Sunday, July 08, 2012

Teachers’ Union Expelled from School District

The trouble with education in this country starts and ends with unions. They are out-of- touch museum relics, fitting for a day that used rotary presses to distribute the news, but wildly inappropriate for an age that‘s both wired and wireless.

Unions have prevented, and continue to prevent, much-needed reforms in education, public finance and government. They cultivate a sense of entitlement wholly out of order for the times, which call for more self-reliance and entrepreneurship.

Frankly, unions suck.  Really.  They suck the money out of our wallets; they suck productivity out of workers; and suck up all the leavings from the public trough.

Increasingly, the public has had it with the private country clubs known as “public” unions. 

So it should surprise no one that one county school district is fed up. And they have finally decided to boot their left-leaning union and try life and education in the 21st century. 

The Douglas County School District, a suburban community south of Denver, Colorado, has decided to part ways with their teachers’ union in the absence of progress on a new contract which expired June 30th, 2012.

“The Board of Education finds and declares that the Collective Bargaining Agreements between the District and the Unions,” said the district on July 3rd in its formal resolution dissolving the bonds between the union and the district, “which had been effective from July 1, 2011 through and including June 30, 2012, are now expired and of no legal effect whatsoever.”

The dissolution between the district and the union is unprecedented  and sources close to the union tell me that unions are pensively watching, worried that other districts around Colorado and the country could take the same action as Douglas County has.  We can only hope.   

The main issue between the district and the union was the union’s insistence on being the sole bargaining agents for the teachers. The district, in the interest of transparency, wanted other professional teacher associations to be able to appear at the bargaining table.

“Exclusivity for a union with majority support is not a monopoly, it is democracy,” said Brenda Smith, local head of the AFL-CIO affiliated American Federation of Teachers according to Colorado Ed News. “It is order rather than chaos. It allows employees to select their representative freely, without coercion from the employer. It allows them to amplify their voice through collective action under our constitutionally protected right to freedom of association.”  Could we get a little more Orwellian please, Ms. Smith? 

From our friends at Colorado Peak Politics: “Let's get this straight -- allowing only one organization to represent all teachers is democracy, but allowing teachers multiple options for representation, including themselves, is a monopoly? Please tell us Brenda Smith wasn't previously a civics teacher.”  

But also at issue were years of venality, self-dealing and conflicts of interest routinely engaged in by the union and the school district.

In 2009 the district faced severe budget shortfalls, in part, because previous union contracts were fudged in order to make it appear that the pupil growth in the county was going to rise faster than could reasonably expected.

For the union, it was a win at the time the contract was approved because they could point to the out years of the contract while the union president got the district to agree to pay a portion of what was believed to be a six-figure union salary out of district funds, along with generous grants from the district to other union workers.

What the heck? They could always raise taxes to make up for the deception- which, of course, should have been known to the union at the time.

At the same time the administration was looking to try to increase taxes to make up their phony numbers in the budget. They also tried to gain approval to sell close to half a billion dollars in bonds to build new schools for non-existent children. And- remember this is a government service that’s “all about the kids”- they were awarding contracts to build new schools to a sitting board member on the advice of the district’s attorney.

Unions win; administration wins; board member wins; taxpayers lose; parents lose; teachers lose.  You know? The usual balanced equation when it comes to liberals and unions.

As a result, taxpayers staged a revolt in 2009 in Douglas County throwing out union-friendly board members and voting in a reform-minded slate of candidates.

And reform they have.  The district has worked on merit pay, a voucher program, finance transparency- along with making union negotiations open to the public. All of these initiatives have been opposed by the union.

And so now the union has found that the ringing in their ears is just the sound of a school bell ringing for the dismissal.

That bell?  It rings for thee, Ms. Smith.  And I told you so.

Let’s hope that other school districts start to do the same.


Far too many British Olympians went to public school (i.e. private schools), says PM as he calls for barriers to be broken down

He's pissing into the wind.  For a start, British public schools are far more likely to give their pupils a good exposure to sport than State schools are.  And practice makes perfect.

Secondly, the rich and their children tend to have better health and hence greater sporting potential.  Both their environment and  genetics favour public school pupils.

Only 7% of British children go to private schools but they dominate just about everything in Britain because they are just about the only ones who get a decent all-round education.

Sorry for the very British confusion here about "public" and "private" schools but it is all explained in the sidebar

Too many of Britain's Olympic athletes went to public schools, David Cameron said yesterday as he called for barriers to be broken so all children could achieve their sporting potential.

The Prime Minister claimed that fee-paying schools were producing 'more than their fair share' of medal winners while sport in state schools was being 'squeezed out' with rundown facilities and children lacking ambition.

At the 2008 Olympic Games in Beijing, almost 40 per cent of Great Britain's medal winners had been privately educated – and that rose to 100 per cent of winners in equestrian events.

With about a third of the 2012 squad expected to have been educated privately, Mr Cameron lamented the numbers of top sportsmen from less well-off backgrounds.

He said: 'Sport can change lives. So why is it that in so many schools sport has been squeezed out and facilities run down?

'The result is that independent schools produce more than their fair share of medal winners and too many children think taking part in sport just isn't for them. We've got to change that.'

In a speech at Loughborough University yesterday, Mr Cameron, who went to Eton, one of the top fee-paying schools in the country, urged young people to look up to elite athletes such as runner Mo Farah and cyclist Victoria Pendleton who were both educated at state schools.

He added: 'Some of the barriers that hold young people back are in their minds: about imagined barriers of aspiration and confidence. The Olympics are a chance to break  them down.

'I'm not claiming one Olympics will turn every child into tomorrow's Mo Farah or Victoria Pendleton, but just look where our great athletes have come from.  Seb Coe started running with the Hallamshire Harriers. Amir Khan started boxing at Bury ABC.

'Sustaining the momentum of the Games means opening people's eyes to the possibility of sport.  'Getting young people to follow their heroes and take part at school and in their local clubs.'

His comments came after Education Secretary Michael Gove warned that a 'profoundly unequal' education system meant that private school pupils were dominating positions of wealth and power in Britain.


New Australian book: Educating your child: it’s not rocket science

 Kevin Donnelly is a  very experienced teacher and one of the voices of reason in Australian education.  He is a good antidote to Leftist fashions in that field.

I don't agree with him on all issues but if you want an alternative view to what your kid is probably getting at school, this book should be helpful.  Donnelly stresses that parents have a huge educative role too.  Some of his major recommendations:

*    Say ‘no’ to children and teach them respect and self-control

*   Always have dinner at the table and make sure TVs, computers, game boys, electronic readers and mobile phones are turned off (and no computers in the bedroom)

*   Surround children with myths, fables, legends, music, creative and practical arts

*   Let children take risks and give them the space to make mistakes

*   Give children a moral compass that will help them decide right from wrong

*    Respect teachers and support schools in educating your child

*   Understand that every child is different

*   Understand that you cannot live your child’s life

*   Realise that you are your child’s first teacher

*    Enjoy and love being a parent – there is nothing that will ever equal the experience

He gives his reasons for each of those ideas in his book.

You can get it here.  His website is here.

One area where I am less wary than Donnelly is in computer usage.  I allowed my son to play computer games to his heart's content.  But he is bright so always did well at school nonetheless and is now in Australia's premier university mathematics Dept. working on his Ph.D.  So a lot depends on the child.

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