Michelle Rhee punts on Unions

As someone involved in the education reform movement, I hate to criticize Michelle Rhee.  That said, if you want to bring about a better education system, you have to know the source of the problem.  That’s the only way you can develop a solution.

Rhee’s article is an lesson in problem avoidance.  It makes the point that education reform is a political battle.  So far, so good.  It’s high time that high profile people started talking like this, though I suspect much of that can be attributed to Chris Christie’s surviving the campaign of lies put out by the teachers unions and bloated bureaucracy.

Where the article fails is her failure to take on the 800 lb. gorilla in the education debate.  After being successfully targeted for destruction by these engines of greed and mediocrity, Rhee turns tail and opines the this is what unions are supposed to do.  This is a travesty.

What I’ve Learned
We can’t keep politics out of school reform. Why I’m launching a national movement to transform education.

The teachers’ unions get the blame for much of this. Elected officials, parents, and administrators implore them to “embrace change” and “accept reform.” But I don’t think the unions can or should change. The purpose of the teachers’ union is to protect the privileges, priorities, and pay of their members. And they’re doing a great job of that.

What next, Michelle?  “Kim Jong Il’s role is to turn millions of North Koreans into brainwashed, undernourished midgets building bombs to terrorize neighboring nations, and he’s doing a great job of doing that.”

Not to paint the unions as bad as Kim Jong Il, but the comparison still fits.  Teachers unions, along with the feather-bedded layers of administrative bloat, are the primary obstacle standing between the taxpayers and the educated populace they are paying for, but not getting.

Rhee’s argument would be much more powerful if she simply said that unions role in the education debate is morally illegitimate.  They are preventing the nation from creating a just and effective education market, and they are doing so for the purpose of simple greed and power.

Why congratulate them for being immoral?  Rhee at least gets one thing right when she closes her article with the following observation and action plan.

Lastly, we can’t shy away from conflict. I was at Harvard the other day, and someone asked about a statement that Secretary of Education Arne Duncan and others have made that public-school reform is the civil-rights issue of our generation. Well, during the civil-rights movement they didn’t work everything out by sitting down collaboratively and compromising. Conflict was necessary in order to move the agenda forward. There are some fundamental disagreements that exist right now about what kind of progress is possible and what strategies will be most effective. Right now, what we need to do is fight.

[Just FYI, yours truly has been saying that for years now.]

We can be respectful about it. But this is the time to stand up and say what you believe, not sweep the issues under the rug so that we can feel good about getting along. There’s nothing more worthwhile than fighting for children. And I’m not done fighting.

Fair enough, Michelle, but if you are really up for a fight, don’t unilaterally disarm yourself. The existing system needs to be dismantled, and it will take a good dose of righteous moral outrage on our part, directed at the morally illegitimate financial interests that have grown rich, protected and powerful that the expense of America’s children.

Americans turned against segregation when they saw the true nature of the segregationists.  It’s time for us to do the same to the government/education complex.  Telling people unions are “just doing their job” isn’t cutting it.  Unionization has no place in the public sector. Every dime they extract is at taxpayer expense.  Their existence is an outrage.

5 thoughts on “Michelle Rhee punts on Unions”

  1. If any business (including those managing the education of our children) could be counted on to always be fair and just in its dealings with its employees, unions would not be necessary. Ideally the drive to accomplish the same goal, from the profiteers and the product makers’ point of view, would have a balancing effect on the outcome. In practice the swing back and forth of one side (labor or management) dominating the other, frustrates any successful advances either side makes. It may seem that ruthlessly negotiating for total victory is counterproductive to the creation of a system (of manufacturing or service), but it is, unfortunately, all we have.

  2. I agree the unions are destroying the drive to excel wherever their power has been absolute. Absolute power whether held by the few or the many corrupts absolutely. That is why I, of necessity, remind one and all that absolute power belongs to God because God is the only one who cannot be corrupted. When the citizens of this nation begin to understand that their salvation comes by repenting of rebellion against God and submitting themselves unto God, then God will hear from on high and he will heal our land. When nations, organizations and families submit themselves to God, they live at peace with God and with each other. It is only rebellion against God that produces the disruption, violence, chaos and corruption that characterize our public schools.

    There is only one absolute solution to the problems of corruption. That solution is repentance. That solution has been made possible by the death and resurrection of the savior which is Christ the Lord. The battle continues until the end comes, at which time, every knee shall bow and every tongue confess that Jesus Christ is Lord. There is no end run around the truth, it just exists and remains the same waiting for those who are willing to believe it.

  3. There seem to me to be two reasons why public sector unions, including teachers’ unions, need to be dismantled.

    1: They are not negotiating directly with their employers (the taxpaying public), but with elected officials or appointed administrators. This creates only a very weak version of the private sector union bargaining dynamic and almost guarantees complete institutional capture by the union.

    2: By threatening to deny the public their service to improve their bargaining position they undercut the union’s and/or the service’s legitimacy. If their role is vital to the public interest, they should not be allowed to strike. If their role is not vital to the public interest, it should be provided through the private sector.

  4. Aspen,
    I have been thinking about that tendency toward undercutting legitimacy in relation to charter schools. The strength of true charter schools is their ability to say no to incorrigible students. It is a privilege for a student to be accepted into a charter school. When disruptive, violent, or chaotic kids are forced to accept education that they don’t want, there is no incentive for them perform according to higher standards.

    Additionally, the school in Compton that had a parent trigger the move to a charter school is still vulnerable to the mob mentality of the unions. Parents will ultimately need to be organized and all of the weaknesses of mob rule by union membership will come into play in the selection and operation of a school by parental mandate. In truth, parents of lower income children do not have the time or tools to manage their own homes, much less the operation of a school, much less the operation of a parent organization to hold the charter school accountable.

    So, basically, the charter school is no longer a charter school — just another government run school program that operates outside of the union (until the union forces the charter schools to use union employees).

    Its a catch 22. The reason government schools don’t work is because of government rules. The reason government rules don’t work is because they remove the direct reward from the worker and dish it out to everyone in a misguided attempt to force equality into areas for which God did not ordain equality to be. It is like God’s little phrase “if any would not work, neither should he eat”. Liberals don’t want anyone to get hungry enough to have to work in order to eat. Therefore, they will ensure that eventually there is not enough for anyone to eat. Every society needs day laborers as well as business owners and political leaders. Capitalism is the ultimate method of distribution of resources. Those who want the money the most will work the hardest for it. Those who only want to work hard enough to live a quiet and peaceful life will work hard for it, but it is obtainable. Those who don’t want to work will live their lives at the mercy of those who have worked. Everyone is required by God to show mercy and provide for the poor, for the widows and for the orphans.

    James Madison was right in 1792 when he argued against government intrusion: “If Congress can employ money indefinitely to the “general welfare,” and are the sole and supreme judges of the “general welfare,” then they may take the care of religion into their own hands; they may appoint teachers in every state, county, and parish and pay them out of their public treasury; they may take into their own hands the education of children, establishing in like manner schools throughout the United States; they may assume the provision for the poor; they may undertake the regulation of all roads other than post-roads; in short, everything from the highest object of state legislation down to the most minute object of police would be thrown under the power of Congress, for every object I have mentioned would admit of the application of money, and might be called, if Congress pleased, provisions for the “general welfare.”” (retrieved from: http://www.wallbuilders.com/LIBissuesArticles.asp?id=49126)

    It is by insidious rules that government oversteps it boundaries. They will just begin to redirect their rules toward the direction of every attempt to escape their rules.

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