Page 1 of 2 12 LastLast
Results 1 to 15 of 17

Thread: Unions and Public School Education

  1. #1
    Join Date
    Nov 2005
    Location
    Wayland MA
    Posts
    1,431

    Default Unions and Public School Education

    The role that teacher unions play in education is a complex one. Certainly, they can be easy to decry from time to time, but just as certainly, they aren't usually deserving of that treatment. More broadly, it is inconsistent to favor freedom, democracy, and capitalism but rail against the existence of unions.

    To those doing the decrying, and to those like me simply interested in improving the quality of public school education, I ask a simple set of related questions:

    Q: What do our teachers do well?
    Q: What constructive suggestions do you have for where *and* how to improve both the art and business of teaching?
    By law, teachers have the right to unionize. In practice, Wayland teachers serve our children far better than the letter of their contract requires. And as to the cost of this service, while fully appreciating the financial pressures we all face, there are few expenditures of my family's funds that I value more than contributing to the livelihood of these teachers and therefore to the development of my children in particular and Wayland's children in general.

  2. #2
    Join Date
    Mar 2008
    Location
    Wayland MA 463 Old Conn Path
    Posts
    382

    Question Is unionization forced upon our teachers?

    Quote Originally Posted by Jeff Dieffenbach View Post
    By law, teachers have the right to unionize.
    Correct; teachers have a right to unionize but do they have a real choice NOT to unionize when they are hired?

    Has any teacher been hired that has NOT joined the union or tried NOT to join the union?

    What would happen if a teacher tried NOT to join the union or tried to exit from the union after employment... that is; what would happen to the teacher?

    One teacher I've spoken with told me that <he/she - to protect the innocent> doesn't like unionization and that unionization protects mediocrity.

    What 'sayith' you Jeff?

  3. #3
    Join Date
    Nov 2005
    Location
    Wayland MA
    Posts
    1,431

    Default

    Good question, I don't know if teachers are forced in fact or practice to join the union.

  4. #4
    Join Date
    Mar 2008
    Location
    Wayland, MA
    Posts
    52

    Default Union membership is required for MA public school teachers

    I believe that MA teachers' union is "closed shop", meaning teachers are required to join the union. Some states like Texas are "open shop", meaning teachers can chose to be represented by the state union.

  5. #5
    Join Date
    Nov 2005
    Location
    Wayland MA
    Posts
    1,431

    Default

    A Wayland teacher informs me that while most teachers choose to join the union, they are not obligated to and a few do not.

  6. #6
    Join Date
    Mar 2008
    Location
    Wayland, MA
    Posts
    52

    Default Hummmm

    I would like to find out more about this. Maybe I'll ask the union itself! I have a feeling that the teachers are required to pay union dues whether or not they choose to be a member.

  7. #7
    Join Date
    Nov 2005
    Location
    Wayland MA
    Posts
    1,431

    Default

    A Brighton charter school's teachers have formed a union. Details posted on the charter school thread here.
    Last edited by Jeff Dieffenbach; 03-13-2009 at 05:12 PM. Reason: Corrected URL

  8. #8
    Join Date
    Mar 2008
    Location
    Wayland MA 463 Old Conn Path
    Posts
    382

    Default So So Sorry

    Quote Originally Posted by Jeff Dieffenbach View Post
    A Brighton charter school's teachers have formed a union. Details posted on the charter school thread here.
    I am truly sorry for that Brighton charter school.

  9. #9
    Join Date
    Nov 2005
    Location
    Wayland MA
    Posts
    1,431

    Default

    Alan, who exactly are you sorry for? [grin]

    The teachers? Apparently, 95% of them voted to unionize. The board and administrators? In Wayland, we cope. The children and families? Does that mean you feel sorry for the children and families in public schools?

    Some might prefer not to have public school unions, but unless one argues in favor of making unions illegal, it's not quite clear how one would go about de-unionizing. In fact, (unlikely) government legislation of this type strikes me as a vote in favor of more government, in this case undermining the idea of freedom of assembly.

    Happy Thanksgiving!

  10. #10
    Join Date
    Mar 2008
    Location
    Wayland MA 463 Old Conn Path
    Posts
    382

    Default Should I be complaining?

    Jeff, you always cut right to the point. Thats what I like about you.

    And you are right, why should I be facetious about a charter school forming a union. They have a right to do that and evidently with 95% voting yes they certainly must have wanted it.

    Do you know what problem those teachers were trying to solve by forming a union? Why do you think it was to their advantage?

    From what I read, school systems cannot engage in merit pay or pay based on supply and demand - aren't these restrictions for the teachers?

    When I was a HS teacher I didn't want to join the union and was forced into it (or should I say strongly encouraged to do so). 4 years later when I left for industry I was also leaving behind that union. Never looked back once.

    I suppose I was being facetious.

  11. #11
    Join Date
    Nov 2005
    Location
    Wayland MA
    Posts
    1,431

    Default

    Alan, I've got no objection to facetious from time to time, as long as it's not mean-spirited. Your post did not come across to me as mean-spirited.

    Unions are like lawyers, I guess--everyone likes to say they hate them ... until they need one. [grin]

  12. #12
    Join Date
    Nov 2005
    Location
    Wayland MA
    Posts
    1,431

    Default

    An August 26 Boston Globe editorial discussed nonprofit Mass Insight Education and Research Institute's program to "recruit, train, and reward teachers for Advanced Placement classes in math, science, and English at 10 local high schools." The editorial raised the question of merit pay for teachers and the Massachusetts Teachers Association's (MTA) rejection of the program.

    Three letters in today's (8/29) Globe take the MTA's side in the "debate."[1] [2] [3]

    Before I address the points raised in those letters, it's worth a brief digression into two key differences between public schools and businesses. One, public schools don't have the ability to directly generate revenue by virtue of the "product" (education) that they "sell." Two, public schools are required to "produce" (educate) every "product" (child) who shows up at the door. Given that these differences exist, it's at least possible that there might be a difference in the nature of education and business workforces with respect to the feasibility of merit pay.

    While most if not all government workforces are unionized, unions certainly aren't foreign to businesses, so the difference, if any, must be more subtle than union/non-union. The "no merit pay" arguments raised in general and by the three letters to the editor tend to be along the following lines.

    1. Teachers choose their profession for reasons other than money.

    2. Given that a student's outcome on any particular test is really the culmination of that student's experience not only with his or her current teacher but also all of the teachers that he or she previously had, it's not clear who should receive the merit pay.

    3. Merit pay will disrupt the collegiality of the school setting.

    Let's tackle these one at a time.

    1. People in all fields (including teaching) choose those fields for a myriad of reasons, financial reasons among them. As someone who's been involved with five labor negotiations in Wayland, I can certainly attest that our teachers put in a spirited effort to increase their pay. And there's nothing wrong with that, whether in union or non-union settings. Money, for all its baggage, is among civilization's best inventions. One can't imagine capitalism, democracy, and freedom without it.

      It is common to bemoan low teacher salaries. And while a single Wayland teacher's salary (2005 average: $67k) might not be enough to afford Wayland, a household with two teachers is (Wayland's average income as reported on tax forms, which includes single and joint filers, was $220k in 2005; the median was likely significantly lower). And in a situation where a teacher lives in a neighboring town, the financial picture for the teacher only improves (Natick's average income is $85k).

    2. Businesses face the same challenge with respect to compensating some employees for the work of others. Commissions are typically paid to sales people but not warehouse workers, even though the business couldn't exist without the latter. And commissions are sometimes paid to a new sales person for the efforts of the employee that the new person replaced.

      In education, merit pay could be awarded across subjects and grade levels to mitigate this effect. Or merit pay could even be distributed evenly across all teachers as long as targeted positive outcomes are achieved.

    3. Collegiality in the workplace is no less important than it is in schools. And businesses have successfully been awarding bonuses for decades if not centuries. Sure, it's no fun to learn that a colleague earns more than you do, but if that earning is deserved, it should serve as an incentive to up your own game. And shared merit pay makes this point moot.

    Schools and businesses are intrinsically different. But I'm not convinced that those differences are sufficient to rule out consideration of merit pay in the former. I'm interested to know what others think on this subject.

  13. #13
    Join Date
    Nov 2005
    Posts
    726

    Default Just curious...

    Are any of the principals or assistant principals members of the teachers' union?

  14. #14
    Join Date
    Nov 2005
    Location
    Wayland MA
    Posts
    1,431

    Default

    No. I may be missing a person/position or two, but the following WPS employees are not union members.

    • Superintendent
    • Assistant Superintendent
    • Director of Student Services
    • Technology Director
    • METCO Director
    • Athletic Director
    • School Business Administrator
    • Facilities Director
    • Principals
    • Assistant Principals
    • HS Dean of Students
    • Central office staff

    Curriculum and department heads are union members, I believe.

  15. #15
    Join Date
    Nov 2005
    Posts
    726

    Default

    Quote Originally Posted by Jeff Dieffenbach View Post

    While most if not all government workforces are unionized, unions certainly aren't foreign to businesses, so the difference, if any, must be more subtle than union/non-union. The "no merit pay" arguments raised in general and by the three letters to the editor tend to be along the following lines.

    1. Teachers choose their profession for reasons other than money.

    2. Given that a student's outcome on any particular test is really the culmination of that student's experience not only with his or her current teacher but also all of the teachers that he or she previously had, it's not clear who should receive the merit pay.

    3. Merit pay will disrupt the collegiality of the school setting.
    I see merit in merit pay. In response to the argument that "a student's outcome on any particular test is really the culmination of that student's experience not only with his or her current teacher but also all of the teachers that he or she previously had, [so] it's not clear who should receive the merit pay", I note that we needn't be overly simplistic in determining how well a teacher performed (e.g., averaging end of year test schools). Can we not, for example, compare end of year performance to end of prior year to determine the impact of a teacher?

    But as important than the ability to reward good teachers, I'd argue, is the ability to weed out those who are not so good (which would implicitly allow us to reward the good ones more, with or without explicit merit pay).

Tags for this Thread

Bookmarks

Posting Permissions

  • You may not post new threads
  • You may not post replies
  • You may not post attachments
  • You may not edit your posts
  •