(Michael Chamberlain/Nevada Business Coalition) – Give us more money and leave us alone! That used to be about the only type of reform advocated by teachers unions.
Among the few changes they would support were things such as smaller class sizes, which means more teachers which means more dues money which means more wealth and power for the unions. They’ve fought against virtually every other type of reform, even those that have proven successful elsewhere and especially anything that would put more decision-making authority in the hands of parents.
At least one teachers union would like you to believe that has all changed.
“We have been at the table for months working and supporting positive reforms for education in Nevada,” [Nevada State Education Association President Lynne] Warne said. “We are reform-minded. We’re interested as anyone else to have bad teachers removed from classrooms. We don’t protect bad teachers. We protect the process and want it to be a fair process.”
Sorry, but nearly everything about this statement is absolutely wrong. The biggest opponents of reform in education are, and have been for decades, the teachers unions. If they do advocate reform now it is only because they’ve been dragged kicking and screaming to it. Perhaps that’s why they’ve only been at the table for months instead of years.
Contrary to Ms. Warne’s assertion, they do protect bad teachers. In fact, if they didn’t they wouldn’t be doing their jobs. Their primary mission is to protect teachers – good teachers, bad teachers and mediocre teachers. Any claim otherwise is simply not true.
Whenever discussing teachers unions it is essential to remember one fact – they exist to represent teachers, not students. At times this puts them in direct conflict with the stated mission of the school system, which is to educate students.
There are many good teachers and ideally we would have a system in which we could reward them, while being better able to identify and rid the system of bad teachers. We would also have a system that would reward good schools and allow parents to easily remove their children from bad ones. But we are far from that today and simply pouring more money into a failing system is not going to get us closer.
It’s nice to see teachers unions finally willing to discuss reforms. The question is will they embrace reforms that improve the schools for students, even if that means the unions will have to give up some of their power. Of that we’re not optimistic.
(Michael Chamberlain is Executive Director of Nevada Business Coalition.)