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Teachers’ Union Shoots Itself in the Foot

By Walt Gardner — January 09, 2017 1 min read

I support teachers’ unions, but what happened in the Chicago Public Schools system is indefensible (“The Library Lockout at Our Elementary School,” The Wall Street Journal, Jan. 7). Budget cuts and low enrollment resulted in laying off the librarian at the A.N. Pritzker Elementary School. To keep it open, dozens of parents volunteered to help children check out books. But the teachers’ union objected, saying the role was reserved for teachers. As a result, the library is now used for dance classes.

If teachers’ unions expect to retain taxpayer support, their actions must match their rhetoric. Randi Weingarten, the president of the American Federation of Teachers, has repeatedly said that the education of students is their No. 1 priority. But what the the Chicago Teachers Union, an affiliate of the AFT, has done in this case makes a mockery of that commitment. Its action is particularly egregious because parental involvement is considered indispensable in the educational process.

I’ve written often before that public schools in this country are at a crossroads. Their future is very much in doubt, as pressure builds for parental choice. One of the reasons for the appeal of the parental choice movement is the belief that teachers’ unions have far too much power under the existing system. So when news of what happened in Chicago breaks, it strengthens the case for dismantling traditional public schools.

I don’t know if the AFT and its affiliate are aware of how much damage they are doing by their stance in this particular case. But little by little, public opinion will move against teachers’ unions if they don’t get wise.

The opinions expressed in Walt Gardner’s Reality Check are strictly those of the author(s) and do not reflect the opinions or endorsement of Editorial Projects in Education, or any of its publications.