Justice Scalia Absence Affects America

Justice Antonin Scalia passed away of February 13, 2016. You may remember him for the following statement:

There are those who contend that it does not benefit African Americans to get them into the University of Texas, where they do not do well, as opposed to having them go to a less-advanced school, a slower-track school where they do well. One of the briefs pointed out that most of the black scientists in this country don’t come from schools like the University of Texas. They come from lesser schools where they do not feel that they’re being pushed ahead in classes that are too fast for them.

He went on to say, “I’m just not impressed by the fact the University of Texas may have fewer [blacks]. Maybe it ought to have fewer. I don’t think it stands to reason that it’s a good thing for the University of Texas to admit as many blacks as possible.” (link)

At face value, this statement blasts both black people and smaller colleges particularly historically black colleges and universities. It doesn’t seem reasonable to me that black students need a “slowed down” curriculum nor does it seem reasonable that smaller colleges do not use the same rigor and pace that large ones do. This is my opinion only. Maybe there is data that backs up what he says. I have not come across any during my research, though.

His passing leaves a Supreme Court that is evenly divided 4-4 between the liberals and conservatives.

“The most important rule to bear in mind now that the Court is likely to remain evenly divided for the foreseeable future is that, when the Court divides evenly on a case that is pending before it, the lower court’s order stands and the Supreme Court’s consideration of the case has no precedential value.” link

The Supreme Court is powerless right now. If all the justices split along their party lines the 4-4 split will be cast during every controversial ruling.

You may be thinking how does this effect education? One of the main cases that will be affected by this is Friedrichs v. California Teachers Association.

“It appeared likely that an ambitious effort to defund public sector unions would gain five votes on the Supreme Court. Now this effort only has four votes. Moreover, because the plaintiffs in this case lost in the court below, a decision affirming the lower court in an evenly divided vote is effectively a victory for organized workers.” link

This is huge! From what I understand, California teachers had to pay around $1,000 for to their union. Their union would not only negotiate salaries they also have their hands in the legislative system. It didn’t matter if you agreed with what they were doing or not.

To opt out of the thirty percent of their dues that even the union concedes is used for overtly political activities, teachers must must file for a refund each year according to a precise procedure that effectively discourages its use. As a result, many teachers contribute hundreds of dollars in dues each year to support political positions in a variety of areas having nothing to do with education and with which many of them disagree.

“The suit claims state “agency shop” laws, which require public employees to pay union dues as a condition of employment, violate well-settled principles of freedom of speech and association. While many teachers support the union, others do not and the state cannot constitutionally compel an individual to join and financially support an organization with which he or she disagrees.” link

Look at what happened when Wisconsin changed their union rules. Their union enrollment plummeted.

“Given no choice but to join and pay dues to the Wisconsin Education Association Council (WEAC) for decades, teachers have for the last three years been able to opt out. And that is what tens of thousands have done as a result of Gov. Scott Walker’s Wisconsin Budget Repair Bill, also known as Act 10.” link

You may argue that teachers unions have lost their effectiveness. New Jersey teachers have dealt with personal attacks from the governor, forced to pay into their health care, their pension funds have not been paid into, computer-based state testing has been forced on schools with no funding attached to it, and the union has done little to nothing to stop it. Couple this with fact that:

NJEA director Vince Giordano received $421,615 in salary and $128,508 in deferred compensation last year (2010), according to tax filings released last spring.

NJEA president Barbara Keshishian earned $256,450 last year. VP Wendell Steinhauer and Secretary-Treasurer Marie Blistan were paid $170,974 each. link


I can see New Jersey teachers not being eager to join a union that looks powerless to protect its members. However, we can not ignore the fact that unions have helped bring teachers salaries and benefits up towards respectability.

Justice Scalia’s absence will affect MUCH more than education. It may affect birth control, immigration, abortion, redistricting, affirmative action, and President Obama’s Clean Power Plan. There are many other dominoes that will fall based on the 4-4 split. If you would like to read about them I suggest you click on this link.

One thing that I am sure about is that the Republican Congress will do everything it can to block President Obama from nominating a Supreme Court replacement for Scalia. This makes the presidential election that much more important in shaping America’s future. Not only will they be electing the commander in chief for the next four years they will be electing the person responsible for nominating the pivotal vote for the next 10-20 years on the Supreme Court. Let the games begin!

Q1: Is your state a closed or open shop? (are you forced to join the union) #slowchatpe

Q2: What does your union do for improving your pedagogy? #slowchatpe

Q3: How do you feel about your union representing you politically? #slowchatpe

Q4: Would you join your union if you weren’t forced to? #slowchatpe

Q5: Who is a union rep in your state you are connected to? #slowchatpe






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