Winning the Fight Against Special Interests’ Control over Education

Lindsey Burke /

The Wisconsin assembly agreed at 6:00 a.m. this morning to end debate on Governor Scott Walker’s (R) budget repair bill and to finally move to a decision on the proposed collective bargaining reforms. The situation in the Senate, however, remains unresolved and for over a week now Walker has been putting the fire under the feet of missing Democrats in an attempt to get the lawmakers to return to the capitol.

If Walker’s collective bargaining proposal is enacted, teachers in Wisconsin will now be permitted to keep their teaching jobs even if they don’t want to join the education union. Moreover, the state government would no longer collect union dues through the government payroll system.

Yesterday, Steven F. Hayward suggested other related business that should be considered as legislators get back to the business of governing: “easy and quick alternative certification for new public-school teachers, who could then replace striking teachers, and expanding school choice.” Such proposals would make clear that more student- and teacher-centered reforms are needed for the sake of educational quality in the Badger State.

Meanwhile, modest reforms proposed by Ohio Governor John Kasich (R) have sent the state’s education union into overdrive to protect their turf. Kasich is working to restore voter control over state government by ceasing collective bargaining with state employees. While Kasich’s plan would limit only local education unions’ ability to negotiate over benefits (such as health insurance), it would not, unfortunately, cease collective bargaining. The governor’s plan is certainly a step in the right direction, but teachers would still be able to collectively bargain and would still be required to join a union.

Yet the Ohio Education Association has couched these provisions—which are far more modest than those under consideration in Wisconsin—in exaggerated terms to their members, arguing that the proposal “will hurt our local schools and kids.” In actuality, the proposal will limit their special interests and start putting more attention on the needs of children. Kasich is attempting to loosen the grip of special interests, which will ultimately put more control in the hands of school leaders to determine what’s best for children.

Ensuring that school leaders and parents are in control of who teaches their children and what their children learn is the reason that the fight to curtail special interests—now spreading across the country—is so important. Principals should have control over hiring and firing decisions, school leaders should be able to determine how teachers are compensated based on their performance, and parents should have the peace of mind that their children have access to quality teachers. Thankfully, the firestorm of reform spreading across the country has the potential to move us closer to that goal.