A few friends have asked for my opinion on the Wisconsin protests/ proposals to reduce union pensions, etc. Thought I'd share my basic view (from what I've learned so far):
With regard to teachers: On the one hand, right now teachers are underpaid in salary, but get great benefits, a remarkable pension, and unparalleled job protections in return. This situation (which you don't find in other professions that require a college degree) creates an incentive for people to stick around in the classroom even if they no longer love teaching (or are very good at it). And this not only hurts students, it also makes life harder for the teachers who ARE working hard.
On the other hand, should our government budgets be balanced on the backs of all those workers who signed up for this trade-off (competitive salary vs. pension/benefits/job protection?), bad as it might be? I don't think so. I think we need to transform the profession (actually professionalize it), but in a fair way, not with a huge, blinding blow at every teacher (and other union members) out there.
I think my friend Whitney Tilson is doing a good job of following and analyzing the situation; here's a link to his blog: Whitney Tilson School Reform Blog