John Ransom

The trouble with education in this country starts and ends with unions. They are out-of- touch museum relics, fitting for a day that used rotary presses to distribute the news, but wildly inappropriate for an age that‘s both wired and wireless.

Unions have prevented, and continue to prevent, much-needed reforms in education, public finance and government. They cultivate a sense of entitlement wholly out of order for the times, which call for more self-reliance and entrepreneurship.

Frankly, unions suck.

Really.

They suck the money out of our wallets; they suck productivity out of workers; and suck up all the leavings from the public trough.

Increasingly, the public has had it with the private country clubs known as “public” unions.  

So it should surprise no one that one county school district is fed up. And they have finally decided to boot their left-leaning union and try life and education in the 21st century.  

The Douglas County School District, a suburban community south of Denver, Colorado, has decided to part ways with their teachers’ union in the absence of progress on a new contract which expired June 30th, 2012.

“The Board of Education finds and declares that the Collective Bargaining Agreements between the District and the Unions,” said the district on July 3rd in its formal resolution dissolving the bonds between the union and the district, “which had been effective from July 1, 2011 through and including June 30, 2012, are now expired and of no legal effect whatsoever.”

The dissolution between the district and the union is unprecedented  and sources close to the union tell me that unions are pensively watching, worried that other districts around Colorado and the country could take the same action as Douglas County has.

We can only hope.    

The main issue between the district and the union was the union’s insistence on being the sole bargaining agents for the teachers. The district, in the interest of transparency, wanted other professional teacher associations to be able to appear at the bargaining table.

“Exclusivity for a union with majority support is not a monopoly, it is democracy,” said Brenda Smith, local head of the AFL-CIO affiliated American Federation of Teachers according to Colorado Ed News. “It is order rather than chaos. It allows employees to select their representative freely, without coercion from the employer. It allows them to amplify their voice through collective action under our constitutionally protected right to freedom of association.”

Could we get a little more Orwellian please, Ms. Smith?  

From our friends at Colorado Peak Politics: “Let's get this straight -- allowing only one organization to represent all teachers is democracy, but allowing teachers multiple options for representation, including themselves, is a monopoly? Please tell us Brenda Smith wasn't previously a civics teacher.”   

But also at issue were years of venality, self-dealing and conflicts of interest routinely engaged in by the union and the school district.

In 2009 the district faced severe budget shortfalls, in part, because previous union contracts were fudged in order to make it appear that the pupil growth in the county was going to rise faster than could reasonably expected.

For the union, it was a win at the time the contract was approved because they could point to the out years of the contract while the union president got the district to agree to pay a portion of what was believed to be a six-figure union salary out of district funds, along with generous grants from the district to other union workers.

What the heck? They could always raise taxes to make up for the deception- which, of course, should have been known to the union at the time.

At the same time the administration was looking to try to increase taxes to make up their phony numbers in the budget. They also tried to gain approval to sell close to half a billion dollars in bonds to build new schools for non-existent children. And- remember this is a government service that’s “all about the kids”- they were awarding contracts to build new schools to a sitting board member on the advice of the district’s attorney.

Unions win; administration wins; board member wins; taxpayers lose; parents lose; teachers lose.

You know? The usual balanced equation when it comes to liberals and unions.

As a result, taxpayers staged a revolt in 2009 in Douglas County throwing out union-friendly board members and voting in a reform-minded slate of candidates.

And reform they have.

The district has worked on merit pay, a voucher program, finance transparency- along with making union negotiations open to the public. All of these initiatives have been opposed by the union.

And so now the union has found that the ringing in their ears is just the sound of a school bell ringing for the dismissal.

That bell?

It rings for thee, Ms. Smith.

And I told you so.

Let’s hope that other school districts start to do the same.

John Ransom

John Ransom is the Finance Editor for Townhall Finance.