Posts Tagged ‘Teachers Unions’
Increasing number of new teachers are skirting the traditional certification route.
The Wall Street Journal August 6, 2011
When teachers unions make it next to impossible to fire bad instructors or close the worst-performing schools, it’s obvious students aren’t their primary concern. Now a new study suggests unions are opposing education reforms that an increasing number of their members support.
A report last week by the National Center for Education Information reveals that four of 10 teachers hired since 2005 entered teaching through alternatives to traditional certification rules. That’s an increase from the 22% of teachers who took an alternative route between 2000 and 2004 and the 8% in the 1990s.
The trend is welcome. Emily Feistritzer, the study’s author, writes that there are “striking differences between this non-traditional population of new teachers and teachers who enter teaching through undergraduate and graduate college campus-based teacher education programs, especially in attitudes concerning current proposed school reform measures and ways to strengthen teaching as a profession.”
More than half of alternate route teachers (53%) believe that abolishing tenure would improve education, while just 31% of traditional route teachers share that view. Sixty percent of alternate route teachers and 43% of their traditional route colleagues think that students should pass standardized tests for grade promotion. And “nearly two thirds (62%) of alternate route teachers think that expanding the use of charter schools for children in low-performing public schools would improve American education.” Only 41% of traditional route instructors agree.
Teachers unions and colleges of education insist that traditional certification, which they control, is the only way to ensure quality instructors. But research has shown that students from states that offered genuine alternate certification programs performed better on math and reading tests than students in other states. The reality is that a decline in traditional certification bodes well for learning in the classroom and for efforts to make the public school system more accountable.
Terry Moe, one of the leading experts in education reform in the country, professor of political science at Stanford University, fellow at the Hoover Institution, and author of the newly releasedSpecial Interest: Teachers Unions and America’s Public Schools, has a message for the teachers unions:
Rest In Peace, because your days are numbered.
e is one of the major movers and shakers in the school reform movement. He co-wrote a book in 1990 that arguably launched the school choice movement as we know it today. Politics, Markets and America’s Schools was a game-changer twenty years ago.
His latest book, Special Interest: Teachers Unions and America’s Public Schools, takes a look at the teachers unions and argues that they are the primary reason why the quarter-century long school reform movement has failed.
But soon, the unions will no longer be an obstacle to reform. Why? Technology.
Moe argues that the incredibly massive revolution in information technology will deliver a death blow to teachers unions. In this profile of his life and impact on the education reform movement, Moe says:
“In the final analysis, what technology requires is a substitution of technology for human labor. Computers will do a lot of what teachers do now.” Jumping forward in his chair, he lights up: “Technology is cheap. Labor is really expensive. Education has always been very labor intensive, so if our education system can substitute technology for labor and still provide kids with high quality education, then great!”
Moe explains that technology will fundamentally change the politics of education. “In the future, we will have fewer teachers per student. This means fewer union members per student. Also, teachers don’t have to be concentrated in the same geographic place—because when students do their learning online, their teachers can be anywhere. This fragmentation and dispersion will make it harder for unions to organize.”
Another blow to unions will be the myriad of choices families will have: “There will be state-level virtual schools. There will be virtual charter schools. And there will be hybrid schools: where kids actually attend a physical school in a geographic place, but take perhaps 80 percent of their coursework online. Most schools of the future, I suspect, will be hybrids.”
This revolution in education technology is already underway. Consider PA Cyber, an online charter school in Pennsylvania that was set up some ten years ago as an alternative high school for the students of Midland, Pennsylvania. The district was expecting fewer than 50 students to enroll—but by opening day, an astounding 500 had done so. Today, the school enrolls 8,000 students, graduates 1,000 of them yearly, meets all federal achievement standards—and does all of this with a student/teacher ratio of 35:1. The money it saves on labor it reinvests in technology.
One reason PA Cyber has been so effective is that an online education allows a student to work at his own pace. In virtual schools, computer visuals and audios walk students through a lesson on math or reading, and are completely tailored to the students’ academic needs. Via exercises the computer has the student perform, and other interactive features, the computer is able to gauge whether the student can move at a quicker rate, or needs to review some fundamental concepts from the lesson.
These are the themes of the latest book that Moe has co-authored with Chubb titled Liberating Learning: Technology, Politics, and the Future of American Education, which was published in 2009.
Typically, critics of virtual education voice two major concerns. The first is whether it will be as effective as a traditional one. The second concern has to do with whether students receive less attention from their teachers, since there will be fewer teachers per student.
“Technology will provide the biggest boost to school choice that has ever occurred in the history of education.”
Addressing the first point, Moe notes that more than a decade of research shows that virtual education is as effective as traditional education—even though computer learning is still in its infancy.
He adds that he would also expect virtual schooling to be especially consequential for social equity. “Take the kids who are doomed to go to school in downtown Detroit, where many of the schools are failing and many of the teaches are inadequate. Well, with virtual learning, these kids can have access to the best curriculum the world has to offer—and the best teachers too—precisely because technology makes geography and physicality irrelevant.” In other words, the kind of education a student receives is not dependent on whether the student is from the inner city. Wherever they are, they can have the best.
As to the second critique, Moe assures me that “for most of these computer programs, there are teachers. The teachers may not be in the room, but they are still connected electronically with their students, and are interacting with them. The teachers, moreover, are in a position to know a great deal about every aspect of their students’ learning process: when they are logged in, what material they have covered, what questions they got right and wrong, and more. The teachers can be in frequent contact with their students; they can also be in contact with parents. And the students in virtual classes will often have email, chat, and other kinds of interactions with one another—perhaps many more interactions than they might have in a regular classroom setting.”
In the case of hybrid schools, there will be real live teachers at the school. “Let’s say a third-grade kid is taking math from an online learning program. The computer is doing most of the teaching, and that frees the teacher up—to be a tutor, to address questions and problems, to provide support, and to enhance the learning experience in other ways.”
Beyond that, education may become more fun. “What is happening is that you have a lot of smart people in the education technology business saying, ‘ok how can we create a computer program that teaches U.S. history to fourth graders or math to second graders in a way that will hold their interest, motivate them, and get them excited about learning?’ It’s not a question of just teaching the material, but of making it engaging and fun. How do you keep kids interested? The answer may be video games. It may involve more visuals, more action, brighter and different colors. Compare that to 30 kids sitting in a classroom for forty minutes watching a teacher at the chalkboard.”
In 1990, when Politics, Markets and America’s Schools was published, Moe had declared that the school reform movement was likely to prove a failure. These days, he is more optimistic. “Technology will provide the biggest boost to school choice that has ever occurred in the history of education. Unions are trying their best to see that this revolution never happens, and that the traditional system is preserved—but they will ultimately fail.”
He concludes saying, “The revolution in information technology is historic in its magnitude and sweep, and far too powerful for the unions to hold back. There will be virtual options. The unions can delay it. They can dilute it. They can stand in the way. But they can’t stop technology from seeping in—and as it seeps in and continues to grow and develop and take root, it will change education as we know it. It may take twenty years, but it will happen. And that’s a very good thing—good for education, good for children, good for the nation.”
Townhall By Kyle Olson March 26, 20110
Apparently Gov. Scott Walker knew exactly what he was doing.
Before he signed the bill limiting collective bargaining privileges, teachers unions throughout the state were slow to respond to calls for salary and benefit concessions.
They believed their members should be held harmless during a period of necessary cost-cutting. They didn’t seem to care that Wisconsin schools were operating with multi-million dollar deficits that were forcing the layoffs of younger teachers and the cancellation of student programs.
Their only answer was to raise taxes at a time when few people could afford it. They didn’t want to sacrifice anything, despite the fact that schools spend about 80 percent of their budgets on labor costs.
But now, with Walker’s legislation set to become law once it clears legal hurdles, the unions are suddenly coming to their senses. They are jumping at the chance to extend their collective bargaining agreements, in exchange for meaningful concessions that will help schools survive the financial crisis.
In Madison, the teachers union has suddenly agreed to a wage freeze and increases in health insurance and pension contributions. The concessions will save the district an estimated $15 million next year, which would almost make up for the expected cuts in state aid.
In Oshkosh, the union has agreed to a wage freeze, increased contributions toward benefits and a change in the employee insurance carrier, which will save the district more than $5 million per year.
In the Slinger district, the union has agreed to commit 5.8 percent of teacher pay to pension costs and increase contributions toward health care costs. The concessions will save the district about $1.3 million per year. What are the unions gaining by accepting concessions at the last possible minute? Plenty.
They are salvaging things like automatic annual salary increases for teachers, a generous number of paid sick and personal days off, reimbursement for unused sick days, salary and benefits for union officials who do not teach, retirement bonuses, overage pay for teachers with a few extra students, and many other items.
Those contractual perks would have gone by the wayside if local collective bargaining agreements had been allowed to expire. Under the new law, the unions will not have the power to negotiate for many of the items listed in current contracts.
So the unions will save some time-honored perks and schools will save a lot of money. This type of compromise would not have occurred without pressure from Gov. Walker and his supporters in the legislature.
Perhaps the governor knew exactly what he was doing by creating a crisis and forcing the unions to face financial reality. Nothing else seemed to be working and schools were drowning in deficits.
Ironically, the loss of collective bargaining privileges would not have been necessary if the unions would have come to their senses months ago and started offering meaningful concessions. They lost most of their privileges by remaining stubborn for too long.
The Teachers Union Pulled The Wool Over The Eyes of the Boston Taxpayers They Pay $8.4 Million for Teachers’ Union Softball, Legal Defense
by Kyle Olson
In Boston, a special fund established in 1968 pays for teachers’ funeral expenses, hearing aids and a softball league as well as legal services that have nothing to do with classroom instruction.
In the last school year alone, Boston taxpayers shelled out $1.3 million from the trust to help teachers with wills, bankruptcy, real estate, name changes, and legal defense against some misdemeanor criminal charges, according to the Boston Globe. This year taxpayers will contribute $8.4 million to the teachers’ trust, even as the district faces an anticipated $63 million budget gap that is necessitating the closure or consolidation of 18 schools, the Globe reports.
This unnecessary expense is ludicrous considering the current economy, and is urging city leaders to eliminate the trust as they craft a new collective bargaining agreement with teachers. The city’s residents, struggling to cover the rising costs of their own health coverage, shouldn’t be required to subsidize these extra perks for public school teachers.
Samuel R. Tyler, president of the Boston Municipal Research Bureau, said it best when he told the Globe that “It’s time to rethink health and welfare and treat teachers exactly as other employees in terms of benefits, and eliminate the expenditures for these other services. “It really ought to be an item on the list in terms of trying to negotiate changes,” he said.
The Boston Teachers Union has predictably defended the fund, negotiated in 1968 as an alternative way to compensate teachers. “It came in lieu of salary,” BTU President Richard Stutman told the Globe.
Unfortunately times have changed, and Boston taxpayers can no longer afford to shower their public school employees with millions of dollars in special perks each year. Private sector workers in virtually every industry have sacrificed to keep their employers afloat, and we see no reason why Boston teachers shouldn’t be required to do the same.
We suspect that the vast majority of Boston taxpayers do not view a softball league or private real estate advice for teachers as a critical expense necessary to educate the city’s school children. With an expected $63 million budget gap, the district should be eliminating every expense that it can to maintain student programs and avoid cuts that would impact academics.
The fact that the BostonTeachers Union continues its lame attempt to justify the existence of this enormous annual expense only further demonstrates that its true priorities have little to do with educating the city’s youth. Ridiculous you say, but it is true.
The Wall Stree Journal
AUGUST 11, 2010
Stimulus Pushers The latest bailout for public unions and spendthrift states.
To treat Washington’s spending addiction, the November elections are the taxpayer’s best chance to stage an intervention. But until then, President Obama and the Democratic Congress are determined to keep pushing strung-out state governments to take one more fix.
Witness yesterday’s 247-161 largely party-line House vote to approve a Senate bill shovelling another $26.1 billion out to state education and Medicaid programs. The White House has promoted the bill as emergency assistance for strained state budgets. But this unique brand of therapy drives states to spend more, not less. The “assistance” is so expensive that several governors were begging for relief even before Mr. Obama signed it into law.
Standing with teachers yesterday in the White House Rose Garden, Mr. Obama said, “We can’t stand by and do nothing while pink slips are given to the men and women who educate our children or keep our communities safe.” Maintaining the salaries and generous benefit plans for members of teachers unions is indeed a top Democratic priority. That’s why $10 billion of the bill’s funding is allocated to education, and the money comes with strings that will multiply the benefits for this core Obama constituency.
Specifically, the bill stipulates that federal funds must supplement, not replace, state spending on education. Also, in each state, next year’s spending on elementary and secondary education as a percentage of total state revenues must be equal to or greater than the previous year’s level.
Governor Haley Barbour of Mississippi did the math and figured out his state will be worse off. Mr. Barbour says the bill will force his state “to rewrite its current year [fiscal 2011] budget. Preliminary estimates of the Mississippi Department of Finance and Administration show that we will now have to spend between $50-100 million of state funds—funds that must be taken away from public safety, human services, mental health and other state priorities and given to education—in order for an additional $98 million of federal funds to be granted to education. There is no justification for the federal government hijacking state budgets, but that is exactly what Congress has done.”
For Texas, and only Texas, this funding rule will be in place through 2013. This is a form of punishment because the Beltway crowd believes the Lone Star State didn’t spend enough of its 2009 stimulus money. Apparently Texas politicians have been clinging to the quaint notion that the government should try to live within its means.
Texans also seem to have an old-fashioned appreciation for the rule of law. On Friday, 22 GOP Members of the state’s Congressional delegation sent a letter to House Speaker Nancy Pelosi. “This provision would have Texas violate her own State Constitution,” they wrote. “The Texas Legislature has sole authority to determine State appropriations. Moreover, one Legislature cannot bind a future Legislature. Requiring the State to assure that a future Texas Legislature would commit to spend funds in accordance with these provisions would violate the Texas Constitution.”
Texas Governor Rick Perry is also opposed to this new “assistance” from the federal government. He understands that one-time payments that force permanently higher state obligations are a windfall for government employees. But if given the choice, taxpayers would just say no.
That’s because taxpayers are figuring out that these state bailouts are only making unions more reluctant to share their sacrifice. While Mr. Obama quotes the union figure of 160,000 potential lost teacher jobs, those don’t have to come out of the classroom. According to research by Eric Hanushek of Stanford University, student enrollment grew by 22% from 1990 to 2007, but teacher employment grew by 41%. Since 2000, enrollment has grown by 5% but teacher employment by 10%.
The unions themselves could have prevented some layoffs had they been willing to adjust their rich benefits. In Milwaukee, for example, nearly all of the 500 teacher layoffs announced earlier this year could have been avoided if the unions had agreed to change health plans that cost $23,000 per teacher per year for family coverage. They could have accepted a still-rich $17,000 plan. The unions chose the layoffs, betting (correctly) that Democrats in Washington would come to their rescue.
Keep in mind that this teacher bailout also amounts to a huge contribution by Democrats to their own election campaigns. The National Right to Work Committee estimates that two of every three teachers belong to unions. The average union dues payment varies, but a reasonable estimate is that between 1% and 1.5% of teacher salaries goes to dues. The National Education Association and other unions will thus get as much as $100 million in additional dues from this bill, much of which will flow immediately to endangered Democratic candidates in competitive House and Senate races this year.
So in the name of still another “stimulus,” Democrats are rewarding their own political funders, putting the most fiscally responsible states into even greater distress, and postponing the day of reckoning for spendthrift states. Oh, and Mr. Obama rushed to sign the bill Tuesday, violating his campaign pledge to give the public five days to read legislation online. As we say, the only way for voters to stop such fiscal abuse is to run this crowd out of town.