My holiday wish is for teacher unions to expand their business model to include all public education teachers, and not just those employed by school districts.
The industrial model of unionism that teachers borrowed from the auto and steel workers 50 years ago assumes a large number of employees working in a centralized, command-and-control management system. Unions lose money when they apply this industrial unionism to smaller, decentralized employers such as charter and private schools. Consequently, they protect their desired market by opposing all school choice programs that enable students to attend schools not owned and managed by school districts.
But they are losing this fight. Parents like school choice. More than 40 percent of Florida students – 1.3 million – are now attending a choice school, and their numbers are increasing daily. As teachers move with their students and membership losses accelerate, teacher unions will eventually be forced to expand their business model to include services for teachers working for smaller, non-district employers. This expansion might include providing charter, virtual and private school teachers with liability insurance, financial planning, professional development, political advocacy and employee leasing for teachers willing to pay unions for guaranteed employment.
Teacher unions are an important vehicle through which teachers can make their voices heard and impact political decision making, but they have historically been conservative and resistant to change. The National Education Association, the nation’s largest teacher organization, resisted collective bargaining for several years and only relented after losing thousands of members to the AFL-CIO affiliated American Federation of Teachers. Both the NEA and AFT will refuse to embrace a more progressive, inclusive unionism until their membership losses are so severe they have no other choice.
This day is coming. When it arrives, teachers, unions, students and the public will all benefit.
Coming Friday: Two posts. Wishing school choice parents were impossible to ignore. And wishing for more information to help parents make the best choice.