teachers unions are destroying public education

In Uncategorized on June 5, 2008 at 1:11 am

For once, I agree (in part) with something the Fly said. Across the country, and particularly in NJ, teachers unions are destroying public education. Failing to properly incentivize teachers has something to do with it. But, that is only symptomatic of two larger problems.

Unlike automotive workers decades ago, public school teachers have a high total compensation package (salary & benefits) with a very attractive work schedule, when compared to most other professions. Yet, unions like the NJEA continue to act as if this is not the case by squeezing school districts with automatic annual salary increases and tenure policies that cripple the district’s budget, removing a powerful incentive for teachers to work harder or be more accountable, and result in annual tax increases for taxpayers. One must only look to what the UAW did to the US auto industry in the 1980’s to see where their union’s policies are leading us.

As a result of the arrogance, greed, corruption and incopmitence of organized labor’s leaders, companies like GM were saddled with massive legacy and overhead costs that made the american auto industry totally uncompetitive. Quality of the product was poor and cost were as much as 50% greater than foreign manufactured cars. Does this sound a little like our educational system? The only hope of salvaging the broken US auto industry was for union membership to agree to huge concessions that did away with costly and outdated benefits packages and forever changed the way management compensated and incentivized auto workers in the US.

The other problem is a result of the failed legislation and leadership in Trenton that require high levels of services and then redistribute tax money from one district to another, leaving districts like Ridgewood with a service obligation it cannot fund.

Public education is badly broken right here in Ridgewood (don’t kid yourself). Getting Trenton to fully fund legislated programs or correct flawed legislation may never happen. But, our teachers need to acknowledge that they are part of our community and their children will suffer right along side of ours. They should be treated and compensated like any other professional. Employment cannot be guaranteed. Nor can automatic salary increases. teachers should be evaluated and paid fairly on their performance, like any other profession. The most powerful incentive is financial. And the best teachers should be rewarded (we have many of them in Ridgewood). The flip side is that the “safety net” for unmotivated and underperforming teacher must be removed (yes, we have plenty of them, too). The teachers have the power to change their union’s behavior. They must acknowledge that their advocate, and therefore the teachers themselves, are a major part of the problem. But, it is a part of the problem that can be fixed with their help, as it was in the auto industry with cooperation from UAW membership and leaders. We have to scrap the existing compensation, benefits and tenure structure, as it exists today, and start with a clean piece of paper. It WILL be painful for some teachers, at first. But, it WILL lead to a better school district. Until it happens, the future for our public schools will continue to be bleak.


  1. Re: “…teachers unions are destroying public education…”

    While this is a true statement, the main problem is not compensation without accountability; The main problem is the systematic indoctrination of children from pre-school through graduate school with a socialist agenda.

  2. The unions also keep teachers from earning the respect usually given to professionals. They become defacto second class workers and, sadly, many behave like that.

  3. Considering the overall quality of our local elected officials (both here and throughout NJ) any public employee who is not represented by a strong union would be at an extreme disadvantage. We the voters elect people who have little clue as to what their true role is, few take the time to learn, they blame everyone else for the problems that exist but offer few if any real solutions. Then after a few years they leave.
    The teachers union and other public employee unions are strong well run organizations made up of taxpayers who mostly vote as a block. They have their act together, our local leaders do not. And that goes far beyond Ridgewood.

  4. 10:17…

    Spoken like a true union member. But, you could not be more wrong. The value of organized labor in the US has declined throughout the US. There are few, if any, white collar professions, outside of education that feel a need for a union. There are certain universal challenges that face public education. Yet, these challenges are not the topic of discussion during NJEA negotiations. The issues that our teachers face are LOCAL, not state-wide. The NJEA leaders have no understanding of which issues are important to families and teachers in Ridgewood. Their only goal is to secure ever-increasing compensation and benefits for their membership. They isolate each district and stagger negotiations, so that the districts cannot utilize collective bargaining themselves. The union is slowly bankrupting public school districts. There is no great mystery about which teachers excel. If teachers want to be treated as professionals, they should start acting like professionals and be judged on their own success or failure.

    After all, how do private schools and colleges manage to fairly compensate some of the best educators in the world, without the involvement of a union?

  5. Nothing short of creating competition for student enrollment will fix our current education debacle.

    Monopolies inherently seek the lowest common denominator in providing goods and services.

    The marketplace provides the best answer to fixing our ailing school system.

    The sooner we provide school choice to parents, the sooner we will recover from the education malaise we find ourselves mired in.

  6. There’s no proof that school competition is the answer for public education.

    Finland? Japan? Singapore? All have public education “monopolies” that you talk about, and all produce the top students (esp in math & science) in the world.

  7. 11:02 AM –

    And your solution is…
    Or are you satisfied with the current public education system here?

  8. 11:32 – No, I’m not.

    I wouldn’t be satisfied with some hare-brained idea about school competition, either.

    And I wouldn’t put forth some ludicrous idea that blames our public education problems on a non-fictitious socialist agenda.

  9. First, we need a student’s union to counterbalance the teacher’s union. The teachers need a union because of the highly politicized nature of school leadership. Most school leaders, i.e., BOEs and Dept. of Education employees are polically ambitious people who know next to nothing about education. The others are just shills for the teacher’s unions and those with vested interests, e.g., partnering universities. Our children’s education rarely, if ever, gets close to any of their bargaining tables.

  10. 1:23 pm –

    I’m sorry, I probably wasn’t paying attention when you told me your solution to the current public education system of which you are not satisfied.

    So I ask again,

    Your solution is…

  11. I see another Rhodes Scholar is defending the current public education system with a dazzling display of logic.

    “…hare-brained idea about school competition…”

    That “hare-brained idea” is called capitalism…Unlike socialism (the system that solves problems by fiat and tells you what you need), it is the system that fosters innovation, creativity and produces real solutions that you choose to meet your needs. Success is determined by individuals selecting what they like best and not by forcing you to take whatever is offered whether it meets your needs or not. Education, like any service would be best served by this system.

    Only those who are defending a weak, system would shun competition.

    “And I wouldn’t put forth some ludicrous idea that blames our public education problems on a non-fictitious socialist agenda.”

    So, you are saying that the socialist agenda IS NOT fictitious, but it is just YOU that wouldn’t put forth this real socialist agenda as the reason for your dissatisfaction with the current public education system.
    OK, I understand your position and actually agree with your position that the socialist agenda in non-fictitious.

  12. “After all, how do private schools and colleges manage to fairly compensate some of the best educators in the world, without the involvement of a union?”

    10:17….Last I checked, it cost $33,000 to send your child to Princeton for a year, not including room and board, books, and other expenses. That is with billions of dollars in endowments.

    What is Ridgewood’s endowment?

  13. 8:42
    This was stated before, the PEOPLE of Ridgewood ( the ones with money ), keep the money for themselves with few exceptions.
    There is NO endowment. Everyone thanks the colleges for their success and offers endowments.
    Does anyone think, that if they didn’t go to Ridgewood Public Schools they my not have entered into the college of their choice and then may not have done as well for themselves.
    Come on folks give some credit to your public education for your ability to go to college at all.

    PS Did anyone ask Mr. Bolger for an endowment in his name, to benifit the schools in the town he loves so much?

  14. Ridgewood is a public school district, not a private one. Public schools should not have endowments. Why does government need an endowment when they use our taxes?

  15. I can’t quite tell if 8:37 and 7:20 agree or disagree with 8:24, which was in response to the person who said that private schools can fairly compensate professors without unions. Yes, they can fairly compensate, but they are dealing with a larger chunk of change with which to distribute. That amount comes from high tuition and endowments.

    I am for good teachers getting paid more and for the slackers to be let go, but at the same time, comparing a town’s public education system to a private college/university is not a good comparison.

  16. 1:23 pm –


    Still waiting on that solution of yours…

  17. 10:10
    Don’t ware out your cane tapping.
    I didn’t read an offer of solution.

    As you stated in 12:17
    “I’m sorry, I probably wasn’t paying attention—“

    You are sure right THIS TIME.

  18. 1:15 PM

    Don’t worry, I won’t ware out my cane.

    I didn’t read an offer of solution.”
    That’s a good one… what language is this agian?

    I’ll tell you what…
    I’ll let you off the hook for that elusive “solution” of yours as long as you promise to take a remedial English class.

  19. 12:32
    I’m sorry that my fingers sometimes make mistakes when my brain thinks something else.

    However you should still pay more attention to what you read.

    I did not notice were (wear or ware) 1:23 offered a solution.

    PS I am not 1:23 don’t look to me for the solution.
    I’ve lived in Ridgewood for 26 years but,being a Brit is tough on spelling in the US, I’ll try to be more careful with my choice of words and spelling.

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