PALO ALTO, Calif. – These days, it’s rare to find someone in the academic world who openly embraces ideas that run counter to the progressive agenda.
But Terry Moe – William Bennett Munro Professor of Political Science at Stanford University, senior fellow at the Hoover Institution and member of Hoover’s Koret Task Force on K-12 Education – has spent the majority of his career researching teachers unions and documenting their adverse effect on public education.
His motivation has never appeared to be political in nature. He simply seeks to engender change in a system that is clearly failing America’s children.
Moe did not knowingly set out to immerse himself in the study of education and teachers unions. He received a bachelor’s degree in economics and went on to earn a Ph.D. in political science at the University of Minnesota.
Initially, Moe was more interested in studying the workings of bureaucracies and political institutions, but an old friend from graduate school, John Chubb, convinced Moe to partner with him and join a small group of fellow Stanford scholars who were surveying high schools, students, teachers and administrators, thus setting Moe on a course from which he has not looked back.
It was in 1990, with the publication of the book, Politics, Markets and America’s Schools – which Moe co-authored with Chubb – that his work began to have a significant impact on public education.
The book, which argues that the expansive education reform movement initiated in the 1980s is destined to fail because it does not address the problems the unions pose, gave much-needed steam to school voucher programs across the country.
The teachers unions were less than pleased with the growing voucher programs and used their political clout to minimize the movement for a long time. However, Moe believes that the unions are slowly but surely losing their power.
He is well acquainted with the inner workings of the unions, as they are the focus of his most recent book, Special Interest: Teachers Unions and America’s Public Schools.
In the book Moe writes, “I spent years thinking about the teachers unions, studying their roles in collective bargaining and politics, carrying out my own research projects, writing articles, amassing information, and developing ideas about how to pull it all together into a consistent, comprehensive analysis of how the unions shape America’s public schools.”
Unions fading, but it will take time
After thoroughly researching the unions and putting together the preeminent, comprehensive publication on the subject, Moe has concluded what many thought but could not prove: the teachers unions are no good for children, parents, effective teachers or taxpayers.
In a piece published in “Defining Ideas,” a Hoover Institution journal, Moe writes, “The teachers unions are the main reason why the quarter-century-long movement to reform this nation’s schools has been such a disappointment.”
In a video for Prager University, Moe condenses the talking points of his book and discusses how unions have become so powerful and why they are immensely detrimental to students, in particular.
“I don’t say this out of some sort of anti-union ideology,” Moe says on the video. “I say it as an objective description of reality, backed by an enormous amount of evidence. Union power has created insurmountable problems for effective schools.”
Collective bargaining and effective lobbying of state government are the two methods by which the unions have maintained their power, according to Moe.
Moe is confident that teachers unions are on their way out. He believes the future of education includes more choices for parents and their children, as well as increased implementation of technological advances.
He believes that both of these prospects will lead to situations that require fewer teachers. Fewer teachers would equate to fewer union members and decreased dues revenue, which would significantly weaken the unions’ ability to funnel millions of dollars into promoting their political agendas.
Moe concedes that this transformation of the public school system, and by default the teachers unions, may take time, perhaps upwards of 20 years.
This begs the question: What about all of the students who will pass through the education system in the interim? It’s clear that the faster the teachers unions are dissolved, the faster we can begin to restore the education system and ensure its benefits for those whom it was created for – the children.