Teachers, Teachers’ Unions and Truth

Facts are missing from the education discussion.

In light of the Chicago school teacher strike, I would like to quote a few paragraphs from a Wall Street Journal article from February of 2007. Five years ago.

“Who, on average, is better paid – public school teachers or architects? How about teachers or economists? You might be surprised to learn that public school teachers are better paid than these and many other professionals. According to the Bureau of Labor Statistics, public school teachers earned $34.06 per hour in 2005, 36% more than the hourly wage of the average white-collar worker and 11% more than the average professional specialty or technical worker,” the Journal noted.

“In the popular imagination, however, public school teachers are under-paid. ‘Salaries are too low. We all know that,’ proclaimed First Lady Laura Bush. ‘We need to figure out a way to pay teachers more.’”

And now, in Chicago, we’ve seen war purportedly over wages, with the highest paid public school teachers in the nation refusing to teach some 400,000 kids, while their union holds out for more money and more security but no more accountability for them. Never mind that in the private sector (you know, the workplace of most of the taxpayers who foot the bill for those teachers) employees collectively failing as badly as this group is would not get raises at all. They’d be fired.

Back to the 2007 WSJ article. It reported that “our efforts to hire more teachers and raise their salaries account for the bulk of public school spending increases over the past 4 decades.” Let that sink in. As the effectiveness of the education we pay for has worsened, our leaders have thrown more and more of our money at the failing system – with the bulk of that money going to increased numbers of teachers and to raising all teachers’ wages, benefits and pensions. These teachers could teach a class: How To Fail Miserably and Grow Rich.

From the article: “The fact is that teachers are better paid than most other professionals. What matters is the way that we pay them, not the amount.” In other words, we need ruthless accountability, with pay, pay raises and job security tied to merit. This would mean ending the union’s control over education. We often hear of the many nations where kids are out-performing American kids in academic achievement. We never hear how many of those countries have teachers’ unions in control.

There’s no politician who can bring himself to even speak these truths, let alone dare to respond to them in any reasonable way. No leader is willing to say that teachers are over-paid. Even critics squirm and weasel about, prefacing their every criticism with praise for the many good, dedicated, hard-working teachers, restricting their criticism only for the union. But it is teachers who permit their union’s existence and behavior and transfer of union dues drawn from the too-high wages to Democrat politicians’ campaigns as compensation for their complicity in the perpetuation of a failed system.

Despite pronouncements, this president has done nothing about education reform. Nor, probably, would Romney. We need leadership on this and it is nowhere to be found. The public needs facts, but it’s pretty rare for the media to present them.

Here is a fact as I would say it: anyone, politician or media figure, advocating for more pay and more security for teachers, for teachers’ unions and against hard core accountability for teachers is anti-child, anti-parent and anti-taxpayer.