In The News
Are Schools Failing Because of Teachers' Unions?
Wouldn't it be nice to know you could not be fired from your job unless you committed a crime? What if your child's teacher was the one with a guaranteed job?
Some politicians and activists believe that tenure and other union-won benefits stand in the way of education reform.
During the run-up to the presidential election, candidates and nominees dust off the statistics and anecdotes to show how our national education system is failing our children. And our children are the future. You know the song, I am sure.
Then comes the national past time that trumps even baseball: the blame game. Whose fault is it? In the education reform debate, the teachers' unions are often cast in the role of the villain. At the Republican National Convention, New Jersey Governor Chris Chrstie said, "We love teachers, not the unions."
This was a common sentiment in my local community this past budget season when teacher contracts became the scapegoat of choice for our unbalanced school budget.
The Dems, on the other hand, are overwhelmingly the beneficiaries of teachers' union endorsements and donations. So obviously they won't be biting the hand that feeds them, right? Although their speakers did not attack the unions, the DNC (like the RNC) did give permission to screen "Won't Back Down". In this movie a parent fights for school reform against the teachers' union, fueling debates about "parent trigger" laws.
Randi Weingarten, President of the American Federation of Teachers has said the movie is "is divisive and demoralizes millions of great teachers. “In an open letter, she wrote, "...the film contains several egregiously misleading scenes with the sole purpose of undermining people’s confidence in public education, public school teachers and teachers unions."
Union supporters point out that unions fight for conditions that benefit students, like safer classrooms and smaller class sizes.
Tenure protects good teachers from being fired because they are too high on the pay scale or for political or personal reasons. Bad teachers are rare and can be fired with proper documentation by administrators. Social and economic conditions are the true root of school problems.
Some school reformers, on the other hand, believe tenure protects bad teachers and encourages complacency and mediocrity among others.
Unions also have resisted merit-based pay, which featured in Obama's "Race to the Top" as a way to recruit and reward top teachers.
Are teachers' unions beneficial to our schools or obstructing "change we can believe in"? Should parents be able to take over a school if they believe it is failing?