If you’re wondering why Idaho’s public schools operate much the way they did in the 1970s — and why the Idaho Education Association is fighting so hard to keep it that way — take a look at the lawsuit the teachers’ union filed last month to stop education reform legislation.
The IEA is suing to block the portion of the reform package that strips the union of its collective bargaining privileges. The IEA would have you believe the lawsuit is a heroic act intended to protect students and save our public schools from a speeding train known as education reform. Actually, the IEA’s leadership is fighting to preserve business as usual.
The lawsuit is 13 pages long. Guess how many times the lawsuit talks about student achievement — or anything at all about students. Ten times? Forty?
Nope. Students are mentioned not a single time. In fact, the lawsuit says nary a word about students, student achievement, education excellence or 21st Century learning opportunities.
The lawsuit shows just how out of touch the IEA’s leadership is with most teachers, who put a premium on the educational outcomes that the union’s complaint disregards.
Lest you think the IEA bosses used other words to express its concern for the benefactors of a public education, there’s no mention in the lawsuit of “children” either. Absolutely nothing. The lawsuit’s focus, simply, is on the fact that for many, many years, unions have been able to control school district operations through collective bargaining agreements, and that’s something the union leadership does not want to give up.
For example, the IEA points out in its complaint that local unions, until the meddling of the Legislature, have been allowed to put in place collective bargaining agreements with so-called “evergreen clauses.” These clauses keep the collective bargaining agreements in place until a new agreement is successfully negotiated.
We should all be lucky to have contracts like these.
Supporters of education reform noted that such agreements perpetually bind future elected school boards to a collective bargaining agreement they had nothing to do with — and some contracts were originally authored decades ago.
Such agreements can and do dictate everything about a school district’s operations from who will be hired, who will be fired, what substitutes to use, how much leave time union organizers should receive at taxpayer expense, how many minutes (yes, minutes) of instruction time is allowed, when breaks occur, and even bell and vacation schedules.
The IEA denies these contracts are unduly restrictive and says the evergreen clauses serve the “entirely legitimate legislative purpose of maintaining the status quo pending the contracting parties’ successful renegotiation of those CBA terms that either party wishes to renegotiate.” Failing to renegotiate a new contract, the contracts remain in place, sticking each school board with an agreement that gives the union — not the elected school board — control of the school district.
And so, thanks to the previous state law, and the union leadership’s unabashed defense of it, we’ve successfully maintained the status quo in school district after school district for year after year — sometimes for decades. Were the Legislature not to act, the union leadership would work hard to make sure status quo and mediocrity rule the day.
The IEA’s leaders want Idahoans to think it’s rising up to defend our children from “evil” education reforms. Actually, by and through its own words, the union is rising up to defend its own interests and little else.