Teachers’ unions across the United States face challenging times as they struggle to recover from the negative press have been receiving in their battles against the education reform movement. Teachers’ unions must cope with problems which include “falling revenue and declining membership, damaging court cases, the defection of once-loyal Democratic allies…” Additionally, the percentage of Americans who see “teachers unions as a negative influence on public schools shot up to 43 percent last year, up from 31 percent in 2009.”
Despite the decline, it would be a mistake to count the teachers’ unions as weak. Teachers’ unions “bring in more than $2 billion a year,” in forced union dues according to Politico, which makes them a potent political player, especially for Democrats who might want to deviate from the party line that puts campaign-contributing adults ahead of children in public education debates.
So, what is turning the tide against these loyal players in the Democrat Party machine??
We could point to a California judge’s recent ruling that delivered a hard blow to teachers’ tenure by finding the practice unconstitutional. Or, we could also point to the United States Supreme Court’s pending ruling on Harris v. Quinn—a decision that could cut a large union revenue stream by overturning “a four-decades-old precedent that requires workers to pay dues if they benefit from a union’s collective bargaining work, even if they don’t officially join the union.” But, it would be an oversight not to discuss the actions of Washington state’s own powerful teachers’ union—the Washington Education Association (WEA) — in creating an increasingly negative public image.
The WEA is not a stranger to muddled ethics. However, it’s most recent actions have crossed a clear line from a hazy sense of integrity to clear, full blown selfish behavior.
During the course of a relatively short period of time, the WEA has managed to engage in behavior that has led—or threatens to lead—to destructive results for the future of our children. Its actions include:
- Pressuring Democrats in Olympia to vote against a small change in state law that would allow student test scores to be used as one of the many factors of teacher evaluations. The WEA succeeded in drawing enough Democrat votes to kill the billrequested by President Obama’s Department of Education. Their actions led to a loss of control of over $40 million dollars in federal funds that would have allowed school districts discretion in how best to serve underprivileged children. However,defeating the bill did make it easier for the teachers’ union to demonstrate their power over liberal lawmakers. Proving just how out-of-touch the WEA has become, one union representative assured lawmakers that they should not worry about the loss of federal funding because school districts have a “huge amount of money.” Meanwhile, the state Supreme Court is threatening to hold the Legislature in contempt for the continued failure to fully fund education—a result of three decades of Democrat-controlled state budgets that pandered to special interests.
- Filing a lawsuit seeking to destroy charter schools. The WEA has proved unwilling to give up on its vendetta against charter schools, despite Washington State voters’ approval of them. The WEA persists in its desperate, last-ditch effort to retain its grasp on our state’s public school system through an expensive—and ridiculous—lawsuit. Perhaps the most troubling aspect of the WEA’s lawsuit is the fact that, once again, the teachers’ union is looking out for its own monetary interests (exclusive access to state funding) at the expense of underprivileged children (most, if not all, of the approved charter schools serve disadvantaged children).
- Backing a statewide union boosting initiative under the guise of decreasing class sizes. The WEA’s Initiative 1351 sounds great on paper, suggesting decreasing class sizes always improves education. But, a closer look into the initiative paints a different picture. With no funding source, Initiative 1351 would only serve to add to the ranks of the WEA. The News Tribune explains that the “measure would require hiring 12,000 new teachers plus a legion of administrators, librarians, nurses, social workers, psychologists, custodians, “parent involvement coordinators” and, well, you get the idea… It’s a lot of money, a lot of new positions, and – not incidentally – a lot of new union members.” To make matters worse, the WEA is now using high school graduations to campaign for its own interests by using the celebration of students’ achievement as a venue in which to collect signatures for Initiative 1351. Check out the WEA’s Facebook post below.