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Your View: Unions Protect Teachers Against Administrators

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I am tired of people bashing unions. People assume that the principals and evaluator are/would be fair, honest, and unbiased and will/would remain that way for merit pay. People assume that schools (without the seniority rule) would only get rid of the ‘worst’ teachers. NONE of this is true.

With all of the ridiculous budget cuts, (Thanks, Governor) schools would get rid of the most expensive teachers first; that’s possibly me. They would ignore the fact that I, for free, run an after-school club that benefits the community. They won’t care that I go above and beyond to bring special reading rewards for the kids. It’s sad and mad but true. They would possibly cut me because I’m too qualified and too expensive! I have two MEds and three certifications and have been teaching for 19 years. It’s ALL about money. They don’t care that I stay late, go in early, work at home and weekends. MOST of us do.

People assume that we teachers get tenured then sit back and eat bonbons all day. We don’t! We bust our butts day in and day out for our kids. My union saved me (and a couple of other colleagues!) from a dishonest, vindictive and literally crazy principal. Upper administration FINALLY did their documentation, saw the truth, stopped the madness, and got rid of her! (It was a really bad situation for many years.) MY UNION PROTECTED ME–A COMPLETELY AND INCREDIBLY AWESOME TEACHER!!!!!!

-Jane Doe, current Pennsylvania teacher

Jane,

I can see you are very passionate about this issue. I worked in a very similar situation to the one you are describing. There was a vindictive administrator and if you stood up for a student, or for your rights, or even to protect yourself legally from his policies, he would work tirelessly to show you the door.

To date, nearly a half-dozen people are no longer working in that district while the union reps say things like, “Don’t fight it,” and “Just sign the paper.” Your viewpoints make the assumption that all local union representatives are honest, unbiased, and not working with administrators in order to get a better deal for themselves. While that may be true in your district, it’s just not the reality everywhere. Educators in these ‘doubly-oppressive’ districts have no recourse. They are forced to pay dues to the very people who may be working against them. If they wish to fight this, they must subject themselves to the very same people.

This brings me to another one of your assertions. You said that administrators in non-union districts would simply look at the money and not be honest when evaluating a teacher’s merit (broadly speaking). I can tell you from first-hand experience that this is not true. I currently work in a district without a union. We have a fair base salary and an extensive merit system. If your assumptions held true, based on the merit bonus I received last year, I would have probably been dismissed before the beginning of this school year. Instead, the merit system acts as its own protection. The administration acknowledges my worth, pays me accordingly, and would have to make a tough case as to why they are letting such a valuable employee go.

This is also not to say that we don’t protect ourselves. I joined a professional organization that gives me $2 million in liability and employment protection. That’s twice as much as PSEA offers. The cost: $15/month. This begs the question as to what the rest of your union dues are going to if this level of protection can be had for such a reasonable price. If you dig beyond our surface interactions with unions, you’ll see a small army of people making six-figure salaries, lavish retreats and meetings, and a monstrous political machine supporting causes that have nothing to do with education.

This issue, and my personal involvement in it, is not one of pro- or anti-union. It’s about giving each individual educator the option to associate and advocate as they wish.

I want to thank you for taking the time to type up your response and to at least hear what we have to say. From one ‘incredibly awesome’ teacher to another, please keep up the good work on behalf of our students. They deserve our best and I believe we both want to give them that.

Steve Calabro

Public cyber charter school educator

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