2/9/08

Teachers unions called the N.Y. Knicks of education

The New York Knicks stink. As USA Today noted on Wednesday, they're in the midst of their seventh consecutive losing season. They're in last place in their division, losing one out of every five games they've played this year, including (as this column was being written) their last six in a row. Attendance is down. Networks don't want to broadcast their games. And the team hasn't sent a player to the All-Star game since 2001.

As the old politically-incorrect joke goes, abused children are asking judges to let them live with the Knicks because "they don't beat anybody." When your operation sucks this badly, what drastic action do you take to turn things around? Well, if you're the Nevada teachers union, you'd reward the players with a raise!

That's right, the Nevada teachers union has looked at the failed public schools they control and claim that if taxpayers would just pay their union members more money, education would improve.

No, seriously. Stop laughing. They really expect you to believe that.

Of course, this notion is ridiculous. Indeed, while the Knicks are one of the worst teams in all of professional basketball, they also have one of the highest payroll of any team in the NBA. Clearly, just paying more money doesn't get better results. At least not in the real world.

Nevertheless, the union is hyping a ballot initiative this year which, if it passes, would raise taxes on Nevada's job-creating gaming industry to give pay raises to its union members. Indeed, the union's original ballot initiative (refiled this week) specified that 80 percent of the revenue raised by the tax hike had to go to higher pay for its union members, with only 20 percent being devoted to student programs.

Parents need to wake up and realize that - contrary to the rhetoric from the union's leaders and the sugary, touchy-feely ads they run - the union is all about the union, not the kids. Period. Indeed, a local Carson City education activist says he was once told by a union leader that when students start paying union dues, THEN the union would start worrying about the kids. Otherwise, let them eat cake! Nice, huh?

The problem with public schools in Nevada, and all across the country, is NOT the money. It's the government monopoly. Even Assembly Education Chairperson Bonnie Parnell, a former teacher, was quoted recently admitting that "the traditional public school setting is not for all children." And a recently released survey showed that just 11 percent of Nevada residents "said they would send their children to public school if they had the freedom to choose any available option."

But the union, along with education bureaucrats, simply won't allow parents to have such options, not even within the government school monopoly. Recall that only weeks ago the Nevada State Board of Education voted to ban any new charter schools in the state, despite the growing demand for such options.

Some 50 years ago, government agents stood in the doorways of American public schools and wouldn't let certain children in. Today government bureaucrats and union bosses are standing in public school doorways and won't let kids out. Fortunately, more and more parents finally appear to be getting tired of it. It's time to give choice a chance.

- Chuck Muth, of Carson City, is president and CEO of Citizen Outreach and a political blogger. Read his views Fridays on the Appeal Opinion page or visit www.muthstruths.com.

(nevadaappeal.com)

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