Opinion
Teaching Profession Letter to the Editor

Teachers’ Unions Protect Ineffective Teachers

April 26, 2016 1 min read
  • Save to favorites
  • Print

To the Editor:

“Do you think unions protect bad teachers?”

That was Anderson Cooper’s question for Democratic presidential candidate Hillary Clinton at her party’s recent primary debate in Flint, Mich. (“Hillary Clinton: Teachers Are Often ‘Scapegoats’ for Low-Performing Schools”). Clinton’s answer was clear: “I have told my friends at the top of both [teachers’] unions, we’ve got to take a look at this because it is one of the most common criticisms. We need to eliminate the criticism.”

That might take a while. One estimate based on federal data suggests only one out of every 500 tenured teachers is fired for poor performance.

America’s national teachers’ unions—the National Education Association and American Federation of Teachers—are notorious for protecting underwhelming teachers through generous tenure policies and last-in, first-out firing procedures.

Their staunch support for the status quo spills over into politics. According to the Center for Responsive Politics, the NEA and the AFT’s super-PACs have spent nearly $228 million on political activities and lobbying since 1990, without taking into account millions more in non-PAC expenditures. And almost all of the money has been spent on the Democratic Party and special-interest groups.

Meanwhile, according to the 2012 Program for International Student Assessment, our country ranks 35th in the world when it comes to mathematics—behind Russia and Vietnam. Reading scores are even more troubling: Only 36 percent of America’s 8th graders read at or above grade level.

The time for change is now. And teachers’ unions are getting in the way.

Richard Berman

Center for Union Facts

Washington, D.C.

Related Tags:

A version of this article appeared in the April 27, 2016 edition of Education Week as Teachers’ Unions Protect Ineffective Teachers

Events

Curriculum Webinar Computer Science Education Movement Gathers Momentum. How Should Schools React?
Discover how schools can expand opportunities for students to study computer science education.
School & District Management Webinar Fostering Student Well-Being with Programs That Work
Protecting student well-being has never been more important. Join this webinar to learn how to ensure your programs yield the best outcomes.
Reading & Literacy Webinar 'Science of Reading': What Are the Components?
Learn how to adopt a “science of reading” approach to early literacy to effectively build students’ vocabulary and content knowledge.

EdWeek Top School Jobs

Teacher Jobs
Search over ten thousand teaching jobs nationwide — elementary, middle, high school and more.
View Jobs
Principal Jobs
Find hundreds of jobs for principals, assistant principals, and other school leadership roles.
View Jobs
Administrator Jobs
Over a thousand district-level jobs: superintendents, directors, more.
View Jobs
Support Staff Jobs
Search thousands of jobs, from paraprofessionals to counselors and more.
View Jobs

Read Next

Teaching Profession What the Research Says U.S. Teachers Work More Hours Than Their Global Peers. Other Countries Are Catching Up
New international data show how teachers' work lives shifted in the pandemic.
3 min read
teacher diverse classroom
DigitalVision Vectors/Getty
Teaching Profession With New Grants, Teachers' Union Doubles Down on Partnerships With Parents
The American Federation of Teachers will invest $1.5 million in parent outreach—a counterweight to conservatives' parents'-rights narrative.
4 min read
Illustration of airplanes dropping money
DigitalVision Vectors/Getty
Teaching Profession Opinion 25 Reasons to Get Excited About Teaching
Let’s focus on the opportunities that teaching brings every single day to the classroom.
Louie F. Rodriguez
3 min read
illustration of a teacher watering a plant that is growing with students on it.
Nataliia Nesterenko/iStock/Getty
Teaching Profession What the Research Says The Big Connection Between Teachers' Burnout and Their Principals
Less-demanding principals make for less-stressed teachers, a new study suggests.
3 min read
Image of two adults planning in a school classroom.
E+