Stan Greer: Families are fed up with Big Labor-dominated schools

This commentary is by Stan Greer, senior research associate for the National Institute for Labor Relations Research.

American parents of school-aged children have long understood that it’s a bad idea for politicians to grant government union bosses monopoly-bargaining power over how teachers and other school employees are compensated and managed. Over the years, millions of mothers and fathers have expressed their considered views on this question by voting with their feet.

The fact that foot voting against Big Labor-dominated schools has occurred on a massive scale is evident from statistics on government union prevalence and age-segregated population data for the 50 states, respectively reported by labor economists Barry Hirsch and David MacPherson in their Union Membership and Coverage Database and by the U.S. Census Bureau.

The Union Membership and Coverage Database shows that, as of 2020, Big Labor wielded so-called “exclusive representation” control over 55% of all teachers and other public employees in the 25 states where government union bosses are the most powerful. The average share of unionized public servants for the other 25 states is 21%.

And Census Bureau data plainly show that parents, when they have a choice, prefer not to have their kids educated in states where government union officials wield the most clout.

From 2010 to 2020, the aggregate school-aged population (ages 5-17) for the 25 highest government-union-density states plummeted by 1.4 million, or 5%. Meanwhile, the total school-aged population of the 25 lowest government-union-density states rose by 987,000, or 4%. The nine states with the steepest percentage declines in their school-aged populations from 2010 to 2020 are all high government-union-density states.

And the most recently released Census population data for the 50 states indicate the stream of families fleeing Big Labor strongholds like California, Illinois, and New York has turned into a flood. Over the course of just one year, from July 1, 2020 to July 1, 2021, a net total of 864,000 Americans moved out of the 25 states where government union monopolists are most entrenched and into states where they wield relatively little clout. California’s latest annual domestic outmigration was 75% higher than it had been from July 1, 2018 to July 1, 2019. New York’s outmigration doubled.

While age-bracketed 2021 state population data won’t be available until a few months from now, there is no reasonable doubt that families with children in elementary and secondary schools continued to constitute a disproportionately large share of Big Labor’s domestic outmigration, as they did from 2010 to 2020.

Why are a large and growing number of parents opting to get their kids as far away from government union boss-controlled schools as they can? Some education ills associated with union monopoly bargaining, such as rules making it extremely difficult to fire derelict teachers, are longstanding.

But since 2020, millions of additional parents have turned against teacher union officials as Big Labor fought tooth and nail to keep schools shuttered at the outset of the COVID-19 pandemic from reopening, despite ample evidence that they could do so safely and that prolonged school shutdowns were harming schoolchildren academically and psychologically.

The disdain for the welfare of children displayed by government union bosses and state and local politicians who are beholden to them in connection to the politicization of COVID-19 is undoubtedly a key reason why the school-aged population losses of Big Labor bastion states from 2020 to 2030 could potentially be twice as great as they were from 2010 to 2020.

New York Post journalist Karol Markowitz, who recently moved with her husband from the Big Apple to Right to Work Florida to protect their three school-aged children from “feckless” union-label politicians, undoubtedly expressed the outrage and frustration of many parents in an article she wrote for the Post at the end of last year regarding her family’s relocation:

“I have fought for the children of this city the entire length of the pandemic.  I fought for every child who did not have parents at home working over their laptops, every child with a disability who was not getting the help they needed over Zoom.  I fought for all the children who would never regain what they had lost while their city stepped over them, trying to ignore their existence.

“But now I have to think of my own children and get them to sanity.  We can no longer wait for our city to return to it.”

Image courtesy of TNR
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6 thoughts on “Stan Greer: Families are fed up with Big Labor-dominated schools

  1. The only reason doctors are unionizing is because “medical care systems” (e.g., Humana, Kaiser Permanente) and health insurers are undercutting them in the free market. Now, they have to suspend their judgment when their decisions clash with those of the employer or the insurer (e.g., “Doctor, your patient has been in the hospital too long”). But we, the people, still like to rely on their judgment and their skills.

    Why don’t we do the same with teachers? I for one would not last a day as a teacher, and I deeply appreciate those who served my child so well in so many settings for so many years.

    The public, conned by hedge funds (e.g., Democrats for Educational Reform) who sought to provide returns for wealthy investors, continually deprecate public education, and voters elect school boards which fatten their profits– when No Child Left Behind was passed, Wall Street made a killing on standardized tests.

    What would happen if we treated teachers as professionals? In Finland, the three highest respected professions are doctor, teacher and lawyer (maybe in that order). That respect shows in global ranking of educational systems. Would it make a difference here?

    • Finland runs a national school choice system where parents and students can choose freely between the 2,600 municipal and 80 privately-managed schools and funding follows the student.

      • All the public schools in Finland are of the same quality. They do not have families moving out to the suburbs for better schools while the Lapps and immigrants get stuck in inner-city ghetto schools. And because it’s virtually impossible to start a private school, the rich take care to make sure that the public schools offer the best for their children. Which helps explain why they’re rated #1 while the US, last I checked, was #17,

        • Get your facts straight, sir. In Finland, every child receives a free (government taxpayer paid) education regardless of the school they choose, municipal or independent. It doesn’t matter whether they’re rich or poor.

          The U.S. is, if not last, near the bottom, precisely because only the wealthy can afford to send their kids to independent schools while the rest just eat cake. If the U.S. would institute School Choice, all schools would compete for students and improve, or fade away into the sunset – as they do in Finland.

  2. Stan,

    That fits right in with the Dem/Prog BIG GOVERNMENT philosophy

    Dem/Prog career politicians, and Dem/Prog career bureaucrats want to have TOTAL, CENTRALIZED command/control over all that GOVERNMENT bigness.

    That would enable them to TAME/TACKLE the bigness of PRIVATE ENTERPRISE, REMAKE AMERICA ACCORDING TO THEIR UN-AMERICAN SOCIALISTIC VISION

    Advancing the outrageously expensive BBB bill was a cornerstone towards that form of total control

    Advancing the totally slanted, unconstitutional ELECTION BILL is another cornerstone towards that form of total control

    Read my article to be much better informed.

    “BUILD BACK BETTER” WOULD COST $4.490 TRILLION OVER THE NEXT DECADE, IF PROVISIONS WERE MADE TO LAST 10 YEARS
    https://www.windtaskforce.org/profiles/blogs/build-back-better-would-cost-3-95-trillion-overt-the-next-decade

    I am not surprised at the lack of public trust in Washington, DC, and elsewhere. The games of smoke and mirrors played in Washington are off-the-charts outrageous.

    Never, ever, has there been such a level of deceit, as Democrats have inflicted on the US People, since January 2021, using a controversial election in 2020 (see Appendix), to obtain government power, to relentlessly implement:

    – An increased size and intrusiveness of the federal government
    – A major change in US demographics by means of just-walk-in, anybody-is-welcome, open borders
    – Increased Democrat command/control over the federal government and the American people to “Remake America”
    – Increased Federal government control of elections, which is specifically forbidden by the US Constitution

    However, Dem/Progs made a major mistake.

    – They intended to use top-down, command/control of the very-inefficient federal government to very-expensively “Remake America”.
    – Their strategy is a highly un-American approach, significantly different from the history of US economic development.
    – They never mentioned the words “private enterprise”.

    In contrast, Trump’s “Make America Great Again” specifically did not rely on government. MAGA relied on:

    – Eliminating business-stifling government rules and regulations
    – Freeing up the creative energies of the American people
    – Putting America and the American people first again, within secure borders

    BBB Intended and Unintended Consequences

    The BBB bill has a dual-purpose, 1) a society-transforming increase in social program spending, and 2) remaking the US energy sector.

    Democrats aim to use BBB to promote political patronage and transfers of wealth from lower- and middle-income taxpayers in red states, to upper middle-class and wealthy residents in blue states. This approach is regressive and likely would be reversed after the next election. See URL

    BBB would:

    1) Increase US energy costs by increasing already-generous subsidies (tax credits, rebates, grants) for:

    – Unreliable, weather/wind/sun-dependent, variable/intermittent wind and solar, which would greatly increase the costs of dealing with grid instabilities, as has happened in Germany, etc., which has the highest household electric rates in Europe.
    The increased subsidies largely would benefit wealthy, Democrat, coastal elites.

    – Expensive/unaffordable/less-useful electric vehicles known to surprise by: a) catching fire, b) performing poorly, with low efficiency in colder climates.

    According to University of Chicago research, most of the $18 billion in federal income tax credits disbursed to date were used for: a) weatherization of U.S. households, b) residential net-metered solar that produces extremely expensive electricity, and c) electric vehicles, including wasteful government experiments with electric school and transit buses.

    2) Provide tax cuts for higher-income households, in mostly high-tax, blue states, by increasing the state and local tax deduction (SALT) from $10,000 to $80,000

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