NCPA - National Center for Policy Analysis

Unions Protect Bad Teachers

February 4, 2003

Powerful teacher unions should be generating high wages that attract the best and the brightest teachers. Yet pay and ability are going the same direction as wrong-way Corrigan.

Researcher Paul E. Peterson says powerful teacher unions such as the American Federation of Teachers (AFT) and National Education Association (NEA) are detrimental to teachers, administrators, school boards, school safety and students:

  • Union insistence on uniform pay, which fails to reward teachers of special merit or pay more for those who have skills that are in short supply (such as math, science and computer instructors).
  • Instead of paying teachers more, school boards, at the urging of teacher unions, have handed out more rights and less work.
  • Ineffectual teachers remain protected by union grievance procedures.

Ultimately, if students are the losers, then union officials win big, says Peterson. Weak, ineffectual, complaisant teachers make for loyal union members. And when ineffective teachers abound, more are needed. As a result, the ratio of pupils to teachers nationwide plunged from 22 to 17 between 1970 and 1995. More teachers, more dues, more campaign contributions, more power, more rights -- lower performance. No wonder governors and presidents are beginning to talk accountability.

Source: Paul E. Peterson, "If Their Unions Are So Powerful, Why Are Teachers Not Better Paid?" Volume 20, Number 4, Government Union Review, Public Service Research Foundation.


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