KIPP schools are successful charter schools that have found out that one sure way to help students achieve is to increase the time they spend in the classroom. That, of course, necessitates having teachers who are willing to spend more time teaching those students. And KIPP schools do pay their teachers higher salaries to compensate for that added time. But that is not enough for one KIPP school in Baltimore.
However, Maryland’s charter law requires teachers to be part of the union. And the Baltimore Teachers Union is demanding that the charter school pay its teachers 33% more than other city teachers, an amount that the school says it can’t afford. Ujima Village teachers are already paid 18% above the union salary scale, reflecting the extra hours they work. To meet the union demands, the school recently told the Baltimore Sun that it has staggered staff starting times, shortened the school day, canceled Saturday classes and laid off staffers who worked with struggling students. For teachers unions, this outcome is a victory; how it affects the quality of public education in Baltimore is beside the point.Why not give the charter schools the option of waiving the union membership requirement. See how many teachers would be willing to trade improved working conditions with an administration dedicated to facilitating learning and students who are trained to come to school ready to learn rather than to misbehave. If it's such a bad working environment, we won't see applicants lined up for the jobs. But instead, the union prefers to crush the opportunity for these students by blocking the efforts of willing teachers to spend more time with their students. It reminds me of a friend who once taught in Massachusetts and told of being warned against tutoring students after or before school by the union representative who didn't want any teacher to work more hours than any other.
And then in New York, parents have banded together to raise money to hire teaching assistants whose jobs were cut by government shortfalls. But that doesn't please the union.
Meanwhile, in New York City, some public schools have raised money from parents to hire teaching assistants. Last year, the United Federation of Teachers filed a grievance about the hiring, and city education officials recently ordered an end to the practice. “It’s hurting our union members,” said a UFT spokesman, even though it’s helping kids and saving taxpayers money. The aides typically earned from $12 to $15 an hour. Their unionized equivalents cost as much as $23 an hour, plus benefits.So parents wanted to hire more qualified teaching assistants and raised the money themselves, but the union objected. Better the students go without the TA than the parents get to hire a willing and qualified person yet pay below the going wage.
“School administrators said that hiring union members not only would cost more, but would also probably bring in people with less experience,” reported the New York Times. Many of the teaching assistants hired directly by schools had graduate degrees in education and state teaching licenses, while the typical unionized aide lacks a four-year degree.
Never be fooled. The unions care deeply, but like all unions, they care about their members. That's fine as long as we don't have the illusion that what they truly care about is teaching children well. The individual teachers might care, but the unions don't. And it is the unions that are funding the politicians who then pass regulations to facilitate their efforts on behalf of their members. It's one big circle of each group helping the other with the students left out of the circle except as pawns of the politicians and unions.