Conservatives Know That Teachers Unions Are Bad. So Are Police Unions – By Trevor Burrus (Cato Institute) / June 4 2020
In the culture wars of our time, each side has preferred heroes. For the left, it has long been teachers, who are regarded as selfless public servants. For the right, it’s the police, for the same reasons. Criticizing either one will get the same rebuke from supporters: “Have you done that job?!? It’s the hardest job on earth and they get paid very little for their service.”
In the past, cops have been to conservatives what teachers are to the left, but conservatives are waking up to the costs of insulating police from accountability. As riots occur in cities across America—stemming from yet another appalling act of racially charged police violence—significant and long-lasting reforms should be considered in order to better protect our civil liberties. Near the top of that list is abolishing or significantly curtailing police unions.
It shouldn’t surprise conservatives that police unions significantly contribute to police misbehavior. After all, conservatives have long understood that teachers unions are a big source of the dysfunction in our education system and an impediment to meaningful reform. It is the job of a union to protect the job of the worst worker as much as the best one. Consequently, teachers unions don’t only ensure that bad teachers remain on the job, they can corrupt the incentive structures of an entire district. Soon, it’s not just a few bad apples, but the barrel itself that’s rotten.
Some of the problems occur at the self-selection stage. A great many people would like to be teachers but they don’t want to deal with the rigmarole of the teachers union. Moreover, because teachers unions have fought against performance pay, particularly performance pay related to education outcomes, those who feel that they can excel by delivering better education outcomes are often dissuaded from innovating or even becoming teachers in the first place. As one study found, “unions tend to encourage teacher bonuses that are based on additional qualifications or duties, but discourage bonuses that directly reward improved student test scores.”
None of this is news to conservatives, and teachers unions have thankfully been declining in popularity. Now it is time to apply the same lessons to police unions, where there are many of the same pathologies.