An argument for the betterment of teachers unions.
This op-ed article was written for a Journalistic Writing Course. Written February 2020.
Education in the United States is inherently unequal. Students of minority races are less likely to have the college preparedness to do well in college because of their K-12 education. This inequality demands the help of teachers unions to support the efforts of teachers to make them more effective toward students across the nation.
While it may not seem like it affects students like you and me, teachers unions are beneficial for the success of public schooling because teachers can fight for better working conditions as any other union worker does. They fight for schools to have smaller class sizes and higher pay.
The work of unions are often bashed against by people on the right that believe that unions treat teachers unfairly. That the unions are ignoring the supposed better quality of private and charter schools. That unions are supporting layoffs based on seniority rather than effectiveness. That higher salaries would heavily deplete the district and state money. However, this all takes away from the main goal of teaching: informing the students.
Students are strengthened by the work of their teachers. They are educated because the teachers want to be there. The two largest teachers unions in the United States are the National Education Association and the American Federation of Teachers. About 70 percent of all public school teachers are part of a union. These teachers are able to fight for higher salaries and smaller class sizes in order to teach students more effectively. While it does deplete the money a district has, the money is going to teachers for good reason. This could also make the district more attractive in the job market to new teachers that are looking for a salary that could easily pay off their student loan debt.
Constantly, teachers are not being compensated for their work. Teachers should be able to reap the benefits given to them through union negotiations in healthcare, insurance, and job security. In areas where unions are stronger, standardized test scores are higher. While this showing of teachers’ effectiveness is not always sound because of the inequality of education across the nation, there is some validity to the work that the students are doing because their teachers taught them well. According to a study by the Pew Research Center, public K-12 education had the second most impact on how well students are prepared for the workforce (the individuals themselves are credited with the most impact, obviously).
As much as the more conservative teachers may hate it, it’s the leftist agenda of most Democratic politicians that are helping and protecting union members by supporting legislation on issues such as, smaller class sizes and less standardized testing. Teachers in unions are not making it a goal to indoctrinate their students. In a time where political correctness and supposed student sensitivity are prominent, the students are inevitably going to be influenced by the practices at school, especially like programs teaching social-emotional learning that take a newer approach to the way that people think about others. This could spiral into a conversation about what type of curriculum is best for students that is unbiased and entirely factually based only.
In the end, the work of teachers is about the well being of the student. Sure, teachers strikes do halt a day or week of school, and sure, most unionized teachers can be more liberal-leaning. But it is not a matter of their political view, but a matter of how they teach the next generation.