Wednesday, February 13, 2008

Who's to Blame? Teacher Unions

It is ironic that the biggest obstacle in the path to better schools is the teachers' unions. How outrageous of them to work their diabolical magic against the very people whom they should benefit: the students and the community. But no, the unions have created a situation that has now reached a point at which the schools cannot be fixed.

Before about the year 1960, the NEA was an association of teachers who worked in the public schools. But that year, it became a labor union instead. Its purpose changed from trying to do a good job to trying to take the maximum money from the community. Since then, while teachers' pay has risen sharply, the biggest winners have been the negotiators and union staff who work behind the scenes, jacking up the price of everything the schools do, while having zero interest in the quality of education that results. Unions want one thing: more money for less work. In public schools, they are performing flawlessly.

For example: the unions have arranged for the inability of schools to fire the worst teachers while preventing the creation of incentives for decent teachers to improve their skills and knowledge, and thus their pay. The result of those twin measures is that the schools are moving steadily in what has been called, "The race to the bottom." The bad teachers stay while the best ones routinely quit, resulting in the steady decline in the quality of the public schools.

The micromanaging of teachers' days, the insistence on "certification," the constant pressing for more and more counter-productive rules, stonewalling all reforms, and more drive up the costs of public schooling. To prove my point, the CT NEA printed its list of one hundred seventy-four demands that its negotiators had ready as they went into teacher-pay negotiations with local school districts. The local school boards have literally no chance in negotiations with union pros when their meager requests (such as "will the teachers accept a little accountability for their work, please?") are met with such force.

Julia Steiny, a columnist for the Providence Journal (RI), shed much light on the problem this week. She noted that the roots of the problem go back to the early days when teacher unions asked the advice of automotive industry unions. She wrote, "In an unfortunate accident of history, the labor contracts that won decent pay for teachers also cemented into place a factory-model design for schooling. Blue-collar labor contracts spell out and limit a worker's obligations on the factory floor, or in this case a classroom, as if teachers were as interchangeable as die-press operators."

Little has changed. Steiny quotes a former superintendent in RI: "The unions...are running the whole country into the ground because they can't get it through their heads that the reason for our financial problems is at least in part due to us trying to keep up with their demands." She concludes, "The whole negotiating process, using a model designed for blue-collar jobs, is painfully obsolete, seriously impeding academic improvement and, most important, stealing resources from the kids."

It just might be time to start over in education.

4 comments:

christinemm said...

This is true.

I learned that the teacher's unions were a big problem when I was on the town council, an elected position.

I learned that here in CT we have binding arbitration. The town felt at the time, that when the teachers asked for a certain raise, that if we did not grant it, they would take us to 'binding arbitration'. This is a process in which the town would have to hire a lawyer or use the time of their staff lawyer. Then the union was represented by a RETIRED TEACHER. Can you say bias?

As a town coucil we were told by the Republican selectman that just about every town who goes to binding arbitration loses--the teachers are not only allowed to ask for what they originally wanted but in between the normal asking for the raise and the binding arbitration, they could rewrite their requests. They say some had jacked the raise up higher--and GOT IT. So not only does the town lose on legal costs but they might have even higher raises.

It was explained to me that really the binding arbitration forces the town to negotiate GENTLY with the teachers but to give in at the end. And everyone was afraid to not grant them what they wanted lest they take the town to binding arbitration and use up time, energy and more taxpayer's money.

Before anyone starts in on teachers not making a lot of money, look at the charts about how much they get in CT. We are at the top or second, the last I looked, in the nation.

I saw raises over 4% when that was double inflation. Teachers were getting raises far higher than I personally was getting in the private sector with great job performance.

Later when I went to work for a corporation, I found out the raises were all set and had ceilings. None were as high as the teacher's raises in CT are! The amount of the raise should be in relation to inflation and more in line with the private sector.

Let's not even get into the issue that the teachers' raises are not tied to JOB PERFORMANCE as they are in teh priavte sector.

Ned Vare said...

You are right, of course. But the thing that town negotiators fear most is a strike by the teachers. That is the card they can always play if they don't get all they want. A strike has been shown to be disruptive to a community.

However, that is now the price we must pay in order to regain control of the tax-funded schools which are currently being run only for the benefit of their employees and, of course, their union.

I must add that there is really no solution to the school mess we have allowed to happen. The answer is to start over. In the meantime, take our kids out of it.

victor said...

Teachers are not interested in education, they just want to drain every last dine from the local community without any concern for the financial devastation they cause. and lets face we all know how much teachers get paid and we how much the rest of us get paid and the local communities are getting squeezed right into financial poverty. and this isn't right.

Mick said...

I don't know why I'm bothering, clearly everyone on this blog has made up their minds about teachers a long time ago. But I stumbled across this post, and it's hard to see such horrible things said without making some sort of reply.

I am a teacher, and I do not want to try and take the town for all the money I can. I want to teach - which I enjoy very much and do a pretty good job at- and provide a living for my family. Do teachers make more money in CT compared to other states? Yes. Is it more expensive to live in CT compared to other states? Yes. We do not live in the lap of luxury, we make a living.

Before I go, let me teach you something, the anonymity of the internet allows people to vent their thoughts without feeling social pressure to be polite and civilized. So, if you are polite and civilized on the net, it is because you are a polite and civilized person, not just bowing to social pressure. You might wish to keep that in mind when you write such insulting things.