In Public Schools

from the "outside" looking "in"


Posted by Admin On March - 28 - 2011



While its difficult to measure the effects of bitter battles on the education of students, you can measure the differences in the educational growth in areas where there are union contract negotiations compared to districts where there are no contract negotiations or union. Logically, unrest and dissention would promote a lack of focus on the true problem, the education of the students. It splits people up into camps and the corporation can’t achieve educational progress because neither camp will give into the other. Often, the student finds himself much like a child in a bitter divorce.

Wisconsin, a state that has active union members up in arms due to the cancellation of collective bargaining rights, has effectively taken the voice away from the union. While some say that the step was necessary, taking a closer look is also mandatory before making a judgment.  A study in 2009 conducted by the National Assessment of Educational Progress (NAEP) compared scores for students in various states. The study includes only non-chartered schools and examines the scores for math and reading for grades 4 and 8. In states with binding teacher contracts, the math and reading scores were higher for the states that had binding teacher contracts. While they were higher for by only a few points in each area, they were higher in all areas for both grade levels.

 If you simply looked at the state rankings for states that offer no union contract, you’d find that of the ten, only one ranks above the median and seven of the states, Georgia, Arkansas, South Carolina, Arizona, Alabama, Louisiana and Mississippi are in the bottom 15. Massachusetts, the state that ranked highest, has one of the strongest unions. While the study doesn’t include racial background of the classes, economic levels of the population or any other factors, it does reflect that overall, a school system that allows unions doesn’t affect the performance levels of students. 

It would be extremely difficult for anyone to measure the effect of the unrest and public dissention on the students. One would have to know where and when the next union outcry would come and begin the study before it occurred to have a basis for analysis. One thing is clear; teachers know what goes on in the classroom better than anyone else does. Giving them a voice in the operation is valuable and often the union dissent is all about maintaining that voice.  

It seems logical that employees who feel comfortable and appreciated will perform better. Better teacher performance means a better educational process for the student. If a parent or teacher is unhappy with the schools, students feel the effects of it. Teachers constantly in a flux over whether they’ll have a job the following year or whether a more administratively popular teacher will replace them. Unions prevent this type of selective hiring and firing based on cronyism.

Unions do procure higher wages for teachers and often the increased wage will bring the best of the best to the corporation. While most teachers are in the position because they simply love teaching, each still has to feed their family, pay back student loans and often provide classroom supplies. There should be adequate compensation. A teacher that has a choice of teaching in a higher paid position or lower one, with all other things being equal, will normally take the higher paid position. Unless there’s a matter of relocation or situation, the increase in income would draw almost any qualified person.

Teachers care what occurs in their schools. Some want union power simply for the power itself but in most cases, teachers want what’s right for the student. Recently the teacher’s ability to invoke discipline has fallen to the wayside with parental suit always lurking in the shadows. Removing the union from the picture or the ability to collectively bargain, would remove any power from the teacher. The fear is that with the lack of power comes the lack of desire to effect change. Powerless individuals travel with the pack for safety and fail to become innovators, something that our educational system needs right now.

The unrest and disputes do disrupt the educational process. The question is, are they necessary for a better teaching situation. Is it important for teachers to maintain some control over their destiny or simply leave all the decision making to the school board? The study shows that collective bargaining brought better teaching. In the long run, the effort for teachers to maintain some power through the union may be the right move.

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8 Responses to “Unions”

  1. If only I had been able to take time off work paid when I had my little ones! This may be a little bit late in the coming I do think!

  2. Loved all the opinions expressed here! :)

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