Roper: Unions vs. teachers — thoughts after Janus

By Rob Roper

Following the Janus vs. AFSCME Supreme Court decision that ruled public sector unions can no longer force non-members to pay agency fees, both the unions and Vermont’s teachers have some questions to reflect upon. The big one for teachers is this: Are my union dues really worth it?

According to statements made to the media by Vermont-NEA spokesperson Darren Allen, the difference between the agency fee charged to non-members by the teachers union ($454) and the full union dues ($629) was just $175. Before Janus, the question potential members had to ask themselves was this: If I’m going to be forced to pay $454 anyway, is the extra $175 worth it to be a full voting member of the union? Now the question is this: Is that worth over $600, or am I better off just pocketing all that cash?

Rob Roper

Rob Roper is the president of the Ethan Allen Institute.

The unions, on the other hand, have to figure out ways to refocus their priorities and create real and perceived value for potential members.

Teachers unions now operate primarily as political entities focused on influencing elections with a specific partisan bias toward Democrats, which not all of their members necessarily agree with. That didn’t matter when workers of all political stripes were forced to pay up regardless. It matters now.

The union sees its power as coming from the ability to raise money and mobilize people to the polls. As such, the union benefits most by advocating for policies and legislation that expand its membership. More members mean more dues and more voters. But this model isn’t necessarily in the best interest of teachers. In their quest to expand membership, “teachers” unions have evolved into what would more accurately be described as district employee unions, which incorporate not just teachers, but administrators and other staff. As such, the focus on teachers’ interests are diluted.

For example, most people think that classroom teachers (and, when most people think of “teachers” they think of the people in the classroom) deserve more pay. Anyone who has spent eight hours trying to get one kid to concentrate on a task that he or she would rather avoid can sympathize with the challenge of getting 20 kids up to speed on how to multiply fractions or diagram a sentence. The ones who are really good at this — the ones we can all look back upon as having changed our lives — are highly valuable members of society and should be so compensated. In Vermont, we spend roughly $20,000 per pupil. Think of that number this way: if there are 20 kids in the classroom we are spending $400,000 a year on that classroom. Where does all that money go? Not the classroom teachers’ salary. Those resources are being used to expand the number of employees outside the classroom.

Over the past few decades, the national trend has seen the number of non-teaching staff in public schools skyrocket, well out of proportion to increases to student population. The number of classroom teachers, on the other hand, has remained steady with student population growth. In Vermont we have the lowest staff to student ratio in the nation at 4-to-1. Total pending on K-12 has exploded too. This is good for the union — more people equals more dues and more voters — but, it’s not necessarily in the best interest of teachers (or students, or taxpayers, for that matter).

Teachers — and, again, students and taxpayers — would benefit more from policies that directed resources into the classroom. Unfortunately, this is a low-to-no growth proposition for the unions because there are only so many adults you can put into a classroom and only so many kids to serve. But, you can fill skyscrapers with backroom staff, so that’s the priority. From the union’s perspective, 10 low to moderately paid members is better than five highly paid members. Those whose compensation is being held back by this dynamic may disagree.

By putting unions in the position of having to work harder and prove value to their membership, teachers, students and taxpayers will benefit. Unions, if they’re up to the challenge, will benefit too. After all, a membership made up entirely of people who have enthusiastically volunteered to take part in an organization will be stronger than one in which a large proportion of its members were dragged in against their will.

Rob Roper is president of the Ethan Allen Institute. He lives in Stowe.

Images courtesy of Wikimedia Commons/Djembayz and Rob Roper

5 thoughts on “Roper: Unions vs. teachers — thoughts after Janus

  1. Get rid of the unions they are protecting & rewarding some of the worst & poorest performing educators, administrators in America’s / VT’s Education History & these leftists teachers are bad for kids of any age because their only interest is to pass on their hate, anger, racism, leftist fascism, & their radical leftist anti American propaganda whether any of it is true or not. Schools in Vermont are pumping kids out with High School Diplomas who can’t spell, some can’t read, some can’t even tell what time it is unless a digital clock is nearby what does that say about the education of kids in Brattleboro. Worst of all a lot of Vermont teachers are Lib Dem Socialist Commie indoctrinaters whom feel entitled & obligated to teach students their divisive disgusting personal beliefs, agenda, & opinions all on the tax payers dime.. Start teaching facts, actual history not fake revisionist made up bs to the point where my age group stupidly believe without question Socialism will bring us utopia meanwhile they have no idea that leftism has killed 100s of millions & people are always killed wherever Socialism & Communism have been attempted. My age grpup believe it is acceptable for actions & stunts such as the act shameless demagogue un-ethical Leahy carried out the other day using taxpayer funds to make gigantic photos of yearbooks to question nominees.. What did you drink in High School & what was in your yearbook Leahy? Give me a break losers. Vermont’s Education System is in disrepair, & way to expensive for the dismally poor unacceptable results. Actual change is needed, & I don’t mean Obama’s lieing never happened Hope & Change. Vermont needs radical change not the expensive feel good pat each other on the back change. Vermonters want their local control back. An excellent indicator of how poorly Brattleboro School District teaches could be seen live in Downtown Brattleboro where radical anti America leftists were protesting Judge Kavanaugh. Not one as zero of these sheeple had any facts or could coherently express a fact based argument they just spewed & recited hateful anti American anti Constitution radical leftist propaganda. Lib Dems Socialists Commies Dem Socialists are hateful racist liars they are not interested in debate, differing opinions from their own, nor are they interested in the US or Vermont Constitutions.

      • Lols thanks Raoul somebody’s has to call leftists on their lies, leftist propaganda, & nonsense BS!!

    • As long as the left receives promised votes and campaign cash from the big public education monopoly, nothing will change. Bill Mathis (number 2 on the Vt board of education) creates education regulation and policy here in Vermont while he is also being paid by the Colorado based, teachers union funded national education policy center. I guess anything goes if you’re connected to Vts left wing.

  2. NEA has a stranglehold on Property Taxpayer. Shameful! What’s more shameful is State Government lets it happen, over-inflated school budget.

    All Teaching Professionals, they should be ” ashamed ” of the outcome of there services, test scores down, proficiency down, class sizes outline with the rest of the States but they still get salary increases every year with no justification ( 100% ) of all teachers, shameless.

    If this was any other profession they’d all be fired and would deserve to be. When is the last time you heard of a teacher being fired on Performance? Never. The Teaching Profession used to be respected, but no longer thanks to the NEA (greed).

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