Tuesday, September 18, 2007

Solidarity Forever, our Union Does Kids Wrong!: the Tucson Education Assocation's recipe for extortion.

Here's a recipe for extortion:

  1. Set up a monopolistic public-school system. Don't provide vouchers or even tax credits to parents who take responsibility for their own childrens' education; let the double-payments trap make school choice a luxury.
  2. Limit choice even within that system. Go out of your way to find nonsensical restrictions to place on high-performing charter schools, the better to make all options affordable to the average Joe equal.
  3. Bundle most of a major city's schools in a single administrative district.
  4. Although teaching is a highly individualized profession--teachers are not fungible--allow the teachers' union to impose an equal-pay-for-equal-work salary structure instead of market-oriented "merit pay", which incentivizes performance and rewards excellence.
  5. Accept a contract without a clause preventing strikes or requiring honesty in taking of sick leave.

The result: Salary negotiations are handled en masse, and if the teachers' side isn't getting what it wants, it can cause massive disruption by shutting down the schools. The parents who can least accommodate having the kids home during the day--public school parents--pick up the slack, and it's only so long until the school board buckles.

I'm not about to say what sort of pay raise the TUSD teachers should get, and it's worth noting that the difference between the school board and the teachers' union is over more than just the raise.

What's clear, however, is that the current system is set up to stick it to two groups: the first being parents (largely working-class in this district), who bear the cost of these labor disputes by having to take off of work or hire sitters, and the second being the children, who lose a day of study and effectively more, once the distraction and scramble are done.

As correctly noted by the Star, last Friday was TUSD's second sickout in recent memory. If TUSD were a private school, parents would be wary. Since TUSD isn't, parents should be irate. It's high time that the stand was taken, for no more sickouts, ever. That doesn't mean to cave into every demand of the union.

The long term solution, the one that's best for parents, kids, and the community is to bust the union, gently. If the teachers are going to play hardball, with sham sick days, the district ought play right back and insist on merit pay. Moreover, and more importantly, the State should move towards full school choice--every child is in a school actively chosen by the parent--in two ways simultaneously. A goal should be set: all public schools become charters by 2015. Furthermore, a real tuition tax credit system, that gives a dollar-for-dollar tax credit with a high cap to parents, grandparents, godparents, well-meaning negihbors, and anyone else who directly pays for a kid's private education or homeschooling expenses, should be instituted, giving more families the option of free-market education.

In a market system, parent's don't have to wait for politicians to do as they ought--which rarely happens--for reform. Furthermore, they can escape schools with perennial labor problems. Most acutely, any particular school's labor problems won't disrupt a major city!

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