Re Teaching Change by Andrew Rotherham:
Rotherham argues that teacher union contracts are roadblocks to school reform. He praises the American Federation of Teachers' Randi Weingarten for backing pay-for-performance schemes, pay for test scores and suggests similar maneuvers will re-energize unionism. Nonsense.
Teachers, among the last people in the US with health benefits and fairly predictable pay, are also the most unionized people in the US, about 5 million in the huge National Education Association and the smaller AFT. Both unions' bosses embrace what they call, "New Unionism, " the unity of business, government, and labor leaders in the national interest, abolishing the reason people join unions: the contradictory interest of employees and employers. Both unions' leaders called for and backed what became the No Child Left Behind Act, betraying the interests of kids and their members.
Neither union's leadership has done anything significant to halt the three major thrusts into schooling today: the regimentation of the curricula through one-view-fits-all standards; the oversight of the standards via high-stakes exams which measure little but class, race, and subservience; and the militarization of k12 and university life.
There is a vast gulf between the unions' top officials and the rank and file. NEA's president makes more than $450,000 a year and hasn't taught for decades, demonstrating why it is he might be fully energized, live and think differently from a new teacher burdened with school debts, living and teaching in a trailer.
Pay-for-performance will divide educators, make all education more inequitable. Teachers in poor areas will be hit first, losing jobs, wages, and health benefits. That's already happening. Teachers in wealthier areas will be next; an injury to one preceding an injury to all.
The presidents of NEA and AFT don't need re-energizing. What is needed is the vision of solidarity unionism, new organizations that include educators, parents and kids, and direct action on the job to restore the ability to teach the things that are nearly illegal in school today: labor, the methods of rational knowledge, love and sensuality, and freedom.
Dr Rich Gibson
Emeritus Professor of Education
San Diego State University