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.