Teacher Collective Bargaining Hurts Students

I came across an interesting study performed by Michael F. Lovenhiem and Alexander Willen, both of Cornell University.  Titled “The Long-Run Effects of Teacher Collective Bargaining,” this study analyses the effects of teacher collective bargaining laws on life outcomes of the students.  More specifically, the study examines how the people educated in a state were affected after a state had enacted a duty-to-bargain law for public school teachers. 
A link to the original study appears here (along with related studies on the societal effects of public sector unions): 
An article based on that study appears in EducationNext, a website sponsored by the Harvard University’s Kennedy School of Government.  Here is a link to it:
The results are startling.  According to the article, “students who spent all 12 years of grade school in a state with a duty-to-bargain law earned an average of $795 less per year and worked half an hour less per week as adults than students who were not exposed to collective-bargaining laws. They are 0.9 percentage points less likely to be employed and 0.8 percentage points less likely to be in the labor force. And those with jobs tend to work in lower-skilled occupations.”  The study further notes that “teacher collective bargaining reduces [their students’ total] earnings by $199.6 billion in the US annually… [and] leads to sizable reductions in measured cognitive and non-cognitive skills among young adults.”

The authors report that “Collective-bargaining laws strengthen teachers unions and give them greater influence over how school districts allocate their resources. A typical collective-bargaining agreement addresses a remarkably broad range of items: unions negotiate over salary schedules and benefits; hiring, evaluation, and firing policies; and rules detailing work and teaching hours, class assignments, class sizes, and nonteaching duties. By increasing union membership, collective-bargaining laws also heighten the influence of teachers unions in education politics at the state level….  Critics of teacher unionization argue that collective bargaining in public education has reduced school quality by shifting resources toward teachers and away from other educational inputs and by making it more difficult to fire low-performing teachers. Stronger unions may also have made it  harder for states to adopt policies aimed at improving school quality through enhanced accountability or expanded school choice…. Our evidence points to the conclusion that collective bargaining in public education has been a bad deal for American students.”

Fortunately, in Virginia, public sector employees are prohibited from collective bargaining, absent specific statutory authorization.  This study affirms that this is the right policy for our state.

Federal Regulatory Changes to Affect K-12

An article in the Washington Examiner by Emily Jashinsky looks at reforms being considered by the administration that will affect K-12 and higher ed. Titled “Betsy DeVos Looks to Curb Federal ‘Overreach’ in Education,” the article begins
The Department of Education has its sights set on regulatory reform in 2018. Led by Secretary of Education Betsy DeVos, who often speaks out against what she calls a “one-size-fits-all” approach to education, the department is focused on reviewing rules and requirements issued by previous administrations, seeking to curb what she says is federal overreach.
This effort will include continued review of Title IX guidelines to colleges and universities on the handling of sexual assault cases.  The previous guidelines, which have given rise to concerns for the due process rights of the accused, were rescinded in September.
The … department’s broader goal [is] “reducing overreach the department has engaged in in the past,” in an effort to “[free] up educators and administrators and institutions to actually serve students rather than be more worried about compliance.”
Indeed, teachers and administrators currently expend a great deal of time and energy on data collection and paperwork related to regulatory compliance, and this is a factor affecting morale at schools.
The article continues
On the K-12 level, a possible two-year delay of the “significant disproportionality” rule will likely be opened up for comment as well. The rule is a requirement that states note “when districts … discipline children from any racial or ethnic group at markedly higher rates than their peers.”
With disciplinary reforms already being of great current interest, critical examination of this rule might light the way toward better solutions overall.
Other possible changes include a school choice program (“vouchers”), and expansion of 529 savings plans to include K-12 expenses.
Original article here: http://www.washingtonexaminer.com/betsy-devos-looks-to-curb-federal-overreach-in-education/article/2644402

Unlearning Unreason

Here are excerpts of an article in the New Boston Post by Adam J. MacLeod, who is an Associate Professor of Law at Faulkner University.  It addresses reversing certain habits of thought that could stand in the way of future success.

I teach in a law school. For several years now my students have been mostly Millennials. Contrary to stereotype, I have found that the vast majority of them want to learn. But true to stereotype, I increasingly find that most of them cannot think, don’t know very much, and are enslaved to their appetites and feelings. Their minds are held hostage in a prison fashioned by elite culture and their undergraduate professors.

They cannot learn until their minds are freed from that prison. This year …, I found my students especially impervious to the ancient wisdom of foundational texts, such as Plato’s Crito and the Code of Hammurabi. Many of them were quick to dismiss unfamiliar ideas as “classist” and “racist,” and thus unable to engage with those ideas on the merits. So, a couple of weeks into the semester, I decided to lay down some ground rules…

Here is the speech I gave them.


Before I can teach you how to reason, I must first teach you how to rid yourself of unreason. For many of you have not yet been educated. You have been dis-educated. To put it bluntly, you have been indoctrinated. Before you learn how to think you must first learn how to stop unthinking.

Reasoning requires you to understand truth claims, even truth claims that you think are false or bad or just icky. … And reasoning requires coherence and logic. Most of you have been taught to embrace incoherence and illogic. You have learned to associate truth with your subjective feelings, which are neither true nor false but only yours, and which are constantly changeful.

…[Y]ou should not bother to tell us how you *feel* about a topic. Tell us what you *think* about it. If you can’t think yet, that’s O.K. Tell us what Aristotle thinks, or Hammurabi thinks, or H.L.A. Hart thinks. Borrow opinions from those whose opinions are worth considering. As Aristotle teaches us in the reading for today, men and women who are enslaved to the passions, who never rise above their animal natures by practicing the virtues, do not have worthwhile opinions. Only the person who exercises practical reason and attains practical wisdom knows how first to live his life, then to order his household, and finally, when he is sufficiently wise and mature, to venture opinions on how to bring order to the political community.

Accordingly, one of Professor MacLeod’s ground rules for his course is

If you ever begin a statement with the words “I feel,” before continuing you must cluck like a chicken or make some other suitable animal sound.

MacLeod continues:

…Disagreement is not expressing one’s disapproval of something or expressing that something makes you feel bad or icky. To really disagree with someone’s idea or opinion, you must first understand that idea or opinion. When Socrates tells you that a good life is better than a life in exile you can neither agree nor disagree with that claim without first understanding what he means by “good life” and why he thinks running away from Athens would be unjust. Similarly, if someone expresses a view about abortion, and you do not first take the time to understand what the view is and why the person thinks the view is true, then you cannot disagree with the view, much less reason with that person. You might take offense. You might feel bad that someone holds that view. But you are not reasoning unless you are engaging the merits of the argument, just as Socrates engaged with Crito’s argument that he should flee from Athens.

Read the whole article here: http://tinyurl.com/yao5xyhe. Perhaps there are lessons for all of us.

Shaking Up Public Education

Last week Kris Allen wrote an intriguing article for the Richmond Times Dispatch titled “What Public Schools Could Learn from Amazon’s Move into Groceries.”  Allen, who is President of the Virginia Education Coalition, wrote that

“Education and grocery stores are different businesses, but both have much to learn from Amazon. Like traditional grocers, public education’s business model is based on a command-and-control, geographically based, product delivery system that has worked the same for decades. Both take advantage of technology to improve their business model, but in different ways. Grocers use technology to minimize product delivery costs to the store, squeeze 2 percent profit margin from high-volume sales, and compete on price. Public education uses technology to expand and enable its administrative state, increase cost, and compete as a geographic monopoly…

“Amazon’s disruption of the grocery industry is possible because, in a free market, competitive advantage depends upon product differentiation and the lowest cost to deliver the value proposition; firms that provide complementary or substitute products are allowed; and competitors’ barriers to market entry and exit are low. Unlike public education competitors, Amazon entered the grocery industry without being required to build a chain of brick-and-mortar stores, which were required by law to serve a specific zip code — nor was it subjected to compliance with ubiquitous and ever-growing requirements imposed upon it by the industry it disrupted.

“…A similar positive disruption in public education is possible, if the barriers-to-entry are eliminated and parents are allowed to choose their child’s mode of education.”

Allen then cites the example of Summit Public Schools, a charter school with operations in the San Francisco Bay area and in Washington State.  Summit’s pedagogical model is individualized, project-based, and self-directed.  Teachers, mentors and technological resources provide support and content delivery.

The article concludes

“The Summit model is scalable, inclusive, and effective. Today, nine schools are in operation, serving 2,500 students in grades 6 through 12. Eighty percent of [the students] are non-white; 42 percent are low-income; and 12 percent are English language learners.  Per pupil expenditure is $7,000, compared to Virginia’s $11,745. Ninety-six percent of Summit’s graduates are accepted to four-year colleges.  If Virginians want educational outcomes like Summit’s, they must demand that elected representatives remove the barriers to entry for non-traditional educational solutions.”

This is definitely something to consider as we approach the Virginia gubernatorial election.  Read the whole thing here: http://tinyurl.com/y9eaxj8j.

Taking a Knee

     In the football pre-season of 2016, then Forty-Niners quarterback Colin Kaepernick sat through the national anthem before the games, instead of standing attentively with hand over heart.  Later he went further and kneeled during the Star-Spangled Banner.  He did this to protest police brutality and the oppression of people of color; he stressed that (despite appearances to many observers) he was not being anti-American or disrespectful of the military.  In the following weeks and months, some of his colleagues throughout the NFL joined in the protests, as did other athletes, such as Megan Rapinoe of the U.S. National Women’s Soccer Team.
     This “taking a knee” has become a major point of controversy, with NFL fans, coaches, owners, advertisers, and sportscasters weighing in on the matter.  Other sports figures, celebrities, and politicians — including President Trump — have also taken sides.  In the meantime, Kaepernick has become a free agent and hasn’t been hired by another team, and NFL viewership has plummeted.   In some sense, things are as they should be:  These are adults  expressing their beliefs, taking action, and bearing the consequences.
     On the other hand, we have seen in the news that high school students have taken a knee in Brunswick, Ohio;  Cincinnati;  Bossier City, Louisiana; Cedar Grove, Georgia; New Brunswick, New Jersey;  Houston, Texas; Buffalo, New York; Hillsboro, Tennessee; and numerous other locations.  Players at a Texas middle school took a knee before a game, and were threatened with expulsion from the team.  A middle schooler in New Mexico took a knee while performing the national anthem.  A ten-year-old in Texas kneeled during the Pledge of Allegiance before the start of the school day.  In Belleville, Illinois, an entire team of eight-year-olds and their coach took a knee before their game.
     People of good conscience will differ on this issue, but perhaps we can all agree on the following.  Children should not be used as pawns or props for political reasons.  Furthermore, this is an opportunity for parents to talk to their children in an age-appropriate way about the substance of the controversy.  This is also a chance for everyone to be reminded that we can disagree about something, and still get along as friends, relatives, teammates, neighbors and co-workers.