Support for teachers unions at an all-time low

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  • Jeff Temple City, CA
    June 18, 2012 10:29 a.m.

    Teachers' Unions are hardly the obstacle to reform that they're accused of being.

    Any professional educator (especially educational historians) knows that so-called educational reform is more often than not a rehash of something that was attempted before and has been proven to work no better than what we currently have.

    The real truth of educational reform is that to be truly effective it would be VERY expensive. True reform of education would cost something like ten times what we currently spend. In this country we have been trying to do it on the cheap for years, so we get union-bashing, vouchers, cries for merit pay, blaming teachers and administrators, and so on ad nauseum.

    Teachers' unions are a necessary evil in a broken system for which the public does not have (and never has had) the will to fix.

  • Liberal Ted Salt Lake City, UT
    June 15, 2012 7:13 a.m.

    One thing democrats and unions can't explain, is how the theory of throwing more money to salary increases a students ability to learn. When democrats preach that people work for recognition, titles, legacys etc. and not for pay. Because pay doesn't bring satisfaction to the work being performed.

    So instead of finding ways to milk the taxpayer and give unions more money. Let's look at why teachers are ineffective and unable to teach students. Having gone through public school, I know it didn't help when my teacher was hungover everyday and put in a video so she can turn off the lights put on her sunglasses and fall asleep on her desk. In my opinion the schools need to let those types of employees go.

    Second, it did not help my learning when kids who are disruptive and had zero interest in the class; and the teacher was not allowed to do anything about it. We need a better system to get relocate these "special" kids. I found taking AP classes was the best option and had fewer problem children.

    Third allow children to move up based on abilities and not by age.

  • EJM Herriman, UT
    June 14, 2012 2:52 p.m.

    Once again posters want to complain, which we all get do, myself included, but when they are asked to be specific as to their own recommendations as to what changes they would make they rarely post. In Utah, and let's keep this here in Utah, the teacher "associations" represent the majority of teachers. Yes they fight for greater wages/benefits for their members. They also are willing to work with all parties to make certain that changes in the profession are made with improving the education of all students. Perfect? No. But then again the only institution that tries,to project themselves as all knowing is the same institution that refuses term limits and ethics reforms while trying to sneak thru laws that would restrict the public's right to know. Oh, and sad to say, we keep voting them in. Go figure.

  • Midwest Mom Soldiers Grove, WI
    June 14, 2012 8:45 a.m.

    dyc is happy to tolerate unions, but not interested in joining. However, I doubt that she rejects the wage and benefit improvements that are negotiated on her behalf, by those who do the work and pay their dues.

  • MyChildrensKeeper Taylorsville, UT
    June 14, 2012 8:06 a.m.

    I agree with keeping unions, special interest foreign nationals, ACLU, NAACP, UEA, NEA, Feds, and PTA organization out of education and our schools and that parents and teachers (not PTA) are underutilized resources of improving eduction. Education is the responsibility of states and its citizens, not federal government or any organized specail interest group.

    But unions itself is a right of labor, and should be allowed to negotiate as representatives to benefit the thousands of members on labor rights and wages rather than thousands of employees hiring thousands of lawyers to negotiate contracts and wages on an individual basis. Teachers and every worker in Utah has a right to negotiate wages, health care and job benefits with any employer, government or private. What unions do with their funds is also a right of workers approval.

    What most condemn unions for are based on the dead unions of 60 years ago. Unions create jobs, education, craftsmen, prosperity and promote economic growth, but common Utah citizens don't get it. We willfully labor and work to live in poverty like a good socialized slave should while the wealthy live in extravagant prosperity because you choose to be poor.

  • dyc Vernal, UT
    June 13, 2012 10:46 p.m.

    I'm saddened by how much misinformation is accepted as truth regarding education. Utah is a "Right to Work" state. That basically means educators can decide whether or not they want to join the union. I believe that is fair. As an educator, I have chosen not to join the union for a variety of reasons, but I respect many of the educators I know who are active in the union. As for tenure, it doesn't really exist in Utah. Schools do not have to follow last hired, first fired. Also, both teachers and administrators are evaluated on a yearly basis. That is also the law. Plus, with SB 64, in the future, up to 15% of our pay will be based upon our summative evaluations, and those evaluations will be partially based upon parent and community input and test scores.

    I hope those in the community who are unhappy with their local school will get involved. Become a member of the community council, or volunteer in your child's school. Schools are only as good as the support they get from the community.

  • Monsieur le prof Sandy, UT
    June 13, 2012 10:20 p.m.

    The teacher unions in Utah are pussy cats. There hasn't been a teacher strike in decades, even when there should have been. The accusations that they somehow are undermining education and stopping progress are foolish and unsubstantiated. The unions are staffed by decent people who want to protect the rights and salaries of teachers. They try to negotiate contracts so that male teachers can support a family, but have been unable to do so for many years.

    I wish more people would visit the classroom and see what teachers do. Or better yet, teach for a week or a term. Maybe then you would see why teachers need unions to protect the few benefits they receive.

  • GD Syracuse, UT
    June 13, 2012 9:38 p.m.

    When I started teaching the IEA was considered a professional organization. The word union was never used. Even though salaries were often an issue they were not the main issue. By the middle to late 70's the word union was used frequently and the focus seemed to change. I have always been somewhat opposed to unions. They force a way of thinking on the teachers which isn't always good. On the other hand you get administrators who think they have all the answers and in some cases teachers have little say. That is just as harmful. So maybe it is a catch 22.
    As far as merit pay I think it would be okay if you had a fair way to administer it. Administrators have little time to visit classrooms and when they do many teachers put on a show for the thirty or so minutes. Peers let biases get in the way. You can't judge a teacher by test scores. Maybe industry can use merit pay as but a teacher is much different than someone working on an assembly line.

  • Fred44 Salt Lake City, Utah
    June 13, 2012 9:21 p.m.

    Teachers unions have become the whipping boy for the republican party. The "problems" with education are not generated by the teacher unions, there generated by the constant interference and micromanagement from state and federal legislators as well as governors and the President.

    Teaching is the only profession where the professionals have no voice in how to do their job. Everyone know better than teachers how to educate our children. Maybe we could try something new, how about we involve teachers in the educational process. Senator Osmond took what was considered a "brave" step by going out and listening to teachers before he drafted legislation affecting the way a teacher does their job. This was a historic moment in the state of Utah, the first time teachers have been invited to the table. Think about how stupid that sounds. Would we make decisions about how to perform surgery without inviting doctors? Would we decide how to build roads in Utah with involving UDOT? Oh and by the way who was at the table representing teachers, the union! In case you haven't read SB 65 it is now easier to fire ineffective teachers, who agreed to that the union.

  • Truthseeker SLO, CA
    June 13, 2012 8:15 p.m.


    I appreciate the information you provided and your viewpoint. My children did not attend school in Utah, but I did, many years ago. I'm sure there are some variations from state-to-state. I'm sure almost every parent would say they know at least one teacher who needed to be terminated.

    Do you know of low-performing teachers who continue to teach? If so, how do you account for their continued employment as teachers?

    How many teachers do you know who've lost their teaching positions due to lack of performance?
    If yes, how long and involved was the process for termination?

    Is feedback from parents included or considered in evaluations?

    Does your evaluation include regular, unplanned observational visits to the classroom by administrators?

    There is an interesting report, "Ringing the Bell for k-12 Teacher Tenure Reform,"
    which shows that UT, and many other states have a low rate of teacher dismissal, 2.9% and the rate for tenured teachers is .2% Of course, those figures alone don't actually say anything about quality. Perhaps some states have less stringent hiring practices and therefore they have a higher termination rate etc.

  • Midwest Mom Soldiers Grove, WI
    June 13, 2012 8:08 p.m.

    Please click on the link to this study. "Paul E, Peterson is the Henry Lee Shattuck Professor of Government and Director of the Program on Education Policy and Governance at Harvard University, a Senior Fellow at the Hoover Institution at Stanford University, and Editor-In-Chief of Education Next, a journal of opinion and research," or so says his web site. But Mr. Peterson's training is in political science, not education. He has been influential in the last several presidential education policies. His goal is virtual learning. As he has said, you don't need a lot of good teachers, you only need a few to provide distance learning to a lot of kids. Then, the schools can save money by hiring lower-skilled babysitters to give individual homework help. This is why the likes of Bill Gates are so supportive. Every kid in America in front of a computer screen with endless possibilities for selling software upgrades. Big business bad policy.

  • Midwest Mom Soldiers Grove, WI
    June 13, 2012 7:54 p.m.

    Support for the teaching profession is declining. Public sector pensions, and other benefits, are being cut. All the more reason for preserving collective bargaining rights for teachers and other public employees. Here in Wisconsin, all teachers are now "at will" employees. A school board, or administrator with an axe to grind; an angry parent with significant clout in the community; any teacher can be fired for any reason, no matter what their work record. What benefit is it to our children if their teachers are beholden to only the most powerful in the district? Our son is leaving Wisconsin because his school has offered him next year's contract, without a stated salary. Probably the same as before, but they reserve the right to cut. If he signs, he'll have to pay the district $3K, in the event that mid-contract cuts make working in the district unsustainable. Public sector unions help stabilize the workplace. Without collective bargaining, my son's district has lost his entire department. They've all quit. Public education is being destroyed. Are you paying attention?

  • EJM Herriman, UT
    June 13, 2012 7:29 p.m.

    @IDC: as a teacher I would enjoy reading your approach/guidelines as to how to figure out which teachers are good and which ones are not. Please share with us. Thank you sir.

  • Hutterite American Fork, UT
    June 13, 2012 5:57 p.m.

    We're going to let them tell us how to tear our society apart, one brick at a time.

  • TOO Sanpete, UT
    June 13, 2012 5:47 p.m.

    The fact that "educators" are so protected is ridiculous.

    I have had lots of teachers in high school and now in college that I didn't learn a thing, yet I still had to pay. I had a teacher where we played Scrabble. Another we watched movies. I have already paid tens of thousands of dollars on education and am planning on paying tens or hundreds of thousands more. If a teacher is not TEACHING, fire him/her. I don't care if they are 30 years or 5 years away from retirement. Get rid of them. It's because of so many poor teachers that America is becoming more ignorant everyday. The following generations are absolutely being destroyed when it comes to important things. All they care about is cell phones, big trucks, and video games. Education and knowledge do not get as much honor as they used to.

  • Orem Parent Orem, UT
    June 13, 2012 5:41 p.m.

    There is NO tenure in Utah!!!!

  • BleedsBlue Salt Lake City, UT
    June 13, 2012 5:32 p.m.

    "Teachers should have to be re-evaluated and apply for tenure on an ongoing basis."

    The truth is, I have been a public school teacher in the state of Utah for 30 years and my job has always been contingent on my performance as evaluated by my superiors. There is a very specific process in place to fairly and regularly evaluate teacher performance in my district that uses a comprehensive, carefully normed and nationally accepted measurement tool. If I do not meet a certain standard, I will be given an opportunity to improve. If I do not improve within a fairly short time frame, I am subject to termination. I do not understand why people outside of the public school system have the idea that teachers have tenure regardless of their performance. That is just not true.

  • Oatmeal Woods Cross, UT
    June 13, 2012 5:26 p.m.


    Two items I left off on duties was salary (CEO responsibilities for middle-manager salary) and the fact that you can't sell your business and take a loss. What percentage of businesses fail? Why should we entrust schools to a group as incompetent as the business community?

    On the second post, I'm afraid you don't get it. Salespeople don't have to deal with the exact same set of clients. If their current clients don't buy, they go out and find new ones. Teachers can't give up on any individuals. They are evaluated on the children they are given. Unlike the business world teachers can't fire their students if they under-perform. And there are light years of difference between teens and adults. Adults get arrested for behavior that is forgiven with teens. Adults don't have a right to attend their jobs. Children have a right to attend public school.

  • squirt Taylorsville, ut
    June 13, 2012 3:58 p.m.

    WOW, the comments in the blog are based in myths not truths. First of all, let's talk about Senate Bill 64 last legislative session. Developed WITH UEA at the table. This bill ties teacher advancement in salary to a successful evaluation. For the millionth time, we do not have tenure in Utah.

    Please do the research. UEA is leading the way in teacher accountability. UEA is not afraid to advocate for a valid and reliable evaluation tool tied to salaries-SB 64 definitive proof positive that they are not obstacles to reform! Those previous posts filled with the anti-union rhetoric are mostly filled with ignorance.

  • IDC Boise, ID
    June 13, 2012 3:25 p.m.

    Get rid of tenure and fire the bad/lazy teachers.

    Reward teachers who are talented and work hard.

    Which teachers make up the bottom 10% would be easy to figure out.

  • azamatbagatov Lehi, UT
    June 13, 2012 3:20 p.m.


    You didn't answer the question either. You didn't say how you would work the merit pay system.

    Also, you say that public education is patently ridiculous. Please give a specific example. In the same breath, you say that schools should be like libraries, go or don't go. I'm sure that will make for a much better society.

    Finally, you say that public schools are going the way of the dodo, yet enrollment numbers keep rising. Don't see how serving more students is making them extinct. That must be home school math you are using.

  • Truthseeker SLO, CA
    June 13, 2012 2:16 p.m.

    It appears teachers and education are under attack from Republicans.

    Generally speaking, we do a fairly decent job in this country educating the middle and upper middle class. We are failing miserably in areas of low income and high poverty rates. Utah has a very homogenous population and should have a good educational system.

    The tenure system needs to be changed. No teacher should get tenure for life. Teachers should have to be re-evaluated and re-apply for tenure on an ongoing basis. Additionally, it shouldn't automatically be last hired, first fired when staffing cuts are made. Everything being equal, seniority should carry weight, but if a long term teacher isn't performing adequately they shouldn't retain their job over a newer, more competent teacher.

    Teaching is one of the most important professions in society. We should raise the bar, attract the best to the teaching profession and compensate them appropriately, giving them the tools and resources they need to help those they teach.

  • DVD Taylorsville, 00
    June 13, 2012 1:17 p.m.

    @John20000: That's the nail hit on the head. But it runs across all businesses, not just schools. If we could count on ethical management and leadership that didn't abuse people, the need for unions to defend the less powerful would dwindle. But when the union is set up in a way that itself brings a corrupting environment to its own leadership, then once again the less powerful groups of people have lost. They can have corrupt management abusing them, or a corrupt union doing other undesirable things that negatively affect the members. Lose-lose until something fundamental is changed?

  • CHS 85 Sandy, UT
    June 13, 2012 1:13 p.m.

    @Counter Intelligence

    So public employees are not entitled to free speech and free association? If they pay their dues on income earned from work, why is that any of your business?

    Do you now get to tell public employees they can spend X number of dollars on housing, they can have X number of children, they can be friends with who you choose? Do you get to tell public employees who they can donate money to, etc? Where does it end?

    As far as teachers not being able to be fired (since that is what most people on the forum want to do to all teachers and other public employees) you are dead wrong. Before your rants about it go on, I suggest you take a look at employee policies at the various districts. If Administrators (Management) are afraid or too lazy to follow prescribed and approved procedures, why is that the Teacher's (labor) fault? Good leaders will use the tools they are provided to move an organization forward.

  • screenname Salt Lake City, UT
    June 13, 2012 1:02 p.m.


    Your list of duties for a school administrator sounds very similar to the list of duties for any business manager, plus a few unique to education (just like any other industry would have unique duties). The only advantage I can see to principals coming from within the ranks is that they would better understand the teachers they manage.

    As for your most recent comment, there are plenty of jobs that are merit-based that are also based on how other people perform. Salespeople, for example. Any manager who is measured on how their employees perform would be in the exact same position as a teacher. Any anyone who has managed before knows that there is often not much difference in maturity between a group of adults and a group of teenagers.

  • John20000 Cedar Hills, UT
    June 13, 2012 12:39 p.m.

    Unions are the results of ethically bad management. If I had to deal with public school administration as a teacher, I would want a union. If we really want better schools, its not the teachers we should be focusing on, its administration. Fix the administration and there won't be any need for unions.

  • non believer PARK CITY, UT
    June 13, 2012 12:38 p.m.

    I guess my question or comment would be, how are Unions helping teachers? They are one of the lowest paid professions, so I am wondering how they are making teachers lives better? I would have thought that the Unions would have increased their pay and perks. Just curious!

  • Oatmeal Woods Cross, UT
    June 13, 2012 11:29 a.m.

    Juan Figuroa,

    Those professions are easily measured by what they actually do. Teachers can only be measured by how other people (their students) perform.

    No nurse or MD would allow a rock band to play in an ICU. Most professions carefully control their creative/work process and environment so they get the best results possible. We can't do that in public education. We can't control the quality of our raw materials (incoming students). We can't control the environment or educational experience to that degree. We don't control their after-school home life. I KNOW how to make education work better. It isn't better teachers, it is motivated parents.

    Take away the parental tax exemption for every student who fails to pass their classes and end-of-year exams. Give greater tax exemptions for successful students who pass honors and AP classes. Resource students would have standards fitted to their capabilities. Parents will demand better teachers who can work with various types of students. If home schooling works for some, fine. If other plans work, fine. But measure the students and make the parents responsible to find the best teachers.

    Radical idea?

  • What in Tucket? Provo, UT
    June 13, 2012 11:06 a.m.

    We love our teachers, but not their unions. We need better education for our youth. In the Netherlands there are no more public schools. All go with vouchers.

  • Oatmeal Woods Cross, UT
    June 13, 2012 10:58 a.m.


    My suspicion is that "Still Blue" believes that someone with a business background knows how to lead better than someone with an educational background. I know many with this perception.

    May I suggest what I have observed (as a high school teacher and a parent) what high school administrators are required to know and handle?

    1. As curriculum/teacher leader, a principal must motivate and control 70-100 quirky, talented teachers (most of whom are very intelligent... a few are dumber than a sack of rocks), dealing with personality conflicts, motivation (teacher pay!)and employee issues.
    2. Educational law: ignorance gets you sued and fired
    3. Handle grants from public and private entities (often totaling into the millions)
    4. Handle a school budget of millions
    5. Implement new programs (fed, state and local)
    6. Criminal law/psychology/social work in dealing with minors
    7. PR
    8. Able to deal with 2-3 sets (minimum) of mad parents a day, some of these are abusive to their child or mentally ill
    9. Work from 6 am 'til LATE...
    10. Attend (as much as possible) over 500+ individual activities held at a 5A high school
    11. Love troubled children

  • Juan Figuroa Seattle, WA
    June 13, 2012 10:28 a.m.


    Merit pay is a given in every industry on this earth -- except teaching.

    Nurses, cops, engineers, doctors, salesmen, writers, actors, musicians...not one of 'em continues to collect a paycheck when they're incompetent. Teachers alone get paid regardless of their ability to do the job. Thank you, teachers' unions.

  • Juan Figuroa Seattle, WA
    June 13, 2012 10:23 a.m.

    Those of us who homeschool our children know that public education is patently ridiculous. Some day schools will operate like libraries: Go, or don't. Learn, or do something different but equally useful. Schools will be competitive, or lose funding.

    There's little reason to have federal government sniffing around education at all. State government involvement is barely justified.

    If communities and parent groups want to set up schools, educational co-ops, video lectures, or tutoring rooms in libraries, that's a viable path to education. There are lots of creative and effective ways to teach -- and to teach not just children. Public education, where it exists, should be available to ANYONE who wants to learn -- just as public libraries are. The brick-and-mortar public school system is going the way of the dodo. That's good. Because it's inefficient and expensive, and the payoff is miniscule.

  • azamatbagatov Lehi, UT
    June 13, 2012 10:13 a.m.

    Still Blue,

    How would merit pay work in your opinion? Also, are you saying principals should be drawn from outside the education profession? Why?

  • Still Blue after all these years Kaysville, UT
    June 13, 2012 10:00 a.m.

    The ONLY way to improve public education begins with the breaking of teacher unions. They are a roadblock to everything. The next step would be ot implement merit pay, rather than pay based on experience and education. The last step would be to all non-educators to be principals and then demand they truly lead and manage their schools with education being the primary goal. Quantitative data is needed to prove that. But we cannot even begin as long as teacher unions are in effect.

  • ouisc Farmington, UT
    June 13, 2012 9:48 a.m.

    The most effective influence on education has come from teacher and parent movements within a school district. Teacher unions tend to orchestrate ideas that are developed for profit by profit-interested companies. The ingenuity of our teachers and parents is much more effective than national profit-generating ideas teacher unions propogate.