Saturday, February 14, 2009

The Union Thug

The Union Thugs (#4 on the annoying list) in New York City want to change the way KIPP AMP in Brooklyn operates. After reading David Whitman's Sweating the Small Stuff, I feel even stronger about dismantling the sometimes subversive nature of teacher unions. Before the Union Thugs come out in full force and have their Teamster friends dismantle my blog, let me be clear about the importance of a union. In every successful system, a series of checks and balances is necessary. Without that balance, we end up in a debacle much like our current economic environment. Workers need to be respected, especially in education.
Yet, it would be disingenuous for me to not allow that the mission of a business or organization does not also need protection. A for-profit company needs to make a fair profit to keep a profit driven system from collapsing. A non-profit organization needs to accomplish its goals and should be allowed to do so without the worker, who was chosen by the organization, subverting its core beliefs.
In the KIPP AMP union controversy, these teachers signed on to teach at the school, fully aware of what would be sacrificed in order to meet the organizations goals. Now they want something different--their own agenda ahead of the organizations.
Part of what separates the KIPP schools from the public is their ability to work outside of the constraints of the teachers' union--which let's be honest is not all that interested in student achievement. By nature, the union is not supposed to care about what is best for students. And that is why I have serious concerns about unions in general. This isn't to say I believe that we should not have a teachers' union, only that maybe it's time for the union to adapt.
At the very least, a teachers' union ought to look for the right balance. Some teachers need to be fired. Old teachers don't deserve more money simply because they have taught for ages.
I have witnessed the positives of unions and the negatives. In the end, I just want balance. But I don't believe that these KIPP teachers are seeking union representation because they've been abused by the KIPP machine. Knowing my profession, they simply want a cushy position without any real accountability.

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