Serendip is an independent site partnering with faculty at multiple colleges and universities around the world. Happy exploring!

The treatment of teachers and the Union

The treatment of teachers and the Union

jrice's picture

After the end of class last tuesday I was very concerned by the conversation surrounding teacher unions and the anti-union sentiments that were being brought up. So instead on focusing on one article or specific current event I chose instead to look for aspects of the articles that talked about and dealt with teachers and teacher unions. 


From the article on Rham Emanuel School Agenda Bedevils Chicago Mayor in Race by Monica Davey and Julie Bosman 

"[Rahm Emanuel] pushed to toughen teacher evalueations and oversaw an expansion of charter schools" 

"Teachers felt attacked by Mr.Emanuel" 

"The pension fund for retired teachers is vastly underfinaced...Last year, Mr.Emanuel moved to require some city workers to pay more for thier retierment benifits"

"you have new Democrats running in a neoliberal vien in American cities" (Chicago Teachers Union Vice President)

From The Push-Back on Charter Schools 

"Lacking voice, charter school teachers are 132 percent more likely to leave the profession than teachers in regular public schools." (Kahlenburg) 

"Charter teachers frequently describe working nights and weekends" (Goldstein) 


When looking at these quotes all together (in addition to the situation in the Philadelphia school district with the SRC trying to cut teacher benefits to fund the schools) and thinking back on some of our class discussions it seems as though when teachers are talked about in the media, by politicians, and in the public consciousness the fact that they are people with their own personal needs is forgotten. Teachers are applauded for being dedicated to their students and finding creative ways of connecting with and teach them, but as soon as teachers look out for themselves they are demonized. It is as if their only value was the education they provide their students not their value as human beings and members of our society.

In our class one of the things said when talking about teachers unions was that teachers should not need a union because they were hopefully getting into teaching out of care for the kids not for the money. I found this sentiment to be extremely problematic because it presenting the view that it was okay to exploit teachers because they were not teaching for the money. Teachers are first and foremost workers and deserve to be paid enough to support themselves and their families. Teaching is already a profession that has been devalued by our culture and teacher salaries reflect that. We should not be taking from teachers but giving to them and employing more of them and giving teachers better support and training. If funding is the issue then just take the money from the police, military, and prisons budget (not a practical solution but an ideological one).

What’s more the argument that teachers are taking from their students by not accepting a pay cut doesn’t make sense because if teachers are making less and are under more stress at home to make ends meet they will have less time and energy for their students and will subsequently be worse teachers. It is absurd to think that it’s not okay for teachers to organize to protect their rights and livelihood. The difference between salaries and benefits between unionized workers and non-unionized workers is clear across all professions in the US, unionized workers always get more on average. This holds true for teachers, one only needs to look at the difference in salary and benefits between charter school teachers and public school teachers. Thus another way in which charters must be seen is a method of exploiting teachers. Is it possible that one of the reasons that charter school teachers are more likely to leave the profession is because of the lower salaries and benefits they receive? I don’t think that is the only reason but it makes sense that it would be an aspect of it.

Teachers are being attacked on both ends, while the state is demanding that they take pay cuts (this includes the increase in charter schools) to fund the public education system the state is also constructing a system that is demanding more and more from teachers by increasing class sizes, cutting funding, and limiting creativity with standardized tests. What does it mean that we demand so much of our teachers but provide them with very little? 


Schools in American Cities Tags












I really appreciated your points about how teachers and teachers' unions are portrayed by the media. Teaching is increasingly being treated as an unskilled profession, and teachers' agency and creativity are being taken away. As teachers are being portrayed as unskilled workers and are being blamed for the failures of their students on standardized tests, teachers' unions are blamed for making it difficult to fire "bad" teachers.