Recent local news stories have been highlighting 'teachers' holding town hall style meetings, or discussing the alleged underfunding of Texas school districts, but many of these articles have been misleading to say the least.
For example, a recent story entitled "Educators Discuss Issues at Town Hall Meeting," was incredibly void of relevant information. For starters, the so-called ‘town hall meeting’ in Round Rock was organized by the second largest education union in the country. The American Federation of Teachers union collects some $2 billion in dues and fees from educators each year. While many citizens erroneously believe that we do not have unions in Texas, the truth is that our “Right to Work” laws only prohibit compulsory union dues. In fact, while union membership dropped nationwide last year, according to the Bureau of Labor Statistics union membership in Texas grew by 65,000. (Union growth is just one plank in the Democrat strategy to “turn Texas blue.”)
According to the article, the Texas teachers’ union president cited a study from a left- leaning organization to prove that Texas is not spending enough on education. What she did not mention is that when we adjust for cost of living, Texas actually spends $12,676 per pupil- higher than the national average, and significantly higher than California’s $8,346.* Furthermore, according to the Financial Allocation Study, Texas’ education spending grew 95% over the last decade- a whopping 5 times faster than enrollment growth at 20%. Texas currently spends nearly half of its general revenue on K-12 education. And as for the myth that we are woefully behind the rest of the nation, Texas 8th graders scored higher than the national average on reading, math, and science tests (and higher than union states like California, New York, and Illinois).*
Of course for unions like the AFT, manufacturing a ‘crisis’ in education will enhance their power. More spending=more public education employees=more union members= more revenue= more political power for union bosses. I wonder how many “Education Round Rock” members know that their union dues were used to support a variety of liberal/progressive causes and candidates last year. What the AFT (and the larger National Education Association) don’t want parents and taxpayers to focus on, is the role that teachers’ unions have played in deteriorating the quality of public education by protecting bad teachers. As former AFT president Al Shanker stated in 1976, “I don’t see a voice for students in the bargaining process; I think it’s one of the facts of life…the consumer, basically, is left out.” The sad truth is that these unions represent workers, not children, which is why they oppose any reforms that would weaken their political power.
Unions are less powerful in Texas than in other states, for now. We must heed the cautionary tales of states like California, Illinois, and New Jersey, and make sure education is about kids, not union power.
*Chuck DeVore, The Texas Model: Prosperity in the Lone Star State and Lessons for America. (Austin, TX, Texas Public Policy Foundation, 2012) p.5.
See also, Mallory Factor, Shadowbosses: Government Unions Control America and Rob Taxpayers Blind.