Union first, Students second

The Dispatch reports on a Columbus Board of Education decision:

Columbus school board member Stephanie Groce challenged two sacred principles of school unions yesterday by trying to insert into the district’s official lobbying agenda a plank that would remove seniority and the right to strike.

This did not go over well; in addition to an attempt by Groce to reduce opposition to private school vouchers, these items were voted down 5-2. Groce dares to say what must not be said, suggesting that the unions don’t put students first:

“It’s not an attack on the union,” Groce said after the meeting. “These are proposals that put the children first. … This is an opportunity to focus on policy, because we’re not getting any more (state) money.”

Focusing on policy is great, as long as the policy matches what the education unions want. Ask OneOhio Now, whose idea of focusing on policy is lobbying for our tax burden to rise in support of the unions.

Do I detect a hint of snark from the president of the Columbus Education Associaton?

[Groce’s] plank to remove seniority-based layoffs said: “Any staffing decision that ignores quality and effectiveness is an insult to professional educators and an injustice to children.”

“Obviously, a majority of the board saw it differently,” Columbus Education Association President Rhonda Johnson said, after watching from the audience as Groce’s proposals were defeated.

I find it hard to argue with Groce that “Any staffing decision that ignores quality and effectiveness is an insult to professional educators and an injustice to children.” But to the education unions, any threat to tenure or suggestion of merit pay is like garlic-laced holy water to a vampire. The longer you stick around, the more you’ve paid in dues, so it matters little whether you’re good at your job. When it comes down to it, the Columbus Education Association marches to the beat of the NEA’s drum… which sounds something like this:

This is not to say that the concern of NEA and its affiliates with closing achievement gaps, reducing drop rate rates, improving teacher quality, and the like are unimportant or inappropriate. To the contrary these are the goals that guide the work we do. But they need not and must not be achieved at the expense of due process, employee rights, or collective bargaining.

Is it any wonder the unions want Kasich and the General Assembly to keep the gravy train running and otherwise leave education alone? Yesterday’s 5-2 decision by the Columbus school board reaffirms the common knowledge that, at least in our big cities, the unions run the districts. How’s that working? (Spoiler alert: Columbus City Schools met 5 of 26 Ohio Department of Education indicators for 2009-2010).

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