Some people think of unions as a force for good. Perhaps they were in the past, but a little reading of economics shows how they actually produce very bad results for workers. In addition to that, unions are actively trying to influence the outcome of elections in 2020, using the money collected from their members. Fortunately, there have been two great developments recently that limit their power.
Leaders of several public and private sector unions are threatening to organize walkouts this fall for teachers, truck drivers and service workers in an effort to protest police killings.
“The status quo — of police killing Black people, of armed white nationalists killing demonstrators, of millions sick and increasingly desperate — is clearly unjust, and it cannot continue,” said a statement issued over the weekend by various arms of the American Federation of State, County and Municipal Employees, the Service Employees International Union, and National Education Association.
[…]The union leaders also called for defunding police departments and universal health care.
You can see their progressive convictions coming out in how they distribute the money they collect from their members.
Organized labor has given more than $1.3 billion to Democratic Party organizations and liberal nonprofit and activist groups since 2010, while 1 percent went to conservative groups or causes, according to a survey of federal data.
The giving is starkly different from the beliefs of most rank-and-file union members, many of whom lean Republican.
Having said all of that, there were two pieces of good news about labor unions that I think we should celebrate during Labor Day.
First of all, there was a very good decision to allow teachers to opt out of having to pay union dues in all 50 states. Second, a large number of states have enacted right-to-work laws, which allow employees in union-dominated jobs to be able to work without being forced to join a union.
While every public sector employee across the country now enjoys right to work protections under the First Amendment as a result of the 2018 National Right to Work Legal Defense Foundation-won Janus v. AFSCME Supreme Court decision, private sector workers in the 23 states that have yet to pass a right to work law can lose their job for refusing to tender dues or fees to a union.
Right to work protects each worker’s freedom of choice, but the advantages of right to work hardly stop there. Enshrining workplace freedom also brings significant economic benefits to the 27 states that have passed right to work laws.
Between 2009 and 2019, right to work states saw the total number of people employed grow by 16.9%. That’s nearly double the 9.6% gain in non-right to work states, according to an analysis of federal government statistics compiled by the National Institute for Labor Relations Research, or NILRR.
The study also found that, after adjusting for the cost of living, the mean after-tax household income in right to work states was about $4,300 higher than for households in forced-unionism states in 2018, the most recent year for which household income data is available.
The connection between right to work laws and better economic performance is not a surprise. Business experts consistently rank the presence of right to work laws as one of the most important factors companies consider when deciding where to expand or relocate their plants and facilities, where they will create new jobs and new opportunities.
Take the manufacturing sector, for example. The NILRR analysis revealed that employment in the manufacturing sector increased by 10% in right to work states from 2009 to 2019, over three times the 2.9% gain forced-unionism states saw over that same period.
Right to work laws clearly make economic sense, but protecting employee freedom has always been their central feature.
I really liked the Janus decision and right-to-work laws, because I don’t think that conservative workers should be forced to join a union in order to earn a living. The unions should not get access to worker money for free – unions should have to earn their worker’s money by providing value. And the worker should decide whether there is value there, or not.
You can see a full breakdown of union contributions by political affiliation for 2019-2020 here at Open Secrets.
One of my friends has been having a debate with one of his former teachers about whether spending more money on government-run education improves tests scores. He tried posting some evidence, but she just dismissed that by claiming:
If we hadn’t spent more money, then the student test scores would have gone down instead of staying the same.
Most of the money that government spends on education goes to vouchers and private schools, not public schools
Economists at prestigious think tanks like that Cato Institute, the Heritage Foundation, and the American Enterprise Institute cannot be trusted to accurately cite the Bureau of Labor Statistics and the National Center for Education Statistics because of the Koch Brothers
You can’t compare the test scores of American students with the test scores of Asian students who outperform them, (for less government spending), because math is different in Asia compared to America
Let’s look at some data and see if her arguments are correct.
Does more spending mean higher student performance?
Comparing educational achievement with per-pupil spending among states also calls into question the value of increasing expenditures. While high-spending Massachusetts had the nation’s highest proficiency scores on the National Assessment of Educational Progress, low-spending Idaho did very well, too. South Dakota ranks 42nd in per-pupil expenditures but eighth in math performance and ninth in reading. The District of Columbia, meanwhile, with the nation’s highest per-pupil expenditures ($15,511 in 2007), scores dead last in achievement.
The student test scores are dead last, but National Review notes that “according to the National Center for Education Statistics, Washington, D.C. was spending an average of $27,460 per pupil in 2014, the most recent year for which data are available.” They are spending the most per-pupil, but their test scores are dead last.
CBS News reported on another recent study confirming this:
Decades of increased taxpayer spending per student in U.S. public schools has not improved student or school outcomes from that education, and a new study finds that throwing money at the system is simply not tied to academic improvements.
The study from the CATO Institute shows that American student performance has remained poor, and has actually declined in mathematics and verbal skills, despite per-student spending tripling nationwide over the same 40-year period.
“The takeaway from this study is that what we’ve done over the past 40 years hasn’t worked,” Andrew Coulson, director of the Center For Educational Freedom at the CATO Institute, told Watchdog.org. “The average performance change nationwide has declined 3 percent in mathematical and verbal skills. Moreover, there’s been no relationship, effectively, between spending and academic outcomes.”
The study, “State Education Trends: Academic Performance and Spending over the Past 40 Years,” analyzed how billions of increased taxpayer dollars, combined with the number of school employees nearly doubling since 1970, to produce stagnant or declining academic results.
“The performance of 17-year-olds has been essentially stagnant across all subjects despite a near tripling of the inflation-adjusted cost of putting a child through the K-12 system,” writes Coulson.
Where did the numbers come from? The Koch Brothers? No:
Data from the U.S. Department of Education incorporating public school costs, number of employees, student enrollment and SAT scores was analyzed to explore the disparity between increased spending and decreasing or stagnant academic results.
Well, at least government-run monopoly schools outperform private private schools, right? No:
[…][P]rivate schools, where students excel over public school peers, …manage to operate at budgets about 34 percent lower than taxpayer-funded schools, US Finance Post reports.
Public schools spend, on average, $11,000 per student, per year.
Coulson noted an Arizona study he conducted which showed that the average per-pupil spending at private schools was only about 66 percent of the cost of public schools.
When it comes to math, U.S. high school students are falling further behind their international counterparts, according to results released Tuesday of an ongoing study that compares academic achievement in 73 countries. And the news is not much better in reading and science literacy, where U.S. high schoolers have not gained any ground and continue to trail students in a slew of developed countries around the globe.
In the latest Program for International Student Assessment (PISA) measuring math literacy in 2015, U.S. students ranked 40th in the world. The U.S. average math score of 470 represents the second decline in the past two assessments — down from 482 in 2012 and 488 in 2009. The U.S. score in 2015 was 23 points lower than the average of all of the nations taking part in the survey.
More money is being spent, but the scores are DECREASING.
Now, why is it that increased government spending in the public school monopoly doesn’t improve student performance? Well, one reason is that very little of the money makes it to the classroom.
Where does all the money go?
Let’s look at four places where the money spent on the government-run public school monopoly ends up.
First, a lot of it gets paid to administrations who implement politically correct programs designed to turn the impressionable young people into little secular socialists.
This figure shows we now spend nearly $1,100 per student on retirement benefits. The average public school student teacher ratio is 16 to 1. So we are spending about $17,000 per year per teacher in pension contributions.
[…]The National Council on Teacher Quality writes,
In 2014 teacher pension systems had a total of a half trillion dollars in unfunded liabilities—a debt load that climbed more than $100 billion in just the last two years. Across the states, an average of 70 cents of every dollar contributed to state teacher pension systems goes toward paying off the ever-increasing pension debt, not to future teacher benefits (p. iii).
While we are spending a huge amount to fund teacher pensions, most of that spending doesn’t go to attracting the best teachers. It’s paying off past debts.
We can’t hire good teachers, because all the education spending of today is paying for the gold-plated pensions of yesterday.
That was 2014. The numbers are even worse today. Teachers contribute very, very little to their pensions, but the benefits are enormous compared to what the private sector taxpayers get in Social Security. (Which is going to be bankrupt by 2034, as reported by the far-left PBS)
Third, a lot of it is spent on teacher training, because apparently teaching multiplication, Shakespeare or geography changes every year, so the teachers need tens of thousands of dollars in annual training.
A new study of 10,000 teachers found that professional development — the teacher workshops and training that cost taxpayers billions of dollars each year — is largely a waste.
The study released Tuesday by TNTP, a nonprofit organization, found no evidence that any particular approach or amount of professional development consistently helps teachers improve in the classroom.
[…]The school districts that participated in the study spent an average of $18,000 per teacher annually on professional development. Based on that figure, TNTP estimates that the 50 largest school districts spend an estimated $8 billion on teacher development annually. That is far larger than previous estimates.
And teachers spend a good deal of time in training, the study found. The 10,000 teachers surveyed were in training an average of 19 school days a year, or almost 10 percent of a typical school year, according to TNTP.
Maybe if more of the money spent on education were spent directly on hiring teachers, then we would see an improvement. Unfortunately, a lot of the money meant for teachers goes to the teacher unions. How do they spend that money?
Finally, this is from OpenSecrets.org, concerning political contributions made in the most recent election cycle:
The two largest teacher unions came in at #9 and #11. Most of their donations go to Democrat Party. Democrats believe (against the evidence) that spending more money in the government-run public school monopoly will improve student performance on tests.
So, what’s the solution?
The solution is that we abolish the federal Department of Education, which has done nothing to improve the quality of education for students. We need to push the education of children back down to the state and local levels. We need to empower parents to choose the schools that work best for their children by giving parents vouchers. We need to increase tax-free education savings accounts to help parents with school expenses. We should also give free college tuition to homeschooled students who are admitted to STEM programs at any college or university. We can take the money from the pensions of the union administrators, after we abolish ever single public sector teacher union in the country, and seize all their assets and pensions. If that’s not enough money, then we can seize all the pensions of Department of Education employees – a just punishment for their failure to produce results while still taking taxpayer money.
Finally, we should allow people who already have private sector experience doing things like STEM to become teachers. Let’s face it: the departments that grant Education degrees have the lowest entrance requirements, and produce the least competent adults. People with years of private sector work experience teach better than people with Education degrees. Let’s open up teaching to people who have experience in the private sector doing software engineering, statistics, nursing, etc. and then we’ll have qualified teachers.
I saw about how a couple of teacher unions are responding to the current pandemic. Did you know that teacher unions lobby in favor of abortion and gay rights? I also wanted to look at the political contributions, so we can figure out whether we should be in favor of teacher unions, or opposed to them.
A teachers’ union in North Carolina is demanding sweeping benefits for illegal immigrants to lower COVID-19 cases and reopen schools.
In a recent statement denouncing the school district’s reopening plan, the Durham Association of Educators (DAE) called for universal healthcare, as well as guaranteed income regardless of a person’s immigration status.
Earlier this week, the United Teachers Los Angeles (UTLA) — a 35,000-member union in the Los Angeles Unified School District — stipulated that the district cannot reopen until charter schools are closed, the local police are defunded, the wealthy are taxed more, there is “Medicare-for-All,” and the district is bailed out by the federal government.
In New Jersey, the state teachers’ union listed among their “acceptable standards for a return to in-person instruction” both weekly COVID-19 tests for all students and mandatory door-to-door mask wearing. “Consequences for refusal to wear the required mask shall be clearly delineated in board policy and in the student/parent handbook, and shall include consequences up to and including suspension,” the union said.
That’s very interesting, and it’s not just secular school teachers who are far-left. Catholic school teachers regularly march in favor of abortion and gay rights. Apparently, being Catholic now means agreeing with atheists on every policy, and then just slapping the word Catholic on top of it.
You might wonder what teacher unions do with all the money they get by lobbying the government and organizing strikes. Well, some of the money goes to abortion providers:
The American Federation of Teachers (AFT) and the National Education Association (NEA) are among a handful of Unions that have donated to Planned Parenthood in the United States. For example, in 2012, the New York City chapter of AFT gave $125,000 to the abortion company. Then, in the wake of the organization’s scandal regarding selling aborted babies’ body parts, the New York City branch of AFT said they still support Planned Parenthood and urged “all members to support Planned Parenthood as members and contributors.”
The Washington Free Beacon reports that over the last five years Planned Parenthood has also received money from the American Federation of Labor and Congress of Industrial Organizations, United Autoworkers Union, Service Employees International Union, and the United Food and Commercial Union.
And some of that money goes to the Democrat party directly:
I think there’s enough here that people will understand that teacher unions – and pretty much every other kind of union – is not conservative.
Remember, unlike workers in the private sector, unionized workers DO NOT earn their money by exchanging products and services in voluntary trades. They DO NOT compete with other vendors to give the consumer lower prices and higher quality. Unions exist to protect their workers from performing poorly for customers. And they get raises only when they influence government to give them more money. They have no connection to pleasing customers whatsoever. And in fact they are threatened when customers are able to spend their own money on options that suit their needs, e.g. – homeschooling, private schools, charter schools.
My UK Christian friends are always tell me how weird it is that American Christians insist that government operate within Constitutional limits. Why not let government ban self-defense? Why not let government to run education and healthcare? Why not let government to control energy production and consumption? Why not let government open the borders for multiculturalism?
Here’s an example of what happens in a country where Christians decide to abdicate law and policy to secular leftists.
Evangelist and missionary Franklin Graham’s seven-city tour of the United Kingdom is now a trial, as all seven venues have dropped him.
Graham’s canceled dates likely are due to an “an outcry over his homophobic and Islamophobic comments,” CNN reports.
[…]Graham has been outspoken about other cultural issues, including gay rights and radical Islam, both hot topics in the U.K., where Islam is the fastest growing religion. Graham has said gays should go to “conversion therapy” to change, and once called Islam “evil.”
Interestingly, although multiple venues canceled Graham this year, this isn’t the first time the U.K. has had enough of the evangelist. In 2017, several members of Parliament moved to ban Graham from the U.K. for “hate speech” regarding gays and Muslims.
At the time, a “petition against Graham being granted a visa” had gathered 4,600 signatures. Nina Parker, pastor of Liberty Church in Blackpool, who organized the petition, said Graham’s presence would be “extremely destructive.”
Parker told The Guardian: “As a Christian and as a leader of a church that particularly welcomes LGBT people, I’m horrified that other local churches are inviting someone with this record of hate speech.”
Censorship of free speech, discourse, and individual autonomy in the United Kingdom has increased in the past several years.
British officials have cracked down on internet freedom. Even though several groups have pushed back against the government’s flagship internet regulation policy—which is so vague it covers nearly every kind of speech existent—it’s been an uphill battle.
In several dramatic cases, parents have lost their rights to their sick children as the U.K.’s court system usurped them and decided what care was best—typically, a removal of life support against the parents’ wishes.
Of course, any discourse offering a different perspective on LGBT groups or anything that might be seen as anti-transgender receives the most censorship—including being fired from one’s job…
I’ve blogged before about how the police in the UK occupy themselves with monitoring the Internet to punish citizens who dissent from the UK’s promotion of LGBT rights. If you disagree with LGBT rights, you’re sure to get a visit from armed policemen. On the other hand, the police officers don’t have any interest in investigating multiple sex-trafficking rings in multiple UK cities being run by immigrants from Middle Eastern countries. They don’t care about the gang-raping of fatherless teen girls – the important thing is to not look Islamophobic. That’s how they keep their jobs – they attack critics of the government’s LGBT and open borders policies so the government can be re-elected. When they’re not suppressing dissent from the government, they’re blocking off parents from taking their child home from a government-run hospitals that decided that the child (e.g. – Alfie) is beyond medical treatment.
That’s big government in the UK, and it’s supported by many, many conservative Christian pastors, who think that the free and open practice of Christianity is somehow compatible with an overpowered secular left centralized government. So, the conservative Christians in the UK love to mock the gun rights and low tax rates of American Christians, even as they can’t even safeguard their own freedom of speech and religious liberty. American Christians knew that big government and widespread dependency on welfare programs would destroy our religious liberty, so we fought it. They capitulated.
I’ve spoken to several prominent Christians in the UK, and even some who are deeply involved in apologetics and pro-life causes. I just want to be really clear. These people are so bad at Christian worldview, that they literally vote in the secular leftists who then turn around and enact government-funded abortion, LGBT fascism and sex-trafficking rings run by unskilled immigrants from the Middle East. Then they have the temerity to COMPLAIN about the policies of the leaders they voted for.
Public school teachers in Oklahoma, Kentucky, West Virginia and Arizona are striking this spring, affecting hundreds of thousands of students. The teachers say that spending more money on education will help children learn more. There’s an excellent article by Joy Pullmann in The Federalist that looks at whether increasing spending raises student performance. (H/T Vanessa)
Oklahoma teachers want a $10,000 raise, and Arizona teachers want a 20% increase in base pay. I don’t know about you, but I didn’t get anything near that for my annual raise.
Will raising taxes on taxpayers in order to spend more on education improve student performance? Joy says we can look at the past in order to understand whether spending more money gets results.
Research has also long and conclusively shown that school spending hikes usually don’t go to teachers, they go to administrators and other bloat outside classrooms. So the kids are just unions’ human shields on their way to raid the kids’ public bank accounts — again.
[…]As the Cato Institute’s Neal McCluskey has shown, U.S. public K-12 spending has skyrocketed over the past 50 years with no improvement in academic outcomes. Other researchers repeatedly find increasing spending doesn’t help students. That’s because, as noted above, schools typically don’t send more money to classrooms, they use it to increase bureaucracy and nonacademic programming.
Got that? When taxpayers throw money at public schools, the teachers don’t see very much of that money. It gets put into education administrators and indoctrinators – people whose sole job is to make sure that the children accept secular left values.
Check out this graph of education spending compared to test scores:
Spending more doesn’t produce the results that parents are looking for, for their children. Parents want children to learn what they need to find work and become financially independent. But teachers, adminsitrators, etc. have a very different goal: making little secular leftists. And that’s what they use increased funding for that. Numbers don’t lie.
Another way that public schools waste money is by promising massive gold-plated public sector pensions to teachers – pensions that no private sector taxpayer would ever get themselves. And they use any increase in their budgets to pay the pensions of teachers who are retired, and not helping students to learn.
I saw a really nice map of the United States over at Daily Signal, with all the outstanding pensions liabilities, and the amount ranges from about $7600 in Tennessee (the best state in the union) to tens of thousands in the big blue socialist states.
States promised such outsized retirement benefits to the last generation of public-school teachers that they’re paying off this promise with current revenues. A national average of $6,800 per year per teacher pays former teachers’ pensions that state and local governments failed to save up for while those teachers were working. That’s money that could have instead boosted current teachers’ salaries. The problem is only going to get worse as more baby boomers retire and legislatures continue to hide their heads in the sand.
It’s not just that states and districts failed to save up for pensions they knew would come due, it’s that they offered literally the cushiest pensions available to teachers, notes a 2016 study: “as a group, [teachers] have by far the highest retirement costs, even compared with other public-sector employees. While the average civilian employee receives $1.78 for retirement benefits per hour of work, public school teachers receive $6.22 per hour in retirement compensation.”
Like I said, I don’t have a pension funded by taxpayers. I’m having to saving for my own retirement, as well of the retirement of these wealthy government workers. Public sector benefits are paid by taxpayers in the private (free market) sector. We are the ones wh have to make products and services that consumers are actually willing to pay for in a free market. Unlike teachers, I can’t go on strike if I feel I’m not paid enough. If I go on strike, I’ll be fired. But they go on strike, holding children hostage to get more money. With no guarantee of improved student performance.
Joy also notes that teachers are actually vastly overpaid already, based on what their marketable skills:
[…][R]esearch finds teachers are overpaid by an average of 50 percent relative to their skills and mental abilities. The overage comes almost exclusively from their fat benefit packages.
The reason they complain about pay is because the majority of their pay is going into extravagant health care, paid time off, pension, paid training, etc. benefits. When you add back all those benefits, they’re being overpaid compared to an equivalent private sector worker.
Another factor that lowers student performance is that the fact that teachers are highly regulated. Instead of spending their time teaching students, they are forced to waste time doing other non-teaching tasks.
Education regulations are almost always decided by non-teachers, and the effects are about what you would guess from that fact. Rather than benefiting students, these regulations typically require or justify ever-expanding employment for the very bureaucrat types who come up with them. I’m talking about things like teacher licensing mandates, which researchers have long found do not improve teacher quality and traffic in disproven education fads (but do provide easy-access cash cows for state departments of education and teacher colleges since teachers are required to keep buying their products to maintain certification); ever-increasing testing and data-entry mandates; centralized curriculum mandates like Common Core; centralized teacher evaluation and ratings systems; and the massive data entry required to document things like student behavior problems and special education services.
More money being wasted that doesn’t help students to learn more at all.
So what’s the solution?
The solution is to allow parents to choose who provides their children with an education, instead of having the money automatically taxed and spent by a massive secular left education bureaucracy. If teachers have their money in their hands, they will spend it where they can get the best quality for the best price – just like they do in every other area of their lives. That might be scary for teachers, administrators and indoctrinators, but in a free market, the parents should not be obligated to pay for something they don’t want. We should be concerned about the children first and foremost.