Teachers Unions in Retreat

07.24.12 | Ralph Kerr | Comments[4]

Teachers Unions in Retreat

“The National Education Association will become a political power second to no other special interest group.”

“When school children start paying union dues that’s when I’ll start representing the interests of school children.”

“The Major purpose of our association is not education; rather it is about the extension and or preservation of our members rites. We earnestly care about kids and learning, but that is secondary to other goals.”

These are all quotes from a variety of union sources as noted in my book, The Sin of Apathy. In fact in this book I called Teachers Unions the #1 enemy of public education. One of my conclusions was that unless and until teachers unions changed their interests and their approach it was going to be extremely difficult for public education to improve. Well times are changing and teachers unions are in retreat. Reports from the recently held Union Convention tell the story.

In 2010-2011 the National Education Association (NEA) claimed 2.25 million members. This coming year they expect to have 1.94 million members. This represents a loss of 300,000 members and a decrease in revenues of $65 million. One former executive director of the organization claims the organization is in “panic mode.” One report given at the recent convention stated, “Things will never go back to the way they were.”

Budget woes have already taken their toll on the national headquarters staff. To avoid layoffs, NEA offered an early retirement incentive for management and staff members in a bid to pare the payroll. About a tenth of the workforce took advantage of the incentive. Other top officials were reassigned, or dismissed. Other benefits, such as a matching component of a retirement plan, conference attendance and travel were decreased. At one point the internal staff of NEA actually threatened to strike.

While NEA top leaders continue to be concerned about maintaining their influence on national politics and policy, state and local leaders are more interested in holding their members to higher standards. The days of protecting incompetent teachers seem to be in decline. Unions want to promote good teaching and good teachers. Some local units are exploring the concept of labor-management collaboration. Others are promoting the idea that performance should take the edge over seniority in lay-off decisions.

As an observer of these changes I am thrilled. Primarily because I believe these changes will ultimately be better for the students. I recognize that in every school district there is a cadre of caring, competent and highly skilled teachers. In many cases these teachers have been more interested in the students than union activities. Unfortunately as a result of state laws all teachers are required to join the union and pay the costly union dues. Hopefully, with the priority shifts mentioned, these teachers will feel more affinity with the union that represents them and its goals and ultimately public schools will have an opportunity to improve as everyone involved puts children first.



Your Comments(please keep them on topic and polite)

on 07.31.12 Marcy commented

First, PLEASE moderate the comments and remove the spam (i.e., the previous 5)!

Having said that, the change can't happen fast enough. This is why people who can afford it put their children in private schools and why others homeschool! This is why Johnny and Suzie can't read or do basic math (how many of you readers are comfortable with all uses of fractions and the conversions back and forth between them and decimals?). All the wailing about how they need more money to provide better outcomes has nothing to do with education, but with their own political outcomes. Ask any GOOD teacher who has been cowed by the system into compliance for the sake of their job...

on 08.06.12 Jim Patton commented

Interesting point of view, sounds like a the normal administrative point of view. 25th years of experience as a Pastor who teaching in the public school I find the local union to be the force that keeps the district focused on student needs. The administration of the state and local districts use these points to take the focus off student needs and make the teacher a politicial devils. I am glad I do not believe this to be truth it would make my service for Christ in the public school a more difficult task.

on 09.04.12 Missy Jones commented

So true

on 10.19.12 Jim Mc commented

My wife is a biology teacher in a local public school. She graduated with a 3.98 GPA with a master's degree in biology. She's got 20 years with the same district and last year made about $50k. At retirement age of about 60 she will recieve a pension equal to 2/3 that amount and whatever she can save on her own in a 401K plan plus of course SSI at 67. Schools are having real trouble finding certified science teachers because people with a 5 year degree in sciences can make much more money in other careers.

This artical obviously is written with the tact that we are overpaying our teacher and therefore if we get rid of the unions we can cut their wages. I fail to see how a master's degree in biology doesn't command a salary of 50k. We already can't get teachers in math and science so how will lowering the wages affect this? Why would anyone invest 5 years of their life and $150,000+ to get a career if it didn't have some financial reward to it?