Teachers' Unions for School Choice?

Teachers unions generally oppose schools choice. Their power to shape public education decisions is widely opposed by the “Choice” movement, but can the opposition be made stronger. I believe it can in ways that will benefit both teachers and children!

I’ve watched Waiting for Superman, The Cartel, and other documentaries about school choice. These films do a good job at exposing failing schools and the detrimental power of teachers’ unions… But they do too little to disconnect teachers from the bureaucratic education system. In the majority of our schools, which are “acceptable, this has the unintended consequence of alienating many teachers (and the families they serve) from the Choice movement.

The Choice movement must support teachers even as it exposes the weaknesses of the entrenched “educational system”. We weaken our efforts when we don’t defend “most” teachers. The Choice movement would do better to enlist the aid of teachers - not their opposition! Winning them not only wins influential individuals, but it disempowers unions!

What appeal does Choice offer to teachers? Most teachers have entered the profession, not to get rich, but to serve children. They are idealistic, compassionate, hardworking, and yet treated by a “system” that views them as impersonal technicians rather than caring professionals. Choice offers teachers more fulfilling teaching opportunities.

Choice supports the concerns of teachers even more then the unions do! Unions came into being to defend teachers against the ever-increasing bureaucratic regulation, changing fads, lack of appreciation, and lack of discipline options of the traditional public education system… While teachers may appreciate their unions’ efforts to mediate some of the effects of the bureaucratic system, these efforts are only marginally satisfying. Unions can negotiate for higher pay and shorter hours, but these are poor substitutes for those who came to deeply invest in the lives of children.

Studies have repeatedly shown that teachers in private and charter schools have much greater job satisfaction. They have professional liberties, greater community, more parental involvement, and for those in religious schools, the freedom to nurture children more deeply in accordance with their faith beliefs. While unions may temper the bureaucracy, only Choice can free teachers from the bureaucracy.

Thus, the Choice movement must embrace teachers. By winning teachers, we not only win influential individuals, but we disempower the great opposition of the teachers’ unions. The traditional education “system” has limited the educational choices teachers as well as families. Let us show concern for both.
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