What If They Ran The NFL Like The Chicago Teachers Union?

Commentary, Education, Frontier Centre

In the last week, two of America’s favorite pastimes have relaunched for fall. One is football, the other is politically-focused adults grabbing for more government money in the name of “the children.”

The Chicago Teachers Union, rejecting a breathtaking 16 percent pay raise on top of their $86,000 average compensation (including benefits) over the next four years, went on strike Monday, turning the city where only four in ten graduate high school into a new equivalent of the old Catskills joke: The teaching is really terrible there, and this week there are such small portions of it. Nevertheless, the schools did at least provide a marginally safer place to store children during the day. Now parents of the city’s crime-ravaged neighborhoods are wondering how to keep their kids out of harm’s way while they’re at work.

The first major difference we’d notice is that the players don’t seem to be trying all that hard. The kicker barely nudges the ball off the tee. The kick returner picks up the ball and wanders around a little. No one is much interested in tackling him, but then again the kick returner isn’t very interested in dashing for the end zone. Nothing much seems to be happening in this game at all. At midfield someone has placed a coffee urn, and the players are standing around it lamenting their public perception.

Why? Because no one is keeping score.

The Chicago Teachers Union is adamantly against detailed, data-driven score-keeping and accountability. Only 30 percent of their evaluations are based on results — the performance of its students — and the CTU has fiercely opposed a feeble effort to raise that to 40 percent. The CTU argues that its evident failures are more due to factors beyond its control, such as the poverty, demographics and family habits of its students. Football players are judged 100 percent by their results, and no one fails to notice the great work of, say, Dan Marino just because he was surrounded by the untalented.

There may well be a link between family income and educational attainment, but is the solution to that to ban data? That doesn’t sound very scientific. Is not a teacher who can bring students from housing projects up to grade level in her subject more desirable than one in whose classes the same students are failing?

Back to our CTU-run football game. Even when senior league officials are present and the players show a little more spirit, you’ll notice that the play is sloppy and unmotivated. Can’t anyone here play this game? Where is all the young talent? Where are the exciting Cam Newtons and Robert Griffin IIIs?

They aren’t here. The players on the field are geriatric. Because they enjoy tenure, they can’t readily be fired, and once they can’t be fired they have no incentive to work hard. They know that if they just show up, they’ll continue to advance toward the huge payoff of their pensions. And with so many listless, disinterested veterans filling rosters there are only a few slots for rookies. Robert Griffin went off to play soccer. Cam Newton is trying his luck at golf.

If the NFL were run on these principles, of course, and offered such a shoddy product, their stadiums would be empty, no one would watch on television and the TV contracts would be canceled, along with the sponsorship deals. The whole league, starved for cash, would be forced to go out of business. The next Andrew Luck wouldn’t be able to get a job playing the game he loves and the fans would drift off to the movies or a rival sport or take up some other activity every Sunday.

The joke is that the public schools’ customers can’t go anywhere else. They’re locked in the stadium and even if they skipped, their taxpayer dollars would still be taken away to fund the crazily inept action taking place on the field. How much longer will the nation’s teacher’s unions continue to play such an awful game, and how much longer will politicians who depend on their campaign funds pretend that only minor reforms are needed?