Are Teacher’s Unions Hurting Public Education?

The Los Angeles Times Editorial Board published an opinion piece in June titled, It’s time for the teachers union to stop tilting at charter school windmills” that I emailed to myself for future reference.  

I came across it today and reread it.  It is an important piece that I think went largely unnoticed and underutilized. There are several things in the article that need to be reiterated and explained or analyzed. I’ve had the California Teacher’s Association (CTA) on my mind a lot lately, and I have some strong feelings that I know not everyone agrees with. But I am going to share them anyway because it needs to be said.  

First of all, as a former teacher in California, I was a former member of the CTA as well as the local affiliate here in my school district. I understand the CTA and its role from the teacher perspective. The organization’s role was to protect me and protect my rights and privileges.  They were there to make sure that I was represented at the negotiating table and ensure that I get the benefits that I deserve! I get that.

I am also a former school board member and have had the ability to see teachers unions through this lens. Clearly a whole different perspective. From that angle, I saw the teachers union as an obstacle to improving conditions in schools for kids. And believe me, I so wanted that not to be the case.  Some of the shameful things I saw in the closed board room would turn your stomach. Some of the protections that were ratified to keep pathetic teachers in the classroom were borderline criminal. It was truly an enlightening experience.

Now, I know that this is a bit different than other smaller districts but as an example here today, I am providing you with a link to the current contract (430 pages) of United Teachers of Los Angeles (UTLA). 430 pages! Yeah, 430 pages. Obviously every district has their own contract, but please take a look at some of the absurdity in these contracts.

As a parent and advocate, there is yet another way to view CTA, and this is possibly the most damning. In my work as an advocate, I have had to deal with some pretty awful teachers and situations. I am duly qualified to give an opinion on the issue of CTA.  

I feel that the editorial in many ways gets it wrong on CTA.  In one example, they see CTA as having an important role in policy setting around charter schools. Excuse me, no, the union should not have this role. Instead, it should focus on working with districts to find fiscal solutions to the looming financial meltdowns that many districts are faced with, in large part because of these 430 page unsustainable contracts.  

The editorial board said this:

“Look, the CTA’s dislike for charter schools is understandable. And it’s not the union’s job to support charter schools or other reforms that might help students in underperforming schools, which typically are in low-income neighborhoods. The union may do so when those reforms align with its interests, just as it may not when the changes would harm its members. That’s what unions exist for: to protect members and get the best possible deal for them.”

I want to be clear. This is an admission of what many already know. CTA does not really care about the actual academic or educational aspect or value of your child’s education, it only cares that its members can financially benefit from it — to the tune of about $850 bucks a year per member. And for that blood money, the union will fight tooth and nail to make sure that every crappy teacher your child ever encounters will still be there for future generations as well…until of course they retire and continue to bleed the district of more money, until death do them part.  

The LA Times editorial board is also guilty of writing a very sloppy piece. One example of that is this statement:

“And we still don’t know enough about whether charter schools are producing better academic results overall than traditional public schools. Too much depends on oversight by the local school district or by county and state school boards, and that oversight often has been lax.”

By the power of Google, it is pretty easy to fact check this. In fact, a simple search of the LA Times archives could have provided the fact that we actually DO know whether Charter Schools are outperforming traditional schools.  This LA Times article from 2015 is just one example of the data that exists but apparently gets ignored when it didn’t fit the narrative of the LA Times Editorial Board. Here are some of the pesky facts.

“On the English language arts section, 55% of L.A. Unified magnet students met or exceeded the state’s learning standards, compared with 39% of students in local charters and 33% of all L.A. Unified students, according to an analysis conducted by the district.

In math, 44% of magnet students met those targets, compared with 28% of students in charters and 25% of all L.A. Unified students.

The 44-page proposal outlining the charter expansion devotes seven pages to making the case that charters are outperforming L.A. Unified, and therefore deserve to supplant district schools.”

So why does CTA still continue to raise the question about who is better? It is clear that the traditional education model, at least in LAUSD, suffers greatly compared to magnets and charters. The LA Times Editorial Board then follows the same illogical road.  

And then there is this statement:

“Opponents of charter schools make an important point: By diverting per-pupil spending from districts, they impose a cost on traditional public schools.”  

I can never fully wrap my mind around this argument. The per pupil spending for charter schools still passes through the district. And the same pupils will still have the funding that is allotted to them. It is not an imposed cost, theoretically, the student is no longer a traditional student so there is no loss. That argument is always so frustrating to me.  

The point is, that CTA is an obstructive force in education. Period. You may not like that I say that, but the union’s record proves this. This is the largest lobbying group in the state and has financed state senate and assembly races to ensure that it remains a powerhouse. The sole goal of the organization is to protect the adults even at the expense of your child!  So please never be fooled, the union isn’t doing anything because it cares about your child’s education, it acts to the benefit of its members. If CTA can get rid of charter schools, the union gets the teachers from those schools and their union dues. Every last moment that a child molester stays on on the payroll gives them more money!  Sorry LA Times Editorial Board, but you failed to call the group what it is, a source of problems in our education system and often the biggest bully in the room. Teachers are wonderful, but the teachers union is a different beast. The power really should belong to the students and the parents.

What do you think?

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Leticia Chavez-Garcia

Leticia Chavez-Garcia

Leticia Chavez-Garcia is a Mother, Grandmother, former Middle School Teacher, former Member of a School Board of Education and an Education Advocate for hundreds of parents and students in the Inland Empire. Having become a mother at 15, Leticia knows what it’s like to be a single mother trying to navigate the education system. Leticia received her Bachelor of Science Degree in Political Science and Public Administration from California Baptist University and a Masters’ Degree in Education Technology from Cal State Fullerton in her 30’s. Leticia has used her knowledge and experience to help hundreds of families as an Education Advocate in the Inland Empire and currently works as an Education Specialist.

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