By Ben Velderman
NEW YORK – Imagine a man stranded in a desert and in desperate need of water.
Suddenly, a benevolent stranger appears and offers a bottle of water that will keep him alive. But instead of accepting the gift with gratitude, the man rejects it on the basis that plastic water bottles are bad for the environment.
It’s difficult to imagine anyone being that shortsighted and foolish, right?
Unfortunately for New York City students, an equally absurd scenario is playing out in their school district, and it also has “life or death” type ramifications.
The Obama administration “is offering bonuses of $20,000 each to superstar teachers of science, technology, engineering and math (or STEM) – and has invited districts to seek federal aid to train instructors in those areas,” reports the New York Daily News.
Like many public school districts, New York is in desperate need of such teachers. The Daily News reports that many students are being instructed in math and science by educators who are not certified in those subjects.
So there’s no question the generous financial incentives would help the city attract and retain more STEM teachers.
But the city will not be applying for any of the bonuses because the city’s contract with the local teachers union – the United Federation of Teachers – forbids it.
The Daily News reports that “the UFT contract prohibits paying bonuses to individual teachers for exemplary results in the classroom and makes no provision for compensating master teachers. Nor would the contract let the Education Department recruit science teachers, who are hard to find, by offering higher salaries.”
The UFT is committed to “the credo that all teachers must be paid the same, regardless of how well they do the job or how vital their services are,” writes the Daily News.
The union’s ideological rigidity does more than just hold back individual teachers – it’s also jeopardizing the future for New York City’s students.
The fastest-growing segments of our economy require workers with serious STEM skills. That’s where the money is. But since few New York City students are acquiring those skills in school, they won’t be able to compete in the most promising industries.
In other words, the UFT’s selfishness is putting the students at a distinct disadvantage.
That conclusion is supported by a recent Brookings Institute study which finds that New York City companies have a huge demand for skilled workers, but they are relying mostly on foreign workers to fill those positions, due to a dearth of “homegrown talent,” the Daily News reports.
We’re sure STEM teachers would love to have access to those $20,000 bonuses, but the union cannot afford to ruin its silly narrative that all teachers are equal in terms of talent, devotion and effectiveness.
UFT leaders must protect their outdated Big Labor philosophy at all costs. And if that means fewer opportunities for students in the future, so be it.