15 Yards for Union Interference

An analysis of Fran Tarkenton’s call for educational reform.

by Cody Hensarling

Thank goodness for the National Football League! If the NFL lockout had continued through the fall, the impacts on the economic and mental well-being of this nation’s football-crazed population would have been devastating. After years of playing second fiddle to other sports, particularly baseball- America’s original national pastime, football has become the quintessential American sport. Hence, it should come as no surprise that it is now being used as a metaphor in the political arena.

In an article in Monday’s Wall Street Journal, entitled “What if the NFL Played by Teachers’ Rules?”, Hall of Fame NFL Quarterback Fran Tarkenton  takes aim at teachers’ unions; openly questioning why non-competitive practices are commonplace in the market for skilled teachers. Tarkenton encapsulates the problem as such; “Teachers’ salaries have no relation to whether teachers are actually good at their job—excellence isn’t rewarded, and neither is extra effort. Pay is almost solely determined by how many years they’ve been teaching. That’s it. After a teacher earns tenure, which is often essentially automatic, firing him or her becomes almost impossible, no matter how bad the performance might be.”

Perhaps more disturbingly, he notes that “if you criticize the system, you’re demonized for hating teachers and not believing in our nation’s children.” Demonization of the opposition? This is a most ironic tactic for the guardians of the free flow of ideas. Ultimately, Tarkenton concludes that “our rigid, top-down, union-dictated system isn’t working. If results are the objective, then we need to loosen the reins, giving teachers the ability to fulfill their responsibilities to students to the best of their abilities, not to the letter of the union contract and federal standards.” What a truly inspiring call to educational reform.

The article is successful because it promotes a basic principle: that quality work deserves better pay than inferior work. At GRIH, we believe that when markets are allowed to naturally determine prices and compensation, everyone benefits. Applying basic economic principles to the realm of education is common sense, and it doesn’t take a genius to figure that out. Teachers unions’ protectionism of underperforming teachers harms our students and jeopardizes our long-term economic viability. How are our future leaders going to be competitive for jobs in the global marketplace if we sacrifice their education to protect the jobs and wages of failing teachers? Our culture is preventing excellence in education, and shouldering a significant amount of the blame should be teachers unions and their practice of placing power over performance.

Cody Hensarling is an intern at the Grassroot Institute of Hawaii.

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