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Teachers’ Unions Need a Lesson

To fix public education, the U.S. needs to start with the teachers’ unions. Pro or con?

Pro: An Impediment to Reform

For the past 15 years, critical questions have been asked about our nation’s public education system: What academic skills should our students attain in our schools? Why isn’t the ever-growing amount of money spent on the system leading to sharp increases in student achievement? How should we address failure? These fundamental questions are being asked because they need to be asked. With the exception of some die-hard apologists, Americans universally agree that our education system has some serious flaws and the half-trillion dollars spent annually is not producing the returns we should expect.

Throughout the years, by flexing their political and financial muscle, the teachers’ unions have exercised largely unseen influence over how our children are educated; most people do not understand how extensive this reach truly is. In the corridors of Congress and state capitals, the unions have succeeded in defeating or watering down efforts to increase accountability for student performance. In the school districts, unions have used the collective-bargaining process to stymie efforts to recognize job performance in outstanding teachers or reassign teachers who aren’t measuring up.

Most teachers are heroes. In schools big and small across the U.S., teachers are working very hard to educate and inspire the children who come through their classroom doors. But the brutal fact we must recognize is that there is a tremendous difference between the desires of the teachers and the desires of the union. Teachers’ unions have little or zero incentive to change. Their power and desire for control make it unlikely they will back even the most moderate efforts to bring accountability and results to our schools.

The policies of teachers’ unions are not the sole problem plaguing our education system. But to improve public education, we must not shy away from challenging these powerful organizations in the system.

Con: An Urban Legend Refuted

Nearly 25 years ago, “A Nation at Risk” decried the “rising tide of mediocrity” engulfing U.S. public education. Although the “rising tide” catchphrase at the beginning of this National Commission on Excellence in Education report became famous, the body of the text—taken as a whole—didn’t back it up. On the contrary, the report said Americans were better educated than ever.

Similarly, the role of teachers’ unions in public education has been mischaracterized for decades. Public education faces serious challenges, but educators organizing to improve the quality of public schools has never been one of them. More to the point, there is nothing incompatible between high student achievement and collective bargaining.

Education Week data confirm that states with collective bargaining laws are outperforming the rest of the country. In fact, applying its Quality Counts 2007 measure of student achievement indicators, an analysis of results in all 50 states shows a positive correlation between teacher collective bargaining and improved learning. For example, the No. 1 state, Massachusetts, has a history of strong collective bargaining and tenure laws, and the lowest-performing state, Mississippi, has no bargaining or tenure law.

Teachers’ unions exist to provide quality education to all children and serve the needs of our members. The two go hand in hand. We advocate for wages, employment rights, and working conditions that educators deserve as professionals. We are equally committed to improving teaching techniques, closing the achievement gaps, reducing dropout rates, and making No Child Left Behind more responsive to the real needs of students and educators.

Public schools are plagued by inequality in funding, lack of parental involvement, and difficulties in recruiting and retaining qualified educators. With so much at stake, teachers’ unions will continue to organize and mobilize to give every student the basic right to a great public school.

Opinions and conclusions expressed in the BusinessWeek Debate Room do not necessarily reflect the views of BusinessWeek,, or The McGraw-Hill Companies.

Reader Comments


I'm very confused as to why Reg Weaver would try to correlate collective bargaining with student performance and present it as a legitimate argument when the core of the education problem is very different. Let's start at the beginning.

One can make correlations between anything since linear regression doesn't care what two data sets you're trying to link. In fact, I could link rising fuel economy to bulging American waistlines, get a positive correlation, and then say that I have proof in hard data form that increased fuel efficiency in cars over the last 40 years is related to the 24-pound weight gain per average American for the same period of time. The two have nothing in common, but I can always correlate the two.

Why would Reg try to correlate things such as collective bargaining agreements and student performance? Because it's in the interest of the union to make it seem like hard data is on its side. And what strikes me as odd is that the main point of the union's rebuttal is waved aside in favor of meaningless stats.

Are Americans better educated or worse over the last 25 years? Domestic stats show that they are. International stats show that American education when compared to that in other nations is mediocre at best and hasn't improved all that much over the last quarter century due to other nations' gains.

So why don't we decide on how to measure students' performance and whether we're going to compare them on the domestic or the international level and then think about how to get where we want to go and how to pay teachers for getting there?

re mercer

Teachers' unions have the wrong objective. They want more and more for less and less. Their objective should be a better-educated student. We also need to get rid of the ACLU. They have taken authority away from school supervision, which reduces the necessary discipline for a better education.

Start somewhere else

Disclosure: My wife is public school teacher in an urban, inner city school with high populations of minorities and immigrants. I also taught back in the 1990s.

I don't think we need to start with teacher unions. First, they do not run schools--school districts, their school boards, and the property tax owners run the schools. Since the 1980s, teacher unions have exercised less and less power (note: Strikes are far and few between).

I agree that the correlation submitted by Reg Weaver might be uninformative and perhaps even misleading in a direct statistical sense. However, I'm willing to infer something else from his correlation. As a whole, it seems to me that the performance of students is related to two things: (1) emphasis and importance of education (from family and community); and (2) actual socioeconomic/educational history of family and community. These usually go hand in hand, but not always. So I summarize what Reg is stating this way: Students succeed where they are expected to succeed and their family/community has succeeded.

Now, of course, there are always exceptions--there are always some individual students, families, and schools that excel despite the odds against them. These exceptions, however, do not negate a generalized pattern (i.e. the one outlined above).

Getting back to the teacher unions: What role do they play? Do they hinder or hurt academic achievement? I often have complaints about the workings of any organization, whether it be the federal government, city hall, a corporation, a family run business, or a teacher union. They are all run by people, who all often make choices for their own personal interest or for the perpetuation of the organization--the actual organization and type of organization does not matter. If a teacher wants to make a living wage and have decent benefits, I don't see that as impeding student achievement--I see it might result in the opposite: a professional committed to learning and teaching, instead of thinking about how to make ends meet.

Getting back to the correlation: Although I don't know the reasons why there is a correlation between the existence of teacher unions and student achievement, I submit this proposition: If common sense says that families and communities that believe education and more specifically, academic achievement, are important, then they are the same families and communities that will believe what teachers and teacher unions have been saying since they first organized--education is important, therefore teachers are important, therefore we will treat teachers as professionals, therefore they are deserving of decent pay and other benefits, therefore we see teacher unions as consistent with our views and goals regarding education. The converse of this is that education is not that important, and therefore, teachers are not that important, therefore pay and other benefits are not important, therefore teacher unions are not desired (as they are saying the opposite of this). I think the correlation is in fact informative when viewed from a community and societal perspective.

Having said all this, do I think teacher unions are perfect? No. They are the products of the 20th=century and factory-line mentality. They need to be like all 21st-century organizations: nimble, ready to change course, listen to their stakeholders, try new things, and work in partnerships where it makes sense. There are many people who have studied education or been education leaders who surely have great ideas to implement, so I'm not going to propose specific solutions to improve or "fix" public education. I know that there are a lot of good things going on in educational reform, such as charter and other specialized schools. But the institutional educational system as a whole will only be as good as the families and communities that "own" and "run" them and the peer culture that the students exist in. If you want to "fix" public education, then start with the families and the communities.


When was the last time teachers were required to do a good job? Why should they start now?


This issue reminds me of how people say, "I'm opposed to the war, but I support the troops." It's OK to criticize the teachers' unions, but only with the disclaimer that individual teachers are heroes. Having said that--I know teachers who have refused to join the union and have been ostracized by their peers because of it, which seems kind of creepy. It's hard to wield the power of individual choice and responsibility in the face of entrenched interests.


"Teachers' unions exist to provide quality education to all children and serve the needs of our members. The two go hand in hand. We advocate for wages, employment rights, and working conditions that educators deserve as professionals."

Wrong. Wrong. Wrong. This is what is wrong with educational unions and education in general. Teachers teach. Teachers are required to provide a quality education. Unionization has nothing to do with the quality of education other than the assurance of more mediocrity, because they bargain for mediocrity and quality as if they were the same. If unions believe they somehow have some sway over quality, they are seriously misguided.

But they've been misguided for decades. In the public education system, unions have dug a giant moat around education and do everything in their power to disallow any solution that doesn't have the word "public" in it or where they are not involved. If you don't understand what I'm saying, take a serious look at the NEA. It's purely socialism designed to tug at the heartstrings.


Newt Gingrich said it best. :

Teacher's unions and local school districts often measure their own success in whether they "employ" large numbers [of teachers] within their communities and whether they bargain for benefits (meet their payrolls, obtain increased medical coverage, etc). If these are the measures of success, then the goals become (i) to collect an ever-increasing amount of taxes (to pay ever-increasing teacher's wages), and (ii) to negotiate ever-increasing benefits for the teachers. Without stating the obvious, these goals have absolutely nothing to do with what the teachers are hired to perform--teach the students. Nowhere is there a stated goal to either increase student performance or hold someone (the teachers) accountable. Until we break the unions' domination, we will never get reach accountability in our public schools, and we will never make the hard choices and changes necessary to break the current state of mediocrity.


The hardest issues to agree on are the education of our students, teacher quality, and teacher standards. In Corporate America, there are defined practices for business. In education, we are ever changing to meet the needs of our students. All require needs different from one another. We have multiple bosses. This leads to: Who is our true leader, and who is willing to be held accountable? You can't lead if you don't know who is leading. How do we fix this? Trained leaders, accessing business-like practices, and leaving the victim syndrome behind. By this I mean that I hear more about the negative side and how someone was wrong, instead of being proactive. Find a way and make it happen. Do what we tell young students: Do your homework.

Gerald R

One major problem with public education is that curricular decisions come from the top (administrators). This interferes with creativity on the part of local teachers. Administrators should be looking for imaginative teachers rather than teachers who slavishly follow schemes that suit the needs of gifted rather than educationally needy children. Teachers should receive salaries commensurate with their growth as educators and scholars.


I agree with Gerald R, but tenure laws stand in the way of replacing the unimaginative time-servers. Perhaps if teachers have unions to make sure there are no arbitrary, political firings, they don't also need tenure.

James Wilson

Have you people ever got it wrong. Teachers teach what the state and the local school boards approve as their agenda, just like No Child Left Behind is taught today. Many studies out there show the 1950s teaching methods with the class facing the teacher are the best for instruction. The system is infiltrated with businesses selling systems that the teacher spends more time setting up and maintaining than using.

Teachers are going to teach their representatives; just get them fair pay and treatment.
The materials you give the teachers to work with and the students the parent gives them to work with somehow are brought together for the majority of students--even though the school boards have few educators on them, and some parents are too busy or unconcerned.

Remember this: If you only teach children the basics, you will kill creativity in them. I personally believe that is the goal, because you can bring in workers who expect lower wages and will not fight for higher pay.

Go listen to Newt GetRich or any number of the anti-fair-wage Republicans about how money is the problem. They will not admit they attack education because educators make easy targets.

Allow only educators to sit on school boards, and kick business out of the classroom. Math has not changed for elementary school, reading still uses the same words, history still happened, and social skills are still important.

Your agendas are costing the schools money, time, and effort, so business can sell computers, programs, and engineering to schools.

How did the people who sent people to the moon learn without computers in the classroom?

Wake up.

J Torguson

Many school "boards" have members who are active or former members of the teachers' union (live in suburbs. teach in the city, become a board member in the suburbs).

Also, many states have convicted the teachers' union for "election law violations" in at least one district.

As a father whose children have recently completed K-12 public education, all I can say is: If you are a member of the teachers' union, you are my enemy. Sorry, I just do not like people who hurt my children.

Rick Supplee

The answer is school choice. When governments allow parents to send kids to the best schools, the whole landscape will change to favor the best schools with the best teachers. The charter school where my wife teaches has 5,000 kids on its waiting list because its grads have better ACT scores and get into colleges of their choice. Government is in the way of successful schools, not teachers or the union.


I agree with Rick Supplee--and with Milton Friedman, the man whom many have credited with introducing the concept of vouchers. The answer is school choice. This is such a no-brainer. The fact is that capitalism works. Socialism, as vividly exemplified by the NEA's effects on America's schools, leads to degradation and corruption. It follows like night follows day that when individual incentives (both positive and negative) are subdued, mediocrity and dilapidation follow. Look at the old Soviet Union. Look at Cuba and North Korea. And, in stunning contrast, look at the U.S. (sans its socialist/unionized education system), look at Australia, look at South Korea. Why is this so hard? The fact is that if there are true incentives put in place to goad, prod, punish (for example, the teacher might lose his or her job because of poor creativity, sloth, etc), and/or reward teachers so that they perform with excellence, the outcomes will inevitably be positive. What's so frustrating about all this is the fact that capitalist concepts are so simple to understand, yet we as a nation continue to allow smooth communicators like Reg Weaver to dupe us into keeping the status quo.


One other thing, have you ever wondered why our university system is the envy of the world? Have you ever wondered why the best and the brightest from around the world are banging at our doors to get into these institutions? I mean, we as Americans, we moan and we groan about our deplorable public school systems. (I include myself among the moaners). Yet when we look at our colleges and universities, we behold an educational richness unparalleled in the history of mankind. Yes, I know there are warts and imperfections here, but come on, there's nothing comparable in any place or at any era in history. So, why are America's universities so great (not to mention our terrific community colleges, technical schools, etc)? Two words: intense competition.

Now, follow me on this: Our American educational system that teaches people ages 18 to 22 and older is far and away the best in the world and the best in human history. But, our American educational system that teaches people ages 5 to 18 is in utter shambles and is the laughing stock of the civilized world. What gives? I think you know the answer: the NEA.

If we were to immediately open up our public schools to the intense competition that vouchers bring, I have absolutely no doubt that our public schools would be the envy of the world within about five years.


The members of the teaching union at our small-town high school have an attitude of entitlement. My wife worked in their system to help the "at risk" kids at this school and attempted to work with many of these teachers.

She brought in a guest speaker, and they heckled her. The principal tried to run staff meetings, and they openly defied them. They felt untouchable, and they let everyone know it.

The union's behavior here is directly antagonistic to the students.


I agree with the premise that the NEA and teachers' unions are responsible for the state of education today. I believe they haven't bargained enough. I think they've given away too much in terms of salary and benefits, and teaching doesn't attract the kind of quality educators it once did. All you free-market people should agree. You subsidize things you want more of, and tax things you want less of. If you were to subsidize a high salary ($100,000 for example), you would have far more applicants than you do now, and could hire only the best teachers. Now, there aren't enough good teachers to go around, because of the limited amount of money you can make. My wife is a librarian at a middle school in New Hampshire. She will get a 3% raise every year regardless of how well she does. If inflation averages 3.5%, she will make less real money in 10 years than she does now. There's no chance for promotions, so this year, her first, she made more money than she will ever make again.

Opening up the market to voucher schools doesn't seem like a good idea. It seems a bit profit-motivated to me. Government exists to do the things people can't do for themselves. Education seems to be the role of the government, allowing you to opt out if you choose. If the voucher school is opened up using private money, I'm all for it. But diverting public resources to educate a few smacks of elitism.

What would it take to make all public schools operate as effectively as the voucher schools are said to do? Why can't we make that kind of investment in the schools we already have? A billion dollars? A trillion dollars? More? The question should be, what is it worth?


If anyone has been to public school, you know some teachers suck. And if you have parents or have been around your friends' parents, you know some parents suck.


In New Jersey, the teachers' union has systematically used its revenue to buy influence at the state level. I was a member on a local school board, and year after year, there is a higher demand on small communities to pay up or risk the full assault of the NJEA. If teachers want to use the legislature to get their way, they can become state employees. If my employer doesn't give me a 6% raise every year, I can't go legislate my way to a bigger paycheck. There needs to be a greater support toward school choice.


When I was in high school, the teachers held a strike. Then the district closed the schools and locked them out. The best teachers in my school were out leading the pickets; the worst scabbed until they were locked out. That was one of the best educational experiences I ever had--it taught me to stand up for what's right.

But Paige and his ilk have a different agenda. They know that billions of public dollars flow into our school systems without interference from the financial markets. Give the privatizers their way, and a big chunk of our tax dollars will be headed to Wall Street to make a bunch of parasites even richer.


Thank God for teachers and unions in New Jersey, who inspire and teach the best students in the United States.

You do get what you pay for; you only need to look at Mississippi, an anti-union state performing consistently in last place in many areas.

Joe K.

Let's talk about "power and control."

In New Jersey, there are an estimated 110,000 full-time K-12 teachers each contributing an estimated $800 per year in dues to the union. That's $88 million dollars a year raised in New Jersey alone.

There are an estimated 4.4 million full-time K-12 teachers in the United States. Run the numbers we're talking about--an estimated $3.5 billion dollars collected each year by the union.

With respect to the union, it's all about power and control, and represents the employees, not the student clients or the citizen owners of our schools.

People who think a local community with a voluntary board of education sets the agenda are fooling themselves.

The National Education Association (NEA) and American Federation of Teachers (AFT) call all the shots. And they lobby extensively to keep it that way.


I believe teachers need union protection. (I am not a teacher.) Otherwise, they are regularly taken advantage of by parents and school-system supervisors and boards. Teachers will not stand for such behavior, and will leave for other professions. This is evidenced in the teacher turnover rates.

Teachers would be better served by an NEA that pushed for better teacher working conditions and benefits, and stayed away from the school choice issue. Their advocacy for public school monopolies engenders undeserved anti-teacher feelings.

I live in a county with a population exceeding 1 million residents. It has one big school system. Teachers dance to the system's tune--or go unemployed as educators. Charter schools in this county would introduce competition for students and teachers as well.


If we compare our public education performance to those of European nations, we find that the European nations fare better. The European nations all have strong labor unions and strong socialist values. The truth is, the more we pay teachers, the more we invest in our human capital--in ways such as health care, and nutrition, community development. Our students will thrive. Children are not only educated in the schools but our homes and communities.

J. M. George

More than a decade ago, I designed a well-reviewed parent-teacher link Web application. It was designed for the middle- and high-school level, allowing parents to monitor homework and other assignments from multiple classes and to privately communicate with teachers.

The application's import capability allowed teachers to import their lesson plans, causing virtually no additional work to set up the link for each student in each class. And, each day's plan could be modified as needed.

Many other elegant features set this system apart from its competitors, and the parents and teachers who reviewed it lavished sometimes embarrassing praise. I thought I had a winner.

A sympathetic friend of a friend at the district level told me, however, that I would have a problem with the teachers' union. He lamented that while it was a fabulous system, there would be teachers who would complain that involvement in such a system was not required in their contract.

He went on to tell me that even though its usage might not be required by every teacher, those few complaining teachers would balk at others' use of the system because it would make them look bad.

He regretted that I would have a very difficult time selling the system to his district. And he was right. I just could not bring myself to coddle the educational miscreants who required my virtual genuflection to make the sale.

Fortunately, software being what it is, I have used virtually every part of the application in other applications for businesses that value communication capabilities. And I've made a ton of money from the effort, thanks.

Needless to say, I have a fairly low regard for teachers' unions and their high regard for mediocrity.


When this nation wakes up and realizes the teachers' union is the problem with public education, we can begin to fix it. Admitting where the problem lies is the first step. The European nations fare better, because they promote competition among educators. They also fire teachers if they do not perform. Imagine an industry that is not expected to keep employees on and give them raises and promotions just because they hired them.

European nations also give parents a check to take to the school of their choice (accredited, of course) for each child. School choice will only work if it is an across-the-board policy, not just a low-income policy. The teachers' union has a stranglehold on this nation, and until we hold each and every teacher accountable for his or her own performance, public education will continue to decline in the U.S.


HC, you are sadly mistaken if you think the teachers' union needs protection. It is our children and our tax dollars that need protection from mediocrity and the poor performance of the public school system in the U.S.

Kelly Ann

Unions? Let's place the accountability where it belongs, on the parents. The government keeps increasing what we as teacher need to be highly qualified. We are the most educated and least paid. The kids, however, have too many rights, and we as teachers must take accountability for the kids who do not want an education. Also, the U.S. has more than 10% of its children born with disabilities--yet the government thinks if we could teach better, they could be just like other children? We are expected to walk on water, heal the sick, and discipline a child whose parents couldn't care less. How about making education a child's responsibility as well?


How many of the people participating in this forum have taught as a profession?

anabel smith

A multifaceted problem requires a multipronged approach.

Government that leaves education delivery dependent on property taxes isn't concerned about its growth as a nation, and promotes inequity. Determine the base amount to be spent on each child, and provide the difference so an equitable minimum standard is maintained

Unions spend time/money on lobbying instead of improving teaching quality. Ensuring a teacher can't be kicked out for poor performance is unrealistic in today's world. Unions, shape up and face reality--tenure without performance is crap and you wouldn't take it from your local doctor, so why ask for it?

Parents who have abandoned their responsibilities and don't give their children the foundation to succeed at school have their share of the blame. Bring up your child right, and check to see how your child is developing. It's your child and you are accountable for his life up to age 18.

Daniel Diez

In "Start somewhere else," you wrote:
"As a whole, it seems to me that the performance of students is related to two things:
(1) emphasis and importance of education (from family and community);
(2) actual socioeconomic/educational history of family and community. "

I would like to add another one: (3) prestige of the teaching profession and how attractive this profession is for the best students. Union activities, collective bargaining, accountability, and recognition of job performance or re-assignation of teachers should contribute to this important goal.


Teachers are asked to do more now then ever before as they are taking on more of the parental roles of raising children instead of teaching. A school is a reflection of the community, and teachers cannot change that.

Learning is a responsibility of each family, and any child can learn in any classroom with the guidance of the parents. Teachers cannot replace good parenting as parents--cannot expect that the schools will magically create an educated child without their daily support of their children in education.

The unions are not in the way of education, as they are there to keep the teachers secure in a job that challenges them day to day and hour by hour like no other. With the problems in society, the public school is our life raft and not the problem but the only institution working to save our children.

We are trying to teach all of our students to be college-level students. This is the highest challenge, as in the past most students were not expected to go to college and did not have to achieve. To teach every student with this high level in mind has never been approached in this country, and most people do not understand the difficulties in trying to obtain this goal.

Our university and college system is a success because of the dedication of the public school system--not in spite of it, as some might suggest. Unions are the only support that teachers receive in their daily quest to educate all of our children.


Yes, get rid of the teachers' unions. Take away their ability to bargain for better wages, working conditions, benefits, etc.--and watch standards begin to slip.

If teaching becomes less attractive in all or any of those areas mentioned above, the quality of those seeking teaching positions will also diminish.

The objective of any union should be to expand its membership and serve its members. Educating students is the job of the schools, not the job of the teachers' unions.

That's like saying a freight-workers' union should be responsible for teaching people how to load containers or drive trucks. Doesn't make any sense.


I was born outside the U.S. but went to public school here. I have friends and family who've attended schools in Canada, Asia, Europe, and Australia. Comparing their experiences with mine, it seems the primary reason American schools suck is that in America, teachers spend so much time babysitting and disciplining students that they have little time left for teaching. In many other countries, school officials such as teachers routinely use corporal punishment in all grades, for all sorts of infractions ranging from cheating to bullying.

Seeing that corporal punishment is dead in America, both by statute and because of the threat of lawsuits, I wholly support school vouchers and believe that all public schools should be privatized. In this way, schools will have more freedom to admit only the students they want, and exclude students who are lazy, trouble-making, etc.


No organization is perfect. The Unions are absolutely needed. I live in Massachusetts. We need to think long-term and make serious adjustments. We need to give more control to teachers. We should give them a goal and let them decide how to meet it. We should have someone outside test the students to see if what the teacher is doing is working. We need to do more for students with learning disabilities. I am dyslexic. I was very fortunate to have a teacher who helped me immensely. My brothers were not so fortunate. I know a lot of students did not get the help I received. I am also highly motivated but I do get frustrated at times with my disability. I cannot help it that I am dyslexic. I did not choose it. It chose me. The way our society is, we get discriminated against in so many ways. The best way to combat that is to get the teachers to be able to use their discretion. Most of them are teachers because they care and love what they do. There are bad apples but if you gave teachers more control, then those teachers would move to get rid of the bad apples because it makes them look bad. I lost a year of math to a teacher that reached tenure. He didn't care. He had no sense of ethics. I don't think he had any morals. He owned a shoe store on the side. He did it (teaching) just because he could. He knew they couldn't get rid of him and he milked it for all it was worth. A lot of parents complained but they couldn't do anything. But I can say that he was the only teacher I had in my academic career that was like that. I say that's pretty good. I did live in a town with an excellent academic reputation. But some teachers were biased against me because of my disability. They failed to take into account my willingness and ability to work hard. I am by no means lazy. I know quite a few people like me. I imagine that there are a lot of students like me. Give more power to the teachers with accountability. Let's watch the results. With great power comes responsibility and I believe teachers will use the power with great care. Let those teachers get rid of the bad apples that exist. If they don't then let them pay the consequences.


People truly needed to introspect. School boards and unions are in an unholy alliance, directed like puppets by the State Departments of Education. Proper education "systems" seldom flourish today. What do I mean by this? Well, it is called influence, power, and money, all of which teachers have in general little of. After 10 to 15 years of service and an MS/MA degree plus 45 credits, they may have a decent quality of life. Consider:

1. Most teachers (50%) leave the practice within the first three to five years because of discipline problems. Such problems cause psychological burnout.

2. The total unbridled disrespect and misbehavior of students in America's classrooms is compounded by state regulations that make it virtually impossible to discipline students with any threat or level of expulsion.

3. Teachers are relegated to being paper tigers in regard to discipline.

4. Teachers are often told by management, "Keep your classroom management problem in the classroom." Read as, "Don't send Sally to me. Or forget about getting tenure."

5. Let us not forget that today students are "clients." Clients mean revenue from the state. And parent complaints about Johnny failing or being thrown out of class for disruptive behavior is not welcomed; and means in Orwellian new speak that the teacher can't teach (read as, Entertain Johnny).

6. Today teachers must spend 33% or more of their time (compensated or not) on issues that are not "content knowledge related" because of the psycho-social behavior of today's students.

7. Boards of education do not care about this problem. Why? Because teacher burnout and replacement, over time, is cheaper than having employees reach their top pay scale.

8. Today school districts gladly blame their problems on "teacher classroom management" as they give tenure and advances to cronies.

9. Unions are complicit--by neglect and cowardice--in the unholy alliance with administrators, and boards of education whisper, "Hush-Hush on this topic, and you will climb the scale." As you know, many of you also benefit from this well-crafted system.

A Teacher for 10 Years
(Previously 20 years in industry.)


Thank you.

Bremmer Mandrake

I get a kick out of all you teachers who want to blame the parents, the unions, and the government for your shortfalls. You are the ones in the class with the kids. Listening to some of you, it's like you have no control over anything. You say you're the most educated, and you can't figure out a way to fix the education system. You say you're not responsible for what you teach, but you teach it anyway. Or is that just a way to get your hands on the kids, and teach them how to not think for themselves and brainwash them into your view of the world. I would tell you what I really think, but they won't print it. Look, it's working--you almost killed free speech.


For all you think you know about what is "going on" in today's schools--Mr. M.--you would run out of the door with your tail between your legs. Go try to do one day in Newark, New Jersey, or in Paterson, New Jersey, as a sub. That is, if you have 60 credits.

bremmer mandrake

I have been places that you only see in horror flicks. Texas Chain Saw is about my childhood. So you're just another teacher talking out your ___. I will go anywhere, and I have dealt with the worst life has to offer. I survived five years of prison at 16, so your little high school punks are no big deal.


Being street experienced and being able to survive the political realities of a government that screws up the teaching process because it gives unruly disrespectful kids more power than their teachers is the real problem. I wish all you people would realize the average teacher works extremely hard, is disrespected all day, makes a pittance, and generally doesn't get tenure. They just get burned out, quit, or replaced so some political crony can get a job. Thank God for the No Child Left Behind Act. Let us now just fund it.

Michael Thomas

If you think it's bad in your area, go to or and type "Detroit’s December" in the search box. You can view an 11-part series covering every aspect of Detroit’s operations, including police, bankrupt schools, crime, leaders, economy, degenerating population, etc. E-mail it to your fellow workers, and print a copy for posting. I hope you find it interesting. Sincerely, Mike

Jim Lee

Unions are not the real issue. Society is allowing politicians to get involved in education – this is the problem. We need teachers to be paid more in urban communities. We need smaller classrooms. Parents in poor communities need more help in parenting. We need more social workers to help families. Students need job training. The college bound students are doing fine. The union does not set instruction.

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