Editorial: Public school employees under attack

If U.S. schools continue to lose too many smart, dynamic college graduates to the private sector, it won’t just be current teachers who are stung by these attacks; the nation’s students stand to suffer, too.

(Editor’s note: This is a slightly longer version of the Default Lines column published in the March issue of eSchool News.)

Conservative lawmakers are targeting educators as part of a broader attack on public-sector employees in states from coast to coast—and the fallout could have lasting implications for the nation’s students.

Consider these examples:

• State legislatures in Wisconsin, Tennessee, and Indiana are among those considering new bills that would eliminate or severely curtail teachers’ collective bargaining rights in negotiating contracts.

• Wyoming lawmakers are entertaining a measure to end teacher tenure, which would allow the immediate suspension or firing of teachers for any reason not expressly prohibited by law.

• New Jersey is one of many cash-strapped states looking to cut public employees’ pensions to help balance their budgets.

New Jersey Gov. Chris Christie recently skipped a $3.1 billion payment to the state’s pension system as part of an effort to cut benefits for public workers, and some conservative lobbying groups are suggesting that states be allowed to declare bankruptcy to escape their debt—including, of course, their obligations to state pension plans.

For more on school labor-management relations:

ED to unions, districts: Can’t we all just get along?

How to raise student achievement through better labor-management collaboration

Wisconsin protests grow as teachers balk at proposed legislation

For more on school reform:

Expert: Federal school reform plan is wrong

School Reform Center at eSN Online

Supporters of these measures say they are necessary to cut wasteful spending and rein in lavish benefits for public-sector employees. They cite a few outlandish examples to prove their point, implying these are the norm and not the exception.

For instance, in lobbying for a bill to restrict collective bargaining in Indiana, the state’s education department has described some strange contract stipulations from districts around the state.

Dennis Pierce

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