"I know no safe depository of the ultimate powers of the society but the people themselves; and if we think them not enlightened enough to exercise their control with a wholesome discretion, the remedy is not to take it from them, but to inform their discretion by education. This is the true corrective of abuses of constitutional power." - Thomas Jefferson 1820

"There is a growing technology of testing that permits us now to do in nanoseconds things that we shouldn't be doing at all." - Dr. Gerald Bracey author of Rotten Apples in Education

Search This Blog

Thursday, December 15, 2011

Signs Of Life

Missouri Education Watchdog, like many of the other groups shown on the right side of our blog, have been ringing the warning bell about public education for a long time.  Unfortunately it seemed like everyone in town was fast asleep, comfy in their status quo beds. Whether it is the normal circadian rhythm kicking in, or just the sheer number of bells ringing, we are definitely seeing signs of groups wiping the cobwebs from their eyes as they realize they are waking to a world very different from the one they went to sleep in.

Once such example comes from the Heartlander.  They reported  that teachers are leaving the bloated national teachers union NEA for smaller non-union options.  Groups like Educators 4 Excellence (E4E), California Teachers Empowerment Network, and Boston-based Teach Plus are seeing a rise in their memberships as the NEA saw a loss of 100,000 members last year.  The reasons teachers are leaving the NEA?

  • Don’t feel like they have much of a voice
  • Rank-and-file teachers making $50,000 while their union bosses are making $500,000
  • Concern for teacher pensions in an era of city bankruptcies and union abuse
  • Feeling that the union has lost its focus
The NEA still has 3.2 million members which encompasses some 80 percent of organized teachers so this is only a small first step, but it is a step in the right direction. The Heartlander author believes charter-schools and Teach for America can be credited with this change. It is clear that a disconnect is happening for the new teachers entering the system today who don't see union membership as a benefit but rather as an unproductive expense or in some cases a liability. Teachers in Missouri have had options for non-NEA union membership (e.g. MO State Teachers Assn.) and have frequently chosen that option, citing the expense and lack of clear benefit to NEA membership as their reason for choosing to join something else.

The great mantra of the federal government for education is accountability. If that is to be truly embraced, then teachers should demand it from their unions and non-union associations as well. Accountability is best handled as close to the source as possible. There is a great tendency to try to increase power by increasing numbers.  To do that, most groups end up expanding the geographic area they serve.  Every local community, like every child, is different, with different abilities and limitations. When you start trying to serve an ever increasingly diverse membership you invariably end up watering down your stance on issues to the point of being useless to any single membership group.  This is what happened with the NEA. They argue a one size fits all approach to teachers. We know this doesn't work for students.  Why would it be any different for teachers?

If these non-union teacher associations are to remain beneficial and responsive to their membership, they need to stay close to their members both geographically and philosophically. The more homogenous their membership the better they will be able to serve their needs. The more they interact, both in terms of face-to-face and frequency, the more accountable they will be.

The members also need to be more active in holding their union/association staff's feet to the fire.  This requires more time and effort, something teachers are short on these days due to the government's accountability requirements. Younger teachers at least will have more energy to do this and will thus shape the non-NEA groups that are cropping up locally.

As teachers wake up to the requirements of the Common Core Standards shining brightly in their eyes, they should start asking whichever group they are paying dues to, what they are going to do about it on their behalf.

No comments:

Post a Comment

Keep it clean and constructive. We reserve the right to delete comments that are profane, off topic, or spam.

Site Meter