Tags: teachers | strike | pennsylvania | school choice

Time to Outlaw Teacher Strikes

Image: Time to Outlaw Teacher Strikes
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Friday, 22 September 2017 02:46 PM Current | Bio | Archive

Like clockwork, several things occur each September in Pennsylvania: kids have a hard time getting out of bed, compasses required for math class are never used, and, most predictable, teachers will strike.

On that last point, the teachers’ union in Methacton School District in affluent suburban Philadelphia did not disappoint. Just as students and teachers were settling into a rhythm, the union called for a walkout. The result? Over 400 teachers are walking the picket line, potentially for weeks, while 5,000 students sit idle, leaving their parents frantically scrambling.

And other strikes are occurring in Pennsylvania, too. It’s time to end the recklessness of holding parents and students hostage, especially because there is no downside for teachers, as they will be fully paid for all 180 days of school, regardless of outcome.

To modify the legendary quote from Dean Wormer in "Animal House": Arrogant, greedy and aloof is no way to go through life.

But that’s exactly how the teachers’ unions in Pennsylvania have behaved for decades.

With millions in forced dues (monies automatically deducted from teachers’ paychecks even if they don’t belong), the unions have constructed a statewide political empire, using their muscle to crush any opposition.

To their credit, they have been immensely successful in squeezing every last penny from broke school districts and overtaxed residents. In good economies and bad, they demand and receive large raises and benefits, including, in many cases, free or highly-subsidized healthcare. 

So it’s no surprise that Pennsylvania leads the nation in school strikes, with some years seeing more walkouts than all other states combined. As a result, its teachers are near the top in salaries and benefits. Inexcusably, the same cannot be said of student achievement, as SAT scores, literacy, graduation rates, and students going on to college are perennially much lower.

And you can’t simply blame city schools for dismal student achievement. A quarter of Mathacton’s 11th graders aren’t proficient in math, and almost one of five is deficient in reading. Yet over the last fifteen years, the number of students in that district has dropped by ten percent while spending has more than doubled, to almost $110 million per year. In other words, there’s more money to educate fewer students, student achievement isn’t where it needs to be, and yet the teachers’ union authorizes a strike because it wants more. You don’t need an education to know there’s something seriously wrong with that picture.

And that has left many citizens scratching their heads.

Teachers are universally respected for the priceless role they play, but when they strike, it’s seen as a slap in the face, especially as the private sector continues to hemorrhage jobs, with many paying astronomical healthcare costs.

Of course, to the unions, more money is the cure-all to improved student performance. Pay the teachers more and give them even better benefits, while increasing funding for public education, and all problems will be solved. But we’ve been doing that for decades, and education achievement hasn’t improved.

Our dismal academic performance has become dire. Our students are no longer competing against just those in San Francisco and Seattle, but Stockholm, Singapore, and Sydney. Yet compared to our top 30 global counterparts, the U.S. is, at best, in the middle of the pack and more often, much lower.

The solution is to instill accountability and rein in out-of-control unions. Here are two steps to accomplish that:

1) Inject competition by enacting school choice. When parents have a choice in their children's education, schools that do well will attract more students and succeed, while those that continue with the status quo will lose students and fail. The free market system that has served us so well will have the same effect on our educational product. And for the first time in generations, our students would actually learn the skills necessary to succeed in life.

2) Outlaw school strikes. No public-sector union should have the right to strike, which is why our police and firemen are prohibited from doing so. It is beyond explanation that teachers, in whose hands we place our most valuable asset — our children — are not considered equally essential.

Strikes are disruptive to all parties. Parents endure incredible stress in their frantic search for child care, often risking job security by tending to their children (and blowing hard-earned vacation), and students’ disciplined approach to schoolwork is shattered, with no possibility of a seamless transition after a long strike.

And whom are we kidding? Are students really learning anything sitting in a classroom over the Christmas break, or in late June, weeks after exams have been taken? In effect, students are held hostage so that teachers can justify their salaries and school districts don’t jeopardize their state subsidies.   

*****

Often overlooked is that teachers are also victimized by strikes. They become pariahs in their communities, and respect for their profession takes a hit. Let’s be clear: many teachers often don’t agree with union leaders’ decisions. But when that leadership calls for a strike vote — and refuses to use a secret ballot — there is virtually no chance of opposition. The risk is simply too high, and mob mentality rules the day.

At the minimum, there should be a law requiring secret ballot votes for school strikes, monitored by the Department of Labor. That common sense, practical solution would be overwhelmingly supported by the public — and teachers.

Hopefully, the do-nothing state legislature will stop sleeping in class and strike while the iron’s hot, outlawing school strikes once and for all.

If our state lawmakers do that, they would deserve an A.

Chris Freind is an independent columnist, television commentator, and investigative reporter who operates his own news bureau, Freindly Fire Zone Media. Read more reports from Chris Freind — Click Here Now.

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Like clockwork, several things occur each September in Pennsylvania: kids have a hard time getting out of bed, compasses required for math class are never used, and, most predictable, teachers will strike.
teachers, strike, pennsylvania, school choice
962
2017-46-22
Friday, 22 September 2017 02:46 PM
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