The Mask is Starting to Slip

Public employee unions portray themselves as representatives of public servants, whose only goal is to insure their members are treated like all other Americans.  Teachers’ unions especially portray themselves as having the best interests of students and parents at heart.

The mask is starting to slip.

Last week a 19 page power point presentation prepared by the American Federation of Teachers showed how the AFT derailed a Connecticut grassroots movement of mostly working class moms fighting for a better education future for their children.  As the Wall Street Journal reported, the goal was to insure parents thought the union was on their side while all the while:

  • Making sure the parents were shut out of any and all negotiations
  • Trick parents into signing onto proposals that pretended to give parents power but in reality did not

The double dealing was not limited to parents.  The presentation noted that although they publicly supported Rep. Bartlett, the sponsor of the legislation, and Rep. Fleischman, the co-chair of the legislature’s education committee, it merely was “Karma” that Rep. Bartlett lost his re-election effort in 2010 and Rep. Fleischman lost his bid for the House majority leader’s position.  In the words of Bernie Kopp of the Incredibles (confirmed by Rep. Bartlett):  “Coincidence, I think not!”  Click here for video.

The union’s hubris is such that even though the power point presentation was (1) presented at an ATF event, (2) bore the union’s label on each of the 19 pages, (3) was signed by a union official and (4) prominently placed on the union’s web page – they still claimed the presentation did not reflect its views.  How cynical! And these are the representatives of the people we entrust our children with – at least when they are not protesting at the state capitol.

Beneath the veneer of being an advocate for parents, as was demonstrated in Connecticut, the union’s true feelings are very different.  In California, Federation of Teachers President Marty Hittelman said California legislation similar to that proposed in Connecticut would empower “lynch mobs” (i.e. parents).  An article published on the CTA website said that if legislation was passed which increased parental input parents “will have their hands on the levers of power; from what I have seen, parents are unprepared for this.” And most disgusting of all, a San Jose California Latino parent, whose child was struggling in a traditional school, asked one of the school’s educators whether a charter school was right for her child.  The educator’s response?  “Charter schools are for retarded children”.  (Out of desperation the mother went ahead and enrolled her child in a charter school, where the child is flourishing today.)

With respect to manipulating the careers of elected officials, in California they are not as subtle as they are in Connecticut.  In a public hearing in Sacramento a union leader told legislators public employee unions put them into office and if the legislators did not back the union’s program, the union would put them out of office.  View video.

Not content with controlling the legislature, California public unions now are focusing on disenfranchising California voters from exercising their constitutional right to petition their government.  In recent radio ads they make the totally unsupported claim that by signing petitions, voters are opening themselves up to identity theft.  Listen to audio.

It does not have to be this way.  If we are going to be world leaders, as we should be, it cannot be this way.

In terms of education, today we are at a juncture similar to the communications system in the 1970s.  Back then, AT&T fought innovation every step of the way, just as the teachers’ unions are today.  But just as AT&T not only survived the communications revolution, but actually flourished because of it, teachers will be one of the major beneficiaries of the technological changes coming to education.  Instead of spending most of their time lecturing to a large group of students, some who already know the material and some who have no idea what the teacher is talking about, technology will enable teachers to track the children’s development and their time with each student will be based upon what that child needs.

In terms of parental involvement, many teachers are frustrated parents are not more involved.  And in some schools, parents do not know how to get involved.  In one school I am working in, the average parent did not attend school after the third grade.  But parental involvement should be encouraged, nurtured, not manipulated.

In the days ahead, there are going to be serious, difficult arguments about education policy, including the role of technology, parental involvement and what we can afford.  Our Constitution, one of the greatest documents ever written, was the result of another extremely contentious argument.  We can succeed; for the sake of our children, we must succeed.  But the lying, the double dealing, the thuggery adds nothing to the debate and is not worthy of a world leader, much less the example we should be setting for our children.

About the author: Duf Sundheim has been active in politics for over 30 years. He was Chairman of the California Republican Party from 2003 until 2006. Mr. Sundheim regularly appears on national and regional broadcasts including NBC’s “Today Show,” CBS’s “Early Show,” MSNBC’s “Hardball with Chris Mathews” and the FOX News Channel’s “Hannity and Colmes.

1 reply
  1. GATE Mom says:

    With regards to parental involvement in the classroom: In our school district, this is school dependent since some encourage direct involvement from parents in the classroom for learning centers while others discourage it, except for clerical tasks like photocopying or noncritical teaching like arts and crafts or PE. In general, I believe that teachers do not want parents in the classroom unless they have a very good relationship with the parent and the parent is willing to perform mundane tasks as requested. My belief is parents do not belong in the classroom.

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