It breaks your heart.
Chicago’s public schools are broke–and broken.
Overburdened by excessive pension obligations (because city politicians deferred payments for so long), the city has asked the state for money.
The state is broke, too, so the Chicago schools won’t get anything close to what they need.
That leaves the schools with serious budget gaps. That, plus declining school enrollments, has led to some layoffs for teachers, administrators, and support personnel.
Among those laid off: the new librarian at the Pritzker Elementary School, who replaced a long-serving librarian who retired.
The loss of Pritzker’s librarian galvanized the parents, who want to support their children in a quality school.
The parents did a wonderful thing: they pitched in and volunteered to staff the library in rotating shifts.
That exactly the kind of civic engagement we need in cash-strapped cities.
The Teacher’s Union Says Volunteer Librarians Will Hurt Their Members
Teachers’ unions constantly say, “it’s all about the children.”
It is not.
It is all about the union’s members. That’s what unions do, just as corporations maximize profit.
If the children’s interests overlap those of union members, that’s great because it builds political support.
If not, tough luck for the kids.
That’s what happened at Pritzker Elementary.
“NO WAY we’re gonna let volunteers run this school library,” said the Chicago Teacher’s Union. (DNA Chicago)
The Chicago Teachers Union filed a grievance against the school because the roster of 40 volunteers would be taking a union-based job, Pritzker Principal Joenile Albert-Reese confirmed Monday, one day after the conundrum made national headlines when Pritzker parent Michael Hendershot penned an op-ed in the Wall Street Journal about the issue.
The WSJ op-ed is here.
Why was the librarian laid off? Because the school’s pupil-count was a bit low, which meant the school received less city and state money than expected.
The Union Does What Unions Do
The Teacher’s Union does exactly what unions are designed to do. It fights for its members.
That’s true even if their members’ interests are directly opposed to the best interests of children, their parents, and taxpayers.
Parents and taxpayers are supposed to defend themselves, and in our political system, they have every opportunity to try.
Because teachers unions are well-organized and powerful, however, because their members’ livelihoods are at stake, they have compelling reasons to mobilize politically. In city after city, in state after state, they have persuaded politicians to back their position, not that of disorganized parents and taxpayers.
The results are predictable. In big cities with entrenched teachers unions, schools are designed around the main goal of adult employment, union employment. That showed up in stark relief at Pritzker Elementary.
When you hear the teachers unions say “it’s all about the poor kids,” remember that 47% of Pritzker students are poor. (Data from the WSJ article.)
When you hear the teachers unions say “it’s all about the minority kids,”remember that 47% of Pritzker students are minorities.
When you hear nothing at all from the unions, remember they are thinking, “it’s all about us.”
Again, that “me, first” approach does not make them different from other organizations, whether they are manufacturing unions or profit-making businesses.
The question we as outsiders should ask is whether, in helping themselves, they are helping or hurting us.
The Political Connection
The nexus between unions and politicians shows up across the country, but it is particularly strong in deep blue cities, the last redoubt of unions.
But even in blue cities, things are changing.
The pushback against politically-connected teachers unions is growing because the financial costs have been so high, the educational results so mediocre.
This pushback will soon gain a powerful ally in Betsy DeVos, Donald Trump’s newly-designated Secretary of Education.
That is exactly why Senate Democrats will resist her confirmation with every bone in their body (excepting, of course, their backbone).
For children who want a better education, that fight is one of the most important in the new Congress.
♥ Hat Tip to
◆ Joe Morris for highlighting this story