Collective bargaining

Do Teachers’ Unions Contribute to a Decline in Public Education?


Being a teacher can be an exciting job. For starters, you have an opportunity to work with diverse children and teenagers. You can enjoy summers off. However, you’re also in the public eye. For example, your students and their parents can readily recognize you around town. As a government employee, your salary is a matter of public record. Perhaps, most importantly, everybody seems to think he or she can do your job. Thankfully, teachers’ unions help both teachers and the public manage these realities and keep public education from declining. Learn more below. 

What is a Teachers’ Union?

A teachers’ union is a group of employees with collective bargaining power. Essentially, this means a school district hires the union to run its schools. Through using a contract, the rights of the school district and the rights of the teachers are protected. In other words, you can think of a teachers’ union in the same way you think about your power company or cable company.

How Did Teachers’ Unions Begin?

Many people mistakenly believe teachers’ unions formed out of greed. Thankfully, this isn’t the case. Teachers’ unions allow teachers to be treated as professionals and earn a fair salary. However, teachers’ unions also protect the rights of the community. To put this in proper perspective, remember that teachers are public employees of a town or city. Without a union, a new mayor or school board could fire all teachers upon election. The teachers could then be replaced with friends of the new government and earn generous salaries as political kickbacks. The new mayor or school board could also fire all teachers with a particular political viewpoint and replace them with all conservative or liberal teachers. Teachers’ unions prevent such shenanigans from happening.

Teachers and students from California de

(Photo Credit: Politico)

Tenure and Teachers’ Unions

Many people wonder about tenure and teachers’ unions. For example, people often wonder if tenure from a teachers’ union keeps terrible teachers in the classroom. Thankfully, this isn’t the case. Tenure just means teachers have due process before termination. This prevents teachers from being fired because they supported suspending the mayor’s child or because they obtained their education degree and certification from an online higher education institution instead of an education degree and certification from the mayor’s favorite brick-and-mortar higher education institution. Tenure prevents teachers from being fired for supporting a Republican or Democratic candidate. However, it is possible to fire a tenured teacher. All tenure does is make sure that firing is done correctly to prevent local governments from removing teachers unfairly.

Do Teachers’ Unions Contribute to a Decline in Public Education?

All of the above questions can help us find an answer to this tricky question. After understanding what teachers’ unions do and why they were formed, we can see that they certainly help protect public education. For example, teachers’ unions make sure teachers are treated as professionals. They also supply educational consistency in a community by making sure all teachers aren’t fired and replaced each election. Teachers’ unions keep the schools running smoothly through contracts that set clear expectations. In short, it’s easy to see how teachers’ unions have been elevating public education through budget cuts and difficult political climates.

After people realize teachers’ unions aren’t as terrible as some people say, honest questions do arise regarding how these unions can be ameliorated. For starters, teachers’ unions can make the standards for joining them more rigorous. Improving these standards can strengthen teacher quality and the effectiveness of teachers’ unions. If teachers’ unions improve in these areas, they will be able to aid in serving and protecting students even more than they do today.

Works Consulted

Dr. Antonio Maurice Daniels

University of Wisconsin-Madison

Public Workers Protest in Madison, Wisconsin

Since Monday, public workers, union members and activists, supporters of public workers, most Democrats, and those opposed to Governor Scott Walker have federated at the state capitol in Madison, Wisconsin to evince their strong dissatisfaction with his proposed Budget Repair Bill. The dominant reason why many people in Wisconsin and across the nation are protesting Governor Scott Walker’s Budget Repair Bill is it makes significant changes to collective bargaining rights and dramatically reduces the power of unions in the state. Governor Walker contends that with a projected budget deficit of $3.6 billion it’s necessary to make changes to the costs of unions in the state, the costs of collective bargaining in the state, and the costs of benefits and expenses that are currently paid for by the Wisconsin taxpayers for state public workers. Many union members argue that it’s not about the money, but about the Governor Walker’s stripping of the ability of workers’ right to collectively bargain. I’m sure you have read, saw, and/or heard something about this issue and the reason for the protesting at the state capitol in Madison, Wisconsin. Here’s a little more about the situation here: The dominant purpose of my article is to give an account of my experience with interviewing protestors at the state capitol in Madison, Wisconsin on Thursday night, February 17, 2011.

Since I’m in the city where we are witnessing some pretty important historical protests and legislation, I thought the readers of Revolutionary Paideia would like to read some of the views of the people about the Budget Repair Bill who were at the capitol. I decided to engage in some discourse with some of the people who were assembled there. I asked the following queries: Do you support the Budget Repair Bill? Did you vote for Governor Scott Walker? If you don’t support the Budget Repair Bill, then what is your solution(s) to the massive state budget deficit? My goal was to have them to not simply be out there protesting without having alternatives to the proposed bill. For me, it’s not meaningful to simply protest without offering alternatives as solutions.

One University of Wisconsin-Madison junior who voted against Governor Walker contended that the Budget Repair Bill is a “manufactured crisis that the Governor cooked up to bust up unions and end the rights of workers in the state to collectively bargain.” This student said that “the worst thing that we could do right now is take money, rights, and protections away from the poorest public workers in the state.” He proposed solution to the state deficit problem is to “raise taxes on the rich citizens in Wisconsin, impose a 10% internet tax, and begin to invest more in small businesses.”

An unemployed White man who did not vote for Governor Scott Walker supports the Budget Repair Bill. He said, “It’s time out for kicking budget deficit after budget deficit down from one governor to the next. I’m proud of Scott Walker for having the balls to help us to become fiscally responsible and get Wisconsin back to work.”

A White female public school teacher who voted against Governor Scott Walker said that she did not support Governor Walker’s Budget Repair Bill. She said that “the best thing to do right now is to work on recalling the governor and recalling the seven republicans in the state senate who we can get out of there and hold up this bill from ever seeing the light of day. I don’t want to offer you any specific solutions, but I do want to offer to you that collective bargaining has nothing to do with our state budget and that cutting the pay of public workers is only going to drive down the economy. If you want a solution, we can get rid of Scott Walker and replace him with a new governor who will go line by line and make appropriate cuts. We should not make cuts that are going to harm people who don’t make nothing already. This man is going to destroy our state. We must recall him and recall other republicans asap.”

A White male small business owner who held a sign in support of Governor Scott Walker said that “Governor Walker’s Budget Repair Bill is a historic piece of legislation that will get Wisconsin back to work and will end the burden to our state economy that unions place on it. This state just imposes unions on you. You don’t have a choice here. Thank God for Governor Walker because the days of union thugs, big government, and high taxes are over. Welcome back Wisconsin! I enthusiastically support the Budget Repair Bill and Governor Walker.”

The aforementioned statements are just some of what the people I interviewed at the capitol had to say about Governor Scott Walker’s Budget Repair Bill. I interviewed a number of other people supporting the bill and opposed to it. These previously mentioned people and statements are representative of the larger feedback I received. I’m glad to see people actively engaged in the political process. This protesting on the capitol is what democracy looks like in action—like it or not.

Antonio Maurice Daniels

University of Wisconsin-Madison