Are teachers unions on the decline nationwide?

Posted by: ST on June 13, 2014 at 8:07 pm
Teachers strike

Image via

The Politico has a well-written piece that discusses the apparent decline of teachers unions across the country:

As the two big national teachers unions prepare for their conventions this summer, they are struggling to navigate one of the most tumultuous moments in their history.

Long among the most powerful forces in American politics, the unions are contending with falling revenue and declining membership, damaging court cases, the defection of once-loyal Democratic allies — and a multimillion-dollar public relations campaign portraying them as greedy and selfish.

They took a big hit Tuesday when a California judge struck down five laws they had championed to protect teachers’ jobs. The Supreme Court could deliver more bad news as early as next week, in a case that could knock a huge hole in union budgets. On top of all that, several well-funded advocacy groups out to curb union influence are launching new efforts to mobilize parents to the cause.

Responding to all these challenges has proved difficult, analysts say, because both the National Education Association and the American Federation of Teachers are divided internally. There’s a faction urging conciliation and compromise. Another faction pushes confrontation. There’s even a militant splinter group, the Badass Teachers Association.

Leaders of both the NEA and AFT have sought to rally the public to their side by talking up their vision for improving public education: More arts classes and fewer standardized tests, more equitable funding and fewer school closures. Those are popular stances. But union leaders can’t spend all their time promoting them: They must also represent their members. And that’s meant publicly defending laws that strike even many liberals as wrong-headed, such as requiring districts to lay off their most junior teachers first, regardless of how effective they are in the classroom.

The result: an unprecedented erosion of both political and public support for unions. And no clear path for labor leaders to win it back.

My issue just from an “outsider” perspective is that these days teachers unions come off as little more than bullies who are more interested in pay hikes and bonuses and keeping their “status” within their respective organizations than they are educating children, you know – actually being, well, teachers in the truest sense of the word.   In fact, teachers unions have become very similar to their contemporaries in the various Big Labor movements in that the only way they think they can get their points across and ultimately get their way is by strong-arming opponents and not listening to counter-arguments.

I know there are a lot of good rank and file teachers out there – in fact, most are – but the faces of the teachers union movements do them a great disservice, and that’s actually an understatement.  It’s almost like everyone else is expected to sacrifice except for them at a time when people can’t afford having anymore of their paychecks going to the state and feds than they already do. That’s not to say that teachers don’t make great sacrifices themselves – many do by bringing in pencils, paper, etc to the classroom (among other extra things they do), but their union allies shouldn’t make the mistake of acting like they’re the only ones having to make tough choices when it comes to educating children and surviving in this stagnant economy: the parents of the children they’re charged with teaching probably are, too, in more ways than one.

Anyway, the article is an interesting read, so make sure you read the whole thing.  I’m especially interested in hearing the perspective on this of parents  who’ve had to deal head-on with teachers union issues in their city or state.

RSS feed for comments on this post.


7 Responses to “Are teachers unions on the decline nationwide?”


  1. Drew the Infidel says:

    Teachers unions are following the same progression to which many other political movements have declined. What starts out as a cause, in turn, becomes a business and then finally a racket.

    A teacher, like federal employees, stands a better chance of dying on the job than being fired from it.

    Education is the act of casting false pearls before real swine.

  2. arcman46 says:

    We can only hope

  3. Dana says:

    The problem with the teachers’ unions are the same one with every public employee union: the lack of the discipline of the marketplace. In the private sector, unions have to temper their demands, because they have to be partners with businesses: they cannot demand so much that the companies cannot stay in business, or their members all lose their jobs.

    But the government can’t go out of business, and public employee unions can keep demanding more and more and more, because their employers can raise their “prices,” in the form of taxes, and their “customers” have no choice but to pay. Thus you have the spectacle of teachers unions demanding starting salaries far in excess of the median wage in their districts, and demanding that governments raise taxes on those median (and below) wage earners to pay the teachers the higher salaries. It’s little wonder that such things aren’t very popular.

  4. formwiz says:

    Your sweet lips to God’s ears, Madam.

  5. Carlos says:

    More arts classes and fewer standardized tests, more equitable funding and fewer school closures. Those are popular stances.

    Popular stances? Oh, really? For what groups, besides artsy-fartsies and statists? A perfect recipe to complete the dumbing-down of America.

    I mean, it’s not like our state-schooled children are leading the world in mathematics, science and languages. At least, not since the national unions and feds took control of the local schools.

  6. Lightwave says:

    “I know there are a lot of good rank and file teachers out there – in fact, most are – but the faces of the teachers union movements do them a great disservice, and that’s actually an understatement. “

    I’d argue the opposite as a parent.

    The problem is the concept of “quality public education”. It’s a fantasy.

    The theory when my three kids were in school is if we throw as much money as possible at educational systems, then it will attract qualified educators to teach and that then all kids will benefit, as will society as a whole.

    The problem with this fallacy is that there is unlimited demand for top educators and a finite supply. And they go where the money is, to private schools and public magnet schools. My kids made it into the latter on hard work, brains, and my wife and myself riding them within an inch of their lives. They went on to 2 partial scholarships and my oldest with a full ride to a big state school. They earned it. Their teachers were good, but they put in the work and I’ll always remain proud of them for that.

    But as a result, everyone else has to make do with less than the best, but legislators have to pretend all kids have equal opportunity and potential when they don’t. Decades of this nonsense has finally resulted in schools so awful they would qualify as child refugee camps in other countries, and we lower our educational standards to match these lowest common denominator schools. Quality of education then gets steadily worse, as you can see by slipping world rankings in test scores.

    It’s time for us to admit that not all kids are going to get a quality education and/or deserve one, and it’s time for local and state governments to recognize this and let the resources go to where they can do the most good.

    Here’s a hint: segregated inner city hellholes are not where tax dollars will do the most good. “The world needs ditch diggers, too” as my grandfather said.