Increasingly, people across the country are beginning to realize that teachers’ unions are the biggest obstacle to educational reforms that would give millions of children a better education and a fighting chance at a better life.
To be clear, there is a mile-wide difference between teachers, and teachers’ unions. Great teachers are performing one of our nation’s foremost duties, and deserve to be rewarded accordingly. Unfortunately, unions have long supported policies that protect bad teachers at the expense of dedicated educators and students– but that all may have changed last week in California.
In a case brought forth by nine frustrated students, Los Angeles Superior Court Judge Rolf M. Treu ruled several of the state’s union-backed teacher tenure and dismissal processes unconstitutional, and accused them of causing unequal opportunities. The rules made it virtually impossible to fire a bad teacher after two years, and could have resulted in new, great teachers being laid off in the event that cuts were necessary. Treu called the laws “unfathomable and therefore constitutionally unsupportable.”
Likewise, teachers’ unions have long opposed expanding school choice, which would give low-income and minority students greater opportunity to leave failing schools and utilize other educational options like charters and private schools. Like eliminating teacher tenure, school choice would add accountability and opportunity that goes against the special interests of unions.
Sadly, tenure rules and opposition to choice hurt students who need help the most and teachers who deserve it most. Latino students are 68 percent more likely than white students to be taught by the worst teachers, and black students are 43 percent more likely. And it was predetermined union pay schedules that dictated that Michigan’s “teacher of the year” was one of the lowest paid in his district.
As a result of opposing policies with such commonsense widespread appeal and popularity, public opinion of unions is falling fast. 43 percent believe they have a negative effect on public schools, up from 31 percent in 2009, according to Politico. One expert explained, “People increasingly view teachers unions as a problem, or the problem.”