A Message to Teachers Unions: Stop Holding Our Children Hostage

Michael Moroney

1/30/2013 1:30:00 PM - Michael Moroney

The progressive movement has always portrayed itself as one of "choice." They’re pro-choice when it comes to abortion and believe women should have the choice of a wide array of birth control that someone else pays for. Unfortunately, they stop short when it comes to "school choice."

For progressives, there’s a one-size-fits-all approach when it comes to our children’s education. Problems are attributed to inadequate funding as opposed to a fundamental flaw in the foundation of our educational system.

The majority of today’s school districts dictate the conditions of education for students and schools, while taxpayers pick up the tab. These school districts, however, are held hostage by the mighty teachers unions—the National Education Association and the American Federation of Teachers. In fact, a recent study shows that teachers unions are generally more influential than all other entities, including state school boards, state superintendents, governors and legislators.

There’s a famous quote attributed to Albert Shanker, former president of the United Federation of Teachers. "When schoolchildren start paying union dues, that’s when I’ll start representing the interests of school children." The truth is, Shanker never said those words, but the sentiment is true, nonetheless. The deep-rooted issues with America’s education system have many causes, but teachers unions have proven to be one of the most persistent. Unions have shown a lack of willingness to look for the solutions necessary to reform our schools and ensure our children are getting the best education possible.

Unlike most organizations, teachers unions are notorious for rewarding seniority over quality. Teachers’ pay is determined largely by how many years they have worked. Underperforming teachers have been allowed to keep their jobs for far too long because of seniority. We need to develop an education system that can attract and keep young, qualified, educated individuals who are dedicated to our children’s success.

Unfortunately, many parents have developed a case of Stockholm syndrome. Unions have scared parents into thinking that our children will suffer if their demands aren't met. All too often, however, unions make good on these threats. Who could forget the plethora of teachers that called in sick the days leading up to the passage of right-to-work legislation in Michigan? It’s time for parents to stand up and demand that teachers unions stop holding our children hostage. Our children’s future is not a political chip.

Parents deserve a say in their children’s education and National School Choice Week, January 27-February 2, provides an excellent opportunity to explore solutions and revitalize our education system. School choice programs like charter schools and online learning have proven successful in several states and research shows that students participating in school choice programs graduate at significantly higher rates than those attending public schools, and students and parents are more satisfied with their experience.

When it comes to education, let’s give our parents a choice and our children a chance!