the final year before they retire and two thirds of the regular officers retire with a disability.  Add this to their yearly retirement pay of up to 90% of their salary beginning as early as age 50 and you can begin to see the problem.  California taxpayers will now be stuck for years funding these benefits.  Some of it will have to be paid with money that was meant for higher education, so unfortunately students will have to share in this burden. 

Squandered Treasure 

          Thanks to these same Democrat legislators, taxpayer’s money is also being used to provide generous benefits for those who are in the country and therefore the state illegally.  Illegal immigration is estimated to cost California $22 billion each year.  Wow!  That’s almost the entire $25 billion budget deficit projected for California in 2012.  So what did the legislators do to stop this fiscal hemorrhage?  They passed the California Dream Act which provides taxpayer funded scholarships to students whose families are in the country illegally!  As magnanimous as this may sound, some would argue that it provides a privilege for these students which students from other states are not accorded.  I think we can all agree that this program simply spends more money that California does not have!  The end result will be to encourage more people to come to California illegally, which will in turn perpetuate the fiscal crisis. 

          In addition, with the state now insinuating itself into every aspect of its citizens’ lives, the accompanying bureaucracy devours money like a slot machine at an Indian Casino.  With the growing state workforce needed to administer all the new regulations there will be even more people getting outrageous retirement, medical and disability benefits.  The Democrat packed legislature just doesn’t understand that by increasing regulations and raising taxes and fees on just about everything they have also driven businesses out of California at an alarming rate.  The resulting increase in unemployment and loss of tax revenue complete the vicious cycle.  It is indeed a sad state of affairs in the ‘left coast’ state of California where for many years the ‘tax and spend’ liberals have had an iron grip on the legislature.  Higher education is one of the casualties, so college students are now being asked to pay more tuition and fees…and they are rightfully upset. 

Coming Next:  California’s Failing Public School System 

California College Students Redeem Themselves…Sort Of

Facing Rising Tuition and Fees 

          Just when we were beginning to wonder about the students attending schools in the California State College and University system, some of them have given us reason to believe that they actually do have the ability to analyze problems and think for themselves.  Faced with mounting tuition and other fees, students had up to now been protesting everyone except those actually responsible for the problem.  It seems that they may finally have put two and two together this week when they took their protest to the union-owned, Democrat-run capital in Sacramento, correctly placing the blame for this crisis on the legislators who have plundered the state’s treasury.  Maybe their thinking has not yet completely evolved to this conclusion, but at least they are protesting in the right location! 

          Through no fault of their own, many of these students are the products of the failing education system in California.  It is no small feat, then, for them to have come to this difficult conclusion.  In doing so, they had to abandon the prevailing liberal view extant at most of their institutions of higher learning and they even had to make a point of distancing themselves from the Occupy Movement that was in Sacramento at the same time.  We cannot hold these college students responsible for the faulty reasoning that led to their previously misplaced anger.  Instead, we salute them for being able to make the tough choices, admit that they were wrong and refocus their energy in the right direction. 

California…A Horrible Example the Rest of the Country Should Heed 

          The rest of the country should take a good, long look at what has happened to California, because it is a harbinger (see WOW) of what is in store for them unless they take immediate action to change course.  The education systems in many other states are also at risk of financial collapse due to the reckless spending of their legislators.  Fortunately, the tax and spend liberals were thrown out of many legislatures in the 2010 midterm elections.  Courageous individuals like Governor Scott Walker of Wisconsin are making good progress in bringing their states back from the brink by getting their fiscal affairs in order.  But union bosses who see a threat to their tight, controlling grip on dues paying members are fighting back like caged weasels.  Consequently, Governor Walker is facing a recall election in spite of the good work he has done for the people of his state. 

          Unfortunately, there is no easy solution now for California.  It will take years to undue the harm that has been done.  The only hopeful sign is that we appear to have some students in our college system who finally see the light and are taking the fight to the real perpetrators of this fraud.  What they are doing to bring this situation to the attention of the public is important, because a well funded system of higher education, available to all qualified students regardless of financial means, is in the best interest of every citizen of the State of California. 

Coming Next:  Where Did California’s Education Money Go?      

Unions Whine as They Wither on the Vine

Desperately Clinging to Cushy Jobs and Generous Bennies 

          With the end of their reign clearly in sight, union bosses have pulled out all the stops and mustered their minions (see WOW) at the state capitol in Madison, Wisconsin, to protest against Republican Governor Scott Walker.  If you can imagine, Governor Walker had the audacity to suggest that government employees should contribute a reasonable amount to their retirement and health plans like the rest of us!  Fortified by their new mandate which was decisively delivered in the 2010 midterm elections, other Republican led states are now jumping on the bandwagon and challenging the unions as well.  The Republican majorities in the Tennessee and Indiana legislatures have advanced similar proposals to limit union pilfering of their states’ coffers and it is expected that John Kasich, the new Republican Governor of Ohio, will soon follow suit.  This kind of momentum can only spell more trouble for the already tarnished government employee unions around the country. 

          Over the years that free-spending Democrats have been in control of state and local governments, their union puppeteers have directed them to enact outrageously generous benefits for government employees.  For minding their ‘managers’, these Democrats have been rewarded with hefty political contributions, derived from mandatory union dues, to keep them in power.  But all that changed as states ran out of money and the house of cards fell.  It became obvious to even the most unsophisticated observer of the economy, that this kind of reckless handing out of goodies was no longer sustainable.  The American people spoke loudly and clearly in November, and newly elected representatives have wasted no time in pulling the plug. 

          It is truly sad to see how union bosses have corrupted the members of once proud professional groups like teachers and firefighters.  At one time highly respected and even regarded as unselfish heroes, they are now seen by many as greedy union shop piglets, slopping at the trough of government handouts.  In the case of teachers, tenure insures job security regardless of competence or performance.  In the case of firefighters, generous salaries and huge retirement pensions for life, sometimes starting at age 50, make it one of the most sought after jobs in the country.  In California, as just one example, a fire chief can retire with a pension of $284,000, after receiving an annual base salary of $221,000, in a district where some stations receive only a few emergency calls a month.  Contrast that with a four-star general who has served his country all over the world (most likely for 30 years, often in combat situations) who can retire with $181,000 annually. 

          Something clearly had to be done to correct this imbalance and we salute Governor Walker for his courageous stand in the face of union thugs doing what they do best…joining mobs and threatening the rest of us.  To be sure, there are many dedicated, hardworking teachers, firefighters and other union workers who deserve to be well compensated, but the time is long overdue for government workers to receive pay and benefits on a par with their counterparts in the private sector.  We will not be sorry to watch as the last vestiges of union influence wither on the vine.