Friday, February 1, 2013

Teachers and their Unions

I was listening to KYW, getting a twenty two minute slice of the world, when I heard a story about Tom Corbett attempting to entirely privatize the state liquor sales, eliminating state stores altogether. A  spokesperson for the states store workers' union said that Corbett was cutting thousands of jobs, ruining the livelihood of many. Having often been frustrated by Pennsylvania's state stores I am for privatizing them. Not only do the stores overcharge, but the workers there are often frustrating slow, and unlike any other consumer experience, I have no alternative. I thought, as the union spokesperson talked, "Of course he's going to say this, they're trying to protect their jobs. At the same time, it's not true that jobs will be lost, they'll just move." I'm excited for the sale of liquor and wine to be governed by consumer choice.

I thought with a sudden jolt that this is how people see the teachers' union. They believe that teachers fight against the move to charters and vouchers in an effort to protect their cushy union jobs. In these protected jobs they can laze along doing nothing. Any educational movement which takes power from these unions is good. Competition for jobs, and between schools, will make teachers better. It favors children, who will get a better education, and in turn society, who will get better citizens. Why should unions and some people's desire for more money, and job protection, get in the way of that?

1) Teachers need protection from the capitalists. Some teachers will work for any amount of money, no matter how little, to work in their beloved profession. Thus, small Christian schools pay a salary that puts the teacher below the poverty line. Prep schools pay their teachers amounts of money that would induce fits of laughter among their graduates (at a school where the tuition is ten thousand dollars teachers are paid thirty five thousand. The excess money is poured into school infrastructure and extracurricular programs, directly benefiting the children. The wealthy parents, who run the school, are happy). This willingness to work for peanuts does not make peanuts fair pay. In this field, more than others, the worker is prey to the authorities disposition toward maximizing their return at the expense of labor. 

2) Other workers, notably teachers at schools like Mastery and KIPP are paid living wages, but expected to work hours that only highly successful lawyers or doctors work. The teachers are making half of what the lawyers make and possess the same competencies and work just as hard. Most of these teachers are pumped up, "You must save the children, if you don't you're a white supremacist." Most of these teachers burn out after two or three years, though they would have made great career teachers. This is not a situation in which the teacher could pursue raising a family- leaving for work at six, home by seven, with a stack of papers to grade. The bosses use up the young's hope and belief in the space of two or three years, and get out of it the narrative that charters can be successful.

3) Good sustainable education means a better job for the teacher. Initially competition allows for quickly getting rid of some of the worst teachers (ideally, although many time the worst teachers are also best friends with administration). In the long term, it will drive away many able teachers. The schools will become mills for career journey-persons, never developing or supporting true professionals (with the exception of the group who will teach regardless of how bad the situation is).

4) Unions mean that teachers get due process. I'd like a society in which every worker got due process, but teachers, with their dedication, and their aforementioned predisposition to be abused by the capitalists, need it more than most.

These are my thoughts. This is how Billy Bragg said it.

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