Fair Share?

As a former president of my school district’s CTA chapter, I am interested in the current Supreme Court case, Friedrichs vs. CTA. I hope that people are aware of who is supporting this case and that it loses. Further, I would say the plaintiffs should have involved themselves in the bargaining process, rather than just criticize it – legally.

However, CTA, NEA, AFT, etc. should be on notice in a number of ways. The ‘fair share’ idea, that everyone represented pays dues has bred a certain complacency. The teachers’ unions have assumed too much – too much money and the support of their constituency. At the same time, they are out of touch with teachers.

Having been to the ‘mother ship:’ CTA HQ, and several regional and state meetings, I have always felt like an outsider. Having interacted with various CTA representatives, I have found them as distanced from me as they are from classrooms. Their concerns are not those of the average teacher. They are dedicated to the profession, but they do not uplift the profession.

The primacy of tenure is a mistake; and just because someone on the other side of the bargaining table, an administrator, chose someone to be on the teachers’ side of the bargaining table doesn’t mean we, the teachers, should defend that person’s right to a job. Teachers should demand more from each other if they are going to expect more from the system. Teacher unions should be more like the American Medical Association or the Bar Association and be involved in the credentialing process to determine who should be a teacher.

Further, teachers’ unions – and all public sector unions for that matter – should drop the adversarial, management vs. labor perspective, and realize that we’re all on the same side: the public sector (vs. the private). Rather than just asking for a raise, better benefits, or even improved working conditions, then expecting administration to make it happen, we should get involved with budgeting, school finance, and the responsible management of public funds.

Teacher unions should realize that all teachers’ primary concern is their students, the parents, the subject matter, and getting through the day, week, month, year. They should be concerned about their salary, their health insurance, working conditions, and the myriad social issues, economic circumstances, and laws that bear on the profession, but until they’ve put several years into mastering the art and science of one of the most difficult jobs on earth, they can’t be expected to handle that level of multi-tasking.

In the meantime, teacher unions need to make themselves present with support of all the aforementioned, the onslaught of testing, accountability, local politics, and anything else teachers need before expecting them to cough up hundreds of hard earned dollars in union dues. There are some good efforts, but there need to be more.

Nonetheless, shame on Rebecca Friedrichs and those teachers, people, and organizations that seek to undermine the teaching profession even more than it has been in recent years. As if it isn’t hard enough to deal with politicians (left & right), fundamentalists legislating curriculum, a corporatocracy stealing the hearts and minds of kids, and every social problem invented by inhumanity plaguing families everywhere? To have fellow teachers trying to undermine the very organizations that seek to represent and promote them, well, it’s just pathetic. Be the change, the solution, not more of the problem!

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