What Rights Should Teachers Have?

Here’s one that’s a bit hard for me to get my head around this morning:  The education writer for Presidential Candidate John Cox’s blog believes that the spouses and relatives of teachers should have limited opportunities to become involved in key decisions about schooling at the local level. 

The comment was made by Lennie—who writes at Education Matters and discloses his connection to Cox in this edition of the Education Carnival—in an ongoing conversation that he and I are having about the role that teachers should play in the electoral process that began with this post about formative assessments. 

In response to my question about the common conservative assumption that legislators who are responsive to teachers are automatically unresponsive to taxpayers, Lennie wrote:

In my opinion, the teachers advocate at the local school board level is the school administrator. There should not be a teacher on the school board since they can influence their own salaries. Spouses and relatives of teachers should not be allowed to vote or negotiate on any contracts as well. Again there is a huge conflict of interest.

At the State level, teachers can lobby just like the normal citizen. However, they should not be allowed to lobby on school time as happens regularly here in Illinois. They even carry students to the capitol to rally for them, all paid for by the taxpayer.

The unions are a different animal altogether. The teachers pay dues (taxpayer money) to the unions. The unions then represent the teachers with campaign donations and heavy lobbying. They are effectively using taxpayer money against the taxpayer. This puts the citizenry at a huge disadvantage in influence. Taxpayers give small donations while unions give large donations. The scales are not balanced.

Lennie’s argument that teacher donations to unions that lobby for specific plans of action essentially amounts to taxpayer dollars being used "against the taxpayer" is certainly interesting.  Would such concern spread to the members of other professions that accept public funding for their work—-police officers, firefighters, legislators, judges, public defenders, social workers, members of the military?

I’m also wondering when teacher salaries move from being "taxpayer money" to being personal income.  If the answer is never—which Lennie seems to suggest when arguing that dues paid to professional organizations is a form of taxpayer dollars being used against taxpayers—-then any donation a teacher made to an advocacy organization could be called into question:  tithes at church, gifts to the NRA, contributions to abortion rights groups, etc.

Could Lennie’s central point that teacher involvement in advocacy work clouds decisions related to teaching and learning be legitimate?  After all, we certainly are highly invested and active members of the voting population. 

Or is it simply a real stretch for the lead education writer of a Presidential candidate to suggest that the spouses and relatives of teachers should have limited political opportunities in a republic such as ours?

5 thoughts on “What Rights Should Teachers Have?

  1. Pamela Johnson

    Get a life, should be your slogan. Hope you haven’t loss your house, job, love one in a war or your peace of mind because of life’s unexpected challenges.

  2. Bruno

    Gail,
    Your analogy would be accurate if the issues was the President of Boeing was sitting on the Senate Committee (or Pentagon Committee) that was deciding who to pick for a defense contract or how much to pay that contractor.
    We all know teacher’s unions and defense contractors “lobby,” but no one would argue that McDonalds should have a “vote” on the minimum wage in the senate.
    To Mark’s point, I’d draw the at disqualifying any board member who has any relative working for ANY school district in the state of their residence.
    Given the “ratchet” like game (scheme) of “keeping up with the Joneses”, where the pay in one district is used as the excuse to hike wages in the next district, even voting on a contract a few districts over indirectly enriches your family.
    For my part, Mark is closer to the truth than he thinks when he says “it’s unworkable.”
    Speaking for Illinois more than any other state (we are functionally bankrupt), the district system, combined with unwarranted political clout that comes from a purchased legislature, has become “unworkable”, if not already wholly corrupt.
    The taxpayers are not getting the “edcuated populace” they are paying for through the wazoo (even the schools that ‘work’ do so at at too high a price).
    Lennie’s “reform idea” is too nice, IMO. Mine would solve many more edcuational and financial problems. We need to fund chidlren, and not distircts or bureaucracies.
    http://www.extremewisdom.com/wp-content/uploads/fundamental_execsumm.pdf
    Though I have nothing against teachers per se, the idea that we even ask about ‘teacher’s rights’ (or pay) before the rights of children or taxpayers is an anathema to “an educated populace.”

  3. Lennie

    Here is my response in the comment of the original post:
    Bill, you are taking that sentence out of context from the paragraph. I was not advocating the loss of voting rights in elections. I was speaking about school boards and voting on contracts and salaries. In that context, a teacher or spouse is placed with a trust as being an elected representative of the people. Therefore, it would be a conflict of interests for them to vote in these matters.

  4. Mark

    Pay to an employee belongs to that employee, whether public or private.
    As far as the limited ability to participate, teachers on a school board are a definite conflict of interest, but you can’t draw the lines too far out. School board members are there because of their interest in the schools, and often are close to educators. Where do you draw the line? Close friends, distant relatives? It’s not workable.

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