Eason: Teachers' choice

Sunday, March 27, 2011 at 9:05pm
By John Eason

Why do teachers’ unions exist? Unions typically arise for low-skill labor trades. But why would professionals with college and post-graduate degrees need a union? Doctors, lawyers, engineers, accountants, business school graduates, etc., don’t need unions, so why would teachers? 

There are undoubtedly a number of reasons, but I believe the central reason is the teachers’ lack of control or power without them. This country began its mission to educate children by forming school boards to oversee all public education in a district. The unintended consequence of this was to put the power in the hands of a single provider of public education in the district; a school board with a monopoly. Taxpayers have only one entity from which to acquire public education services; public school teachers have only one place to practice their trade. 

As happens anytime power is too concentrated, over the years, school boards took advantage of this power in various ways. When workers tire of being taken advantage of, they look for a way to gain power or control; thus teachers’ associations gradually became unions which bargained for salaries, better benefits, work rules, etc. 

As a byproduct of this, unions forced school boards to treat all teachers virtually the same. But it’s disheartening for great teachers to give 110 percent, only to see themselves treated exactly like that rogue teacher down the hall who is giving 50 percent. Greatness is not rewarded, failure is not punished, and soon professionalism becomes a hollow concept. 

The big question is how to provide teachers the same playing field as other respected professionals. The answer of course is to break the school board’s monopoly in the operation of public education. But how? 

The answer is charter schools. These are public schools that are open to all students based on parental choice, having no enrollment preferences, no tuition and no teaching of religion. They operate independently of the school district, setting their own budgets, deciding their own curriculum and hiring other professionals who share their passion for children (or firing ones that no longer share that passion). 

Consider a system of charter schools bidding against each other for top teaching talent, both locally as well as scouring the country for the best and the brightest because their continued existence depends on attracting students and successful results. Teachers with common goals and expectations can band together to run their own “shop.” This is what professionals do.

Tennessee has a few charter schools, but fast forward five years and imagine Nashville with 30 charter schools. That is 31 public school employers from which to choose. Choices provide power without having one’s union engage in long political battles with school districts and legislatures. 

Why then does the union work against the charter school concept? Some of the union’s own teachers want the freedom and power to teach in an environment that they choose. No one is making those teachers leave their district to teach in a charter school. They have sacrificed security for freedom and are willing to be held to a much greater level of accountability for that privilege. 

I can understand school boards across the state fighting the charter school concept; it is human nature to believe you have all the answers, and who wants to give up power. Employers love monopolies. The unions may need a powerful foe to justify their existence. But individual teachers would be much better served while enjoying a more professional atmosphere in a system of multiple providers of public education. In such a setting, the NEA and TEA could easily evolve into truly professional associations not unlike those enjoyed by other professions. 

The existing system of unions versus monopolies does not work uniformly and never will; way too many children are losing their right to a great education as a result of “keeping the system we’ve always had.” 

John Eason is a board member of the Tennessee Charter Schools Association. 


Filed under: City Voices
Tagged: NEA | school boards | TEA

27 Comments on this post:

By: govskeptic on 3/28/11 at 5:54

The TEA has to follow the NEA in the policies and mission they are setting
forth. The local education associations likewise have to mainly then follow
the TEA is policies. The mission for all three has to first be members,
followed by dues, which sets up the "All are equal" which is where the
big problem exist for those attempting to improve the failing system!

By: Ingleweird on 3/28/11 at 7:24

A compelling case indeed, from a concerned private citizen with no professional bias whatsoever.

Seriously though, judging by many of the out-dated, ignorant, and religiously-"justified" opinions and legislative efforts from some native Tennesseans, I am concerned with the amount of governmental oversight on charter schools; their standards, curricula, grading, etc. What guarantees do we have that certain charter schools are not religiously-centered institutions? I can assure you, my tax dollars will not be going to fund a school that teaches children that man-made climate change is an outright myth, or that the Earth was created in 7 days, without a fight.

By: dargent7 on 3/28/11 at 7:27

Everyone knows the entire Universe was created in only 6 days. Even God, who rested on the 7th, needs a breather.
And everyone in Williamson County knows Al Gore's a nutcase. Besides, it's too cold outside to be Global Warming.

By: yogiman on 3/28/11 at 8:34

dargent7,

As an old retired "weatherman" I have often wondered where Al Gore got the educational knowledge on climatology to write a book on it. All I ever knew him to do was grow a little tobacco and politic. And neither one of them is in the field of climatology. They only thing you need to know about climatology in growing tobacco is to know when to plant it. Now that is only needing to know the spring of the year according to the climate.

And yeah, I've raised a little tobacco, too. Didn't chew it though, like some of y'all.

By: oyharward on 3/28/11 at 9:12

oyharward

Public School Teachers and the NEA Labor Union

Many of America’s public school teachers are not protected for their professional work. Each and every school teacher may personally be questioned and/or “legally challenged” individually in the Judiciary. This is one way the state legislators have, somewhat, forced teachers in public schools to become National Education Association (NEA) members and, thereafter, remain members of the NEA.

The primary “membership” purpose of “professional” teachers to become members NEA is that the NEA provides public school teachers with that “legal” protection from personal lawsuits. In return, teachers are “forced” to pay the NEA some approximately $700.00 and more in annual dues.

If the respective states’ General Assemblies will protect and provide teachers with legal counsel, you will see a large majority of public school teachers discontinue their NEA memberships. All public school teachers should be protected for professional work by the respective states and against erroneous lawsuits.

Oscar Y. Harward
oharward@carolina.rr.com

By: Ingleweird on 3/28/11 at 9:46

@Yogi:
"All you ever knew [Gore] to do was grow a little tobacco and politic." Wow, just wow! You may be shocked (shocked, I tell you!) to hear that Mr. Gore once worked at this little known place called the US House of Representatives, where in 1974, he co-sponsored hearings on climate change and toxic waste. You really don't think he just might have gained some "educational knowledge on climatology," by listening to the testimony of scientists and experts on the issue? You may also be shocked to hear that he pays twice as much on his home's electricity through carbon credits, to offset his carbon footprint?

You conservatives love to espouse the entrepreneurial prowess of America's citizens; should he not have the right to invest in things in which he supports and believes? Are you all against capitalism??? - Or (to give you the benefit of doubt) does your hatred of liberalism inhibit your ability to distinguish hypocrisy?

By: Moonglow1 on 3/28/11 at 9:57

Moonglow1: Charter schools will not provide a consistent & standardized curriculum across the state. All children should have the same baseline starting point. How will these schools be regulated? What national standards will be used to measure student progress? What guarantee will taxpayers have that profits from these schools won't be made by corporate interests. Read the NPR article today about private prisons in Texas. Counties are now paying for these prisons because they are no longer profitable & the company GEO pulled out &left the taxpayers with the bill. Are Charter Schools run by private interests?

By: Moonglow1 on 3/28/11 at 10:08

Moonglow1: The writer is not correct. Bachelor's prepared nurses are professionals & are often represented by unions. This is because for profit hospitals often operate with low patient to nurse ratios thus adversely affecting patient safety & health outcomes. Also the writer would be surprised to know that in some states like NY doctors are unionized.

By: brrrrk on 3/28/11 at 10:21

Well, no surprise that Mr Eason supports charter schools seeing as he's a board member of the Tennessee Charter Schools Association.

The way I see it, charter schools are just another way of funneling public funds from those that really need the support to those that would likely excel without the additional funding. Here's an idea, instead of buying into the whole charter school racket, lets fix the public school system so that there are no "needs" for charter schools.

By: yogiman on 3/28/11 at 10:26

Ingleweird,

You must be a Al Gore fan. I'm sure you probably know him better than I. I knew him and his parents too well after doing business with them (his parents).

When Al first 'joined' the House he came home on every break to tell us how he had voted during that session. Being on the old County Court I went to all of his "git togethers" to 'stay in touch' and see how he had voted.

Back then, the Nashville Banner carried a list of legislators in their Sunday paper showing how they had voted that week. Apparently they misunderstood Al because their print was usually different from what he said about his votes that week.

By: pswindle on 3/28/11 at 10:38

All the GOP knows what to do is to sling mud at someone without facts. VP Gore has always worked for TN and Tennesseans. Have you noticied the many trucks taking nuclear waste across our state? Gore would not let that happpen, but good old Alexandra and Corker are sitting back and hoping that a disaster will not occur. If I were Gore, I would tell the GOP to go to hell. What have you done to help this earth of ours? Oh I forgot, drill baby drill or build the safe nuclear plants. I bet Japan would like to hear from you about right now.

By: dargent7 on 3/28/11 at 10:39

yogi: Al Gore wrote a book I read in college: "The Earth in the Balance". It had to be around 1975. That's over 35 years ago.
He talked of the oceans and trees, "breathing", before "climate change" was even a concept.
Dan Quayle was questioned about trees giving off O2 and taking in CO2 and the moron (who couldn't spell potato) said, "Bizarre beliefs".
Al Gore was also a Divinity student at Vanderbilt. Politics would corrupt Gandhi. He's kept his head on fairly straight, considering.
His resume is extensive, he is a learned man, and has an Oscar and Nobel Peace Prize.
What's on your mantle?

By: brrrrk on 3/28/11 at 10:41

dargent7 said

"His resume is extensive, he is a learned man, and has an Oscar and Nobel Peace Prize.
What's on your mantle?"

A box of tea bags?

By: yogiman on 3/28/11 at 11:02

What's on my mantel, children is pictures of my wife, children and grandchildren. And under the current "givings", I don't think I would accept a Nobel prize.

Giving credit where credit is due, pswindle, because of a flood blocking the crossing of the river Al got the old bridge into Carthage restored... temporarily. After only a few million bucks )many) they said it should be good for the next 40 to 50 years. Seems like it lasted only 15 years. Still wondering what happened. Are the cars in Smith county too heavy?

I've often wondered why the Golden Gate bridge is still open to traffic after all these years.

By: Captain Nemo on 3/28/11 at 12:04

By: yogiman on 3/28/11 at 8:34
dargent7,

As an old retired "weatherman" I have often wondered where Al Gore got the educational knowledge on climatology to write a book on it. All I ever knew him to do was grow a little tobacco and politic. And neither one of them is in the field of climatology. They only thing you need to know about climatology in growing tobacco is to know when to plant it. Now that is only needing to know the spring of the year according to the climate.

And yeah, I've raised a little tobacco, too. Didn't chew it though, like some of y'all.
*******************************************************************************************
Reading Poor Richards’s Almanac is not a make you a weatherman.

By: dargent7 on 3/28/11 at 12:06

brrrrk: Lipton or Celestial?

By: Captain Nemo on 3/28/11 at 12:13

The Golden Gate Bridge is open so people can get from one side to the other. I guess that answer was not in Poor Richards’s.

By: Captain Nemo on 3/28/11 at 12:16

Paul I tried to make it yesterday, but the long drive back from Atlanta did me in.

By: Antisocialite on 3/28/11 at 2:16

yogiman said:
Giving credit where credit is due, pswindle, because of a flood blocking the crossing of the river Al got the old bridge into Carthage restored... temporarily. After only a few million bucks )many) they said it should be good for the next 40 to 50 years. Seems like it lasted only 15 years. Still wondering what happened. Are the cars in Smith county too heavy?

So, I'm confused yogi... did Al Gore personally construct that bridge? Because if he wasn't out there actually arranging the reinforcing bars, and pouring the bridge deck and abutments your argument is as invalid as it is lacking in information... what happened to the bridge? You insinuate that it failed, yet you do not say. When was this? If it was after the May floods last year then a bridge designed for a 50 year flood could easily have failed from the 500-1000 year storms that we saw.

Full disclosure: this is my area of expertise so if you want to make any unfounded or ignorant statements you are going to get a much stronger rebuke than normal from me.

By: yogiman on 3/28/11 at 3:51

dumba..,

Similar to the Golden Gate bridge crossing the entrance (or exit) to the San Francisco bay from the South side to the North side (depending on which way you are going), the bridge crossing the Cumberland river in Smith county crosses from the South side of the river to the North side of the river, again, depending on which way you are going.

By: yogiman on 3/28/11 at 3:57

Antisocialite,

If you have the time to read the data on the bridge, I would be glad to post it to you but I doubt if the others would want to read that much on this program.

But no, Al did not build it. Using his place in office he did get it restored. They was going to tear it down after the opening of the new bridge, until we had a flood block the crossing of the river just after the bridge opening back then.

By: Captain Nemo on 3/29/11 at 6:46

Good morning again
http://www.naturaldistraction.com/slides/Sunrise Landscape.jpg

By: treefrogdk on 3/29/11 at 9:17

it's hilarious how a LTE regarding teachers' unions can devolve into a series of near slurs of al gore and CLIMATE CHANGE. (it's no longer called global warming, for obvious reasons, i.e. it's so FOCKING cold outside!)

By: pswindle on 3/29/11 at 9:36

The teachers can decided for themeselves if they want to belong to a union. They have rights too. Why does the GOP want their rights but they want to take rights away from others.

By: Captain Nemo on 3/29/11 at 9:46

treefrog you will have to realize that yogi only has a small half of a brain. He can’t help getting off of the subject.

By: brrrrk on 3/29/11 at 11:22

Here's an interesting bit of information that I didn't know before......

In most states that have "free shops" (a free shop being a shop where you are not required to join the union and pay dues if a union exists in the shop), the unions are required by state law (and again this is most, but not all, states) to represent all workers regardless of whether or not they are union members. This is why people like Scott Walker are pushing so hard to do away with collective bargaining. They are trying to make the unions so ineffective so as to cause people to not become members. As a result this reduces the amount of funds that the unions have to defend workers, but at the same time they are required by law to do so.

By: treefrogdk on 3/29/11 at 11:30

please don't capitalize scott walker's name.....