Teacher Unions: Helpful or Hindrance? By: Megan Orvis and Jenna Pardo
Why teachers unions are a hindrance to the Education system
An introduction to the reasons unions should take a step back
Lack of adaptability
Lack of positive correlation between unions and student achievement
Large amount of money spent on liberal politics
The Long Reach of Teacher Unions
It was found that in the 2007-08 election, cycle the NEA spent more than $56.3 million to come in as the first place group. This large amount of spending allows the NEA to become involved in a wide variety of campaigns, and be effective. Because the NEA can gather and distribute so much money on a national level, the NEA easily overruns campaigns in small markets. As the money trail is followed in this report, one can see a direct link between campaign contributions and favors as follow-ups.
Antonucci, M. (2010). The Long Reach of Teachers Unions. Education Next , 10(4). Retrieved on-line: http://educationnext.org/the-long-reach-of-teachers-unions/
Discussion point: The large amount of money being spent on liberal politics should be a concern to those looking for less political involvement in education. How much influence should politicians have over the classroom?
Strong unions shape district policy
The study completed by Strunk and Grissom examined the strength of teacher ’s unions as correlated with the amount of flexibility held by the administration, as determined by the school board. It was found that stronger unions are better able to negotiate contracts that constrain districts’ flexibility in policy setting, than districts with weaker unions
Strunk, K. O., & Grissom, J. A. (2010). Do Strong Unions Shape District Policies? Collective Bargaining, Teacher Contract Restrictiveness, and the Political Power of Teachers' Unions. Educational Evaluation and Policy Analysis , 32(3), 389-406. Retrieved from EBSCO host .
Discussion point: Here is where politics begins to intrude on the classroom. When school boards are controlled by those chosen by the union, are teacher allowed to be true professionals?
The effects of teachers unions on American education
Unions are out to reduce the competition factor in the system. They oppose charter schools, voucher programs, and tax credits that give families an easier way to attend non union schools.
Coulson, A.J. (2010).The Effects of Teachers Unions on American Education. Cato Journal 30 (1) 155-167. Retrieved from JSTOR.
Discussion point: Loss of power is to be avoided and therefore should the unions be believed when they say these programs are not good for students or teachers? Like much of what politicians say, it must be examined from both sides.
These data sets covered the years 1993 to 2007. The author found that mandatory collective bargaining laws lead to an increase in SAT scores, a decrease in high school graduation rates, and no effect on per-pupil expenditures. These findings suggest that more empirical evidence should be used to develop American education policy.
Lindy, B.A. (2011) The Impact of Teacher Collective Bargaining Laws on Student Achievement: Evidence from a New Mexico Natural Experiment. The Yale Law Journal,
Discussion point: There is evidence to point out that unions are not helping graduation rates, or those students in need of extra help. This could be due to the lack of adaptability of the unions and the restrictions they place on administration and teachers.
A natural experiment in New Mexico finds that unions do not help graduation rates
+ = Graduation Rates
Teacher unions and the productivity of public schools.
Student background measures were entered into the production function to account for nonschool factors. It was found that students who were extremely above or below average nonunion schools are more productive by about 7 percent.
Eberts, Randall W. & Stone, Joe A. (1987). Teacher Unions and the Productivity of Public Schools. Industrial and Labor Relations Review , 40(3), 354-363. Retrieved from JSTOR.
Discussion point: While average students are doing well with unionized schools, those students who are above and below are not doing well. This could be a case of the benefit of using nontraditional methods to reach a greater number of students.
The future of teachers unions
The implication that the teacher union is a trade union, does not support the growth and development teachers are looking for from a professional body. Teacher unions are beyond reform as a body that speaks for the 3 million members.
Meyer, H-D. (2005). Profession or Entrepreneurs? The Market Faithful Raise Important Questions about the Future of Teacher Unions. American Journal of Education. 112 (1), 138-143. Retrieved from JSTOR .
Discussion point: As the teaching profession has changed over time, so does the body or union that represents the profession.
Unions are too politically connected
Politics and pupils; in a mayoral-controlled district, what or who comes first? Public education systems are formulated to strengthen communities and educate young citizens, but students in a mayoral-controlled district such as Washington, D.C. are directly affected by political conclusions.
Costello, M.T., (2011). Politics and pupils: How the conflict between the Washington Teacher ’s union and the Fenty administration impacted education reform in the District of Columbia . (Masters’ Thesis) Retrieved from ProQuest.
Discussion point: While unions fight for the teachers they may be fighting against student achievement. Again, how much influence should the politicians have over who is in the classroom and in charge of the schools?
Unions prohibit the removal of poor teachers
At the same time, the teachers' unions have become more and more powerful. In most states, after two or three years, teachers are given lifetime tenure. It is almost impossible to fire them. In New York City in 2008, three out of 30,000 tenured teachers were dismissed for cause.
Thomas, E., Wingert, P., Conant, E., & Register, S. (2010). Why we can't get rid of failing teachers. Newsweek , 155(11), 24-27. Retrieved from EBSCO host .
Discussion point: The major issue heard about in the media is the lack of easy removal of poor teachers, or the tenure system. After fighting for job security for so long this model is the one to be examined thoroughly.
Pro ’s to Teacher Unions:
1. Unions encourage teacher effectiveness:
“ Every student deserves to be inspired and challenged by an outstanding educator, not one who has lost interest in helping students succeed and is protected by rigid teacher tenure rules. The standards for effective teachers are raised. Moving forward, teachers are eligible for tenure after a minimum of five years and only if they score a four or a five on the evaluation for their most recent two years of teaching”.
Discussion: Do you feel that teacher unions establish high standards for teachers? Doesn’t requiring teachers to be the best they can be create a better education for students?
Teacher Unions are a big help…
2. Unions encourage partnerships between teachers:
“ Union leaders and other educational leaders, such as principals, superintendents and policymakers, to gain a clearer understanding of teachers' professional values, beliefs and needs in order to better engage and support teachers in their professional lives and that is done by teachers working together”.
Popiel, K.. Protection, voice, trust, and change: An exploration of active and inactive union member
decision-making. Ed.D. dissertation, Teachers College, Columbia University, United States –
New York. Retrieved July 30, 2011, from Dissertations & Theses: Full Text.(Publication No. AAT
Discussion: Teacher Unions ensure that bonds are formed between teachers. Wont this promote a better learning environment for students, because the partnership eliminates competitive edge between teachers?
3. Teacher unions encourage professionalism:
A study that found a correlation between unions and teacher professionalism identified the following, “that learning environment scores affected the morale of administrators more than teachers. Results will fill the gap between research and practice, suggesting a need for further knowledge on teachers' morale. Social change is accomplished through student achievement, a result of administrator/teacher collaboration and resultant increased morale. Social change might also occur if teachers had the option of belonging to a teachers' union in Ontario as in the United States”.
Berg, E.. Perceived effects of teachers' unions on administrators' and teachers' roles and morale. Ed.D.
dissertation, Walden University, United States -- Minnesota. Retrieved July 30, 2011, from
Dissertations & Theses: Full Text.(Publication No. AAT 3342493).
4. Teacher unions increase economy productivity :
“ Their product, education, enhances worker productivity and total output. If teachers are successful at their task of educating society's youth, their added value could be observed in society's production function. In a given state, gross state product (GSP) measures output from the use of capital and labor resources. By using GSP per employee as a measure of productivity, we find a negative correlation between GSP per employee and the percentage of unionized teachers within states where bargaining is permitted. Furthermore, we confirm a positive wage effect of teachers unions on state productivity”.
Pantuosco, L.J, & Ullrich, L.D. (2010). The impact of teachers unions on state level productivity. Journal of
Education Finance, 35(3), Retrieved from http://web.ebscohost. com.proxygw.wrlc.org/
Discussion: How can teacher unions positively affect the economy, if teachers just teach children, how does that contribute to society?
5. Teacher unions negotiate contracts to benefit teachers:
“ Some steps will be easier than others to implement, however teacher salary advancements and professional development are likely to be areas of interest for central office administrators and teacher union presidents for some time to come”.
Cosgrove, T.. Central office and union presidents' perspectives on course approvals for teachers' salary
advancement. Ed.D. dissertation, Fordham University, United States -- New York. Retrieved
July 30, 2011, from Dissertations & Theses: Full Text.(Publication No. AAT 3452785).
Discussion: Do you feel that teacher unions being involved in contract negotiating is a good idea? How could this be beneficial for teachers?
6. Tenure and Teacher Unions:
“ Only 58% received the job guarantee -- down from 89% last year and 97% four years ago. Teachers traditionally get tenure after their third year. Mayor Michael Bloomberg said the longer wait should send a message to parents that the city will permanently hire only the best teachers, and the teachers on probation could be among the best, with some work. Mr. Bloomberg's push to remake tenure is part of a larger quest to make it easier for the city to hire and fire teachers, only the best teachers”.
Lisa Fleisher. (2011, July 28). City News: Tenure Gets Tougher. Wall Street Journal (Eastern Edition), p. A.
21. Retrieved July 30, 2011, from ABI/INFORM Global. (Document ID: 2408926591).
Discussion: Should all teachers be qualified to receive tenure? Shouldn’ t they if they are sacraficing to teach children, its certainly not a job that everyone can do?
7. Unions protect jobs :
“ Today, the UFT and other teacher unions around the country continue to play important roles in protecting the rights of teachers, especially in the current climate of school reform. The union is thus necessary as a protection for teachers against the arbitrary exercise of power by heavy-handed administrators. In the school systems, as in city, state, and federal governments, checks and balances. Just as the executive, legislative, and judicial branches of government all act as checks on each other, we need checks and balances in our school systems. It is unwise to centralize all power in one person: the mayor. We need independent lay school boards to hire the superintendent and to hold open public discussions of administrative decisions, and we need independent teacher unions to assure that teachers' rights are protected, to sound the alarm against unwise policies, and to advocate on behalf of sound education policies, especially when administrators are non-educators”.
Ravitch, D. (2009). Why teacher unions are good for teachers- and the public. A Union of Professionals , 6 (7),
Retrieved from http://www.aft.org/newspubs/periodicals/ae/winter0607/ravitch.cfm
Discussion: Should teacher unions have the responsibility to protect teacher’s jobs?
8. Unions make sure highly qualified teachers are hired:
According to a Union of Professionals, they believe that, “To assure a high-quality teaching force, the union must play a role in developing and/or implementing quality pre-service teacher education, effective recruiting and hiring practices, strong induction and mentoring programs, high-quality professional development, meaningful evaluation, and, when necessary, fair, timely intervention and dismissal procedures. Many AFT affiliates around the country are doing just that.
A Union of Professionals, American Federation of Teachers. (2003). Where we stand: teacher quality
(39-0230). Washington, DC: Government Printing Office. Retrieved from http://www.aft.org/
Discussion: Do you feel that teachers unions stick to their word by hiring qualified teachers?