Thursday, June 07, 2012

Teacher's Unions Earn "F" for Wisconsin Recall Abuse

 Michelle Malkin
They really outdid themselves. In Wisconsin and across the nation, public school employee unions spared no kiddie human shields in their battle against GOP Gov. Scott Walker's budget and pension reforms. Students were the first and last casualties of the ruthless Big Labor war against fiscal discipline.

To kick off the yearlong protest festivities, the Wisconsin Education Association Council led a massive "sickout" of educators and other government school personnel. The coordinated truancy action -- tantamount to an illegal strike -- cost taxpayers an estimated $6 million. Left-wing doctors assisted the campaign by supplying fake medical excuse notes to teachers who ditched their public school classrooms to protest Walker's modest package of belt-tightening measures.

When they weren't ditching their students, radical teachers steeped in the social justice ethos of National Education Association-approved community organizer Saul Alinsky were shamelessly using other people's children as their own political junior lobbyists and pawns. A Milwaukee Fox News affiliate caught one fourth-grade teacher dragging his students on a "field trip" to demonstrate against Walker at the state Capitol building.

The pupils clapped along with a group of "solidarity singers" as they warbled: "Scott Walker will never push us out, this house was made for you and me."

Hundreds of high school students from Madison were dragooned into marches. When asked on camera why they had skipped school, one told a reporter from the Wisconsin-based MacIver Institute: "I don't know. I guess we're protesting today." Happy for the supply of warm young bodies, AFSCME Local 2412 President Gary Mitchell gloated: "The students have been so energized."

"Energized"? How about educated, enlightened and intellectually stimulated? Silly parents. Remember: "A" isn't for academics. It's for "agitation" and "advocacy." Former National Education Association official John Lloyd's words must not be forgotten: "You cannot possibly understand NEA without understanding Saul Alinsky. If you want to understand NEA, go to the library and get 'Rules for Radicals.'"

Against a rising tide of rank-and-file teachers who oppose their leaders' extremist politics, the national offices of the NEA and the American Federation of Teachers shoveled millions in forced union dues into astroturfed, anti-Walker coffers. According the, strapped state affiliates also coughed up major sums to beat back Wisconsin's efforts to bring American union workers into the 21st century in line with the rest of the workforce:

"The Ohio Education Association made a $58,000 in-kind contribution May 30, followed a day later by a $21,000 contribution from the Pennsylvania State Education Association. New York State United Teachers gave $23,000 on June 1, the Massachusetts Education Association gave $17,000 on May 31, and a group of unions based in Washington, D.C., poured in $922,000 during the past week." Even the Alaska NEA affiliate pitched in $4,000.

Back in the Badger State, the Education Action Group Foundation caught Milwaukee teacher's union head Bob Peterson on tape this week bragging about how his school district organized bus runs and stuffed flyers into every K-8 student's backpack urging them to vote in the recall election. No, this wasn't a civic, nonpartisan get-out-the-vote effort. It was a purely partisan self-preservation campaign. Peterson preaches that educators must be "teachers of unionism. We need to create a generation of students who support teachers and the movement for workers rights, oppressed peoples' rights." Because, you know, asking teachers to contribute more to their pension plans is just like the crushing of freedom fighters in Iran, Egypt and China.

The progressives' blatant exploitation of bureaucratic authority over the nation's schoolchildren -- at the expense of classroom achievement and fiscal sanity -- isn't sitting well with the public. A new Marquette University Law School poll released on the eve of the Wisconsin recall election showed that "only 40 percent of those surveyed said they had a favorable view of public-sector unions, while 45 percent viewed them unfavorably." In addition, "three-quarters of respondents said they approved of the law Walker signed requiring public employees to contribute to their own pensions and pay more for health insurance, while 55 percent approved of the new limits on collective bargaining for state employees that Walker signed into law."

Uncertainty reigned over Wisconsin as both sides braced for a possible recount on Tuesday night. But from their first unhinged salvos 16 months ago in the state Capitol and right up until Election Day, the union bosses have made one thing clear as a playground whistle: It's not about the children. It's never about the children. It's about protecting the power, perks and profligacy of public employee union monopolies.


The New York Times Needs a School Choice Reality Check

A recent New York Times article spilled a lot of ink insisting tax-credit scholarships funnel public funds to private schools. It barely mentioned a U.S. Supreme Court decision last year that dismissed this argument out of hand, along with the faulty logic behind it. Moreover, it reflects an out-of-date perspective on education policy: The public isn't concerned about bureaucratic turf wars; they want education programs that work and efficiently use taxpayer dollars.

Far from a radical new invention, the first tax-credit scholarship program was enacted in Arizona back in 1997. In the last fifteen years, eleven additional programs have been created across the country, benefitting approximately 82,000 students nationwide.

Under tax-credit scholarship programs individuals and/or businesses receive a credit against their state income taxes for donations to charitable organizations that award scholarships so children can attend the private schools of their parents' choice. Critics like those quoted by the Times , call tax credit scholarships a "shell game", or "neovouchers."

Yet vouchers and tax-credits vary in important ways. Both programs enable students to attend public or private schools of their parents' choice, but unlike tax-credit scholarships, vouchers are publicly funded, paid for with government appropriations.

It's also worth noting that college students have used "vouchers" for decades, including Pell grants and GI Bill scholarships. And the Supreme Court upheld the constitutionality of vouchers for school-age children a decade ago in Zelman v. Simmons-Harris , ruling that public funds may support private educational choices so long as parents, not state governments, are doing the choosing.

The constitutionality of tax-credit scholarships is even clearer. Last year the U.S. Supreme Court dealt a decisive blow to opponents' nearly 15-year-old crusade to end Arizona's - and the country's - oldest tax-credit scholarship program. Similar to the Times critics, opponents of Arizona's programs insisted that private donations for scholarships are actually government funds, which of course belong to public schools.

The U.S. Supreme Court said in Arizona Christian School Tuition Organization v. Winn that assuming “all income is government property, even if it has not come into the tax collector’s hands… finds no basis in standing jurisprudence ."

Taxpayers should rejoice. The idea that government knows best how to tackle every public problem should be soundly rejected not just in the Courts, but by the court of public opinion. It’s exactly this approach that has left our education system in the sorry condition that we see today. Empowering taxpayers and education consumers to direct education dollars to different providers isn’t a threat to education quality. On the contrary, it bolsters better quality through the true accountability that comes with choices and competition.

The claim that more education options hurt public schools also has no basis in reality. Research by Northwestern University professor David Figlio found that in response to competition from private schools for students, Florida public-school math and reading performance improved—something the Times failed to mention.

Tax-credit scholarship programs also save money for states, school districts, and taxpayers. The typical American public school spends more than $12,000 per student, while private-school tuition averages $8,500 nationwide. When students use tax-credit scholarships to attend private schools, there is more money for public schools to educate fewer students, which more than offsets the upfront general fund revenue loss from donors claiming tax credits.

Florida’s Office of Program Policy Analysis and Government, for example, found that the state’s tax-credit scholarship program saves $1.49 for every dollar it reduces state revenue. When was the last time an education program actually helped raise student achievement and generate a 49 percent return on investment?

Parental choice opponents will likely seize on the Times' article to block adoption of tax-credit scholarship programs in other states—including New Jersey, which is currently considering enacting the Opportunity Scholarship Act (OPA) program for low-income children in failing schools.

Fifteen years of experience shows that tax-credit scholarship programs are constitutional. They help improve student achievement. They save money. Most important, tax-credit scholarships offer a lifeline to students trapped in schools that aren’t working for them. That’s the real story of this important education innovation. Shame on the so-called paper of record for trying to keep it from voters.


British university 'malaise' forcing bright students to US

Growing numbers of bright teenagers are rejecting British universities in favour of those in the United States amid claims they no longer represent value for money, a leading headmaster has warned.

Students are being forced to seek courses on the other side of the Atlantic because institutions in this country are stuck in a “malaise”, according to Anthony Seldon, Master of Wellington College, Berkshire.

He said cash-strapped British universities provided less contact time with lecturers and displayed only a “perfunctory interest” in sport and the arts.

The comments – in a new book published by The Good Schools Guide – come as figures show a surge in the number of pupils applying to study in the United States.

According to data, the proportion of students taking the US college entrance exam in Britain increased by a third last year compared with 2008. In all, more than 10,000 applicants sat the main admissions test, it was revealed.

The rising interest is believed to be driven by pupils from independent and grammar schools seeking to escape annual tuition fees of up to £9,000 in Britain from September.

But writing in the new book, Uni In The USA, Dr Seldon said the exodus was “down to far more than economics”.  “American universities in particular celebrate breadth of achievement far more than those in Britain, where only a perfunctory interest is shown in sporting or artistic prowess, or whether one held positions of responsibility and contributed to charitable activities,” he said.

Dr Seldon said that one-in-10 Wellington students were now applying to universities outside Britain compared with just the “occasional pupil” a few years ago.  Other independent schools have reported a similar increase in recent years.

According to the Fulbright Commission, which promotes links between US and UK universities, demand is highest for places at elite Ivy League institutions.

Applications to Pennsylvania University jumped by 50 per cent last year, while demand for Harvard was up 41 per cent and Yale reported a 23 per cent rise, the Commission said.

Dr Seldon, writing in the foreword of the book alongside Wellington's head of sixth-form, Matt Oakman, added: “The concerns we hear from British students about poor contact time with UK lecturers and a lack of genuine engagement with them is more than media scaremongering.

“There’s a malaise in British universities, which have received too little money for far too long. Spending per head on students in American universities can be as much as twice that spent on British students.”

The new guide includes reviews of more than 65 US universities, as well as information covering the applications process, entrance exams, fees, scholarships, visas and lifestyle issues.

It says that most students in England will face annual tuition fees of £9,000 from September – on top of the cost of living.

US universities traditionally charge the equivalent of £9,800 to around £35,800 a year, it is claimed, although some provide generous scholarships and grants.

Alice Fishburn, the book's editor, said: "The rise of tuition fees in England is slowly forcing people to look across the Atlantic. The excellent financial aid and bursary programmes in place at most American universities ensure that many British students can afford to go, regardless of their educational background or economic status.

"The recent slide of the dollar puts living expenses within reach. Most students will graduate with less debt than their British contemporaries."


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