Gary Beckner

Back to school season is in full swing across the country. As our students and teachers start anew this fall, we should take this opportunity to renew our support and commitment to our nation’s educators as they strive to meet today’s challenges in their classrooms across America.

We are clearly at a crossroads in American education. Budgets are tight, technology and reform are revolutionizing our education system, and parents and voters are demanding more from an already over-taxed workforce. Teaching isn’t a job for the faint of heart, and it’s only getting more challenging as the cry for systemic reform grows louder.

In light of the daily public finger-pointing and the debate over who or what is most to blame for America’s slipping status in international educational progress reports, teachers across the country feel unjustly singled out. As evidenced by a March poll, educator job satisfaction is at the lowest it's been in more than two decades.

Furthermore, according to reports, the nation’s largest teacher labor union, the National Education Association, has reported a decline of 150,000 members in the past two years with a projection that they will lose an additional 200,000 members by 2014. Based on the data, teachers are fleeing the unions and seeking alternative organizations in record numbers.

It is this rapidly changing climate that is fostering a new direction for American educators. Teachers are calling for new leadership. As the preeminent national non-union educator organization, the Association of American Educators (AAE) is answering that call. We work with teachers everyday who are concerned with the massive transformation occurring in public education. Whether it is frustration with static teacher union representation or the vast changes implemented in schools across the country, teachers rightly feel that they aren’t being heard.

We believe that teachers deserve to be treated as professionals, and that their ideas and experiences should be brought to the policy table. To create and implement meaningful and commonsense education reform, the authentic voices of American teachers must be heard over the outdated, overreaching, politically-charged mantras of the teacher union bosses.

Recent surveys indicate that Americans overwhelmingly support teachers but not teacher unions. This growing statistic clearly illustrates the fundamental disconnect between teachers and labor unions, particularly in states experiencing broad education reforms. Teachers are not blue-collar laborers; they are academic professionals like lawyers, scientists, and engineers. Industrial-style union representation does not garner the respect that educators deserve.


Gary Beckner

Gary Beckner is the Executive Director of the Association of American Educators.