Friday, August 3, 2012

Giving the Union Too Much Credit

It appears as though the general public, or at least those opposed to public education, seem to ascribe unparalleled amounts of power to the teachers unions. When it comes to education reform, the National Education Association, American Federation of Teachers, and their local affiliates are public enemy number one. Many believe that the unions actually run and control the schools, therefore making them responsible for all shortcomings. Whether it's a district adopting a controversial math curriculum or some school not allowing staff to provide sunscreen to students, you can bet that the union will be blamed for it. 

I believe that this is one of the biggest myths out there about public education. Based on my experience, the union is there to support and improve the working conditions of its members. They negotiate wages and benefits and help prevent teachers from being dismissed for improper reasons. Though they may provide advice on other matters, none of it is binding, and they usually refrain from getting too involved in the intricacies of teaching. When it comes to creating curriculum, hiring teachers, training teachers, selecting textbooks, etc., the union has little to no say.  Those decisions are usually made at the district or state level. If the union does have any say in those matters, it's a plea for current teachers to be included in the decision-making process. In my opinion, decisions pertaining to curriculum, textbooks, pedagogy, etc. have a greater impact on educational outcomes than things in which the unions typically involve themselves, so unions cannot be the primary source of public education's problems.

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