Who Represents the Children?

If the current recession leads to job losses in Oregon’s public schools, how should the cuts be made? When it comes to unionized teachers, the answer seems to be pretty simple, and pretty troubling.

In the Beaverton School District, for example, according to The Oregonian’s Andy Parker, “The fact that young teachers will be the first to go, regardless of their skills, is something that parents — and students — bring up, over and over.”

He quoted one concerned parent saying, “Because of unions, you let go by hire date instead of by skill and expertise. It’s not a good system. Good teachers are leaving. Mediocre and bad teachers are staying.”

Parker reported on parents who believe that “teachers need to be rewarded for performance, not length of service.” But in whatever process it takes to move in that direction, Parker admitted that “he has never understood why the students aren’t a big part of that process.”

I can tell him why kids don’t seem to count in such discussions. The answer actually came years ago from a famous national teachers’ union official.

When asked if he cared about the education that schoolchildren get, president of the American Federation of Teachers Albert Shanker answered:

“When school children start paying union dues, that’s when I’ll start representing the interests of school children.”

Steve Buckstein is founder and senior policy analyst at Cascade Policy Institute, Oregon’s free market public policy research center.