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Education Reporter

Book of the Month
The Teacher Unions
Buy this book
The Teacher Unions, Myron Lieberman, Encounter Books, 2000, 264 pps., $16.95 paper

Author Lieberman's 1997 work is now available in paperback, which makes reading this expose3 from a life member of the National Education Association (NEA) and former candidate for president of the American Federation of Teachers (AFT) easier than ever.

The Teacher Unions offers a bird's eye view of how the NEA/AFT stifle dissent in their ranks, how union bureaucrats enjoy a standard of living far beyond the reach of the people they represent, and how the unions' national political activities are far removed from most teachers' interests and political views. Lieberman sprinkles his writing with interesting, little-known snippets of information, such as the fact that, despite fierce opposition to any privatization efforts today, the teacher unions in 1947 supported federal aid to education that would have included substantial funds for private schooling.

When he wrote his first book in 1956, Lieberman was a champion of collective bargaining in public education. His views began to change during the late 1970s, and by the early 1980s, he was a vocal opponent of the cause he had supported for 20 years. "The most important reason for my change of position was the realization that collective bargaining in public education is inconsistent with democratic, representative government," Lieberman writes.

He cites as major problems the enormous costs of supporting the unions' bloated bureaucracies and the fact that their primary function has become the shaping of public policy rather than representing teachers. He illustrates their political power by stating that, at the 1996 Democratic National Convention, there were more NEA members than there were delegates from any one state except California.

Lieberman bemoans the unions' anti-privatization activities and the fact that payroll deductions to NEA and AFT political action committees (PACs) are transmitted at no cost to the unions.

What to do? Lieberman exposes the unions' vulnerabilities, and offers sensible suggestions about "what we can and cannot do" to curb their power. "The most hopeful development" he notes, "is that they have become a political issue."

To order, call Encounter Books at 800/786-3839.

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