Home Opinion Bill O'Connor Labor unions and achievement; mutually exclusive?

Labor unions and achievement; mutually exclusive?

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By Bill O’Connor –

The Board of Public Education (BOPE) might have chosen to call itself a “Directorate” instead of a Board. They both mean about the same. But it is probably best to have stayed with the conventional designation of “Board.”

We could not reach Ms. Corn, though “Chairperson” Bazzle returned a call to say he could not confirm and he “had no idea” whether Ms. Corn is a member of the North Carolina teachers union, the National Education Association (NEA). If she is, as seems likely, 2 of the 7 members of BOPE are also members of a national union. It’s legal. Is it right? Is it good for the education of our children? Not if the relative achievement of American 15 year olds are any indication, as they score 25th in the world in science and 17th in math.

The BOPE and Henderson County Public Schools (HCPS) have some very attractive brochures printed every year that compare our kids to those in seven North Carolina counties. But it is plain to an awful lot of citizens that our graduates are going to have to compete, not against kids from Gaston, Mecklenburg, Burke, or even Watauga counties; in the 21st century our young people will have to compete with those from Riga, Rio de Janeiro, Singapore, Shanghai, Adelaide, Ankara and Madrid. If our schools don’t prepare them and prove to us that these are their goals, they will stand guilty of betraying the trust that students, parents and taxpayers have given them.

An Energy Czar

With the awards given to energy saving schools last week there was, of course, no discussion of the cost of these savings. Just before press time we did get that the consultants’ fee was $238,000 compared to the adjusted energy savings of $1.35 million. The new Energy Manager seems a capable addition to the overpopulated administrative staff and good person without doubt. He’ll probably work for us for 20 years, at a cost of $1,000,000 plus until retirement then collect his pension for 20 more. Many times in private companies when a new requirement for monitoring some facility function, like energy, is established, facility Directors are responsible for seeing that it gets done through existing staff, without budget increases.

We could have monitored energy use for a year before deciding if we needed additional staff. Intelligent managements even make energy savings a competition and/or part of a facility manager’s evaluation. This never seems to be the case at HCPS or any public body. If you get a new function we need more people. After all, pay is often tied (only) to the number supervised. So we have an “Energy Manager” (Czar) in the school system. Every function must have an administrator, if not a department. Anyone who has had experience with labor unions is acquainted with the attitude.

Information

In the last few weeks we have begun to shed some light on aspects of the HCPS and BOPE that seldom work under lights, and never seem to make public reports replete with the incessant exchange of awards. On January 4th we requested cost information on the employees of HCPS and so far, we have received 0% complete information requested on any of the 1,620 full time and 277 part timers. We have gotten incomplete information on less than 3% of what is needed to have any realistic picture of what we are paying for HCPS personnel costs. We will continue to pursue your right, according to the law, to information on how HCPS spends your money.

Condition So Far

It is not good. To date in this series we have with citizen help, documented a casual attitude toward security; a casual approach to public meetings; monthly exchanges of awards while no mention is made of the K-12 crisis in American schools, our Henderson County schools, the emblem of which is that HCPS continues to measure itself only within our state in a race to the bottom among 115 union dominated systems as the world not-so-slowly pulls ahead. The union domination of our schools deserves a separate mention not least because it seems the two BOPE members are themselves union members in a state with 115 BOPEs. Maybe this is a clue to the slack standards and absence of aggressive pursuit of process, textbook, curriculum, and personnel improvement.

Yet to come in the School Evaluation Series

The new budget cycle is well underway, and we have yet to have response to a request for past budget and spending data. We will follow budgeting this year closely. Security and evaluation standards along with process, textbook, curriculum, and personnel development will be encouraged and followed and reported. We love our schools and are confident that, with difficult and hard fought, corrected, and redirected priorities we can begin to be proud our county schools’ place in the world as well in our state. We look forward to positive developments and are anxious to report them.

County Budgets

Recently Ron Bailey writing in Reason.com said this:

“For decades, an increasingly large percentage of our economic output has been moved from the positive-sum game of markets and private property to the zero-sum game of government and politics. According to the Office of Management and Budget, total government spending in the U.S. rose from 17 percent of GDP in 1948 to 35 percent in 2010. As public choice theory predicts, the more resources government bureaucracies’ control, the more lobbyists, crony capitalists, and entitlement clients will appear seeking to divert handouts into their pockets. Such would-be beneficiaries need experts to construct the facts that they use to justify to political patrons and agency bureaucrats why they deserve a share of the government’s largesse. To the extent that we live in a “post-truth era,” it is in good measure because it pays so well to dissemble, exaggerate, and spin for government grants and favors.”

This is just a little of what we all are up against. The situation won’t change until citizens decide to act, not just at the ballot box but at meetings of public bodies and with citizen groups formal and informal. We will work for you to get the information. We all need to decide to act on it too. We will widen our view to take in state and national as well as county-wide issues during local budget season.

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