Do you think teacher's unions help or hinder public education? What evidence supports your opinion?

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In light of what is happening in Wisconsin, I think it is time to resurrect this discussion!  Teacher's unions are often made out to be the bad guys, and the public percetion seems to be that they exist only to keep bad teachers on the job.

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Unions are a perfectly valid means of asserting a group's desires.  The problem comes when they act coercively, and that includes keeping a teacher on staff who deserves to be fired or an "educator" administrator who does little yet talks much, mostly politics. Most unions deal with business management; in the case of education, it appears teacher's unions deal with government.  This is the crux of the problem.  If good teachers are in demand, but the pay and work conditions are lousy, something's wrong, because that situation violates the basic law of Supply and Demand. That something appears to be the government's role in determining salaries, at least in this state, along with other issues pertaining to teachers so that the union isn't truly free to negotiate for the benefit of its members.  Having worked in both public and private schools, those with minimal government interference have the happiest kids and teachers, both willing to learn and change as needs require, and the least number of administrators.  Maybe the question isn't about unions at all, bu should be "Does government help or hinder public education?"

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I teach in higher education and have experienced both sides of the argument. I am currently teaching in a state that does not allow unions and is undergoing financial cuts at a fast and furious rate. There is talk of letting untenured faculty go, and for tenured faculty - pay furloughs. This would never be allowed in a union situation, but as it stands, we as a faculty, have no voice in this matter.

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Teacher's unions only hurt those who education are intended for -- the kids. Tenure and teacher's unions protects poor teachers and does not reward good teachers. Unlike almost every other organization in a capitalist society, teachers in the United States are not compensated for exceptional work and poor teachers continue to get paid as long as they do the minimum.

I understand that we don't get into teaching for the money. However, money motivates people to do well and attracts the best candidates. Those highly motivated and best educated take their careers to a place that will allow them to live a life aobve lower middle class for the first ten years of their profession.

Teachers may be afraid that if teachers unions go they lose their protection. So what! Educational policy should not be legislated with the teachers' primary interest in mind. Moreover, the potential to get fired if you don't do a good job (like any other successful business in the United States) is what spurs competition among faculty, ultimately resulting in teacher's expending as much effort as possible to create and execute a successful lesson. 

The only people afraid of losing teachers' unions are those who do not feel secure in their job. Some may sight that they may unjustly be fired. However, just as the real work place, there would need to be documented tracking of a teacher's poor performance in order for a school to fire without the threat of litigation.

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Certainly, there is a positive and negative side to this question.  However, having come from a state that has a real union to one in which there is merely an association, the importance of a union has been manifest on multiple occasions.  Yes, some teachers attain tenure and remain although they are poor teachers.  But, it is not because of the tenure law; the reason they remain is because of their administration to whom they are sycophants, relatives, etc.  Or, it is due to the indolence of an administrator who will not document and pursue the avenues necessary to removing such a teacher.  On the other hand, without tenure, many qualified teachers who have standards--unlike certain administrators who feel they must politic and appease parents--would have lost their jobs simply because they were not in favor.  Also, harrassment of several kinds goes on in states that do not have a veritable union or fair practices law.

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I have taught in situations where there is no union at a charter school in The Villages, Florida, where a stong union exists, and where there is an association or "loose" version of a union.  When there is no union at all, teachers are the victims of lazy students, their affluent parents, and derriere-kissing administration--too often excellent teachers were fired without cause simply because the kids didn't want to work and felt they were above it all.  Bonuses were given only to those teachers who "partied" with the principal--no, thank you.  I actually had a student tell me he would get me fired because I expected too much of them.  What does that do to teacher morale, and what lessons are the kids learning? Of course, the principal for whom I worked is no longer there...something about those lazy kids not getting accepted to their Ivy-league schools.  Go figure.

Strong unions do protect poor teachers.  In some cases, they also support "merit pay" for teachers which I don't support.  At any given moment, I work hard to help my students progress but one bad test day or a vindictive student could intentionally sabotage results which in turn affect my earning potential.  I teach because I love it, but I have to feed my family as well.

This is a tangled web.  Like the welfare system, unions were created with good intentions, but none of it is perfect. 

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No system implemented could be perfect. If there is a child or a group of children who aim to sabotage a teacher, then the teacher is equally responsible to document any threats and report them.

Merit pay does not have to be based on test scores, although some consideration should be given to that element. It can be more focused on observation assessments. If the teacher feels as though they are not considered for bonus pay based on relationships with the administration, then, like any other company, there is a level of litigation that can be pursued.

The overall of quality of education in the United States is horrible and especially alarming when compared to other nations of significantly less wealth. Of course, we are dealing with a generation that reads less than any other since Europeans began emigrating to the U.S. Clearly, the problem is systemic. Nonetheless, changing education needs to start in the classroom.

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Empirical evidence supports that teacher turnover is at its height when an individual reaches the third year of their profession, precisely the time when teachers are reaching the stage of "proficient." Why? Burnout. We expend more energy than nearly any other profession and are asked to work for free when planning lessons and grading papers. We are paid less than (to name a few) bus drivers and subway conductors. A small percentage of teachers find compensation in their deeds. However, to truly hire and retain the most talent, salary must be commensurate with workload. The only way the state will agree to pay more, which is very close to happening in one city, is if it is allowed to weed out the worst and pay the best via the absence of a protective union.

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