Rapid City Journal columnists Jim Shaw and Janette McIntyre have made clear that the preferred response the referral of Governor Daugaard's education reforms will be the ad professionem attack on teacher unions. Assuming Shaw and McIntyre ever stop talking to themselves and look for real evidence to substantiate their wishful thinking, I suspect they and fellow apologists for HB 1234 will be drawing ammunition from anti-labor propaganda outlets like TeachersUnionExposed.com, a project of secretive pro-industry front group Center for Union Facts.

Teachers Union Exposed offers state-by-state information on teachers unions and teacher firing rates. They tout these numbers as showing that unions protect bad teachers. But let's compare TUE's data on the firing rates of experienced teachers with the percentage of teachers belonging to unions in each state:

State Experienced teacher
firing rate 
Percentage of
teachers in unions 
California 2.03% 87.50%
Alabama 1.61% 16.00%
Alaska 5.17% 97.30%
Arizona 2.00% 39.50%
Arkansas 0.16% 6.10%
Colorado 1.63% 48.20%
Connecticut 1.37% 98.70%
Delaware 0.00% 100.00%
Dist. Columbia 0.09% 100.00%
Florida 0.35% 100.00%
Georgia 1.36% 7.50%
Hawaii 0.00% 100.00%
Idaho 2.74% 88.60%
Illinois 1.19% 83.70%
Indiana 1.78% 98.20%
Iowa 1.34% 98.00%
Kansas 1.53% 94.40%
Kentucky 1.95% 19.10%
Louisiana 2.38% 11.60%
Maine 3.09% 94.50%
Maryland 1.25% 100.00%
Massachusetts 1.57% 99.30%
Michigan 2.58% 99.00%
Minnesota 2.95% 99.30%
Mississippi 0.84% 2.20%
Missouri 1.79% 15.10%
Montana 1.90% 66.60%
Nebraska 2.73% 60.00%
Nevada 0.34% 100.00%
New Hampshire 2.37% 100.00%
New Jersey 1.15% 100.00%
New Mexico 1.86% 36.80%
New York 0.71% 99.50%
North Carolina 0.60% 2.30%
North Dakota 0.43% 79.20%
Ohio 1.91% 97.60%
Oklahoma 2.90% 33.50%
Oregon 0.85% 100.00%
Pennsylvania 0.33% 100.00%
Rhode Island 0.37% 100.00%
South Carolina 1.31% 0.00%
South Dakota 11.37% 74.90%
Tennessee 0.28% 67.00%
Texas 1.29% 1.80%
Utah 0.07% 87.90%
Vermont 0.56% 90.80%
Virginia 0.96% 10.20%
Washington 0.82% 100.00%
West Virginia 2.55% 10.50%
Wisconsin 2.14% 98.20%
Wyoming 1.35% 38.30%

I don't have an explanation for South Dakota's anomalously high firing rate... but if that 11.37% is accurate, it suggests that South Dakota has the least need of laws to make it easier to get rid of teachers.

But let's test TUEs overall conclusion about the relationship between union power and teacher firing rates. Look at Nevada and New Hampshire. Both have total unionization, suggesting more union power to protect teachers from firing. Nevada has one of the lowest firing rates; New Hampshire has one of the highest. South Carolina and Texas have the lowest unionization rates, but their firing rates are lower than those in highly unionized Minnesota and Michigan.

Run the numbers, and you will find the simple mathematical correlation between the two columns above is zero, –0.00868 to be unreasonably exact. In English, that means you cannot conclude, even from data offered by an anti-union agitators, that a strong teachers union means teachers don't get fired at a lower rate than in less-unionized states.

Thanks for your help, TUE.

Related: Table 8 in this "Teacher Attrition and Mobility" report from the National Center for Education Statistics finds that among teachers who left the public school system to work in other industries, 28.2% said they had better job security in teaching than in their current positions. 19.4% said their current positions offered better job security. 52.3% said their job switch brought them neither better nor worse job security.

Hmm... so despite this rumbling I hear from conservatives about "tenure" and "jobs for life," over 70% of the people who've actually done the job in the classroom and now are working in other fields don't feel like their jobs were all that secure in public education.