Tuesday, June 23, 2009

Waste in the education system

I'm not well versed in the pros and cons of unions but generally believe that in civilized societies such as ours they generally hinder labor mobility and cost us more trouble than they are worth. Specifically, teacher unions gum up the works of attempts to reform the public school system, but I had no idea to what an extent they soaked up money and paralyzed the system. Case in point this AP article about suspended teachers that the district is unable to fire due to their union contracts:
Hundreds of New York City public school teachers accused of offenses ranging from insubordination to sexual misconduct are being paid their full salaries to sit around all day playing Scrabble, surfing the Internet or just staring at the wall, if that's what they want to do.
Because their union contract makes it extremely difficult to fire them, the teachers have been banished by the school system to its "rubber rooms" — off-campus office space where they wait months, even years, for their disciplinary hearings.
This is one of the worst wastes of taxpayer dollars I've heard of in a while!
Hat tip: Freddie

1 comment:

Adwell said...

As a teacher it is almost necessary to be a union member. I realize that there are teachers who fail to do their jobs; however, court rulings that favor parents/children involved in frivolous lawsuits filed against effective teachers force us to join unions to protect our careers.

For example, consider my job as a journalism adviser. Should a parent, or worse yet -- a group of parents, feel that content in one of our publications is too controversial because it deals with something distasteful to them (for example homosexuality or sexually transmitted disease), they can choose to sue me personally.

As I don't have the financial means to defend myself, it proves necessary that I have a union to pay the court costs of such a fiasco.

I also do not agree that teachers are the problem with the educational system; parents are. Public educators are expected to raise children rather than educate them. We are expected to discipline and mentor, but are not given adequate support to do either because our districts are more fearful of lawsuits than are teachers.

When a teacher is told s/he is required to meet a specific percentage of passing students or face reprimand, educational standards deteriorate. Students grow cognizant that if the majority of the class refuses to do their homework, they cannot be held accountable.

The idea that many teachers "sit around all day playing Scrabble, surfing the Internet or just staring at the wall, if that's what they want to do" undermines our ability to be successful mentors or disciplinarians. And I have never in my experience known a teacher who received pay while undergoing investigation. I have never seen nor heard of one of the so-called "rubber rooms." And, in teaching, the generalized term "insubordination" often means you have not properly aligned yourself with administration by playing into petty political charades.

This attitude feeds the public opinion that teachers are lazy and undeserving of respect. This perception is why some parents develop the idea that the teacher is "out to get" their child; therefore, the parent does not issue discipline for school-related problems, be they academic or behavioral.

Our society has taught children that they have no need to strive to do their best because they will not be held accountable. They have learned that they will face no consequences at school because the schools fear their parents, and they will face no consequences at home because their parents don't respect the schools.

The problem is much bigger than teacher unions. Teachers cannot correct such universal issues without the protection afforded by unions until the judicial system stops undermining classroom efforts by awarding huge sums of money to parents who file ridiculous lawsuits against public educators.