To the Editor:
I want to address Julie Dwyer’s letter to the editor decrying Education Week’s coverage of the National Education Association convention (“Convention Coverage Draws a Bad Review,” Letters, July 27, 2005).
It is not only the far right that criticizes the NEA. The Teacher Union Reform Network, a feeble attempt to amend the NEA from within, illustrates this point. That such an attempt is doomed, however, is evident from NEA President Reg Weaver’s keynote speech to the convention, in which he said, “We are a professional organization that is unionized for the benefit of our members in order that they may best serve the children and students of this great nation.”
The members come first; it is the nature of the beast. Protecting their members is what unions do, first and foremost.
Unfortunately, the policies reflected in Mr. Weaver’s statement have helped foster inequities in the system that flow from seniority constraints and other rigid union work rules. These inequities have had their most devastating effects on underserved children. The worst teachers teach the neediest students. Denouncing the achievement gap, as if it could not be affected by changing those rules, is worse than hypocritical.
Ms. Dwyer asks, “Why then is it so hard to understand that salaries for educators need to be increased?” What is hard to understand, Ms. Dwyer, and what taxpayers are questioning more and more, is why all teachers’ salaries need to be increased. How about increasing the salaries of good teachers and firing all the bad ones? That’s what common sense dictates.
San Francisco, Calif.
A version of this article appeared in the August 10, 2005 edition of Education Week as NEA Policy Runs Counter To Common Sense