Teachers Unions

Discussion in 'General Education' started by otterpop, Feb 14, 2014.

  1. otterpop

    otterpop Aficionado

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    What are the pros and cons to working in a state with and without teachers unions?

    I live in a union state. From a teacher's perspective, would it be a bad thing to move to a non-union state? Are you much less protected professionally? I've heard that states without unions typically pay teachers less, but the jobs that I've been looking at don't seem to follow that pattern.

    I've been looking this up online, but everything that I find seems to be very aligned with a political agenda. I don't know much about the topic so any information would be appreciated.

    :thanks:
     
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  3. Go Blue!

    Go Blue! Connoisseur

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    After 6 years in my district, I would NEVER work in a district without a Union. Maybe if I worked in a different district, with a different population, I might feel different. Between conducting contract negotiations, to protection from complaints/false allegations from students and their parents, to vindictive Admin firing people without just cause; I refuse to teach without a Union.

    Just my :2cents:
     
  4. gr3teacher

    gr3teacher Phenom

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    Wait for it...

    Anyway, Virginia is a non-union state, though our labor associations (or whatever our AFT and NEA affiliates are called) still do a good job of protecting teachers. But our neighbors to the south are a perfect example of worst-case scenarios without unions. Virginia is pretty much the best-case scenario.
     
  5. Reality Check

    Reality Check Habitué

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    :yeahthat:

    :thumb:
     
  6. ready2learn

    ready2learn Comrade

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    I teach in a state without unions. A lot depends on what the administration and school culture are like. I used to teach at a place where I really missed the protections a union offered. I luckily found a place that, while not perfect, has better working conditions than some places with a union that I read about on here.
     
  7. teacherman1

    teacherman1 Devotee

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    I was never pro-union until I became a teacher in the mid 90's. My wife and I were both working in Catholic Schools for around $15,000.00/year with basically no pension plan and crappy health care. At the same time, many of our friends were in the public system making two to three times that amount w/pension and w/excellent health care.

    We just couldn't survive on that income with 4 kids, so my wife applied for and landed a position in Providence and a few years later, so did I. That pretty much alleviated our money difficulties.

    Things were great for about 5 years until I began having difficulties with my principal. Without going into detail, she made things so difficult for me (and many other colleagues) that I went to her office after school to have a "private" discussion about the dictatorial bullsh-t she was shoveling out.

    The next day she filed charges of insubordination with the main office and accused me of calling her an "ass hole". It was after school and there were no witnesses, but if the union had not stepped in and defended me I probably would have been out of a job. This administrator made had made it clear on more than one occasion that I'd better "watch out" - she'd be watching my every move. And she did....

    A few years later (2009) things came to a head once more with this same principal - and the union once more came to my defense. The union was the only thing that stood between me and the whims of this vindictive administrator. There is no doubt she was "out to get me" and it took a solid contract and union lawyers to keep me working.

    You can be the best teacher in the world , but if you have an administrator who is out to get you because she personally doesn't like your skin color, religion, sexual orientation or even the way you dress or decorate your body (tattoos, piercings), you are absolutely defenseless without a union and a solid contract to back you up.

    It took many years of hard fighting by unions to get decent pay, benefits and reasonable protection for teachers (in some areas) and the battle is going on today.

    Are they perfect? Absolutely not. Do we need them? Yes.
    :2cents:
     
  8. Honest_Teacher

    Honest_Teacher Comrade

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    Teacher unions are fine when they work in partnership with management to improve student achievement.

    Unfortunately, that's not the case in many districts today. Teacher unions have put protecting themselves and the ineffective members of their union above the needs of the students. They're frequently obstructionist and unwilling to innovate or implement best practices if they believe it will inconvenience teachers or lead to the dismissal of ineffective teachers.
     
  9. czacza

    czacza Multitudinous

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    Unions make sure agreed upon measures and proper protocol are used in interactions/actions between admin and members...it's not about making sure ineffective teachers remain in the classroom..it's about making admin cross their Ts...
     
  10. iteachbx

    iteachbx Enthusiast

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    I wouldn't teach in a non-union state now that I've been teaching with a union. Our union could almost be considered notorious the way it's portrayed in the media sometimes, but I definitely enjoy the protections they provide me- not having to work lunch duty, not having to stay late for meetings, not having my prep taken away from me, last year I got paid for time I had to spend outside of contracted time working on IEPs, etc. etc. Does my admin always follow every single thing the union says they can and can't do? No, not always, but if it was something that was a big deal to me or really impacting me I could go to my union and I like knowing that. My union rep at my school is great too.
     
  11. Honest_Teacher

    Honest_Teacher Comrade

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    Feb 15, 2014

    SPRINGFIELD -- Not only is it exceedingly rare to fire a tenured teacher in Illinois, but it also is extraordinarily expensive.

    In fact, Illinois school districts that have hired outside lawyers in these cases have spent an average of more than $219,000 in legal fees during the last five years.

    In a follow-up to its award-winning investigation of teacher tenure in Illinois, Small Newspaper Group took an in-depth look at costs associated with teacher dismissals.

    In the original series, which was published in December, the newspapers said school districts reasonably could expect to spend at least $100,000 to try to fire a tenured teacher.

    That figure, which was based on attorney estimates, was immediately called into question by one the state's two major teacher unions, the Illinois Federation of Teachers, which contends such cases usually cost school districts less than $50,000.

    To settle the question, Small Newspaper Group filed Freedom of Information Act requests for every attorney bill paid by a school district in a tenured teacher dismissal case during the last five years.

    Those bills indicate schools districts have spent an average of $219,504.21 in legal fees for dismissal cases and related litigation from the beginning of 2001 until the end of 2005.

    As staggering as that number is, it actually understates the ultimate cost of these lawsuits because 44 percent of these cases are still on appeal and the lawyer bills continue to grow.

    Cost is a major reason cited by school officials for not trying to dismiss underperforming teachers, said T.J. Wilson, a Monticello attorney specializing in education labor law.

    "When I sit down with school administrators who want to fire someone, I tell them to plan on spending at least $100,000 in attorney fees and that they still may lose," Mr. Wilson said. "Those administrators are sitting there thinking three new teachers could be hired for the cost of firing one bad one.


    "There is always the possibility that the school district may have to cut some program that benefits children, just to pay for the cost of firing a teacher. This is the biggest reason school districts do not try to fire bad teachers."


    In fact, in the last 18 years, 93 percent of Illinois school districts have never attempted to fire anyone with tenure, according to data tabulated from records at the Illinois State Board of Education.

    While it would be nice to believe the reason is because no one deserved dismissal, commonsense would indicate that no work force in any field is that good, said Jeff Mays of the Illinois Business Roundtable, a business group that has called for education reform.

    "Just about anyone who has gone to school or sent their kids to school knows there are some bad teachers out there -- as well as some good ones," he said.

    The IFT has said one reason so few tenured teachers are fired is because some are "counseled out" of the profession. But it provides no data to back up this assertion.

    Evaluation data collected from each of the state's 876 school districts shows that 83 percent of the state's school districts have never given any tenured teacher an unsatisfactory job evaluation in the last decade.


    If only one out of 930 tenured teachers is rated unsatisfactory, it begs the question of when these people are "counseled out" of teaching -- before or after the positive evaluation, Mr. Mays said.

    The data gathered in the most recent investigation only includes cases in which school districts retained a lawyer. It does not include cases in which school districts used a lawyer on its staff.

    But only about five Illinois school districts have in-house lawyers, noted Melinda Selbee, general counsel for the Illinois Association of School Boards. So the data collected in the most recent investigation should reflect what the anticipated legal costs would be for the 870, or so, school districts without staff lawyers.

    IFT spokesman Dave Comerford has publicly contended it is not necessary for school districts to hire lawyers for these cases. But Ms. Selbee disagreed.

    "I would never, ever advise a school district to try to go through one of these hearings without an attorney. There are complicated legal, constitutional and procedural issues involved. In fact, I don't think legally someone other than an attorney can represent a school district in one of these cases. After all, that is practicing law," Ms. Selbee said.

    Her contention was shared by James Grogan, chief legal counsel for the Attorney Registration and Disciplinary Commission, a branch of the Illinois Supreme Court, which regulates the legal profession in Illinois.

    "In general, if a person is representing a governmental entity or a corporation before a hearing officer or some other tribunal they have to be a lawyer," he said. "Making arguments, cross-examining witnesses and other things that happen in hearings is clearly 'practicing law.'"

    Although Mr. Comerford said it is not necessary for school districts to retain lawyers in dismissal cases, his union routinely hires lawyers to represent its own members in these proceedings.


    http://thehiddencostsoftenure.com/stories/?prcss=display&id=295712
     
  12. teacherman1

    teacherman1 Devotee

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    Hey, we agree on something!!
    And we also have Breakfast at Tiffany's:)
     
  13. otterpop

    otterpop Aficionado

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    Thanks all for your thoughts :)

    I've been dreaming of moving somewhere sunny... seems like everywhere warm is without a union.
     
  14. Jerseygirlteach

    Jerseygirlteach Groupie

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    I'm very grateful to my union and the protections it affords me. When I read here about what goes on sometimes in some non-union states, it convinces me all the more of the importance of union protections.
     
  15. mathteachertobe

    mathteachertobe Cohort

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    California is a union state with lots of sunshine.
     
  16. giraffe326

    giraffe326 Virtuoso

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    With thousands of applicants per position though!


    To the OP- I've taught in both. I never once felt insecure in my non-union job. The only significant difference was planning time and duties. I thought I'd hate it when I moved to NC, but you get used to it.
     
  17. waterfall

    waterfall Maven

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    I agree with giraffe that the biggest difference is planning time/lunch/duties. In my state union participation is voluntary- so the union is only as strong as how many members they have (as opposed to some states where union membership is mandatory). My first school had practically no union participation, and the other two I've worked in have had strong unions.

    My state got rid of tenure a couple of years ago, so there is really nothing the union can do as far as job security. My principal last year fired over 50% of the staff, and the union fought but all they could do was try to "reason" with her. Ultimately it was her decision alone, and they weren't able to do anything about it. However, they do force the admins to stick to the contract when it comes to things like planning and lunch time. We can't have our planning or lunch taken away for any reason. In my first school, I only had 3 planning periods a week while gen ed teachers had 7, and I had lunch or recess duty every day. Now being in a union school, they would never allow that to happen.
     
  18. EMonkey

    EMonkey Connoisseur

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    "So yes, the CA union gets lots of great planning time for secondary teachers, but not elementary teachers!"

    That is a very general statement. It depends on the contract and the individual association and how active the members are during the contract negotiations. If you were to compare across the entire state it can range from none to daily. Most districts do have prep outside of the students time for at least a half an hour. A lot have it during class time also. The fact that you attribute the prep times and contract negotiations to the CTA tells me you have minimal knowledge of the associations and contracts in California.
     
  19. Pashtun

    Pashtun Fanatic

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    My district has been hiring all year. I have never seen so many openings needing to be filled as I have this year.
     
  20. mathteachertobe

    mathteachertobe Cohort

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    My (large) district has openings too. I think the job market has improved significantly in California, primarily due to Prop 30 funds.
     
  21. Peregrin5

    Peregrin5 Maven

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    Only in certain subjects and grade levels I think.

    Granted I've only interviewed twice (not counting a job fair - my experience with these make them seem useless), but I was accepted at both jobs.
     
  22. Pashtun

    Pashtun Fanatic

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    Our district pays us for 30 minutes prep before school each day, I don't understand why you don't consider this prep time.
     
  23. yellowdaisies

    yellowdaisies Fanatic

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    Ok. :thumb: I am bowing out of this thread.
     
  24. bandnerdtx

    bandnerdtx Aficionado

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    Texas is a non-union state, but it's still fairly difficult to fire a teacher. It's not difficult, however, for an administrator to place unreasonable demands on teachers or to let a teacher be figuratively ripped apart by a parent...
     
  25. Honest_Teacher

    Honest_Teacher Comrade

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    Same. School only lasts 6.5-7 hours with a 30 minute lunch hour.

    Why doesn't pre/post "school day prep" count as prep time? We should be able to leave as soon as the kids do?
     
  26. teacherintexas

    teacherintexas Maven

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    True.
     
  27. HistoryVA

    HistoryVA Devotee

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    As long as things continue as they are in my state, I wouldn't want to move to a union state. I haven't gotten the best impressions of them over the years and haven't been thrilled with the attitudes about work of the teachers I've met (I'VE MET, not saying ALL teachers) from heavy union states. They've generally seemed very... complacent due to the unions.
     
  28. Croissant

    Croissant Comrade

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    Because all districts don't do that. Our contracted time begins 10 minutes before the first bell. I'd say 97% of us are there before that, but it's usually to offer tutorials. We have to stay 45 minutes after the kids leave, but that time is eaten up with meetings, conferences, and (if we're lucky enough to escape meetings and conferences) tutorials. We are fortunate to get a 40 minute planning period every day, though that's often filled with meetings as well. Almost all of my planning gets done outside of contract hours.
     
  29. Pashtun

    Pashtun Fanatic

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    The statement was directed to others who DO have 30 minutes prep time before or after school, but don't consider it true prep time. I think some people believe that for it to be "true" prep time it has to come out of the students time?
     
  30. Loveslabs

    Loveslabs Companion

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    I look as true prep time as at least 30 minutes uninterrupted. In my building the student start coming in at 7:55 even though the day doesn't technically start until 8:20. My day starts at 7:45. I don't consider those ten minutes as a planing time. They are more like a confirm every thing is ready to go and take a deep calming breath time. I am usually there more like 7:15, but I still use that last ten minutes to confirm I am ready to start my day and to center myself so we can have a great day.
     
  31. Honest_Teacher

    Honest_Teacher Comrade

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    Contracted time is "time you have to be in the building." I don't think I've ever seen a contract absolving teachers of the responsibility to work outside of that contracted time if it's necessary to complete the tasks of the job; that's part of being a salary, not hourly/daily, worker.
     
  32. TeacherGroupie

    TeacherGroupie Moderator

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    Is prep time generally understood as time during which a teacher can expect not to have to supervise students? If it is, then I think Loveslabs has a legitimate point.
     
  33. Pashtun

    Pashtun Fanatic

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    I totally agree with you.

    I have 30 minutes of uninterrupted time before school starts...IMO this counts/is as prep time.
     
  34. bandnerdtx

    bandnerdtx Aficionado

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    The state of Texas says that teachers must be given 450 minutes over a 10 day work period of planning time and that it must occur during the official school day. I don't count time before or after my scheduled duty time as "prep".
     
  35. Pashtun

    Pashtun Fanatic

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    Are you paid to come to school 30 minutes before it starts or stay 30 minutes after uninterrupted?

    If you do, wow that is a great deal(and a non-union deal at that) you have and what do they call that time?

    Edit: maybe this is normal for secondary?
     
  36. Caesar753

    Caesar753 Multitudinous

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    When we have had before- and after-school time, it was always taken up with meetings and not really true "prep" time. I consider prep time to be open periods during the school day when I am not responsible for any students.
     
  37. Pashtun

    Pashtun Fanatic

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    Would you consider it prep time if it was uninterrupted time(no students) before or after school?
     
  38. Caesar753

    Caesar753 Multitudinous

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    I'm not sure that I would consider that prep time, at least not primary prep time. My before- and after-school time, when not taken up with meetings, is almost always taken up with students who need additional help, more like a tutoring session. Tutoring sessions are not prep time.
     
  39. mathteachertobe

    mathteachertobe Cohort

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    According to our contract, secondary teachers get one period of prep per day, or if a block schedule every two days. Elementary teachers get at least 60 minutes per week. I think that is generally during specials. We all get duty-free lunch, of at least 30 minutes. For the purposes of our contract, time we are required to be on-site before students report and after they are dismissed, is not part of our allocated prep time, though most of us are busy prepping then.
     
  40. Pashtun

    Pashtun Fanatic

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    It sounds like prep time has to be during the student school day or "some" won't consider it prep time?

    If you choose to tutor on your prep time....
    What if a teacher tutors on their "prep time" during the school day?

    Edit: I tutor during my 30 minutes "prep time" before school at my school, this is my prep time, I have CHOSEN to use it to tutor.
     
  41. Caesar753

    Caesar753 Multitudinous

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    I actually don't think it's so much about what people here consider to be prep time but rather what the contract language says.

    I know that I wouldn't be able to tutor during my prep period during the school day even if I wanted to. My students are in other classes at that time.
     

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