Friday, October 29, 2010

Look for the union label

Rep. John Benson (DFL-Minnetonka) has presumably worked hard to earn the many union endorsements he touts on his campaign web site: AFSCME, AFL-CIO, SEIU, Teamsters, Minneapolis Federation of Teachers (although no part of the Minneapolis Public Schools district is within the suburban district he represents, SD43B!). Benson is a former president of his union local in Edina.

In his latest campaign literature piece, Benson's opponent in this election, Brian Grogan, has documented precisely how hard Benson has worked to earn these endorsements:
  • Benson voted to shift $80 million from the classroom to union penson plans (HF3281 - 2010)
  • Benson voted against improving high school graduation standards, aligning with the union position (HF2 - 2009)
  • Benson voted for union-favored bills that did not establish teacher accountability standards (HF4178-2009 and HF2-2010)
In his retirement speech last year, Bob Chanin, general counsel of the National Education Association, was surprisingly candid in admitting what the first priority of the union is (hint: it's not the children):
...we have power because there are more than 3.2 million people who are willing to pay us hundreds of millions of dollars in dues each year because they believe that we are the unions that can most effectively represent them, the unions that can protect their rights and advance their interests as education employees.

This is not to say that the concern of NEA and its affiliates with closing achievement gaps, reducing dropout rates, improving teacher quality, and the like are unimportant or inappropriate. To the contrary, these are the goals that guide the work we do. But they need not and must not be achieved at the expense of due process, employee rights, and collective bargaining. That simply is too high a price to pay!
Grogan, who serves on the board of the Minnesota Academic Excellence Foundation and the Special Education Advisory Council, puts issues such as redesigning the K-12 funding formula for more fairness and transparency, eliminating unfunded mandates including No Child Left Behind, and rewarding teachers for performance at the top of his education policy priorities. When push comes to shove on K-12 education policy and finance, which candidate do you think would be in a stronger position to represent SD43B students and their families?

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