It says something about today's public education reality that the two sides in the teachers' union dispute in Chicago are the union and the mayor.
Allegedly, the point of schools is to educate children. But which side in this dispute has sole interest in children and their parents?
The answer, of course, is neither side.
Unions are about the economic interests of the teachers. The mayor is about his budget and the economic interests of the city.
No one solely represents the interests of the kids.
It's not to say that the union or the mayor has no interest in the quality of education being delivered. But this is just part of their agenda.
Do union members have to worry that their jobs will be gone if children don't get the best possible education? No. Does the mayor have to worry that his job will be gone or his career over if children don't get the best possible education? No.
In private-sector labor disputes, sitting across from the union representative is the representative of a private company. The survival of that firm depends on its ability to serve its customers. Its labor cost is one line item in the cost structure of the products it sells.
The firm negotiating with the union does have to be concerned that union demands will drive it out of business -- that it won't be able to deliver the best, most competitively priced products.
This helps explains why private-sector union membership has dropped dramatically. In the mid-1950s, 36 percent of the private-sector labor force belonged to unions. Today, it is less than 7 percent.
Union demands that cause uncompetitive pricing or poorer quality products threaten the survival of the firm because it cannot serve its customers. The customer is king. If the customer doesn't like what he's getting, that customer will go somewhere else.
But what about parents and kids? They have nowhere else to go. In Chicago, they are stuck with whatever outcome the confrontation between the mayor and the union produces because there is no competition.
Beyond this, even the best public school teachers have their hands tied because they cannot provide what so many of these kids need: a structure of values, discipline and a clear sense of meaning and right and wrong.
The New York Times' Nicholas Kristof writes, "In fairness, it's true that the main reason inner city schools do poorly isn't teachers' unions, but poverty."
But now we have a chicken-and-egg problem. Are kids not getting educated because they are poor or are they poor because the public schools, generation after generation, provide such poor education in these communities?
Poverty is preponderant among single-parent households, and single-parent households have grown dramatically in black communities over the last half-century. In 1970, 38 percent of black births were to unmarried women. Today, it's over 70 percent.
Should we consider it an accident that over this same period a cultural transformation took place in this country? Court decisions removed prayer and traditional religious values from our public schools. Is it worth considering that the purge of traditional values from public schools and widespread family breakdown were two sides of the same cultural coin?
I think so. But whether you agree with me or not, parents who want their children in a school teaching traditional values, rather than the moral relativism endemic in K-12 public schools today, should have this choice in an allegedly free country.
Eighty-six percent of the students in Chicago's public schools are minority kids from low-income families. Teaching of right and wrong is what these kids need. Whatever compromises the unions and the mayor reach won't matter to them.
What they need is school choice.
The black unemployment rate in North Carolina is more than double that of whites. (comments)
American families have been damaged and out-of-wedlock births have increased six-fold from 1960 to 42 percent today. Government has displaced family. (comments)
Republicans should resist temptation to pander and point Hispanics in the direction of freedom and opportunity, what got them here in the first place. (comments)
Diversity should be about about recognizing "diversity of people's gifts, talents, and skills." (comments)
Low-income black parents need options, choices, for educating their children outside the public school monopoly. (comments)
Since Johnson, the government has spent $15 trillion dollars fighting poverty without reducing poverty. (comments)
What do successful, wealthy black entrepreneurs know that they are not sharing with their own? (comments)
In our president's take on the world, if there is a winner who winds up better off there must be a loser who winds up equally worse off. (comments)
The Tea Party captures a groundswell of dissatisfaction with business-as-usual in how our country is being run. (comments)
What kind of discussion can take place with those who equate a procedure in which one life is destroyed and another put at risk with going to the dentist? (comments)
In 20 years there will be no funds to pay one third of the benefits of retirees. (comments)
The growing percentage of our voters is not white and they largely vote for Democrats. (comments)
Free choice and private initiative seems to violate the religious convictions of liberals. (comments)
Why does America convey neutrality between a nation that is indisputably free and a government that is not? (comments)
In a Pew Research survey of last October, 25 percent of blacks expressed favorability toward the Tea Party, just 6 points less than whites. (comments)
Everyone, except the teachers unions, seems to grasp that public education in America, particularly in low-income communities, suffers because of lack of competition. (comments)
Mainstream means shrugging your shoulders at $17 trillion in federal debt, $4 trillion in federal spending, and a tax code of over 73,000 pages. (comments)
Cochran's agenda is to serve up government pork and protect the interests of his friends in Washington. (comments)
Thought police have no place in a free society. (comments)
Americans elected a president, twice, who was not afraid of being bold, of taking on hard issues, and of being ideological. (comments)