‘Remote Learning’ Fiascos Highlight Need For School Labor Reform
One advantage American school reformers have over their counterparts in many other countries is that, thanks to the vertical separation of powers in the U.S. Constitution, the 50 state governments today retain a substantial degree of control over how schools are funded and managed.
Employee-employer relations may be the single most important public education policy area over which the states remain sovereign. In 21st century America, states are still free to refuse to adopt any law instituting compulsory union bargaining in taxpayer-funded education as well as in other public institutions.
The fact is, state lawmakers benefit schoolchildren and taxpayers by refusing to hand government union bosses monopolistic power over public education.
Monopolistic Unions Are ‘Negatively Related’ to Student Performance
In a 2018 policy analysis for the Washington, D.C.-based Cato Institute, University of Texas economist Stan Liebowitz and research fellow Matthew Kelly quantitatively demonstrated that union monopolists make schools less effective and more costly.
Thanks largely to the persistent and determined lobbying efforts of National Right to Work Committee members, there never has been a federal law forcing any state or local employers to recognize any union as employees’ “exclusive” (monopoly) bargaining agent.
One state — North Carolina — actually has statutory prohibitions against any government-sector union bargaining.
An additional 14 states do not currently have and never have had a court decision, statewide statute, or constitutional provision forcing K-12 public school employers to engage in any form of bargaining with any union.
Not surprisingly, unionization of public schoolteachers is consistently far higher in states where government union bosses wield comprehensive monopoly- bargaining privileges.
On the other hand, greater special privileges and more political clout for teacher union bosses have “a substantial and statistically negative relationship to student achievement,” concluded Dr. Liebowitz and Mr. Kelly.
The Liebowitz-Kelly analysis featured state rankings assessing how well ethnically and racially diverse students do relative to how much schools spend in cost-of-living adjusted dollars.
All of the nine highest-ranking states have been protecting public educators’ Right to Work for more than two decades. In order, they are: Florida, Texas, Virginia, Arizona, Georgia, North Carolina, Indiana, South Dakota and Colorado.
Six of these states — Texas, Virginia, Arizona, Georgia, North Carolina and Colorado — either do not statutorily authorize or explicitly prohibit union monopoly bargaining in K-12 education.
‘Parents Obviously Care More About Their Kids’ Future Than Anyone Else Does’
National Right to Work Committee Vice President Mary King noted that key personal decisions affecting their children’s future made by parents across the country speak to the correctness of the Liebowitz-Kelly analysis.
Back in 2009, over half of public servants were under union monopoly control in 19 different states, according to the Union Membership and Earnings Data Base, established and maintained by economists Barry Hirsch and David Macpherson. In 14 states, between a quarter and a half of civil servants were under Big Labor rule, and in 17 states, fewer than a quarter were.
From 2009 to 2019, the aggregate population of K-12 school-aged children for the 19 high government-union-density states fell by 1.34 million, or 5.6%. But in medium government-union-density states, the total school-aged population grew by 102,000, or 0.9%. And in low government-union-density states, the number of children aged five to 17 grew by 802,000, or 4.6%.
“Parents obviously care about their kids’ future more than anyone else does,” said Ms. King.
“The fact that parents have for many years been voting with their feet against monopolistic unionism in public education is, therefore, in itself a strong indication that Big Labor control over education employees has a substantial negative impact on student achievement.”
Ms. King added that it seems increasingly likely that the exodus from union boss-dominated government schools will accelerate during the next few years as a consequence of parental outrage over the lack of effective online teaching in their districts since last spring’s COVID-19 school closures.
“According to a recent report, 2020-2021 enrollment in Los Angeles’ unionized public schools declined by about 11,000 students, compared to the last academic year,” she said.
“Kindergarten enrollment is reportedly down 15% statewide in forced-unionism Hawaii’s government schools. It’s also reportedly down by more than 10% in Oakland, Calif., and Philadelphia.
“To help stop the bleeding, lawmakers, where monopolistic unionism is authorized and promoted, ought to consider eliminating or at least rolling back union officials’ special legal privileges.
“And Big Labor’s unwarranted power to codetermine with school officials how employees are compensated and managed should be their first target.”