Prompted by the contentious political battle now playing out in Wisconsin between state government and the teachers’ union I now submit a question that is sure to be controversial. What would happen to the condition of schools in Wisconsin, or in the rest of the nation, if the teachers’ union was effectively eliminated, just as Governor Walker intended sub rosa? In other words, if the teaching profession were politically limited in exactly the same way as are the armed forces of the United States?
As most people know, soldiers and sailors are not allowed to unionize or strike. Are the military not citizens just like the rest of the population? They are allowed to have political opinions and to vote, but may not campaign or otherwise indulge in collectively participating in political activities or in using their positions to wield political influence. Why not? The answer is obvious, isn’t it? This restriction is vital to the national interest because discipline, as in unquestioning adherence to orders, is vital to effectiveness in carrying out the national will.
Also pertinent, IMO, is that, under the Hatch act of 1939 federal civil service employees are not allowed to strike because of past patronage abuses, but are granted generous benefits in compensation. I submit that education is also vital to the national interest, albeit in a more long-term sense.
The present model of education in America is a failure. Average graduation rates are hovering below 70%, literacy is abysmally low, and the NCLB patch is an ineffective bureaucratic paperwork nightmare that simply promotes “teaching to the test”. So I therefore submit that the country should privatize education. I suggest we openly deny collective bargaining to the teaching profession, just as we do for the military, and instead relegate school control to local communities.
To those who might decry this suggestion is purely anti-union, I say that is simply not so. Unions are a natural and needed protection to counter the management motivations of for-profit enterprises. Schools are not for-profit, they are services for our national interests, just as are the armed forces.
To make this work and as I suggested in my previous post, teachers, not politicians or businesses, should have individual control of curricula and textbooks and be protected from political or cultural influence by law. Tenure should be prohibited and the teaching jobs made competitive, with generous salary and benefits but term-limited contracts. Teachers would of course be guaranteed the same rights as anyone else for retention of retirement programs such as 401k’s and IRA’s.
Under this concept I perceive that communities would compete for teaching talent, thus would need to offer good salaries and benefits, and retirement plans too. Retirement plans would be vested under ERISA laws just like any other. In this concept parents would patronize the best schools just as they would good businesses. Schools which failed to compete would go out of business.
Why wouldn’t this model work better than the mess we now have? Could it be any worse? I don’t see how.