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.