Good teachers are more important than good teachers unions.
That's worth noting as the Wisconsin Education Association Council loses membership and explores a possible merger.
WEAC has been hurt by Act 10, Gov. Scott Walker's strict limits on collective bargaining for most public workers. Act 10 means most teachers across Wisconsin are no longer required to pay dues to a union. The legislation also prompted many aging teachers to retire sooner than planned.
WEAC membership has fallen from nearly 100,000 two years ago to around 70,000, with further decline expected as contract extensions in cities such as Madison, Janesville and Milwaukee expire.
The union held a "constitutional convention" of sorts last weekend in Madison to chart a new path, according to its leaders, who met recently with the State Journal editorial board.
WEAC understandably wants to stay relevant and help its members. Its strategy includes focusing more on local units and school districts, and less on the Republican-run state Capitol. WEAC also is exploring a merger with the smaller American Federation of Teachers-Wisconsin.
But ultimately, local school boards will shape the union's fate more than anything else. That's because local boards now have a lot more power to change the traditional education model, employee incentives and rules.
Without collective bargaining agreements, for example, local boards will have an easier time adopting year-round school schedules to stop the summer slide in learning. They'll have more ability to improve incentives for good teachers, and more flexibility to try new things.
If local boards across Wisconsin treat teachers fairly — if they inspire teachers to be their best, and to improve learning — those teachers will have less need for WEAC in the future.
But if those local school boards do dumb things — such as adopting goofy dress codes or eliminating professional development — teachers will have more need for union support.
The big goal everyone should share is more young people succeeding in school and life. That will require changes to the status quo. It also will require respect and rewards for hard-working educators.