Tom Neumark says many of the things I had been thinking about the county school board races. We really shouldn’t want a board entirely consisting of members raised to office through the political clout of the teachers’ union with its Apple Ballot. Yet that’s what we may soon find ourselves with.
Two incumbents were denied the union’s endorsement this year, namely April Miller and Elizabeth Barrett. I don’t think it’s a coincidence that these two — though differing from each other in many ways — are both known for thinking for themselves, asking hard questions, and standing up for parents and families not always represented otherwise.
It raises all sorts of conflict of interest for the education unions to place their members, retirees, and close associates in public offices regularly called on to resist union demands. Yet Frederick County is already much of the way down that road. Let’s not proceed further.
Related: two school board hopefuls aren’t FCPS employees, but still have a less direct stake in compensation decisions, per this LTE from Stephanie Covati of Middletown.
My letter to the editor in the Frederick News-Post opposing Question D, on mandatory binding arbitration and collective bargaining for career firefighters:
Please vote NO on Question D, a charter amendment promoted by the firefighters union at the intended expense of taxpayers and the general public. The provisions of D expanding collective bargaining are bad enough, but even worse are those subjecting the county to mandatory binding arbitration whose outcome — get this — must be funded in the county budget, no matter what the people’s elected representatives may think of it.
Mandatory binding arbitration in the public workplace takes fiscal decisions away from those who are accountable to voters. It gives unions an artificial incentive to arrive at a bargaining impasse so as to call in an arbitrator who will always give them at least as much as management’s offer. It is also unfair to other employees who don’t get such privileges. In states like Connecticut and California, this system has done much damage to the finances and flexibility of local government, resulting in high property tax levels, cuts to other services, or both.
News-Post reporter Samantha Hogan writes that, ‘At a forum for nearly all the county council candidates at the Brunswick Fire Department, each one said they didn’t support Question D, given the binding arbitration aspect.’ They’re right to oppose a measure that is D for damaging, destructive and defective.”
Arnold Kling reviews recent rounds of political hardball in Montgomery County, including the ouster of officials who had been at odds with the teachers’ and other unions. As for the vaunted quality of public services, it’s not all it might be:
An increasing share of that budget is going to pensions and non-teaching staff who are union members. Actual classroom teachers are badly over-worked.
Because spending per student is by far the highest in the state, the WaPo constantly refers to Montgomery County as a high quality school system. However, the average outcomes in the County schools are mediocre. Students from the wealthiest parts of the County (three high schools in particular) produce good test scores, and the rest do not. Other school districts in Maryland get similar outcomes with students of similar backgrounds while spending much less money per student.
According to David Lublin and Adam Pagnucco at Seventh State, Montgomery County’s government liquor monopoly, under attack by Comptroller Peter Franchot and others, makes a broad and inviting target: it’s deeply unpopular with the public, not really needed for revenue, and its reform offers an opening for political newcomers, what with most of the incumbent council choosing to side against consumer interests and with MCGEO, which represents county store workers and “acts like a union out of Republican central casting, attempting to bully its opponents into submission.”
Seven years ago, Gov. Martin O’Malley by executive decree ordered the unionization of state-subsidized home health carers and child carers in Maryland, even though the General Assembly had refused to enact legislation to do that. Maryland is now one of about a dozen states to herd home health carers into unions, an enormous dues bonanza for unions that include the Service Employees International Union (SEIU), a major source of political support for O’Malley’s Democratic Party.
In June the U.S. Supreme Court ruled in Harris v. Quinn that it is a violation of home health carers’ First Amendment rights to force them to pay dues for representation they may not want or welcome. (It applied this analysis to the category of “partial public employees” like the home carers who may have some characteristics of public employees but lack many others.) Since then, advocates at the National Right to Work Legal Defense Foundation have sought to make sure states and unions comply with the decision by ceasing the collection of mandatory dues. They have already gotten pledges of compliance in Illinois (where the Harris case arose), Minnesota, and Massachusetts.
Gov. Martin O’Malley’s administration needs to make clear immediately that it intends to comply with the Supreme Court decision and will not attempt to prolong the unlawful mandatory collection of dues. This would also make a good time for O’Malley to apologize for railroading through an executive order that led to the violation of the constitutional rights of thousands of Marylanders, and an even better time for him to revoke the executive order. If he declines to do so, the next governor should revoke it.
The high court’s ruling in Harris v. Quinn is a rebuff to Gov. Martin O’Malley, who in 2007 handed down an executive order meant to herd the carers into unions. Now they can assert their constitutional right not to pay dues if they object to the union and its message [Marc Kilmer, Maryland Public Policy Institute] More on Harris v. Quinn in a new podcast I’ve done at Cato, and at Overlawyered.