March 11 2010
More Blame for Unions that Block Reform
Vicki E. Alger, Ph.D
Teachers unions protect bad teachers, stifle reform, and hurt students' education in USA Today's opinion. They're not alone.
In recent weeks, Time, the Economist, the Los Angeles Times, and others have expressed frustration (and outrage) at union leadership's efforts to block common-sense reforms. Even President Obama and U.S Secretary of Education Arne Duncan praised a Rhode Island school district superintendent for firing the entire staff at a local failing high school because of over-the-top union demands. As USA Today says:
At this time of high unemployment, one group of professionals has no shortage of job security: bad teachers.... Nationwide, 2% or fewer teachers are ever fired or fail to have their contracts renewed because of poor performance. Among tenured teachers - those who get job security, typically after two or three years of satisfactory performance - there are often no dismissals at all, according to the U.S. Education Department.
Union leadership is not only contending with seemingly eroding public support but support from its own members as well. According to Education Week, there is a generational divide between veteran teachers and newcomers:
Early-career teachers' commitment to the union is tentative at best. Many are not even sure they need a union. Frequently, they say that the uniform pay and standardized practices embodied in contracts limit individual initiative and reinforce mediocre performance. They especially resent paying dues to an organization that they suspect defends poor teachers.