Many of you probably heard the news yesterday that teachers unions received a nasty (and well-deserved) blow from the Los Angeles Superior Court. I grew up in a fiercely anti-union household, and as a child, if I did a poor job making my bed, my mother would scowl and angrily say, “Union Worker!” I knew at that point I damned well better do the bed properly.
Mercifully, as a businessman, I never had to deal with any union issues. I did, however, at one point have to grapple with a salaried employee who, years into her employment, decided to get cute and threaten a state case to retrieve overtime wages based on the idea her job should have been an hourly one. She did not prevail. But it deepened my dislike for any prospective interference of the state into such matters.
Back to the topic of school, however, I spent all twelve years of my pre-college education in public schools. For elementary schools, exactly three of the teachers were excellent, and three sucked beyond belief. To this day, I question how much better a thinker I would be if all six of those years were good ones. Subsequent years were also hit-and-miss (and let me be clear, all twelve of these years were in good, solid, middle-class schools; not the utterly crappy schools that so many millions have to attend).
Even as a youngster, it galled me that the shitty teachers were paid exactly as much as the excellent ones. Even though my own children attend (very, very expensive) private schools, I help fund local schools with my five-figure property tax bill every year, and as a matter of fairness, it has continued to bother me that tenure in any form exists at ALL.
So when I was listening to the radio yesterday, and the reporter was saying that California teachers are granted “tenure at eighteen….” I naively assumed the next word was going to be “years.” Nope. It was “months.” After just eighteen months, these people get what is effectively guaranteed lifetime employment. Even, as in the court’s case, the teacher just sleeps at their desk or browses the web.
My view differs somewhat from that of the AFL and NEA. I think that at any point, for any reason, a teacher (or any employee, for that matter) should be able to be dismissed without cause. Period. There’s a relationship between employer and employee. The employee is there at the will of the employer. If the employer doesn’t like the employees work…………or voice………or hair color……..or anything else about them – bang – there’s the door.
I believe any interference on the government’s part on any private matter is offensive. Public schools are a bit blurry, I suppose, since they aren’t private enterprises – – – but to my way of thinking, there is still a business relationship going on between the employer (the school district) and the employee (the teacher). The notion that this particular profession is blessed with a special right of some kind is vile to me.
Of course, the teachers union headmistress Randy Weingarten (who looks every bit as grotesque as a person in this role should look) puked up her own disgust at the court’s ruling, claiming “student achievement” was the focus on her union’s strongarm tactics. Teacher’s unions are about ONE thing and ONE thing only – – ensuring the most money for their members as possible, irrespective of performance, and, in turn, ensuring high salaries for the union leadership – such as the presumably female Ms. Weingarten. End of story. Their purported concern about students is a cover story that is in reality complete bluster.
I am pleased at the court’s ruling, and I hope it is just one more nail in the coffin of unions in this country, whose membership has been withering away for decades now. Indeed, it’s getting to the point that unions are virtually non-existent in the private sector. They are almost entirely in the realm of the public sector, which is why I can look at the obese bus drivers here in town, driving their almost totally-empty double-length buses, and take comfort that these uneducated, unskilled laborers are each pulling down a six-figure salary (and, no, I’m not kidding).
Some folks (I’m looking at you, Dutch) have already stated the 9th Circuit will overturn this ruling. I guess they might, particularly considering their famous loyalty to the left wing. But if I can cling on to hope that equity markets may function normally again some day, it’s easy for me to figure that this ruling has a chance of surviving.