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Unions Take Education and Labor Battles to Courts
posted by: Alix | September 27, 2011, 10:04 PM   

2011 is shaping up to be the year of education and labor reform nearly nationwide. In March, 48 states were considering labor reform bills on the heels of major Republican gains in state legislatures across the country. What started as legislative progress and meaningful education reform in states like Indiana, Florida, and Idaho, has yielded an unprecedented backlash from unions who are literally fighting for their very survival in long drawn out court battles that are leaving many commonsense policies in limbo.

Everything from teacher evaluations and compensation, to the expansion of school choice policies have seen legal challenges from unions which cite that the new laws violate prior worker contracts and state constitutions. While a legal strategy is not new, the last resort court appeals have once again shown that the teacher unions will stop at nothing to protect their interests, regardless of political mandates, critically needed reform, or new budget realities.

In Florida and New Jersey, two lawsuits pending seek to block the adoption of new laws that require teachers to contribute toward their pensions to combat budget shortfalls. In Florida, ground-breaking education reform laws dealing with phasing out tenure and implementing performance pay for teachers are in limbo over union-led lawsuits.

Similarly in Idaho, after unprecedented union uproar during the legislative process, union groups are suing over another law that phases out tenure, and established performance pay, and incorporates technology into schools systems.

Despite the pending legal proceedings, governors who are championing education reform are not backing down. Amy Graham, a spokeswoman for Florida Governor Rick Scott, disputed the union's claims that the policies would have adverse affects. "Why shouldn't good teachers be rewarded with merit-based pay? By retaining the best teachers, weeding out the worst, and expanding school choice, we are creating a world-class education system."

In Indiana, a headline grabbing legal battle is playing out as a school choice bill enacted this year has become enormously popular for families desperately trying to get their children out of failing schools. The voucher law is being challenged as illegally directing state money into religious schools, despite the majority of students attending alternative public schools.

Indiana's Superintendent of Public Instruction and Chief for Change Tony Bennett, who supports the law, claims the law serves students from all backgrounds including a mix of urban and rural communities and should be upheld. "Poverty has no geography to it. This was not a pro-private-school or anti-public-school piece of legislation."

While 2011 has certainly seen a great deal of legislative progress, the union-led effort to erode reform policies is unfortunately being seen in key states with national attention. While only time will tell if these policies will take effect, remain law, and be given a chance to make real impacts, clearly the union effort to stop any meaningful change is hurting both our students and the teaching profession alike.

What do you think about the state legal challenges?
Comment below.

Comments (1)Add Comment
Merit Pay
written by Frank in New Mexico, September 30, 2011

These fights have their place and do possess legitimacy. Merit pay, for example, is typically based on factors outside the control of the teacher. As such, merit pay continues to be based more on student assignment and less on teacher efficacy.

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