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DICK BAYNTON: The Hypocrisy of Teachers Unions

Dick Baynton

Newspapers, TV, Internet and radio have been following the recent teacher’s strikes in Oklahoma, Arizona and West Virginia. Strikes, demonstrations, pickets with signs and other peaceful activities are just fine but realize that a strike adds nothing to the education of students, to the economy or to the goodwill among the community, parents, teachers, students or anyone else. Strikes take students out of the learning process of attending class with a teacher or instructor at the head of the classroom. Schools are for teaching, learning and administering the processes of information exchange.

Education is a local process (K-12) that should be managed by school boards, parents, PTA and other school-related organizations; it is NOT the domain of federal government although state governments usually set standards and regulations for textbooks, teachers and administrators. The results expected are (or should be) highly trained students that pass from grade to grade with appropriate knowledge to tackle the more difficult subjects in each grade. In their most recent survey, PISA (Programme for International Student Assessment) focused on ‘Collaborative Problem Solving’ by 15-year-old students around the Globe. United States came in 13th with a score of 520 compared with the top nation of Singapore at 561.

The purpose of gauging ‘Collaborative Problem Solving’ was to determine how students in each country used their reading, science and math skills to solve everyday issues. Problem solving is often a common sense effort to find and use reference books and manuals, speak to experts in the field of concern and take logical steps from problem to resolution. The keyword in problem solving is logic, not guessing, not anger, not blaming others, but a solution for issues that constantly arise in the daily lives of welfare recipients and billionaires alike.

The two main unions representing teachers are the NEA (National Education Association) with 3 million members and the AFT (American Federation of Teachers) with 1.7 million dues-payers. For the first time in many years, union membership among school teachers has fallen below 50%. Some of this change may have been precipitated by the activities of Wisconsin Governor Scott Walker who bulldozed major changes in school budgets and accountability.

On March 12th, 2011, estimates of 66,000 to 100,000 people went to Madison, WI to protest Walker’s ‘Act 10’ education reform or ‘budget repair bill’. The bill required greater contributions by participants to retirement pensions and healthcare and elimination of some collective bargaining. According to a pronouncement by Governor Walker, ‘Act 10’ would fix the $3.6 billion deficit in the 2009 state budget.  Five years after the legislation took hold, a spokesperson for the MacIver Institute said that the record showed that ‘Act 10’ had actually saved taxpayers $5.24 billion. The Milwaukee Public School district reported savings of $1.3 billion in long-term pension liabilities; other school districts also claimed substantial savings.

According to financial statements made public by the AFT, total revenue in 2017 was $191,597,918. Total expenses amounted to $220,274,395; included in expenses were $14,978,008 for political contributions, $37,326,226 for Mobilization & Organization and $44,310,959 spent on administration. Along with this financial data was their ‘Mantra’ ‘We care, We fight, We show up.’ Of the more than $220 million in spending, not a single penny was aimed at educating students; rather it was aimed at benefits for staff consisting of three top executives including President Randi Weingarten. Weingarten took home over $494,000 in 2011 including salary and expenses. There are 43 Vice Presidents in the AFT bureaucracy.

The NEA also has a huge retinue of bureaucrats led by Dennis Van Roekel who received a total of $460,000 salary and paid expenses in 2011. Fox news reported in 2012 that teacher’s salaries averaged about $44,000 annually while union staff members were paid six-figure salaries.

A teacher in Kenosha, WI commented that unions treated them as laborers, not professionals. She added that she received nothing in exchange for her dues but the unions want to keep ineffective teachers employed. In the 2016 presidential election, NEA donated $2.1 million to Democrats while the AFT provided Hillary followers with $7.6 million. An estimated 1 in 5 teachers voted for Trump; 4 of 5 teachers were rewarded with Hillary’s 1½ star book, ‘Why I Lost the Election.’

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