We bloggers who believe that unionization and quality education are not mutually exclusive but mutually supportive have been remiss. In our exultation at being able to freely voice our anger at the constant assault on public education and teacher unions, we have not presented an accurate view of the UFT or other progressive teacher unions across the country. We have failed to note that the UFT, and other locals, as well as the AFT, have embraced many of the concepts advanced by some of the respondents to this blog.
For example, on the so-called “single salary schedule,” the UFT’s contract proposals in the current round of negotiations include paying teachers, on top of a competitive wage base, additional salary for such things as working in hard-to-staff schools (to attract highly skilled educators), having extraordinary knowledge and skills (based on objective criteria), or qualifying for and assuming additional responsibilities (as part of a career ladder).
The union has also proposed restructuring and expediting the teacher discipline process for those accused of certain serious charges and for proven incompetence. And for five years the UFT has tried to eliminate the exclusive use of seniority in transfers and hiring by substituting a school personnel committee to interview and hire applicants.
The UFT even supports charter schools that are well-designed and not intended solely to drain public school funding or circumvent unionization. The charter schools that the union is opening are meant to demonstrate not merely that unions and quality education are compatible, but also to be a showcase for what all public schools should be like — well-resourced with small classes and well-prepared teachers, and with a collaborative management system that supports teachers and holds them accountable but gives them the professional discretion to teach each child in the way that child will learn best.
If all of us at all points on the political spectrum did not have such knee-jerk reactions to certain hot-button words, we might find that we have much more in common than we think, as long as we remember that its our children we’re talking about.