Paige on Unions, and a Primer for Reporters

Published August 1, 2007

Former U.S. Secretary of Education Rod Paige meant what he said in early 2004 when he described the National Education Association as a “terrorist organization.” When he apologized, he apologized only for the words he used, not the idea he expressed.

Paige’s new book, How Teachers’ Unions Hurt Children, Hinder Teachers, and Endanger Public Education, backs up his statement with proof that the nation’s teacher unions are doing all they can to sabotage promising education reforms.

In an April 18 interview with the New York Sun, Paige revealed the key to union success in thwarting reform.

“The union is sitting on both sides of the negotiating table,” Paige said, referring to unions’ ability to get politicians elected who then return the favors through legislation and collective bargaining. The result, he said, is “systems whose main purpose is the employment well-being of the adults in the system.”

Source: “Rod Paige Warns of a ‘Death Grip’ by Unions,” by Ira Stoll, New York Sun, April 18, 2007,

Tutorial Helps Reporters, Others

Reporters newly assigned to cover an “education beat” are often woefully unprepared for the job because they do not understand the ins and outs of “the most powerful [force] in public education today”–teacher unions–or the “single biggest influence on what happens in schools”–the teachers union contract.

Hoping to fill the void, the Hechinger Institute on Education, based at Columbia University in New York City, published a tutorial for reporters in April 2007.

The manual is made up of articles and testimonies from reporters who have covered teacher unions for decades. It explains much about unions, including the history of the teachers union movement, the political clout the unions wield, union work rules, and the role of unions in the school reform movement.

With humorous anecdotes and personal stories, From Contracts to Classrooms: Covering Teachers Unions is essential reading for reporters, policymakers, and anyone else wanting to understand their local school system.

Source: From Contracts to Classrooms: Covering Teachers Unions, Hechinger Institute on Education and the Media,

Ryan Bedford ([email protected]) is a labor analyst with the Evergreen Freedom Foundation in Olympia, Washington.