The Teachers’ Unions’ Lack of Moral Character

In my most recent post, I wrote these words: “We will learn a lot in the coming weeks and months about the priorities and values of the various stakeholders, won’t we?” Yes, indeed.
Reinforcing the point of that question, John McCain is quoted in an earlier post about war:

“Character,” writes the younger [John] McCain, quoting the 19th century evangelist Dwight Moody, “is what you are in the dark,” when nobody’s looking and you silently make decisions about how you will act the next day.

The teachers’ unions are conducting a war against our children, using them as pawns to blackmail School Committees and citizens into caving into their contractual demands for further adult entitlements. Their demands have nothing to do with education. The unions’ actions are devoid of character and are morally offensive.
The actions by the West Warwick AFT union are the latest unprincipled actions and are described in this earlier post:

The School Committee has exercised its option to let its current teachers contract lapse after three years rather than four, a move that prompted the union to announce that its members would immediately start working to rule — doing only what is strictly required under the contract.
The contract with the West Warwick Teachers Alliance [an AFT teachers’ union group] that took effect last Sept. 1 was a four-year agreement — providing annual raises of 3.9 percent — but it includes the proviso that either party could choose, before Sept. 1 of this year, to eliminate the fourth year (ending in 2010) and instead negotiate a fresh agreement.
The School Committee voted unanimously on Tuesday of last week to take that option, Chairman Daniel T. Burns Jr. said.
Given the district’s fiscal straits — it entered the current fiscal year with a budget $1.7 million out of balance — it “would have been fiscally irresponsible to let it go to the fourth year,” Burns said on Tuesday. “I can’t promise you a rose garden if all I’ve got is weeds.”
Yesterday, Donald E. Vanasse, president of the 340-member teachers union, announced its new stance.
“The long and the short of it is that, over time, teachers will not be performing duties that are not part of the school day,” said Vanasse. “The teachers will do what they’ve been contracted to do. They’ll do their jobs and do them well. But they’re not going to do the extras that aren’t required but that they always do anyway.”…
In July, the school board reconciled its budget, slashing after-school programs and middle school athletics, and laying off a number of teacher assistants. It also proposed cutting transportation spending, reducing the number of substitute teachers and reducing its special-education tuition budget, with the hope that the state Department of Children, Youth and Families cuts down on the number of placements it sends the town…
The next fiscal year is expected to be even harder. The state-imposed cap on tax-levy increases will tighten, leaving the town with even less money to provide to the district.
With those kinds of cuts, Burns said, it would have been unjustifiable to keep the current teachers contract in force for the full four years. Now, he said, the district can assess its finances when the time comes to decide what it can reasonably offer the teachers.
Burns said he has no qualms about the board’s vote because it was an option available to both parties.
“I don’t know why they’re upset,” Burns said. “Their side could have chosen to opt out if it wasn’t to their benefit.”
For now, the union will wait to see if the board will rescind its vote — an action that would allow the dynamic to return to normal, Vanasse said.
“The union door remains open, but someone has to walk through that door,” Vanasse said.

And from a second ProJo article:

“The teachers that serve the West Warwick Public Schools felt that their trust has been broken and that their professionalism is not recognized,” Donald E. Vanasse, president of the West Warwick Teachers Alliance, said in the letter to board Chairman Daniel T. Burns Jr. “Your committee’s recent actions have left all teachers feeling that they have been devalued in the eyes of their own employer.”…
A few days after the committee’s vote on the contract, the union announced its decision to work to rule. In his letter, Vanasse said: “It is unfortunate that these events have unfolded in this matter, but be assured that we, as an organization, will continue to value the process of good-faith negotiations.
“In that vein, we stand prepared to rebuild the relationship that previously existed between the West Warwick Teachers Alliance and the West Warwick School Committee once your body takes steps to reconcile the manner in which it has recently begun to conduct labor/management relations.”
However, Burns said it is the union’s current posture that will make it difficult for the next contract negotiation session in a few years.
“The work-to-rule environment that the union leadership has instructed classroom teachers to practice is not sitting well with this School Committee,” Burns said. “And it is the wrong move if the teachers are looking for a better contract in the future.”
Schools Supt. Kenneth M. Sheehan said he’s baffled by the union’s actions. Sheehan, who once headed the teachers union in Seekonk, said he’s seen unions employ the “work to rule” strategy when teachers were working without a contract, but never when educators were in the midst of a “lucrative” agreement.
Some of the “unwritten rules” of the strategy, Sheehan said, include refusal to volunteer for nonpaid clubs or activities, participate in parent-teacher organization meetings, or sit on unpaid committees for the district. (The school open houses, which began in the district last week, are a part of the teachers contract, Sheehan said.) Those moves, he said, undoubtedly hurt the quality of education in town and, ultimately, shortchange students.
“I have difficulty in accepting [using] children or students as pawns when the fight is with the School Committee,” Sheehan said. “It’s always a problem when you put kids in the middle.”…

Think about this: Both sides had the contractual right to opt out of year 4, the school district is in deep financial trouble and had already cut programs, the school committee exercised its legal right to opt out, and the teachers’ union went work-to-rule even as the remaining 3 years of the contract remain in force. And the union said that only outright capitulation by the school committee would undo the new dynamic, restore trust and show respect for teachers. And, of course, the children are the pawns who suffer along the way – because the union does not give a damn about them.
Forget the happy public relations talk. West Warwick is the latest real-world example which shows citizens what are the priorities and values of the teachers’ unions.
And why do we let these unions retain monopoly control over our public education system?
Remember: Anchor Rising is THE place to go for information on the teachers’ strike and contract issues in Rhode Island. See the Extended Entry for all relevant links.

To get up to speed, here are the links – in chronological order – to all Anchor Rising posts about the East Greenwich teachers’ strike and the NEA:
Saying “No” to Legalized Extortion
Education Partnership Reports: Learning a lot more about RI teachers’ union contracts (The reports linked to in this post make an important contribution to understanding how teachers’ union contracts are about adult entitlements, not the education of our children.)
Reflecting on Labor Unions on Labor Day (This is a particularly important post for understanding the NEA’s political agenda and financial resources.)
Update on the East Greenwich Teachers’ Contract & Suggested Future Actions
Breaking News on Anchor Rising: East Greenwich Teachers to Strike on Tuesday
More on the Issues in the East Greenwich Teachers’ Union Strike (This is a particularly important post on the substantive issues in dispute in East Greenwich.)
The NEA’s Latest Disinformation Campaign in East Greenwich
Sometimes What is Old is New: Misguided Incentives Drive Public Sector Taxation
East Greenwich School Committee: Press Release & General Update
Mr. Subliminal Must Have Written the EG Teachers “Open Letter”
The Continuing NEA Disinformation Campaign in East Greenwich: Lies, More Lies & Even Some Melodrama
News Flash: Judge Orders East Greenwich Teachers Back to Work on Friday, September 7
Another Lie by the NEA: East Greenwich Teachers Would Take Pay Cuts Under School Committee Proposals (This is an important post to read as it torpedoes another critical lie by the NEA.)
The NEA in East Greenwich: Reflections On The Week That Was (This post includes some important comments on the issues underlying the debate about the unresolved statewide education funding formula issue.)
The Two Alternatives Before Us: Educational Programs & Teacher Jobs OR Excessive Adult Entitlements
Other relevant posts on Anchor Rising include:
Burrillville Teachers to Students: Let the Pawns Skip School
Crowley, You Charmer
Researching from Outside the Library
Children Are Their Life? No, Children Are Their Leverage.
Citizen Context for Negotiations
One Side of the Phone Conversation
My Favorite Samuel Gompers Quote
The Guidebook to Public-Abuse
Not Quite Breaking (Except of Taxpayers’ Backs)
The Other Side of the Conversation in Tiverton
The Rhode Island Right’s Bizarro Politics
A Case of Crossed Hands
Best We Can Do Is Get Involved Every Time
The Continuing Saga of the Funding Formula Distraction — A Tale of Two Cities
(These three posts immediately above in this section address the important questions of (i) what RI law and court decisions say about teachers’ strikes; (ii) the tax cap and level funding of education; and, (iii) statewide education funding formula.)
This Is the Way the System Works, the System Works, the System Works
A Mere Suggestion for the Teachers’ Unions
Tiverton School Committee Shuffles Its Offer
Hold on, hold on. Keep the money coming!
These Are Professionals?
Other Public Education News

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Tom W
Tom W
16 years ago

It has become clear that the “talking point” concocted by NEARI this season is “school committees’ refusal to ‘bargain in good faith.'”
Of course this isn’t true. As pointed out in Don’s post, the definition of “good faith” to the teachers union is “business as usual” a/k/a capitulating and giving the union pretty much everything it wants.
Here in the real world (not the parallel universe of the public sector) good faith bargaining is negotiating within the economic realities then prevailing.
This real world is JUST BEGINNING to insert itself into the parallel universe of RI’s public sector, because the taxpayers are tapped-out and the “business as usual” model of perpetual tax increases is grinding to a halt.
Whether NEARI just hasn’t realized that there’s a new reality yet, or is probing to see just how far it can push to maintain as much of the status quo, who knows?
In any case, Rhode Island’s public education system remains an embarrassment of mediocrity, and the “business as usual” public sector paradigm that has controlled this state means that business’ / employers (quite rationally) won’t locate here, and our public school “educated” workforce isn’t capable of much more than flipping burgers and waiting tables.
For those who can afford it, Rhode Island is a great place to have a second home – but it is an absolutely terrible place to have one’s taxable residency or to locate a business.

16 years ago

If I were a teachers union member, I’d be pretty cool with letting the other side fling the word “moral” around all it wants. Let the opposition overplay its hand – if it wants to turn an economic dispute into a jihad, let ’em. Whatever support teacher unions get is the product of overblown rhetoric by politicians and the media.

16 years ago

You know, it really is the pot calling the kettle black when you say the teachers aren’t concerned about the children (demonstrated by “waging war” against them…). Sorry, but I don’t think the kids are your first, second, third, or even fourth priority. This, for you, is about union-bustng, pure and simple. It’s about the tax money, and nothing else. Did you my comment to your spread-sheet post? I will say it again: We are havng this debate because, for the last 25 years, we have been following supply-side econ theory. In other words, you guys and your cut-taxes doctrines have created this mess. And to solve it, you want to cut taxes further, which will be made possible by breaking the teachers’ union. And how is this about the kids? Your theories have done the following: they have cut taxes on the wealthiest by tens of thousands of dollars per year, while, grudgingly, giving the middle class a couple of hundred bucks; they have allowed businesses to outsource and offshore jobs, resulting in the stagnation of real median wages for 90% of the population. The only people who have gained ground in the past 20 years are those with MBAs, Ph.Ds, JDs, and others with professional-grade masters degrees. This includes teachers. Now, you want to pull them out of the mix and drag them back into the lump of people losing ground. And this is going to increase the quality of education…how? You drive the best and brightest out of the profession by cutting their wages (no raise is, effectively, a wage cut given the reality of inflation), and this will improve the quality of education…how? Care to explain that? Oh, right. Performance pay. Has it occurred to you that 50% of teachers, under any type of performance system,… Read more »

16 years ago

First, if teaching is such an easy, cushy, high-paying job, why doesn’t everyone who rails against them here go get certified?
Second, calling me a socialist, saying I’m a lunatic or nuts or off my rocker is not a legitimate counter argument. Neither is saying I’m repeating Move talking points.

16 years ago

Tom, The NEA and the AFT haven’t merged (YET!!!) in Rhode Island.

Tom W
Tom W
16 years ago

>>Tom, The NEA and the AFT haven’t merged (YET!!!) in Rhode Island.
Bad habit of mine … kind of like back in the 1970’s when I’d use “Vega” as a generic term to denote crap cars, often failing to also add “Pinto” even though mentally I was including it in the same category. I do the same today sometimes, using “NEA” as a generic term for teachers unions.

Tom W
Tom W
16 years ago

>>First, if teaching is such an easy, cushy, high-paying job, why doesn’t everyone who rails against them here go get certified?
No doubt many more would if they didn’t have to endure the monopolistic barrier to entry of having to go through years of the “teacher college” pabulum (notwitstanding whatever education and subject matter expertise they already bring to the table).

John Cromwell
John Cromwell
16 years ago

Listen, the NEA (I use that term as an all encompassing term, as well – generally defining lazy slobs) is no different, in “professionalism” or in their ability to drink kool-aid, from the UAW.
“Work to rule” is no different than a factory worker telling you their contract doesn’t stipulate that they tighten screws, perfectly willing to let shoddy production tactics proceed. THe NEA is one big “rubber room’ full of jokers getting paid to do nothing.
Little do they know there is a groundswell building that is on to their dispicable tactics.
The NEA is nothing more than an old style industrial union. Professionals need not apply.

Tom W
Tom W
16 years ago

John –
Funny you mention the term “rubber room.”
In New York City they have facilities to which teachers report, and do nothing all day, and get paid.
These are teachers that are so bad (for myriad individual reasons, apparently including some suspected of being child molesters) that even in NYC they dare not allow them into the classroom.
Yet the teacher union contractual protections so great, and the multi-year process for terminating bad teachers so laborious and expensive, that the school districts park with in these rooms, with full pay and benefits!
And the term used to describe these monuments to teacher union imposed dysfunction?
(Feel free to Google the topic and see for yourself.)

16 years ago

Just when you thought the teacher unions couldn’t sink any lower. The West Warwwick teachers are doing “work to rule” in anticipation of what contractually may take place two years down the road? That’s outrageous! Let’s hope the citizens and parents in that town don’t buy into the union bullcrap and take action to force an end to this absurd union ploy.
Btw I wonder where Murphy, Alves, and Williamson stand on all of this?

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