by Matthew Ladner, Ph.D.
The movie Zombieland delivers a humorous take on the zombie movie genre. The protagonist has survived the outbreak of zombie-ism by following a set of self-developed rules. Rule number one: cardio. You must stay in shape so you can out run the zombies when necessary. Rule number two: double tap. When you shoot a zombie, don’t leave them lying around wounded so that you have to try to kill them again later; go ahead and shoot them twice.
Last session the Arizona Legislature passed some profoundly wise policy changes regarding public schools. They prohibited districts from paying people school district salaries to do union jobs. They required school district employees to use vacation days to do teachers association work. Finally, in the event of a reduction in force, the law prohibited the use of seniority as the sole criteria for deciding which teachers ought to be let go.
The first two items fall into the no-brainer category. No one should get paid to do classroom work unless they are actually working in the classroom.
But the final item is the most important of all. This figure from the Brookings Institution shows differences in academic gains by Los Angeles teachers based on how they were certified. In short, some teachers are great; they get large gains from their students. Some produce terrible results; not only do they fail to produce learning gains, they actually drag their students down.
The Arizona Education Association is actively seeking to have these policy changes overturned. Rumor has it that this will be a condition for Democratic support in the current budget special session.
Let me be clear: it would be IMMORAL to keep ineffective teachers in the classroom simply because they have already spent years mis-educating students. No one–conservative, liberal, libertarian or vegetarian–should support such a policy. The AEA brings disgrace upon itself for seeking it, and any member of the Legislature carrying this water should be ashamed of themselves.
Taking a cue from Zombieland, the Arizona legislature should go ahead and double tap the zombie by making it illegal for school districts to collect union dues from employee paychecks. School districts won’t collect dues for any other private association, and there is no case to be made for spending public money to do so for the AEA. If teachers and administrators find the services of the AEA useful, they can write them a check in the same fashion that a person would do for the Goldwater Institute or any other private organization they support.
Dr. Matthew Ladner is vice president for research at the Goldwater Institute.