Former D.C. Chancellor Michelle Rhee says in an op-ed piece that she supports teachers’ right to bargain collectively, at least on issues such as wages and professional development.
“Collective bargaining for wages and benefits is not the reason American schools fail. Even in ‘right to work’ states that do not have collective bargaining, we still see many of the problems that hurt our schools: bureaucratic inertia, red tape limits on parent choice, seniority-based layoffs, and fiscal irresponsibility,” Rhee writes in the piece. “Overseas, many countries see teachers’ unions drive high standards and expectations for all teachers.”
The problem, she asserts, is not bargaining per se; it is when bargaining is used to support things like lockstep pay schedules and seniority, two issues she says aren’t in students’ interests.
If this isn’t exactly evidence of a “softer, gentler” Rhee, it is at least a bit more nuanced than her usual rhetoric. In the piece, for example, she says that district administrators who agree to contracts bear some of the blame for such policies. Unions, she adds, have “every right” to advocate on behalf of their members.
She does reiterate, however, that some issues are not appropriate for bargaining, and that unions should not be “co-managers” of school systems, citing performance evaluations as an example of something that only administrators should get to oversee.
A version of this news article first appeared in the Teacher Beat blog.