“Don’t Say You Represent the Students”

By Steve BucksteinCascadeNewLogo

Republican politicians may no longer be the loudest critics of teachers unions. Influential Democrats are now speaking up also, such as New York Governor Andrew Cuomo. Here’s what he said in a recent interview:

“If (the public) understood what was happening with education to their children, there would be an outrage in this city,” Cuomo said. “I’m telling you, they would take City Hall down brick by brick.

“It’s only because it’s complicated that people don’t get it.”

Cuomo said the teachers union is “more interested in protecting the rights of its members than improving the system for the kids it is supposed to be serving.”

“Somewhere along the way, I believe we flipped the purpose of this,” Cuomo said. “This was never a teacher employment program and this was never an industry to hire superintendents and teachers.

“This was a program to educate kids….”

Responding to a union member who said he represents the students:

“No, you don’t,” Cuomo said he told the person. “You represent the teachers. Teacher salaries, teacher pensions, teacher tenure, teacher vacation rights. I respect that. But don’t say you represent the students.”

If the liberal Democrat Governor of New York can say such things, shouldn’t Oregon’s Governor do the same? After all, he’s the same Governor who signed Oregon’s 1999 charter school bill into law against the objections of―guess who? The teachers union.

Steve Buckstein is founder and Senior Policy Analyst at Cascade Policy Institute, Oregon’s free market public policy research organization.


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Posted by at 05:00 | Posted in Education, Unions | Tagged , , | 42 Comments |Email This Post Email This Post |Print This Post Print This Post
  • Jack Lord God

    Good for Cuomo to say this, however it’s the follow through that counts. We already have one of the most expensive K-12 education systems in the world. It also delivers, by any reasonable metric, performance that is horrendous compared to the rest of the world. At some point in the future it will likely get so ridiculous that people will begin to realize this and likely few will continue to defend teachers unions. To my mind, those who defend them now, will be remembered as the segregationists of our time. Teachers unions have literally become that indefensible.

    • Eric Blair

      “To my mind, those who defend them now, will be remembered as the segregationists of our time.”

      No hyperbole left behind.

      Have you considered that other factors my contribute more to our mediocre academic performance in so many schools other than teacher’s unions? I have a hint for you: public schools, with teachers represented by a union, in reasonably affluent areas, do quite well, actually. Schools in impoverished areas do not. I’m speaking, of course, in general. There are exceptions.

      • .

        EB, ICU as an interceptor butt hardly renown a patriot.

      • Jack Lord God

        Schools in poor areas suck almost entirely due to teachers unions, In fact, this is one of the most common arguments used to point out the evil of teachers unions.

        The fact that you are so oblivious to this that you actually think pointing out that difference strengthens your support for the indefensible, teachers unions, was my first good laugh of the day.

        For that I thank you.

        • Eric Blair

          I’m glad I could return the favor.. your funny line about the new segregation was priceless. However, now I owe you one again. The teacher’s unions are responsible for the schools in poor areas sucking? And not the conditions in which the students find themselves? I would love to see a reference to it being “one of the most common arguments.” Yes.. feel the anger… blame the teachers and not the poverty! If it weren’t for those teacher’s unions, poor schools would do just fine!

          I have to stop now.. tears from laughing interfering with ability to type.

        • themsthefacts

          My wife teaches in a school (here in Oregon) that has so many students on free lunch that the school has free lunch and breakfast for all students because it isn’t worth the paperwork to keep track of the hand full that don’t qualify. They are also a Model School” in Oregon meaning their kids perform really really well. Other schools around the state send teams of teachers to observe my wife’s school. Guess what Rupert, they have a union! NY has a union problem, Oregon does not. Comparing the Big Apple to Oregon hazel nuts doesn’t fly.

        • themsthefacts

          Wow?! The United States educates more children in poverty than any other nation. Poverty is a very good (proven) predictor of a child’s success in school and beyond. I know you like to think you actually know every thing, but on this you are so off base it would be funny if we were not talking about a tragedy of our currents societies problems. I’ll be interested to see you spin the poverty rate to teacher unions.

        • Jonathan

          Jack (I won’t dignify my response by using your absurd full screen name), I suggest you try teaching in an inner city school and then come back and say that the unions are almost entirely to blame for their condition.

          • Ardbeg

            JLG or as he is well know as-‘Rupert the toy salesman’ never responds to anyone when he knows he can’t DICtate the conversation to his view points. Confounded and confused by facts that man is. When ever he is confronted with fact and logic he grows silent.

          • Ardbeg

            I have a c-note says we will hear not another word from mighty dude Rupert

          • Eric Blair

            I will NOT take you up on that bet.

    • Jonathan

      Actually, Jack, American school performance is not “horrendous.” In fact, when you adjust for the economic inequality among American students and especially when you adjust for the huge proportion of American students from underperforming ethnic groups (for whatever reason), you find that American schools are not bad at all.

    • Eric Blair

      So is it just the teacher’s union in Oregon.. or all teacher’s unions? How well do states that don’t have teacher’s unions do in educating their citizens? Do they have remarkably better results?

  • Bob Clark

    Competition makes for a better U.S postal service by forcing it to be more responsive to the consumer than otherwise. The same would probably be true if public school dollars could follow the student to whatever educational venue they and their parent(s) chose. Public Schools if responsive have a natural advantage in that they are located within the neighborhood.

    But until the public school monopoly is transformed to an entity wanting and willing to compete rather than one trying to erect competitive barriers (using the facade issue called ‘Equity’), k-12 education in Oregon will continue to flounder relatively.

    Public schools in affluent neighborhoods (if better than other public schools) might be responsive to their parents and students because of the ability of the affluent to go elsewhere unless their demands are met. Then, too, affluence is linked to individual responsibility, which is a good thing for all folks.

    • Eric Blair

      Actually, I’m going to contest that affluence is linked to individual responsibility. Individual responsibility can play a role, but other, more significant factors, such as into which economic strata you are born, plays a much larger role. The poor are, by and large, responsible people — to claim otherwise is to exhibit ignorance of the poor in this country. But, I understand, conservatives can’t acknowledge that the poor work just as hard and are just as responsible as the affluent because then we have to look elsewhere for the problem.

      Maybe public schools in affluent areas do better because they have better resources through their PTAs, etc…, and their students don’t have the same basic worries and concerns as the students in poor schools.

      • Jack Lord God

        >Maybe public schools in affluent areas do better because they have better resources through their PTAs,

        Lol, you did it again. You really don’t know do you? I mean you have no idea whatsoever how inane this straight out of the NEA handbook this pat answer is?

        • Eric Blair

          LOL back at you! Well, how is it inane? Just referencing the NEA doesn’t make it so.

          So, are you arguing that affluent schools can’t tap into better resources, and that those resources don’t make a difference?

          • Eric Blair

            How about the American Psychological Association? Would they be OK to reference? Or are they just another liberal-biased organization?

            SES = Socioeconomic Status

            SES and Educational Issues
            Research indicates that children from low-SES households and
            communities develop academic skills more slowly compared to children
            from higher SES groups (Morgan, Farkas, Hillemeier, & Maczuga,
            2009). Initial academic skills are correlated with the home environment,
            where low literacy environments and chronic stress negatively affect a
            child’s preacademic skills. The school systems in low-SES communities
            are often underresourced, negatively affecting students’ academic
            progress (Aikens & Barbarin, 2008). Inadequate education and
            increased dropout rates affect children’s academic achievement,
            perpetuating the low-SES status of the community. Improving school
            systems and early intervention programs may help to reduce these risk
            factors, and thus increased research on the correlation between SES and
            education is essential.

      • guest

        Whine not, but volunteer your services as an intern @ DHS before conjuring further thou seemingly naïve pilgrim? You might just learn the farces and their feces currently overrun the henhouse, pathologically

        • Eric Blair

          Well, my friend, I don’t need to intern at DHS. My wife is a social worker, who has 20+ years of experience working with the poor. What exactly did you think I would learn by interning at DHS?

          • guest

            Unvarnished truth not revealed and/or diverted away from audit cost conscious audit.
            Your wife no doubt knows many examples of fraud but the DHS doesn’t like exposure any more that does the dotty gov and his paramour.
            SOS occurring at WA DHS, to boot.

          • Eric Blair

            What kind of fraud are you talking about… and if you cant’/won’t write in standard prose, this conversation is useless.

      • thevillageidiot

        “Individual responsibility can play a role, but other, more significant factors, such as into which economic strata you are born, plays a much larger role.” you actually believe those born to the noble class are better than those born to the peasant class. and the class into which you are born dertermines your success. there is no way out. Personal responsibility plays essentially no part in success. so bottom line, the educatioin received or how well you do is a matter of being born to the noble class.

        • Eric Blair

          I don’t believe I said, anywhere, that one class is better than the other .. in fact, I believe in responding to Bob I explicitly stated that the affluent any not any better than the poor. So I’m not sure what you’re trying to say.

          Yes, some from the poor will make it to a higher socioeconomic class. However the game is rigged in favor of those born into affluence. And, those that don’t make it, and remain poor, are not in some way less deserving, or work less hard, or are less personally responsible – whatever that means. I would argue, in fact, that personal responsibility is much less of a contributing factor than others (see born into affluence, for instance). And yes… many of the affluent became that way because of the connections they have, there knowledge, without trying, of the system and how it works: how to dress, how to speak, being the beneficiaries of better education.

          Does that answer your question.

          Let me put it this way: anyone can “succeed”, but not everyone can. Luck and birth play a much greater role than is acknowledged.

          • thevillageidiot

            you said it again. “However the game is rigged in favor of those born into affluence.”
            unless you are born into privelige you are not going to succede. your final “anyone can “succeed”, but not everyone can. Luck and birth play a much greater role than is acknowledged.” this also reitterates your opinion that personal responsibiliity has little to do with success. your station in life has everything to do with success.

          • Eric Blair

            No.. I didn’t say you’re not going to succeed… what I’m saying is that it is much more difficult to succeed because the deck stacked. Not everything… but quite a bit… it’s not a black and white situation. Hint: rigged in favor doesn’t guarantee that anyone who is poor will never succeed; just a lot less likely, and only a limited number. Are you clear?

            Let me ask you… why don’t more poor people succeed. What is your analysis?

            Do you think it is more likely that a person born to affluence will succeed, or retain affluence, than a poor person will rise to affluence?

          • MrBill

            About 80% of the bottom quintile of income earners will move out of that group in about 10 years. So says a Michigan State U study. No question the poor have more to overcome, but the game is hardly rigged against them.

            I think you’re wrong about personal responsibility being less important than being born in affluence. Personal responsibility is probably the biggest factor in the 80% who move up. Lack of personal responsibility is likewise the biggest factor in explaining the 20% who don’t.

          • Eric Blair

            Would you mind sending a link to that study?

            Given stagnating and declining real income, and the shrinking of the middle class (and they’re not going to the top)… exactly how else would you describe it other than having the game rigged?

          • MrBill


            The IRS did a similar study. Not identical, but with similar results.

            I would say that today’s poor have similar opportunities as the affluent’s less prosperous forebears. A poor person may not be able to go to Harvard, but they can still get the skills to get ahead. That may or may not mean going to Harvard. It could mean an AA or AS degree from a local college or even a certification in some skill that provides a pathway to a better life. But even that’s not a guarantee. There are a lot of things that lead to wealth that aren’t learned in a classroom. Like responsibility.

          • Eric Blair

            “I would say that today’s poor have similar opportunities as the affluent’s less prosperous forebears.”

            How far are you going back? And that is pretty much an evasion, and I think you know it. So, yes, compaired to my forebears, many of whom were no doubt peasants, my opportunities are much, much better. Even the poor have better opportunities than medieval peasants. However, are are talking about today, and we are comparing people within the same society… not other, historical, societies.

            Today, right now, the poor in this country do not have the same equality of opportunity as the affluent. Not only that, but the United States lags behind many other similar nations.

            You have mentioned responsibility several times over. What do you mean by responsibility? Are you going to claim that the bottom 20% (I’ll accept your numbers for the sake of argument) exhibit irresponsibility? What percentage of them are irresponsible? How so?

          • MrBill

            How far am I going back? A generation or two in THIS country. Going back to the middle ages is the real evasion (and I think you know it).

          • Eric Blair

            That wasn’t evasion, that was sarcasm. You’re comparing apples and oranges… we are talking about today… conditions today. And your silence on that makes me believe that you know I’m right.

          • MrBill

            Sometimes silence is a way of ending a discussion with someone who you’re not going to persuade and who can’t resist having the last word.

          • Eric Blair

            Yes.. we both have that problem, don’t we?

            I was talking about how you addressed only part of the post.. that was the silence I was referencing. You continued the conversation by addressing part of the post.

            False humility does not suit you.

          • Eric Blair

            Other numbers are much less optimistic, and a lot of factors need to be taken into account.

            Getting Ahead or Losing Ground (Brookings Institute)

          • Themsthefacts

            “80% of the bottom quintile” so 16/20 will move up? You might need to check that again. Study after study after study……..say that’s not true.

  • oregongrown

    The teachers union only protects the members of its union. The students are just used as hostages at the time they are threatening to strike or demanding automatic raises to keep the status quo.

    Gov Kitzhaber claims to have been reforming education for(ever). And look where Oregon ranks in graduation, after all those billions and all that ‘reform.’ Out of all 50 states Oregon is dead last. One would think that with the billions we are forced to pay for education in Oregon (it takes the biggest share of all tax dollars, 40+% and Kitz wants to make it 50%) that if all of the teachers were as dedicated as they say, the results would be much better.

    But the only solution is More Money! It’s way past time that every single dollar follow the students. The failed Big Education agenda is bankrupting us and taxing us from our homes. But we would have to elect a politician that is not bought and paid for by the unions. Tall order in Oregon.

    • themsthefacts

      “The students are just used as hostages at the time they are threatening to strike”. When was the last time Newberg, Sherwood, Tigard, Tualatin, Wilsonville, West Linn, Lake Oswego or Lakeridge schools went out on strike? Or even ‘threatened’ to strike. PPS has it’s problems but PPS isn’t the only district in Oregon

  • Cordelia

    Hate to tell you people, but teacher unions are a necessary evil. Without them teachers could be fired on a whim by a bad admin. Without the Union teachers would have to work more hours in the day and more days of the year. Remember, I became a teacher for 3 reasons. June, July, and August.
    And five hours a day with these children are plenty.
    Also, some kids don’t test well. That is why we appear to be failing when, in fact, we are succeeding beyond measure.
    I am a certified, board licensed, college educated professional. Of course I need a trade union. I am too weak and ignorant to negotiate for myself.
    By the way, if the dues were not taken out of my check at state expense I would never pay them. Ever.
    Also, I am proud to live in a state that does not have a right to work. If I am paying dues, then, by golly, everyone else is going to as well.
    Get over this Union bashing. Oregon will NEVER be a right to work state and teachers will continue to be paid more and more for less and less. This is how we roll.
    And roll we do! Have you ever looked in a teacher parking lot?
    Some nice rides there. Really nice. At 78 K and some change I can finally get a Lexus.

    • Eric Blair

      *sigh* This is a downside to the First Amendment: really bad and poorly written satire.

      • cordelia

        Sigh away!

        • themsthefacts

          same old tired shtick with just another name (Cordelia….really? you picked Cordilia). There is only 15 or 20 people who actually read this site so why bother. I mean JLG is just Rupert.

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