Friday, February 18, 2011

Teacher unions "facing the harshest political climate" in decades

The Department of Education recently sponsored a labor-management conference, called Advancing Student Achievement Through Labor-Management Collaboration, seeking ideas for collaborating to raise student achievement.
Education historians said the unions were facing the harshest political climate since states began extending legal bargaining rights to schoolteachers decades ago. 
The conference, convened by the Department of Education, drew school authorities and teachers’ union leaders from 150 districts across the nation to Denver to discuss ways of working together. To participate, each district’s superintendent, school board president and teachers’ union leader had to sign a pledge to collaborate in good faith to raise student achievement....
The conference comes at a time when thousands of districts are facing their most severe budget cuts in a generation, and union contracts calling for layoffs based on seniority could force many districts to dismiss their most energetic young teachers.
But changing these policies could also prompt some districts to remove more experienced, higher paid teachers to balance their budgets.
Role for Teachers Is Seen in Solving Schools’ Crises - NYT, 2/15/11
In Idaho and Indiana, legislation has been proposed limiting the role of unions in the design of education policies.  Given that the primary goal of unions is to protect the rights of its members, I see the wisdom of these proposals.  Should parents have a stronger voice than teacher unions in setting education policy?

In Wisconsin, legislative action to limit union rights has led to massive protests by teachers, shutting down Madison public schools two three days in a row.
In addition to eliminating collective bargaining rights, the legislation also would make public workers pay half the costs of their pensions and at least 12.6 percent of their health care coverage — increases Walker calls "modest" compared with those in the private sector.
In Tennessee:
The Senate Education Committee voted along party lines Wednesday to abolish collective bargaining between teachers unions and school boards across the state.


  1. I don't understand why all the hatred against teachers. They are small fish. The real culprits, the idiots who took our economy down, are all back to making huge bonuses. Why doesn't anyone care? After the crash, my husband's company briefly reined in its antics, and went on "austerity" for about a year (which meant they no longer paid for the employee's lunches). Now they are right back to their old ways. You have no idea how much money they waste.Teachers don't have even close to the perks and freebies that people in my husband's company have, and that isn't even mentioning the mega-bonuses that the traders get. The traders are all back to their obscene lifestyles, getting ready to take us into the next bubble and crash, and we are all going after teachers????

  2. It could be for any number of reasons. Short attention span, teachers are seen as more direct recipients of taxpayer money, more people deal with teachers directly than with Wall Street types, a view that public employees are getting an unfairly sweet deal that is wrapped up in dirty politics, etc. I'm not sure, but I think favorable opinion of unions has declined.

  3. I think there are big problems, especially with pensions, that need to be addressed - but the level of angry rhetoric doesn't help. Here is hte basic problem - for many years, state politicians in many states underfunded their pension systems. When there was a budget shortfall, it was always so much easier to take a little away from the contributions than to cut other services. Even Chris Christie is doing it - he hasn't made the regular payments into the state pension system. As a result, voters didn't really feel the pain of the contracts with public employee unions that were being negotiated. Hence, no pressure to hold the line in negotiations. It is a problem that needs to be fixed, but with sympathy for the employees that are going to be affected, not hatred. The teachers and the cops and the firemen are not to blame! They negotiated in good faith. It is the politicians who underfunded the system for years that are to blame. They need to have THEIR pensions taken away.

  4. It's unfortunate that individual teachers are feeling the heat, but I think it's the unions that people are angry with. And I can't let the unions off the hook here, although they have been rightfully looking out for the interests of their members. I don't think they have been unaware of any political shenanigans that have left states in this mess. To say the least.