Home > Uncategorized > In a World With No Teacher Unions…

In a World With No Teacher Unions…

Over at League of Ordinary Gentlemen E.D. Kain asks:

So let’s assume for a moment that teacher unions as they currently exist were to become extinct. This would open many reform doors not now available. The question I have is this: what replaces unions to give workers voice? Broadening the scope somewhat, what replaces unions in the economy as a whole in giving workers voice and agency?

So what would this world look like? Here are some ways I think education in this world could turn out.

1. Teacher pay would drop a lot, especially at first. If you look at other fields were unions were lost, wages usually drop. Without the ability to collectively bargain teachers would not have the power to demand higher wages.  With the current budget balancing measures we have seen in Washington and around the states, it wouldn’t be any surprise to see teacher pay be cut and cut big (including cutting pensions and health care).  This, everybody for themselves attitude, would hurt the teaching profession. The teaching profession should be a job focused on community and collaboration, not competition. Groups like Michelle Rhee’s Students First do want to pay teachers more, but it would be based off of test scores.

2. Next, you would see more push for merit pay.  The best teachers always have the students with the best test scores, right?  This would lead to more evaluation based on standardized tests, which would lead to curriculum narrowing by many teachers (Got to get that bonus money).  If our evaluations drive how we hire and pay teachers, then we would have a very similar teacher force, that basically could teach off a script.  We would have less innovation in our education field and many teachers just playing it safe to keep jobs and get those high test scores. (On merit pay, I always like this little thought experiment.  Imagine that members of Congress were payed based on merit pay, based on how many laws get passed.  Do you think that this would improve how Congress works.  Yes, they would pass more laws, but would they be good laws or just ones passed in order to get that bonus.)

I think that these would be the two main changes that you would see.  An adjustment to how we compensate our teachers, and an increase in dependence on test scores to evaluate teachers.

What this is is the deskilling of the teaching profession.  A lot of people who have not taught believe that teaching is not really that hard.  For example, think about people who have worked in other professions and then want to teach.  Knowing content is important, but I don’t think that it is the most important thing that a teacher must know.  How to teach is way more important.  Just because somebody knows a lot about history does not mean they can teach it.  Do they know how to teach to students with special needs?  Do they know about differentiating instruction?  Teaching should be more than just lecture and worksheets.  Teachers should have a philosophy on how they teach and why they do it this way.  It should be more than this is how I was taught.  There needs to be purpose in our actions as teachers.

I’m sure that E.D. is going to post something more about this, but I would like to hear what reforms besides more standardized tests, merit pay, and voucher programs does he think would pass in a world without teacher unions?

Tomorrow I am going to post on why I became a teacher and about the way I teach and why I do it.  I’d love to here some all y’alls comments on these topics.

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Categories: Uncategorized
  1. Dan
    05/26/2011 at 9:33 pm

    To imagine what a world without teachers unions would look like, look at what’s happened in states that have already weakened unions through right-to-work laws. With no organized entity advocating for teachers’ rights (not to mention lack of collective bargaining), attrition rises and job security dwindles. Charter schools and alternative certification programs fill the void left by exiting teachers, making teachers cheaper and more easily replaceable. I pass a billboard advertising one of these alt-cert programs every day on my way to work that says, in big brown letters, “Want to teach? When can you start?” (which is particularly embarrassing given the massive cuts the state government has imposed on schools). To answer Kain’s question, whatever replaces unions is ugly, and doesn’t do much to support teachers’ needs or give them a voice.

    I think an even bigger impact of busting teachers unions and other public sector unions would be the weakening of the Democratic party: http://motherjones.com/politics/2011/04/scott-walker-defunding-democratic-donors

  2. 05/26/2011 at 11:55 pm

    I think I might write something about teacher unions and the Democratic party tomorrow or this weekend. I’ve had some thoughts about it that have been brewing for a bit.

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