Tuesday, May 11, 2010

Teacher Unions


So, what good are teacher's unions?
I mean, yes, they protect teacher's rights, but honestly, take a good look at what teachers do. They prepare kids for the world. They prepare the next generation. It is in the government's best interest to get the best teachers for the kids, then, isn't it? I mean, will any politician ever even attempt to pass something like, "Make all the teachers work for 15 hours a day and pay them minimum wage"? And even if the politician in question is suicidal enough, would that ever pass Congress? *coughcoughcoughNO!coughcough*

What do teachers have to fear? I mean, those who teach. Are you seriously going to lay off a teacher whose students come out knowing a good deal more on whatever subject is being covered than they did going in? Are you going to cut the salary of a teacher who is known among both students and colleagues as a hard worker and dedicated to the students' cause and risk that teacher quitting?

I think not.

The way the current system is set up, or as far as I know, schools whose students do better get more money for books, equipment, technology, teachers, pay raises, bonuses, etc. So, obviously, it's an incentive for schools to do better, hm? This would also involve keeping teachers happy, and having competent (I use this word as one cannot expect every teacher to be exemplary) teaching staff as well.

So, what benefit is there in keeping a teacher who does not do their job well on the staff?
There is none. That's where the unions come in. I have little doubt that these teachers realize that they are not doing their job well. Complaints to the school make this quite impossible not to be true. So they turn to the unions, who in turn, keep them there. Using what as a reason? Seniority.

"Oh, you've been here longer, so you deserve to stay. We have to fire a teacher, so we'll fire this one who we just hired, instead. Even though this teacher has better than results than you."

Woah. Nuh-uh. That logic is faulty. If you've had a computer for ten years, (1.1 Ghz processor, 512 mbs RAM, 60 Gb hard drive, no USB ports) do you keep it in favor of a new computer (3.4 Ghz Quad-core, 8 Gbs RAM, 540 Gb hard drive) just because it is older? I would seriously question your sanity (not mine) if you did.

The same thing goes for cars. Do you keep the 15 year old rust bucket which has clocked more than twenty-thousand miles, or buy the new Tesla? Real tough choice.

And it's not like you don't have the money. In the above two examples, a lack of money might limit you. In the case of teachers, firing a senior teacher for a fresh one who is better not only EARNS you more money (you don't have to pay the fresh one as much) short-term, it earns you more long-term too, in that the better teacher, well, teaches kids better.

So, why do the unions exist? One might ask, shouldn't the leaders be for the benefit of the students? Nope. They're there, in all probability, because it makes money. Teachers in the union pay dues. The teachers more likely to be in the union are those with more seniority. Teachers with more seniority are paid more, in general. So they have more money to pay for dues to the union. And guess who gets a good chunk of those dues?

Yup. The leaders. What do they do? Keep the senior teachers from losing their jobs. That in itself is not such a bad thing. Except when it is to the detriment of the students. Id est (yes, snobbish latin here), keeping teachers who cannot teach. And the schools can't do jack because of the unions. And the schools do try. Because they want more money (or perhaps, they truly are motivated by the need to truly educate students). Money is the highest motivating factor, or at least, it's up there with fame, power, and respect.

There are several possible solutions.
1- Disband the Unions - What do they do anyways, apart from keep senior teachers on? Have teachers go on strikes (during recessions, to boot). May I mention this as well?

Strikes by public employees in Washington state are expressly prohibited. In the words of one candidate running to become the state's next attorney general, the law is "unequivocally clear." - http://www.effwa.org/highlighters/v14_n19.php
Hm....now, what does that say? Oh? That it is illegal for teachers to go on strike? Well, then...
2- Be Harsher to the Unions - The teacher unions have become a bit too used to this "cash cow" of sorts. They go on strike (see the link above) and it takes multiple weeks for a judge to warn the union that the action is illegal. What? Yup. It took weeks for a warning. No penalty. Zip. Nada. Nil. The unions would be a little less comfortable if you stuck them with a fine, and reminded them what their job is, and who they represent. And don't be slow about it either.
3- Lump Bad Students with Bad Teachers - The possibly most controversial alternative I can think of. Take those students who don't give a rat's ass about school, and give them to the teachers who don't teach. Instead of having those kids disrupt the learning of others by taking up the time of other teachers, and just be nuisances in general, let them waste the time of a teacher who won't teach in a classroom of like-minded kids. You can lead a horse to water, but you can't make it drink. Don't leave it there until it drinks....most will die of thirst before they drink. And, with any luck, the teacher will quit. Until then, you've just killed two birds with one stone. Possibly three; you might get less complaints too. Meaning your school does better, meaning....more money. Eh?

Don't punish those who truly wish to learn in an attempt to make everybody have the same score or whatever.

As I conclude, I'm left with other thoughts about having too many administrators, the school boards, and student rights. But that's for another time.



  1. My LA teacher just got laid off (she is teaching until the end of the year) while my health teacher is a flaccid administrator who enjoys vindicating her least favorite students, who has tenure, despite being a total *Gratuitous swear words I refuse to put in a public place*. Teachers Unions aren't too powerful, we just need a complaint system that does something, each student can submit a report, favorable or unfavorable, if a teacher gets X amount of unfavorables they get fired, on the other hand favorables cancel out 2 unfavorables, and earn the teacher rewards.

  2. That's actually a great solution. I can't believe that my LA teacher is being laid off too; I mean, yes, she takes a bunch of crap, but that's all in jest. In truth, she's a much better teacher than any of the others I have in mind...

    I give you karma points for your alternative. [reference]Now just use the decision making model to figure out some more and evaluate them.[/reference] ;)

  3. NOOOOOOOO, how could you quote our health book? Rex, I think it scores 2 on suitability, feasability, and flexibility. ;)

  4. PINGAS This is quite an interesting article. I have multiple teachers who are still employed because of their very extensive careers. KING'S A BEAST

  5. I like how Roi and Brant act as if they have different LA teachers. I do agree with you king in that we need to be able to fire bad teachers, but senior teachers should get top priority over jobs (what if Schmitz or Pounder got laid off because they got the short straw).

  6. @Eamon- I like how you try to use a pseudonym in the beginning, then forget to use it again later XP

    And, I am not advocating firing senior teachers. Just the incompetent ones. Schmitz + Pounder are far from incompetent, what school would fire them?