Whose Voice Are We Hearing?

Another interesting aspect of the article on Education Commissioner Deborah Gist’s new regulations that Marc mentioned yesterday is the way in which one of the objections is answered in a separate article on the same page:

“If they gut collective bargaining, they are heading down a road to destroy public education,” said Larry Purtill, executive director of the National Education Association of Rhode Island.
“Because in negotiating, you get the voice of the teacher who is in the classroom every day,” he said. “And that’s an important process. Without it, you take that voice away.”

The other article is about negotiating difficulties between Central Falls Superintendent Frances Gallo and the union with which she negotiates. Gallo wishes to modify negotiations so that they follow a “streamlined compact,” which would involve teachers, administrators, parents, and even students and vary from school to school:

“I think unions are an important check against the capricious actions of a supervisor,” Gallo said. “But I also think unions come out more powerful [in a compact] because all 330 [teacher] voices are heard, not just the voice of the union leadership…. Dissent should be heard.”

We could even bring in Julia Steiny, whose column on the facing page suggests that a rigid pension system that discourages changes in career path serve neither teachers nor students well:

When I write or speak about making pensions more portable and flexible, some teachers respond with effusive agreement. They say that they’ve had a great 12, 15, 20 years, but that now they’re done. They want to do something else. But they can’t afford to give up their investment in the teacher-retirement system, with its very attractive promises. They panic about becoming like the bitter burnout down the hall.

In general, I suspect most teachers would find much to like about life outside of the union pen, especially the best teachers.

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10 years ago

The best way to test these ideas is to make union membership optional for teachers and see how many stay with the union.
As a first step towards that larger experiment, remove the paycheck garnishment of union dues and make the union collect their own dues. Then we’ll see how many members support the union.
Of course, the union bosses will fight against either proposal, because they know how little support they really have. The real scandal is that the entire power of the state is behind not the union members, but the union leaders in a very dirty, corrupt, political relationship.

10 years ago

Yes, closed shop collective bargaining under the NEA is what makes RI public education so successful. This is why Rhode Island public education outperforms right to work states like Virginia that have low union membership year after year after year. It is also why non-union RI private education performs so much worse than its public education.
Wait, strike that. Reverse it.

10 years ago

“”Because in negotiating, you get the voice of the teacher who is in the classroom every day,” he said. “And that’s an important process. Without it, you take that voice away.””
Baloney! They would have a voice without collective bargaining.
Tom Kenney asked me several threads ago if I would negotiate for the changes that I propose or if I would implement them by taking away collective bargaining rights for public employees. The answer is that I would attempt to achieve such changes by negotiating.
HOWEVER, let us not exaggerate the benefits of collective bargaining. Larry Purtill has exaggerated and, in doing so, he loses credibility, both for himself and for his union.

10 years ago

“Larry Purtill has exaggerated and, in doing so, he loses credibility…”
Wait, how do you lose something you never had?

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