Teachers unions formed for roughly the same reason that any labor union formed: to give a voice to the working individual. Though labor unions as a whole have been in decline in the US for some time now, teachers unions are staying strong. Is this a good thing?
Teachers unions purport to want to improve education in the US, but, as usual, actions speak louder than words. Teachers unions protect sexual predators, Teachers unions protect the bottom of the barrel performers. Teachers unions artificially suppress wages.
The net effect of these actions is easy to track down. The first two links show how difficult it is for schools to get rid of dangerous and/or bad teachers. In fact, a back of the envelope calculation (based on numbers from the Dance of the Lemons article) shows that it can be cheaper for schools to leave a bad teacher in place for up to 10 years than it is to attempt to fire that person. This is not isolated; consider the New York Rubber Room fiasco.
How can teacher unions say education is important for them yet burden school districts with legal fees and the cost of keeping such bad teachers on the employee roster and waste students’ precious academic hours?
So tick-1 is that teachers unions lead to significant waste for school districts unfortunate enough to be in such a position.
The second link begins to build the case that unions think that all teachers should be paid the same and as a result teachers’ wages are artificially suppressed. Teachers in the math and science fields are in higher demand, yet there is no pay incentive to attract people with those degrees to education. People with math and science degrees have far more potential to obtain lucrative careers elsewhere, thus a shortage.
I don’t think anyone would deny that a degree in math and science is harder to obtain that a degree in other fields. There tends to be a function of collegiate difficulty to post graduation pay. The harder degree you get (engineering, science, math) the more you get paid (engineers, doctors, pharmacists). The effect of the teachers union is that for those individuals with the more difficult degrees and where earnings potential is important (compensation important to most people) a career in education is not even a viable option.
Tick-2, then, is that teachers unions prevent education from being considered as a career for those who do well in the harder university disciplines.
Tick-1 + Tick-2 = bad news for American students. How many poor teachers are teaching kids right now simply because the school knows it would not be cost effective to try to fire them? How many collective hours of kids’ time are being wasted?
What about all those teachers that leave? The statistic is that about 50% of teachers leave the profession within five years. I have a degree in math and went into education. The revolving door was still spinning when I left.
The overall net benefit of teachers unions goes only to those teachers who perform so poorly that they would have otherwise long since been fired.