The Chancellor of the New York City Schools Joel Klein has an excellent editorial in the New York Post on educational reform and why the teacher’s unions are standing in the way of progress on educating America’s children:
We are currently governed by a set of union contracts – often hundreds of pages long – that micro-manage virtually every aspect of our school operations.
Successful schools can’t operate successfully according to a system of adversarial, contract-based regulations. Schools must be much more organic in their culture. And regulatory control – externally through law or internally through contract – must be replaced by discretion at the school level and real, performance-based accountability.
This will require a radical transformation, which many in the system will find difficult to accept, but I believe such a transformation is essential.
No organization that has its incentives wholly misaligned can succeed. Take, for example, the three pillars of the teachers-union contract: de facto life tenure, lock-step pay and seniority-based assignments.
Collectively, these provisions mean there is no employee accountability in the system, no meritocracy and no incentive to take risks or innovate. If the very best and very worst teacher – the one who works hardest and the one who simply punches a clock – get paid based on length-of-service, the system will inevitably drift toward mediocrity rather than strive for high-performance (although, thankfully, there are many exceptions among our teachers).
This is exactly what is happening in school systems across the nations. Teacher’s unions have created a system in which micromanagement due to labor contracts prevents school districts from offering incentives for teachers, ensure that the youngest and least trained teachers receive assignments that quickly lead to burnout and create a system in which good teachers receive few benefits and bad teachers are nearly impossible to fire.
Such an arrangement would be unacceptable for a company that makes widgets, and it’s even more unacceptable for organizations that have the weighty responsibility for educating the future of the country. The unions have created a system that is inflexible and aloof from the needs of America’s children – and this is a situation that must be rectified.