Louisiana’s two teacher unions are among the weakest in the nation, according to a report issued Monday.
“State teacher unions are weaker in Louisiana than unions in other states on nearly every metric that we examined,” according to the report prepared by the Thomas B. Fordham Institute, based in Washington, D.C. The organization calls itself an education research group and one that says too many public schools are dysfunctional or ineffective.
The review ranked the strength of teacher unions here as 42nd nationally, including 40th in resources and membership, 44th in involvement in politics and 44th in perceived influence.
As expected, teacher unions in the Northeast dominated the Top 10 while those in the South and Southwest were near the bottom.
The state’s two largest teacher unions are the Louisiana Federation of Teachers, or LFT, and the Louisiana Association of Educators, or LAE.
The LFT is affiliated with the American Federation of Teachers. The LAE is connected with the National Education Association.
“I am not dazzled, I think it is flawed,” LFT President Steve Monaghan said of the study. “I am not sure what they are trying to say.”
One problem, according to the report, is the view of education “stakeholders” contacted that the LFT and LAE rank behind Gov. Bobby Jindal, the state’s charter school association, the state Board of Elementary and Secondary Education and the Louisiana Schools Boards Association in terms of influence.
“They report that the unions are not effective in warding off education proposals with which they disagree, and that state education leaders rarely align with union positions,” the study says of respondents to the survey.
Earlier this year Jindal won legislative approval for sweeping changes in public schools despite vehement opposition from LFT and LAE leaders.
One new law has expanded access to vouchers to nearly 5,000 low-and middle-income students to attend private and parochial schools.
Another measure will make it harder for teachers to earn and retain a form of job protection called tenure.
“If you have a pro-labor governor or anti-labor governor in office, that often had a lot to do with what the landscape would look like,” said Amber Winkler, vice president for research at the Fordham Institute.
The study says 58 percent of teachers belong to teacher unions in Louisiana, which is 38th in the nation.
In the past decade, teacher union donations accounted for just 0.18 percent of contributions to candidates for state office, which was 45th nationally, according to the report.
Louisiana is a right-to-work state, which means employees cannot be forced to join a union as a condition of employment.
Collective bargaining agreements exist in seven of the state’s 70 school districts, which outline working conditions, salaries, benefits and other issues.
The report says states with mandatory collective bargaining laws tilt the playing field in favor of unions as does the right to strike.
In a telephone interview, Monaghan said that, among other issues he has with the study, it is hard for anyone to nail down the influence of a teachers’ union. “How do you put a value on each of the players they contacted?” he asked.
Monaghan said the Fordham Institute “is a conservative-leaning, right-wing-leaning think tank. Bottom line.”
LAE President Joyce Haynes, in comments issued by her office, said that much of the public school overhaul measures that won approval did so “without the input or respect” of classroom teachers and other school workers.
States where teacher unions have the most strength are Hawaii, Oregon, Montana, Pennsylvania, Rhode Island, California, New Jersey, Illinois, New York and Washington, according to the report.
Those listed in the bottom tier are Louisiana, Oklahoma, Texas, Georgia, Mississippi, Virginia, Arkansas, South Carolina, Florida and Arizona.
The report was also sponsored by Education Reform Now, which officials touted as a group linked to Democratic politicians willing to take nontraditional party stands to improve public schools.