End Teachers Unions
The biggest obstacle to education reform is the existence of teachers unions. Unions act to protect the interests of teachers at any cost, even at the expense of students. Unions often work to minimize teacher accountability, protect low-quality teachers, and support unsustainable expansion of retirement and health benefits.
Teachers have long enjoyed being portrayed as overworked and underpaid public servants who only go into the teaching field “for the children.” While that may have once been very true, union dominance has changed the this and, perhaps, the chief motivation for entering the profession. Unions have little to do with helping children. When teacher’s strike, it usually hurts the children they claim to have entered the profession for. "Not for money," they will tell us. In reality, unionized teachers typically strike for pay, limiting accountability, and enhancing already generous (and publicly paid) benefits.
The 2012 Chicago Teachers Union Strike
In 2012, the Chicago Teachers Union went on strike over pay and accountability. As they forced the cancellation of classes for hundreds of thousands of students – leaving families in a bind – they took to the streets carrying signs about how the strike was for the sake of the kids. While this was untrue, continuing the myth of the abused, underpaid public school teacher is of utmost importance. Hiding behind children is a unique advantage teachers have over other “public servants” like DMV processors or meter maids. (Imagine the amount of sympathy the drivers license clerk would get over a strike about increasing pay and benefits).
With an average salary of $76,000, the typical Chicago teacher makes more money than roughly 3/4 of the country. Citing such teacher benefits as weekends off, nights off, long summers, and extended holidays are usually met with cries of “burnout.” Most jobs have a pretty big degree of burnout and teachers aren’t the only ones who get tired of their jobs and leave for something else. But teachers are special. They work with children. This supposedly makes teachers free from criticism. The major problem with the unions is that it becomes hard to find out who teaches for the children and who is there for the high-end government benefits. Unions have ensured teachers are among the most well-compensated, vacationed, and job-protected work forces in the country, all without true concern for what best helps students.
Support Merit Pay and Promote Standards
Conservatives support ending the union-dominated contracts that oppose merit pay and advancement and places longevity of teaching over quality of teaching. Conservatives support a merit-based system for public school teachers, and holding teachers accountable has been one of the most difficult things to do. Unions oppose most measures to determine whether teachers are effective and work to make it impossible to get rid of those who are not. Education is one of the few fields where a lack of results has no consequences, and length of teaching is of greater importance than quality of teaching.
In general, conservatives would support a bottom-up approach, and these standards would be local and statewide based. Applying the concepts of federalism should apply to education, just as it should for most government-related agencies. Local school districts should have the greatest power to determine effective and acceptable standards without interference from the heavy hand of either a large bureaucratic federal government or unions.