FacebookTwitterGoogle+RedditEmail

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 has a Master’s Degree in Latin American Studies, has traveled in Cuba, and has published columns in dozens of America’s largest newspapers.  

September 19, 2018
Michael McCaffrey
A Curious Case of Mysterious Attacks, Microwave Weapons and Media Manipulation
Elliot Sperber
Eating the Constitution
September 18, 2018
Conn Hallinan
Britain: the Anti-Semitism Debate
Tamara Pearson
Why Mexico’s Next President is No Friend of Migrants
Richard Moser
Both the Commune and Revolution
Nick Pemberton
Serena 15, Tennis Love
Binoy Kampmark
Inconvenient Realities: Climate Change and the South Pacific
Martin Billheimer
La Grand’Route: Waiting for the Bus
John Kendall Hawkins
Seymour Hersh: a Life of Adversarial Democracy at Work
Faisal Khan
Is Israel a Democracy?
John Feffer
The GOP Wants Trumpism…Without Trump
Kim Ives
The Roots of Haiti’s Movement for PetroCaribe Transparency
Dave Lindorff
We Already Have a Fake Billionaire President; Why Would We want a Real One Running in 2020?
Gerry Brown
Is China Springing Debt Traps or Throwing a Lifeline to Countries in Distress?
Pete Tucker
The Washington Post Really Wants to Stop Ben Jealous
Dean Baker
Getting It Wrong Again: Consumer Spending and the Great Recession
September 17, 2018
Melvin Goodman
What is to be Done?
Rob Urie
American Fascism
Patrick Cockburn
The Adults in the White House Trying to Save the US From Trump Are Just as Dangerous as He Is
Jeffrey St. Clair - Alexander Cockburn
The Long Fall of Bob Woodward: From Nixon’s Nemesis to Cheney’s Savior
Mairead Maguire
Demonization of Russia in a New Cold War Era
Dean Baker
The Bank Bailout of 2008 was Unnecessary
Wim Laven
Hurricane Trump, Season 2
Yves Engler
Smearing Dimitri Lascaris
Ron Jacobs
From ROTC to Revolution and Beyond
Clark T. Scott
The Cannibals of Horsepower
Binoy Kampmark
A Traditional Right: Jimmie Åkesson and the Sweden Democrats
Laura Flanders
History Markers
Weekend Edition
September 14, 2018
Friday - Sunday
Carl Boggs
Obama’s Imperial Presidency
Joshua Frank
From CO2 to Methane, Trump’s Hurricane of Destruction
Jeffrey St. Clair
Maria’s Missing Dead
Andrew Levine
A Bulwark Against the Idiocy of Conservatives Like Brett Kavanaugh
T.J. Coles
Neil deGrasse Tyson: A Celebrity Salesman for the Military-Industrial-Complex
Jeff Ballinger
Nike and Colin Kaepernick: Fronting the Bigots’ Team
David Rosen
Why Stop at Roe? How “Settled Law” Can be Overturned
Gary Olson
Pope Francis and the Battle Over Cultural Terrain
Nick Pemberton
Donald The Victim: A Product of Post-9/11 America
Ramzy Baroud
The Veiled Danger of the ‘Dead’ Oslo Accords
Kevin Martin
U.S. Support for the Bombing of Yemen to Continue
Robert Fisk
A Murder in Aleppo
Robert Hunziker
The Elite World Order in Jitters
Ben Dangl
After 9/11: The Staggering Economic and Human Cost of the War on Terror
Charles Pierson
Invade The Hague! Bolton vs. the ICC
Robert Fantina
Trump and Palestine
Daniel Warner
Hubris on and Off the Court
FacebookTwitterGoogle+RedditEmail