Thursday, November 10, 2005

The OEA: "Working Wonders for Public Education"

The title to this post is the OEA's slogan. "Working Wonders Public Education." It's right there on the banner of their website

You gotta wonder if they laugh when they visit their site. Of course the joke is on us. For years the OEA has tried to cynically pass itself off as a protector and defender of public education, all the while throwing the children under the train in their endless quest for expanded benefits, enhanced authority, and higher pay for teachers.

They know it is a lie. Occasionally they are even honest about it, when they think nobody is looking. Back in the 80's in their OEA Bulletin they made the following, oh-so-revealing statement:

“The major purpose of our association is not the education of children, rather it is, or ought to be the extension and/or preservation of our members’ rights.”
- OEA Bulletin, October 19th, 1981

There is a telling picture in this month's BrainstormNW Magazine of the car driven by one of OEA's lobbyists. The care is a late model BMW. Nice ride. The car has vanity plates. Guess what the plates read?


Yes, it is all for the children. The hypocrisy is palpable.

And that hypocrisy is on display in Sandy, where the teachers are striking in what now is the second longest in Oregon history.

It has been a sad spectacle. According to at least one Sandy board member, the real problem is that the OEA is making Sandy the frontier in getting a few non-economic concessions into a teacher contract, so they can boot-strap them into contracts in other districts when time comes to renegotiate.

This of course is a tried and true union tactic. Get a concession in one place, then use it to leverage the same concession elsewhere. And if they have a local union (the Wy'East Education Association, in this case) willing to strike, they have a better chance of getting their beach head.

In Sandy, the OEA wants more union control over which teachers get laid off in the event the district needs to cut staff (and future staff cuts are virtually assured, since Sandy, like every district in Oregon, has costs going up faster than revenues.) They also want the district, I hear, to recognize same sex couples for medical benefits.

One positive side effect of teacher strikes is that they illustrate union hypocrisy in a way that the general public is pretty much forced to notice and understand. It's hard to insist that you are all about the children when you close the schools for three weeks in order to insist on medical benefits for same sex couples.

People get it, and they start to question the institution of unions in the public sector.

Of course, don't count the Oregonian editorial staff amongst them. The O ran an editorial today that still has me scratching my head. I can't figure out what the point of it was, other than to whine about the strike. They ended the piece with this curious advice:

It might be best if the leaders on both sides of the dispute quit the public gesturing, dump their outside advisers and go back to listen to cooler heads in their own organizations. This strike has gone beyond the point of anybody really winning it. The negotiators must simply find a way to end it -- soon.

Huh? Why did they waste the ink if they have nothing of substance to add? The public employee unions they have supported all these years have grown into a monster that is devouring our public institutions.

The face of the monster is on display in Sandy. The Oregonian doesn't want to face the monster. It sounds like a child, hands over his eyes, saying "make it go away."

It is not going away. If anything, when (and I say when) the Oregon Trail school board capitulates, the monster will just get stronger. It will only weaken when one of two things happens: 1) it devours everything, and there's nothing left to eat; and 2) a courageous public body slays it.

Here's what I would have done if I was dictator of the Oregon Trail School District: I would have started last school year, after it was obvious that contract negotiations were going nowhere, and I would have prepared a "strike survival strategy." Identify substitute teachers and give each a $1000 retainer to be ready to come teach in case of a strike. Prepare a strike plan that laid out the schedule of classes, transportation, after school activities, etc.

When that is all done, go the the union and say: "OK, time to negotiate."

That might have changed the OEA tune just a little bit.


gus miller said...

So the O wants to end the strike yesterday and Rick Metsger wants to put off all unresolved issues and start school as soon as possible.

I strongly suggest that the OTSD administration and school board begin recruiting replacement teachers and formulating plans to reopen schools after Thanksgiving or New Years. By that time, the bonds between the striking teachers and students or parents will be considerably weakened. Attendance in the newly opened schools should be considerably higher than the 50% achieved during the last strike in OTSD. Students should be more attentive and courteous toward replacement teachers than they were during the last strike.

Rob Kremer said...

I forgot one detail about the picture in BrainstormNW Magazine of the OEA lobbyist's car and license plate:

There is a Christian-looking fish symbol on the trunk, like we've all seen. Except if you look closely, inside the outlines of the fish are the words "n'chips."

Nice. the dilicious irony of "FOR KIDS" on the BMW's license plate is not enough of an in-your-face, the person also goes out of the way to insult Christians.

These are terrific people, really.

Tony said...


Great ideas, Rob. You should be dictator of schools.

I hope you will be running against Castillo to take the title away from her.

Ken said...


Let me second Tony's motion: I really hope you take on Ms. Castillo next year.

Sailor Republica said...

I third that motion, and would love to support you with the same gusto as I am supporting Atkinson for Governor, Feldkamp for 4th District US Congress, and Jim Torrey for State Senate.

Rob Kremer said...

Thanks, guys. I'd run again if I thought there was even an outside chance it could be won.

But I suspect that a reformer cannot win this office. The race is in an off-year primary, with 45% turnout. Can't see how the union/establishment vote can be overcome unless turnout was at least in the 60's.