Just What We Dont
by Steven Miller
effort that turned Americas teacher associations into leftwing labor unions was led
by Albert Shanker, the late president of the AFL-CIOs American Federation of
Teachers. But Shanker nevertheless had conservative admirers. The reason was that, even in
public, he could be surprisingly candid.
Its an insight highly relevant to the Silver State today, where the Nevada State Education Association (NSEA) is circulating petitions to impose an income tax on all Nevada business people. The unions plan would take huge sums out of the Nevada economy and route them directly into the current failing education systemwithout addressing any of the systems fundamental problems. Not coincidentally, most of those problems stem directly from the union death-grip on local school districts and state education policy.
This general topichow the transformation of Americas professional teacher
associations into hard-nosed, power-seeking labor unions has been ruinous for American
K-12 educationis rarely discussed publicly in Nevada. But even former national
teacher union activists acknowledge how destructive for education union tactics have been.
Early founder Myron Lieberman, especially, recognized early on how the unions
us-against-them attitudes, picayune grievance procedures and incessant politics were
sabotaging public education.
The NEA has demonstrated this amoral attitude for over 20 years. In his 1980 book The National Education Association: The Power Base for Education, former NEA Executive Secretary Allan West acknowledged that the union preferred seeking growth through slogans like good schools for children, rather than directly pressing for higher teacher salaries.
Unfortunately for the NSEA, however, the days appear numbered for this old ruse. The
reason is that truly superior good schools for children are already here.
What the union wants is to keep Nevadas schools firmly under the thumb of the NSEAs old industrial-union model, even though that model produces a constricted environment for learning. Its an environment where Nevadas dropout rate is the highest in the nation and where alarming numbers of Silver State students fail basic standards tests. Union contracts impose a we-must-all-march-together mindset that produces rigid bureaucracies in the school districts and conformist mentalities among school officials. The unions death grip increasingly drives the best teachers and administrators from the schools. It even restricts the access of parents to their childrens teachers.
The Wrong Direction
Not merely would the unions plan not solve Nevadas education problem. It actually would, if passed, make the problem even worselocking up and wasting more vital resources, while postponing the day Nevada parents finally see their kids receive quality schooling.
Actually, the evidence suggests that postponement is a major goal of the NSEAs multi-million-dollar initiative campaign. If successful, its end result would be that, by law, Nevada must keep writing blank checks to its current failing system. Practically, the state would have to forego the highly promising education reforms the union fears. Right now, superior, customer-friendly and money-saving market-based educational services are available onlinedemonstrating each day the wasteful and dated nature of Nevadas current system. Indeed, already some young Nevadans are getting superior high school educations online following expulsion from regular school!
Haunting the NSEA also is the prospect of vouchers. Now not only white middle class but most black Americans recognize the abuse in having to consign their kids to failing government schools. If teachers, parents and kids get to start choosing their own schools, the jig is up: In a competitive market for education, who will consent to continue stumbling along under the union-government yoke?
American education is entering a whole new world. Rather than try to fatten up an aging education dinosaur, Nevada should face the future and embrace the dynamic, market-oriented learning reforms sweeping the nation. NJ
Steven Miller is managing editor of Nevada Journal.