The effect of teacher unions on school reform is a controversial in the world of education. A teachers union is an organization of workers that have banded together to achieve common goals. America consists of two main teachers unions; the National Education Association and the American Federation of Teachers. “The National Education Association, the nation's largest professional employees organization, it has more than three million members that work at every level of education, from pre-school to university graduate programs” ("NEA - NEA Home"). “The American Federation of Teachers has more than one million members nationwide and has grown into a trade union representing workers in education, health care, and public service” ("AFT - American Federation of Teachers - A Union of Professionals"). Pros
There are many reasons teacher unions are good for teachers as well as the public. They protect teachers' rights, support teacher professionalism and check administrative power. “Teachers unions are able to build productive relationships and exert a positive influence on the improvement of teaching and learning” (Noll, 2013, p.239). “We live in an era when leaders in business and the media demand that schools function like businesses in a free market economy, competing for students and staff. Many such voices say that such corporate-style school reform is stymied by the teacher unions, which stand in the way of leaders who want unchecked power to assign, reward, punish, or remove their employees” (Ravitch). “Without tenure, teachers would be, as they were in the past, at the mercy of school administrators and elected school board members” (Cassidy, 2011). As stated by Ravitch the teacher unions did not invent tenure, despite widespread beliefs to the contrary. Tenure evolved in the 19th century as one of the few perks available to people who were paid low wages. The union is necessary as a protection for teachers against the arbitrary exercise of power by heavy-handed administrators. In our school systems, as in our city, state, and federal governments, we need checks and balances (Ravitch). “The bottom line is that unions really are needed; they are a necessary counter to unconstrained capitalism. We should not be trying to eliminate unions. Let's face the fact that workers have a right to organize, and management has a right to negotiate with them” (Masterfano, 2013). Cons
Many people believe that problems are occurring because of the teacher unions. “Teacher unions defer efforts to reform the education system by changing teaching methods and keeping alternative systems from being reachable, such as charter schools, merit pay, scholarships, and school choice” (Thorne, 2011). “The evidence is reasonably persuasive that access to private schools and charter schools increases the likelihood that their children will fare well on reading and math tests or graduate from high school” (Hess, 2010). With a continuation of pay increases across the board, aspiring teachers do not see any incentives for high achievements, since those who are under performing still have equal benefits. Salary changes should be geared toward keeping effective teachers and changing the structure of pay, not just the magnitude. Having raises across-the-board raises will not solve the problems with the current uniform salary structure. “By implementing a merit-pay system, or reforming one that has strayed from its initial course, can have a powerful impact on employee engagement, job satisfaction, goal achievement, and the success of an organization” (Hagedorn, 2009, p. 6). Another negative aspect of the education system, according to Thorne (2011), is the tenure system. Tenure is awarded to teachers after 3 years of teaching. Once the teacher is tenured, it is almost impossible to fire that teacher. This makes it much easier for inadequate teachers to remain in their teaching position. Explanation
As stated by Masterfano (2013) without unions, we would still be working 12 hour days, seven days a week, with no paid holidays, no paid vacations, no pay raises. The youngest of children would be toiling away in unsafe factories alongside their parents. The power of unions changed all of these. And in that, unions -- along with a reasonable system of regulations -- can be that brake we need on unfettered capitalism. Union leaders negotiate hard, and they should. They are the representatives of all their members, and sometimes also of non-members who work in the organization, so they should bargain for all they can get for their workers. But union leaders also need to understand business more -- the financials, the trends, how to evaluate the viability of a business or state/city/municipality they work for (Masterfano, 2013). The continuous debate over teacher unions will continue to rage. There is not clear decisions on the effectiveness of unions. However, with education reform on the forefront, one thing remains clear, teacher unions will remain on the hot seat for some time.
AFT - American Federation of Teachers - A Union of Professionals. (n.d.). Retrieved from http://www.aft.org Cassidy, S. (2011). Debating pros and cons of teacher unions. Lancaster Online. Retrieved from http://lancasteronline.com/article/local/364344_Debating-pros-and-cons-of-teacher-unions.html#ixzz2glghEIBY Hagedorn, K. (2009). The pay-off of merit pay. Strategic Human Resource Issues in Higher Education, 4(1), 6. Retrieved from http://hrhorizons.nacubo.org/newsletter/past-issues/volume-4-issue-1/the-pay-off-of-merit-pay.html Hess, F. H. (2010). Does school choice work? National Affairs, (5). Retrieved from www.nationalaffairs.com Masterfano, M. (2013, September 17). Unions: The good, the bad, the ugly. Huffington Post. Retrieved from http://www.huffingtonpost.com/michele-masterfano/unions-the-good-the-bad-t_b_3880878.html NEA - NEA Home. (n.d.). Retrieved from http://www.nea.org
Noll, J. W. (2013). Taking sides. New York: McGraw-Hill.
Ravitch, D. (Winter). Why teacher unions are good for teacher and the public. American Eduator. Retrieved from http://www.aft.org/newspubs/periodicals/ae/winter0607/ravitch.cfm Thorne, A. (2011, November 27). The Ridge Review. Retrieved from http://www.theridgereview.com/news/2011/11/27/bad-teacher-an-investigation-of-teacher-unions/