Tuesday, March 22, 2011

Why Teachers Like Us Support Unions

(part of  #EduSolidarity   http://edusolidarity.us/ postings by teachers today, March 22nd)

Teachers and teacher unions have been getting lambasted in the press for a while now. It is completely unfair. Teachers work for students. That is their job. Unions work for teachers. That is their job. Therefore, unions work for students. Both groups exist to make sure that students are educated and that the educational system is the best it can be. 

Lately, politicians and rich people have been trying to push their own agendas for education. These people, who have never taught and, for the most part, never been to a public school, are trying to change education. Teachers know that much of what these “education reformers” are doing are bad practices and will not work. They are pushing for more standardized testing and programs that have been tried before and known to not work. They are attacking unions as being obstacles to education and protecting bad teachers. Those statements are not true. 

Unions are not perfect, nothing is, and there are problems with some, just like there are problems with any group. But, their purpose is to support public school teachers and public school education.

Here are some things that teacher unions do:

1. Protect teachers from unfair treatment (which is quite prevalent) by administrators. Protect teachers from personal attacks by administrators and make sure that their jobs are not based on politics or who they know, but on their qualifications.

2. Provide for a living wage (no teacher is getting rich) and fair benefits. We do not get free benefits - we pay for them (and quite a bit).

3. Provide for due process for the firing of a teacher - they do not protect bad teachers. If a school or district has proof of bad performance, a teacher can and will be let go. Due process is important to protect teachers from being fired for unjust reasons.

4. Protect students - provide for small class sizes, fight for funding for programs and supplies.

5. Provide programs and support to education - many unions provide local and national programs to help students and also work to find grants and funding for schools.

6. Lobby government to properly fund education and prevent sweeping cuts to education budgets.

7. Give teachers a voice in what happens in school. Remember, teachers, not politicians, understand what is best for our children. The unions make sure that the people who are in the classroom and truly understand what needs to be done to help our children, have a voice in education policy decisions.

8. Provide a sounding board for teachers and a community that they can collaborate with other educators to come up with ways to better themselves and education.

All of this leads to a better educational system which is better for students, teachers, and the community. When teachers and the educational system are supported, like they are by unions, everyone wins.

Side note: I worked as an engineer for 10 years before becoming an educator and never saw the need for unions. I was never in an union as an engineer, but our manufacturing employees were. The companies I worked for treated employees fairly, so why did we need unions? 

I also work part time as a paramedic for a large ambulance company. Our division was not union. Other divisions were. It was funny how we got the same, or a little better, benefits than the union shops. The company didn't want us unionizing so they kept us happy.

Then I became a teacher and realized that without teacher unions, teachers would be poorly paid (even worse than we are now), treated poorly and our schools would be in shambles because the group that always fights for public school teachers and systems is the union. The teachers' unions are a good thing and fight for teachers and students. They are needed. Especially now with politicians and rich people thinking they know what's best for students and constantly attacking the people who do know what's best for students - the teachers.


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