FacebookTwitterRedditEmail

A Teacher Explains Why the Janus Ruling is Bad News for Schools, Students

Photo by Supermac1961 | CC BY 2.0

The Supreme Court ruled in Janus v. AFSCME that non-union workers cannot be forced to pay agency/”fair share” fees to public sector unions. This may be devastating for teachers unions and other public-sector unions. In 2011 Wisconsin passed legislation doing away with agency fees for public sector unions, and membership in the Wisconsin Education Association Council, the state’s largest teachers union, fell from nearly 100,000 to only 40,000 by 2015.

Teachers unions are the largest unions left in the US, and Janus is primarily aimed at us. Much of the motivation behind the backers funding the Janus case—and previous similar cases, such as Friedrichs in 2016—is because of our consistent support for and funding of the Democratic Party. But labor unions are not dictatorships. The leaders are elected, and the decisions made more or less reflect the desires of the membership. Those who oppose unions’ pro-Democratic Party politics, such as Janus, or the teachers in Friedrichs, are free to and should make that political fight within their unions. By contrast, Janus and Friedrichs are essentially saying that they should get to stick their co-workers with the cost of the union benefits they enjoy because they don’t agree with their fellow workers’ politics. Anti-union groups such as the Freedom Foundation have already sent mailings to teachers trying to seduce us away with the promise of saving money on our agency fees.

Janus has been portrayed in the media as a clash of special interests, and the general public has remained largely on the sidelines. This should not be—I’ve worked at both union and non-union schools, and I’ve seen how important teachers unions are to our children.

Teachers unions protect children because they protect a precious resource—teachers’ time. At nonunion schools teachers are often weighed down with taxing, unnecessary labor–yard duty before and after school, nutrition and lunch duty, chaperoning school functions and athletic events, and others. These duties reduce teachers’ ability to spend time helping students and preparing for classes.

Moreover, at nonunion schools teachers often must forgo their planning period to substitute for absent teachers. At union schools substitute teachers handle this responsibility.

At union schools, “preps” — the number of separate class subjects we must prepare for – are contractually limited. At nonunion schools excessive preps can be a large drain on teachers’ time.

In this era of school shootings, after each shooting people consider the shooter and ask, “How could we have missed the signs?” But teachers see things that parents and other adults in children’s lives don’t see. We’re the ones who watch students interacting with their peers, and we see their classroom academic struggles. If a student is in crisis, we often know before anyone else does. We can often help—if we have the time. Countless times at the nonunion jobs I’ve worked I was pulled away from troubled students who needed my help because I had to run off and do yard duty or other unnecessary chores.

Those arrayed against the teachers’ unions–educational reformers, anti-union politicians and conservative groups–often emphasize how critical teachers are. That is why, they claim, teachers’ seniority rights and the difficulty getting rid of failing teachers can harm our kids. But if teachers are so critical, why are we doing tasks that could easily and affordably be done by others? If I’m so important, why is my time so unimportant?

Overloading teachers with excessive demands on our time causes many teachers to leave the profession, and teacher turnover is a major problem. Moreover, teachers usually leave after they’ve gone through the rough initial adjustment period. They’re then replaced by new teachers who will make rookie mistakes and need time to develop.

Anti-union forces portray teachers unions’ political work, campaign contributions and contract demands as being about gaining money for ourselves. Yet most of our demands concern improving our students’ education: smaller class sizes; better student-to-counselor ratios; less student time wasted taking standardized tests; full staffing, including having nurses and librarians at each school; and many others. Teachers unions are also attempting to correct the pay inequities teachers face.

Parents need to understand that if Janus weakens teachers’ unions and accelerates  schools’ descent into white-collar sweatshops for its teachers, it isn’t simply the teachers’ problem or the unions’ problem. It’s our children’s problem too.

Glenn Sacks teaches Social Studies at an LAUSD high school and has published columns in dozens of America’s largest newspapers. His website is www.glennsacks.com.

 

More articles by:

Glenn Sacks is an LAUSD social studies teacher and UTLA co-chair at his high school.  He was recently recognized by LAUSD Deputy Superintendent Vivian Ekchian for “exceptional levels of performance.  

bernie-the-sandernistas-cover-344x550

June 17, 2019
Patrick Cockburn
The Dark Side of Brexit: Britain’s Ethnic Minorities Are Facing More and More Violence
Linn Washington Jr.
Remember the Vincennes? The US’s Long History of Provoking Iran
Geoff Dutton
Where the Wild Things Were: Abbey’s Road Revisited
Nick Licata
Did a Coverup of Who Caused Flint Michigan’s Contaminated Water Continue During Its Investigation? 
Binoy Kampmark
Julian Assange and the Scales of Justice: Exceptions, Extraditions and Politics
John Feffer
Democracy Faces a Global Crisis
Louisa Willcox
Revamping Grizzly Bear Recovery
Stephen Cooper
“Wheel! Of! Fortune!” (A Vegas Story)
Daniel Warner
Let Us Laugh Together, On Principle
Brian Cloughley
Trump Washington Detests the Belt and Road Initiative
Weekend Edition
June 14, 2019
Friday - Sunday
Michael Hudson
Trump’s Trade Threats are Really Cold War 2.0
Bruce E. Levine
Tom Paine, Christianity, and Modern Psychiatry
Jason Hirthler
Mainstream 101: Supporting Imperialism, Suppressing Socialism
T.J. Coles
How Much Do Humans Pollute? A Breakdown of Industrial, Vehicular and Household C02 Emissions
Andrew Levine
Whither The Trump Paradox?
Jeffrey St. Clair
Roaming Charges: In the Land of 10,000 Talkers, All With Broken Tongues
Pete Dolack
Look to U.S. Executive Suites, Not Beijing, For Why Production is Moved
Paul Street
It Can’t Happen Here: From Buzz Windrip and Doremus Jessup to Donald Trump and MSNBC
Rob Urie
Capitalism Versus Democracy
Richard Moser
The Climate Counter-Offensive: Secrecy, Deception and Disarming the Green New Deal
Naman Habtom-Desta
Up in the Air: the Fallacy of Aerial Campaigns
Ramzy Baroud
Kushner as a Colonial Administrator: Let’s Talk About the ‘Israeli Model’
Mark Hand
Residents of Toxic W.Va. Town Keep Hope Alive
John Kendall Hawkins
Alias Anything You Please: a Lifetime of Dylan
Linn Washington Jr.
Bigots in Blue: Philadelphia Police Department is a Home For Hate
David Macaray
UAW Faces Its Moment of Truth
Brian Cloughley
Trump’s Washington Detests the Belt and Road Initiative
Horace G. Campbell
Edward Seaga and the Institutionalization of Thuggery, Violence and Dehumanization in Jamaica
Graham Peebles
Zero Waste: The Global Plastics Crisis
Michael Schwalbe
Oppose Inequality, Not Cops
Ron Jacobs
Scott Noble’s History of Resistance
Olivia Alperstein
The Climate Crisis is Also a Health Emergency
David Rosen
Time to Break Up the 21st Century Tech Trusts
George Wuerthner
The Highest Use of Public Forests: Carbon Storage
Ralph Nader
It is Time to Rediscover Print Newspapers
Nick Licata
How SDS Imploded: an Inside Account
Rachel Smolker – Anne Peterman
The GE American Chestnut: Restoration of a Beloved Species or Trojan Horse for Tree Biotechnology?
Sam Pizzigati
Can Society Survive Without Empathy?
Manuel E. Yepe
China and Russia in Strategic Alliance
Patrick Walker
Green New Deal “Climate Kids” Should Hijack the Impeachment Conversation
Colin Todhunter
Encouraging Illegal Planting of Bt Brinjal in India
Robert Koehler
The Armed Bureaucracy
David Swanson
Anyone Who’d Rather Not be Shot Should Read this Book
Jonathan Power
To St. Petersburg With Love
Marc Levy
How to Tell a Joke in Combat
FacebookTwitterRedditEmail