Monday, March 25, 2013

Attacking Workers, Attacking Teachers- Different Targets, Same Result

One of the reasons I don't trust those who blame high teacher salaries and unon inflexibility for the problems in our public schools is I heard the same arguments being made in the 80's and 90's about unionized industrial workers. They were blamed for the non-competiveness of basic industry in the US, and pilloried as an obstacle to national economic renewal.

Well, the company heads and financiers who were making those arguments basically won the day, with the result that industrial wages in the US went from 3rd in the world in the early 70's to 13th in the world by the mid 90's  (David Brody "Workers in Industrial America"). But did CEO compensation decline with it? No CEO compensation skyrocketed, helping raise the average CEO worker compensation differential from 80 to 1 in 1980, to over 400 to 1

 Given this experience, I am extremely suspicious of the arguments  School Reformers make about overpaid and inflexible teachers, particularly since a good many of the people putting those arguments forward, such as Michelle Rhee and Joel Klein, are deriving sizable incomes from their leadership of the "School Reform" movement, and others, such as Rupert Murdoch, stand to derive considerable income from the software they are marketing to school systems around the country,

 Somehow, in the US, attacks on overpaid workers as undermining the public good seem to lead to the funneling of wealth upward and the lowering of living standads for working Americans.  I would be very suprised if the breaking of teachers unions and the demoralization of teachers will lead to any more positive consequences than the attack on industrial workers did 30 years ago. It is unlikely to improve schools and very likely to shrink the middle class and funnel money to the CEO's of consulting firms and test companies.

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