When masses of unionized school teachers recently stormed into the state Capitol to protest in favor of higher taxes, they painted themselves as victims of Sacramento politics. Behind this scripted and bombastic street theater, the reality is that powerful and wealthy teachers unions are the victimizers in chief in the government-run education status quo.
In their weeklong “State of Emergency” protests, members of the California Teachers Association, the state’s largest teachers union, carried signs with class-warfare messages such as “Support teachers, not the rich.” “It’s not right that the rich and businesses don’t pay their fair share of taxes,” claimed CTA president David Sanchez. A cursory look at the California’s tax structure, however, belies the union’s sloganeering.
In its “Taxifornia” study, the Pacific Research Institute economists note that California has one of the most progressive personal income tax structures in the country, where rates increase as income increases to a much higher degree than in other states. In fact, even if Gov. Jerry Brown doesn’t succeed in extending the now-expired higher tax rate on top earners, California would still have the second-most progressive income tax rate in the United States.
Blaming the rich, however, is a good way for the union to mask its anti-children agenda.
Take, for instance, the decision of union members to abandon their classrooms to participate in the CTA protest.
According to a 2008 Harvard study, fourth-graders who endure 10 days of an absent teacher have lower levels of math performance. Protesting for a week at the State Capitol would certainly approach that absence threshold.
As Sen. Bob Huff, R-Diamond Bar, rightly asked, “Why aren’t they in school if school and education is their highest priority?” But as the CTA’s legislative record amply demonstrates, self-interest not better education is the union’s chief motivator.
In the days before its protest, the CTA urged its members to push for the passage of Assembly Bill 1172, an anti-charter-school bill sponsored by the union.
Charter schools are deregulated public schools started by parents and community groups, and they often employ nonunion teachers.
According to a recent study by the California Charter School Association, charter schools are four times more likely as regular public schools to be among the top 5 percent highest-performing schools statewide.
The bill would effectively prevent charter-school organizers from going to county boards of education and the state Board of Education to overturn decisions by union-controlled district school boards to block the establishment of charter schools.
District boards would also be given the power to stop the creation of new charter schools, even those based on highly successful models, if the district says that the new charter would have a negative fiscal impact on the district. Yet, the bill makes no demand on districts to demonstrate any evidence or record of their own fiscal responsibility, prudence or accountability.
Even the usually union-friendly Assembly Education Committee didn’t have the stomach to approve this blatantly anti-parent, anti-student bill, which laid bare the union’s real agenda, which is all about protecting the adults in the government education system, not about improving the learning and achievement of children.
The CTA can huff and puff and point fingers, but here’s the reality: Teacher unions are at the root of the problems facing education in California.