In Providence, Rhode Island, nearly all of the 2,000 teachers have been given warning that their jobs may not be there for them when the new school year starts in September. Why? Union rules force the state to warn teachers before March if they plan on firing them by September. The only way for Providence Mayor Angel Tavares to give himself the flexibility needed to fix the city’s school budget issues is to put the fear of losing their jobs into all the teachers. The teachers’ union has blamed the mayor and city school officials, but the real fault lies with the union, which has bargained for the draconian rules that forced the city into this position in the first place. Teachers are going to spend months worrying about their jobs, not because of the mayor, but because that is the only option the union left to the city.
That is just the tip of the iceberg nationwide. Teachers across the country should take a hard look at what New Orleans’ charter schools have achieved with inner-city kids using rigid discipline measurement standards and uniforms. I know a young teacher in the system who she is so excited about her job. She has given me glowing reports about all the disadvantaged children from the projects with whom she works. Teachers who have failed year in and year out cannot continue to blame students’ poor performance on students alone. Teachers must be held accountable. A good place to start would be eliminating the last-in-first-out rule of firing teachers. The youngest teachers are often the brightest and come to schools with the latest knowledge and enthusiasm about what is most effective in the classroom. They should be rewarded for their knowledge, not cast aside for their inexperience.
The country is seeing the beginning of reform in Wisconsin and New Jersey, where Governors Scott Walker and Chris Christie are proving themselves to be more potent than any of those who are today preparing to run for president on the GOP ticket. Can you imagine Mitt Romney standing up to unions like Chris Christie has? How about Governor Mitch Daniels of Indiana who recently backed away from a fight to turn Indiana into the next Right to Work state? Conservatives need a fire-in-the-belly candidate, not a thinker or wannabe.
Another interesting governor who has chosen to stand against the unions is Maine’s Governor Paul LePage. Mr. LePage is on course to turn Maine into New England’s first Right to Work state. After Maine’s conservatives are done with that, they ought to round up a couple of conservative senators to replace the two Maine RINOs now burdening the country.
As some states make the hard choices and put themselves on track toward fiscal sanity, American families will have a choice. They can live in states where they are burdened by high taxes and poor schools, or they can move to Right to Work states like Virginia, which can boast good schools as well as a balanced budget.