Sunday, August 22, 2010


Since this is Sunday I am allowed to post on “Anything But Taxes”. Here is a “reprint” of my Friday post over at the NJ TAX PRACTICE BLOG -

I realize that this post may not be strictly tax-related – but I could not help but pass along the great insights of Bob Ingle’s POLITICS PATROL column from Wednesday’s ASBURY PARK PRESS.

Titled “Teachers Unions Ignore Lessons of L.A. Study” the column discusses the findings of a report that appeared in the LA Times.
According to Bob – “The newspaper obtained seven years if math and English test scores from the school district and rated teachers on their students’ progress on standardized tests from year to year, then compared each student’s performance with his or her past years.”

The report concluded –

Most districts act as though one teacher is about as good as another. As a result, the most effective teachers often go unrecognized, the keys to their success rarely studied. Ineffective teachers often face no consequence and get no extra help.”

It goes on to say –

In Los Angeles, and across the country, education officials have long know of the often huge disparities among teachers. They’ve seen the indelible effects, for good and ill, on children. But rather than analyze and address these disparities, they have opted mostly to ignore them.”

Bob also quotes Jeanne Allen, president of the Washington-based Center for Education Reform, who responded to the report by saying –

"Path-breaking analysis ... confirms without a doubt that teacher effectiveness is not related to their tenure, seniority or pay grade. Great teachers help their students achieve at significantly high rates as a result of knowing the subjects they teach.”

And –

"The new data underscores why policymakers must implement reforms that make teacher quality the single factor that drives pay and contracts. The union rejects the conclusions ... saying that the data ignores the ‘complicated and creative process of teaching’. Fortunately, the public now understands that teaching isn't about process at all, but about producing real education value in our schools."

Bob takes the words out of my mouth when he sums up the problem here in New Jersey (the highlight is definitely mine) –

When you have a school system dominated by teachers' unions, like the New Jersey Education Association, the NJEA, you have misplaced emphasis. The NJEA is like any other industrial union. It is not about educating kids, it's about perpetuating itself and collecting dues to buy off lily-livered politicians more interested in getting re-elected than education.

The union doesn't like merit pay based on performance because it maintains all teachers are equal at the same experience and education level. That's absurd on its face. Tenure also is a problem. Guaranteed job protection after three years practically assures a job for life. Job security and pay then are based on seniority, not performance

The NJEA’s domination of NJ’s school systems is one reason why we have the highest property taxes in the country. Thank God Gov Christie is not afraid of the NJEA and is apparently willing to take it on.

It is not just the NJEA. The primary goal and underlying motivation of any organism is to survive – to continue to exist. This is true for an organizational entity as much as it is for a biological entity.

There was a time in our history when unions were necessary and important. But with all the local and federal labor laws and protections on the books today the continued need for unions is in question, and they can often do more harm than good to the economy. However, a union is an organizational entity and will never say, “We have accomplished our purpose of protecting the American worker and can now dissolve.” The number 1 goal and motivation of a union is not to protect and serve its membership, or to benefit society, but to continue to exist.

Similarly, the main goal and motivation of any politician at any level is not to protect and serve its constituents, but to get re-elected.

In defense of unions my labor lawyer friend pointed out, and rightfully so, that there is nothing wrong with a union asking for the moon for its members, whether or not it is deserved, feasible, practical, or appropriate. In theory the purpose of the union, second to continuing to exist, is to get as much as it can for the worker, without regard to the consequences to “management” or shareholders or, in the case of a municipal, state or federal employee union, the general taxpaying public.

Frankly nothing can be said in defense of politicians.


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