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What Would Happen If We Said ‘Hell No’ to Teachers Unions?

The opinions expressed by columnists are their own and do not necessarily represent the views of

Randi Weingarten, the notorious president of the American Federation of Teachers (AFT), said at a recent AFT convention she and her cronies are going to say “hell no” to the Trump administration because of its support of education choice.

Sigh. If only saying “hell no” were enough to make organizations we didn’t like cease to exist.

Parents have been saying “hell no” to teachers unions for ages, and the fact that Weingarten declared the current administration the “first … to say ‘hell no’ to public education” indicates their voices are finally being heard.

What good, after all, have the teachers unions ever done for anyone except the teachers themselves?

An article on AFT’s website, written by public school darling Diane Ravitch, attempts to explain in terms veiled in faux magnanimity “Why Teacher Unions Are Good for Teachers—and the Public.” Unions are necessary, Ravitch argues, because leaders want “unchecked power to assign, reward, punish, or remove their employees.”

To anyone else, such a situation as the one Ravitch describes is considered “normal conditions of being an employed person,” but to the teachers unions, the threat of losing one’s job or even, it seems, being “rewarded” for a job well-done is unthinkable. They say, “Those who can’t do, teach,” and apparently, those who can’t teach join a teachers union.

Ravitch’s argument in favor of tenure is even more far-fetched. “Tenure evolved in the 19th century as one of the few perks available to people who were paid low wages, had classes of 70 or 80 or more, and endured terrible working conditions,” Ravitch wrote, adding that today, “Teacher unions around the country continue to play important roles in protecting the rights of teachers, especially in the current climate of school reform.”

What “rights” teachers have that are different from other professions Ravitch never explains. Perhaps it’s the right for taxpayers to pay millions of dollars for public school teachers to have cosmetic surgery, as they did recently in Buffalo, New York. Or maybe it’s the right for teachers to charge taxpayers $395 million to keep teachers on the job, which is now occurring in Philadelphia.

Without teachers unions, Ravitch declares, “experienced teachers must work under the control of an inexperienced principal,” and teachers would have no voice to counter “the arbitrary exercise of power by heavy-handed administrators,” some of whom are non-educators. 

Is it just me, or are all of Ravitch’s arguments reminiscent of those made by a spoiled child?

First, she asserts tenure is still important, despite the fact teachers enduring “terrible working conditions” is a thing of the past. Then she says continuing to be paid regardless of merit and, in some cases, regardless of criminality is fair because that’s how it has been since the 19th century, and teachers have rights!

Ravitch does a fine job of painting public school teachers as rather helpless servants, powerless to the whims of autocratic “non-educators” who seize power—you know, from democratic elections—and wield it mercilessly to make the teachers suffer to satisfy some mysterious vendetta.

How telling it is that Weingarten labeled the Trump administration and its support of education choice as the enemy. Choice means competition, and competition is what the unions fear more than anything. Competition threatens their special interests: their tenure, salary increases, and cosmetic surgeries.

Teachers unions haven’t been relevant since the 19th century, if ever. Were we to say a collective “hell no” to the teachers unions, what would happen? We would purge our education system of a greedy, self-centered mob and replace the people who go into the teaching profession for the taxpayer-funded perks with people who are passionate about the profession and aren’t afraid to work in a world where a job well done is rewarded and the worst employees are weeded out.


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