Nervous Time for the Teachers Unions

Teacher union legal teams gear up for battles all over the country as union power is threatened.

With the recent changing of the political guard in statehouses across the country, teachers unions appear to be in for a rough ride. As one state succeeds in passing reform legislation, another state is encouraged to follow suit and perhaps go one step further.

Last week, the New York Times reported “Governors in Florida, Idaho, Indiana, Nevada and New Jersey have called for the elimination or dismantling of tenure. As state legislatures convene this winter, anti-tenure bills are being written in those states and others. Their chances of passing have risen because of crushing state budget deficits that have put teachers’ unions on the defensive.” Mike Petrilli, Vice President for National Programs and Policy at the Thomas B. Fordham Institute adds “These new Republican governors are all trying to outreform one another.”

Tenure laws, first passed over a hundred years ago, were meant to protect teachers from cronyism or discrimination over sex or political persuasion. However, the anachronistic system has morphed into a monster where once tenured, it is virtually impossible to fire a teacher, no matter how incompetent they are. In most states, this has been a rubber stamp process. Thus after two or three years in the classroom, a twenty-something teacher has a job for life even if they are incompetent.

Education Week’s, “Teachers’ Unions on Defensive as GOP Lawmakers Flex Their Muscles” tells us amongst other things that in Alabama, courtesy of SB 2, it is now illegal for the government to deduct union dues from workers’ paychecks. Hence, it would be up to teachers themselves to send the union their dues money. Still needing the government to be their bagman, the Alabama Education Association, state affiliate of mega-union National Education Association, is planning to appeal the decision.

In Tennessee, a blockbuster piece of legislation has been drafted that goes all the way. If passed, HB 130 would eliminate collective bargaining for teachers in the state, thus neutering the Tennessee Education Association. Not surprisingly, the TEA website informs us that the bill is anti-teacher. But it really is anti-collective bargaining and pro-teacher because it would give educators the right to individually negotiate their own contracts. Clearly, this proposed law would be a boon for good teachers, but could be a problem for the mediocre and inept.

These reform measures have one important common element: they empower the individual teacher and don’t treat them as part of a unified one-size-fits-all blob. As such, teachers will be viewed as professionals and not members of an industrial type union.

So expect to see the teacher unions’ legal machines go into overdrive in the months to come; liberated educators are the last thing they want. As such, the unions will fight to their extinction to maintain control over America’s teachers.

About the author: Larry Sand is the president of the non-profit California Teachers Empowerment Network – a non-partisan,non-political group dedicated to providing teachers with reliable and balanced information about professional affiliations and positions on educational issues.

2 replies
  1. James77777 says:

    In IL, any teacher may be removed in 90 days after a process. That is a fact which makes me question every other fact you have in this article. Schools regularly fire all non-tenured (1,2,3 years of service)whether they are good or bad to keep salaries low. End tenure and probationary certificates will be passed out like candy so any crony can draw a check until a better job can be found for him/her sleeping in a truck in a month or so. Having your job threatened by the political winds does not motivate teachers to pay to acquire advanced degrees that everyone demands for teachers. I personally know of several people in college who dropped teaching for another field. Again there will be a teacher shortage. I cannot tell you how many teachers that told me they welcomed retirement because of burn out and that was 15 years ago. In more recent years, I cannot count how many retired with a reduced pension to change jobs. Under conditions BEFORE the crisis, burn out for regular education teachers was 5 years.

  2. Larry Sand says:

    James, in your first sentence, do you mean tenured or non-tenured? You say “process”; so I assume you mean tenured. Yes, James, there is a process but typically it is so onerous that principals frequently don’t bother with it.

    Then you say, “Schools regularly fire all non-tenured (1,2,3 years of service) whether they are good or bad to keep salaries low.” New teachers make less than everyone else. Why would they fire them to keep salaries low? By firing them, average salaries rise.

    Then you say, “tenure and probationary certificates will be passed out like candy so any crony can draw a check until a better job can be found for him/her sleeping in a truck in a month or so.” Can you please explain this? Doesn’t IL have a credentialing process? If so, why would certificates be “passed out like candy?”

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