Traverse City Record-Eagle


Hey teacher, leave them unions alone

Troy Keith, The Armchair ConservativeShortly after the 2008 elections, Republican leaders gave President Obama a list of modest proposals regarding the upcoming stimulus bill to which he replied, “elections have consequences and I won.”  Perhaps the Democrats and their union rent-a-mob should be reminded of that statement as the farcical scene in Wisconsin goes on display for an international audience already reeling from world wide demonstrations and an overload of violent uprisings.

Despite the attempts of the media to portray the demonstrators wrapped in cloaks of constitutional legitimacy as they fight selflessly for the rights of children everywhere, the vast majority of the American people see through this manipulation and understand the real issues at stake. In short, we’re broke and the once-proud union cause has become a yoke around our necks that the nation can no longer bear.

Wisconsin’s problems are mirrored in virtually every state and the country watches as Democrat representatives opt to play hide and seek rather than tackle these issues head on. Their actions have a domino effect as Indiana representatives flee their state house and take up positions like children hiding under the covers in Illinois. Is this what the American people overwhelmingly voted for last November?

Facing a $3.6 billion budget deficit, Wisconsin Governor Scott Walker proposed increasing the public employee share of health insurance costs to 12.4% and asked state workers to contribute 5.8% of their pay towards pensions.

According to the MacIver Institute, when benefits are figured in, Wisconsin teachers earn an average salary of more than $100,000 per year. Currently, public employees are not required to contribute anything towards their pensions and only pay 5.4% towards health premiums, but the uproar is not entirely about the money as some token concessions have been made by the teacher’s union.

It should be noted that police and firefighters would be exempt from the Governor’s proposal.

The real issue at stake here is union power and the DNC has mobilized President Obama’s campaign army, Organizing for America, to coordinate efforts in the trenches of the protest. This has nothing to do with rights, it’s all about political power. The simple reality is that the Democrat party, as we’ve come to know it, would cease to exist without the ongoing support of the union juggernaut and this fact is not lost upon those in Washington.

John Heilemann of New York magazine recently disclosed to MSNBC’s Andrea Mitchell an amazing bit of information: “President Obama never spoke to six members of his cabinet during his first two years in office. Not once.”

Who has the ear of the President? During his first year in office, Service Employees International Union President Andrew Stern topped the White house visitors list with at least 22 known meetings. AFLCIO leader Richard Trumka must surely have a commanding lead on the current list as he states “I am at the White House a couple of times a week…two, three times a week… I have conversations every day with someone in the White House.” Not really surprising given current events.

As teachers continue to strike illegally in Wisconsin with doctors on-hand to fabricate get out of jail free prescriptions, clueless children have been brought in as human shields and cannon fodder for a willing media as they’re paraded about for all to see. Often, they don’t even understand what they’re doing but they’re happy for a day off as evidenced in this video.

In typical liberal fashion, civility and respect are demanded only from those on the right side of the political equation as the usual foul language, Hitler personifications and violent rhetoric make their expected appearance amidst a flurry of socialist and communist imagery.

Outside of Wisconsin, the trend continues as Rep. Michael Capuano (D-Mass.) recently spoke to a group of union members in Boston stating, “Every once and awhile you need to get out on the streets and get a little bloody when necessary.”

Viewer warning, these may be offensive.

Crosshairs again? Really? Fortunately Jared Loughner is safely behind bars.

Wisconsin serves as the bellwether for similar dramas that will be be played out across the nation in the weeks ahead. With 44 states currently projecting crippling budget deficits for 2012, hard choices will have to be made and shared sacrifice will be asked of everyone.

Teachers are the backbone of our society and their contributions should never be undervalued, but the current display in Wisconsin is an embarrassment to all. The United States currently spends an average of $11,674 per student (doubling over the last 30 years), but yet we rank 33rd in international performance.

Students are the innocent victims in this ongoing political drama but our nation as a whole will suffer greatly in the decades ahead if this trend is not corrected.

Here’s a thought — let’s teach our children to think and instruct our government to stop thinking of us as children.

  • Ed Hahnenberg

    Troy…As a former teacher and administrator in both public and parochial schools, I have pensions from both systems. What the Wisconsin Governor is asking is not only logical but necessary.

    In all of this discussion, another issue is getting lost. Rather than being satisfied with being near the bottom of industrialized nations in student performance, the cheese of the Wisconsin sacred cow that public school employees enjoy, such as tenure and all the perks you mentioned, focus should also be directed at competition.

    Coincidentally, in Milwaukee, school vouchers have provided some choice. According to John F. Witte, the parents of “choice” kids are virtually unanimous in their opinion of the program: they love it. Parents are not only far more satisfied with their freely chosen private schools than they were with their former public schools, they participate more actively in their children’s education now that they’ve made the move. See the review of “The Effectiveness of School Choice in Milwaukee,” below, for a note on academic achievement outcomes of the program.

    Here in the Diocese of Gaylord, parochial school teachers have no contract. They sign a “working agreement” which may be terminated at any time for any reason. Their salaries are funded by tuition and fund-raisers. There is a minimum pension plan in place, but the teacher gets no family-plan health insurance. A large chunk of the teacher’s salary ($700+ a month) goes to fund the rest of the family.

    It is true that teachers choose to accept such conditions, but the Wisconsin public school teachers want the whole moon of cheese rather than saving their state’s economy.

    • MarkIV

      Ed, you do realize that Wisconsin public employees(including teachers) have already agreed to increasing their share of health insurance costs to 12.4% and to contribute 5.8% of their pay towards pensions. Walker wants more, he wants to break the unions, that is what all the fuss is about. They have made a sacrifice but refuse to give up almost all of their collective bargaining rights.

      • Ed Hahnenberg

        Mark…I do see both sides because of my experience in both the private and public sectors as a teacher. On the one hand, I was thankful for the benefits unions have provided me, but we are living in different economic times. Public schools have profited big time because of the contribution parochial and private schools have made to per pupil costs. 25% of all K-12 schools are private or parochial in the U.S., and, as such don’t take any money away from public schools. By choice the parents who send their students to non-public schools are, in effect, double-taxed. I paid millage monies to my public school district, while paying tuition for my kids to go to parochial schools.

        I say, let the tax dollars follow the child. Vouchers go part way in that direction. Canadian teachers and those in Europe are paid by the state, whether they teach in a public or parochial school. But, few taxpayers realize that, or if they do, close a blind eye to the injustice of it all.

        I know, I know…it’s that 2nd amendment again….

      • Ed Hahnenberg

        Mark…I’ve been on the 2nd amendment too long….It’s the FIRST amendment I was referring to.

  • Bob

    Hello TK

    “Teachers are the backbone of our society” TK

    I am sure by this you meant to show your respect to the many hard working teachers out there that are dedicated to the welfare of the children they teach. I would suggest that you might substitute Parents rather than Teachers in your statement. By this I do not mean to belittle the efforts of that preponderance of dedicated, competent and sometimes even great teachers, but rather to place them in perspective.

    Next, I remind you of Pournelle’s Iron Law of Bureaucracy. The people running the public sector unions are seldom from that group we pay our respects to above.

    I remember one of those teachers (Ed Burrows) we all wish for from the town where I grew up. When the local MEA decided to go on strike an action he knew to be illegal and that he did not support he chose instead to be at his desk ready to teach.

    I wish the people of Wisconsin well in their efforts to get control of the state budget.

    • Troy Keith

      Few things compare to the motivational/inspirational power of a quality teacher and I do have a tremendous amount of respect for the dedication of those individuals. I’ve experienced many that were simply punching a clock or regurgitating a viewpoint but the handful of exceptional ones will stay with you for a lifetime.

      I searched high and low for stories from credible teachers standing in support of Gov. Walker but there was little to be found at the time. I’m sure there must be many but perhaps they find themselves to be the lone conservative at a Thanksgiving table filled w/liberal family members and prefer to avoid the contempt of their peers.


      I’m a teacher in Tennessee. Our legislature is primed to pass similar legislature. Good for them. Time to give some of these incompetent teachers incentive to either do well or get out.

      This garbage in Wisconsin gives us all a bad name. Our job function is in our title. TEACH. Calling in sick to go join the crap-fest at the Capitol building isn’t exactly what I call a function of their job. Thankfully, we are not forced to join our union. They sure do put the pressure on, though. They tell us: “Look what we’ve done! We got you duty-free lunch!” Well, pardon my lack of enthusiasm, but how many jobs require a person to work through lunch? Seems it would be hard to get much done while eating.

      Our union voted to fire teachers last year so that it saves our precious step-increase. I’m all for pay increases, but you know…that extra 200.00 this year is something I could budget around for young teachers like me to keep their jobs. Who benefits here? Old, union cronies that don’t give a damn about non-tenured young professionals. Way to look out for us all. Unions today are nothing more that a way for greedy individuals to increase their pocketbooks.

      We pay 3% to our pension. The state matches 4%.
      We pay a comparable health care fee to other jobs…probably better…around 140 a month for individuals.
      We get Summers off, Spring Break, Winter Break, Non-government holidays.

      And all tax-payers ask that we do is educate their children. Well, as a group we’re doing a crap job. Sure, parents are to blame, but how many old, untouchable union-lifers are hanging on doing a terrible job?

      It’s no wonder people are upset with teachers. I am, too. It’s even more upsetting that these teachers are willingly leaving their children behind. If I’m a parent, I’m thinking that they put their wallets before my kid. It’s upsetting, and in case they didn’t get the memo: we have too many teachers. There are young, well-trained, hard-working teachers out there hungry to do a great job.

      Teachers are not the target here. Bad, union-paying teachers are, and tax-payers calling them to task scares the hell out of them.

      -J from Tennessee

      In contrast, union president Mike Langyel refusing to take a position on the fake doctor’s notes:

    • Ed

      Thanks for that post.
      I also remember Mr Burrows, and that strike. He ate lunch alone for quite a while after that.
      All the best,

  • jeff4

    Today I had a conversation with a Chinese foreign exchange student, (yes, i’m his teacher) and here’s what he had to say. 1. Chinese students are separated at about 7-8th grade into two schools. college bound school and “job training” school. you can imagine which school is tested when it comes time to compare “test scores” with the USA. Here in the USA, ALL students are tested – the good, the bad, and the mediocre. In other countries they often only test the “best” students. So, right off the bat, the comparison is not fair. 2. This Chinese student said that the students at our high school are doing Calculus ABOVE the level of what they’d do at his school. The science curriculum is about the same level of difficulty. Your link to data above Troy doesnt seem to be a fair “apples to apples” comparison. As for pay and benefits, I don’t think teachers unions are to blame for the economic “problems” of America, I think it might have more to do with the collapse of the housing market and the downturn of the economy (losing millions and millions and millions of tax dollars for our state government.) Certainly the stability of my job makes me, a teacher, an easy scapegoat for the finger pointing from you Troy and the conservatives. But, I am not the problem our state government has encountered – busting unions won’t right our ship. Along those lines, i DO believe that we can make some concessions, pay more for insurance, possibly take a pay cut, or whatever. I’m willing to do my part to help out. Wisconsin teachers earn $100,000 per year with benefits??????????? There is no way that is true – if it is i’m moving there fast. My cousin is a teacher in northern Wisconsin and he makes about 80% of what i make here in michigan. Tenure reform? Good and bad – yes, i agree there are bad teachers that need to be outted. I also agree that GOOD teachers will also then be fired because they disagree with the “boss.” Not a good situation for your children – I’d encourage free thinking and an “out of the box” style of education that most administrators would frown on (and thus I’d be fired).

  • Troy Keith

    Hello Jeff.. I thought a post about teachers might jump out at you. As to the international proficiency levels, try going to PISA ( and you can search for yourself. The direct link takes you here: to the “PISA country profiles” section.

    Just select all of the countries in the middle box (shift-end), hit the arrow to move them over, select “proficiency levels” in the box below that and you can search for yourself.

    A slightly older study here:

    As far as the salaries are concerned..

    First an article:

    And then, here’s a search tool I found.. under school I just clicked on “arrowhead high” and then hit search. Results vary a bit but you can play around w/it.

    As to unions, I think we can all agree that they had a purpose at one time (and still do in many ways) but there’s just no way we can support such a wage/benefit discrepancy with our current economy. The political implications alone are enough to make me question the current system.

  • jeff4

    I dont have a link to support this TK, but it was on the morning news (I’ll look here in a second). Union employee wage – $62,000 per year average. Same job type in the private sector $63,000 per year. Unions are not busting the country and it seems anyone can find the statistics they like to support their side of the argument here. Looked at your links on proficiency levels – again, i’ll ask, are we comparing apples to apples? Here in the state of michigan all students will take the MME next week. In the michigan merit exam ALL students (high achievers, middle of the road, special education) take this exam. The data is then used to compare schools across the board. While it is “kind of” fair to compare school to school it is definitely not fair to compare internationally because we are testing different kinds of students. USA tests all, other countries often test only the best. My statement above says “kind of” fair to compare schools within the state of michigan – here’s why. School A with lots of doctors, lawyers, college educated parents having a high socioeconomic base will have sons/daughters that do well on the MME. School B with an 88% poverty level, single parent homes, 40% unemployment will have sons/daughters that do poorly. We can’t say one school has “bad” teachers and one school has “good teachers.” more often than not, its socioeconomics that determines success for the students. I’ll guess that your kids do quite well on the ACT TK. You provide love, enrichment, a high vocabulary, travel, and high expectations for your kids. Unfortunately, many parents do not. Can a GREAT teacher overcome this socioeconomic situation and provide an enriching learning experience leading to success for students. Yes, but there are only so many of them to go around and if you cut their pay and slam them with articles like this they will be even fewer and farther between. As for tenure, as i think back over my career, i can pick at least three times in my 25 year career where an administrator would have “fired” me for the way i’ve educated our kids. I am an out of the box, free thinking, inventive teachers who is not afraid to stand up to an administrator and would happily rankle them with my opinion. I know Ed would have fired me for sure!! ;)

  • jeff4

    TK, your data shows we rank 33rd for test proficiency against other countries. Here is data that says we’re very close to the top 10. The article says weak curriculum is the culprit, not tenure or bad teachers or pay. I’m busily searching for some data that says we’re top 5, i’m sure some biased researcher has manipulated their data to show it and when i find it i’ll let u know. (yes, that’s sarcasm against about any statistical data someone randomly throws out from the internet.)

  • jeff4

    Wow, USA 7th of 28 major countries and we beat China hands down. USA education working wonders. I love statistics. scroll down to the nice graph The writer also makes some great points about socioeconomics and apples to apples comparisons.

    • Troy Keith

      Replying to all 3 comments – I’ve seen numbers all over on the salaries, but took the figure commonly quoted in the WSJ as a baseline before doing the research. I think the link given previously to the Wisconsin Dept. of Public Instruction can be viewed as a fairly reliable source and they clearly show combined salary and benefit packages in the 100k range. Again, I think teaching is a noble profession and have no problem with a merit-based system that rewards achievement, but there’s just no way we can afford that kind of ridiculous compensation (compared to the private sector) across the board in all states.

      Yes, my kids do well on the MME & ACT and I’m happy to brag about them whenever possible. My oldest was class Valedictorian (now at MTU), the other is a 4 point student in honors classes but I also know that a great deal of time and energy is spent teaching for the tests – at least in the Kalkaska system. Understandable given the benefits attached for the schools, but there’s much more to an education than learning how to properly guess at a multiple choice test or prepping for specific material that will ultimately be used to evaluate a school system. Your love and enrichment points are correct, but our travel experiences consist of camping trips to the UP and the occasional trek to the Cherry Bowl drive-in. My wife I are both self employed with 1/2 our business tied to the real estate industry so it’s not at all a question of money.

      Demographically adjusting PISA scores sounds a little dubious to me and I’d guess that it’s possible to manipulate those numbers to feature just about any agenda, but what’s wrong with simply testing all of the kids and charting the results?

      “For all countries except the U.S. all first and second generation immigrant scores are excluded”??

      Your brevard link shows some promise for our 4th graders (currently 12th in math) but we fall to 28th just 4 years later. 8th grade science shows 17th which climbs to 16th by the senior year. As stated in the article, it may indeed be a weak curriculum – it was not my intention to suggest that teacher pay was the cause of our poor performance, simply that we cannot afford such extravagances.. especially given our current ranking internationally.

      You say a GREAT teacher can overcome the societal disadvantages facing our children, but not if we “cut their pay or slam them with articles like this”? I would first suggest that if a teacher is in the business only for money, they should probably be looking for another line of work anyway. Summer job perhaps?? I was careful to express my appreciation for the profession because I didn’t want this to be seen as an indictment on teachers in general. I know there are many fine educators out there but that’s not what I see playing out in Wisconsin – did you look at the links to the demonstrations? The signs? The fake sick notes? The manipulation of the children? The clock-punchers whose only skill set seems to be teaching kids how to cram for state exams? THOSE are the teachers this piece was aimed towards, not the caring individuals that put their best towards the actual education of our children every day.

  • jeff4

    Oh my TK, i can see how those Wisconsin teacher salaries are breaking the banks there – they make an average of $47,000 per year!! Seems our website statistics don’t match.

  • jeff4

    Oh, missed a point. Summer job? yes, i teach a summer course and have taught for Davenport University and North Central Michigan College for extra money. Lately, however, i’ve spent the majority of my summer taking classes towards an Ed.D or PhD program. Michigan teachers are required to take a certain number of credit hours – 6 to be exact – every 5 years to maintain our teaching credentials. So if i’m not working i’m taking classes. All in all I get about 4 weeks total vacation per year, right in line with my brother in law who manages a wholesale manufacturing company with a managers degree. We make about the same income, same benefits, same vacation time. The big difference in my mind is that he flies twice a year to Orlando on a “business conference” trip (golf, drinks, food free) for creating new contacts. He also gets an annual “bonus” around Christmas – last year it was $4500 that i dont get. Imagine if a school flew a teacher to another state for a couple weeks to do what they do in the business world – the libertarians would revolt!!!!!!!!! ;) Imagine if a teacher got a christmas “bonus” like the business world sometimes gets … oh my.

    • Stevenmuniversal

      When you get the extra education you are in line for more income. Is this not an insentive for more educated teachers to be able to teach better. You only get 4 weeks off as you go to school as you chose.
      I know teacher in Phoenix who make $80+ per year as a salary without counting bennies. We have had PHD run schools by these supposed professionals and higher educated teachers for over 30 years.Does’nt seem to work.

    • Stevenmuniversal

      When you get the extra education you are in line for more income. Is this not an insentive for more educated teachers to be able to teach better. You only get 4 weeks off as you go to school as you chose.
      I know teacher in Phoenix who make $80+ per year as a salary without counting bennies. We have had PHD run schools by these supposed professionals and higher educated teachers for over 30 years.Does’nt seem to work.

  • Gene

    I can see Jeffo
    with a cushy job
    at Davenport University.

  • Troy Keith

    Well Jeff, of course you have to figure benefits into the equation if we’re talking about money that we’re (taxpayers) paying for all of this. It sounds as if we have at least some agreement on some of the points although I’ll admit that merit based pay is a tricky issue. My concern is that when it’s time for a cut, an ineffective teacher that ‘phones it in’ may be given preferential treatment over an eager educator that would really make a difference in the lives of those kids. The money spent on public education definitely doesn’t transfer into results as evidenced by the performance of many parochial and charter schools. Do we bring everyone up or down to one pay grade? Do the schools that submit a 95% graduation rate merit more consideration than those that send only 50% on to college or is it all a result of socioeconomic factors?

  • Stevenmuniversal

    The schools have been run by people with P.H.D.’s, Doctors of Education for over 30 years. Teachers who get paid more for more degrees in an attempt to be able to teach more. Where has all this got us? No where. The schools say we have problems so just throw more money at us.They do not say how they will change it,just throw more money.
    I have had a Super.with a P.H.D. in Kalkaska tell me that most to these kids won’t amount to much anyway so you get them a little education, a little vocational training give them a diploma and get them out the door.
    I had a principal in California when I started teaching say,”We have found that they usually don’t do the homework you give them, so why give it”. The students have won.
    California special ed. principal told me,as I was being replaced by a woman because of less confrontation with the students. Sorry I was a combat Marine. “Look Steve these kid will get a high school diploma and graduate in June”. I said to him that since California passed an equivalancy law to show that they can read and write prior to the diploma and that these kids are only at 6th grade level, how are they to get a diploma. His reply was, what do you think the equivelancy is! Lower the standerd and everyone passes. This was in the late 70″s.
    I moved back to Michigan for a good mid-west education for my kids. No better there.
    I tried to get involved with my kids education and the system shut me out but yet blames parents.
    K thru 12 is basic education and basic only,lets do it well.Then the colleges will not have to have the remidial classes. So much more to say so little time.

  • Ed Hahnenberg

    Jeff…Where did I EVER say both pensions are too much? You gotta read what I write, man. My complaint was that the U.S. is the only Western democracy that does not pay ALL teachers, public and and private. (I won’t push for pay for religion teachers, though, although “World religions” is an endorsement subject in Michigan.)

    • jeff4

      Your words were “Troy…As a former teacher and administrator in both public and parochial schools, I have pensions from both systems. What the Wisconsin Governor is asking is not only logical but necessary.”

      from this i take it you are implying that the pensions are too high and what the governor is asking for is logical and necessary – his actions WILL reduce pension pay and overall pay for teachers. You were rewarded for your hard work as a teacher/admin with a good pension. If you feel it is too much reward, give some back. I read what you wrote man.

      Your complaint is that we don’t pay all teachers? of course not, we can’t pay religious school teachers, that would be gov support of religion.

      • Ed Hahnenberg

        Jeff…What you read into things always amazes me. My two pensions, which includes health insurance, roughly equals my social security check. Also, you didn’t read my comments to Mark regarding the first amendment. I’m not that dumb.

        • jeff4

          no i read it Ed. and no, you’re not dumb. you are, in fact, the most highly educated religious conservative i know. I’d say you’re quite bright. But your logic over on the “god must exist” blog is a little questionable.

          • Ed Hahnenberg

            Jeff…Why, thank you, Jeff. Your comment makes my day. Incidentally, I’m off to baking bread in our market. Just went to Livonia for a proofer and then to Lansing to pick up 4200 jugs for this fall’s cider…all in the shadow of that great philosopher Aristotle. Retirement doesn’t have to be boring, but it can get cold in my observatory….and, no, I wouldn’t have fired you, just called you in for a conference.

  • jeff4

    old   /oʊld/ Show Spelled
    [ohld] Show IPA
    adjective, old·er, old·est or eld·er, eld·est, noun
    1. far advanced in the years of one’s or its life: an old man; an old horse; an old tree.
    2. of or pertaining to the latter part of the life or term of existence of a person or thing: old age.
    3. as if or appearing to be far advanced in years: Worry had made him old.
    4. someone who still calls a couch a davenport

    • Gene

      couch |kou ch |
      • a reclining seat with a headrest at one end on which
      a psychoanalyst’s subject or doctor’s patient lies while
      undergoing treatment. Usually a liberal. Most people
      use sofa as a furniture term. I.e. P.J. O’Rourke’s book
      “The C.E.O. of the Sofa.”

  • Troy Keith

    Seems to me you proclaimed “yay socialism” awhile back – glad to see that you’re true to your convictions. Contact me off the blogs and I’ll give you my address to send your check!

    2000 Subaru with 151,000 here.

  • jeff4

    Yes, send the check asap, these taxes here (50%) are killing me but my kids are now going to college “free”, i use “free” public transportation, I have “free” dental, medical and vision and when my daughter has a baby she “must” take one year off work and gets 80% of her salary still. My address is 1234 Torbjorgen Street, Oslo Norway. Oh, and we were just ranked the “happiest” country in the world. GO SOCIALISM!!

  • jeff4

    ahhhhhhhhhhhhh, i just re-read your post and see that i misunderstood. I am supposed to be the one sending YOU money TK since i’m a loaded super rich school teacher. DUH! Tell you what, let’s compare income directly off the W2 and if mine is higher than yours then i’ll send you the check. just looked in my email and don’t have your personal email anymore so you will have to contact me directly, instead of vice versa. Do we need an income correction factor for differences in degrees? I have a bachelors + 32 credit hours beyond (the equivalent to a Masters degree, which i never completed because i was building a house raising kids and working a full time summer job during my “summers off”) … you?

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