Although I appreciated the observation about cherry-picking studies to confirm a conclusion, in an essay (“Iowa’s War on Government-Worker Unions: Attacking Organized Labor Is Good, Divisive Politics on an Issue That Deserves Better”) devoted to the state’s alleged war on government-worker unions, the choice of an “unbiased view” was flawed.

The pendulum swung swiftly.

House File 291 was introduced in the Iowa legislature on February 9, was passed by the House and Senate on February 16, and was signed by Governor Terry Branstad the next day.

Despite that speed, this was not some emergency measure. Instead, it was part of a pent-up agenda being unleashed, as Republicans enjoyed – really enjoyed – their first unified control of the legislative and executive branches of state government since 1998.

Shikha Dalmia, writing in Reason ("Are Right to Work Laws the New Slavery?," April 26), dismisses most union objections to "right to work" laws. But she concedes that on one issue - the requirement that unions provide representation for scabs who don't pay dues - unions are "on more solid ground."

But, she continues, unions themselves are partly to blame. "They are required to represent all workers in exchange for monopoly rights over collective bargaining in the workplace. That is the Faustian bargain they made in the Wagner Act."

The problem is that she makes this sound primarily like a perk for the unions. She neglects to mention its value to employers, or more generally the way Wagner reflects the interests of employers.

Education reform in Illinois features two major storylines: politics and policy. On the political front, two powerful forces - the business community and teacher unions - have competing proposals. On the policy end of things, the primary educational question is whether and to what degree teacher performance will be a factor in school-district workforce decisions, from budget-related layoffs to dismissals to tenure.

As the law stands now, layoffs and tenure are simply functions of teachers' years of service and don't take into account whether students are actually learning. Firing a tenured teacher is time-consuming and costly, and the current teacher-evaluation system, all sides agree, is ineffective. Common-sense reform is long overdue.

Given Illinois' history and reputation, however, one might expect politics to dictate the outcome at the expense of sound policy. Somewhat surprisingly, the substance of the different proposals appears to be getting a careful vetting, and politics have thus far taken a back seat.