The Left Must Become Critical of Teachers Unions
This article in the New York Times is frankly disturbing. In general, I’m a big supporter of unions. To be more specific, I’m a supporter of workers’ right to unionize to prevent exploitation and receive fairer wages, more benefits, etc. Historically, unions have been important forces for good in America, and many still are. Even the libertarian economist Henry Hazlitt recognized this.
But the Teachers Unions must be treated differently. The task they perform is very different to that of unionized manual labourers. The training necessary is very different. And the service they provide is very different. A huge problem with teaching is the standing it faces in society. To me, it would make sense if teachers agreed to institute some form of merit pay, but also made it easier for principals to fire them. I think teacher salaries should be doubled, even tripled. But they should teach more hours (longer days, shorter summers) and they should subject themselves to real performance reviews. That way teaching can become a more respected profession again, and the quality of education will improve overall. This is a goal in the public interest, and certainly worthy of leftist support.
I have no idea how many New York city teachers are incompetent. But surely the number is much greater than 3. And the system where potentially incompetent teacher sit in the “rubber room” and continue to be paid is also absurd. What’s more this is another issue that might inspire bipartisan support (not that bipartisanship is everything, in fact, it’s way over-fetishized in American political discourse, but here it could be useful). Something has to be done here. My ideas are perhaps utopian. I’m not sure of the way there. But the status quo is untenable.
I’m not saying Teachers Unions should be abolished. But they should be willing to compromise for the sake of better outcomes for their students.