The Mask is starting to slip

Duf Sundheim
Political Consultant

Public
employee unions portray themselves as representatives of public servants, whose
only goal is to insure their members are treated like all other Americans.  Teachers’ unions especially portray
themselves as having the best interests of students and parents at heart. 

The mask is starting to slip.

Last
week a 19 page power point presentation prepared by the American Federation of
Teachers showed how the AFT derailed a Connecticut grass roots movement of mostly
working class moms fighting for a better education future for their
children.  As the Wall Street Journal reported, the goal was to insure
parents thought the union was on their side while all the while:

  • Making
    sure the parents were shut out of any and all negotiations 
  • Trick
    parents into signing onto proposals that pretended to give parents power
    but in reality did not

The double
dealing was not limited to parents.  The presentation
noted that although they publicly
supported Rep. Bartlett, the sponsor of the legislation, and Rep. Fleischman,
the co-chair of the legislature’s education committee, it merely was "Karma"
that Rep. Bartlett lost his re-election effort in 2010 and Rep. Fleischman lost
his bid for the House majority leader’s position.  In the words of Bernie Kopp of the
Incredibles (confirmed by Rep. Bartlett): "Coincidence, I think not."

Watch the video

The union’s
hubris is such that even though the power point presentation was (1) presented
at an ATF event, (2) bore the union’s label on each of the 19 pages, (3) was
signed by a union official and (4) prominently placed on the union’s web page -
they still claimed the presentation did not reflect its views.  How cynical. 

And these are the representatives of the people we entrust
our children with – at least when they are not protesting at the state capitol.

Beneath the veneer of being
an advocate for parents, as was demonstrated in Connecticut, the union’s true
feelings are very different.  In California,
Federation of Teachers President Marty Hittelman said California legislation
similar to that proposed in Connecticut would empower "lynch mobs" (i.e.
parents).  An article published on the
CTA website said that if legislation was passed which increased parental input
parents "will have their hands on the levers of power; from what I have seen,
parents are unprepared for this." And most disgusting of all, a San Jose
California Latino parent, whose child was struggling in a traditional school,
asked one of the school’s educators whether a charter school was right for her
child.  The educator’s response?  "Charter schools are for retarded children".  (Out of desperation the mother went ahead and
enrolled her child in a charter school, where the child is flourishing today.)

With respect to manipulating
the careers of elected officials, in California they are not as subtle as they
are in Connecticut.  In a public hearing
in Sacramento a union leader told legislators public employee unions put them
into office and if the legislators did not back the union’s program, the union
would put them out of office. View video.  

Not content with controlling
the legislature, California public unions now are focusing on disenfranchising California
voters from exercising their constitutional right to petition their government.  In recent radio ads they make the totally
unsupported claim that by signing petitions, voters are opening themselves up
to identity theft.  Click here for audio

It does not have to be this way.  If we are going to be world leaders, as we
should be, it cannot be this way. 

In terms of education, today we are at a juncture
similar to the communications system in the 1970s.  Back then, AT&T fought innovation every
step of the way, just as the teachers’ unions are today.  But just as AT&T not only survived the
communications revolution, but actually flourished because of it, teachers will
be one of the major beneficiaries of the technological changes coming to
education.  Instead of spending most of
their time lecturing to a large group of students, some who already know the
material and some who have no idea what the teacher is talking about,
technology will enable teachers to track the children’s development and their
time with each student will be based upon what that child needs.

In terms of parental involvement, many teachers are
frustrated parents are not more involved. 
And in some schools, parents do not know how to get involved.  In one school I am working in, the average
parent did not attend school after the third grade.  But parental involvement should encouraged,
nurtured, not manipulated. 

In the days ahead, there are going to be serious,
difficult arguments about education policy, including the role of technology,
parental involvement and what we can afford. 
One of the key people at the table will be the teachers’ union, the
teacher’s chosen representative.  Our
Constitution, one of the greatest documents ever written, was the result of
another extremely contentious argument. 
We can succeed; for the sake of our children, we must succeed.  But the lying, the double dealing, the
thuggery adds nothing to the debate and is not worthy of a world leader, much
less the example we should be setting for our children.

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