Thursday, December 3, 2009

Goldwater Institute: Does anyone agree with the Arizona Education Association?

Steve Voeller
ABC's John Stossel did a story a few years ago on the nation's failed education system. Among the deficiencies are provisions in union contracts that hamstring the ability of school officials to weed out bad teachers. According to New York City Education Chancellor Joel Klein, it's "just about impossible" to fire a bad teacher in New York. Klein said, "We tolerate mediocrity because people get paid the same, whether they are outstanding, average, or way below average."

teacher lecturingThis scenario is common everywhere in the country, but it's about to change a bit in Arizona. A new law signed by Gov. Brewer has been getting some much deserved attention, not because of the good in it, but because the union bosses are fighting mad.

Under the new law, the balance of power has shifted. Now, teacher quality takes precedence over teacher seniority. What a concept. Inadequate teachers must now show improvement within 60 days of being informed of their sub-par performance. Gone is the 85 day (17 weeks or 4 months) improvement plan that used to be in place. Now, under-performing teachers can have their pay reduced without affecting the pay of better teachers. (We needed a law for this?)

John Wright, the head of the Arizona Education Association, isn't happy. "I don't know of another sector of the economy or the workforce that would find itself the subject of interference of the relationship of employer and the employee," Wright said.

That's strange. The employer in this case is the taxpayer who hires and fires the politicians who make laws like this. In most jobs, employees are well aware that the employer has much to say about the relationship. Much to say about pay, much to say about vacation time, and much to say about performance, too. This is but one problem with a government-run monopoly. When the relationship between employer and employee becomes murky, crazy things tends to happen. Things like having to lay off the young teacher instead of the bad teacher.

The union should realize that taxpayers, parents, and the general public will--by large margins--support measures that reward good teachers and ferret out the bad ones. The net result of all this will be fewer inadequate teachers in classrooms across the state. I challenge the union to find one parent who thinks this is a bad thing.

Steve Voeller is president of the Arizona Free Enterprise Club, a non-profit organization whose mission is to advance policies that promote a strong and vibrant Arizona economy.

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