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Teachers’ Unions Win a Defensive Victory

by Mike Antonucci
November 2012

I toyed with the idea of writing an entire blog post this morning on how the GOP recaptured the Wisconsin state senate, since NEA seemed to think control of that chamber was such a big deal back in June, but I won’t be (such) a wise-ass.

The unions did what they needed to do. They helped re-elect the President and they brought to a halt any momentum there may have been for more serious and wide-ranging threats to their power base. They defeated hostile ballot measures in California, Florida, Idaho, Michigan and South Dakota, and were even able to put a tax hike over the top in the Golden State. There will be no mass movement into voucher systems, merit pay, tenure reform and collective bargaining limits. Those are big wins.

From a practical standpoint, however, we have the same President, the same Secretary of Education, virtually the same Senate composition, virtually the same House composition, virtually the same split of governorships, and virtually the same split of state legislatures. And unlike 2008, there is no prospect of card check, stimulus packages and edujobs bills on the horizon.

Where NEA and AFT tried to gain ground, they experienced very tough sledding. They couldn’t get tax hikes for education passed in South Dakota or Arizona. They failed to enshrine collective bargaining in the Michigan constitution. Spread thin, they couldn’t stop charter initiatives in Georgia or Washington. It’s too soon to evaluate the effect of all the state legislative races, but nothing indicates an ideological shift toward renewed public sector hiring – the only thing that can replenish union membership.

In short, the unions drove the barbarians from the gates, but not across the border. NEA and AFT spent a lot of money to ensure another four years like the last four. Is that a good thing for them? We’ll see.