Tuesday, March 13, 2007

Today's lesson: steal!

Here's a story that symbolizes of the mindset of teacher's unions circa 2007:

The school district that runs the nation's largest merit pay program gave oversized bonuses to nearly 100 teachers and is asking them to give it back. The president of Houston's largest teachers' union is telling members not to return the overpayments, which range from $62.50 to $2,790.

A total of almost $75,000 was overpaid because a computer program mistakenly calculated the bonuses of part-time personnel as if they were full-time employees, according to the Houston Independent School District. Less than 1 percent of teachers were affected, the district said.

Gayle Fallon, president of the Houston Federation of Teachers, said the district can't force the 99 teachers to sign forms authorizing it to deduct the money from their paychecks, and promised legal action if it attempts to do so.

"If it's the district's error, then the district should bear the loss," she said.

This is revolting. Ms. Fallon's position is that it's okay to steal money if it's given to you by mistake. Doubtless she's the type who, when accidentally given extra change by a waiter or store clerk thinking she gave them a $20 bill instead of a $10, rushes out of the business and high fives her companion at having made a personal score at the expense of a low paid worker.

If she is this unethical in her personal life, let those she victimizes and her conscience (if she has one) deal with it. But in her capacity as a very highly paid official and as a public figure, you have to hope that her urging her constituents to steal money from their employer (in this case, the taxpayers of Houston) will be met with the level of public scorn it deserves. And that Houston's teachers will show that they are a group with some sense of morality and professional ethics and show this despicable woman the door at the earliest opportunity. How would you like to be a teacher, or even just a parent having to explain this story to your child? It's tough enough to instill values in children these days without them seeing their teachers as not having any.

There is a punchline to the story:

The union opposes the merit system unanimously approved by the school board last year.

That's right - Fallon doesn't think any Houston teacher should have gotten a bonus!

As you may know, the primary goal of teacher's unions is to avoid any semblance of accountability for teachers. This serves to protect the incompetent teacher from being fired and to deny reward or incentive to excellent teachers. It's a system that creates spoils for lousy teachers and union officials at the expense of quality teachers and, of course, students.

Finding a way to make teachers and schools accountable for their performance in educating is the number one problem facing American schools today. The unions have an entire political party, as well as tons of individual politicians, in their pockets, so no help is likely to come there. The best hope for the kids, and thus to a large degree our future, is getting free market principles into our education system and letting them work their usual magic - whether it be by vouchers, tax credits or via local initiatives at the ballot box.

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