Never Tell Her the Odds

(Guest post by Greg Forster)

Today’s Journal wastes precious op-ed space on Randi Weingarten’s whiney pitch for an education bailout. It’s tough out there for a public school bureaucrat trying to keep his (or her) fiefdom from shrinking – but they should have thought of that before setting off on a multiple-decade teacher overhiring binge. Of course there are teacher layoffs!

Whinegarten wants $23 billion. With the enormous geyser of money we pour into the system every year, will a piddling $23 billion make any difference to performance? Forget about 3,720 to one – not even C-3P0 can calculate those odds.

Delightful schadenfreude bonus: Some mischievous elf in the Journal‘s offices decided to place the Whinegarten piece directly below Daniel Henninger’s column singing the praises of Christo Rey. Are they laying off teachers? I would ask whether they’re likely to hire any of the teachers who got laid off from the public system, but I won’t – because the public system is so dysfunctional it’s more likely to lay off good teachers than bad ones.

6 Responses to Never Tell Her the Odds

  1. allen says:

    Blaming the teacher’s unions for “setting off on a multiple-decade teacher overhiring binge” is pointless. The planning horizon of the teacher’s unions, as all unions, is necessarily short and they have only one deliverable – more. Once they stop delivering ever more then what use are they?

    The worst aspect of this situation isn’t the glut of teachers but that this end was entirely predictable.

    I sometimes kid about the “twenty-teacher-per-student” classroom as the holy grail of unions but it’s only kidding because even in their wildest dreams union officials know they’d never get it. But if there were the slightest possibility that they could sell the twenty-teacher-per-student classroom they’d be ethically bound to try to do so.

  2. matthewladner says:

    Did you just use the phrase “ethically bound” and “they” where “they” refers to teacher unions in the same sentence?

  3. allen says:

    Yup and you do yourself no service by implying that the concept of ethical behavior has no meaning in the context of a labor union.

    What else would you have the labor union do?

    Selling the idea that there’s a terrible shortage of teachers supports the demand for higher wages.

    Not to say you won’t find examples of unions, or locals, taking the long view and not misusing their monopoly for short term gain but that’s not the way the smart money bets.

  4. matthewladner says:


    I’m not implying that the concept has no meaning in the context of a labor union. Quite the opposite in fact. I’m suggesting that education unions pursue their own interests in ways that directly shortchange the interests of children.

  5. allen says:

    Maybe we’re not disagreeing then and it’s just that I’ve heard the unions blamed for so much of what’s wrong with public education for so long that I reflexively point out that expecting anything else from teacher’s unions but what they’re ethically bound to do, as representatives of teachers, is foolish and worse, obscures the factors that are actually responsible for the state of the public education system.

    For instance, pushing the view that there’s a desperate shortage of teachers when such was not the case may be a lousy idea long term but it’s sure worked out well on a shorter-term basis. The perception that there was a shortage of teachers supported the union’s demands for higher wages.

    Is there some other strategy that would’ve achieved the same results? I doubt it and the union doubted it as well. That’s why they issued a blizzard of dire warnings about the catastrophic shortage of teachers that was rapidly approaching. It got the unions what they wanted – more members at higher salaries/bennies.

    That’s why schadenfreude is so misplaced. It imputes a human motivation to what’s much more a reflexive, and inevitable, response to a given set of circumstances. Might as well take satisfaction in the mean, old winter snow getting its well-deserved comeuppance from the spring sun. You may feel a bit better but you certainly won’t be a step closer to understanding the phenomenon.

  6. matthewladner says:

    I expect the mafia to pursue their own interests by extorting, stealing and engaging in a number of other personally profitable but anti-social behaviors. These things will always go on, but I don’t have a very high opinion of the people who do them. When the feds throw a some of them in jail, I’m happy.

    Since unions support policies that created rubber rooms, force the dance of lemons, make it next to impossible to dismiss a teacher for poor performance and about a dozen other things- I don’t tend to think much of them either. The people who run these organizations have 1st Amendment rights and may be pursuing policies that are either in their members interest or their own interest (which sometimes conflict) but that doesn’t make them anything less than despicable if they are harming others in the process.

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