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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.