Education reform could benefit from court case challenging union dues

Teachers in California protest a Wisconsin law affecting public-sector collective bargaining, February 2011. (AP file photo)

Teachers in California protest a Wisconsin law affecting public-sector collective bargaining, February 2011. (AP file photo)

In case you thought the Supreme Court’s recent opinions had filled its Big Huge Important Ruling quota for a while …

The court today agreed to hear a case out of California challenging mandatory dues for public-sector unions, specifically teachers unions. Georgia does not have teachers “unions” as such (only professional associations that lobby and campaign in ways similar to true unions, but which lack their mandatory dues collection and collective-bargaining power). But 26 states require even non-members of these unions to pay dues anyway, even though some of them object to the kind of lobbying and electioneering the unions engage in. And this lawsuit challenges the entire dues-collection scheme, not just the portion of money that is spent on these political activities. Collective bargaining itself, the plaintiffs contend, is a political activity because work conditions such as class size and teacher qualifications are public-policy questions settled through the political process.

I can see a couple of reasons why this case could be of widespread interest.

First, one of the (current) leading contenders for the GOP presidential nomination is Scott Walker, who as Wisconsin’s governor is perhaps best known for his tangles with public-sector unions. Mandatory dues collection was part of that fight, and earlier this year he signed a bill ending that practice for private-sector unions as well. So the issue could be prominent in the 2016 election, particularly if Walker does become the Republican nominee. If the court strikes down mandatory dues collection — and recent cases suggest it might — it would also put a crimp on one part of the union-money behemoth that helps bankroll Democratic candidates.

Second, one of the main ways in which teachers unions engage in the political process is to fight education reforms. We see this in Georgia, where — even though (to repeat myself) groups like the Georgia Association of Educators and the Professional Association of Georgia Educators are not true unions — the teachers associations are given a good bit of deference by lawmakers because the groups have money and are presumed to have the backing of many teachers, who are also voters. But the Georgia groups’ pull is not as great as that of their more moneyed counterparts in other states. A blow to those other states’ unions could be a boon to education reform in those places, which could have a spillover effect here. The same goes for efforts to fix other examples of brokenness in the public sector, in those places where unions spend dues money to fight such efforts.

Stay tuned.

Reader Comments 0

47 comments
MHSmith
MHSmith

Again, this union dues bit and what other non-right-to-work union states suffer in losses is a dead letter Kyle. Right to work laws killed dues checkoff and a lot of union organizing efforts and abilities too.


You have to ask, what business or reason should anyone protected under civil service laws have or should they have in addition to civil service protections, a right to unionize. Even FDR was steadfast against civil service employees unionizing.


However just barely beyond in what you wrote is the cusp, where those like me wanted you to go with your article, are the government taxpayer guaranteed pensions that we the taxpayers are on the hook for regardless of whatever.


Can't undo what is long past done without declaring bankruptcy but we can close these public sector guaranteed pension funds to all newly hired government employees and offer them the same type 401K plans that are offered in the private sector which have NO TAXPAYER guarantees.


And now that Obamacare is here to stay, lil' ones....   government should no longer have to provide separate and superior insurance  policies ie healthcare, dental life disability etc.etc.  just for them.  No more union "Cadillac" plans. 

AvgGeorgian
AvgGeorgian

@MHSmith


MH. We have the best economy in years, record stock market, record company profits, corporations have billions in the bank, and the very wealthy have a bigger share of the money than since 1920(?). There is plenty of profits produced by the productivity gains of workers to fund pensions, good insurance, disability, for much of the working population. I really don't understand why anger is directed at people who have good benefits rather than at companies that deny them to very productive workers.

AvgGeorgian
AvgGeorgian

@MHSmith While we're at it lets stop giving those darn good medicare and social security benefits to all persons entering the workforce - let them get their retirement from their company 401k and savings. Of course that means they stop paying in to SS and medicare and that would de-fund current recipients, but, oh well...

TheRealJDW
TheRealJDW

I don't care if they don't want to pay dues...they just don't get the same contract as the dues paying members.  Don't pay, negotiate your own deal. 

LilBarryBailout
LilBarryBailout

I believe whoever can provide the best education for the amount the state spends should be doing that job.

Anyone who puts children first will agree with that.

I'm not at all concerned with running a jobs program with above-market pay and benefits, just to keep a bunch of old biddies happy.

Kyle_Wingfield
Kyle_Wingfield moderator

@332-206 I suppose this is tangentially related to the topic at hand in the loosest sense possible, in that both relate to "education."

332-206
332-206

@Kyle_Wingfield @332-206

or, to those victimized, "reform".

But your point is taken.

One article is about maybe might could.

The other is about reforms implemented today.

MaryElizabethSings
MaryElizabethSings

I believe public education should remain truly a public institution in our nation and state, paid for by public taxes on all citizens.  I do not believe that public education should be turned over to private enterprise which will, more than likely, be tempted to use public tax monies for private profit purposes, thereby turning students and teachers into pawns for profit.


I believe that the best and most sophisticated educational reform will come from within the public school systems themselves, not outside of them, with the support of public charter schools, aligned with traditional public schools.


I believe that unions have kept the working class alive with some degree of collective power in our democratic-republic in which the oligarchs in America could rule like the royalty of Europe did in another place and time.


I believe that Georgia should have authentic Teachers' Unions, not simply Professional Educational Organizations.

FIGMO2
FIGMO2

Clayton County's accreditation woes stemmed from board members from two competing unions.

It was ugly. Not only did the students suffer as a result, homeowners, and the community as a whole, suffered devastating consequences.

Property values plummeted, thereby affecting tax revenue needed for our schools. It was a domino effect resulting in long-term consequences.

Adults behaving like children.  

LilBarryBailout
LilBarryBailout

@FIGMO2

That can happen when you vote for idiots, based on characteristics other than competence.

We did it at a national level six years ago, no surprise it can happen in Clayton County too.

Astropig
Astropig

Wisconsin proved that the unions (the real ones,not the pseudo-unions we have here) are really paper tigers that rely in coercion and workplace intimidation to keep members in line. When mandatory dues were eliminated,members voted with their feet:


(From The Washington Post)


"The state branch of the National Education Association, once 100,000 strong, has seen its membership drop by a third. The American Federation of Teachers, which organized in the college system, saw a 50 percent decline. The 70,000-person membership in the state employees union has fallen by 70 percent."


The NEA and other unions rely on fear and intimidation to succeed. Any system built on that is ripe for a revolution.

MHSmith
MHSmith

You have a very big overly optimistic view on achievable reforms based on what union losses in other states will do - in this right-to-work state - Kyle.  




MarkVV
MarkVV

If you will stay tuned, as Kyle asks, expect to stay tuned a very, very long time. First, you have to wait for the Supreme Court’s decision. Then, even if the Court agreed with the plaintiffs, since the decision will not affect directly Georgia professional associations, the result would first have to lead to some reforms in those other states, and then, in some distant future, those reforms perhaps might affect Georgia.

MarkVV
MarkVV

@Kyle_Wingfield @MarkVV 

“Education reform could benefit from court case challenging union dues” is the heading of the piece, and the subject of the bulk of it, the part which the words “stay tuned” follows. Moreover, if there is any effect on the election, it will be impossible to separate it from other factors.

Dusty2
Dusty2

@MarkVV 


Well, I guess I won't have to change my vacation plans after all.


Dusty2
Dusty2

What?  "Some pander to the rich, don't like unions."


Well, at least  no one has even mentioned a flag.  Today is knock the RICH DAY (those evil guys who made money!)


In support,  I shall protest for a UNION SUIT FOR EVERY CITIZEN 'cause some folks aint got one.  


Just call Headley and tell him your size and where you vote.  If it doesn't  fit, call straker. the union maker!

straker
straker

Since most unions demand that management treat their employees fairly, its easy to see why some, who pander solely to the rich, don't like unions.

Hedley_Lammar
Hedley_Lammar

@straker I don't agree with mandatory dues. If you don't want to join you shouldn't have to.


But if people DO want to unionize and DO want to join a union they should be allowed to. I cant understand why people would be so dead set against workers bargaining collectively. 



Claver
Claver

"A blow to those other states’ unions could be a boon to education reform in those places, which could have a spillover effect here."

That seems like it could be more of a mixed bag than an across the board good thing. I'm sure that some things that teacher unions fight for are only good for the teachers.  But, some things they fight for (like smaller class sizes) are also good for students.

Kyle_Wingfield
Kyle_Wingfield moderator

@Claver "some things they fight for (like smaller class sizes) are also good for students"

The data are inconclusive on that. And intuitively it doesn't necessarily make sense, if we also consider what we know about teacher quality being very, very important.

Here's what I mean: If you assume schools will hire the very best teachers first, then very good teachers, then good teachers, then average teachers -- and so on until they've filled all the jobs they have -- then you would assume the next teacher at the margin is not as good as all the others. (Of course, there are talented teachers just coming out of college and mediocre teachers who have been working for years; I'm speaking of the aggregate.)

If that's the case, then it depends on how many more teachers have to be hired to reduce class size substantially. And then you have to ask if, for instance, students are better off in a class of 15 if it means many more students have so-so teachers, or in a class of 20 if it means many more have the very best teachers.

But unions do not care about answering that question. It is in the union's interest to have more teachers, no matter what, because that means more dues, more people on the rolls, etc. Please understand: I am not  saying teachers don't care about answering that question; many, probably most, of them care foremost that their students succeed. But that's not necessarily going to drive the union's politics. The two are separate.

Which takes us exactly to the crux of the lawsuit: These are public-policy questions that are best settled without regard to what is good for the union, which is one reason everything the union does might be considered political activities that teachers shouldn't have to support with forced contributions.

Claver
Claver

@Kyle_Wingfield @Claver I understand your hypothesis about the next teacher at the margin, but there are a lot of assumptions embedded in it.  For example, it appears to assume that the drop off in teacher quality in moving from a class room of 20 to 15 would be quite noticeable (from the very best to the so-so). That may very well be true, but it is not a given.  If you assume a pool of 3000 great applicants per year and I increase my hiring from 1500 to 2000, my quality might not diminish at all. But, I'll have to plead ignorance on the quality of actual teacher candidate pools. 

I guess one would need to compare the teacher quality curve (how fast or slow does quality diminish as you move down the line of candidates) to the class room size benefit curve to try to find the sweet spot.(Of course, even if the pool gets bad quick, if I was with the union,  I might point out that one could improve the pool by increasing salaries) 

Kyle_Wingfield
Kyle_Wingfield moderator

@Claver "For example, it appears to assume that the drop off in teacher quality in moving from a class room of 20 to 15 would be quite noticeable (from the very best to the so-so). That may very well be true, but it is not a given."

Which is why I phrased it as a "for instance" hypothetical for illustrative purposes. The point is to show that such a trade-off, the kind of thing public policy makers must make, is not of interest to a group that is committed to increasing its own numbers.

AvgGeorgian
AvgGeorgian

@Kyle_Wingfield @Claver

Kyle, not only is your supposition on the research about class size and teacher quality uncited/unsupported, your "lets assume" model of research/argument is interesting to say the least. Also I will not take the time time reply to your response as on at least  two occasions, you have terminated my posts mid argument when it seemed your point had been disproved  - to make it look like you had the last word.

Jefferson1776
Jefferson1776

Nothing to do with GA.  BTW, mandatory dues are wrong IMO,  but workplace social settings can be brutal to non members, which too is wrong but a fact. 

MargaretPaper
MargaretPaper

Mr. Wingfield fails to note that on a state-by-state basis, better educational results generally correlate with unionized education systems. 

A ton of variables influence things like test scores and graduation rates. The evidence in favor of charter school effectiveness is weaker than the pro-union-to-state-school success evidence. That's true in Georgia as well as in systems across the US.

Kyle_Wingfield
Kyle_Wingfield moderator

@MargaretPaper "A ton of variables influence things like test scores and graduation rates."

That's absolutely true. And I would be interested to see someone demonstrate that unionization is what actually drives those "better educational results" you mention independent of those other variables.

Kyle_Wingfield
Kyle_Wingfield moderator

@HeadleyLamar Of course, and to repeat what I've said before, the difference is that it's far easier to do something about a charter school that isn't making the grade.

AvgGeorgian
AvgGeorgian

@Kyle_Wingfield @HeadleyLamar

Please list the names of the state charter school commission schools that failed CCRPI last year and were closed. Please also list the names of the failing schools that continue to operate. Also please give the link to financial accountability for these schools.

Kyle_Wingfield
Kyle_Wingfield moderator

@AvgGeorgian I never said one year of a failing score on the CCRPI would lead to a closure. No one, as far as I'm aware, has made such a claim; charters are typically granted for a set number of years, and it's the performance (academic and financial) over that period of time which is reviewed to determine if the charter is renewed.

OTOH,feel free to show us the list of traditional public schools that have been closed due to failing academics. And kindly point out the documents that detail how money has been spent at traditional public schools with failing CCRPI scores.

AvgGeorgian
AvgGeorgian

@Kyle_Wingfield @AvgGeorgian


Charter goals can be intentionally weak and not at all comparable with regular public schools. They also can last for 5-10 years- read some of the charters and you will understand.


Go to state audits and local BOE budget documents for all public school expenditures(although they definitely need more detail).


There is no link to state charter commission schools financial accountability because it is not available. There is no detailed performance or financial accountability for the private school tax credit that costs each GA household $18.


The lack of interest by the pro ed. reform crowd over the lack of financial and performance accountability is puzzling unless it is mostly driven by self interest. If someone is going to get free or subsidized private school for their child/grandchild or make money off charters and vouchers, it makes sense that they would not care about accountability.

Kyle_Wingfield
Kyle_Wingfield moderator

@AvgGeorgian "Charter goals can be intentionally weak and not at all comparable with regular public schools."

And when does the regular public school face the revocation of its "charter"?

"They also can last for 5-10 years..."

As I said, "a set number of years."

"Go to state audits and local BOE budget documents for all public school expenditures..."

Actually, state financial reporting does show spending amounts in more detail than you can readily find out about individual schools in public schools systems: https://app.doe.k12.ga.us/ows-bin/owa/fin_pack_revenue.entry_form

"There is no detailed performance or financial accountability for the private school tax credit that costs each GA household $18."

There is no "private school tax credit that costs each GA household $18" or any other amount. If you are referring to the tax-credit scholarship program, be sure to note that the average scholarship award is less than half of the total amount spent to educate the average Georgia student in public schools. So you should actually be talking about a savings to the average GA household.

AvgGeorgian
AvgGeorgian

@Kyle_Wingfield @AvgGeorgian


Compared a couple of schools/systems with data at site you cited.


Large CCRPI passing school system general and school admin. = 9% of budget.


Single CCRPI failing commission charter general and school admin. = 30% of budget


Could find detailed financial report for the traditional school system but not the charter school. Could find salary information for traditional system but not the charter school. So taxpayers have no way to tell who gets the 30% administrative costs for the charter school. Strange.


Private school tax credits - There is no way to determine savings as there is no requirement(see waivers) to ever attend public school to get the scholarship. 


Again, where is the financial and performance data for the private school tax credit? Does it specify how many students first attended public schools before moving to private schools (if they attended only long enough to get the scholarship, not sure that can be counted as savings).


Why are state commissioned charter schools and private school scholarships less accountable to the taxpayer?

Kyle_Wingfield
Kyle_Wingfield moderator

@AvgGeorgian "Large CCRPI passing school system general and school admin. = 9% of budget. Single CCRPI failing commission charter general and school admin. = 30% of budget."

You keep leaving out specifics so that I can't look at the comparisons you're drawing, but I can go ahead and say it's not appropriate to compare something like administrative costs between a "large school system" and a single school. They could each have one administrator making the same salary, and the percentage of each one's budget would be vastly different. It doesn't tell us anything meaningful.

A more appropriate comparison would be how much a single charter school spends on instruction vs. a single traditional public school (i.e., not a school system). But I'm having trouble finding that level of detail about a single TPS. Here's the APS budget: http://www.atlantapublicschools.us/cms/lib/GA01000924/Centricity/Domain/12/Budget%20Book%20Final%2004%2020%2015%20eh%20640.pdf

You tell me how much is spent on instruction at some failing schools ... I'll give you a list to get you started: Benteen, Bethune, Booker T. Washington ... I could go on, but there are 27 of those schools at APS and this comment is getting long enough.

AvgGeorgian
AvgGeorgian

@Kyle_Wingfield @AvgGeorgian


Let's see, you answer questions with questions but did not address the lack of accountability of no salary info and no detailed budget reports for charter commission schools, no performance data or savings data for private school tax credits ( I guess you are okay with that level of accountability), but ask me for "closing requirements" for traditional public schools. There are none - the state should help struggling schools with a well thought out, tested educational improvement plan. If moving kids to a different school, we would just send them all to Gwinnett Academy of Science, Math, and Technology and let the magic work.


The state has had several years of charter commission schools and a state appointed board of education to come up with the plan for taking an existing population of poorly performing students and applying structures and strategies to significantly improve performance using pre and post testing data with the same cut scores. Where is this detailed plan other than school choice, vouchers, charters, and the OSD? What specific plan for this improvement will the OSD use? Is it a secret?

Kyle_Wingfield
Kyle_Wingfield moderator

@AvgGeorgian And you keep ignoring that similar, school-level data isn't available for the TPS. I think we're officially getting nowhere.

AvgGeorgian
AvgGeorgian

@Kyle_Wingfield @AvgGeorgian  


The current state plan for accountability for TPS is CCRPI (charter schools can escape CCRPI penalties with a weak (in some cases) 5-10 year charter, TPS can't). The current mechanism for closing schools would be Advanced Ed accreditation which is endorsed by the state.


http://www.advanc-ed.org/services/advanced-standards-quality

  • stable governance, management, and leadership;
  • a coherent course of study;
  • a reliable system by which to assess students’ progress;
  • instructors who have a clear understanding of what they aim to teach, how, and why; and
  • access to the resources they need.

Apparently the state agrees that all SACS accredited schools meet these standards but need to be taken over anyway.If so, why pay the money for accreditation?


It seems to be nothing more that a money making scheme as no schools seem to ever lose accreditation for performance. The state could change that but prefers OSD instead.


You and I agree on the lack of detailed budgets to explain instructional and all other expenditures. The state could change that first. Require ALL schools to report detailed expenses in the exact same way in an easy to understand format so taxpayers can compare performance based on financial accountability. The current method is "schools are failing, we need something different, and the plan is to give the poorly tracked money to other folks" .

Kyle_Wingfield
Kyle_Wingfield moderator

@AvgGeorgian "It seems to be nothing more that a money making scheme as no schools seem to ever lose accreditation for performance. The state could change that but prefers OSD instead."

On this, we agree. OSD can work for the very worst schools, but it is silly to say a school can be accredited if its students are failing year after year so long as its school board doesn't have a bunch of 5-4 votes ...

EdUktr
EdUktr

No teachers' unions here in Georgia? Here's two unions that beg to differ with you: http://ga.aft.org/about-us and http://tinyurl.com/n998cju

Readers googling "NEA" and "contributions" will see that the nation's biggest teachers' union has a sad history of opposing parental choice in schooling, anywhere. And the union's local branch, the Georgia Association of Educators (GAE), will continue to see education reform as a potential threat to union revenues.

But they're increasingly up against inner-city parents no longer willing to accept failing schools as the price to pay for union donations to Democratic candidates at election time.



Kyle_Wingfield
Kyle_Wingfield moderator

@EdUktr They are not unions locally. Their local associations are affiliated with national organizations that are unions.

EdUktr
EdUktr

@Kyle_Wingfield

There's more to unions than local workplace militancy. Ask Gov. Scott Walker.