Washington teachers union at root of $13.2M loss to students

Teachers unions exist to employ teachers. They have no interest in providing for enhanced educational opportunities because, after all, that has nothing to do with union membership and mandatory dues which allow them to flex political muscle.

Nothing better demonstrates this truth than the story unfolding about the private grant Washington public schools sacrificed because the union stranglehold simply will not allow for it.

The Dallas-based National Math and Science Initiative (NMSI) awarded grants to 7 states to fund Advanced Placement programs in math and science, including one for $13.2 million to Washington.

Such programs allow high school students to gain college credit while still in high school. Franklin and West Seattle high schools in Seattle, Evergreen and Union high schools in Vancouver, and three high schools in Spokane will lose that money because Washington law won’t allow them to have it.

The problem? NMSI wanted to pay the money directly to participating teachers, but Washington state law mandating collective bargaining (between unions and school districts) for any compensation to teachers would not allow for such a pay scheme.

A full 22 percent of the $13.2 million, or $2,640,000, was to be paid directly to teachers who participated, including extra incentive pay for those whose students performed the best on the Advanced Placement exams.

Rich Wood, spokesman for the Washington Education Association teacher union, said: “Some outside group can’t impose a new system of pay on teachers. That’s just not the way that schools work in our state.”

Mr. Wood is ignoring the obvious.

No party in this scenario was attempting to modify the way teachers are currently paid.

No party was suggesting that teachers be paid differently from this point forward.

A party wanted to provide incentive pay for teachers who take on extra responsibility and produce good results.

Mr. Wood is right about one thing — that’s just not the way schools work in this state.

In response, Rep. Bill Fromhold (D-Vancouver) said, “We worked hard to try to find middle ground ... we got caught in the middle of the grant requirements and the collective bargaining laws in the state of Washington that have to be followed.”

He also added that he didn’t want to place blame on either side.

Why not? The teachers unions are the ones who supported the legislation that enables them to control the negotiation process for teachers’ contracts including methods of compensation.

The lack of flexibility in the law, promoted by the unions so that they maintain all of the power, is the problem.

(Rep. Fromhold probably doesn’t want to blame the unions because he has received in excess of $2,800 in campaign contributions from teachers unions and their PACs since 2006, but I digress.)

So, let’s review: Private money in lieu of taxpayer dollars to promote educational opportunities and reward good results.

Students win. Taxpayers win. Teachers win. Parents win.

Insert the unyielding power of the Washington Education Association, and we all lose.

But, it is gone right now.

Union arrogance and legislative ignorance are working hand-in-glove to deny our kids any opportunity to excel.

The legislative majority receives large amounts of campaign contributions from the teachers unions and their related political action committees.

The legislative majority passes laws that allow collective bargaining negotiations for public employees to remain closed to the public, so the public will never know the contents of those meetings even though the taxpayer pays for the contracts.

On KVI radio’s John Carlson Show, Mary Lindquist of the Washington Education Association repeatedly responded to callers that the decisions about teacher pay need to be handled locally, that parents needed to have a say.

If that’s truly what she and the Washington Education Association believe, then why have they made repeated, successful efforts to block model legislation that would open collective bargaining for public employees to the public?

The WEA cares only about union dues. WEA couldn’t care less about the kids.

This is all about power, political influence and stuff teachers really don’t support.

Isn’t it about time the teachers and parents took control of education again?

By the way, that $13.2 million grant was far more than the $1.7 million in taxpayer monies approved by the 2008 legislature to translate the math and science portions of the WASL into six languages.

I wonder which would provide better results.

Sonya Jones is the director of the Labor Policy Center at the Evergreen Freedom Foundation in Olympia.

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