The Wall Street Journal’s Jason Riley takes aim at the recently ended Los Angeles teachers union strike by disagreeing with the notion that such strikes are “on behalf of the children.”
Riley points out that when auto workers strike, no one pretends as if they are acting in the interest of car buyers.
“The calculation is no different when teachers strike,” he writes. Teachers unions have the same goal as auto workers unions: “to advance the interests of dues-paying members.”
But the teachers unions claim to have different, more altruistic motives.
“Yet striking public school teachers and their union representatives insist they are acting on behalf of the children,” Riley writes. “We’re expected to believe that the priorities of education workers are perfectly aligned with those of students.”
When the strike began, teachers displayed signs with slogans like “On Strike for Our Students” and “Fund Our Schools / Give L.A. Students the schools they deserve.” American Federation of Teachers President Randi Weingarten claimed that the strike was about “ensuring that all public schools have the conditions they need for student success” in a paid advertisement in The New York Times.
“Yeah, right,” Riley responds:
Before the Los Angeles strike began, local officials took steps to keep schools open by hiring substitute instructors and aides. The striking teachers did everything they could to sabotage those efforts, like taking textbooks and supplies home to ensure that they weren’t used during the strike. That’s an odd way of looking out for the interests of your students.
He observes that the strike followed previous precedent:
Los Angeles teachers were following a path blazed last year by educators who demonstrated in places like Arizona, North Carolina, West Virginia, Colorado and Washington state. They demanded bigger budgets, higher salaries, smaller class sizes and less standardized testing. Put another way, they want more pay for less work and accountability. Gee, who doesn’t?
The concessions won by the union include higher pay and smaller class size. Improved standardized test scores or graduation rates? An afterthought for labor leaders, Riley writes.
“Teachers unions are unions first, not reformers or student advocates. Their real agenda—their only agenda—is to protect their members by any means possible,” Riley concludes. ” No matter what those picket signs said, the unions weren’t helping students. They were using them.”
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