My son went to school this week. All week. His teachers were there too. All of them. This has been going on week after week and year after year.
This continuity and predictability would not ordinarily be worthy of comment. But this has not been an ordinary week.
As we all know, thousands of public school teachers throughout the state left their jobs this week to join a protest. Meanwhile, thousands of private school teachers did their jobs this week.
Those private school teachers don't make as much money as their public school counterparts. Their health care plans are nowhere near as lavish. Neither are their pensions, assuming they even have them. But they showed up for work this week.
What's more, they seldom seem miserable or disgruntled to me. Now I don't think for a second that all is blissful behind the scenes of your average private school. Certainly some teachers feel that they should be getting more pay or better benefits. Some may think they are not recognized properly for their accomplishments. Some in management might be buffoons. Always there are problems and challenges.
The difference between the public sector and the private sector is how these problems are handled. At my sons school, they are handled one at a time and behind the scenes, with, I suspect, a guiding document such as policy manual. Egregious departures from policy would leave either party, management or labor, to answer to a board of directors.
The system seems to work pretty well. Despite not being able to offer as much money, benefits, or job protections as their public school counterparts, the school is always well staffed with dedicated professionals. Some teachers move on, some are nudged along, and some pushed, but a large number seem to stay for a long time, an indicator of general contentedness in my view. The same is true of the administrators.
At the end of the day, all the parties involved, and that includes parents and students, are working toward a common goal of educating children. If teachers don't perform, they improve or move on. If children don't study or behave adequately, they improve or move on. If administration makes too many poor decisions, parents send their children to another school.
There is a proper balance of power between the parties involved, without which the school would fail. If management gained enough power, for example, to pay themselves lavishly, tuition would increase beyond the level acceptable to parents, and they would stop paying. If any of the interested parties were empowered sufficiently to put their interests above the others and to the detriment of the mission, the school would decline and ultimately collapse.
Decline is well under way at our public schools and collapse may not be far in the offing. The reason is an imbalance of power and insufficient means to check said power.
Do parents have the power to reform public schools? In a word, no. At the end of the day, the school will still be in operation because their funding source is Madison, not parents. The school system needs to keep politicians happy. Politicians are kept happy with campaign contributions.
Does administration have the power to reform public schools? No. Obviously and at a minimum, reforming a school system would require an efficient way to remove elements detrimental to the mission of educating students. No such efficient means exists because of the successful collaboration between and the teachers union and politicians.
The school system simply can't reform itself. The balance of power is skewed heavily in favor of the teachers union. Parents are powerless. Administration is powerless and co-opted in any case by the teachers union agenda. The same is true of school boards. And arguably, especially evident this week, the Democratic party itself is a de facto arm of the teachers union.
But alas, the public at large can act as a check on the power of the teachers union and their allies. We have elections for just this purpose, among others. As it happens, we recently did have an election. The people of Wisconsin voted. They voted to empower the Republicans. Said Republicans are attempting to curb some of the power of government unions. They are doing so via the powers established by the people of Wisconsin and the constitution that we enacted. In short, they are making laws based on a democratic process agreed upon by all Wisconsinites.
All Wisconsinites...... well, except for the government unions and their allies on the extreme left. Unhappy with the results of an election and impending changes, they have enlisted their pawns, Democratic state senators, to flee the state and avoid a legitimate debate and vote on a critical matter to the state and, it now seems, our nation.
At issue for Wisconsin and indeed our country is nothing less than the survival of our system of governance. Will we keep our established system of governance or will it be government by mob rule?
I am hopeful that our Republicans have the strength and courage to withstand the pressures of the mob and to vote to curb the powers of the government unions, assuming that we still adhere to old fashioned notions like voting.