The teachers unions have been going crazy over the recent appointment and confirmation of Betsy DeVos as Secretary of Education. While there may be valid concerns over Mrs. DeVos, the criticisms coming from the teachers unions are entirely irrational. They simply hate her because they see her as a threat to their power. It is therefore as good a time as any to lay out why the teachers unions are harmful for America.
The teachers unions are the most powerful unions in the United States. The two largest teachers unions are the American Federation of Teachers and the National Education Association. Many people assume teachers unions are a good thing, especially because that’s what teachers unions tell you. But just because they say they are good does not mean they are good. Here are five reasons why teachers unions are actually harmful:
- Teachers unions negotiate our tax dollars. There are concerns over the effects of unions in other industries. But teachers unions are unique in that they involve government jobs. A union of factory workers is negotiating with the employer regarding their share of profits. However, teachers unions are negotiating their benefits from tax dollars. If public school teachers are to be paid more money, taxes must be increased. This is why teachers unions are always crying, “Public schools need more money!” Really what they mean is, “We need to raise taxes!”
- Teachers unions keep out qualified teachers. Teachers unions are dependent on the concept of restricting competition. They have therefore pushed restrictive requirements for public school teachers. Many states now require such teachers to go through a university’s college of education in order to gain state certification. This means teachers with Master's degrees, PhDs, and valuable work experience are unable to teach in public schools—even though they are often qualified to teach at the university level. A retired scientist would often make a great high school science teacher. But it is usually not worth the work, as state certification would require him to retain further college education and student teaching. The teachers unions will tell you this is all about proper “training.” But we know the real reason is control. The unions want their people in the colleges of education influencing future teachers (often from a far left view), and they want to restrict competition.
- Teachers unions demotivate teachers. Guaranteed step-pay increases provide no incentive to become a better teacher. Instead of performance-based pay, public school teachers get automatic raises just for being a teacher for a long time. Then it is near impossible to fire long-standing teachers, no matter how bad they are at their job. This system would never fly in the free market.
- Teachers unions undermine alternative forms of education. One would like to think that teachers unions are concerned about education. But that is not apparent from their continued attacks on every alternative form of education that does not follow the public school model. According to teacher unions, charter schools are a disaster (even though many have performed well), vouchers are evil, and even homeschooling is harmful. Though free-marketers should have concerns over charters and vouchers, the attacks from the teachers unions are desperate attempts to retain power. Alternative forms of education are a threat to their monopoly.
- Teachers unions have strong ties to the Democratic Party and support abortion "rights." The teachers unions retain their power through political allies. Hence the teachers unions have given their allegiance to the Democratic Party in return for political favors. Democratic politicians fight to keep policies in play that strengthen the teachers unions. These ties have led many in the teachers unions to adopt far left policies, seen most clearly in the teachers unions defending the legal “right” of a mother to kill her child.
Teachers unions say they care about children. But their primary concern seems to be themselves. In a free market, teacher performance and compensation go hand-in-hand. But teachers unions rely on coercion to increase pay, and they seek to restrict competition through political means. This may help the teachers unions, but it is harmful towards children and their parents who pay taxes.