Attacks on tenure build union’s base

Unions fear lost membership more than lost teacher tenure, writes Doug Tuthill, a former teachers’ union president who now runs Florida’s Tax Credit Scholarship program, on redefinED.

. . . when I was a union president, I knew that battles over tenure were great for business. That’s because teacher unions are in the business of selling protection, and anything that causes teachers to experience more job-related fear or insecurity increases union membership. I could never say so publicly, but the elimination of tenure would mean the union contract would be the only protection teachers had. That’s amounts to a full employment act for unions.

I had a similar attitude toward merit pay. Many teachers genuinely don’t think it’s possible to create a one-size-fits-all merit pay plan that is fair. Consequently merit pay proposals create fear and insecurity and also increase union membership.

Teacher unions fear vouchers, charters and virtual schools, because teachers aren’t likely to be unionized, he writes. Trying to organize teachers in a bunch of small, independent schools wouldn’t be worth the cost.

Therefore FEA (Florida Education Association) sees spending money to prevent teachers and parents from creating learning options outside the control of school boards and teachers unions as the smarter business move.

“With state legislatures pushing tenure and merit pay proposals this spring, teacher unions will be flush with cash over the next few years and highly resistant to change, Tuthill concludes.

Via Education Intelligence Agency’s Communique.

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  1. So…

    Who will speak up for us?

    Granted, I’m tired of poor teachers getting such strong support from unions. Not explicitly all the time, but by protecting all of us it has happened.

    On other blogs, unions and quantifying teacher’s value to a school have been common topics. I’m stunned to see over and over how difficult of a question this is for everyone to wrestle with.

    No easy answers, but if this article is correct, then we will soon see what happens when the union as a double edge sword becomes dull.

  2. Well said, Jim. Also, who will speak up for kids? I’m tired of unions protecting their base that translates into money and power for them. On the other side we see a bloated bureaucracy protecting inept administrators and pushing educational decisions down from the top.

    What about the kids? Who talks about what is best for them? Research tells us clearly what practices work best for school transformation. Let’s support good principals who empower teachers to collectively implement programs and strategies that produce increased learning.

    Teachers are the experts. Get out of their way and let them do their job!

  3. I am strongly of the opinion that ALL public-sector unions, at all levels of government, should be illegal. There is a fundamental conflict of interest and no market controls. The unions pour money and volunteers into electing politicians who will vote for the political agenda of the unions. I’m not sure if it’s still there, but the front page of the AFSCME website explicitly stated this as their primary objective during the last election cycle.

    It’s not about the kids; that’s just a meaningless slogan used to justify ever-larger floods of money. It’s about jobs for adults. In a district with high sports participation, suggested that each season of a school sport should count as one semester of PE, as it did when my husband was in school, and there was an immediate HOWL of outrage; “then we wouldn’t need as many PE teachers!”
    The fact that athletes would then have room in their schedules for another academic class or music was irrelevant.

    Read the comments on the article on this site about parent triggers; the argument that kids shouldn’t be able to escape public schools, no matter how awful, is strongly stated. It’s the mindset that the public schools own the kids, even if they aren’t safe or effective.It’s the same argument that’s made for any charters or vouchers – creaming – because not all parents are willing to commit to charter rules or because there aren’t enough placements for all, no kids should have the option. The same argument is often made for middle-class kids in lower SES schools and for gifted kids in regular schools/classes; they should stay because of their perceived value to other kids. That’s flat-out wrong and unfair.

  4. Michael E. Lopez says:

    So the people who are supposed to speak for children are their parents.

    As for the question of who will speak for “the children”, to the extent that they need some sort of collective representation I suppose it would be “the parents.”

    Frankly, I don’t see how anyone else can have the job. Politicians — and any other public employee or official, really — need to speak for “the citizens”, not “the children.” There may be cases where guardians/attorneys are appointed for children, but those seem like obvious outliers from questions of who will represent the voices of the collective children in debates over educational policy.

    I also find the notion that people need to “get out of the way” of teachers, who are supposed to be experts, to be somewhat unsettling.

    Teachers don’t need people to get out of the way. They may need specific, obstructing individuals to get out of the way, but the job of the teacher should be to work with parents towards outcomes that the parents — as the voices of the children per my discussion above — want.

    Now, to a certain extent “the children” don’t need someone to be their voice. Past say, 7th grade maybe (perhaps earlier) the children can be their own damn voice, at least to the extent that they might have something to say about what they want to learn/what they feel they need to accomplish.

    But there’s nothing wrong with the unions representing teacher interests: that’s what they are supposed to do and we should find it surprising and alarming if anyone thinks that they should be doing anything else.

  5. Bill Leonard says:

    Who will speak up for us, the taxpayers, Mr. Ellis? Your beloved teacher’s union, which operates on a 1930s factory floor paradigm, and whose standard response to everything is, trust us and give us more money? I don’t think so.

    I believe we will see real improvement in our public schools when:

    1. We can speak bluntly, not in politically correct platitudes, about the role of parents in their children’s education — including blunt talk about the cultural differences that frankly drive much of the gap between white and Asian kids and everyone else in this country; and,

    2. When parents have full and unrestricted access to vouchers, home-schooling, charter schools and any other mode that competes with public schools; and,

    3. When teachers and administrators, who harp on about how professional they are start acting like professionials in the private sector: that is, they step up and do their jobs, and they take their chances with cutbacks, layoffs and at-will hire and dismiss, just every other professional in the private sector; and,

    4. When public schools are allowed to remove the thugs and trouble makers from the classroom — yes, warehousing ’em if need be, but stop allowing them to prevent other kids from learning — and to stop the “mainstreaming” nonsense so that kids with serious mental and/or physical problems no longer de factor drive the pace and agenda of the classrooms they’re assigned.

    Until then, sadly, nothing much will change. And, sadly, I seriously doubt any of the four elements I’ve listed will come to pass anytime soon — almost certainly not in my lifetime.

  6. Mike Curtis says:

    Blaming teachers’ unions for harboring poor teachers is like blaming government sponsored Special Education programs for awarding high school diplomas to students who can’t read them.

    As long as being a hair triggered, emotionally retarded, sociopathic personality is considered a disability, then public school teachers will be legally bound to promote compassion and support for said student. We do, after all, ride for the brand. The fact that said student could cause damage or harm to the other “neuro-typical” students in the same classroom does not matter until that student does what every sensible teacher expected, but was legally prevented from halting.

    Mr. Leonard,
    I wholeheartedly agree with your sentiments towards removing thugs and troublemakers from the “mainstream.” Union members are also teachers who are plagued by being forced to provide a safe and comfortable learning environment for their students in the face of people who believe the public school system is a dumping ground for juvenile misfits, malcontents and future cellmates.

    For teachers, union membership is a collaborative approach to a profession that is under attack by folks who don’t understand that teachers and parents are on the same side.