Sunday, April 10, 2005

Where Arnold Made His Mistake(s), and Hurt Us All

The mistake Governor Schwarzenegger made with his recent proposals was to attack "teachers and nurses" instead of "teachers and nurses unions." Honestly, who would really think that the best way to improve student learning is to grant teacher tenure after 10 years instead of 2 or 3? And his pension system reform wouldn't have affected anyone hired before 2007, yet at the first signs of resistence he withdrew that proposal. The tenure proposal had already been withdrawn.

Had he been smarter, he'd have been more clear that the UNIONS were the special interests, not the members. Despite the rhetoric from CTA, the unions and the members are not synonymous. The clearest example illustrating that point I found here:

Here is an analogy. Your lawyer may represent you, but you are not your lawyer and your lawyer is not you. Your lawyer’s law firm is not made up of its clients; it is made up of lawyers. A labor union is not an aggregate of its members. A labor union “represents” its members. This is a very important distinction, and one I will delve into further in future posts.

There are reasonable things the governor could do to lessen the special interest holds of unions while simultaneously freeing their members from union tyranny. For starters, he could initiate a drive to make California a Right-To-Work state, wherein employees are not required to be union members. Pit the members against the unions, governor, and sit back and watch the feathers fly! Unchain our hands, let us breathe free!

The Republican party has already created a web site that allows teachers to sign an online petition opposing the "teacher tax", the $180/year increase in dues that CTA wants. Now that the pension and tenure proposals are off the table and CTA no longer has to fight them, there's no need for this increase, right? Knowing CTA, I'm sure they'll find some reason they absolutely need my money. Barbara Kerr hasn't gone to enough "Building Rep Dinners" or some such fluff.

In today's column, George Will discusses an idea by one Patrick Byrne:

His idea -- call it The 65 Percent Solution -- is politically delicious because it unites parents, taxpayers and teachers while, he hopes, sowing dissension in the ranks of the teachers unions, which he considers the principal institutional impediment to improving primary and secondary education.

The idea, which will face its first referendum in Arizona, is to require that 65 percent of every school district's education operational budget be spent on classroom instruction. On, that is, teachers and pupils, not bureaucracy.

Will goes on to state that only 4 states spend more than 65% in the classroom, and 15 states spend less than 60%. According to, California ranks 21st with only 61.7% of its education budget being spent in the classroom. With its bloated bureaucracy, my district must certainly spend less than that.

In my 8 years of teaching, I've seen only a couple (that's 2) teachers I thought should be let go for ineffectiveness. Plenty subscribe to educational fads with which I didn't agree and thereby commit some form of educational malpractice, but they should be directed and retrained and allowed to continue filling their classrooms with a passion for learning. Honestly, I just haven't seen that dead wood that I hear so much about. This isn't the column for getting into the philosophical discussion about why our students aren't doing as well as they should, or for how to fix that. It is the column for discussion of how to remove one of the major roadblocks to improvement--the unions.

Arnold is right--there are entrenched special interests out there, impediments to improvement. Knocking the unions down a few pegs would be absolutely the right thing to do. However, he's screwed up at every turn:

1. He came after the members, not the unions.
2. He gave the unions something to galvanize around.
3. He gave the unions a reason to increase dues.
4. He caved in almost immediately, leaving the unions with potentially millions more in dues money and power.
5. He weakened his own ability to fight them in the future.
6. In the end, the people who lost the most were the 1/3 of union members who disagree with their state union.

I'd hoped for better.


Dan Edwards said...

Good Post Darren! You scooped my on posting about the 65% Solution. It would be a start. keep in mind, the added stuff put on schools by legislative action that often adds to the bureaucracy and takes away from the kids.....

I am surprised Arnold didn't go after the Prison Guards Union....but I guess he is listening to many advisors who took money from the Prison Guards Union and DIDN'T get money from CTA or the Nurses.

That 'problem' resolved?

Anonymous said...

Wow Darren, thank you so much! This is the first time I have ever been quoted! :)

The distinction between a "union" (any union) and its "members" is one that everyone needs to understand, especially those in political positions or those who want to affect change.

Unions typically hide behind their members when they are attacked. Such as, any law "against" the CTA would be met with cries of "look at the governor attacking teachers and education."


But the unions, all of them, understand that the public doesn't know the difference. And the unions controlling the media keep the myth alive.

Any law that provides teachers with more freedom to choose their associations would be met with deep oposition by the CTA and howls of "he is anti-teacher and anti-education," which of course gets headlines and cooperation from the unions that control the media.

One of my next topics will be on tenure and what it means. Again, the myths and the media have it all wrong. Tenure is NOT a life-long assurance of a teaching job.

And guess who would love to see tenure chiseled away and contibute to the public hostility to tenure.

You guessed it.

The Teachers' Union.

Again, thank you very much Darren. :)


Darren said...


"Problem"? Make it plural, and the answer's still no. But thank you for asking.

Anonymous said...

Wouldn't paying the $180 be optional, under the Hudson decision that union members cannot be required to pay for any union activities beyond those related to negotiating a contract? Sure, you have to opt out annually, and the unions make it a pain, but it's worth pursuing.

(I'd have emailed, but I don't have IM software)

Darren said...

The only way to opt out is to become an "agency fee payer". In that case, forms have to be filled out and hearings held in Burlingame, headquarters of the CTA.

They're held once a year. CTA gets to decide how much of my money they spent on me, and they get to decide how much I'm refunded. So, no, there's no guarantee I'd get that money back.

Additionally, agency fee payers lose many of the rights and protections of being in the union--like being able to vote on my local union's contract! I truly don't understand what I'd be paying the union for in a case like that, but it *is* California law.

California is *not* "labor friendly". It's "labor union friendly."

Darren said...

No. They're responsible for taking $880 a year of my money, *legally*, with no recourse for me. They don't have to earn my money, they're entitled to it.

THAT is what teachers unions are responsible for.

What does your comment have to do with the topic of this post? I'm not complaining about administrators here.

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Anonymous said...

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