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The Teachers’ Union Neglects Students

By Tom Morgan


Once again the New York state teachers’ union (New York State United Teachers, or NYSUT) insults quality teachers. Its New York City chapter just watered down evaluations of teachers. That was a concession it won in its new contract. In other words, it moved to protect poor performers. That insults the good teachers.

The State Education Department wants incoming teachers to show they can read at a 12th grade level — in order to be certified to teach your kids and grandkids. Seems sensible to you, right? Not to the state teachers’ union. The NYSUT is fighting this. The union doesn’t mind if new teachers cannot read the certification that allows them to teach. This insults the good teachers. They don’t welcome unfit newcomers. And if you cannot read at a 12th grade level, you are unfit to teach.

Principals want to see lesson plans from teachers. Mostly to make sure they do prepare plans and don’t wing it. Nope, says the teachers’ union. Unfair. Of course this protects teachers who make zero preparation for classes. It insults teachers who take their work more seriously.

Teachers’ unions have long thwarted efforts to fire lousy teachers. And to fire those involved in nefarious affairs. Ask school superintendents how much time and money it costs to fire horrible teachers. They roll their eyes. They admit they are often forced to avoid the battle that unions wage to protect those teachers.

Many quality teachers hate these efforts by their union. But they don’t rise against it because they fear retaliation. Big unions know how to make disgruntled members shut up.

You may have noticed the absence of the word “students” in this column. It seems obvious that the genuine wellbeing of students is too often ignored in union negotiations and contracts. The unions give lip service to students. But their contracts give the lie to this. A union that endlessly protects horrible teachers and low-quality teachers cannot claim to have the welfare of students in mind.

It goes without saying that teachers’ unions fight against charter schools. Against parochial schools. Against home schooling. Such schools produce some of the best-performing students in the state. But they don’t employ unionized teachers. So the union undermines them at every turn.

The governor has managed to do some fancy tap-dancing on this issue. He has pledged support for charter schools. He has supported them in the state budget. Yet he recently managed to get the endorsement of the Working Families Party. That party opposes charter schools.

I don’t know how he managed that. Maybe he convinced party leaders the writing is on the wall. The writing that says charter schools are too good to be ignored much longer.
Here is a concept that would make teachers’ union leaders gag. Let the state and federal governments attach their aid to students. Each student gets so many dollars per year. Their parents choose their schools. The schools get the money that comes with the kids.

This would empower the parents. The teachers’ unions cannot have that. They will come up with any number of other reasons. But the real issue would be loss of their power. Or, specifically, power going to the people — the parents.

This concept is hardly revolutionary. It is the equivalent of vouchers. It works well in a number of countries. Their governments trust the judgment of parents. They trust free markets. 

As a result, they have fewer of the problems we have in our ghetto schools, our inner-city nightmares. Parents have the power to move their kids to better schools where they have better chances. And they exercise it. They move toward quality and quality teachers.

From in Morgan.

Tom Morgan writes about political, financial, and other subjects from his home near Oneonta, in addition to his radio shows and TV show. For more information about him, visit his website at

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