By Kyle Olson
CINCINNATI – The National Education Association has largely been in the driver’s seat of education policy for decades. It has successfully found a host in the Democratic Party, while also co-opting a handful of Republican politicians to give the unions its power and platform.
But now that more states are seriously scrutinizing teacher quality – including following the thread to woeful teacher colleges – the NEA is saying it should play a bigger role in boosting teacher quality.
The fact of the matter is the NEA has largely been the problem. Collective bargaining agreements – negotiated and defended by unions – have put an emphasis on seniority, not effectiveness. Teacher contracts operate from the position that all educators are equal and therefore should be paid equally, based on years of employment, not quality of instruction or impact on student learning.
“‘Teachers unions need to take the lead in making sure teachers improve and students achieve,’ National Education Association President Dennis Van Roekel said.
“And, he said, there are times when the union has to be more aggressive in protecting members in a hostile environment.
“Van Roekel was calling from Cincinnati, where the NEA is co-sponsoring the 2012 Labor-Management Collaboration Conference. He said the union plans to play a larger role in transforming the profession.
“‘I think our members have been waiting and yearning for us to take the lead on this,’ he said. ‘They have the energy and the passion to take a leadership role to change what is happening in our schools. We’re going to take charge of our own profession.’”
But actions speak louder than words. According to a document obtained from a source within the Indiana State Teachers Association, the NEA last year spent a meager 4 percent of member dues to “improve teaching and learning.”
By contrast, the union spent 11% on legal support, 8% on legislative and ballot initiatives and 10% on partnerships and public relations.
Kind of shows us where the NEA’s focus is, doesn’t it?