I’m going to put this out there up front: I hate teachers’ unions.
From my experience, “Waiting For Superman” does not exaggerate or misconstrue the role that unions play in hindering education reform. I have no problem with Randi Weingarten coming off as the enemy.
I’ll stop for a moment and acknowledge that unions do play a necessary role in advocating for quality of teaching life; they’ve negotiated important things like restrictions on the number of different courses a high school teacher might have to teach and the number of teacher planning days per quarter. But that’s about it.
Otherwise, unions are the main reason we still have so many bad teachers in the classroom. That’s just what happens when organizations exist to protect jobs, and it’s tragic that we need unions at all – we should prioritize our children and their education so highly that teachers receive the same respect as doctors and lawyers and never have to worry about mistreatment at the hands of school officials. Unfortunately, this is the United States, not South Korea or any one of many other countries where teachers are highly respected and education highly prioritized.
I’m talking about unions today because George Parker, the president of the Washington Teachers’ Union for the last five years, lost his re-election bid yesterday in a runoff vote to the WTU’s General Vice President Nathan Saunders. It’s rare that I agree with the Washington Post’s coverage of something enough to quote directly from the article, but I will do so here:
“It was just eight months ago that the District and the union reached agreement on a game-changing contract that took two-and-a-half years and the services of a mediator to finalize. The pact gave teachers a 21 percent raise over five years – with additional money available through a performance pay system – but also weakened seniority and other traditional job protections.
“With his defeat by a margin of 556 to 480, Parker joins [former Chancellor] Michelle Rhee and Mayor Adrian M. Fenty (D) as the third major figure to effectively be forced from office by political fallout from the 2007-2010 school-reform movement.”
The full article is here: http://www.washingtonpost.com/wp-dyn/content/article/2010/11/30/AR2010113006044.html
Now, I didn’t like George Parker. The above-mentioned mediator was necessary because he and the WTU fought so hard against Rhee’s contract proposals, the most significant of which essentially translated in – oh no! – greater chance of teachers getting fired for not being good teachers. But when compared with Nathan Saunders, he’s someone I will miss. The Post continues:
“Saunders… charged in his campaign that Parker gave up too much to Rhee at the bargaining table, with contract provisions that include more latitude for principals in hiring decisions. He also said Parker did too little to prevent Rhee’s launch of IMPACT, the assessment system that dramatically shifted the way teachers are evaluated.”
And, further on:
“’The teachers are very clear about what they want,’ Saunders said. ‘Clearly this is a race about job security and about IMPACT.’”
I’m so glad that, once again, a major decision is about adults rather than kids.