When teachers’ union bosses place themselves above children

Geoffrey Lawrence

So teachers in Chicago public schools have decided to leave the children they are responsible for out on the street while they fight against accountability?

For those who haven’t followed the situation, the Chicago Teachers’ Union is entering Day 2 of its strike today and children attending Chicago Public Schools have nowhere to go. (The 45,000 children attending the area’s charter schools are in better luck, though, because teachers at those schools recognize that a strike during classroom hours wouldn’t be “fair to the children,” according to this article in the Chicago Sun-Times. Apparently, their peers at the traditional public schools aren’t hung up with such concerns.)

So what’s at the center of this dispute? Is the school board trying to strip away teachers’ retirement or health benefits? Is it trying to reduce teacher pay? Surely, for teachers to leave their classrooms and take to the streets, they must be in danger of losing something significant, right?

Not really. Although the Chicago school district faces a projected budget deficit of $3 billion over the next three years, they’ve offered what amounts to an average raise of 16 percent over the duration of the next 4-year union contract.

You read that right. The CTU was offered a 16 percent raise and took to the streets in anger. How many Nevadans have been offered a similar pay raise in the past few years? Could you imagine taking to the streets and making children pay because of your outrage at such an offer?

What’s really at stake here isn’t about pay, of course. It’s about accountability. Chicago Mayor Rahm Emanuel (former Obama Chief-of-Staff) has taken a page out of the Obama Education Department and insisted that student performance play a role in teacher evaluations. Indeed, it’s not just the Obama White House and federal education Secretary Arne Duncan who believe that teachers’ should be measured, in part, by their ability to improve the academic performance of their students. Nearly every education researcher or advocate from Left to Right (outside of the union camp, that is) has reached similar conclusions.

After all, if public education is meant to benefit the students involved, then success should ultimately be measured by whether students are benefitting, right?

But the CTU will have none of it. As they see it, the purpose of a public education system is to dispense jobs and goodies to adults and not to help children. That’s why this Reason video, aptly titled “The Machine,” is particularly poignant.

To its credit, the Nevada State Teachers’ Association didn’t have the gall to go this far when the 2011 legislature, at the behest of Gov. Brian Sandoval, voted to require that student performance account for at least 25 percent of future teacher evaluations in Nevada. However, its representatives did fight vigorously to make the requirement subject to collective bargaining agreements at the district level, so that local union representatives would later be able to quash the new accountability requirements.

Thomas Jefferson believed that an educated populace was indispensable to the preservation of the republic, which is why he was such a fierce advocate for public education. That legacy of American public education, however, was focused on providing children with the means to be successful in life and contribute meaningfully to society. It wasn’t about dispensing patronage or other goodies through a shamefully political process.

It’s time we return to that legacy because education is too important to be subverted by special interests.

Geoffrey Lawrence

Geoffrey Lawrence

Director of Research

Geoffrey Lawrence is director of research at Nevada Policy.

Lawrence has broad experience as a financial executive in the public and private sectors and as a think tank analyst. Lawrence has been Chief Financial Officer of several growth-stage and publicly traded manufacturing companies and managed all financial reporting, internal control, and external compliance efforts with regulatory agencies including the U.S. Securities and Exchange Commission.  Lawrence has also served as the senior appointee to the Nevada State Controller’s Office, where he oversaw the state’s external financial reporting, covering nearly $10 billion in annual transactions. During each year of Lawrence’s tenure, the state received the Certificate of Achievement for Excellence in Financial Reporting Award from the Government Finance Officers’ Association.

From 2008 to 2014, Lawrence was director of research and legislative affairs at Nevada Policy and helped the institute develop its platform of ideas to advance and defend a free society.  Lawrence has also written for the Cato Institute and the Heritage Foundation, with particular expertise in state budgets and labor economics.  He was delighted at the opportunity to return to Nevada Policy in 2022 while concurrently serving as research director at the Reason Foundation.

Lawrence holds an M.A. in international economics from American University in Washington, D.C., an M.S. and a B.S. in accounting from Western Governors University, and a B.A. in international relations from the University of North Carolina at Pembroke.  He lives in Las Vegas with his beautiful wife, Jenna, and their two kids, Carson Hayek and Sage Aynne.