Monthly Archive for May, 2008

Teacher Unions Can Bankrupt School Boards via Legal Challenges

Continuing to add to my online archives about school reform efforts over the last 40 years I found the following letter to the Editor from 1986.

Letter of the Day, North Shore News, North Vancouver, BC, Canada, October 19/86

Every School Needs its OWN Trustees

Parents have despaired for years about the lack of quality control in the public schools and the latest setback adds to this frustration.

The dismissal of a teacher held to be unsatisfactory by the West Vancouver School Board has now been reversed and is on appeal to the B.C. Supreme Court. 

Not only is the decision making around quality questions frustrating, but there are enormous costs entailed. The estimate was $70,000 for this case so far. As well, there is the veiled threat that the teaching fraternity could bankrupt school systems who try to pursue quality efforts. I’m sure the message of Pat Clarke, former leader of the B. C. Teachers’ Federation got through to parents and school boards alike when he said,

If school boards are looking for a way to spend some money, then they can try doing what West Vancouver has done. We’ll take them to court and appeal every one of these cases.” (Vancouver SUN, Feb 26, 1986)

In 1978 I recall another teacher dismissal case in West Vancouver. The hearings took 21 days and the costs were conservatively estimated at $90,000 (about $150,000 in today’s dollars.)

It must  be clear to everyone, especially in light of the added current concern about sexual abuse of students, that there must be better ways to ensure quality control in our schools.

I have maintained over the last twenty years that excluding parents from the governance of their schools would have a damaging effect on education, children and society. While I have been gratified to see more parents taking control of their children’s education via home education, nevertheless, I feel we must find ways in which the natural advocates of children – parents – can have an instrumental role in each of their own schools. This will only be done by a structural change through each school having its own board of trustees as in private schools, or providing parent with vouchers to use on the school of their choice.

Tunya Audain



School Boards Suspicious of Independent-Minded Parents

Abolishing school boards should lead to parents being the governors of their own individual schools. Yes, like the one-room school house of old.

Trustees would be the parents in that school – not a host of “civic-minded” politicians, often teachers and teacher union activists. Parents would be the overseers of school quality and achievement, the ones to hire and fire staff and teachers. The intent of schools would be actualized, and the taxpaying public would trust parents to pursue efficiencies and effectiveness.

Consumers, the parents on behalf of their children, would determine the needs of that school, and would NOT succumb to pressures of the self-interests of so many in the industry —  catering to their own agendas and survival/growth/power  “needs”.

That is how private and independent schools operate, so why shouldn’t public (government) schools follow the same principles?

As a young parent in the 70’s I quickly perceived that trustees and the whole machinery of the school board system was counterproductive to the hopes and aspirations of parents. I took advantage of a traveling government commission to express my disappointment with large school districts and trustees overseeing large populations.  Attending board meetings did not help parents in individual schools.

I was flattered to have a member of the audience ask me for a copy of my brief. A few weeks later I was flattered to be invited to a dinner with the trustee association. It was not till years later that I had a “Eureka” experience, and realized I was being grilled as to my "dangerous" views and assessed as to my influence on others.

Also, I realize now that some of the very “helpful” and “friendly” officials who talked to parents at board meetings were probably “assigned” to keep tabs on parents and the groups they belonged to.  In some instances these same people asked to be involved with our advocacy groups, whether it was for more attention to the basics or special needs.

I think it is detrimental to parent causes to have activist teachers and trustees shape briefs, letters, demonstrations, etc.  Too often, naive and trusting parents become pawns in advocating for more funding, better working conditions for teachers, and on and on.  They have been diverted from advocating for their children.

Public Education on Trial

At the 1987 Future of Freedom Conference in California we discussed education malpractice. I was involved with pursuing the topic: Public Education on Trial.
Below are some excerpts from our brochure:
The world is very much as described in Orwell’s 1984.
However, on a small secret island, SANOS, live several hundred people, mostly of the libertarian persuasion. Having detected – as if in an unraveling Greek tragedy – the world’s inexorable, irreversible move to totalitarianism, these people hived-off, with few belongings, to this island. Perceiving the impossibility of resisting the inevitable, they resolve to be the “last man” – the guardians of the human spirit.

They live there quite peaceably. Only rarely, under great danger, do they make communication with the outer world, and only then to rescue some family member.
Very few in the outer world are aware of SANOS. However, an urgent appeal is received, and to the best of their ability to verify, it is a genuine appeal:

Help us to reverse, if possible, our self-destruction.
Have mercy on us.

We are losing the power of intellectual effort to even keep doublethink straight.

We will abide by your judgments and your controls.

The people of SANOS have convened a commission of enquiry to probe the nature of the problem and consider means for solution. The commission has narrowed-down the source of the problem to the public school systems in the outer world.

Having determined the source of the world’s self-sabotage, then the starting-point for reversal (if not too late) is this system – reform, restructure, dismantle ? ? ? The following “crimes to humanity” have been perpetrated by public school systems.

  1.   erosion of the family
  2.   dumbed-down public
  3.   killing the joy of learning
  4.   atrophy of democracy
  5.   growth of obscurantism & mystification
  6.   depletion of choice
  7.   habituation to experts
  8.   dependence on the state – the “free lunch”
  9.   economic sluggishness
  10.  reduction of individualism
  11.  destruction of voluntarism & good samaratinism
  12.  extinguishing introspection

    “School has become the planned process which tools man for a planned world, the principal tool to trap man in man’s trap. It is supposed to shape each man to an adequate level for playing a part in this world game. Inexorable we cultivate, treat, produce, and school the world out of existence." – Ivan Illich, 1971

Our panel to discuss the problem included a Judge, a Prosecutor, an Anthropologist, a Philosopher, a Psychologist, and a Family Advocate.  The responder was the Attorney to the School District.