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.
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.
Dr. Antonio Maurice Daniels
University of Wisconsin-Madison