May 25 2012

Betraying Students and the State

Vicki E. Alger

Earlier this week I was on the Andy Caldwell Show (AM 1440 KUHL) discussing my new policy paper on Military Education Savings Accounts. He recommended an outstanding Manhattan Institute City Journal article by Troy Senik. In it he details how the California Teachers Association, “The Worst Union in America,” betrayed students and the state.

Back in 1962 CTA executive director Arthur F. Corey insisted, “The strike as a weapon for teachers is inappropriate, unprofessional, illegal, outmoded, and ineffective…You can’t go out on an illegal strike one day and expect to go back to your classroom and teach good citizenship the next.”

Senik details the 50-year demise of education—not to mention civility—in California, thanks in no small part to the CTA. Since 1975 when Governor Jerry Brown signed the Rodda Act collective bargaining law, “the CTA boasts that it has launched more than 170 strikes.”

Teachers pay up to $1,000 in annual dues, swelling the CTA’s 2009 income to more than $186 million—all tax-exempt. With that war chest, and more than 325,000 “conscripts” (California is not a right to work state so no one can say for sure how many teachers would voluntarily join), the CTA has blocked educational choice, teacher quality, and charter-school reforms—but the politics don’t stop there.

In 1998, the CTA pushed through a mandatory state education spending quota (Proposition 98). With a guaranteed slice of California’s budget pie (now representing a whopping 85 percent by some estimates), schools officials have little use for cost-efficiency, leaving elected officials with few options for balancing an out-of-control budget.

So in tough economic times, the CTA simply rallies its foot soldiers and marches for higher taxes—as if California taxes weren’t high enough. (To see how much funding California districts, school staff, and teachers get, check out the school finance database the Educational Results Partnership and I developed.)

Thankfully, parents provide a huge ray of sunshine for students and the state. As Senik explains:

Parents…are starting to revolt against CTA orthodoxy. Unlike elected officials, parents—who want nothing more than a good education for their kids—are hard for the union to demonize. In early 2010, a Los Angeles–based nonprofit called Parent Revolution shocked California’s pundit class by getting the state legislature to pass the nation’s first “parent trigger” law, which lets parents at failing schools force districts to undertake certain reforms, including converting schools into independent charters. The law caps the number of schools eligible for reform at 75, but if early results are successful, it will become hard for Californians to avoid comparing thriving charter schools with failing traditional ones.

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