Teachers’ union demonstrates education isn’t a top priority

Anyone wondering where the state’s most powerful union comes down in an education-versus-them dispute can clear up that mystery by considering the Colorado Education Association’s response to Senate Bill 191.

This legislation, introduced by Sen. Michael Johnston, D-Denver, tries to reform the way Colorado evaluates teachers and the method by which they gain tenure — a status that is received after teaching three consecutive years in the same district. Tenure prohibits one from being removed from employment without a long and complicated process.

Presently, there is little performance-based evaluation attached to tenure, which is achieved largely through the passage of time. Johnston’s bill would require three years of “demonstrated effectiveness” to get the coveted designation. Teachers could lose tenure after two years of “demonstrated ineffectiveness.”

All this focus on effectiveness apparently is too much for the CEA, which not only vehemently opposes the bill, but is threatening to withhold its support of the governor’s attempt to get a $175 million federal education grant.

That the state is reduced to groveling to Uncle Sam to get part of its tax money returned for what should mainly be a state function in the first place is bad enough, but this bullying from the union adds insult to injury.

Pupils may not be too worried at the prospect of angering teachers anymore, but many legislators instantly put their heads down on their desks when ordered by the union. And with good reason. According to The Denver Post, the CEA and its public education committee gave around $800,000 to legislative candidates, political issue groups and party committees between January 2008 and December 2009.

We all would like to think that these political contributions had something to do with educating children and less with generalized union objectives, but that’s not the record. During the 2008 election for instance, the CEA and the Colorado Federation of Teachers gave over $1.3 million to the political action group, Protect Colorado’s Future, which was opposing such education-related issues as amendments to prohibit closed union shops, union paycheck deductions and the regulation of campaign contributions.

Not to be outdone in their concern over education, the National Education Association donated over $3.8 million to the same group. They were joined in this great crusade for children by the International Brotherhood of Teamsters, the Service Employees International Union and another group deeply involved in scholarship, the International Brotherhood of Boilermakers.

This kind of performance should dispel the myth that education unions are more concerned with education than being unions.

A CEA spokesman said that SB 191 was an attempt to do too much, too fast and paradoxically, too expensively. This even though it would reduce the expense currently involved in getting rid of   teachers with poor performance. It is hoped that the measure will also limit tenure only to instructors who produce satisfactory results.

The bill has received the unanimous endorsement of the Colorado Board of Education, whose action has only seemed to further agitate state union officials. They have reportedly purchased newspaper and radio advertising to try to rally support against the bill, in addition to threatening to pull union support for Colorado’s federal grant application.

The union’s position seems to have little to do with supporting good teachers who should not have their jobs made more difficult by poor but difficult-to-remove coworkers or their progress blocked by a system based on longevity rather than performance.

It does have a lot to do with the maintenance of union power. By opposing the connection between reward and performance, the union stance has much in common with the automotive unions’ successful campaign to remove a connection between their contracts and the performance of their products. Students who want to succeed and teachers who already are succeeding should not want this legislation to be bullied into failure.

Rick Wagner offers more thoughts on politics at his blog, The War on Wrong, which can be reached through the blogs entry at GJSentinel.com.


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