Don't Blame Teachers Unions For Our Failing Schools

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Teacher's Unions

Tuesday, March 16, 2010

Teachers unions: They’re powerful, they’re defensive, and they’re stubborn. And if it seems their leadership places a premium on protecting its members – above all other interests – we should not be surprised, because protecting jobs and wages is what unions were created to do. And there’s the rub, say critics who argue the unions are shielding too many teachers who do their jobs poorly – teachers who should be replaced, for the good of the children. Indeed, so central is good teaching to good learning, some say it’s the unions as presently constructed – more than anything other factor – that are undermining America’s schools. But can it really be that simple? In a ranking of whom to blame for what’s wrong in America’s classrooms, do teachers unions really come before slashed budgets? Or crumbling infrastructure, broken homes and the influence of narcotics? Do bad teachers so outnumber good ones that the union represents a collection of educational misfits? The question comes down to a decision: do we need to reform the unions before we do anything else , and if we do, is that the fix that will once again make US public education the model system it once was?

  • For the motion

    For

    Kate McLaughlin

    Elementary Teacher in the Lowell, Massachusetts Public Schools

  • For the motion

    For

    Gary Smuts

    Superintendent of the ABC Unified School District

  • For the motion

    For

    Randi Weingarten

    President of the American Federation of Teachers

  • Against the motion

    Against

    Terry Moe

    William Bennett Munro Professor of Political Science at Stanford University

  • Against the Motion

    Against

    Rod Paige

    Former U.S. Secretary of Education

  • Against the motion

    Against

    Larry Sand

    Teacher for Webster Middle School in Los Angeles

  • Moderator Image

    Moderator

    John Donvan

    Author and correspondent for ABC News.

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McLaughlin

For The Motion

Kate McLaughlin

Elementary Teacher in the Lowell, Massachusetts Public Schools.

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Gary Smuts

For The Motion

Gary Smuts

Superintendent of the ABC Unified School District

is superintendent of the ABC Unified School District, known throughout the state of California as a leader in educational planning and innovation. He was recently named 2009 Superintendent of the Year by the Association of California School Administrators.

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Randi Weingarten

For The Motion

Randi Weingarten

President of the American Federation of Teachers

is president of the 1.4-million-member American Federation of Teachers, AFL-CIO. She was elected in July 2008, following 11 years of service as an AFT vice president.

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Moe

Against The Motion

Terry Moe

William Bennett Munro Professor of Political Science at Stanford University

is the William Bennett Munro Professor of Political Science at Stanford University, a senior fellow at the Hoover Institution, and a member of Hoover's Koret Task Force on K-12 Education.

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Paige

Against The Motion

Rod Paige

Former U.S. Secretary of Education

is a life-long educator and former U.S. Secretary of Education (2001-2005). As secretary, Paige was an unstinting advocate of student achievement, employing “best of breed” solutions to achieve results.

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Sand

Against The Motion

Larry Sand

Teacher for Webster Middle School in Los Angeles

began his teaching career in New York in 1971. Since 1984, he has taught elementary school in the Los Angeles Unified School District, including English, math, history and ESL at Webster Middle School in Los Angeles.

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Declared Winner: Against The Motion

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    3 comments

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    • Comment Link Alex Monday, 07 April 2014 23:54 posted by Alex

      Charter Schools are textbook examples race to the bottom" They pay teachers peanuts, are often not required by any authority to meet education standards while they rake in taxpayer subsidies, and they cherry pick students to give the illusion of being higher performing. They are pure political propaganda from the Republicans used as leverage to bust the last unions in the country. They failed to explain the reason the Republicans want to bust the teacher unions: they are some of the largest supporters of Democratic candidates.

    • Comment Link John Hurd Thursday, 20 December 2012 03:04 posted by John Hurd

      The anti-union side brought up the name of Jaime Escalante, subject of "Stand And Deliver." There was a letter to the editor from a student who was part of that class depicted in the film. He explained how exaggerated the film was. Those kids taking Advanced Placement Calculus were not tough, failing gang members. They were college-bound kids. You don't suddenly digest calculus in your senior year with no background in algebra, trig, geometry, etc. The movie-makers played with the facts.

    • Comment Link Edisson Friday, 31 August 2012 00:31 posted by Edisson

      Well I am a teacher in puiblc schools and I do have a couple of bones to pick in regards to these articles. I know it isn't meant as criticism of all teachers but they do seem to come across as that. I agree that teachers unions, especially in large cities and the coasts are a detriment to educating the students but that is how nearly all unions in those areas operate. As I recall, Helen has had membership in groups she had issues with also. (I am not in a union by the way.. small school, great administration, there is just no need for one... and even if there was a need, I probably wouldn't be in one) So please bear in mind there are a lot of great teachers out there. Plus there are a lot of average teachers out there.. but then that is what average is, isn't it. You would be surprised at how many teachers out there are actually pretty conservative in their personal views... but we are humans too. Too often, it seems like we are being blamed for societies problems. It is not our fault that kids act the way they do, or their parents support them when they are in the wrong. And yes, it does seem like I am generalizing myself now. I could easily do without some extra money in exchange for a change in attitude amongst some students and parents, and society in general. As to homeschooling, I think done properly, it can be a great thing. Just remember, homeschoolers are just like teachers... bad apples make the good ones look terrible. There are parents out there who are just letting their kids hang out at home and not actually learning anything. We do get kids in high school who have been "homeschooled" up till then and are reading at 2nd grade level. And we get some who are a joy to work with. The problems in education mirror some of the same problems in society. And it is going to be just as hard to correct these problems in education as it is in society. But I do have hope for the future. As much as we complain about our kids (parents and teachers alike), there are a LOT of great kids out there who are going all out to be good people and good citizens. So remember them too.P.S. I know this is sort of a rambling monologue but I am watching Olympics too so am not fully concentrating.P.P.S. An entirely irrelevant and illogical thought Helen.. I really hate this small, narrow comment box I have to type in... wish it was wider.Bert

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