Teachers Fight Back

Defend and Support School Teachers of America


with 7 comments

I had another dream. (I’ve been dreaming a lot lately).  I  dreamt that I ruled the U.S. as a dictator with unlimited powers. I had my military police round up every person in the country who has been bashing teacher unions. I rounded up all the people who said that teacher unions are partly responsible for the current “education crisis”.  I detained any person who bashed the union concept of tenure and who insisted that collective bargaining for public employees was a gross evil.  I snared all the people who blamed teacher unions for protecting large amounts of incompetent teachers. In short, I arrested anyone who had negative things to say about teacher unions.

I arrested all these people in order to prove a point.  I was determined to prove that the majority of union bashing people were ones who simply wanted to do away with all unions no matter who or what they represented. I wanted to show that these people were not really concerned about an “education crisis” and about improving our public schools. I was out to prove that the majority of these people had the hidden motive of destroying public sector unions simply because they have always been opposed to unions and they were using the current “education crisis” as an excuse to get rid of public sector unions for once and for all.

I forced every one of the union bashers to take a lie detector test. I asked them questions that would reveal their true reasons for opposing teacher unions. The results surprised even me. Eighty-five percent of the “bashers” were doing so simply because they  were anti union and were using the “education crisis” as an excuse to destroy public sector unions. My suspicions were confirmed.

I immediately released the fifteen percent who sincerely thought teacher unions hindered educational progress. The eighty-five percent who were hypocrites and were just out to destroy unions were given a harsh sentence. Each of them was taken to a classroom where they were forced to write a sentence one hundred times on the chalkboard,” I will never bash teacher unions again unless I really believe what I am accusing them of.” Just as the offenders were beginning to write, my wife poked me in the ribs because I was snoring too loudly and the wonderful dream ended.

Written by alkleen

February 21, 2012 at 9:39 pm

Posted in Uncategorized

7 Responses

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  1. And I dream of a day when teachers’ unions propose collective bargaining agreements that track the financial well-being of their communities, both up and down. You see, I believe teachers’ unions have a place and don’t wish to see them abolished. But I want them to act with more empathy to the other taxpayers.

    But more than anything, I want teachers’ unions to find a way to communicate and negotiate such that it isn’t the kids who are held hostage. Teacher strikes should not be a club in your bag, and for you to even threaten this as a bargaining tactic neutralizes all your claims that “you’re in it for the kids.”

    Paul Lambert

    February 22, 2012 at 1:30 pm

    • As the name of this blog implies, I’m here to defend teachers. For my first thirty years of teaching, I never felt the need to “defend” teachers. We were respected and rarely bashed in the public arena. We were rarely attacked by politicians. We were never used as scapegoats for the incompetence of parents and a society that only paid lip service to the notion that education was important. That all changed starting several years ago.
      I just heard Newt Gingrich in tonight’s debate. I believe he said, “teacher unions don’t care about the children, they only care about protecting their teachers.” Things like that were never said ten years ago. Teacher unions are made up of teachers. I NEVER met a teacher who was, “in it for the money.” I never met a teacher that didn’t care about the students. There are certain people in this country who decided to declare war on teachers for whatever reason. We didn’t start this war, but we certainly have a right to defend ourselves.
      I pay outrageous property taxes and I’m not happy about it. Millions of people are not happy about their property taxes. I wish their was another way to pay for schools and teachers. I never went around bragging about how important teachers are in society. I never felt the need to suggest how important teaching was until the last few years. I just can’t stand the hypocrisy of the politicians and reformers who scream about teaching being so important. They say there is NOTHING MORE IMPORTANT THAN THE EDUCATION OF OUR CHILDREN, and then complain about teacher pensions, salaries, benefits, etc. Which is it? Is teaching extremely important or not? If it is, then stop complaining about wages and benefits etc. I wouldn’t be nearly so upset if they would say, “well, teachers are no more important than any other job.” That’s fine. I could accept that. Then there wouldn’t be any hypocrisy in their demands for lower salaries, benefits and pensions.
      I’m really disappointed to hear you say that the teachers “use the kids as hostages” during negotiations or during a strike. That’s the first time I’ve ever seen you write something that is taken from the standard playbook of administrative negotiation phrases. Usually all your thoughts are original and very sensible. I respect you and your opinions and admire your interest in all of this. I’d like to have coffee with you sometime and we could have some interesting conversations. I don’t take any of this personal and I hope you feel the same. I went through three tough negotiations with school board members and administrators. We disagreed on many issues and took months to resolve our differences. Despite our differences we were always civil towards one another and I never had a problem getting along with the superintendent or the school board president.


      February 22, 2012 at 10:41 pm

      • Of course the reason teacher strikes are effective is that they negatively impact the kids. I’m not taking that perspective from some negotiation playbook, as I’ve never directly participated in union negotiations, as either a school board member or as a business executive. It’s just a truthful description of why teacher strikes work for the teachers’ union, and it’s the primary reason there have been almost no teacher strikes here in Ohio over the past couple of decades.

        The other is that we had a period of economic prosperity in this country that was initiated during the Reagan administration, and collapsed during Bush Jr. I’ll not try to give credit or blame to any of the Presidents of that era – each deserve a little of both.

        It may have taken educators a while to get a ride on that gravy train, but you did – and I’m glad for it. But those days are over for a while – who knows how long. And it’s a really scary time for many folks in our economy, including me.

        I think there’s some psychological equation that goes something like this:


        For decades, people thought the truth about the teaching profession was that it isn’t so well paid, but has the great benefit of getting summers off. Their impression of how hard teachers work is based on their experience as a student, and from a student’s perspective, it doesn’t look that hard.

        I’m not saying that I believe teachers don’t work hard – I’ve spent about 500 hours in an elementary classroom since becoming a school board member, and I know how hard the work is, both when the kids are there, and after they’ve left for the day. You’ll never catch me saying teachers don’t have a tough job.

        But most of the public never sees what I’ve seen, or what you’ve lived. They’re just recalling what it was like to be a student. So let’s agree that most – maybe the great majority of community members grossly underestimate the skill and stamina required to be an effective teacher. And that misunderstanding plays strongly into their ‘value equation.’

        I’d argue that until recently, few members of the public have understood how teachers are compensated, or what role the teachers’ union plays in determining how teachers are paid. And frankly, as long as the public felt like they were doing well economically, and their taxes not that noticable, they had little interest in expending the energy necessary to find out how school economics really works.

        Then the economy softened, and the stock market tanked. Folks who thought they had a lot of paper wealth in their home equity and 401(k) stock funds saw both evaporate seemingly overnight. Losing one’s job on top of that quickly drove folks to dispair – and anger.

        Then along comes the school district with yet another property tax levy. When folks ask why now, when most of us are hurting – they are surprised to learn that the answer is that another levy is needed to fund the pay raises and benefits costs built into the collective bargaining agreement with the teachers (which is how 95% of our new levy money is spent). That’s the first surprise.

        Then they start to understand that the pay for teachers isn’t as low as they thought. In fact, it’s pretty good (averaging $70,000/yr in most districts around here) – and there’s still those summers off. And not only that, but they can retire in their late 50s and make $80,000/yr for the remaining 25-30 years of their lives – with pretty decent health coverage.

        Big surprise. The raw facts of the situation – the teacher pay grid, step increases, base pay increases, contribution toward health insurance, retirement benefits – are magnified by the surprise factor, and the folks of the community getting pretty pissed off.

        So they start balking at passing new levies, and the school board counters by saying that if the levy doesn’t pass, they have to cut programming and services, starting with extracurriculars and transportation. The Board has no choice, they’ll say, because they’re bound by the terms of the CBA, with all its built in increases and benefits.

        So the people elect new Board members who promise to be tougher negotiators with the union. They try, but the union leaders say, look – we’re only going so far, and if you push any harder, we’ll go on strike and screw up things big time for your kids. It’s ludicrous to say there is any other point of leverage in a teacher strike. Many, perhaps most folks in a community won’t care if the teachers go on strike because they don’t have kids in school. Sure, it will have some impact on everyone’s property values by scaring off potential buyers for a while, but only if the strike is never settled.

        But the parents of school age kids will freak out, especially if it screws up sports or graduation requirements. There will be pressure to capitulate to the union demand, which is what the union leaders are counting on. Meanwhile, the levy still doesn’t pass, leading to layoffs and cancellation of all kinds of programs and services – starting with those most visible and painful. It leads to a kind of civil war in the community, and things are never the same again.

        We are right at the point of this doomsday scenario in many school districts. Counterintuitively, it’s the most affluent districts who have the greatest risk, because they’ve been able to avoid this crisis the longest, and consequently have been able to shield the community from the facts. That’s a flawed strategy.

        Here in central Ohio, the ‘ring suburbs’ about the urban core are one by one fighting the skirmishes that are the precursor to all out war. Our neighboring district – one of the best in the state – is right now in the process of laying off 100+ young teachers. One on the other side of the city is trying to get a levy passed in March – after having one fail in Nov – and if it fails again, they too will end up laying off 100+ teachers. We were fortunate to pass our levy by literally a handful of votes in November, and so are set for now, but I’m not confident that we can get another one passed in 3 years – the interval we’ve promised to stay off the ballot.

        Most public school organizations – Board, Administration and Teachers’ Union – just suck at public relations. They try to control information, and that just leads to build up of the SURPRISE FACTOR. When the truth finally comes out, as it is now, the EMOTIONS run high, and a reasonable resolution is near impossible. Once folks take sides, the war is on.

        That’s where we are now I fear.

        ps – I’d enjoy that cup of coffee and conversation, but I think we’re a few hundred miles apart. I appreciate a reasonable dialog from which I can learn something, and just maybe open the other’s eyes to a perspective they’ve not had before as well. That’s why I’m happy to invest in this conversation. I can tell you that there’s about zero chance of having a dialog like this with the leaders of our teachers’ union, who fought actively to defeat me in the last election…

        Paul Lambert

        February 23, 2012 at 11:05 am

      • We have completely different experiences in this area. My pension is $26,000 a year from teaching 22 years of public school. My pension from 17 years in private schools is $2,400 a year. My social security is $3,400 a year. I pay $6,000 in property taxes a year. I have a mortgage. I take no vacations, rarely eat out, and spend little money on entertainment. My teacher’s salary was never enough and I worked a second job for 35 years. My kids owe thousands of dollars in student loans. I guess my personal experiences contribute to some of my attitudes.
        The teachers in your district seem to earn a great deal of money and benefits. There is no doubt some teachers are paid very well and could afford to give the community a break from demands. I’m convinced the lesser paying districts far exceed the number of districts that pay well. There are many teachers making $30,000 a year here in Illinois.
        Salary really isn’t the issue that has teachers up in arms. The pressures of the job have increased ten fold over the last several years. Almost any veteran teacher will tell you the job pressures and responsibilities have them at the breaking point. Every older teacher I talk to can’t wait to get out and retire.
        You seem to know a lot about history and I would assume about the history of the labor struggles in this country. I know those times are over, but it leaves me very suspicious of the motives of people who want to see an end to public sector unions. (I know that’s not you). I would compare my suspicions about forces that would destroy unions to the situation in Israel and possibly Jews throughout the world. I believe the Jewish Defense League has the motto, “never again”. After centuries of persecution, people get a little suspicious and defensive when it comes to those who are critical of them. I think Israel is often equally to blame for the failure to reach peace in the Middle East, but I certainly understand their almost paranoid attitudes towards self defense. Knowing what I do about the past exploitation of workers, I have a similar attitude as,”never again”. I don’t want teachers to have to go back to what it was like during my career, at least when it came to salary and benefits. Maybe I’m a little paranoid. My past experiences have shaped my attitudes as I’m sure your past and current situation has shaped yours. I understand your rationale for feeling like you do. I respect that.
        Would you like decaf or regular? LOL


        February 23, 2012 at 1:05 pm

  2. Write a sentence on the chalk board a thousand times? Hell no!
    Send them down to work in coal mines for 15 hours a day with no overtime pay and the only safety equipment would be that the mine owner said he could afford. That’s what they would get paid also. No workman’s comp for injuries or insurance for death on the job. They could live in company housing, paying rent out of their paycheck. They could shop at the company store for food and necessities, paying the same way. They would also need to find some way to save for retirement since they would not get Social Security. The kids could go to work in mines when they turn 8. The kids could see in the mine if they did not burn up the one candle a week they were issued. They could pull the carts of coal to the surface so it could be shipped out. They would have one saving grace, they would not have a union.

    Carl Osterlund

    February 22, 2012 at 9:18 pm

    • Why, if you weren’t my brother-in-law, and I didn’t know better, I’d say you were a Molotov Cocktail throwing, Che Guevara loving, leftist labor rabblerouser. You know labor history and you have the same paranoia that I do. We don’t want to go back to the 1890’s. Keep up the fight! Where’s Eugene V. Debs when we need him? Probably still rotting in jail for having opposed entry into World War One.


      February 23, 2012 at 1:14 pm

  3. Strikes by teachers are usually the result of short sighted negotiators on one side of the table. They are not effective because of their impact on the students (that is a Chicago Tribune point of view) but because of the impact on the home. Parents, now having to take off work to watch the kids, complain to the superintendent or school board about the effect on their bottom line.

    Carl Osterlund

    February 24, 2012 at 11:25 am

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