Teaching Profession

Debating Wisconsin and Collective Bargaining

By Anthony Rebora — February 24, 2011 1 min read
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Over at Education Week, Diane Ravitch, with an eye on Wisconsin, defends teachers’ right to collectively bargain:

From the individual teacher's point of view, it is valuable to have an organization to turn to when you feel you have been treated unfairly, one that will supply you with assistance, even a lawyer, one that advocates for improvement in your standard of living. From society's point of view, it is valuable to have unions to fight for funding for public education and for smaller class sizes and for adequate compensation for teachers.

Rick Hess, in response, argues that collective bargaining for public employee unions inexorably leads to overspending and outsized leverage:

Public employee unions, which have become one of the nation's most aggressive and influential special interest groups in recent decades, are unchecked by the competitive constraints and self-interested ownership that help to balance out private sector unions. ...
The resulting overpromise is easy to see. For instance, when it comes to teacher pensions, there is a nearly $500 billion (and growing) funding shortfall across the states, and educator benefits have consistently grown as a percent of salaries—with districts and states contributing far more to teacher retirements than employers do in the private sector.

Regardless of their differences, both Ravitch and Hess—along with just about every other commentator I’ve read—agree that this fight extends, or will extend, far beyond Wisconsin.

A version of this news article first appeared in the Teaching Now blog.