While Idaho's teachers union has been accused of union thuggery during the intense campaign on Propositions 1, 2 and 3, the state ranks just 36th in union strength nationwide, according to a study released Monday by the Thomas B. Fordham Institute and Education Reform Now.
The report says Idaho has the seventh-highest rate of teachers laid off annually due to poor performance, with 3.5 percent let go every year. Union membership ranks 35th, with 62 percent of teachers in unions, and union revenue ranks 29th, at $444 annually per teacher.
The Ohio-based Fordham Institute's board includes former U.S. Education Secretary Rod Paige, who was Idaho Superintendent of Public Instruction Tom Luna's boss during the George W. Bush administration. The group's mission statement says "the situation is most dire for our neediest children, who lack high-quality education options, receive dumbed-down curricula and weak instruction, and whose schools systems are too often held hostage by adult interest groups, including but not limited to teacher unions." Affluent students also suffer, says the group, with many "ill-prepared for college and career."
Education Reform Now is a New York-based nonprofit.
Idaho's rank may have been lower had the study included 2011's Senate Bill 1108, which is subject to repeal in Proposition 1. SB 1108, law since March 2011, limits collective bargaining to wages and benefits. "The law was passed after we calculated our metric, and thus, it was not included in our analyses," says the study.
It's not clear, however, whether that would have dropped Idaho 's overall rank, said Amber Winkler of the Fordham Institute. Collective bargaining was one of 37 measures in the study, and accounted for about 3 percent of the outcome, she said.
Teachers unions in 50 states and District of Columbia were ranked in five areas. Idaho ranked 45th in state policies, 42nd in scope of bargaining, 42nd in perceived influence, 30th in resources and management, and fourth in involvement in politics.
The lone high rank was a product of union involvement in state politics, including campaign contributions. "The unions' involvement extended beyond financial, with 23.1 percent of all Idaho delegates to the Democratic and Republican national conventions identifying as teacher union members," says the study.
The Idaho Education Association is Idaho's teachers union, and is affiliated with the National Education Association. As of Sept. 30, the IEA had contributed $280,000 to the campaign to defeat Props 1, 2 and 3, and the NEA had given $1.06 million. In 48-hour filings, NEA added another $740,000 bringing their total to $1.8 million. IEA added about $8,000.
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