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Monday, February 19, 2007, 07:30 am PT (10:30 am ET)

Apple's Jobs blasts teachers unions

Apple chief executive Steve Jobs lashed out at teachers unions during an education reform conference on friday, claiming that no amount of technology in the classroom would better public schools until principals had authorization to fire bad teachers.

Speaking alongside Dell founder and recently reappointed chief executive Michael Dell at the Austin, Texas-based conference, the Associated Press reports that Jobs focused on comparing schools to businesses with principals serving as CEOs.

"What kind of person could you get to run a small business if you told them that when they came in they couldn't get rid of people that they thought weren't any good?" he asked. "Not really great ones because if you're really smart you go, 'I can't win."'

Jobs said the problem with U.S. institutions is that they have become unionized to a point where ridding public schools of poor teachers is prohibited. "This unionization and lifetime employment of K-12 teachers is off-the-charts crazy," he said.

Although Jobs drew enthusiastic applause at various intervals, he acknowledged that his raw criticisms were unlikely to be as well-received by the local school board.

"Apple just lost some business in this state, I'm sure," he said.

Dell, who reportedly sat quietly with his hands folded in his lap during Jobs' tirade, responded by saying that unions were created because employers were treating his employees unfairly.

"So now you have these enterprises where they take good care of their people," he said. "The employees won, they do really well and succeed."

During his speech, Jobs reportedly told the crowd that he envisioned future schools where textbooks would be replaced with a free, online information source that are constantly updated by experts, like the online encyclopedia Wikipedia.

"I think we'd have far more current material available to our students and we'd be freeing up a tremendous amount of funds that we could buy delivery vehicles with - computers, faster Internet, things like that," he said. "And I also think we'd get some of the best minds in the country contributing."