Archive for the 'Literature' Category

Time to Abolish School Boards

Time to Abolish School Boards

This website will not be renewed as of May 18, 2017. In the 11 years of this site’s history a lot has changed. More logic and events have come to bear on the topic of abolishing school boards. Charter schools, especially in America, are growing and they do bypass centralized school boards. Education Savings Accounts (ESAs) are becoming a reality, again in the US. And the new Education Secretary under President Donald Trump’s regime (Nov 2016) , Betsy DeVos, is promoting family choice, a disruptive factor that will challenge school board relevancy. There is also much awareness in Canada.

Today’s (20170509) search via Google produces these items (only a few selected) :

1. Abolish School Boards — 2014
Abolishing school boards would release intended education dollars to their intended targets – students. At the moment far too much of that earmarked money is …   (this site — )

2. Abolish the school boards – The Globe and Mail…/abolish-the-school-boards/…
“In the first place, God made idiots. That was for practice. Then he created school boards.” – Mark Twain. Talk about dysfunction. The Toronto District School … (MARGARET WENTE Abolish the school boards, The Globe and Mail Published Tuesday, Dec. 02, 2014 )

3. Should governments close our school boards? – The Globe and Mail…
British Columbia Alberta … Should governments close our school boards? … the movement to abolish school boards recently gained some ground when a political …( KATE HAMMER – EDUCATION REPORTER The Globe and Mail Published Friday, Jul. 16, 2010 )

4. Abolish School Boards | Is it time to abolish school boards ……
School boards have been around in one form or another since Colonial days. Their numbers peaked in 1930 at 127,000 but have dwindled to 14,000 today. ( )

5. Is It Time to Abolish the School Board? – The K-12 Contrarian ……/abolish_the_school_board.html…
Apr 28, 2017 · Last week I wrote about my (very brief) experience as a candidate for the local schoolboard. My candidacy, like the selection process, was pretty much …  ( )

6. KONRAD YAKABUSKI The jig is up for Canada’s school boards The Globe and Mail
Published Sunday, Apr. 23, 2017 —one of the comments is below:
"mcguirp2 April 24, 2017
Terrific article – really speaks to one of the reasons education in Canada – especially Ontario cannot really become excellent – so many levels of bureaucracy, not only trustees, but most board officials act in their own self interest with very little understanding of what is good for kids. I wrote a longer response here –
Hope there is a follow-up to this article!
Paul McGuire – former principal OCSB (Ottawa)"

Professional Teachers or Union Activists



This is an important article on the topic of professional associations vs unions for teachers.  I copied it out a few months ago, but somehow it seems to have disappeared or been cleansed off the Internet.  I can't find it again.  Anyway, since it's an important topic I provide the link again.

UPDATE 091127:  The article I refer to is here

Title:  Professional Teachers or Political Union, with 16 interesting comments, 1 of mine.  I keep recommending it to friends, teachers, parents, trustees — because it shows there can be a choice to mandatory teacher union membership.  That is what we have in Canada in the public school system — only mandatory teacher unions.

In the US most teachers have the option to join a professional educator association, as well as obtain a rebate for that portion of their fees which is deemed to being used for political purposes.

This aricle, in my experience, has "disappeared" from the Internet from time to time as I've been recommending it over the last 2 months. I copied it out word for word and it is elsewhere on my blog.  If the above link does not work, see:     I do not have the 16 comments which are really worth reading.

Teachers: Professionals or Union Activists?


Here is an article which will help in the discussion of teachers as professionals or union members.

Professional Teachers or Political Union?

By John Jensen, Ph.D. (John Jensen is a licensed clinical psychologist)    4-9-09   

“It’s in their DNA," Bailey said. “They can’t help themselves.”
            Tracey Bailey and I were discussing teacher unions and their seeming drive to politicize education with partisan endorsements and controversial social issues. He is Director of Educational Policy for the Association of American Educators and was National Teacher of the Year in 1993; is extraordinarily articulate, and his command of his subject has enabled him to testify for the AAE before Congressional committees. We talked while he drove south on Interstate 95 and I hunched over my keyboard in Phoenix balancing a portable phone on my shoulder.  I was trying to understand the differences between the NEA and AFT on the one hand and the regional teacher associations on the other for which the AAE is a national umbrella.
            "The big turning point was in the early seventies," Bailey said. Before that time, the NEA had been more loosely organized, and a teacher could belong to a local organization not affiliated with the national. When the American Federation of Teachers suddenly began drawing members away from the NEA, it took a more assertive approach to organizing.
            “The trigger really was what happened to the dues a teacher paid, changing to what was called unified dues. This meant that like it or not, a large portion of your local dues would go to the national teacher union.
            “There were waves of revolt about that. Among teachers you have many independent thinkers and many in Right-to-Work states decided to do something about this affront to their independence.  In some cases, huge numbers said ‘We’re not going to pay to your national union dues. We don’t want our money going to Washington, DC!’  In Missouri, the entire state organization disaffiliated from the NEA en masse.  In some states now, the independent associations are 2 or 3 times bigger than NEA.”  Bailey placed this turning point in the context of overall union membership.
            “How many American workers were in unions in the 1930s?’ he asked me.  I had no idea.  ‘It was probably about 80% or higher in that industrial age," he said. "And how many public employees were in unions?“  I didn’t think there were any. 
            “Right,“ he said, “it was against the law then. But how much of the US workforce now is in unions?” 
            I estimated 11%, which he affirmed. Depending on how you calculate it, he said, it could be anywhere between 8-12%.
            “But how many employees in the public sector are in unions now?” he asked."
            The number was big, I knew, but had no idea that it was 80% or higher.
“As our society has changed, union membership has remained flat.  In the private sector, workers’ unions have declined while the public sector unions pick up a few more, and overall the membership is steady, maybe up or down a percentage point from year to year. The NEA is the single largest union in the country but it‘s not growing, while independent teacher associations are growing 10% annually.“ 

            “So what is it that attracts people to the independent teacher associations over the unions?“ I asked.

            “Now, I don‘t want this to seem critical of many great teachers who are members of a union, but from my perspective I see many of them just putting up with it.  Many experienced teachers have said to me, ‘I‘ve been in the union for twenty years, but no more.  They no longer represent what I believe in.’”

            ‘What does the union do that they don’t believe in?” I asked.

            “There are three main problems,” Bailey said. “The first is that the unions spend their members’ money and the union’s staff time on partisan politics. Remember that teachers as a group reflect the makeup of the general population. Some lean conservative and some liberal. So by endorsing or contributing primarily to just one party and having their staff support those candidates, the unions alienate almost 50% of their members every election cycle.

            “Secondly, teachers pay between $500 and $1000 annually in union dues, with $750 a good average. This is a lot of money to a teacher so they notice what it‘s used for.  Yet because of that ‘social activist DNA’ among union leaders, they cannot help themselves from taking stands on issues that bear no direct relation whatsoever to teaching and the classroom.  How does your union‘s political position on abortion or gay marriage affect how well you teach your subject or how well you are compensated? Too often teachers see their union dues going to sheer political activity reflecting neither their classroom priorities nor their personal beliefs.

            “Finally, when we ask new members of our association what they like most about it, they tell us they like the updates and the newsletters and so on, but the primary thing is that they get twice the legal and liability coverage. They want help in the classroom and they want to know what’s happening in their profession that might affect them.  We spend our resources on these things that matter most to teachers, and they notice it.”

            I wanted to know how membership in a union versus an association might influence how a teacher then affected students. Bailey reframed my question.

            “Start with the impact on the teachers themselves.  Once I was giving a workshop in a school where the teachers were just great, and we were staying after school talking about teaching and sharing ideas. Unfortunately, the union stepped in and said that we couldn’t do that.  We had to leave the school because we weren’t permitted to have the building open any later under their union contract without prior approval. Think how that limits the most productive and creative teachers when they aren’t permitted to do things a little differently, or when the union contract and the bureaucracy make it harder for them to do what they know is best for kids.” Instead of union contract issues, our primary question is ‘How is this helping the child?"

            Acknowledging that this was just one example with generalizations involved, he explained how industrial union attitudes about such things as piece work, hourly rates, and shop stewards were out of step with professional teaching. “I grew up in construction and I know what that’s about,” Bailey said, “but that’s not what professional teachers are like.  We’re more like doctors and lawyers and scientists. Our focus is on doing the best job we can for the people we serve.  Our respect for doctors is not due to their being in a union. I tell teachers all the time that lawyers, doctors, and scientists do not achieve their compensation or respect as professionals through union representation or collective bargaining.  

            “I taught in Florida, where the legislature decided to reward entire schools with $100 a child if the school made sufficient academic progress. From the legislature’s point of view it wasn’t that much money, but in a school with 2,000 students, this was $200,000 for teachers to work with and the faculty got to vote on how to use the money.  Did we want more copy machines or higher salaries? Usually we voted for a combination of things. Then the union sued the state, asserting that ’You don’t have a right to give extra money like that unless it comes through the union bargaining contract.’

            “If your genuine concern is ‘How is the child doing?‘, then that union position is indefensible. It’s worshipping the bargaining contract instead of what benefits both teachers and students.  Furthermore, it shows the difference in mindset between true professionals and some union leaders. When you pursue a principle like that and exclude all other reasonable principles, how can you say you‘re a professional?”

            “Somebody told me once that there are three types of people in all organizations including schools: speedboats, barges, and rocks.  The speedboats dash around and want to make changes and want to innovate. The barges aren’t bad, either.  They consistently carry a heavy load and are great as long as they can go straight ahead though it can be hard to get them to change direction.  But the rocks, well, the rocks are bound to cause a lot of damage.”

I couldn’t help but think about the rocks I’ve known. One of them made my son’s primary grade years miserable. Others would rather see students funneled to juvenile justice than meet their needs in schools. Another humiliates students so they hate coming to school. Last week I welcomed seeing the problem posed in the August 31 issue of The New Yorker, "The Rubber Room: The Battle Over New York City’s Worst Teachers," by Stephen Brill, detailing how the union defends incompetent teachers.

I was curious how the historical origin of unions would play out under an association. Since unions arose because employers took advantage of workers’ vulnerability with unfair pay and working conditions, I wondered how that issue might play out. 

"There are several angles," Bailey said. "We’re working now within a system that began a hundred years ago when young women had far fewer occupational choices—usually a nurse, teacher, secretary, or housewife.  Their salaries were abysmally low and often considered less important because viewed as a supplemental second income for their family—talk about gender discrimination!  Now their options have expanded greatly.  They can be astronauts or brain surgeons, but teacher salaries and benefits still have not caught up with other professionals."

Regarding salaries and the difference in teacher representation between unions and professional organizations, Bailey said, "let me give you a personal experience that stands out in my memory. I’d been named Teacher of the Year for the State of Florida, and had a chance to meet several Teachers of the Year from other states.  Three were from Georgia, all members of the Professional Association of Georgia Educators—PAGE.  Georgia is one of the states where the independent association with over 75,000 members is far larger than the NEA state affiliate.

            "They were consummate professionals, and told me how PAGE had taken the lead in approaching the Governor about teacher salaries. They’d offered accountability, a willingness to do new things, and expected to be compensated as professionals for that. They knew what was wanted and stepped up to the plate, and in four years, in increments of about 6 percent each year, Georgia teachers’ salaries went up almost 24 percent.  This was not only a more professional approach, but demonstrated to me that it could reap great rewards for teachers."

 Once a contract is formalized and the school year begins, the AAE’s main concern is implementing it and helping teachers in the classroom. They inform teachers about laws and policies that affect them, help resolve classroom problems, and insure that policies are implemented correctly—that both sides "play by the rules." For what most teachers say they really want from a union or an association—legal and liability insurance—the AAE offers twice the coverage of most union policies, $2 million per member per incident.

A common confusion in union-oriented states, Bailey explained, is the assumption that the union can force a teacher to be a member.  "Nobody can force you to be a member of a private organization you don’t want to belong to.  The union is a private organization similar to a church in many ways.  You would never tolerate anyone requiring you to belong to a church and pay tithes to teach in a public school!  Unions may give the impression that they can force you to be a member, but they can’t.

"In the vast majority of states, teachers can choose whatever association or union they want to belong to, but in a diminishing number, about 18 now, unions can still require a compulsory bargaining "representation fee."  Even then, a teacher can demand a rebate of around $100 to $150 of it, and for a religious objection have their entire year’s dues be redirected to an independent third-party charity. These are protected rights under state and federal law.  Independent professional teacher groups can get started and sometimes decertify the union as the bargaining unit.

"For an individual teacher, I’d just suggest that you know your rights," Bailey concluded, "that you don’t need to join a teachers’ union no matter what anyone tells you. Join the organization that best represents your needs and your personal beliefs and that most resembles your view of teaching as a profession."




Literature Empowering Parents


Because of more visibility during this School Board election period, I am being asked for more of the literature that helps empower parents to get the best education for their children.  I will publish much of this material in this category:  Literature.