WASHINGTON, D.C. – The American Federation of Teachers is having a “National Day of Action,” which might be more accurately called a “National Day to Whine about Everything.”
In cities across the nation today, teachers and union supporters are having rallies to focus on the “challenges facing public schools.”
Most knowledgeable, unbiased observers know that the biggest challenge facing public schools is the presence of parasitic teachers unions like the AFT. But that’s hardly news.
What we found interesting are the topics scheduled to be whined about today, and the tactics being employed.
Perhaps the sickest tactic is watching union folks try to build sympathy for their cause by involving students. It will be bad enough if any child misses a second of class time to help a powerful national political organization like the AFT campaign for its self-serving agenda.
But what’s really unnerving is the fact that the children will be protesting against policies that were clearly designed to help them.
One report says “thousands of young people from more than 60 cities” are planning to participate in the protests against “mass school closings, the growing practice of turnover of management of public schools to private companies and other measures that disproportionately harm low-income students of color.”
Those items are hated by the teachers unions, because they are designed to put students first.
Take school closings, for example. The union hates the practice because it usually results in the loss of unnecessary teaching positions in school districts with dwindling enrollment. The enrollment is dwindling because thousands of disgusted parents are moving their kids out of these failure factories. With fewer union teachers on the payroll, the union does not collect as much dues money. The union does not like to lose money, so it tries to paint the closing of bad schools as something that’s terrible for poor kids in big cities.
The simple fact is that most schools are closed for one of two reasons, and usually both – they are academic failures that have been shortchanging students for years, or they are only half full of students and cost too much for school districts to maintain.
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The unions complain about a lack of school funding, but want districts to continue to waste money keeping a bunch of empty classrooms lit and heated.
The fact is that school closings have had positive outcomes for students in many instances. In New York City, for example, a recent study concluded that Mayor Michael Bloomberg’s decision to close dozens of failing public schools, and replace them with hundreds of smaller schools, resulted in “substantial increases in student graduation rates, especially among disadvantaged students of color.”
The United Federation of Teachers, the main union in the city, was vehemently opposed to the school closings, by the way.
And why in the world would students care about private companies being hired to manage some charter schools? They are hired to help the schools run more efficiently and provide better instruction for students. If they fail, they can be fired.
The unions hate the companies because they maintain tight labor budgets and don’t waste money on high salaries and perks that have no connection to student learning. Many failing school districts spend 80 percent or more of their budgets on labor, and overpay administrators, while most of their students fail to make any academic progress at all.
An excellent example is the Rochester, New York school district, where in 2012, the district had 292 administrators making more than $100,000 per year, yet only 43 percent of students were graduating, 18 percent of eighth graders were proficient in English and 19 percent were proficient in math.
If a private management company can do better than that for the same or less money, why not give it a try?
They want more money to waste?
Another major theme of the “Day of Action” is to call for increased government funding of public schools.
Rhonda Weingarten, president of the AFT, is scheduled to address that issue today in Newark, New Jersey, of all places. The Newark district could be a poster child for wasted education dollars.
Everyone knows that teachers unions bleed millions of dollars from public schools every year, making the union demand for more funding seem more than a bit self-centered and preposterous.
This problem is perfectly illustrated in the Newark school district.
In 2009-10, for instance, the district spent $111 million on employee health insurance, with no contributions from employees; $6.7 million on automatic, annual raises for all teachers, regardless of their classroom effectiveness; $3.4 million on compensation to employees for unused sick days; about $8.7 million in compensation for absent teachers, due to an overly generous paid leave policy; and nearly $100,000 in salary for union officials to do union work that had no benefit for students.
All of those wasteful expenses – and many more – were the direct result of various provisions in the teachers union collective bargaining agreement.
Other types of spending were highly questionable, as well. Another EAGnews study, based on the 2010-11 school year, revealed that the Newark district spent more than $126,000 on travel agencies, more than $232,000 on staff cell phones, more than $117,000 on catering services, more than $35,000 on restaurant tabs and more than $147,000 on entertainment.
The district also transferred more than $755,000 to the Urban League, more than $278,000 to the National Urban Alliance and nearly $1 million to an organization called “Women in Support of the Million Man March,” which has ties to the radical Minister Louis Farrakhan and was sued by the federal government for alleged misuse of grant money.
All of this spending occurred when the district was facing a $75 million budget deficit.
Elected representatives in Washington, D.C. and every state in the nation should send a message to Ms. Weingarten and her pals. Until public schools can demonstrate wise, effective, student-based use of tax dollars, not one extra penny will flow in their direction, no matter how many days of protest they have.