We’d All Love to See the Plan

On the pages of Time, Andrew Rotherham examines the various reform-minded groups that have sprung up within the ranks of the big-city teachers’ unions. Sarah Rosenberg at The Quick and the Ed follows suit. Rotherham calls them “insurgents” while Rosenberg refers to “a revolution.” While I applaud any publicly stated diversity of thought within NEA and AFT, I am considerably less sanguine about the prospects of major internal reform.

There are two problems. One is that in any corporate culture radical changes in direction are frowned upon, if not suppressed. In unions, whose very hallmark is solidarity, this reluctance to entertain unorthodox thought is ratcheted up several levels. The relative electoral success of NewTLA is remarkable, but such victories don’t usually result in further gains in subsequent elections. I admit we are operating in extraordinary times, so maybe things will be different and I’ll be surprised.

Second, everyone is an insurgent until he or she achieves power. If you think this is an easy transition, ask Karen Lewis in Chicago. Or ask Bob Chase how that new unionism thing worked out for him. The teacher union reform field is littered with the bodies of those who sought to alter the union’s primary mission – protecting teachers – and found themselves ousted in favor of challengers who promised to get tough with administrators.

You say you want a revolution? Well, you know…


10 thoughts on “We’d All Love to See the Plan”

  1. You are correct that the likelihood of internal reform is very (very, very, very) low, at least within the NEA “family”. It is a large corporate entity that has no reason to change its ways since it can simply increase dues if membership wanes. Until that latter fact changes, there is no impetus to do the true self-inspection, reflection and adjustments that must happen.

    That being said, getting tough with school administrators and so-called reformers should not be only goal, but it’s still a good one.

  2. Do people in edu pundit land even know what labor unions are? Based on this entry I would say no. So you want to have an insurrection in unions to change their primary function, which is to protect the workers who formed it, that is what you want? Because if that is so, you need to do a bit of reading about what is a labor union. Start with Wiki. Better still start here….

    Unions are formed to protect an otherwise powerless class of workers from abuse from management.

    Simple, right? Nice idea even. Ok, now, what about groups of people who get together and try to make an organization better? Well, there are a number of such groups for teachers to be a part of, often school boards welcome input from teachers, parent and teacher organizations function throughout the country (think PTA). What about firing bad teachers you ask? That is the job of school districts and administrators, that is not the job of unions.

    Why is this so hard to understand? Is it maybe because pundits like you need an easy scape goat? I know, I know, democracy is messy and yucky, but there it is.

    Teachers organize to have a voice to protect themselves. Stop this silly talk about why don’t unions fix the schools, they are not vested with the power or resources to do it. And stop picking on working class people who are just trying to bring a little dignity to their life. Teachers spend 10 hours a day with kids, of course we love kids. But does that mean we can not also want a good working environment?

  3. Also, look closely at that Time article. There is a HUGE lie in the first line. It states:
    Quick: Which group consistently tops the list of U.S. political donors — bankers? Oil barons? The Koch brothers? Nope. Try schoolteachers. The two major teachers’ unions, despite all the rhetoric about how teachers have no influence on policy, collectively spent more than $67 million directly on political races from 1989 to 2010

    Now, that seemed impossible to me. So I did a quick google search to see oil donations alone and look what I found:

    Oil groups donated $238.7 million since the 1990. I mean, not even close! So right there again this perceived power of teachers unions is absurd and shameful. We teachers, who make $32k a year, are so powerful, so greedy, so dangerous. Its a joke….shameful…..

  4. How convenient for you to link to a story involving political contributions in 2007-08, before the recent Supreme Court case allowing unlimited corporate contributions, listing totals that do not including lobbying and “gifts” such a private jets etc. or even money sent into candidate PACs, which this list would not include under “direct contributions”.


    These numbers dwarf Teacher Unions, and then you add the Koch brothers and the huge influence the banking industry exhibits on politics, this claim is simply a manipulative joke.

  5. I followed your links and this is what I found:

    2012 cycle so far
    Public Sector Unions – $2,160,510
    Oil and Gas – $1,735,250

    2010 cycle
    Public Sector Unions – $17,610,966
    Oil and Gas – $10,490,239

    2008 cycle
    Public Sector Unions – $16,401,309
    Oil and Gas – $9,047,154

    Care to revise your statement?

  6. You miss what the site says for 2012:

    All Public sector unions $2.1 million (AFT only 274 thousand)

    Oil and gas: 1.6 million

    The devil is in the details.

    Even aside from these numbers, which make their own point, are you really arguing that teach unions have more influence on laws and politicians than oil and finance? really? What I see is many states passing anti-union laws but congress and the president are falling over themselves to coddle oil and finance. Your position defies logic. But if it makes you feel good, have at it. The wealthy make funner friends than working class teachers who hang out with kids all day.

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