– Huge Sunday coverage about teachers’ union impacts in Cincinnati
This week’s ‘Sunday Forum’ section in the print version of the Cincinnati Enquirer is devoted to the upcoming renegotiation of the teachers’ union contract in the city’s school system. The articles leave no doubt, many people get it – teachers union contracts are a major reason why real school reform isn’t happening in places like Cincinnati.
The Enquirer quotes former board member Lynn Marmer,
“The contract is very proscriptive. You can only have so many faculty meetings. Teachers can only have so many bells of instruction. That constricts a school team from having the flexibility they need to be successful. It would be better to blow the whole thing up and start over.”
The article points out that,
“Critics say contracts have school districts in a stranglehold. Every time districts try to move forward with reforms, they’re blocked by rules on class size and teacher transfers, and restrictions on what teachers can be asked to do.”
Cincinnati Board member Eve Bolton, a former teacher and union president in Wyoming City Schools no less, told the Enquirer,
“When you get inside the budget, everything negotiated into the contract has dollars tied to it. To really reform a district, you have to look at ways to repurpose the dollars we have now.”
Bolton went on to point out that without a “great contract,” there wouldn’t be a chance to look at something new. She understands that with the current economy there are not going to be more dollars available, so the city and its union have to get creative about ways to more efficiently use the money they have now.
That’s the kind of attitude we need to hear from more on the union side of the discussion.
Sadly, not all union people get it. The paper quotes Chuck Johnson, a labor relations consultant for the Ohio Education Association as saying,
“They’re management and we’re labor.”
I would submit that if teachers want us to treat them like professionals – not factory laborers – they are going to have to move beyond Mr. Johnson’s customer unfriendly, 1950’s mentality of wage and hours bargaining.
A customer unfriendly union attitude, regardless of the endeavor, is ultimately harmful to everyone. I don’t think the type of industry matters. Such attitudes not only hurt a lot of automobile customers, but they ultimately hurt union folks themselves. Just ask Detroit auto workers about that – the thousands now out of work, that is. Their 1950’s union mentality didn’t account for the importance of customer satisfaction and the realities of foreign competition. Ultimately, as our entire economy seems to be shifting overseas, our teachers must recognize they have a crucial role to play in the future of a lot more people than themselves. It’s time for our teachers to expand their thinking, as former teacher Ms. Bolton has done, and start acting collectively like the professionals I know many individual teachers already are.
There may be help available to change union contracts in Kentucky. Cincinnati is using a service called “The New Teacher Project” to help analyze their contract and develop improvements. Hello, Louisville, are you listening?
By the way, the Enquirer shows some teacher salary data for the region’s big city school districts, Columbus, Indianapolis, Cincinnati, and Louisville. If you think Louisville ranks dead last on all measures, guess again.
The Enquirer’s Web coverage of the material is somewhat different from the coverage in the print Sunday forum.
You can find some of those on line articles at these links: