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.

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(14) comments

bluffsinview
bluffsinview

As for "school choice"....voucher schools do a worse job than public schools on the whole. But, the for-profits are supporting the Republicans with money, so the Repubs will surely push for more privatization. Look at the research...it's all there.

bluffsinview
bluffsinview

I've worked at schools all over WI and have observed many teachers in their classrooms. The majority of them are amazing. I've seen only one that should not have been teaching...she was a good person, but horrible at her job....she was let go after a year. Teachers are "on" all day, working with large numbers of children, many of whom have special needs. They can't run out at lunchtime (they get maybe 20 minutes to eat), don't get breaks, and work at home till all hours. But people don't see that. They don't see how hard it is to teach classes where maybe 4 kids are fast learners, the majority are average learners, and some have such horrible home lives that they can't concentrate. Some don't have warm clothes, some come to school filthy, some have witnessed domestic violence, some are homeless...and many will never get ahead in class or life. Yet the teachers reach out to each of them and try to help them succeed. As for teacher evaluations, if administrators just sat in the classroom and observed they'd know the good from the bad. Just look at the kids..if the kids are engaged, if they're energized, if they're part of the process, they're learning. If the kids are bored, if they're always disruptive, then the teacher needs mentoring and perhaps dismissal. Tests are not necessary for teachers. Just look at the kids.

Norwood44
Norwood44

Tea parody. You're not funny. Or clever. Or bright. You probably have a guaranteed government union job that allows you to be below average with great pay, vacation and no accountability.

Tea Parody
Tea Parody

Teachers never did need unions. It was the unions that needed the teachers. It's just like ALEC. They legislators never did need ALEC, but ALEC sure did need legislators. That's the difference. Teachers don't get to make laws, but legislators do. That's why ALEC is thriving and WEAC is diving. It's just common sense. In Wisconsin's new 100% Republican controlled government only what legislators agree is needed will survive the new under the new laws. Hello ALEC, goodbye WEAC.

Now if teachers were reallys smart they'd join ALEC. ALEC knows how to get bills passed. WEAC, not so much. They also picked two losers for Governor - that lady, and then Tom Barrett. Get smart teachers! Join ALEC!

Norwood44
Norwood44

The sooner the unions crater the sooner we repair our schools under a new model that has greater accountability and success for our kids.

jarvis8484
jarvis8484

People still don't get it . . . the big bad teacher unions haven't been in power for nearly 30 years. When Hortonville went on strike, all teachers were fired and replaced. So much for right to strike. The mandatory arbitration was taken away even though data showed the results of arbitration were split nearly even between union offer and district offer. So, what power did unions have . . . no right to strike, no binding arbitration, just "collective begging."
The GOP did a great job of painting unions as evil yet they had no power. When negotiations were dead-locked, ultimately, the school board had all the power and could implement whatever changes they wanted. Teacher unions have not stood in the way of progress as many would have you believe.

As long as we do not have merit pay and the ability to encourage good performers and piles of obstacles and legal battels to get rid of bad performers, then YES, the unions do indeed stand in the way of progress. "Many would have you beleive" it, because they all see it this way. In the private sector good performers are a hot commodity. Every company wants, covets, seks, and trys to keep Good/Great performers. If you are in this group you have No problem getting good jobs, getting promoted, being treated well, etc. In union environments they protect the poor performers. They claim to be protecting their rights from the mean administration who wish to treat them poorly or unfairly, but as I just pointed out.....no company treats good employees poorly, so in reality they are just protecting Poor employees from being held responsible for themselves at the detriment of the district.

Robert James
Robert James

"no company treats good employees poorly"

You don't seriously believe that, do you? That has got to be one of the most delusional statements I've seen in these forums, and that is saying -a lot-.

OF COURSE they do. And of course, they will. Not all of them will, but some do. And lest you think that "those companies don't last long", think again. Good, hardworking employees are routinely let go by companies who seek to bolster their short-term bottom line by slashing personnel costs. Good employees are often the kind that will stay late to get some big project finished, even though they get nothing from it, save for their belief that the company will remember their willingness to reduce their own pay by giving away their time.

Your points have some truth to them. Poor employees, teachers or otherwise, are frequently kept on largely because they don't call attention to themselves. But to say that companies don't treat good employees poorly is just nonsense, and I can't believe you don't know someone who has been on the receiving end of poor treatment.

Of course it happens, but it is rare and not the norm. what I'm saying is that overall Most companys covet, want, and need good employees. they want to keep the good ones and don't care if they lose bad ones. It's common sense. Of course we know not everyone has or uses common sense some or all the time. I've worked for a few rotten bosses and some who didn't recognize good/bad employees, but again.....that is rare. Usually they are the ones who get recognized for being bad and are weeded out. Incentives for doing good willl absolutely help our schools. Good teachers have wanted this for a long time. Who is against it? the few poor performers and in some cases you have older teachers who fear being let go in cost reduction efforts. One thing working in the favor yet of teachers is that remember....school boards are still beholden to voters, so if they make decisions that are unpopular they willl be kicked out themsleves.

pessimist are you? Good employees do stay late when needed, and guess what? They do get remembered at review/raise time. You obviously have never been one or tried it have you. You're also obvioulsy not a manager and sounds like you haven't been on either side of a good employee/employer relationship. As for saying I'm delusional....so all the conspiracy theorists and pessimists are right? How exactly do you think the 86% in the orivate sector live and survive? Where do you think raises and bonuses come from? I've worked for 12 companies in my carreer and in Most poor performers are weeded out and good ones are rewarded. incentives work.

Tea Parody
Tea Parody

Horsehockey! Teachers and their unions have stood in the way of privatizing schools for everyone one of the past 30 or 40 years you mentioned. By working for public schools they have stolen money from taxpayers who could have created superior private schools in the front sections of super Walmarts, right next to the hair salons and banks. Kids could have been learning about careers right at school, but going on field trips to the produce section and learning about corporate agriculture. Shame on teachers unions. Those greedy unions are the only reason all schools are not private schools.

mzd
mzd

The teacher unions and the school boards have many interests in common. I find the move toward vouchers and charter schools most disturbing. First we had 'pilot' programs for disadvantaged students, now income levels have been increased substantially and there's talk of expanding the program to more areas of the state. The "for profit" education folks are chomping at the bit to get their slice of this pie and are busy lobbying and financing the campaigns of our legislators, executives, and judges. How long will it be before our school taxes start moving out of state or out of country? Who is there to lobby for the local schools if not the teachers and local school boards?

The problem is the teachers are lobbying for Themselves. It is only the board who is lobbying for the school district and students.

mzd
mzd

Well, good luck to the board competing against the "for profits".

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