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Teachers unions have painted themselves into a tight corner

Published: Thursday, July 5 2012 12:00 a.m. MDT

Teachers unions, however, have painted themselves into a corner by insisting that spending is the best predictor of educational performance — increase financial inputs and cognitive outputs will rise. In the last 50 years, real per pupil spending nationwide has tripled and the number of pupils per teacher has declined by a third, yet educational attainments have fallen. Abundant data demonstrate that the vast majority of differences in schools' performances can be explained by qualities of the families from which the children come to school: The amount of homework done at home, the quantity and quality of reading material in the home, the amount of television watched in the home and, much the most important variable, the number of parents in the home. In Chicago, 84 percent of African-American children and 57 percent of Hispanic children are born to unmarried women.

The city is experiencing an epidemic of youth violence — a 38 percent surge in the homicide rate, 53 people shot on a recent weekend, random attacks by roving youth mobs. Social regression, driven by family disintegration, means schools where teaching is necessarily subordinated to the arduous task of maintaining minimal order.

Emanuel got state law changed to require unions to get 75 percent of the entire membership rather than a simple majority to authorize a strike. Some people thought this would make strikes impossible. The CTU got 90 percent to authorize. Lewis' members are annoyed, and are not all wrong.

George Will's email address is georgewill@washpost.com.

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