NCPA - National Center for Policy Analysis

Union Policies Short Change Inner-City Students

November 1, 2000

Union contracts routinely give teachers the power to choose where they teach -- based on seniority. That means that the most experienced teachers often wind up in good suburban schools, while those with only a few years in the profession are assigned to the poorest and neediest schools.

  • In schools having students with high poverty rates, 25 percent of teachers currently lack a major or minor in the subject they teach -- compared with 14 percent in low-poverty schools.
  • In New York City's higher-poverty schools, one of out of three working teachers failed the liberal arts/sciences certification test at least once -- compared with one out of 20 teachers outside the city.
  • New research shows that students who are assigned three weak teachers in a row score as much as 50 percentile points lower on tests.

In recent weeks, the sanctity of union seniority has been challenged in Pittsburgh and Boston. Pittsburgh teachers agreed to a pilot program in some schools giving more hiring power to school-based panels. Boston teachers exchanged for hefty salary increases their power to allow senior teachers to bump first-year teachers from their jobs.

Source: Editorial, "Unions Resist School Efforts to Match Teachers, Students," USA Today, November 1, 2000.


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