By Keith Williams
As we head into Labor Day Weekend 2018, I’ve been thinking about teaching as a calling and why people get into it. People do it for many reasons, but I’ve never met a teacher who only does it because he or she has to. Some are experts in a subject and want to inform the next generation; others want to be there for kids who need a mentor; still others love to share their drive for sports and competition.
The thread that connects us all? Passion. That’s why teaching is a calling, not just a job.
In Pennsylvania, teachers face a host of difficulties. Our state is huge, and our students diverse. Some struggle with poverty, some with home life distractions, others with limited educational resources or a lack of family support.
If you think about it, our schools are a microcosm of our state.
Earlier this month, I joined Lowman Henry from Lincoln Radio Journal (6:55) to talk about some of the problems teachers face in Pennsylvania. Our school system, just like our state’s politics, isn’t a level playing field. And teachers get a raw deal.
Every year, the teachers’ unions donate millions to Harrisburg politicians and activist organizations supporting a variety of special interests that have nothing to do with teaching. For teachers who have never been on board with the union’s political views, it’s crushing to know you’re supporting them with hundreds of dollars each year. It’s especially disheartening when the money comes right out of your paycheck, before you’ve even seen it.
And the worst part is, teachers don’t even get to vote for the union that takes their money.
We’re responsible enough to write our own lesson plans. We’re responsible enough to volunteer in after-school programs (except in places like Scranton, where the union won’t allow it). We’re responsible enough to handle late afternoon drama between students.
But apparently we can’t be trusted with things like voting.
I say unions have it all backward. Teachers have given their lives to build up young people in their communities. This passion helps them put up with fickle administrators, unsympathetic parents, and mountains of paperwork. Shouldn’t teachers get to make their own choices about their terms of employment, too?
Thankfully, the teachers’ rights recognized by the Supreme Court’s Janus v. AFSCME decision have given us a huge opportunity to make some of our own choices. As I mentioned in a recent interview with the Pittsburgh Post-Gazette, we don’t feel like we’re being represented well. That’s why so many teachers I’ve talked to are looking to opt out of paying union dues and fees.
When teachers stop letting their union dictate everything about their jobs, there’s no limit to what they can achieve in Pennsylvania. When we see a problem in our classrooms, in our schools, or in our districts, we don’t just complain―we step up and solve it. So rest up and enjoy a cook-out this weekend. Afterwards, we’ve got work to do.