Teachers & Unionization II

Picking up on Andrew’s theme, I thought it worthwhile to post a comment and response to an earlier post of mine from Jim, who took the opportunity to convey his perspective on the teacher/union topic:

it’s awfully easy and simple to blame the unions, isn’t it?
why don’t you put a little less effort in blaming unions for the shortfalls and start placing the blame where it belongs.
1) too little funding. Many teachers don’t even have the supplies to do the job. “No Child Left Behind”, while it has it’s good points, particularly that it’s beginning to give some accountability, isn’t addressing this. Indeed, if a school is labelled as “poor performing”, instead of revamping, funding and improving it, the act actually ENCOURAGES the pulling of the students on a quasi-voucher system and placing them in other schools. THAT, my friend is no solution. That’s doubling up the problem.
2) too little parental participation, in fact, how about looking at the total apathy that parents (in general) have toward education. The prevalent attitude of parents is “teach my child!” without any thought to the fact that a child’s first teacher and indeed, most important teacher is the parent.
3) poor administration on so many levels, from the federal all the way down to the schools. This is being worked on, but there is much room for improvement. Many times, the politics of the situation are outweighing the need for REAL improvement.
The problems are complex. Unions are the least of the issues at hand.

I responded:

I agree that the problems are complex. And it is easy to blame the unions for unrealistic expectations in their bargaining positions. Teachers are well-paid in this state, many parents and taxpayers feel its time that children’s scholastic performance starts to reflect that.
As far as NCLB, and related to the above, I understand there are funding problems, but couldn’t some of this be alleviated by less education money going to pay teacher’s salaries and benefits? Additionally, it’s my understanding that under at least some of the standards set forth by the state or federal government (though not necessarily NCLB) schools have a period of time to show improvement. For instance, my daughter’s school has reached milestones that are required to have been reached in 2011. You imply that at the first sign of noncompliance, that’s it. I don’t believe that’s the case. Nonetheless, if the children are helped by being pulled from a bad school, isn’t that the goal? We can’t forget that this is not about keeping the teacher’s or school administration or the state comfortable, it’s about providing kids with the best education possible.
Having attended PTO, Parent/Principal nights (work to rule is in effect in Warwick…) and School Committee meetings, I can attest that not enough parents take an active part in their children’s education. However, looking back at my younger days, the same dynamic was true when I was a kid. I was lucky enough to have parents who were among that core group of parents who always seemed to have been involved. in school functions. However, how exactly can this acknowledged problem be addressed? How can parents be forced into participation? On this one, I’m not sure.
Poor administration is a problem and always has been. Such is the case when a bureaucracy is involved, be it local, state or federal. More layers = more problems. In an ideal world, states and localities would dictate the standards and have more immediate control over the course of the education of the kids in their communities. Unfortunately, in Rhode Island, it seems that the educational needs of the children has taken a back seat to other matters, be they political or financial. It’s time that changed. If the example I pointed to at the Stony Brook school is any indication, it looks like we just may be turning the corner.

I’d point out that I try to be positive when I can and Jim, ironically, chose to respond to a post in which I had given credit to some teachers for bettering their school. While Jim is correct in pointing to a whole suite of issues that affect education, the fact of the matter is that–and though Jim may feel it is the least of the problems–readjusting the union’s expectations is also the easiest to fix via citizen intervention. By maintaining school budgets at current funding levels, but spending less on teacher pay and benefits, it seems to follow that more money can go to other, perhaps even more innovative, educational programs. For instance, a parent outreach program with the goal of encouraging more parent participation, could be funded by money saved.
I understand that the problem goes beyond money. Educational priorities also need to be examined, as do some of the philosophies implemented in recent years. One example would be the idea of “mainstreaming,” which sounds benevolent on the face of it, but in reality can detract from the learning environment of (at the risk of being un-PC) “regular” students. No doubt, not all mainstreamed students are distractions, but some are. The idea that slower students can benefit from being in the same class as quicker-learning students is probably true, but a reverse effect on the quicker kids is also possible, isn’t it?
These are just some off-the-cuff ruminations intended to get a conversation started. It is easy to point out problems. At the very least, Jim has prompted me to wonder: what are some solutions?

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Jim S
19 years ago

could you fix the link? you have a href+ instead of a href=.
Mainstreaming is one of the biggest thorns in the sides of teachers, yet it’s also one that in some cases works. I would still cut it out immediately. Repeal the necessary laws and cut it out.
Also, make it “OK” to separate by ability level again, so that the teacher isn’t forced to teach at the mid-level of ability in her classroom. With such “diverse” classrooms, unfortunately, the teacher is stuck teaching at the midpoint or LOWER in order to provide for the lower-ability students.
The ways we can piss off the far-left with our solutions!
I also like Carroll’s suggestion.
Best suggestion, though.. don’t REDUCE the pay of teachers, but laden it with incentives. INCREASE it. Teachers are an investment into our most precious resource: our kids. If you’re a parent, you might agree. Teachers provide a service many of us can’t, won’t and don’t have the patience to do alone: educate our children. That is more valuable than the newest highway pork program or handout program.
Invest the money where it will do us the most good. I know my children and children like them are the future leaders in this state.

Marc Comtois
Marc Comtois
19 years ago

Good points all. I agree with grade tiering, though it may offend some. Perhaps it’s also because I was in the top tier and could be perceived as one who benefited from it. It does seem that those “pigeon-holed” into the lower tier at lower grades never succeeded in getting out of that grouping. Again, complicated.
As far as the teacher pay, I agree, and Andrew has provided a means to that end. In short, a guild of sorts, where results are rewarded, not time in service.
(BTW, the link is fixed)

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