Editor’s note: This is the third of four guest posts on the future of teachers unions.
by Gary Beckner
We are at a critical crossroads on the path to education reform in America. Stakeholders from all walks of life and political stripes are beginning to understand that in order to compete in a global economy we must focus on choice and technology to prepare our students for the future.
Likewise, we must also recognize that in order to drive needed change in instruction we must also examine how the teacher workforce is represented. Just as a one-size-fits-all system is not working for students, a labor union model solely fixated on protecting the status quo is no longer serving the needs of all educators in a modern workforce.
Choices in education have opened up avenues for advancing the teaching profession like never before. Virtual schools, technology, and non-traditional charter schools allow teachers to set new schedules and adapt their vision for education to a school that meets their specific needs. These innovations have brought new experienced professionals into the profession and have allowed other talented educators the ability to stay on in different capacities.
According to a membership survey by the Association of American Educators, the non-union teacher organization that I lead, teachers support laws that advance choice and promote options. For example, 68 percent of member educators support an Indiana law that provides a tax credit to parents who send their children to a private or parochial school of their choice. Similarly, 74 percent of survey respondents support Arizona’s Empowerment Scholarship Accounts, which allow parents of special-needs students to use state education dollars in a school that meets the student’s needs.
Despite this groundswell of support from educators themselves, the nation’s largest teacher unions, the National Education Association and the American Federation of Teachers, continue to stand in the way of commonsense education reform for the sake of preserving their own monopoly. Not only is this harmful to America’s students, it degrades the professionalism of one of the most revered career choices.