Memo To Louisiana Teacher Union Bosses – Elections Have Consequences

The Baton Rouge Advocate has a piece today about a sit-down Gov. Bobby Jindal – wait, wasn’t he in Iowa all week and not taking care of the people of Louisiana? – and the heads of the two teachers’ unions who find themselves on the outside looking in of future K-12 education policy in the state. And the reaction of both sides to the meeting is instructive…

“The elections are over,” Jindal told reporters. “It is time for us to work together and move forward.”

But leaders of the Louisiana Association of Educators, called LAE, and the Louisiana Federation of Teachers, or LFT, took a different view after a closed-door meeting with the governor and others. Both teacher unions have clashed with Jindal in the past over policies and politics.

“I didn’t like a lot of what I heard,” said LAE President Joyce Haynes. “My heart was broken and my Christmas was basically ruined, but I hope for more conversation.”

LFT President Steve Monaghan said that, while most of the meeting focused on general themes, he is concerned that Jindal will push plans that drain resources away from traditional public schools.

Poor Miz Haynes and her broken heart at Christmas time.

Just to give you a glimpse of what that meeting might have looked like, check out Miz Haynes starting around the 5:00 mark of this video. Ask yourself how excited you’d be to make her Christmas a happy one.

Why even bother bargaining with somebody who thinks changes to a system the overwhelming majority of Louisiana’s taxpayers and voters are opposed to perpetuating amount to an “assault” on public education?

The arrogance and entitlement of people like Joyce Haynes is mind-boggling. Does she think her union has done a good job for Louisiana’s schoolchildren? The state ranks at the bottom of educational outcomes, and has for decades. There has been no discernible improvement in those ranking despite more than 10 years of increases in spending.

And when Louisiana’s budgetary situation prevented those increases from continuing in the past two years, Haynes and Monaghan have treated the freeze in the state’s Minimum Foundation Program funding as a cut.

Haynes and Monaghan know one word: more. That’s all they contribute to this discussion. More money, more benefits, more dues.

Well, the voters have taken a look at the product they’ve given us and the message this fall was clear.

No more.

Haynes and Monaghan are screaming about charter schools getting funding typical command-economy schools might otherwise get, as though somehow that’s an assault on public education.

No, it’s not. A charter school is a school. It has a principal and teachers and students just like any other school. And a charter is a publicly-funded school just like the command-economy schools are. The only difference is that charters aren’t run by petty politicians at the local school board the teachers’ unions contribute to electing.

So this isn’t about de-funding public education. It’s about experimenting with different models of delivery of that service. Models the teachers’ unions neither control nor influence.

It’s pretty arrogant to suggest that “public education” is only defined as schools run by local politicians, isn’t it? Arrogant and dishonest.

If Haynes and Monaghan were interested in a real discussion of Louisiana’s educational future, they would make the case for why the current model of a public school is the best way for education delivery, and they would acknowledge flaws in that model and suggest fixes.

If either of them have done that, they’ve been awfully quiet about it. They’ve been very loud about “more.”

And then there’s vouchers, which for all the screaming the unions are doing about charters is the real item Monaghan and Haynes are soiling their britches over. Because if a charter school is public education delivered through a public institution run by a third-party provider, vouchers indicate market-based education delivered by market providers funded by public dollars. If the teachers’ unions have difficulty controlling charter schools – they could at least theoretically go in and unionize the charters and therefore be negotiating with the political body in charge of running them – once vouchers take hold on a large scale the unions have no chance.

Remember that Louisiana’s private sector workforce is unionized to the tune of less than three percent. Some 97 percent of our citizens whose paychecks don’t come from government are non-union. By contrast, the LAE and LEFT – er, LFT – represent 11.6 percent of the state’s teachers. That’s hardly a large number, but it shows the unions are a lot more successful penetrating the public-sector employees within the state’s government schools than they are within the private sector.

They’re seeing charters and vouchers coming down the pike, and they’re seeing their strength becoming a quarter of what it currently is.

And that’s why Haynes is boo-hooing about how terrible mean Bobby Jindal made her Christmas. If she cares about the quality of Louisiana public education, it certainly isn’t her prime concern.

Well…life stinks, Joyce. Your organization and your party barely even ran candidates this fall for statewide office, and your candidates were roundly defeated in the BESE elections. Had things been different, would you agree to allow a pilot charter or voucher program somewhere as a test? Of course not. You’d be demanding higher taxes to fund more spending on the current system, and  you’d be out demagoguing the issue for all it’s worth.

Why should Jindal be any more magnanimous than you’d be if, say, Donald Songy, Keith Guice, Dale Bayard and Louella Givens had all won in the BESE races? He has an agenda, he put it in front of the voters and he won big in the fall. The teachers’ unions are going to fight these reforms tooth and claw, and Jindal’s mandate is to run them over like a truck.

If that means Haynes and Monaghan are upset about the lumps of coal in their stockings this Christmas, they need to remember – it’s the electorate who put them there, not Jindal.

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