Unions represent their members, of course.
Therefore, teachers unions represent teachers. Not parents and students, of course.
But in effect unions don't represent all teachers, because most good teachers don't need union representation.
Thus, unions basically go all out to defend the worst of the worst, and the vast majority of teachers, parents, students, taxpayers and the community at large pay the price.
Teachers Unions Go to Bat for Sexual Predators hits the nail on the head:
"By resisting almost any change aimed at improving our public schools,
teachers unions have become a ripe target for reformers across the ideological
spectrum. Even Hollywood, famously sympathetic to organized labor, has turned on
unions with the documentary "Waiting for 'Superman'" (2010) and a feature film,
"Won't Back Down," to be released later this year. But perhaps most damaging to
the unions' credibility is their position on sexual misconduct involving
teachers and students in New York schools, which is even causing union members
to begin to lose faith.
In the last five years in New York City, 97 tenured teachers or school
employees have been charged by the Department of Education with sexual
misconduct. Among the charges substantiated by the city's special commissioner
of investigation—that is, found to have sufficient merit that an arbitrator's
full examination was justified—in the 2011-12 school year:
• An assistant principal at a Brooklyn high school made explicit sexual
remarks to three different girls, including asking one of them if she would
perform oral sex on him.
• A teacher in Queens had a sexual relationship with a 13-year old girl and
sent her inappropriate messages through email and Facebook.
If this kind of behavior were happening in any adult workplace in America,
there would be zero tolerance. Yet our public school children are
Here's why. Under current New York law, an accusation is first vetted by an
independent investigator. (In New York City, that's the special commissioner of
investigation; elsewhere in the state, it can be an independent law firm or the
local school superintendent.) Then the case goes before an employment
arbitrator. The local teachers union and school district together choose the
arbitrators, who in turn are paid up to $1,400 per day. And therein lies the
For many arbitrators, their livelihood depends on pleasing the unions
(whether the United Federation of Teachers in New York City, or other local
unions). And the unions—believing that they are helping the cause of teachers by
being weak on sexual predators—prefer suspensions and fines, and not dismissal,
for teachers charged with inappropriate sexual conduct. The effects of this
policy are mounting.
Another example from 2007: Teacher William Scharbach was found to have
inappropriately touched and held young boys. "Respondent's actions at best give
the appearance of impropriety and at worst suggest pedophilia," wrote the
arbitrator—before giving the teacher only a reprimand. The teacher didn't deny
the touching but denied that it was inappropriate.
Then there was teacher Steven Ostrin, who in 2010 was found to have asked a
young girl to give him a striptease, harassed students by text, and engaged in
sexual banter. The arbitrator in his case concluded that since the teacher
hadn't actually solicited sex from students, the charges—all of which the
teacher denied—warranted only a suspension.
Michael Loeb, a middle school teacher in the Bronx and UFT member, calls this
a "horrible situation," telling me "if you keep these people in the classroom,
you are demeaning our profession."
Parents I spoke with described their tremendous fear about what is happening
in the classroom. Maria Elena Rivera says her 14-year-old daughter was stalked
by one of her Brooklyn high school teachers (who resigned from his position
before the Department of Education decided whether to send the case to
arbitration). Today her daughter is in counseling, says Ms. Rivera, and doesn't
trust anyone: "It so messed her up. I can't protect her."
Local media have begun to get the word out, yet the stories come and go with
trifling consequences or accountability. New York City's schools chancellor and
districts statewide must have the power to fire sexual predators—and the final
say cannot be that of an arbitrator with incentives to lessen the
Fortunately, state Sen. Stephen Saland has proposed legislation in Albany to
do just this, removing arbitrators' final say while still giving teachers due
process and the opportunity to appeal terminations in court. But the buck would
stop with those officials in charge of our schools and tasked with protecting
our kids: the chancellor in New York City, and school districts elsewhere in the
Mr. Saland's initiative has little chance of success without union
support—which is hardly assured. "I don't understand how they think this could
be a gray area," says Natalie Harrington, who teaches English at New Day Academy
in the Bronx. "I worry that if the union goes to bat [against] this, it makes it
seem like they will do anything to keep anyone in the classroom."
Michael Loeb still supports his union but says it "treats teachers like
interchangeable widgets"—defending all teachers no matter what they have
The union has reached a moment of truth. With responsible legislation on the
table, the right course of action is obvious. At stake is the safety of kids,
the reputation of the unions, and the standing of every good and responsible
teacher throughout the state. "
The public education system is rigged against the very people it's intended to support --- students, parents, taxpayers and the community.
Unions aren't conerned with output or quality "products" at affordable prices. Productivity and doing the right thing, in other words.
Instead, union leaders spend their time and the memberships' dues defending the bad actors to the hilt, both in the private and public sectors.
Third party "impartial" arbitrators are often their accomplices.
And it's not just in teachers unions where this applies.
Specifically in the case of education, our system of public education is not at all about providing a quality education at an affordable cost to taxpayers for all students.
Meanwhile, the vast majority of teachers are solid people desiring to do the right thing.
It's the political and educational system, Stupid! And it's rotten to the core.