FIRST PERSON | During my years as a teacher, I witnessed more harm than good as a result of the stranglehold my union had on the district where I worked. This is why I became a supporter of Gov. Scott Walker (R-Wisc.). Most of my former colleagues cringe at the mention of Walker's name, but I admire him for taking a stand against public sector unions.
First of all, unions protect incompetent teachers. Under the protection of a union, it is nearly impossible for teachers to be fired simply because they aren't very good at doing what they're paid to do. I've also seen ineffective teachers keep their jobs while highly effective teachers with less seniority have been laid off. Under union guidelines, if cuts need to be made, it isn't the lowest performing teachers who lose their positions; instead, it's the ones with the least amount of seniority.
Second, teacher unions support the continued use of single salary schedules. The NEA says that single salary schedules are advantageous because they "mitigate any subjective criteria or biases that might influence compensation, and they have predictable operating costs as well as built in efficiencies due to their easy administration." While these salary scales might be efficient, they force public schools to pay teachers based on seniority and degree-level regardless of merit. I've worked with amazing teachers whose lives revolve around their commitment to teaching, and I've worked with teachers who do the bare-bones minimum amount of work just to get through each day on the job. It's sad to see teachers lose their motivation and passion because their pay is not in direct correlation to how hard they work. It's also sad when some teachers who are close to retirement do very little teaching and still earn a higher salary than the majority of their colleagues. Without single salary schedules, tremendous teachers could rise to the top and less dedicated teachers could be faced with the challenge to do better.
Third, teacher unions use member dues inappropriately. In addition to spending money on political paraphernalia, unions donate millions of dollars to political campaigns each year. And where does the donated money come from? It's taxpayer money. Taxes are used to pay teachers' salaries, and then teachers pay dues to their unions. So, regardless of their political beliefs, unionized teachers (and all other taxpayers) end up donating money to candidates who are backed by unions.
Gov. Walker's attempt to reduce the power of public sector unions is a step in the right direction toward improving the teaching profession in the state of Wisconsin.
Kristie Farnham grew up in a Milwaukee suburb and then lived in the city for 12 years while teaching for Milwaukee Public Schools. She now resides in Hudson, Wisconsin.