Some teachers only support the union passively, they don’t want to rock the boat.
by John Beagle
Nationally, teachers unions are motivated to retain good and bad teachers to help maintain the flow of hundreds of millions of dollars in dues. “Teachers Union leaders’ are primarily interested in more money to hire more teachers, who are then likely to become dues-paying union members as evidenced by this quote from
Al Shanker, former President of the American Federation of Teachers,
“I don’t represent the children.
I represent the teachers.”
But is this a fair characterization of your local teachers union? Maybe, if your local teachers union views on merit pay, school choice and charter schools is an indicator.
Merit Pay vs Tenure
Paying teachers according to how well they perform, a standard pratice in the private sector, is consistently condemned by teachers unions, including our local teachers union. Our teachers can not be given raises base on merit. In Ohio, after 5 years, public school teachers receive what’s commonly called “tenure,” a special employment protection that teachers unions defend. As federal statistics indicate, teachers with just a couple years of experience are practically impossible to fire. The Ohio Teachers firing rate of teachers with 3+ years experience is 1.91% vs 9.8% for private schools without unions.
It is a fact that you can not provide any additional pay or reward for teachers going above and beyond the call of duty in our school district. Additionally, it is very difficult to get rid of any poor performing teacher once that teacher has tenure.
Historically, our Superintendents have said their ‘hands were tied’ when dealing with a specific teachers performance due to tenure. You cannot give a Monroe teacher a raise, even if that teacher is worthy of the pay change. Conversely, it is nearly impossible to fire or cut pay to when performance is below standard.
Nationally, the NEA Representative Assembly passed a resolution that explicitly condemns offering higher pay to math, science, and foreign language teachers for positions a school district is having trouble filling than to any other teachers: “The Association opposes providing additional compensation to attract and/or retain education employees in hard-to-recruit positions….”
The National Education Association (NEA) employs a larger number of political organizers than the Republican and Democratic National Committees combined. This is pure political clout and that clout trickles down to local school unions including Monroe. The NEA assist local teachers unions, like the MEA with collective bargaining by supplying negotiation experience that often vastly outstrips the resources of a local school district.
Teachers Union Membership Dues go to a One – Sided Political Agenda
Unionized teachers have little choice when it comes to helping the unions promote their one-sided political agenda. A complaint I have heard from numerous teachers over the past two decades. Dues overwhelmingly go to democrat candidates and democrat pro-union policy support including advertising against charter schools, school choice and merit pay.
How do Teachers, Principals, Superintendents and School Boards View Teachers Unions?
According to a 1980 Cornell University study survey, each group sees unions differently. Principals were likely to be less in favor of unions vs everyone else employed in the school system. The study surveys attitudes of school personnel toward teacher unions and draws some implications concerning the dynamics of labor relations in school systems.
Reference: Bacharach and Mitchells paper titled: Labor Relations in School Systems; Attitudes toward Teachers Unions across School District Hierarchies
Teachers, principals, superintendents, and school board members responded to questions on what areas unions should be involved in, degree of satisfaction with the local, and the state of labor management relations in the district.
Teachers showed general satisfaction with their local and favored more union involvement in all areas addressed.
Principals felt constrained by many work-related benefits teachers have obtained and saw the union as disrupting their ability to run their schools.
Although superintendents were more strongly opposed to union involvement in work-related areas and more unsympathetic to economic demands than principals, they were very satisfied with the union and with labor relations because they perceived the unions as a medium for dealing with the entire staff.
School boards regarded the unions as limiting their ability to develop policy and administer schools economically and wanted unions to decrease levels of involvement in all areas. Thus a graduated shift in attitudes is seen as one moves up the district hierarchy, with attitudes reflecting the degree to which the union has helped or hindered the respondent’s job performance.
Why do Teachers Support the Union?
As a group, teachers are not very political, they just want to teach. Generally, teachers are put in a position where they are better off supporting the union rather than fighting the union. So many just prefer to not ‘rock the boat’ and just stick it out.
Sources: Personal Interviews, State University of New York, Ithaca, Cornell University, Teachers Unions Exposed, the New York Post, Washington Times
Other Suggested reading: The Failed UAW Monopoly